The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 – Section 2 – Parties, Poll Data, Events and Debates

Russell Haggar

Site Owner


The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010: Sections List:

Section 1: Introductory Links - Click Here


Section 2: Parties, Poll Data, Events and Debates

Introduction: Aspects of British Party Politics 2005-2010

Opinion Poll Data and Some Major Political Events 2005-2010

The Leadership Debates


Section 3: The General Election of 2010: Data - Click Here

The Result of the UK General Election of 2010

Tactical Voting [External links only at present]

Social Influences on Voting Behaviour

Social Influences on Turnout [Added April 2012]

The Mass Media and Voting Behaviour [External links only at present]


Section 4: The General Election of 2010: Data - Click Here

Party Identification and Voting Behaviour

The Influence of Salient Issues and Party Policies

Party Images and Voting Behaviour

Valence Issues: The Importance of Political Leadership

The Parliamentary Expenses Scandal


Section 5: Summary: The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 - Click Here

Section 2: Parties, Poll Data, Events and Debates


Aspects of British Party Politics 2005-2010

Gordon Brown and the Labour Party Click here for Steve Richard's Radio 4 series on Gordon Brown's Premiership and

Gordon Brown had waited for a long time  to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party but when he finally did so it was not under very auspicious circumstances.

  1. Commentators had documented evidence of the deep seated rivalries which existed between Tony Blair and Gordon  Brown even before the former came to be Leader of the Labour Party in 1994. As Tony Blair's tenure of the Premiership lengthened Gordon Brown increasingly came to believe that Blair had betrayed promises to step down in his favour and this exacerbated conflict between the two men  with clearly adverse consequences for overall government effectiveness.
  2. It was widely believed eventually that Gordon Brown and his supporters had actually forced Tony Blair to resign "not under circumstances of his own choosing" which meant that Brown took over a Labour Party which was now disunited and seen as such by many voters.
  3. It had appeared, that no other senior Labour Party politician would be able to defeat Brown in a Labour Leadership contest so that Brown was consequently elected unopposed as Labour Party leader and then automatically became Prime Minister without winning a general election. It has been fairly common for UK Prime Ministers to be replaced between general elections as exemplified most recently by the replacement of Harold Wilson by James Callaghan in 1976 and of Margaret Thatcher by John Major in 1990 but at least James Callaghan and John Major had faced elections to become leaders of their respective parties which Gordon Brown had not. Consequently there were initially fairly strong feelings among voters [especially among those not fully conversant with the workings of the UK Constitution] that Gordon Brown's position as Prime Minister was lacking in legitimacy and that he should ideally call a general election as soon as possible.
  4. Labour by 2007 had been in government for 10 years and although it had won "landslide" General Election victories in 1997 and 2001 its margin of victory in the 2005 General Election was much smaller and there was growing evidence of increasing voter disillusion with the New Labour project. Gordon Brown as Chancellor had sometimes attempted to distance himself from Blairism but since in many respects he had been the main architect of much of Labour's domestic policy both he and the Labour Party could be expected to suffer electorally as  a result of its declining popularity.
  5. Given that by 2010 Labour had been in office for 13 years it was clear that "Time for a Change " would be a major General Election theme. Therefore it would be essential for Gordon Brown as new Labour Prime Minister to offer the realistic prospect of "renewal" and "change"  within the Labour Government and to convince the electorate that he would craft a coherent future strategy appropriate to the needs and wishes of the British electorate . If he failed to do so he could expect to be punished at the next General Election as voters might turn instead to David Cameron who  would claim to have modernised the Conservative Party  or to the Liberal Democrats and  Nick Clegg who would criticise what he claimed were the tired solutions of "the two old parties" .
  6. Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as PM  on 27th June 2007 and it has been suggested that Gordon Brown hoped initially to spend about one year establishing himself as a credible leader of a changed, rejuvenated Labour Government before calling a General Election perhaps in May 2008.
  7. However Brown's apparently assured handling of two terrorist incidents and the problems associated with severe flooding and an out break of foot and mouth disease resulted in a surge in Labour's opinion poll ratings at the beginning of Brown's Premiership and the "Run" on branches of Northern Rock in September may also have encouraged voters to believe that any such financial difficulties would be handled more effectively by the experienced Gordon brown and the steady Alistair Darling rather than by the as yet untried David Cameron and George Osborne. Consequently speculation mounted that Brown might call an early General Election  which however  Brown chose not to do when opinion poll data from marginal constituencies indicated that Labour was far from certain to win an early General Election. The popularity of the Labour Government and of Gordon Brown then declined seriously , and despite some recovery at various times during the next three years a Labour victory never seemed likely although in the Spring of 2010 some narrowing of the polls suggested  that even if an outright Labour victory was unlikely Gordon Brown  might at least avoid outright defeat despite the many difficulties which he, his party  and the country had faced between 2007 and 2010.  And so it proved to be!
