Monday, 17 January 2011

Lib Dem support "fallen by half"

Support for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland has "fallen by half" since the general election, according to a poll in today's Herald.

The Lib Dems are down to 7% in the constituency voting, with the Tories on 9%, the SNP on 33% and Labour on 49%. Minor parties are polling at 2%.

It's hard to know what to make of this. It's hard to take a poll seriously that has the combined support of the Greens, independents, the SSP and assored other groups on a mere 2%. But there's doubtless some truth in the fact that Lib Dem and Tory support is in decline as criticsms of the Westminster coalition mount and adverse publicity is heaped on the Lib Dems.

Obviously this looks exclusively at the national picture and as such gives little indication of voting intention in key constituencies. The poll does suggest that the Lib Dem support has also dipped in the regional votes, but this would in all likelihood have little impact on the number of Lib Dem MSPs elected as we currently only have five regional MSPs. More interestingly, the poll shows SNP support to be stagnant with Alex Salmond's party unable to capitalise on the unpopularity of the Wetsminster government. This is positive news for the Lib Dems, as it suggests they SNP may struggle to take a number of Lib Dems seats. A sizeable increase in the Labour vote is of concern but this may present more of a problem to the SNP as, with a couple of notable exceptions, most Lib Dem seats look out of reach for Labour without huge and unprecedented swings.

What the Herald's report does make startlingly clear, however, is the press's obsession with using opinion polls as evidence of the Lib Dems' pending demise. Can I suggest that a responsible critique of the respective governments' failings and accomplishments would be a more worthwhile contribution to political debate than this tired speculation. It isn't original. It isn't interesting. And it's no substitute for real discussion about issues of substance.

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