By 48% to 19%, Lib Dem members prefer post-2015 alliance with Labour to continuing pact with Tories

by Stephen Tall on August 13, 2012

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 500 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Post-2015, 48% choose Lib-Lab pact; 19% a Lib-Con pact; 13% prefer opposition

LDV asked: Assuming the Lib Dems do not form a majority/minority government after the next election, which would be your most preferred outcome:

    2% – A Labour majority government with the Lib Dems in opposition
    6% – A minority Labour government with the Lib Dems in opposition
    19% – A Labour-Lib Dem ‘confidence and supply’ agreement (ie, no coalition deal so free to vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but agreeing not to bring down the government or vote against its Budget)
    29% – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)
    13% – A second Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (if stable majority will result and programme for government can be agreed)
    6% – A Conservative-Lib Dem ‘confidence and supply’ agreement (ie, no coalition deal so free to vote on an issue-by-issue basis, but agreeing not to bring down the government or vote against its Budget)
    3% – A minority Conservative government with the Lib Dems in opposition
    2% – A Conservative majority with the Lib Dems in opposition
    11% – Other
    10% – Don’t know / No opinion

What do Lib Dem members want to see happen after 2015 on the assumption the Lib Dems won’t form the next government — that was the question we asked, and it’s produced an interesting set of results.

Overall, Lib Dems are not so scarred by the experience of being in government that they want to retreat to the ease and comfort of opposition: just 13% say that would be their preferred option.

But there is a big difference when it comes to preferences of which of the two parties with whom to form some kind of alliance. We offered identically mirrored options for both Labour and Conservatives. By a significant margin – 48%-19% – Lib Dem members prefer a deal with Labour to one with the Tories. Some 29% want a formal Lib-Lab coalition, with 19% preferring ‘supply and confidence’. Just 13% want a second full Lib-Con coalition, with only 6% preferring ‘supply and confidence’.

Two points stand out for me. First, the evident preference of our sample of Lib Dem members for a post-2015 option to include Labour, rather than the Tories.

Secondly, the preference for full coalition (48%) over ‘supply and confidence’ (25%) with whichever party — this strikes me as sensible, as I’ve always felt ‘supply and confidence’ involves pretty much all the pain of coalition for very little gain. The party would likely be able to have as much success pushing its policies as an opposition to a minority government as it would through ‘supply and confidence’.

A significant minority (21%) of members opted either for ‘Other’ or ‘Don’t Know / No Opinion’. Looking through the write-in answers they vary a lot, but most seem to group into: those who feel it’s far too early to say; those who said they were neutral and their preference would entirely depend on the election results (this is consistent with this result from our June survey, when most members opted for ‘Opening coalition negotiations with whichever party has the strongest mandate if a stable Commons majority will result’); and those who want constructive opposition to whichever party forms the next government.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

We should seek to work with whoever has the most seats first. I don’t particularly relish the idea of working with either of them right now.

Another Tory Coalition and I leave the party after working hard for it for 38 years! I would accept a Labour Coalition if PR by STV was Guaranteed.

We would not survive a second coalition with either of the parties. If we go for a second term with the tories or even imply we would then we are dead in 2015. If we say we will go into coalition with labour then we loose the other half of the party who couldn’t work with labour after the bile they have put out against us. We need a period to rebuild.

Why are we trying to second guess what an increasingly volatile electorate will do. Prepare for a hung parliament and talk to both possible partners. If the result is the same as last time would we spurn their overtures this time? To whose or what advantage?

Difficult one! We should have the balls to go into full coalition again, if the circumstances and opportunity present themselves and it would HAVE to be with the largest Party in terms of seats and votes. On the other hand, it might not be bad to be back in opposition in order to be able to regroup, reframe our policies,refresh ourselves and really make sure we learn the lessons for the next time we have an opportunity to be part of a coalition government.

We cannot change anything in opposition so it is important to have influence with ‘whatever flavour’ the electorate chooses hence coalition with labour or Tory is of equal value. Personally I prefer Tory’s limited economic ability to Labour’s proven economic incompetence.

Lib Dems in opposition – lets get the Short and Cranborne money back to put the party’s finances on an even keel again so we can move forward once more.

A second coalition will be very good for us. 1) It will being to make people realise that coalitions may be ‘The New Normal’ 2) It will give us a crack at governing during a recovery. I would prefer a Lib-Con coalition on policy grounds, but a Lib-Lab one to demonstrate that we are not any single party’s natural allies.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Some 500 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 6th August.
  • 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, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.