A debate is still raging in the party 5 weeks after the disastrous Local, Euro and Newark byelection results which saw the party slump to 6.9% and to 2.6% at Newark. Numerous opinion polls also point to a historic disaster facing the party on May 7th 2015.
In my own local party Wakefield just this week a letter went out to party members to ask the question about Nick Clegg’s continuing leadership. Across the party it is reported that some 30 local parties have tabled votes this summer on Nick Clegg’s continuing leadership. In recent polls almost three quarters of Lib Dem Voters in 2010 describe Nick Clegg as a bad leader and 44% of the Public are calling for his removal as leader. Vince Cable is cited as the most popular choice of successor.
I campaigned hard in my Wakefield ward to stop UKIP and succeeded in preventing them taking the Crofton, Walton & Ryhill seat –leaving the Labour incumbent with a miniscule 166 vote majority. Despite my best efforts however people told me on the doorstep that they would vote for me, but were reluctant to vote for the party because of Nick Clegg.
So it was with reluctance that a group of party members set up : Libdem Fightback – to push for:
- An immediate Leadership election with Nick Clegg standing down for a more popular leader
- A return to the electorally popular Manifesto policies campaigned for in May 2010
- Greater Democracy in the party with inclusion of all wings of the party in policy making
We have had members and ex-members from across the country making contact in support of this campaign.
Could ditching Clegg this summer really help the party? Absolutely Yes. It would signal that we have listened to the voters – a fundamental requirement for a party that calls itself democratic. A new leader – be it Vince Cable, Tim Farron or anyone else known by the public to have agonised with the choices forced on the party by the Conservatives – will allow us to say an authentic sorry and reconnect with our 2010 voters and beyond.
With Clegg in place at the election we can expect a collapse in our 2010 voter base in 18-24 year old and women voters who have suffered greatly as a result of a failure to upheld our 2010 manifesto commitments. Moreover right now the party is divided over Clegg’s continuing leadership and a divided party always loses, whoever the leader is.
It can work. When Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair in 2008 the Labour leader’s personal poll rating went from -27 (Blair) to +16 (Brown). He had a short opportunity to take advantage of a reconnection with voters and he must regret not seeking an autumn election. When in 2010 Brown went, Ed Milliband saw an improved rating from -24 to +19.
In 1990 when John Major (+15) replaced Margaret Thatcher (-46) he successfully reconnected with the voters and defeated Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party even with 13 years of Thatcherism and the poll tax as a legacy. In our own party, on average each leader change has seen a +13% improvement in negative attitudes about the Party leader which transfers into gain in party polls. Fear of failure is our greatest enemy, the party can unite and win with a new leader and a reconnection to our 2010 voters.