This is the third election since 2010 where I’ve watched results roll in with a feeling of mild despair. Obviously I’m disappointed. Whilst losses are lower than many were predicting, Labour have taken away Cardiff and Cambridge, and we were beaten by a man dressed as a penguin in Edinburgh.
In the London Mayoral Boris Johnson has been re-elected but Brian Paddick – who really has run a campaign streaks ahead of his 2008 attempt – has received a disappointingly low share of the vote. We’ve also seen our presence in the London Assembly reduced, from three to two.
Obviously I’m disappointed, then. It was never going to be a good night, but you always have that secret hope that maybe it won’t be as bad as predicted.
Am I worried about 2015 and a Lib Dem massacre? No. For two reasons.
Firstly, people who have voted Labour today have voted against something (austerity and Tory incompetence) not for something. Ed Miliband is politically savvy enough to know that having an actual plan at the moment is not necessary. It’s far more politically astute to just allow public anger at the Government to ferment and to ride that wave rather than create policy. This plan is fine now, in the Parliamentary doldrums, but will cut no ice in 2015.
Secondly, even if I accept the prognostications of vapid Labour doom-sayers who are eagerly eyeing up 50-odd Lib Dem seats as if they were already theirs, I’m actually ok with that. Now, obviously, I would prefer a tsunami of yellow propelled us to Number 10 in 2015 (about as likely as a return for Gordon Brown, I admit) but if we are heading for electoral disaster I am still proud of our time in office. Unlike Labour (and to a lesser extent, the Tories) I don’t think Lib Dems are tribal.
I want my party to win, but I want our ideas implemented more than that. If going into coalition and being wiped out in the next general election is the price to pay for raising millions out of income tax, creating a pupil premium to help the poorest students and pushing the Tories into accepting gay marriage, then so be it. Politics should be about achieving your party’s aims, not about perpetually preparing for the next election. Perhaps, if politicians kept both eyes on improving people’s lives rather than one eye on the polls the country wouldn’t have such little respect for its elected officials.
Besides, the next general election is years away. No-one was predicting a Lib Dem/Tory coalition in 2007, so who knows what 2015 will bring – we may see Ewan Blair leading a Green/UKIP alliance to victory across the country.
* Ben Norman works on financial policy at Cicero Consulting