With our declining poll ratings, we Liberal Democrats are cheering ourselves up by trying to think of when our support was at its lowest. Chris Huhne said he remembers it being less than 1% although, according to UK Polling Report, the recorded lowest is 1.5% in 1955.
The lowest in my own memory was the period after the 1987 general elections (at which the Alliance got 25.4%). The subsequent merger process and ‘discussions’ of 1987-8 saw our poll rating at 4% – a drop of over 21% in a year. In the 1989 European elections, the ‘Social and Liberal Democrats’ polled 6% - in fourth place behind the Greens.
The main trends recently, as well our reduced support, have been further increases in the Conservative rating and a slight recovery for Labour. I have seen some speculation amongst Conservative bloggers that there might be a good time for a snap election which might give the Conservatives a majority government and the chance to ‘free’ themselves from the Liberal Democrats. That time has not yet come though.
So oddly a recovery for the Labour rating is good for Lib Dems – because it would deny the Tories of the lead that they would require. As the new leader emerges and the cuts take hold, Labour’s rating will doubtless continue to improve and by next spring there should be a healthy lead.
Of course, under the current constituencies, Labour don’t need to get more votes. They can get more seats with a few percentage points less. One MORI poll had the Tories on 40% and Labour on 38% - this would give Labour 50 more seats than the Conservatives. The forthcoming bill to equalise constituencies should resolve this.
Hopefully by the next election the public will clearly acknowledge the contributions we have made even if the media do not – especially in political reform, lower taxes and the soon-to-be-introduced pupil premium. And I’m sure we would rather be in government with a low rating than have high ratings and perpetual opposition.
To finish off, the latest polls averaged over the last few days read: Conservatives 42%, Labour 36%, Liberal Democrat 14%, others 8%.
With the help of the BBC Election Calculator this works out as Conservatives 314 seats, Labour 289 seats, Liberal Democrat 20 seats, others 27 seats. So still a hung parliament.