Lib Dem members say: AV referendum result irrelevant to Coalition’s future

by Stephen Tall on April 30, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 530 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

69% say AV referendum result irrelevant to Coalition’s future

LDV asked: Imagine the NO campaign wins the referendum; if this happened do you think the Liberal Democrats should leave the coalition?

    8% – The Liberal Democrats should leave the coalition if the NO campaign win
    22% – The Liberal Democrats should stay in the coalition if the NO campaign win
    69% – The Liberal Democrats should not make a decision to leave or stay in the Coalition based on the referendum result
    1% – Don’t know / No opinion

There seems to be very little appetite among Lib Dem members to trigger the Coalition’s downfall should the 5th May refendum on voting reform result in a No victory: just 8% (a lower proportion than those who are opposed to the Coalition overall) think the party should leave in such circumstances. More than one-fifth believe the party should definitely stay in the Coalition if No wins. The vast majority, more than two-thirds of members in our survey, believe the referendum result is irrelevant to the long-term future of the Coalition.

Here is a selection of your comments:

If we break the coalition because we don’t win, I think it will be very damaging to the party – I believe public opinion will view us on the basis that all we want is change to the voting system

Can’t leave a coalition just because you lose a vote.

The decision to join the coalition for a 5 year parliament has been made and it does not need to be re-opened. We would be fools to come out at this stage after suffering the pain and not yet having had the chance to reap the rewards.

The Tories and the No campaign have been playing dirty, telling outright lies. I would have serious doubts about the coalition if their behaviour killed AV.

The Coalition agreement was that there would be a referendum, and the Tories were free to campaign against. They have kept to their end of the bargain so there is no reason to leave

If we flounce out having lost the AV referrendum it will be us that betrayed the coalition agreement and we will look selfish, amateurish and unreliable.

We are trapped! I thought the NO campaign leaflet highlighting Lib Dem broken promises was despicable especially as it appears to have been sanctioned by Cameron. My instinctive reaction was that we should leave the coalition but if we did, and an election was called now, we would be wiped out!

We would be crazy and suicidal to leave the coalition because the British people didn’t give the answer we wanted in the referendum. We would look childish, petty and would deserve a hammering at the consequent election. I am proud of the things which Liberal Democrats are achieving in government – 99% of which have nothing to do with the referendum. I voted for the Lib Dems because I believed in our policies – we now owe it to our voters to give them as many Lib Dem policies as we can, given our number of MPs. That means NOT flouncing out of government in a huff.

Losing the referendum is consistent with the Coalition Agreement in a way that, for example, the NHS plans are not.

Our long-term aim should be to establish our credibility as a party that can be trusted on its own with the economy.

98% of Lib Dem members backing Yes to AV

LDV asked: Which of the following statements best represents your view of the UK adopting the ‘alternative vote’ system to replace the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing MPs to the House of Commons:

    47% – The alternative vote is a great improvement on first-past-the-post. I will enthusiastically support it in the referendum.
    51% – The alternative vote is a small improvement on first-past-the-post. I will back it but with no real enthusiasm.
    1% – The alternative vote is no improvement at all on first-past-the-post. I would vote only for a proportional electoral system to replace first-past-the-post.
    1% – I support first-past-the-post.
    1% – Don’t know / No opinion

An almost Stalinist 98% of Lib Dem members back AV, according to our survey. However, that overwhelming score masks a certain lukewarmness towards the alternative vote system (it’s not a proportional system, after all), with a slim majority saying it represents only a ‘small improvement’ on first-past-the-post. I should say, though, there were a number of cmments requesting a mix of options 1 and 2: that though AV represents only a small improvement, they will still back it enthusiastically. Fair point. The results are broadly similar to when we first asked this question last summer; though there seems to have been a small shift in favour of backing AV with enthusiasm.

Here is a selection of your comments:

It’s a step in the right direction that we need to support. PR is the goal.

AV is a tepid step in the right direction to PR. If this vote is lost it will set back the cause of proper reform a generation and call into question why we need to prop up this coalition any further.

In between one & two. AV is a small improvement, I will enthusiastically support it in the referendum as a step in the right direction.

Can we stop letting the enemy of the good be beaten by the bad (goes for the entire coalition!)

It’s a small improvement which I back enthusiastically because if we don’t win this there won’t be another opportunity for change for 20-30 years

I think it is a small improvement but it is a good first step so I enthusiastically support the referendum

Where is the “The alternative vote is a small improvement on FPTP. I will enthusiastically support it in the referendum” ?? That gets my vote!

I want PR but saying AV is a not much better than FPTP does not seem a winning argument. One step at a time – it is the best we could get.

  • Almost 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Over 530 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 18th and 24th April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at