  8. Students requiring detailed information on the Brown Premiership should consult the reading list above  but in summary the major difficulties faced by Gordon  Brown during the course of his premiership included the following. It should be noted that some of the issues listed were more significant than others but that all combined to damage Labour's electoral prospects.
  • There were from the outset concerns in some quarters that even if he had been an effective Chancellor he might lack to the flexibility to deal with the much wider range of issues that that he would now face as Prime Minister and the presentational skills necessary to popularise Labour policies although some did argue that a shift away from the Blairite emphasis on presentation to  a Brownite emphasis on policy substance would be no bad thing. Be that as it may it was soon being suggested that Brown's own working methods were disorganised, that he was failing to coordinate effectively the work of No.10 and of the Government as a whole and indeed that he was prone to outbursts of bad temper and to bullying his officials . These criticisms would be re-emphasised in Andrew Rawnsley's book The Death of the Party [2010] but denied by Brown's supporters.
  • It was claimed that Brown was unable to establish a new attractive political narrative suggesting that he would be able to combine what [if anything?] remained of the attractions of the Blairite project with new insights and initiatives of his own.
  • The circumstances surrounding the decision in the Autumn to postpone the General Election created difficulties for Gordon Brown from which arguably he never recovered. As the poll ratings of the Labour Party and of Gordon Brown personally improved in the early stages of his premiership speculation intensified that Brown might call an early General Election. The Conservatives were extremely worried that they might well lose such an early election but hopeful nevertheless that if they had a successful party conference this might just deter Labour from calling the election . In the event George Osborne  promised an increase in the inheritance tax threshold to £1,000,000 to be financed by  a £ 25,000 flat rate  offshore domicile levy on wealthy foreigners living in the UK; David Cameron delivered an effective [note-free] speech which attracted favourable mass media coverage; and in what was seen as a serious tactical blunder Gordon Brown visited British troops in Iraq in the midst of the Tory Conference which enabled his critics [including former PM John Major]  to claim that his visit had reflected less his concern for the welfare of British troops  than his desire to draw mass media attention away from the Tory Party Conference ;  furthermore it was argued that Brown then made misleading announcements about the scale of imminent British troop withdrawals which provided yet more evidence of Brown's fundamental duplicity. Meanwhile new Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was obliged to announce his own proposals for inheritance tax reduction which appeared to be a pale copy of Osborne's original proposals although there were important technical differences between the Osborne and Darling schemes.
  • Now , however, came polling data suggesting that Labour were rather less popular in marginal constituencies than they had believed and this finally persuaded Brown that he should not call an early General Election after all. Clearly Brown's initial  failure to dampen electoral speculation in the first place  followed by his decision to not to call an election had put him in a very difficult situation. To admit that he had called off the election because of the weakening polls would have undermined him seriously enough  but his claims that if an election had been called Labour would still have won it  but that he had decided against an early general election because he wanted to continue to govern in the national interest was widely seen as a disingenuous attempt  to extract himself from a difficult political situation which failed dismally. The "Father of the Nation" had become "Bottler Brown" as Cameron described Brown in Parliament as "the only PM in living memory who had flunked an election because he was certain to win it."
  • Brown's failure  to dampen electoral speculation had undermined fundamentally his strategy to establish himself  as a genuine, heavyweight politician governing in the national interest to such an extent that it was difficult to see how his premiership could recover and in the event he would now face a catalogue of events which threatened his continuation as leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister. It seemed increasingly likely that Brown might be replaced before the next General Election or that  if he continued in office Labour would certainly lose the next election.
  • The Labour Government could be accused of administrative  incompetence as  a result of the loss in transit between the offices of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs [HMRC] and the National Audit Office [NAO]  of two  disks  containing the National Insurance numbers and bank and building society details tax details of 25  million parents eligible for Child Benefit. The Chairman of HMRC subsequently resigned  and the disks were never found.
  • It was in November 2007 that Vince Cable, acting as Temporary Leader of the Liberal Democrats wounded Mr Bown with his remark in the Commons that "  The House has noted the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr. Bean.". This apparently "brought the House down" which may however merely be evidence that humour is subjective.
  • Then came revelations that the Labour Party had received secret donations channelled through third parties from a certain David Abrahams  despite the fact that concealment of donors' identities was illegal under the terms of an Act introduced by Labour in 2000.This immediately brought back memories of the Cash for Honours affair of the Blair years and despite Brown's claims that he had no knowledge  of the details of these  donations created the impression Labour's financial affairs were of uncertain legality. Similar difficulties arose as a result of Peter Hain's enforced resignation following his late declaration of donations toward his Deputy-Leadership Campaign expenses. However in the event no charges were brought against Mr Abrahams.
