Elections 2012: It’s another bruising night for the Lib Dems

Results are still coming in, but the overall picture of this year’s local elections is clear: this has been a second successive disappointing result for the Lib Dems. Here’s a topline summary:

National vote share: The projected currently projected share of the national Lib Dem vote is 16%, with Labour on 39% and the Tories on 31%. This is the same share of the vote for the party as in 2011. So while the anger on the doorstep against the party may have lessened compared to 12 months ago, we’ve fallen a long way short of translating that into enthusiasm to vote Lib Dem. If last year’s elections were a anti-Lib Dem protest, this year’s are an anti-Coalition protest. Though I guess that’s a little fairer — both governing parties sharing the blame for voter discontent — it’s still no help to the party, even if we are now all in it together.

Number of councillors: The party’s total number of councillors across the UK will dip below 3,000 after these elections (as I write Lib Dem losses stand at 125 on the night) — that’s half Labour’s total number of councillors, and a third of the Tories’. For a community politics-based party which prides itself on its record of action in local government, this hollowing-out of our activist base is worrying.

The local picture: Amidst the gloom, there are a few bright spots. The line the party has pushed throughout the night is that in those areas where the Lib Dems have an MP or strength on the council there have been some local successes. There’s some truth to this with Lib Dems achieving good results in a range of places where we face the Tories, such as Portsmouth, Cheltenham, Eastleigh, Southport, Cheadle and Colchester. There was also a terrific trend-bucking defence by the party in Hull against Labour. Of the seven majority-controlled English councils the Lib Dems were defending — Portsmouth, Cheltenham, Cambridge, Colchester, Eastleigh, Three Rivers and Watford — we’ve had results in five, and the Lib Dems are likely to retain control in all of them (albeit in Cambridge with the mayor’s casting vote). But generally there’s no hiding from the fact that the party’s overall direction of travel is down.

What does this all mean for the party?

Our second set of mid-term blues

First, and though I know it risks sounding glib, I think Ed Davey’s line last night wasn’t a bad one: the Lib Dems have been waiting 90 years to experience mid-term blues. The fact is we’re in government now. On the plus-side that means we get to see Lib Dem policies actually put in place: for example, just this week the Freedom Bill — which rolls back Labour’s surveillance state — became law. In the budget, millions more low-earners were lifted out of income tax, at the same time as wealth taxes were raised. But on the debit side, it means voters will blame us for the things they don’t like. And in particular in the urban north, where the Tory vote has long since been wiped out, voters wanting to kick the government are going to target Lib Dems.

This is an anti-Coalition result

Secondly, this is about the Coalition, not Nick Clegg personally — as I pointed out earlier this week:

The Lib Dems are bracing ourselves for a Tricky Thursday followed by Frit Friday if, as commentators suggest, we stand to lose in excess of 300 councillors. If that happens, someone somewhere is bound to suggest now is the time to change party leader. Yet this polling data suggests Nick Clegg isn’t actually a significant factor at play here. The fact is that a coalition with the Tories at a time of double-dip recession is proving toxic for the Lib Dems with many voters. There’s no magic wand solution to this.

‘It’s the economy, stupid’

Thirdly, our fate will to a large extent hinge on the economic recovery. Whatever the causes of the current economic troubles — whether you buy the Balls-Miliband line it was ‘made in Downing Street’, or if (like me) you think it’s a more complex result of Eurozone problems and household deleveraging — a double-dip recession has happened on the Coalition’s watch, and voters will blame both parties for it. And while the economy is likely to stutter into life again this year, we can’t necessarily be sure the voters will thank us for it, especially as the cuts haven’t actually started yet. Only from next year will overall public spending fall in real terms: until now, we have been witnesses to ‘phoney austerity’, but from 2013 the ‘real austerity’ kicks in. That’s when the public are likely to start seeing a front-line service impact.

The Coalition parties are stuck with each other

Fourthly, there is one consequence of the battering the Coalition has taken which few have commented on — now the Tories are also starting to share the pain of being in government, both parties have to make this government work because neither party will want to trigger an early election in the current circumstances. So even as party activists from both the Yellow and Blue corners try to persuade their leaders to up-the-differentiation-ante to give their own side something to cheer, the overwhelming pressure on Messrs Clegg and Cameron will have to be to make the Coalition deliver on the big issues — the economy, unemployment, household income — by 2015.

What about the 2015 general election?

