Over on The New Statesman one of my favourite bloggers, Richard Morris, has set out why he believes the Lib Dems are languishing in the polls. Basically it is because everyone has Nick Clegg/us marked down as "horse f*ckers" due to one lapse in judgement (tuition fees) whilst David Cameron is a beloved tyrant.
Now I agree with him that this has done major damage to our party with regards reputation. I also love Andrew Emerson's comment (available in blog form here) about not settling for the current rhetoric, I particularly love the sentence that higher education should be accessible to all not free for all (as who wants a banker who gets million pound bonus's a year to have free education - that's what that policy recommends).
We will be attacked from all sides on this issue so in order to not be completely swamped we have to aggressively defend the choice that was made as one that improves availability, options and even the cost to students when it matters most. It would also have been preferable following the Labour conference for our senior ministers to come out and demonstrate to the public that Labour's "cap" at £6k would only benefit the WEALTHY. I like the phrase students don't pay tuition fees (ANYMORE) - graduates do.
Anyway, my actual reasoning for writing this blog is that whilst I agree with both Richard in a way and Andrew I don't think this is the only reason, or even the main reason we are languishing in the polls.
From my experience, many people who voted Lib Dem last time, at least those I know, are generally apathetic about politics. They wont even be thinking of their next vote until the campaign trail rolls out next time around. The optimist in me thinks that if Clegg can win the debates again he'll be able to sway many of these people, the pessimist however fears that now we have become a party of government we have been open to satire. Previously we were an irrelevance as far as comics were concerned, however now there is the negative picture of us portrayed in comedy (yes Tories and Labour both suffer too, but we used to almost benefit from this). I'll concede that this image has largely come about because of Richard's point above.
However I feel is more important, the fact we are (correctly in my opinion) in coalition with the Conservatives. This is viewed as "propping up a Tory government". I know people who voted Lib Dem last time that say they wont do so for the foreseeable future because of this. In the current economic climate things are always going to be bad, no matter what the make up of the government. The public don't see the many good things that the Liberal Democrats are influencing, they see the many things that the Tories are being allowed to implement.
Many minds go back to the 80's when lots of people suffered because of Tory governments, other, younger minds are just remembering all of the negative things they have heard (from their parents/the media/The Liberal Democrats) about how bad things were for the less well off under Thatcher and see parallels here. They don't look and see that the Government is trying to minimise any harm done by measures that are necessary, they see that Tories are making cuts with our help - irrespective of the fact that Labour's would have been "worse than Thatcher". They believe that the Tories are actively out to hurt those who are worse off, despite the fact no-one gets into politics to make people worse off, they do it to make a positive difference (or maybe get their novel turned into a film - depending where their priorities lie).
Ultimately, we will live or die by the economy, irrespective of whether it is the Government's fault or global circumstances, but irrespective of this it's highly likely we may never get some of these voters back.