  •  Brown attracted further criticism as  a result of his Government's handling of the arrival in London of the Olympic Torch en route for China : Brown would be present as the torch was paraded in Downing Street but , given China's disregard of Tibetan civil liberties, Brown would not personally touch the Torch.
  • Brown decided that he would not attend a meeting of European Union leaders to sign the Lisbon Treaty: instead he would sign it alone one day later claiming that Parliamentary Business prevented him from attending the main meeting.
  • In his last Budget as Chancellor in 2007 Gordon Brown reduced the standard rate of income tax from 22p to 20p and abolished the 10p tax rate on low income earners apparently without the adverse financial consequences for millions of low income recipients which became abundantly clear when these tax changes came into force in the financial year 2008-9. Labour MPs were incensed at Brown's apparent economic mismanagement combined with his unwillingness to admit error  and despite the belated,  expensive and still not entirely effective financial measures which were introduced to offset the effects of the abolition of the 10P tax rate  Labour went down to humiliating defeat in the 2008 Local  Election results [including the London Mayoralty Election where Boris Johnson defeated Ken Livingstone], the Crewe and Nantwich By-election , the Henley by-election where Labour finished 5th  behind the Greens and the BNP and the Glasgow East by Election where Labour lost what was thought to be a very safe seat to the SNP. Click here for a list of all by-elections between 2005 and 2010.
  • Also in June 2008 Gordon Brown narrowly secured the passage through the Commons of a Bill introducing the possibility of 42 day detention without charge of terror suspects but this was achieved only with the support of the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party and even then it was made clear that the provisions of the Bill were likely to be much amended in the Lords which they subsequently were. Brown certainly antagonised liberals in side and outside his own party via the promotion of this bill although it has been argued that overall public opinion , rightly or wrongly, does favour a tougher approach to threats of terrorism.
  • A challenge to Brown's leadership of the Labour Party seemed possible in the Autumn of 2008 but the intensification of the financial crisis and fairly widespread perceptions that Gordon Brown might be the leader best suited to deal with it destroyed the possibility of  any potential leadership challenge [for example from David Miliband who seemed to be positioning himself for such a challenge in the Summer of 2008 ] and also enabled Labour to close the opinion poll gap on the Conservatives. As Gordon Brown put it in his Labour Party Conference speech in a comment which could be taken to apply both to David Cameron and David Miliband, "This is no time for a novice."
  • Gordon Brown then faced further severe difficulties in the Spring of 2009 which again threatened  his leadership. Brown had in fact been credited with the very successful management of the April 2009 G20 Summit in London  which apparently resulted in  a range of important decisions that could be expected to improve the prospects for international financial stability. Yet Brown's kudos was quickly undermined as  a result of the intensification of economic recession in the UK and elsewhere, the circumstances surrounding the forced resignation of Damien McBride, the breaking of the MP's expenses scandal and the furore surrounding Joanna Lumley's campaign to safeguard the immigration rights of retired Ghurkha soldiers and their dependents.
  • There then followed a series of ministerial resignations[ Beverly Hughes, , Hazel Blears, Tom Watson, Jacqui Smith, , James Purnell, John Hutton, Geoff Hoon, and Caroline Flint ] between June 2nd and June 6th immediately before and after  the Local Election and European Parliament results of May/June 2009  which were dreadful for the  Labour Party. [ Click here for BBC coverage of the June 2009 European Parliament l Election Results and here for BBC coverage of the 2009 Local Council results]
  • Brown certainly feared that there would be a challenge to his leadership at this point but for a variety of reasons no challenge was forthcoming and as the General Election approached it seemed increasingly unlikely that Brown would be replaced because it was not at all obvious that anyone else could do better, because any newly elected leader would have insufficient time to prepare for the approaching General Election and because potential candidates recognised that since electoral defeat seemed almost inevitable political self-interest suggested that it would be better to wait until after the General Election before launching their leadership candidatures. Nevertheless there would still be time for one more attempted coup against Brown in 2010 which again came to nothing.
  • Yet Brown's difficulties were still not over : there were ongoing disputes with Chancellor Alistair Darling surrounding economic policy making and its presentation ; there were ongoing difficulties with leading military personnel over his handling of  the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: he was obliged to correct the original financial information which he had provided as a witness to the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq war; he faced criticisms over his scrawled  letter to Jacqui Janes, the mother  of soldier Jamie Janes who had tragically died in the Afghan war and Labour's already faltering Election Campaign was further weakened by Mr Brown's description of Rochdale voter Mrs Gillian Duffy as a  "bigot". Clearly he had to apologise profusely for this , including at the beginning of the third televised leadership debate.