Fifthly, as the party’s local base shrinks we’re going to need to take some necessarily tough decisions about how we choose to fight the 2015 general election: who are the voters the party must now win over or win back by 2015? What implications does that have for the seats we fight hardest to win? What can we learn from those places that have bucked the national trend? Do we, in effect, fight a guerilla campaign of 57 local parliamentary by-elections — is that viable and can it work? These are all questions that are going to require answers. This year’s elections have shown the party can still win — but that it will be much, much tougher than in any election in our lifetimes because this time the stakes are much, much higher.

Finally…

This year’s elections show the very real threat that 30 years of electoral progress risks being wiped out: that will be a high price to pay for five years of Coalition government. But nothing is inevitable in politics. Three years ago, who’d have predicted Nick Clegg would be Deputy Prime Minister within a Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition? If, like me, you think there’s a lot the party can be proud of in its record in government, then the next three years are our opportunity to say that loud and clear to the voters — one thing’s for sure, if we don’t no-one else will!

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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88 Comments

  • jenny barnes 4th May '12 - 8:32am

    I lost my council seat last year. And yes, there have been some good things from the LDs being in government – but many more that had I known I would have actively campaigned against, not for. Ok, in my local area and the two constituencies I worked in, the tories won anyway, so I did no harm, I suppose. But, like many others in a similar situation, I won’t be delivering thousands of leaflets or working hard for the LDs in 2015. On the key issue, the economy, it’s quite clear that the voodoo economics being practiced by Osborne is not working. I thought the LDs knew better, but clearly they don’t.

  • Tony Dawson 4th May '12 - 8:58am

    Lib Dems in Southport had the best local elections ever. Six seats out of seven and 3000 majority over Tories. Our colleagues in South Sefton, however, had their worst night ever.

  • I’m pleased to say that my Lib Dem local councillor kept her seat. Furthermore, as the Bradford branch wanted, the Mayoral referendum delivered a resounding “No”.

    So it’s terrible, but there are spots of light. Coalition is leaving deep scars, but it’s not fatal. It is time, however, to plot a trajectory out of the Coalition.

  • I think it’s clear the voters, by and large, don’t support the Liberal Democrats nearly as much as they did in 2010. What happened? Coalition.

    It’s not working for you.

    That’s the cold, hard truth. It was a dreadful strategic mistake in terms of party interests and if you want to be relevant in 2015, ie able to hold a majority Labour government to account from a liberal perspective, you need to rethink your role in government.

  • >neither party will want to trigger an early election in the current circumstances.

    BBC site: “Backbench Conservative MP Gary Streeter said Conservative supporters were sending a message to David Cameron that “they don’t think our leadership is Conservative enough” by voting UKIP.”

    Wonder if many more Tory MPs imagine the reason they’ve been hammered in these elections is that the national government isn’t far enough to the right?!!

    They put up with Cameron because voters liked him and he got them into office (just). Now he is looking tarnished, would they be crazy enough to imagine a new leader (probably one we really would struggle massively to work with) would strengthen their support?

  • @ Jenny
    “On the key issue, the economy, it’s quite clear that the voodoo economics being practiced by Osborne is not working. I thought the LDs knew better, but clearly they don’t.”

    I’m really sorry you feel that way, but the fact that the economy isn’t growing is simply not due to the Coalition’s economic policies. There are a whole constellation of fundamental economic problems facing the UK that are not within the current government’s control and would be facing any administration, even if Labour were returned to power tomorrow (God forbid). Take for instance high oil and international food prices, massive household indebtedness, weak export markets and a massive Euro crisis which has stymied business confidence. Can you not see that these are massively adverse circumstances in which we find ourselves?

    The basic problem is that up to 2008, all our growth was driven by rising debt levels and not by net exports or investment. Labour threw everything into avoiding a total economic meltdown in 2009 and 2010, which left us with a deficit of 11.4% of GDP. When the Coalition came to power, there was no possibility of sustaining this at all. Nor could households play any role in sustaining growth, given their massive burden of debt.

    I really wish you (and many like you) would look at the objective truth on the economy and not be persuaded by the ‘easy way out’ school of economics as peddled by Labour. If it were that easy, everyone would do it, wouldn’t they?

  • Some honest analysis there but in my view your take on ‘its not an anti clegg’ vote is flawed. You suggest it is an anti govt/coalition vote influenced by the state of the economy. Well to many, myself included, these factors are closely linked to the leader. Coalition – is spoken about as if it exists seperately from the party. The liberal democrats are in the coalition and nick clegg is the public face of that. For erstwhile supporters alienated by coalition actions – lets say for example student fees- Clegg holds more than his fair share of responsiblity. Regarding the economy – Clegg is the man who argued ‘too far, too fast’ during the election but then immediately embraced osbournonimcs. Regarless of the merits or otherwise of this many erstwhile supporters hold him responsible for facilitating precisely what he had publically oppossed.

