POLL EXCLUSIVE: What Lib Dem members think will happen in 2015 – and what we want to happen in the event of a hung parliament

by Stephen Tall on July 25, 2013

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. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

72% of Lib Dem members predict another hung parliament in 2015

What do you believe is the likeliest outcome of the next general election?

    5% – An overall majority for the Conservatives

    6% – A Conservative minority government

    3% – A Conservative-led coalition with parties other than Labour or the Lib Dems

    11% – A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition

    29% – A Labour-Lib Dem coalition

    3% – A Labour-led coalition with parties other than the Conservatives or the Lib Dems

    20% – A minority Labour government

    9% – An overall majority for Labour

    0% – A “grand coalition” between Labour and Conservatives

    13% – Don’t know

I deliberately offered multiple, mirroring choices to capture the full span of opinion on this. But let’s now group the data together to help us understand what it’s saying:

  • Almost three-quarters of Lib Dem members (72%) think a hung parliament is the most likely outcome of the 2015 general election. Just 14% think either Labour (9%) or the Tories (5%) will win outright.
  • 40% of Lib Dems expect the party will be back in government in a coalition – three-quarters (29%) of this group expect it to be with Labour and just one-quarter (11%) a second coalition with the Tories.
  • Getting on for two-third (61%) think Ed Miliband’s Labour party will be in government, either on their own account or with backing from other parties. Just one-quarter (25%) expect the Tories to be in government again after 2015.

So that’s what our sample of Lib Dem members think will happen. Now let’s find out what we want to happen if there’s another hung parliament…

By 55% to 18%, Lib Dem members prefer post-2015 alliance with Labour to continuing pact with Tories

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

    3% – A Labour majority government with the Lib Dems in opposition

    7% – A minority Labour government with the Lib Dems in opposition

    15% – 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)

    40% – 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)

    5% – 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)

    1% – A minority Conservative government with the Lib Dems in opposition

    2% – A Conservative majority with the Lib Dems in opposition

    4% – Other

    8% – Don’t know

Again, let’s group some of these individual choices together:

  • More than half (55%) Lib Dem members want to see some form of arrangement with Labour: either a formal coalition (40%) or a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement (15%).
  • By comparison, fewer than 1-in-5 (18%) want to see a continuing arrangement with the Conservatives, either a second coalition (13%) or a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement (5%).
  • In total, therefore, almost three-quarters of Lib Dem members (73%) want to see the Lib Dems continuing to play an active role in government: 53% within coalition, 20% through a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement. Just 13% of Lib Dem members want to see the party return to opposition.

My personal take on the results

I last asked this question a year ago: By 48% to 19%, Lib Dem members prefer post-2015 alliance with Labour to continuing pact with Tories. The findings are pretty similar, but there has been a noticeable shift in favour of a full coalition with Labour.

I think this is both tactical and principled.

Tactically, it makes sense for the Lib Dems to want to choose Labour next time: it would show the party isn’t simply an adjunct to the Tories but can work with both other major parties if that’s how the public votes.

On a principled basis, Labour’s position on a range of big economic issues — tax-cuts for the low-paid, the ‘mansion tax’, ending universal benefits for wealthier pensioners — has moved towards the Lib Dems’ in recent months, as I noted here.

Personally, I’m very doubtful the Lib Dems will form a coalition with either party. I do not think the party will approve a second full coalition with the Conservatives: the party’s ‘triple lock’ — which means any deal must be approved by large majorities by each of the parliamentary party, the elected Federal Executive and a special conference — will, almost certainly, prevent it.

And while the results in our poll suggest the party would be willing to sign up to a coalition with Labour next time around, it seems very doubtful Labour will be prepared to offer the party the kind of deal that will make it acceptable. Too much bile has been spilled, too many bridges burned.

Moreover, the Lib Dems may well not be in as strong a bargaining position next time. In 2010, despite losing MPs we gained an extra million votes, partly on the back of Nick Clegg’s strong showing in the televised leaders’ debates. 2015, by contrast, will be a survival election for the party. Of course, none of us knows what the next two years will bring, but it seems unlikely the party will have the kind of momentum we did then which would allow us to make demands in the way our negotiating team did in May 2010.

My best guess at this stage, therefore, would be that we are heading for a minority Labour government, with Prime Minister Ed Miliband dependent at every parliamentary vote on Unite-sponsored, Bennite-left Labour MPs. The good news is he’d also be dependent on Lib Dem MPs. And the more of them there are, the greater influence the party will have.

Full disclosure: You should probably ignore my predictions about future Coalitions. In March 2010, I put forward 5 reasons Nick Clegg should rule out a coalition now, with my top reason being “A coalition is a non-starter, so let’s just rule it out now”. Other posts have aged better.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • 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 offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • 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.