TV debates leave Lib Dems' poll ratings at their lowest point since 2010

Findings suggest gamble of challenging Nigel Farage to TV debates on Europe may have backfired

Political Editor

The Liberal Democrats have slumped to their lowest rating since the 2010 election as the UK Independence Party’s rise continues, according to The Independent’s “poll of polls.”

The findings suggest that Nick Clegg’s gamble of challenging Nigel Farage to two broadcast debates on Europe may have backfired. In the month when they were held, the Lib Dems’ rating dropped two points to just nine, while Ukip's rose two points to 13 per cent. Even at the height of the 2010 row over the Lib Dems’ U-turn on university tuition fees, the party scored 11 per cent in the “poll of polls”.

The Deputy Prime Minister had hoped the debates would attract support from voters committed to Britain’s EU membership, boosting his party’s prospects of avoiding a bloodbath at the Euro elections. If the Lib Dem vote is in single figures, the party could lose all its 12 MEPs.

If that happened, some of Mr Clegg’s Lib Dem critics say the party would have a “last chance” to ditch him before next year’s general election. But his allies insist he will lead the party “up to and beyond” the election.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the “poll of polls”, said: “Any hopes that the debates with Nigel Farage would help restore Lib Dem fortunes have proven badly misplaced. Clegg’s personal ratings have shown no sign of improvement. His party’s poll standing is as low as it has been at any point in this parliament. As a result the party’s run of poll results over the last six months has been its worst period yet. Time to restore the party’s fortunes in advance of the general election is beginning to run out.”

Prof Curtice said the two debates were followed by a marked improvement in Mr Farage’s personal ratings. “Clegg’s tactical mistake and the continuing unpopularity of the principal Westminster alternatives have created a perfect environment for Ukip success on 22 May. At 13 per cent, Ukip’s Westminster support is higher than it has been at any time other than immediately after last year’s local council success in May 2013,” he said.

Another sign of the Lib Dems’ problems is that the party is fielding about 500 fewer candidates in the local authority elections next month than it did when the seats were last fought four years ago. In the London boroughs, Mr Clegg’s party will contest 1,174 of the 1,861 seats, 181 fewer than in 2010.

The weighted average of polls by ComRes, Ipsos MORI, YouGov and Populus shows that the Conservatives’ mini-bounce after the March Budget was short-lived. The party is down one point on the previous month to 32 per cent, while Labour is up one point to 37 per cent. If repeated at next year’s election, these figures would see Ed Miliband secure an overall majority of 70 and the Lib Dems would see their number of MPs more than halved to 25.

Lib Dem strategists insisted that going head to head with Mr Farage was the right decision. They pointed to polls showing a majority of people want to remain in the EU and hope that the Lib Dems’ rating will improve as voters focus more closely on Europe in the run-up to next month’s elections.

One senior Lib Dem source said: “We have set the agenda. We are the only party standing up for Britain being in Europe. At least the Lib Dems and Ukip have a clear position - in or out - unlike Labour and the Tories. We knew that public opinion was not going to change overnight.”

Prof Curtice said all three main parties enter next month’s Euro and council elections in a much weaker state than they would like. The improving economy appears to be a “voteless recovery” for the Tories, whose ratings are lower than before the “omnishambles Budget” of 2012. But Labour continues to poll less than 40 per cent, and Mr Miliband’s campaign on the cost of living has not improved his party’s standing, even though it boosted his personal ratings. “There continues to be little evidence that Labour has gained economic credibility in the eyes of the electorate,” said Prof Curtice.

In a report published on Tuesday, the IPPR think tank warned that a strong showing for Ukip in the Euro elections could increase the chances that Scots will vote to leave the UK in the September referendum on independence.

Polling by YouGov found that Ukip’s appeal is much stronger among people who think of themselves as “English” rather than “British.” The IPPR’s Glenn Gottfried said: “The English are the most Eurosceptic, while the Scots are the most positive about Britain’s [EU] membership. These differences in outlook between England and Scotland could have an impact on the Scottish independence referendum.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all