    Previous party voters unhappy with the coalition or the economy are also unhappy with Nick Clegg.

  • @ Simon

    “Previous party voters unhappy with the coalition or the economy are also unhappy with Nick Clegg.”

    The problem for Nick Clegg is that he has been demonised in the press for so long – in fact since after the first leaders’ debate in 2010 when the right wing press actually had to start taking him seriously rather than just ignoring or patronising him – that he has become the scapegoat for every single problem the country faces.

    This would have happened to any Lib Dem leader given the powerful hatred harboured for him by the right wing press barons and by Labour tribalists. Nick Clegg’s problem is that he has not handled going into the Coalition in a way that makes it clear what it is – a regrettable, time limited necessity aimed at sorting out one major problem left by Labour, namely a meltdown in public finances.

    The electorate simply don’t understand Coalition government full stop but this doesn’t mean that there is any alternative to what was done in May 2010.

  • Jean Warwick 4th May '12 - 9:46am

    What these projections PROVE is that “anger on the doorstep” has not lessened, what they prove is that core Liberal Democrat support (in terms of what you might call long-term tribal allegiances) remains totally un-moved by that anger, and that, as a result, the experience of betraying everyone to prove how Liberal Democrats are “fit” for government has not benefitted the party one jot. In respect of public opinion, the party has had its fingers in its ears for years, and, in respect of coalition government, the party has been hypnotised by the ILLUSION of power that participation in the coalition gave. We sold our souls, and national assets, to achieve what? UKIP growth!

  • RC: The US, Germany and France have all reached or gone beyond pre-crisis GDP levels, and we are still 4 points adrift. No-one thinks will we get there before mid 2014. That is a serious critique of Osborne.

  • @RC
    I beg to differ on a few points. The party chose to enter coalition; it didn’t have to. I understand why many think it was a necessity but don’t expect voters to see it that way. There were other options even if we disagree on their merits.

    Re: inevitability of the leader following such a path regardless of whether that was nick clegg or someone else then again i don’t accept this. It was clegg himself who said he had a personal epiphany about the economy and then sought to drag the party with him. There are some who may have been leader who i’m not convinced would have embraced the economic policy quite so readily. For example one recent, and very successful, party leader has consistenly expressed reservations on this.

    As to the public not understanding coalitions… Politicians of any colour should be ware under estimating the electorate. I believe people do understand but just don’t like this one. In coalition people accept some compromise is necessary and inevitable. They don’t expect 180 degree about turns on issues they hold dearly.

  • MacK (Not a Lib Dem) 4th May '12 - 10:06am

    Yes, The electorate really are “flocking” to the Lib Dems aren’t they?

    129 seats lost so far on top of the massive losses you experienced last year.

    How much more empirical evidence do you need that the political symbiosis you have entered into is completely inimical to your survival as a parliamentary force? Get out of it now. Cross the floor and join Labour in opposition. It’s your only chance.

  • Stephen wrote: “There’s some truth to this with Lib Dems achieving good results in a range of places where we face the Tories, such as Portsmouth, Cheltenham, Eastleigh, Southport, Cheadle and Colchester.”

    Only one of these has an MP who voted for tuition fees.

  • @Simon
    “Politicians of any colour should be ware under estimating the electorate. I believe people do understand but just don’t like this one. In coalition people accept some compromise is necessary and inevitable. They don’t expect 180 degree about turns on issues they hold dearly.”

    Quite. The best way to persuade even more Lib Dem voters to defect is to patronise them. It’s quite clear to me that the electorate does understand how coalitions are supposed to work, but that Clegg doesn’t.

  • ………………………..I’m really sorry you feel that way, but the fact that the economy isn’t growing is simply not due to the Coalition’s economic policies. There are a whole constellation of fundamental economic problems facing the UK that are not within the current government’s control and would be facing any administration, even if Labour were returned to power tomorrow (God forbid). Take for instance high oil and international food prices, massive household indebtedness, weak export markets and a massive Euro crisis which has stymied business confidence. Can you not see that these are massively adverse circumstances in which we find ourselves?………………….

    For heaven’s sake; when are we going to realise that we are seen, by the electorate, as responsible. During the global financial meltdown there was much which was “not within the current government’s control and would be facing any administration”, that didn’t help Labour.
    A failing of LDV (and similar sites of other parties) is that they credit the wider electorate with a political sophistication that doesn’t exist. We are where we are and sinking fast. If I had a pound for each comment from ex-activists withdrawing future ‘hands-on’ support I’d be able to buy dinner at a top restaurant. We are pinning our hopes on ‘something turning up’.; austerity will certainly get worse and ‘maybe, just maybe’, the economy will start to recover but we will get the blame for the bad and the Tory machine will ensure they get the credit for the good.

