The voters are finally turning against the Tories

Lib Dem “human shields” are no longer protecting the Tories from the cuts backlash.

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Latest poll (YouGov/Sun) Labour majority of 98.

Until recently it was common to hear Labour MPs warn that the Tories' use of the Lib Dems as "human shields" would insulate them from anger over the cuts. Their fears were supported by polls showing that support for the Conservatives had risen since the general election while support for the Lib Dems had fallen as low as 7 per cent. But this week, that began to change.

The latest daily YouGov survey puts Labour on 44 per cent, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 10 per cent. Conservative support is now at its lowest level since the election and what was a 3-5 point Labour lead has become a 7-9 point lead. Five of the last eight YouGov polls have put the Tories on less than 37 per cent.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

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Labour majority of 80 (uniform swing)

The VAT rise, combined with the stalled economic recovery, has turned public opinion decisively against the party for the first time since May. The boos that greeted Francis Maude's comments on Labour and the deficit on last night's Question Time were a sign of how the mood has changed.

In truth, they merely confirmed what polls have shown for some time: the majority of voters oppose the speed and scale of the coalition's fiscal retrenchment and largely blame the banks and the global recession for the deficit, not Labour.

The political result of the Tories' plummeting support will be a growing demand for what Tim Montgomerie calls "mainstream Conservative" policies and an impatience with perceived concessions to the Lib Dems. For months, Tory cabinet ministers have been more focused on the Lib Dems' poll ratings than their own but, after this week, that should begin to change.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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