Is 20% the new 15%?

Under-reported in Lib Dem blogs is this opinion poll by ICM, showing the Lib Dem support down just a single percentage point at 1%.

One thing our opponents are unlikely to acknowledge is that we appear to have reached a point whereby a fifth of the country supporting the Lib Dems has now become the normative. Before 2003, the normative was closer to 15%.

What does this mean? It certainly suggests that so long as we can hit the ground running after the leadership election, there is every reason we can look forward to new horizons in the next general election. I for one am genuinely surprised at how well our support has held up under the Cameron onslaught and with the harder definition that a new leader will bring, our prospects are looking very good indeed.


  1. Agreed – I think we’ve passed the credibility test. The party is no longer the “one-man-band” of the Ashdown era and has developed distinctive policies. If we continue to do so, there’s no reason why we can’t move even further ahead.

  2. But we shouldn’t get too carried away either! Even holding our existing level of support will need continuous hard graft and avoiding any gaffs.

  3. I think you’re right, James.

    Remember what happened when the Party last turned in on itself? 1987/88? When Dr David Owen refused to merge the SDP with the Liberals, and we had a solid 18 months of strife? (The very worst moment was the jeering of John Cartwright at Sheffield. I was there and I cringed.)

    We hit 6% in the polls at one point. And the media was writing us off, just as they did at the time of Thorpe and the Lib-Lab Pact.

    But we recovered. And we recovered for three reasons: (1) our local government base (which hadn’t existed in 1977/8); (2) Chris Rennard; and (3) Paddy Ashdown (in that order).

    What are the differences between then and now? Well, for a start, we don’t have a wounded egomaniac hellbent on wrecking the Party. Secondly, we might have looked a bit nasty and maladroit this past month, but we are not at war with each other, and outside the Parliamentary Party everything is intact. The new leader, whoever he may be, won’t be accepting a poisoned chalice.

    Now, I cannot resist recounting the best single moment of Sheffield, 1988. That was when Owen, surrounded by a posse of journalists, swanned into the bar. The late Jim Daly called out: “This man is a charlatan! Why doesn’t he talk to members?! He’s no better than Gary Hart!” Ah, but before Jim had the chance to open his mouth, and the moment Owen’s ugly presence was felt, Clive English (now a Maidstone councillor) said, just a little nonchalantly: “There’s a smell of death in here.” And Owen heard every word.

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