Monday, January 09, 2006

Kennedy Effect felt already

Disaster in the polls as Charlie says 'Bye Bye'.

A new poll for the Mail on Sunday has the Lib Dems shedding most of the support it has gained under Kennedy.

During the 1990's the Lib Dems had support levels in the late teens, but since Kennedy took over in 1999 their support has fairly consistantly been on or above the psychologically important 20% barrier.

But since the troubles in December began over Kennedy's leadership the Lib Dems have slumped and the latest crop show their support even lower; on 16%.

The poll shares are with comparisons on the last published BPIX poll in November are:
CON 38 (+3)
LAB 38(+1)
LD 16 (-4).

This poll, although very early, strikes me as a clear foretaste of what is to come.

I have always believed that although he is dismissed by many political activist as a bit of a lightweight, Chat Show Charlie has been a winner with the public, especially many of the less-than-engaged members of the public who have recently made up the bulk of Lib dem support.

Will the party choose someone with the same public appeal? Or will they go for someone like Menzies Campbell, a heavyweight in the studios of Newsnight and in parliament, but a big turn-off for the public at large?

I have noticed a tendancy among all the main parties to choose leaders who are in personality terms the opposite of their immediate predecessor - as indeed the Lib Dems did themselves when they put CK in after Paddy Ashdown.

On that basis, Campbell is a shoo-in.


Anonymous said...

I realy dont see the point of polls showing the ups and downs of the big 3, they all say the same thing anyway so if I vote lid/lad/con I will get the same old rubbish.

You seem to be a nice chap Marcus but your politics are not.

Anonymous said...

So opinion polls taken in the midst of a leadership crisis for one party show that people wouldn't vote for it at the moment? That is hardly a surprise.
It is 4 or 5 years from the next election for goodness sake, and a lot can happen in that length of time (and on current form the Tories will have another new leader!).

Barrie Wood said...

Marcus you are, unsurprisingly, selective in your use of polls.

The latest Populus Poll, as quoted in The Times reads Labour 39% (+1), Conservative 36% (+1), Lib Dem 16% (-3). A month into Cameron's leadership and still behind Labour.

The Lib Dems have had their worst month in recent memory. However over the next couple of months the Lib Dems can expect a good media spotlight followed by a new leader. If this is the best you can do, the honeymoon for Cameron looks pretty short.

Marcus said : Chat Show Charlie has been a winner with the public, especially many of the less-than-engaged members of the public who have recently made up the bulk of Lib dem support. So you choose to denigrate people you need to win over if you are to win locally or nationally. Great politics that Marcus ! And how do you quantify how engaged Lib Dem or voters of any other party are ? Likewise, there's nothing to back-up your criticism of Ming Campbell being a 'turn off' for voters. There's not 'something of the night' about him unlike the hugely 'popular' Michael Howard who led your party.

If any readers want to get a feel of Lib Dem opinion regarding the leadership then try : or even my own rantings at

FWIW I'd be OK with Ming leading the party. He's a serious politician with gravitas, measured, assured and someone the party can unite around. I'd personally prefer the more radical Simon Hughes should he stand.

Barrie Wood said...

Sorry should have said not AHEAD
of Labour in the polls !

Marcus Wood said...

Why is it 'denigrating' people to suggest that many of them are less than engaged with the political process?

The fact is that less than two thirds of the public voted in the General Election and at most local elections you are lucky to get a turnout above one third.

All politics is poorer if people don't vote and all political commentators make the major error of imagining that increased support for one party comes at the expense of support for another 9although that is what percentages suggest is happening it is misleading).

Charles Kennedy is a politician who although seen by the politically active as lightweight is liked by people who don't take that much interest in politics. His votes don't necessarily come from either of the other two parties but from many voters who otherwise wouldn't have supported anyone.

What the polling information confirms is that that a vital 5%component of Lib dem support in 2001 and 2005 has already disappeared.

What we don't yet know is whether David Cameron has the same ability to reach out to the people who won't vote if they don't like any of the potential Prime Ministers on offer; and persuade them to support him and the Conservatives.

Barrie Wood said...

You don't answer the point - how can you quantify your assertion that politically less than engaged people make up the bulk of Lib Dem support ? That is nothing more than wild assertion. Every party has soft voters, or due to the electoral system, some vote to keep a party out than vote positively for their most favoured party.

A system that of course militates against you in Scotland and Wales in Westminster elections and heavily in urban areas in local elections. But still the Tories support the anachronistic electoral system !

Additionally, your other assumption of Ming Campbell being a turn off for the public is based on what ?

Certainly Ming's persona and forensic lawyerly style will appeal I think to many soft Tory voters especially. Don't write Ming off so easily ;-)

The biggest challenge for the Lib Dems is to remain distinctively Liberal and offer a progressive alternative to the grand coalition of ideas that seem to be emerging between Blairite Labour and Cameron's Labour-lite Tories, if his pronouncements become policy.

Barrie Wood said...

Out of interest Marcus what do you make of the 'Orange Book' Lib Dems. The OB is an 'interesting' read, even if there's lots for me to quibble with. Try it !

Anonymous said...

I think Charles Kennedy was the right man for the time, as a Lib Dem supporter I always thought he was OK and popular, as you say, with many people not interested in the day to day bickering that is Westminster politics.

There are several candidates other than Menzies who I think could retain some of that support, I include David Laws and Mark Oaten.

But there is a much much bigger problem facing the Lib dems today though, and he is called David Cameron. Everything I have seen, heard and learned about this man leads me to believe that the Lib Dems are in real trouble politically.

Provided he sticks to the policy anouncements he has already made on health, education, welfare and social fairness Cameron represents a return to the kind of politics that, in the dim past, made me and very many other Lib Dem friends of mine vote Conservative.

It's hardly surprising that Liberal Democrat MP's have been scared witless by the prospect of losing their seats and therefore entirely predictable that their first reaction is to take action against a leader they thought was not up to the challenge.

I think Adrian has been a good local MP - although I do accept some of the criticism levelled at him (mostly by you) that he has not been strong enough in dealing with his council colleagues; however I also think that three parliaments is enough for any MP and my vote is not promised next time.

I enjoy your blog which is mostly thoughtful and considered, although clearly biased to your point of view.

I am sure there are many others like myself who will be watching you closely over the next couple of years and evaluating whether you and your leader are genuine about the changes you say you are making.