Lib Dem leader Tim Farron made an impassioned defence of liberal values on refugee protection today in his address to the party’s conference in Bournemouth, writes Steve Ballinger, as he drew attention to Britain’s proud tradition of offering protection to those most in need while mounting a stinging criticism of PM David Cameron’s handling of the current refugee crisis.
“I am proud to be British and I am proud of Britain’s values,” Farron told delegates, “So when Mr Cameron turns his back on the needy and turns his back on our neighbours I want the world to know, he does not speak for me, he does not speak for us, he does not speak for Britain.”
It was a strong, impassioned speech, most commentators agreed – one that would play well with the core Lib Dem vote. But would it resonate with the majority, who had turned away from the party in droves? The Guardian’s Rafael Behr suggested that those who might now criticise Farron as being out of touch with mainstream public opinion had failed to grasp his strategy – one of making a strong pitch for the most liberal voters who take pride in being considerably more moderate than most on immigration.
But is a ‘core vote’ strategy, seeking to appeal to only the most liberal voters, good politics? And is it the best way to build public confidence in Britain’s ability to manage the current, high levels of immigration to Britain? Probably not.
Polling by Survation for British Future, published today in “The politics of immigration – the surprising lessons of the 2015 General Election and what they mean for new party leaders” suggests that the Lib Dems are the least likely of all parties to have anything resembling a ‘core vote’. 70% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2015 suggested they might vote for a different party in future, compared with less than half of Labour, Conservative or SNP voters. Only 13% of Lib Dem voters were confident they would not be changing their mind in future.
The party was also less successful than they had hoped in securing support from voters who shared the party’s liberal outlook on questions like Europe and immigration. The Lib Dems won around 12% of those in the pro-migration ‘liberal minority’, not much higher than their 10% share of the ‘anxious middle’ who hold more mixed views on immigration. While it’s not surprising that only 2% of voters with strongly anti-migration views voted Lib Dem, pro-migration voters were twice as likely to vote Conservative, and almost four times as likely to vote Labour, than to support the Lib Dems.
Why didn’t the Lib Dems achieve a better result with the most liberal voters? In 2015, voters who shared the party’s liberal views on identity issues strongly opposed other aspects of their record in government. Age was a particularly important factor here: the party did especially badly with students and first-time voters, polling just…Lib Dem leader Tim Farron made an impassioned defence of liberal values on refugee protection today in his address to the party’s conference in Bournemouth, writes Steve Ballinger, as he drew attention to Britain’s proud tradition of offering protection to those most in need while mounting a stinging criticism of PM David Cameron’s handling of the current