Gordon Brown, therefore , had faced a difficult time as Prime Minister, and opinion poll data suggested that David Cameron was rated as potentially a far more effective Prime Minister, sometimes by significant margins. It could be suggested that Gordon Brown's low personal poll ratings helped to depress the poll ratings of the Labour Party as a whole yet, despite all the difficulties facing Gordon Brown and the Labour Party opinion poll data in the Spring of 2010 began to narrow. David Cameron was still preferred to Gordon Brown as a future Prime Minister and the Conservatives were still ahead of Labour in the polls but by margins suggesting that a Hung Parliament rather than an outright Conservative victory was the most likely outcome.


David Cameron and the Conservative Party

In 2005 the Conservative Party went down to its 3rd consecutive General Election defeat albeit a narrower defeat than in 1997 and 2001. However in 2005 The Conservative Party was still perceived widely as the party of the privileged few rather than the many; as out of touch with ordinary people; as more preoccupied  with the interests of big business than with the interests of society as a whole; as unlikely to spend sufficient government money to defend public sector services and as generally critical of public sector workers; and as overly preoccupied with issues around law and order, taxation, the EU, immigration and asylum seekers; as outdated in its attitudes toward marriage and the family; and as unwilling to address sympathetically serious issues around national and international poverty , environment and development. With this catalogue of disadvantages it would be no simple matter to achieve victory in the next General Election and also although David Cameron might seek to reposition the Conservatives toward the Centre of British Politics he would also need to take account of  the more Right -wing views of many Conservative MPs, members and voters and within the Conservative press. David Cameron would find the management of Right-Wing opposition within his own party rather easier once the Conservatives established a clear opinion poll lead over Labour although criticism intensified again once the Conservatives' lead began to narrow in the Autumn of 2009. ,

David Cameron and his close advisers argued that if the Conservative Party was to win  the next General Election it would be necessary to "modernise" the Party. This would involve the renovation of Conservative doctrine or ideology [although many Conservatives still eschew the use of  this word]; the re-branding of the Conservative image and the modification of Conservative Party policies. With regard to ideology or doctrine Cameron's difficult task would be to distance the Party from Thatcherism in a manner which would appeal to centrist voters without alienating unduly the many Conservative MPs, members and voters  who still revered Lady Thatcher and her policies and also to differentiate a new and apparently more centrist Conservative Party from what David Cameron  [and many others] considered to be the now discredited ideology of New Labour.

