LDV poll: Vince or Tim are Lib Dem members’ top choices for leader in event of vacancy

by Stephen Tall on June 7, 2012

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. Some 560 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

28% choose Vince, 21% tip Tim: how you voted

Yesterday we reported the finding that 34% of Lib Dem members surveyed thought Nick Clegg should step down as party leader before the 2015 general election compared to 59% who thought he should stay to fight it. Today we report the hypothetical question we then posed: who should take up the reins if for any reason there were a vacancy as leader…

LDV asked: In the event of a vacancy for Lib Dem leader, which current MP would you be most likely to vote for to succeed Nick Clegg?

    28% – Vince Cable
    21% – Tim Farron
    6% – Jo Swinson
    5% – David Laws
    4% – Edward Davey
    4% – Simon Hughes
    4% – Steve Webb
    3% – Chris Huhne
    2% – Danny Alexander
    2% – Norman Lamb
    2% – Lynne Featherstone
    1% – Michael Moore
    5% – Other (please specify)
    13% – Don’t know / No opinion

The first thing to say is that hypothetical questions like this are exactly that, and such polls are often poor predictors of what would happen in actuality. Nonetheless, as a snapshot wet finger in the air, the findings are interesting.

First, it suggests that in the event of an immediate vacancy for Lib Dem leader it would be a two-horse race between Vince Cable and Tim Farron. I had expected Tim would top this poll. That Vince did instead shows his enduring popularity and canny ability to appeal to the party’s economic and social liberals simultaneously; and perhaps also a view that Tim, if he’s to become leader one day (and I’m sure he will), is better placed to do so after 2015, both to ‘pick up’ the party if we lose seats, and also to give him time to acquire a little more gravitas.

There is then a big gap between the top two and the rest of the likely runners and riders, with Jo Swinson and David Laws nosing ahead of the pack. In both cases I suspect re-election is their top priority: Jo because of proposed boundary changes to her constituency, David to regain electoral validation following his resignation from the cabinet two years ago.

Looking through the ‘write-in’ preferences expressed by the 5% who chose ‘Other’, Jeremy Browne, Charles Kennedy and Julian Huppert are the names which crop up unprompted a handful of times — as does the name of a non-MP, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems.

My best guess would be that — assuming there is no vacancy before 2015 (and I’m sure there won’t be barring the unforeseen) — the most likely eventual contest will be a three-way between Tim, Jo and either Ed Davey or Norman Lamb. But it goes without saying that a lot could change in the next three years!

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 560 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 28th May and 1st June.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’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 www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.