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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Why did Lib Dem voters switch to the Tories

Just as quite a few folk in the party appear to be pointing the finger at Labour and blaming themfrom our electoral meltdown, others are looking at the South West & SW London and pondering, not so much why they came after us – they made that fairly clear, they wanted 23 seats and that’s where a lot of them sat – but how could Lib Dem voters make such a political leap (and in such numbers). I think I know why.

Firstly it’s shy Tories. This is much misunderstood term. It doesn’t mean Tories who are embarrassed to admit that’s the way they voted. There will have been a few of them but in reality voters in the SW were quite up front about saying they were voting Tory.  The polling reflected it and we ignored it. I remember David Laws on Newsnight rubbishing one such poll that indicated we’d lose all our seats in the SW bar his own. I suppose he was right. The situation was worse than that.

Shy Tories are folk who really would rather not vote Tory, would love there to be an alternative, but at the end of the day think the alternatives are worse. In this case they probably didn’t think the Lib Dems were worse than the Tories (although more of that in a moment) but they certainly thought a Labour SNP coalition was worse than the Tories. What’s more, elect enough Lib Dem MPs and they might get a Labour Lib Dem coalition, which they probably weren’t that enamoured with either (which we could do little about). So they went for what they saw as the best option they could – in their hundreds of thousands.

That in itself would have been enough for us to have a bad night. But another factor was at play too.

I spend a lot of time helping companies understand and communicate their brand. Over the last 5 years the Tories and Lib Dems have governed together in a time of austerity meaning many difficult things have to be done.

The Tories, in most people’s eyes bar core loyalists, (and even them to an extent) are the hard party, the nasty party, the party with no heart.  Therefore governing in a time of austerity perfectly plays to their core brand values – people may not like them, but they think they are true to themselves.

We on the other hand, said we didn’t believe in the old politics – and then spent 5 years describing ourselves as  ‘a party of government’ – meaning we’re in the same class as Labour and the Tories. We said no more broken promises (didn’t go well). We stopped the Tories doing lots of nasty things – but in government, you can’t prove a negative and so you get no brownie points (now they are going to do them anyway we’re probably about to get some credit for that, as people see it for the first time) . And as the minor party in government we get little credit for the good liberal things anyway. Raising the income tax threshold is a perfect example – that’s a Lib Dem policy totally appropriated by the Tories.

So we damaged our brand – and probably therefore, in contrast, enhanced the brand credentials of the Tories, as we made them look like the party that was more true to their values. And people buy – or vote for- strong brands. Especially when they are worried the alternative is Ed Miliband in No.10.

There is of course good news here. Shy Tories are looking for an alternative home for their vote. Reburnish our brand – and allowing for 5 years of unfettered Toryism – means many of these people can, if we give them good reason – come home to us.

But there’s a lot of hard work to do first to convince them that we are the party they thought we were in May 2010.


Jim Messina has just said this in The Spectator

1 comment:

  1. I have always voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out. However, the Lib-Dems have helped the Tories destroy the NHS which will soon be gone for good, so they are a hopelessly tarnished brand in my eyes. Interestingly it seems that most "disillusioned" Lib Dem voters went over to the Tories which means that they are OK with their former party's collusion with NHS destruction and other vicious rightwing policies. As all their MPs and most of their voters have now openly revealed themselves as Tories rather than the progressives I foolishly took them to be there is no reason for the Lib Dems to exist and I trust they will dissolve themselves forthwith.