The Conservative had made some limited attempts initially during  the leadership of William Hague and subsequently of Iain Duncan Smith to promote so-called Compassionate Conservatism which emphasised Conservative concerns to alleviate poverty, inequality and social deprivation. This theme was given even greater emphasis by David Cameron  who quickly set up six policy development groups [Economic Competitiveness, National and International Security, Overseas Aid, Globalisation and Global Poverty, Public Service Reform, Quality of Life and Social Justice  ]and appointed Iain Duncan Smith as chairman of the Social Justice Policy group which published reports entitled Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain in 2006 and 2007. On the basis of these reports David Cameron stressed that it would be necessary for the Conservatives to fix our" Broken Society" but that this would not be achieved solely via increased intervention from the central state. Instead although the state would provide some  guidance our Broken Society" was to be fixed primarily via the development of "The Big Society."

Click here for  a rather critical assessment of the Conservatives' approach  to the eradication of poverty. Of course Conservatives would reject such criticisms.

Much of David Cameron's new strategy appeared to be encapsulated in the now well known phrase  that "There is such a thing as society but it is just not the same thing as the state." In this single phrase  Cameron could signal that he wished to distance the Conservative Party from what centrist voters might see as the excessive individualism associated with Thatcherism as exemplified in her statement that "There is no such thing as society", a statement which has, however been subject to much misinterpretation, and to distance the Conservative Party also from what he saw as the excessive top- down centralism and bureaucratic regulation associated with the New Labour State. In Cameron's view in the new post-bureaucratic era  excessive state power could be reined in and replaced by the development of the Big Society.

Essentially the notion of  the Big Society suggested that the inefficiencies of excessive state control could be overcome via the reform of the public sector involving the growth of so-called quasi -markets within the public sector which would increase competition and consumer choice , the increased devolution of decision-making from Central to Local Government, the increased reliance on the Third Sector for the provision of services and the increased involvement of individual citizens .

Of course there is more to The Big Society than this . Its critics have claimed that it underestimates the crucial role of the central state in the provision of public services and amounts only to a fig leaf designed to hide Cameron's true aim which is to shrink the central state and promote the expansion of the private sector for ideological reasons, claims which of course David Cameron and his supporters deny.  However  one significant problem which David Cameron did face was that although The Big Society was much emphasised in the 2010 Conservative Manifesto it was not an idea that canvassers found helpful on the doorsteps as many potential voters apparently found the concept quite difficult to grasp and were unenthused by it. Then once "Cleggmania "reared its head  especially during and after the first TV Debate it may be that  Conservative strategists felt it was more important to focus on the dangers of a Hung Parliament [!} and the potential introduction of Proportional Representation which tended reduce the time available for clarification of the nature of the Big Society.  Nevertheless the concept does apparently continue to influence the development of Coalition Government policy.

See also  David Cameron's Big Idea  : A three  part Radio 4 Series presented by Steve Richards   and click here for a critical perspective on the Big Society from Peter Beresford Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University. Of course supporters of The Big Society idea would reject the Professor's criticisms.

David Cameron's strategy would eventually contain the following main elements.

