So in the latest Sun/YouGov poll the Lib Dems are down to 13% (not far off half of what they got in the general election just two and a half months ago) with the Tories on 44% and Labour on 35%. On a uniform national swing this would see the Conservatives with a majority of 36 and, demonstrating yet again the iniquity of the electoral system - the Lib Dems almost wiped out on 15 seats (down 42 on the GE).
Thursday, 22 July 2010
I still do not think there is any need to fret about this. Our party has just entered a coalition with a party whom some observers (and indeed party members) think was not its natural choice. The government has ensured it has got a grip of the finances and started to put into effect some of the "difficult decisions" that we so often heard referred to in the abstract prior to the election but which now have to be implemented.
The bad news has come early on, and indeed will likely continue to come for some time and of course the Lib Dems are fully involved in taking these decisions.
I am also unsurprised to see the Conservatives increasing in the polls. There is usually a honeymoon period for a new government and Prime Minister. We even saw this with Gordon Brown in 2007. We have an odd effect at play here though in that one of the coalition partners has gone up whilst the other has gone down. I suspect that this is a reflection of the fact that Conservative minded voters are more inclined towards the cuts that have been announced whereas the Lib Dem base is (understandably) a bit more nervous. I think it is also likely that the public is still adjusting to the facts of life under a coalition.
Now I am of course not ecstatic about the polls. I would prefer it if we were doing much better but this parliament is likely to run for 4 or 5 years. Between elections in previous cycles we have been as low as 11%. Those low points have not been translated into woeful electoral results previously and I am optimistic that it will not happen this time either.
By the time of the next election, either the economy will be back on track and both parties within the government will get credit for this or (less likely I think) things will not have improved much and Labour will have a much stronger claim that they would have done it better. Either way I think that the two parties of government will take their share of the credit or blame. I cannot see this divergence in party fortunes persisting for several years when they are both taking the decisions.
The important thing is for the Lib Dems to talk up their achievements. There were some good things in the budget for example (£1,000 tax threshold rise, capital gains tax rise etc.) that would simply not have been there under a Conservative government. There are plenty of other examples too. We need to make sure that at every opportunity we rebut the "betrayal" narrative that we see from Labour and others and ensure we point out just how much of a positive difference our influence within government has made.
Now is not the time to panic.