Today's Independent poll of polls shows the lowest Liberal Democrat rating in decades - they trail behind Labour (40%) and the Conservatives (38%) on only 11%.
The Liberal Democrats have suffered a double blow in the wake of their controversial tuition fees u-turn with two new polls being released in the last 24 hours. YouGov’s latest daily tracker shows the party on only 8 per cent, down from 9 per cent on December 23rd, with Labour on 42 per cent and the Conservatives on 40 per cent, and the net government approval rating down at 19 per cent.
While the YouGov data is only a modest drop from just before Christmas, the new ‘poll of polls’ in today’s Independent shows Nick Clegg’s party with an average of 11 per cent of the electorate’s support – their lowest numbers since 1988. If this were repeated at a general election this could cost the party over two-third of their seats, leaving them reduced to a mere 15 MPs.
The poll of polls used data from ComRes, ICM, Ipsos Mori and YouGov, and shows Labour on 40 per cent and the Conservatives on 38 per cent. The poll may also alarm the Tories who are aware they may need Lib Dem support to continue with a majority after the next election, with the decline of their coalition partners increasing the possibility of a Labour government – the poll of polls figures, if repeated at an election, would give Labour a majority of 14.
The polls make particularly tough reading for the perpetually depressed-looking Mr Clegg, whose insistence on enacting the coalition’s Conservative-led agenda whilst jointly taking responsibility for its results may come under further scrutiny. Backbench MPs who see the massive decline in support that Mr Clegg’s policies have helped create may find that a combination of an angry grassroots enraged by a series of u-turns, combined with an ever increasing chance of them being unemployed after the next election may be a volatile political cocktail.
The rise in the polls for Labour since the election suggests the majority of disenchanted Liberal Democrat voters have moved to the opposition party, as opposed to their coalition rivals, which in itself could damage pushes by some Conservative figures to get the two parties to campaign as one entity at the next general election.
For his part, Mr Clegg is visiting Oldham today ahead of next week’s Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. The deputy prime minister described the election as a ‘two-horse race’ between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in what is seen as a key test of both the remaining support for the Lib Dems and the dynamics of the coalition parties campaigning against each other.
Certainly the embattled Mr Clegg will know that the new poll numbers may require him to stick to more of his progressive campaign promises, as the Liberal Democrat voters’ exodus to Labour has illustrated that the majority of their decline in support is from the left of the party. Whether Mr Clegg opts for a course correction or simply keeps acting under the banner of ‘what is best for the country’ whilst contradicting his manifesto may be his next test as a leader.
If he keeps acting as a ‘Conservative Lite’ politician he may be condemning his party to decades of obscurity once again.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.