  1. He would aim firstly to address the negative image of the Conservative Party which was widely seen as so "nasty" or "toxic" that many voters had simply written off the party as a credible alternative government and in many cases had ceased to listen to the Conservatives even if and when they articulated plausible policies. In this respect much has been made of the findings that respondents  might initially support particular policies but would reject the same policies if they were first told that they were actually Conservative policies.
  2. Cameron therefore hoped first to improve the overall image of the party in the hope that  it would then at least receive what he considered to be a fairer hearing from the electorate. To this end he emphasised that the Conservatives recognised that the funding and organisation of the NHS and State Education services were important issues for the vast majority of the electorate and that the Conservatives would both fund these services adequately  and devise new policies  which would be more effective than what he described as Labour's centralist, top-down , over-bureaucratised approach.
  3. Consequently the Conservatives under Cameron would be prepared to fight the next General Election on what were likely to be among the most salient issues of the Campaign [Health and Education] which previous Conservative campaigns had downplayed for fear that these were "Labour's issues" any coverage of which would be likely to increase Labour's support. This also helped to explain why the Conservatives in the 2001 and 2005 General Elections had concentrated especially on issues of law and order, taxation, the EU , immigration and asylum which, although, salient to many Conservative voters,  were less salient to the electorate as a whole and , in particular, less salient to the voters whom the Conservatives needed to attract if they were to win. Cameron, would of course, also emphasise these issues but as part of a much more balanced strategy which also emphasised voters' core concerns in relation to public services., the environment and civil liberties.
  4. The Conservatives would also focus much more than in the past on environmental issues and civil liberties and  adopt a more "liberal" approach to law and order  To emphasise his commitment to the environment  a new Conservative logo was designed and David Cameron was filmed variously cycling to work or driving a team of huskies in the Artic [each of which unsurprisingly attracted criticisms of "spin rather than substance"]  while the Conservatives now opposed ID cards and the proposed introduction of stricter government regulation on detention without trial of terrorism suspects. Furthermore David Cameron did also initially signal a rather softer approach to juvenile crime which gave more attention to the underlying social causes of youth crime although the speech was reported dismissively in some sections of the media under the headline, "Hug a Hoodie". While such policy shifts may well have been indicative of David Cameron's own beliefs it is also true that the policies could be expected to attract wavering Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives.
  5.  Cameron's Conservatives also signalled a change in attitudes to family life. While traditional family life was still to be valued so too was the viability of family diversity: cohabitation, lone parenthood and single sex relationships would be supported by Cameron's Conservatives rather than criticised as they typically had been by proponents of neo-Conservatism.
  6. Cameron aimed to exercise greater centralised control over the selection of new prospective parliamentary candidates hoping to ensure that more women and British Minority Ethnic candidates would be chosen. However this initiative did occasionally result in acrimonious disputes between the Party leadership and the local constituencies over candidate selection.
  7. Cameron's  Conservatives were able to spend much more than Labour in on the long run up to the election campaign and during the campaign itself. They were helped considerably in this respect by Lord Ashcroft who channelled considerable amounts of his own money into Conservative marginals although Cameron and former Conservative Party leader did attract considerable criticism once it was realised that Lord Ashcroft was not registered as domiciled in the UK for tax purposes  despite his long standing promise that he intended to regularise his tax situation.
  8. The Conservatives recognised that at some point Gordon Brown was likely to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister. By 2006 Brown's reputation as a highly successful Chancellor was still intact: his apparently effective management of the UK economy since 1997 had contributed significantly to Labour's second "landslide" victory in 2001 and to its third, albeit narrower victory in 2005 when most other aspects of the New Labour project were becoming increasingly unpopular [although still more popular than most of what was on offer from the Conservatives.] Consequently the Conservatives would need  to embark upon a systematic campaign to undermine the record of Gordon Brown as Chancellor  as a means of undermining his credibility as Prime Minister. The arrival of the credit crunch in 2007 and the economic recession in 2008 [ combined with Brown's  additional problems as outlined above] seemed to have give the Conservatives ample  opportunities  to destabilise Brown and at times Cameron did enjoy a substantial lead over Brown as the preferred next Prime Minister. However Brown and Darling continued to claim that they rather than Cameron and Osborne had the experience necessary to run the economy efficiently and the Conservatives' emphasis on the need for financial austerity may also have damaged them in the polls such that by May 2010 Cameron enjoyed only a narrow lead over Brown as preferred  Prime Minister and the Conservatives' lead over Labour on the management of the economy was also small.
  9. Although there were significant changes in Conservative strategy under David Cameron's leadership this certainly did not mean that the Conservatives neglected traditional Conservative themes. Indeed David Cameron and his supporters believed that once they had "detoxified" the Conservative Party and "rebranded" it  as a more centrist, caring, compassionate, environmentally friendly and liberal party they would  then be able re-emphasise traditional Conservative themes of immigration, asylum, law and order, taxation and Europe  but using language and tone which would not antagonise more centrist voters as had occurred in 2001 and 2005. It had come to be recognised that many voters combine slightly left of centre vies on the economy and public services  with rather authoritarian views on law and order and immigration and asylum and that l immigration and asylum and, perhaps to a lesser extent law and order, were increasingly salient issues in the 2005 and 2010 General Election. Thus the Conservative Party would practise the so-called "Politics of AND", a term originally devised during the ill-fated leadership of Iain Duncan Smith:  Cameron's Conservative Party would be the Party of the NHS and  of law and order; the Party of State Education  and of stricter immigration controls  and in order to implement this strategy David Cameron did ,for example , make rather more authoritarian statements on immigration and crime in 2009 and 2010 than in the earlier years of his leadership.
  10. It could be argued that an electoral strategy based upon the Politics of AND had greater potential than the strategies deployed by the Conservatives in 2001 and 2005  but it was also the case that the Labour Party throughout the Blair Brown era had itself been alive to the potential electoral advantages of such a strategy and Brown was himself keen to demonstrate both his toughness on law and order and  national security and his desire to provide "British jobs for British workers."
  11. As will be illustrated below David Cameron did succeed in increasing his leadership credibility, the Conservatives, overall image did improve, the Conservatives were preferred to Labour as the Party best able to manage the economy and also preferred to Labour on asylum and immigration, taxation, law and order  and even , in some polls on education . However on leadership, party image and party policies these Conservative improvements were insufficient to secure outright victory not least because the UK electoral system certainly worked to the disadvantage of the Conservatives in 2010.Many voters may well have believed that it was time for a change but they were not quite sure that David Cameron and the Conservatives were offering the kind of change which they wanted.
  12. Click here for several links on the Ideology of the Conservative Party under David Cameron


Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats

Click here and here for BBC coverage of recent Liberal Democrat politics

Between 2005 and 2010 the Liberal Democrats were led by Charles Kennedy [1999- 7thJan 2006] , Sir Menzies Campbell [ 7th Jan 2006- 2March 2006 as interim leader and 2 March 2006-15th Oct 2007 as elected leader], Vince Cable [15th Oct 2007-18 Dec 2007 interim leader]  and Nick Clegg [18Dec 2007--]. Charles Kennedy was obliged to resign as a result of concerns within the Party surrounding his alcohol consumption levels and perceptions that he was insufficiently proactive in relation to future policy development. He was replaced by Sir Menzies Campbell [who had defeated Chris Huhne in the Party leadership contest] but although Campbell was widely respected for his knowledge of foreign policy and in particular for his effective presentation of the case against UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq he did not take well to the leadership role and once it became clear that there would be no General Election in late 2007  pressure built up within the party for Sir Menzies Campbell to resign in favour of a younger man which he soon did . In a close leadership election contest Nick Clegg narrowly defeated Chris Huhne for the Party leadership.

Click here for the resignation of Charles Kennedy and the Election of Sir Menzies Campbell.

Click here for the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell

Click here for Vince Cable's brief tenure as acting Leader

Click here for the election of Nick Clegg

Click here for 21 items on the Liberal Democrats from the Guardian's "The Election Day by Day " archive

It has been argued that from 2005 onwards there have been important signs of the ideological repositioning of the Liberal Democratic Party as a result of the increasing influence in the higher echelons of the party of Liberal Democrat MPs closely associated with so-called "Orange Book Liberalism" which implied a rather greater support for the economic principles of free market liberalism than had existed in the Liberal Democrat party under the leadership of Charles Kennedy, who , after all, had been a member of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] and espoused greater support for the kind of social liberalism which supported the active intervention  of the state in the organisation of the economy. The nature  of Orange Book Liberalism is analysed in detail in the following  sources and it is likely that the Increasing commitment of senior Liberal Democrats to these principles would have facilitated the negotiation of the eventual post-election Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives . However we may only speculate as to what proportion of eventual Liberal Democrat voters were familiar with the details of the ideological differences between Orange Book Liberals and Social Liberals which exist within the Liberal Democrats

BBC's Analysis on The Orange Book and the Liberal Democrats Click Here for a critique of the programme from a well informed Liberal Democrat supporter.

