by Stephen Tall on July 26, 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.
Nick Clegg’s ratings recover to +18%, best in over a year
14% – Very satisfied
44% – Satisfied
Total satisfied = 58% (+10%)
20% – Dissatisfied
20% – Very dissatisfied
Total dissatisfied = 40% (-8%)
2% – Don’t know / No opinion
When we last polled party members on their view of Nick Clegg’s performance as Lib Dem leader, in March 2013, he had a rating of -2%. This was only the second time perceptions of Nick within the party had dipped into the negative zone. July’s rating sees his position recover significantly to +18%. That’s Nick’s best rating since June 2012 (when it was +19%).
Comments from those who filled in the survey seem to fall into three broad camps:
1) Nick’s fans
I think he’s done a good job. What many people seem unable to understand is the immense difficulties inherent in the role he has.
Nick has understood how to get liberal policies approved in a coalition and has a long term strategy for the Party which takes us out of constant opposition
Given the amount of flak he has taken – from so-called supporters as well as political opponents he deserves credit for still being in the job.
2) Nick’s critics
He has played a weak hand badly, which is forgiveable, but he has abandoned key liberal principles and move far to the right.
Very disappointed, I supported Nick for leader but he has totally lost touch with the party’s values – very sad.
He is toxic with the electorate and in the interest of the country and the party he needs to go before the election.
3) The inbetweeners
Although ‘satisfied’ I’m actually dissatisfied with many of the things he’s done. However, I think his heart is in the right place, he is really in an impossible situation where he can ‘do no right’ and I can’t see anyone who would obviously do it better (even if they did it differently).
He is doing better as Deputy PM than he is doing as party leader.
I don’t agree with all the choices he makes (He chooses X over Y, and I feel Y is the most important thing), or the binary way he presents the party to activists (You are with us on everything, or you are for permanent opposition), but he is handling things overall well.
All of which brings us to the tricky question of Nick’s future as party leader: should he stay or should he go now?
55% say Nick should stay to fight 2015 election; 38% say he shouldn’t
Thinking about Nick Clegg’s position as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib Dems, which of these scenarios do you want to see happen?
55% – I want Nick Clegg to continue both as Deputy Prime Minister and to lead the Lib Dems into the next general election
16% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election
9% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader at some point (eg, in 2014) before the next election
3% – I want Nick Clegg to continue as Deputy Prime Minister but stand down as leader this year
10% – I want Nick Clegg to stand down both as Deputy Prime Minister and as leader this year
3% – Other
4% – Don’t know
I deliberately offered a range of options here to try and capture the span of opinion — also to recognise that Nick has two roles, party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, and that these could potentially be de-coupled before the next election.
If we sum the various options, though, we arrive at this aggregate total: 55% want Nick Clegg to fight the next election while 38% want him to resign before then.
I last asked this question in August 2012: back then, 47% of Lib Dem members wanted him to continue, while 46% wanted him to resign before the 2015 election. There has, therefore, been a noticeable shift in Nick’s favour among members — though the fact that more than one-third of party members want Nick Clegg to stand down will still make deeply uncomfortable reading for him.
Reading through the 100 or so comments, three thoughts struck me:
1) The mood seems to have changed. While a year ago, people were actively considering whether Nick could be replaced by (eg) Vince Cable there is a sense now that moment has passed — many people used a variation on the phrase ‘there is no alternative’.
2) A number of people also make the point that Nick’s job is to soak up the criticism of the Lib Dem role in government: better he continue to do so than someone else also become tainted by the inevitable compromises of Coalition. “Let’s not ditch the lightning rod, eh?” captured that view.
3) Nick divides opinion within the party, as highlighted above: fans, critics, inbetweeners. But interestingly there wasn’t even a hint in the comments of any attempt to try and force the issue: no threats of no-confidence motions or organised leadership challenges. In short, the decision to stay or go is Nick’s decision, Clegg’s Call.