Tag Archives: Libdems

Five Questions for the pollsters

If the pollsters want to get back into everyone’s good books, here are some questions which every political party should want to know the answer to.

(1) Where did the core Lib Dem vote go and why?

The transfer of seats during the 2015 General Election.
The transfer of seats during the 2015 General Election.

This diagram from @pickardJE shows very little movement from Labour to the Conservatives and vice versa. However it appears to show a large movement from the Libdems to the Conservatives. However, if individual seats are looked at (particularly in the south west, the so-called Libdem heartlands) then in some cases there is hardly any gain for the Conservatives at all, but rather a complete scattering of the Libdem vote.

Libdems and other parties need to understand whether their voters really did turn to the Conservatives for being “better” liberals or whether their core vote in some areas came from being the main alternative party to the Conservatives, which obviously was undermined by entering into coalition. These are two completely different explanations for the same end result.

2) Why the rise in UKIP in second place in many Labour constituencies?

This doesn’t show on this diagram because the diagram shows seats, not votes.

Can it just be explained by anti-immigration sentiment in poor areas? Or is it a more general rejection of the Westminster oligarchy? Voters in these seats are probably the most neglected in the country; their votes still taken as given by the Labour party because “they’ve got nowhere else to go”. Connected to this;

3) Why didn’t Farage win in Thanet South?

I have Googled this every day since the election but the coverage is still on the reaction and the moment rather than any analysis on why he lost. Did the anti-UKIP activism work? Can it be repeated on a much larger scale in dozens more consituencies?

4) Why did the SNP grab the Labour vote?

Labour commentators backing a move leftwards are keen to highlight the SNP’s anti-austerity message, but is that why the SNP swept to power or was it much more about a rejection of Westminster / England particularly following the referendum?

5) What on earth is going in Wales?

Looking at the “Best Welsh Tory election for years”, again this looks like Libdem vote scattering rather than decisive Conservative win. Conservative vote share is up in some of their held constituencies but down in others.

I don’t know the answers to any of these but I really hope someone spends some time finding out.

The death of the coalition experiment

Angela Merkel and David Cameron
Angela Merkel is alleged to have advised David Cameron that in coalitions “the little party gets smashed”. Picture from number10gov via creative commons.

One of the many disappointments about the 2015 General Election is that it seems to demonstrate fairly comprehensively that the British electorate is not keen on coalitions. It also suggests that the strength of LibDem local activism has been overstated.

Up until the exit poll, I would have gone along with @timwig‘s 2013 view that the Libdems wouldn’t collapse. I thought the tribalist anti-Libdem sentiments from many of my lefty friends was typical of a metropolitan bubble, and that it underestimated the strength and importance of local activism. I was expecting them to lose seats and vote share in London and other metropolitan areas where they had perhaps picked up opportunistic votes from Labour in 2010. I was not expecting the complete wipeout in their southwest heartlands.

While there is further geeky number crunching analysis to do, it’s clear that in many former LibDem strongholds, their vote has collapsed and spread to the four winds, rather than go to a specific party; in some of their former constituencies, the Conservatives won despite polling around the same or indeed fewer votes than in 2010.

While I’m not instinctively a LibDem supporter, up until Thursday 8th May 2015 I genuinely believed that they had support because of local activism and connections (A Good Thing IMHO), and also because they were successfully able to present themselves as above party politics and tribalism, one that was able to exert a moderating influence and ensure there was more debate on a number of issues (Also A Good Thing IMHO). I wanted them to be a thoughtful alternative to two-party politics and felt our political system was stronger because of them, and naively thought that a significant part of the electorate might also share that view.

So hence the personal disappointment. But here’s the thing; even if you have nothing but hatred and contempt for the Liberal Democrats, if you believe in greater democracy and accountability, their collapse is bad news for you. Firstly, there is no way proportional representation is going to work without coalition politics. You can’t rally against the idiocy of the first past the post system without accepting that greater representation of smaller parties will lead to coalitions, negotiations and compromises. Secondly, it has completely destroyed the illusion that local activism (in its current form) is important. I think this is the biggest shame of all.