  • paul barker 4th May '12 - 10:51am

    Well I called this election very wrong, it looks like ICM & Rallings & Thrasher had it broadly right. That still doesnt tell us much about 2015. We do know that labour support is very much based on protest votes, while we are down to our inner core of support labours votes are inflated by everyone who is pissed off. That wont repeat in a general election.

  • RC- Why is it that other European countries facing similar economic turmoil have returned to growth, while we’ve slipped backwards? Yorur argument that it’s impossible for the UK to do any better than it has doesn’t stack up. There were choices to be made, and Osborne has made some poor ones.

  • RC, the problem with your analysis of the economic situation is the Liberal Democrat policy, and indeed the manifesto, was for a fiscal consolidation at a similar pace to that proposed by Labour, with added flexibility if things were going badly owing to external factors (which they undoubtedly are). You cannot then defend coalition economic policy (which is indeed “voodoo economics”) without admitting that you are arguing against your own manifesto! You could say, we are the minority partner in a coalition, so it’s coalition policy, and that would be a perfectly acceptable answer, but this rewriting history is infuriating.

  • paul barkerMay 04 – 10:51 am……..Well I called this election very wrong, it looks like ICM & Rallings & Thrasher had it broadly right. That still doesnt tell us much about 2015. We do know that labour support is very much based on protest votes, while we are down to our inner core of support labours votes are inflated by everyone who is pissed off. That wont repeat in a general election…..

    Translated…I said, this time, things would be different; they weren’t. However, I predict, next time, things will be different.

  • @Tim Leunig, JTS, Massles, etc. – all good points.

  • This isn’t just about the economy, it’s about LD-backed policies that have a deleterious effect on ordinary people’s lives. Think tuition fees, think NHS Bill, think Welfare Reform Bill.

    I used to vote for the Libs but now I never will again.

  • The Guardian quotes a marvellous comment from the Lib Dem mayoral candidate in Salford:
    Norman Owen, the Lib Dem candidate, lost his council seat last night. He tells me he is not a Guardian reader. Owen says its time for the electorate to “wake up and smell the coffee”.

  • Our council wasn’t up for re – election, so maybe I’m feeling more detached this morning.

    I don’t actually think that this result is too bad for the LDs as a party. The share of the vote (16%) is about the same as last time, and better than the latest (YouGov) poll on the BBC @ 9%.

    At the time of the GE in 2010, LD support was about 28%. So we can say that the coalition has cost the LDs about 10 – 12% (presumably the left wing of their support).

    However, these results would suggest that the losses have stopped.

    Looking forward to 2015, the interesting question is “how tribal is the remaining 16% of LD support”? By which I mean will it remain solid come what may?

    If the remaining LD support will be happy to follow the party even if it moves further to the right, then an interesting scenario opens up:

    Cameron is under pressure from UKIP. So he could tack to the right to win back Conservative votes lost to UKIP, and the LDs could also tack right to pick up any votes that the Tories lost as a result of this move to the right, and to make themselves more attractive to Tory voters in LD – Lab marginals.

    Which might conceivably give the LDs say 20% of the vote in 2015, and another 5 years in office as part of a right – wing coalition.

    As I said, it all depends if the remaining 16% are happy to follow the LDs further to the right. Personally I hope not, but you never know.

  • The Lib Dems campaigned in the North against a Labour party that that seemed to be shifting away from its core vote and intellectual underpinning in the Blair years. These people were never going to vote Tory. In other words they were a centre Left vote. Labour have simply regained them. It is not a protest vote. There was a huge mismatch between who the voters were and the path taken by the Lib Dems. Politics isn’t about good will, it’s about self and community interest, Your asking people to vote for things that don’t benefit them and in truth penalise them.

    Why is it that the centre Left always imagines that they are only getting protests votes rather than positive votes for the policies they stand on. The party was making steady progress because the policies were winning voters. There were blips here and there but that is inevitable’. This is what the leadership failed to understand. The voters don’t approve of the the way things have gone and there is a lack of trust.

  • Tony Dawson has already commented on Southport’s amazing night, Having a independent minded Lib Dem MP who not only voted against tuition fees but also championed the wider party’s concerns about the Health Bill did help. There is a Pugh effect! We have a long tradition of being the anti Tory party in the town

    The last time we approached this result was in 1962, when we were in an unofficial pact with Labour,. We were early adopters of Jo Grimond’s policy of realigning the Left. Then we won 9 out of 10 seats but all but one of those contests were straight fights with the Tories. Labour stood in the other five wards. We won 8 out of nine sears the following year when all were straight fights.

