Saturday 8 May 2010

Times poll: 51% support for Labour-LibDem coalition deal

A Populus poll for The Times suggests the public are open to a range of different outcomes from the inconclusive General Election.

The paper's headline Public want Conservatives to share power with LibDems highlights the most popular option, though by a very narrow margin, as Peter Riddell reports.

And in fact a Labour-LibDem coalition (51 per cent) has more support than a full Tory-LibDem coalition (46 per cent, with 52 per cent against). A Tory minority government is just more popular than either (53 per cent), as long as it depends on LibDem support, and much the least popular option (29 per cent) if primarily based on an understanding with the Ulster Unionists.

We may see slightly different results as the question is asked in different ways, but the poll suggests that the public seem to support the politicians negotiating to deal with the hung Parliament outcome, and do not regard the outcome as a foregone conclusion.

Here are the main findings, as reported in The Times today:

A Conservative minority government with the support of the Liberal Democrats is, narrowly, the favoured solution to the electoral stalemate, according to a Populus poll for The Times.The poll of 514 voters today showed that 53 per cent supported that option, with 47 per cent opposed.

A close runner-up is the option of Labour remaining in government in a formal agreement with the Lib Dems. This was backed by 51 per cent and opposed by 45 per cent. It was favoured by nearly nine out of ten Labour voters.

A small majority (52 per cent) oppose the Conservatives forming a coalition government with the Lib Dems, though this is backed by 46 per cent, including about four fifths of Tories.

The public are evenly split — 43 to 45 per cent — on Gordon Brown remaining as Prime Minister. More than a third of Lib Dems back him staying.

The least appealing scenario is for the Conservatives to form a minority government with the support of the Ulster Unionists, favoured by 29 per cent, and opposed by 52 per cent. About 60 per cent of Tory voters support this.

The poll suggests that a majority of the public reject the view expressed vehemently by some right-wing newspapers that it would not be democratically legitimate for Gordon Brown and Labour to seek to negotiate with other parties to form a government with sufficent support in the new parliament.

The newspapers offer to vocalise the democratic outrage of "the people" but in this case would seem to be out of touch with what the public actually think.


Mil said...

Wouldn't be the first time our press seemed out of touch with what the people think. As social media take off and people get used to publicly registering their thoughts, we'll get more and more of this I think.

ceedee said...

"The newspapers offer to vocalise the democratic outrage of "the people" but in this case would seem to be out of touch with what the public actually think. "

Well knock me down with a feather!

Why people (and the frankly ridiculous rolling news machine) can't give our political representatives a couple of days to explore potential working arrangements, I don't know...

Bearded Socialist said...

i don't think we can really base our government on opinion polls

Cantab83 said...

I'm not sure I believe these polls. How do you square the public's apparent acceptance of the Lib Dems keeping Gordon Brown in Downing Street with Labour's poor showing in the election?

As I outlined on my blog today, the question for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems is, how do they best achieve electoral reform? My worry is that if it doesn't happen now, then the next election could deliver a Tory majority, and electoral reform and progressive politics could be off the agenda for another generation. The problem is, I cannot see how doing a deal with either party will deliver that reform. A deal with Labour would require a grand coalition with other parties and could be electoral suicide for the Lib Dems in southern England. The coalition would also be inherently unstable, and any reform measures would face too many obstacles from the Tories in the Lords to be passed in time for the next election. And an incoming Tory government would inevitably try to repeal any reforming legislation they possibly could.

I doubt the Tories will ever support voting reform for the House of Commons. They might, though, support reform of the Lords. I'm sure Cameron has said as much in the recent past, hasn't he, or not? If so that could be the Trojan horse that is the key to change for reasons that I pointed out in my blog. It is also a reform that the Tories could deliver quickly and easily as they and the Lib Dems have the necessary votes to carry it through both Houses. That is what Clegg should be aiming for. It is the reform that would change everything. Once it is in operation we wouldn't need to worry so much about Tory majorities in the Commons.