Opinion poll data during the leadership of Nick Clegg suggest that although his own personal ratings as leader did improve gradually in 2008 and 2009 [as did those of Liberal Democrats' Economics spokesperson Vince Cable] these higher personal poll ratings  did not translate into significantly improved poll ratings for the Liberal Democrats as a whole  and as the General Election approached the polls suggested that the Liberal Democrats were unlikely to improve upon the level of support which they had gained in the 2005 General Election and they may well have been fearful that in what was likely to be a close General Election their  vote might be squeezed even further.


Nick Clegg and the Leadership Debates

However Nick Clegg's effective performance  especially in the first of the three televised leadership debates seemed for a few days as if it might lead to a significant increase in Liberal Democrat support which would transform the result of the General Election. At this point in the General Election campaign several separate opinion polls were published almost every day and you may click on the UK Polling Report data below to see the results of all of the opinion polls during the campaign.

They show that the First Debate led to a substantial increase in the poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats which if anything increased in the following few days such that whereas one poll on April 15th had the party ratings as 37 [Con], 31 [Lab] and 22 [Lib Dem] a poll on April 16th had the ratings as 33 [Con], 28 [Lab] and 30 [Lib Dem] and a poll on April 20th had the ratings as 31 [Con}, 26 {Lab] and 34 [Lib Dem]. The Lib Dem Poll ratings did then begin to decline slowly although they remained consistently ahead of Labour until 27th April and their poll rating reached 30 for the last time on May 1st .

Nick Clegg's individual poll ratings had similarly increased as a result of his strong performance in the first debate  and the success of Nick Clegg  and the resultant transformation of the polls alarmed both of the main parties and led to the orchestration in the Conservative Press of a series of anti- Liberal Democrat editorials [often targeted particularly on the dangers of a Hung Parliament and the threats of electoral reform] as well as articles personally critical of Nick Clegg. Furthermore the Conservative Party itself organised a "Spoof" party Political Broadcast designed to emphasise the weaknesses[ according to Conservatives] of Proportional Representation

The Poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats and of Nick Clegg, although they remained at historically high levels, did decline gradually as Election day approached. and  further disappointments for the Liberal Democrats arose as their actual electoral support fell below their ratings in final eve of election polls . Nevertheless relative to the lack lustre ratings of the Liberal Democrats in 2008 and 2009 the 2010 General Election result could be rated as more of a success.

Click here for BBC Coverage of the TV Debates

Additional detailed information on the TV Debates  can be found in Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister: Nicholas Jones 2010


Poll Data:

Who Voted Liberal Democrat in 2010?

In the 2010 General Election 23% of UK  voters and 24% of the voters of Great Britain voted for the Liberal Democrats. There were , however some variations in Liberal Democrat support as between different social groups. The information in the following table is taken from Ipsos Mori data based upon combined samples of 10,000 voters in Great Britain. [24 % of C1 voters voted Liberal Democrat : the same as the national % Liberal Democrat vote : this figure is not included in the table!]

I hope  to add further information in the future on aspects of Liberal Democrat politics.


Events and Debates

Opinion Poll Data and Some Major Political Events and Issues : 2005-2010

  1. Click here for BBC information on the construction of its own Poll Tracker and on the polling techniques of several main polling organisations.
  2. Click here for Guardian ICM Poll Data providing information on several key events
  3. Click here for BBC Tracker providing information on several key events
  4. Click here Guardian Coverage: The Election Day by Day  [236 photographs and articles]
  5. Click here for The Guardian: General Election 2010: Ten datasets that shaped the campaign


For Section 3: The General Election of 2010: Data - Click Here