One in five Lib Dem voters would switch to Labour

New poll shows that Clegg’s party has lost the support of almost four in ten of those who backed it

The Liberal Democrats have lost the support of almost four in ten of the voters who backed the party in May, according to a new ComRes/Independent poll.

More than one in five people who voted for the Lib Dems say they would now vote Labour. This number has risen to 22 per cent, up from 15 per cent last month. A further 7 per cent would switch to the Tories. This echoes a recent Guardian/ICM poll, which also showed that one in five Lib Dem voters would defect to Labour.

The new ComRes poll showed that just 62 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem would do so again if another election were held today. Slightly down from the ICM poll, which showed that seven in ten voters would stick with the party, this is yet more evidence that Clegg's party will take a hammering in the next general election.

The number could fall further as Lib Dem activists begin to feel disgruntled. Last week, a survey of 600 party members showed support for the coalition falling to 45 per cent in August from 57 per cent in July, although generally support for its existence was high.

It's not all bad news for the Lib Dems, though -- the headline figures in the ComRes poll showed support for the party stabilising. Despite the increased number of voters claiming they would defect to Labour, Clegg's party still gained 18 per cent of the vote (compared to the 23 per cent they secured in the general election). This is a marked improvement on a YouGov poll last week, which put them on a low of 11 per cent.

Arguably, Labour is the real winner from this. Up 1 point to 34 per cent, they are just 4 points behind the Tories, who were down 1 on 38. Quite apart from the support the party is gaining from disillusioned Lib Dem voters, it is likely to benefit once the full pain of deep public spending cuts hits.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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