Sunder Katwala said...


Populus do not yet have the poll detail. But its not difficult to see how a coalition between parties which got 52% of the vote could be supported by a majority. Specifically, the Times report says 95% of Labour supporters back the Lab-Lib coalition, and Lab got 29% of the vote. Ben Page of Mori said today that two-thirds of LibDem voters (24%) prefer a LD-Labour to an LD-Tory deal, so that (amounts to roughly 16% v 8% of total electorate) gets you close to 45% who strongly prefer a left coalition. Many LibDem voters seem to think either coalition a good idea (hence majorities for LD-Tory and LD-Labour options), and many Green/Nat supporters might back it too.

I am very sceptical about the idea of selling out Commons electoral reform for an elected Lords. There is little political contention about the latter (the Tories formal position is in favour, while doing very little about it). Labour could offer the LibDems an early referendum on both Commons PR and elected PR Lords.

Cantab83 said...

Sunder, I am not arguing that reform of the Commons should be abandoned. I am merely arguing that Lords reform could be achieved very quickly with Tory backing, and that therefore this should be attempted first.

I agree that the best coalition would be a Lab-Lib one. They are natural bedfellows, and as I pointed out on my blog, I see very few areas of policy on which a Tory-Lib coalition would work.

Unfortunately, the current Commons arithmetic makes a long-lived Lab-Lib coalition very unlikely, due in part to the large number of other parties needed. My worry is that it would collapse before it achieved anything concrete on electoral reform, particularly given the additional problems of getting a Lords majority and the ambivalence of the PLP on this issue. Then the Tories would probably win the ensuing election outright and the moment for reform would be lost for years, or possibly decades. That is too high a risk. That is why I am demanding that the Lib Dems achieve something definite while they can.

If you are arguing for referenda before enacting reform then I think you are placing even more hurdles in the way. My suspicion is that Gordon Brown specifically proposed the referenda route because he knew it would result in a process that was designed to fail. I don't think we need any referenda on electoral reform. They would be too complicated, and Labour already has a mandate for it from 1997 while for the Lib Dems it is part of their political DNA. If the electorate don't like it then they are still free to vote for a Tory majority under PR to overturn it.

My strategy proposal for the Lib Dems is that they should allow the Tories to set up a minority government in exchange for immediate Lords reform. Then after it is implemented they should wait for the Tories to become unpopular and then switch sides to enter a formal coalition with Labour (minus Gordon Brown). Then they should try to complete the job with reform of voting for the Commons. Strategically that makes much more sense, and the risks of failure are much lower.

13eastie said...

This is really desperate stuff, Sunder...

Grasping at straws and all rather undignified.

On Thursday 71% of the electorate voted against Labour.

Real numbers, not a screened sample of obtusely-phrased polls.

(Although it might be worth you noting that the 51% figure seems to suggest that Lib-Lab is worth a good deal less than the sum of its parts...)

Is it just possible that Brown's disastrous economic mismanagement and loathsome disdain for the people of the country has got people's backs up rather?

It would be more becoming for you to distance yourselves from Brown's doomed, pathetic, hypocritical and indecorous desperation to cling to power irrespective of clearly expressed will of the people.

Labour lost because they:
a) broke manifold electoral promises
b) lied shamelessly to the people and parliament
c) engaged in industrial-scale corruption and lame cover-up
d) wilfully enraged their newest supporters
e) eschewed democracy at every opportunity
f) treated the electorate like idiots
g) alienated a vast constituency of voters with strong personal interest in the well-being of our servicemen
h) inherited the most benign of economies and recklessly maxed out the public debt
i) devoted inordinate time and effort to policies based on immature class war antics
j) engaged in open internal dissent while being too cowardly to take any definitive action
k) offered a wholly negative electoral campaign

Unless confidence is restored in these areas, Labour will continue to be despised.

You need to do a lot more than merely take a revisionist standpoint re. the polls.

There is only one poll that counts.