Problemen för Liberal Democrats i Storbritannien påminner mycket om Jan Björklunds i alliansen. Både Nick Cleggs Liberal Democrats och Björklunds folkpartiet ingår i regeringskoalitioner som domineras av ett betydligt större parti – Conservatives respektive moderaterna. I båda fallen har det påverkat opinionssiffrorna negativt. Liberaldemokraterna har t ex förlorat 4 miljoner väljare sedan valet 2010.
Båda partierna verkar i dag sakna idéer för hur man ska lyckas omvandla sitt regeringsinnehav till ett valvinnande koncept.
Och både här och i Storbritannien har man nu dessutom kommit halvvägs in i mandatperioden. Ska man lyckas måste man göra det nu. Tiden håller på att rinna ut.
En stor skillnad är dock att det här knappast finns någon som tror att regeringen kommer att spricka innan valet. I London spekuleras det friskt om att liberalerna inte kommer att sitta kvar hela vägen till nästa val.
Peter Kellner, vid opinionsinstitutet YouGov, har för Prospect identifierat fyra relaterade problem – partiets ideologi, politik, varumärke och ledarskap – som partiet måste hantera om inte nästa val ska sluta i katastrof för partiet.
The question is as tough as it is obvious: can the Liberal Democrats revive their flagging fortunes?
In 2010, the great majority of Labour and Conservative voters also identified with their party (the figures were 84 per cent and 76 per cent respectively.) With the Lib Dems the figure was much smaller: just 43 per cent. Of the 6.8m people who voted for them, just under 3m identified with the party, while almost 4m did not.
It has been like this for many years. The Lib Dem core vote has always been tiny. They add to their support at general elections and, even more spectacularly, by-elections by attracting the tactical votes of people who identify with other parties, and a large slice of the people who don’t identify with any party.
In 2010, the Lib Dems secured the votes of 1.6m Labour identifiers and 1.8m people with no party ID. The group identifying itself as Labour was more left-wing than Labour voters generally.
As for the 1.8m people with no party identity who voted Lib Dem last time, the Lib Dems have lost more than 1.5m.
The collapse of these two distinct sources of Lib Dem support explains most of their decline, from 24 per cent of the electorate in 2010 to around 10 per cent today. In contrast, support among Lib Dem identifiers has held up rather better, from 2.9m votes two years ago to 2.3m today.
YouGov research indicates that there are four related problems that the party must address.
1. Ideology. [...] Most right-of-centre voters place the Lib Dems on the left and most left-of-centre voters place the party on the right. Few voters feel that the party’s ideological location is the same as their own. This is especially marked among voters who have switched from Lib Dem to Labour: they are overwhelmingly on the left themselves, but feel that the Lib Dems no longer are.
2. Policies. [I]t’s common for parties to embrace a range of policies, some of which the public like and some they don’t. But here’s the rub. With every policy position we tested, the people who turn out to be the keenest on the Lib Dem stance are those who describe themselves as “very left-wing.” This means that the party is sending out conflicting messages. Judged by its policies it is well to the left; judged by its continuing partnership with the Conservatives, it veers to the right.
Sadly for the party, it seems that right-of-centre voters look at the party through the prism of policies, and don’t like what they see, while left-of-centre voters look at its alliance with the Tories and are equally put off.
3. Brand. The confusion of ideology and policy has crippled the Lib Dem brand. Most people—and a huge majority of Lib Dem deserters—say they don’t know what the party stands for, and think it has broken its promises.
4. Leadership. Elections are not just about the message. They are also, increasingly, about the messenger. Is Clegg the right man to lead his party into the next election?
Separate analysis of one of YouGov’s tracker questions confirms Clegg’s poor standing, especially among the 4m Lib Dem deserters.