First Euro poll of 2014 shows Lib Dems at 7%. Can we make being ‘The Party of IN’ work for us by the time of the real election?

by Stephen Tall on January 16, 2014

The first poll this year asking how people will vote in May’s European elections has been published today by YouGov. It gives the following headline ratings compared with the last elections in 2009:

    Conservative 17% (-11%)
    Labour 24% (+8%)
    Lib Dem 7% (-7%)
    Ukip 19% (+2%)

Feed these numbers (plus those for the Greens, SNP/Plaid and others) into euroelection.co.uk and here’s what it means for numbers of seats:

euro results forecast 2014

The Lib Dems would be reduced from 11 seats to just 4, if these numbers are to be believed. The Tories number of MEPs would be cut from 26 won in 2009 to 16. By contrast, Labour would almost double their representation, up from 13 to to 27 while Ukip would add a further 5 to their tally of 13.

One challenge to activists is to motivate Lib Dem supporters to vote in these elections. If you look at the breakdown of certainty to vote, Conservative (53%), Labour (54%) and Ukip (66%) supporters are much more likely to say they are 90-100% certain to vote than are Lib Dems (45%). Our get-out-the-vote operation will be more crucial than ever given the large constituencies for European elections (SE England, for instance, stretches from Dover to Oxford, taking in nine counties).

Of course this is just one poll more than four months ahead of the actual election. In 2009, the polls shifted a lot the closer we got to polling day, with Ukip surging in the last few weeks. I’d expect some churn in the next four months, too, although Ukip’s profile – and their core issues of Europe and immigration – has been consistently higher which may reduce their potential to increase their vote as much this time.

Though the figures look pretty bad for the Lib Dems currently, we too have an opportunity – to be the only major party enthusiastically to campaign as ‘The party of IN’. As I wrote in this month’s issue of Total Politics:

In 2014’s Euro elections the issue of Europe will dominate in a way it hasn’t done before. UKIP will toot its populist anti-EU, anti-immigration tune while the Tories and Labour do their utmost to stop their voters dancing to it. This gives Lib Dems the chance to occupy a distinctive niche in British politics as ‘The Party of In’.

The party’s internal polling shows this pro-European message plays well to the 15% of voters who don’t currently support it, but would consider doing so.

If the party can woo even half this group of ‘Lib Dem considerers’ – Clegg’s strategy guru Ryan Coetzee terms them “our market” – between now and May 2015, its ratings would climb to 17%-18%. That would be good enough to save some 40 to 45 Lib Dem seats and give the party leverage in the event of a second hung parliament.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.