All four other parties – Conservative, Labour, Ukip and Greens – have benefitted from the Lib Dems' demise. Photo: Getty.
Show Hide image

The Lib Dems have lost 7 in 10 of their voters. Where have they gone?

The party are keeping hold of around 30 per cent of its voters, with 30 per cent switching to Labour and 40 per cent split between the other three parties.

For more insights into the polls, and profiles on constituencies across the UK, explore May2015.com.

The headline polls tell the cost of coalition. After winning nearly 24 per cent of the vote in 2010 the Lib Dems are now languishing on less than 8. But where have all those voters gone and who might they hand the election to?

The vote has split five ways, but put more simply it has split into three: around 30 per cent is staying Lib Dem, 30 per cent is going to Labour, and 40 per cent has drifted to the other three parties.

More specifically, the Lib Dems are holding onto 28 to 34 per cent of their voters, Labour have been gifted 29 to 31 per cent, 13 to 15 per cent has gone to Ukip, 11 to 15 per cent to the Tories, and 7 to 14 per cent to the Greens.

These findings show how varied Lib Dem voters were in 2010. They were a mixture of the party’s left-leaning, former SDP bloc (the 40 per cent or so now voting Labour or Green), a more centre-right group (most of those staying Lib Dem, and those now Tory) and a protest vote (the part now voting Ukip).

Those are the numbers we can find in polls by YouGov, Ashcroft and Populus – the three most prolific British pollsters. They were compiled by averaging the “sub-breaks” of Lib Dem voters across a series of the most recent polls by each pollster. [1]

Three of the other regular pollsters – ComRes, ICM and Ipsos MORI – broadly agreed with these numbers. Only Survation’s are very different. Their most recent poll, which made headlines for putting Ukip on 25 per cent, suggested 47 per cent of Lib Dem 2010 voters would vote Ukip, which is three times more than any other pollster and seems unlikely.

It makes sense that 10-15 per cent of the Lib Dem 2010 vote was a protest, but it’s hard to think half of it was, or that half of those voters would flock to Ukip when all the other pollsters think two-thirds of them will vote Labour or Lib Dem.

When ComRes experimented with prompting for Ukip, as Survation do, they came up with a similar headline number (24 per cent Ukip) but a more modest figure for 2010 Lib Dems: 24 per cent (against 18 per cent in their non-prompting poll). Our initial estimate of a 30-30-40 Lib-Lab-others split seems fair.

Understanding how the Lib Dem vote has changed nationally helps us examine individual seats. These numbers are the baseline we can use to explain how incumbent Lib Dem MPs are faring so much better than their party, as Ashcroft’s polls show they are.

These MPs are usually holding onto far more of the 2010 Lib Dem vote than the national numbers imply. The swing away from the party is weaker in the seats they hold (which means it will be stronger in the ones they don’t).

As for the consequences of all this, the 30 per cent being gifted to Labour is the reason the party may still be able to form a government next year, despite trailing on the economy and leadership, and winning over few 2010 Tory voters. Miliband's party could take more than ten seats from the party that many of its members dislike more than the Tories.

[1] That’s five YouGov polls, three Ashcroft polls and four by Populus. Dates are detailed in the graphic above.

Click through to May2015.com.

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.