Lib Dems hit new poll low of 13 per cent

Lib Dem support at lowest level since December 2009 as Tories hit new high of 44 per cent.

If Nick Clegg is looking for consolation after yesterday's PMQs, he won't want to begin with today's YouGov poll. The poll puts the Lib Dems on just 13 per cent, their lowest rating since December 2009. Meanwhile (just to rub it in), the Tories have risen to 44 per cent, their strongest showing since October 2009.

That the coalition's honeymoon is over, as YouGov's Peter Kellner wrote this week, is particularly troubling for the Lib Dems, because it appears to be them, rather than the Tories, who are being punished by voters. And while 84 per cent of Conservatives approve of the coalition, only 40 per cent of Lib Dems do.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

Poll of Polls

Conservative majority of 14

Unless the Lib Dems' ratings improve, we can expect tensions to grow in the run-up to the conference season. Fears that they are the convenient fall guys for George Osborne's cuts are growing by the day.

The priority now for Clegg is to try, as far as possible, to maintain his party's distinctiveness. A few more "gaffes" over Iraq and other issues would do the Lib Dems no harm. It might remind some people why they voted for the party in the first place.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.