Lib Dems ‘killed by opinion polls’

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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The Liberal Democrats were “killed” by the inaccuracy of the pre-election opinion polls, Paddy Ashdown has claimed.

Just eight Liberal Democrat MPs remain in the House of Commons after polling day, with many of their one-time coalition Cabinet members losing their seats.

Having said he would “eat my hat” after a learning a shock exit poll predicted a significant Conservative victory, the party’s former leader admitted he had been “blindsided” by the result.

The pollsters are facing an independent inquiry by the British Polling Council after almost every election poll during the campaign underestimated the Tories’ lead over Labour.

In an interview with the Guardian, Lord Ashdown said: “We were absolutely blindsided, just like everyone else, except of course the good Professor Curtice (who was behind the exit poll) – hence my eat my hat comment.

“Actually what killed us was the inaccuracy of the (earlier) polls. If the polls had shown the real situation – the Tories with a clear lead over Labour – then the argument that we had to be there to moderate them would have had far greater traction.

“Paradoxically, the polls helped the Tories by magnifying the fear factor that they played so ruthlessly. The public feared Miliband/Salmond more than they feared a Tory majority. They are about to find out how wrong they were.”

Lord Ashdown added he thought the victory was an “unexpected success” for David Cameron’s party as much as it was an “unexpected disaster” for the Liberal Democrats, although the polls had forecast heavy losses for the party.

He also said the success of the SNP was “the creation” of Mr Cameron and said he felt “the Union was more at risk than at any moment in the last three centuries”.

The race to be the party’s next leader, following Nick Clegg’s resignation, is expected to be dominated by Tim Farron and Norman Lamb.

Nominations will open on Wednesday. To get on the ballot a contender must secure the endorsement of 10% of MPs – now less than one person – as well as 200 members from at least 20 local Liberal Democrat parties.

The wider membership then elects the winner via an alternative vote system, with the verdict due on July 16.

Published: Monday 11th May 2015 by The News Editor

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