Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Support for Lib Dems slumps as voters fear party has lost its way.

Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are being hammered in opinion polls as people struggle to understand what the Liberal Democrats stand for now that they are aligned with the Tories.

A ComRes poll for The Independent finds that backing for Nick Clegg's party has fallen to just 16 per cent, its worst showing since early April. It also found that almost three-quarters of the public says it does not know what the Liberal Democrats stand for any longer.

The continuing slide in the polls of the Liberal Democrats will intensify the pressure on Nick Clegg, who negotiated a power-sharing deal with David Cameron that flew in the face of the instincts of many of his foot soldiers.

Their alarm will be intensified by the finding that public sentiment is turning against the coalition in general and the Liberal Democrats in particular. A total of 73 per cent of voters agreed with the statement that it was difficult to know what the Liberal Democrats stood for now that they had joined the coalition, an increase of eight points since a ComRes poll on 2 June.

The public mood has also shifted against the Lib-Con agreement. Only 36 per cent agree that Britain is "better off with a coalition government than it would have been if either the Conservatives or Labour had won the election outright", with 50 per cent disagreeing. Two months ago, the public approved the creation of the coalition by a margin of 45 per cent to 43 per cent.

It was inevitable that Clegg's Liberal Democrats would pay a much steeper price for all this than the Tories ever would. After all, the platform the Liberal Democrats ran on was actually to the left of the Labour Party, so I don't understand how Clegg ever thought he could get away with aligning his party to the Tories. Especially as many people voted Liberal Democrat precisely to prevent the Tories from coming to power.

Nor have the Tories policies done anything to allay the fears of Clegg's backbenchers.

Worries are growing among many Liberal Democrat MPs over the scale of the financial squeeze planned by George Osborne, the Chancellor, and fear they will pay a heavy political price in next year's local elections.

Some fear the party is acting as a fig leaf for ideologically driven spending cuts by the Tories. Plans to cut housing benefit, increase VAT rates, set up academies and "free schools", reorganise the national health service and end lifetime tenure for council-house tenants have also caused dismay among Mr Clegg's backbenchers.

They are being used, as they rightly say, as fig leafs. The Tory logic is that the public might feel, "It can't be that bad if the Lib Dems are backing it."

But one only has to turn on one's radio and listen to the outrage Cameron's recent comment regarding council housing tenants went down to realise that the public aren't falling for this nonsense at all.

We recognise right wing extremism when we hear it, and some of Cameron's proposals have been shocking. Simon Hughes was the lone Liberal voice condemning him.

The silence of the others was worthy of our contempt. That is now being reflected in the polls.

Click here for full article.

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