LDV members’ survey: is electoral reform a hung Parliament ‘deal-breaker’? And are Labour or Tories most likely to deliver it?

by Stephen Tall on September 22, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, Lib Dem Voice invited the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions about the party and the current state of British politics. Many thanks to the c.250 of you who completed it; we’ve been publishing the results on LDV over the last few days. You can catch up on the results of our exclusive LDV members’ surveys by clicking here.

Yesterday, we looked at how Lib Dem members would respond in the event of a hung Parliament, assuming electoral reform was on the agenda. Today we’re looking at just how important you think electoral reform is, and which of the other two main parties you think are most sympathetic to the idea of electoral reform.

LDV asked: In the event of a ‘hung parliament’, and if the Lib Dems were prepared to cooperate with Labour/Conservatives in some way, do you believe a referendum on electoral reform should be a ‘deal-breaker’?

You said:

66% – Yes, electoral reform is fundamental to the Lib Dems. No deal of any kind is possible without it.
30% – No, electoral reform is important, but should not be a deal-breaker compared with other big issues the public cares about more.
4% – Don’t know / No opinion

A clear-cut decision – two-thirds of party members say the party should not consider any kind of deal with either Labour or the Tories unless electoral reform is on the agenda. Worth noting, though, that a significant minority, almost a third, think the issue should not be a deal-breaker, and that the Lib Dems run the risk of being judged harshly by the voters if we make it one.

LDV then asked: If the result of the next general election is that the Lib Dems *do not* form the next government, either on their own or as part of a coalition, which of the two other main parties do you think would be most likely to advance the Liberal Democrats’ electoral reform agenda?

And you said:

34% – Labour
1% – Conservatives
61% – Neither party
4% – Don’t know / No opinion

It wasn’t much of a surprise to me to see that there is deep scepticism that either Labour or the Tories are likely to deliver on electoral reform – after all, neither party has shown a great deal of legislative interest up until now. However, I was slightly suprised by how many LDV-reading party members reckon Labour might just be prepared to advance the Lib Dems’ electoral reform agenda.

It’s logical, of course: Labour is likely to find itself in opposition within 12 months, possibly facing a large Tory majority. Just as the period of Thetcherite dominance in the ’80s encouraged some Labour figures (eg, Robin Cook) to contemplate electoral reform, so might a renewed spell of opposition trigger a resurgence in interest?

And of course the Tories – for all their progressive talk – have explicitly ruled out consideration of any substantial reforms which might fix our politics. The only real surprise is that even 1% of party members might think the Tories would step up to the plate; though, to be fair, there are a handful of Tories doing their best to convert their stubborn colleagues to the cause.