LDV survey: What Lib Dem members think are the biggest dangers to the party in the next 12 months

by Stephen Tall on September 1, 2010

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of a variety of key issues, and what you make of the Lib Dems’ and Government’s performance to date. Almost 600 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results of our survey.

Today we’re looking at what the Voice’s sample of party members consider to be the biggest dangers to the Lib Dems in the 12 months to come. We asked:

Which, if any, of the following factors are in your view the biggest danger to the Lib Dems in the next year? (Please tick all that apply.)

Here’s what you told us:

  • 82% – Failure to communicate how Lib Dem policies are making a big enough difference in government.
  • 59% – A hostile media which offers only a steady drip-drip of negative stories.
  • 55% – General unpopularity caused by spending cuts and tax rises.
  • 50% – Right-wing Conservative policies seen to dominate the Coalition’s agenda.
  • 49% – If next May’s AV referendum were to be lost.
  • 41% – Slow economic growth or even a double-dip recession.
  • 38% – Splits in the Lib Dem parliamentary party.
  • 32% – Losses for the party in next May’s Scottish, Welsh and local elections.
  • 31% – Tory MPs and the right-wing media extracting harsher Coalition policies on immigration, prisons and Europe.
  • 30% – A new Labour leader who ‘love-bombs’ Liberal Democrat voters.
  • 6% – Other
  • 0% – None of these.
  • 0% – Don’t know / No opinion

The breakdown is interesting. The overwhelming danger facing the party, according to more than four-in-five Lib Dem members, is the potential failure to communicate to the public what the Lib Dem achievements are within the government. In a sense, it’s an encouraging finding in that at least it’s a danger within the party’s control, and about which it can do something. That is less true of the second biggest danger facing us: the relentless negativity of the tribal right-wing and left-wing news media.

The other two threats attracting more than 50% of the vote in our survey were, unsurprisingly, related to the economy. First, the very real potential for the Coalition’s cuts agenda to hurt voters. And, secondly, the danger that the Tories are seen to dominate the Government, for example that the cuts agenda appears to be used ideologocially to shrink the state even in those areas where the Lib Dems would want government to be pro-active.

Two suprises (at least to me) of members’ responses to this question: first, that fewer than half (only just, but still) Lib Dems think that losing the AV referendum is a serious threat to the party; and, secondly, how low-risk the election of Labour’s new leader is held to be, with less than one-third thinking he (whichever Miliband brother it will be) poses a threat to the party in the next year. It says a lot about how poorly Labour has played its hand in opposition to date that so few Lib Dems regard them as a threat: the real self-perceived threat, according to party members, comes from within.

Of those who ticked ‘Other’ here are some of the extra dangers envisaged by Lib Dem members in the months to come – they’re an interesting bunch:

  • Losing our nerve
  • Party leadership and LD cabinet mebers losing their nerve
  • the general inability of the party to capitalise on success
  • failure to see that in other European countries where coalition is the norm partners do not pretend that they agree with everything but recognise that policies and actions are part of the deal. They advocate their own views
  • Coalition policy on ‘free’ schools and GPs running the health service
  • we are without the proper mentality to enjoy actually ruling
  • Cynical disregard of voters’ idealism
  • The move to a “graduate” contribution, if such a move is a perpetual requirement to pay a greater proportion of income
  • A continuing inability to grasp the professional necessities of being in power.
  • loss of our electoral identity
  • academies and SATS
  • Increased inequality as a result of Coalition activities.
  • Paying too much attention to the Liberal Democrat Party
  • Loss of members and funding due to disillusion
  • Nick Clegg failing communicate the Party’s unhapiness at Conservative inspired policies, such as free school, reform of the NHS & aggressive deficit reduction.
  • Grassroot LibDem members on the left of the party losing their nerve in large numbers
  • Loss of LD independence/voters unable to tell the difference between the two parties.
  • Loss of separate identity for the party in the eyes of the public
  • You can access all the results of past Lib Dem Voice surveys of party members here.