    Certainly we worked hard and out campaigned and out thought all out opponents but essentially we effectively presented a clear difference between ourselves and the Tories. Nationally we need to do the same. In that context John Pugh’s article on Political Home is well worth a read http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/52431/john_pugh_getting_back_on_the_front_foot.html

  • Just a reply to all those who wonder why we are performing worse than other comparable economies. It is precisely as I say. Labour left an economy geared to consumption rather than production and with extremely high levels of household indebtedness. It is that indebtedness that makes the UK special. The other negative factors are also weighing on the UK, but it is household debt that is the problem.

  • Richard Dean 4th May '12 - 1:01pm

    @RC. According to the website below, UK household debt seems to be about the same as in Germany, which seems to contradict your argument, and in Spain, which supports it. Like those two, most of our household debt seems to be to pay for the house.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/document/activities/cont/201103/20110324ATT16330/20110324ATT16330EN.pdf

  • toryboysnevergrowup 4th May '12 - 1:21pm

    @Chris

    The Guardian quotes a marvellous comment from the Lib Dem mayoral candidate in Salford:
    Norman Owen, the Lib Dem candidate, lost his council seat last night. He tells me he is not a Guardian reader. Owen says its time for the electorate to “wake up and smell the coffee”.

    LOL – I suspect he didn’t read Brecht either. As a Northern LIbDem he needs a preservation order.

  • jenny barnes 4th May '12 - 1:30pm

    Jason “There are a whole constellation of fundamental economic problems facing the UK ..”
    I never said it would be easy. However, the government printed billions of £s in quantitative easing, and effectively gave it to the banks, who are just sitting on it. That money could have been used to build social housing, providing jobs and a lot of domestic demand for the raw materials, and resulting in places for people to live, which are clearly needed. We presently have high unemployment, low demand, zero growth – why wouldn’t it get worse on the current policies. I could think of other desperately needed infrastructure that would be worth spending money on.

    The finances of a country are not the same as a domestic budget, which is something Osborne appears not to realise. Many of the Government hold PPE degrees – and the E, I believe, stands for economics. So they should (and probably do) know that perfectly well.

  • We are the Milwall of politics – no one likes us and we don’t care.

  • If you think results are bad now, wait till all the results from Scotland come in. In one ward in Edinburgh, the LibDem candidate received less votes than “Professor Pongoo, the Six-Foot Penguin”. LibDems aren’t just being beaten by the established parties, but by joke candidates.

  • Re: PPE. Its a great comfort to know that the country’s finances are run by people who only spent a third of their degree on economics (and the opposition front bench are even worse as former PPEers) Not sure I’d be keen to have a doctor who only spent a third of their degree on medicine :-)

  • @alan rough

    Maybe you should.

  • Peter Watson 4th May '12 - 2:24pm

    @RC
    Before 2007 LD & Con wanted to match Labour spending levels.
    Since 2010 the government has failed to meet any of its forecasts.
    Despite predicting the opposite the government has taken us into a double-dip recession.
    Labour might have been bad but we cannot blame them for the failure of our leaders and their conservative allies.
    What makes it worse is that they are doing so much that I and many others voted Lib Dem to prevent.

  • Malcolm Todd 4th May '12 - 3:14pm

    @Richard Dean “most of our household debt seems to be to pay for the house…”

    Well, not necessarily — mortgage debt is often extended, or kept higher than strictly necessary when moving house or remortgaging, in order to finance consumer spending. It’s still secured on the house and classed as mortgage debt.
    Whether anyone’s figured out a method of quantifying this effect I don’t know.

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '12 - 3:45pm

    “majority Labour government”

    Haha, that’s remarkably prescient. I doubt it, though.

  • Sophie – I agree with you about tuition fees, but where would an educated protest vote migrate to over this issue?

    Conservatives wanted a worse settlement than we have.

    Labour introduced and raised fees both when in large majority government and in breach of manifesto pledges.

    LibDems secured a reduction in up-front cost and payments differentiated by ability to pay, write-offs over time and remain the only major party committed to removing them. Meanwhile the Labour alternative proposal was modelled and found to primarily beneft people in their mid 50s earning over double the mediam income!

    There’s a reason why neither of the other parties campaigns against us on tuition fees – they understand that our policy *remains* the most popular one. While there are issues with what we’ve implemented in government, the primary issue remains one of communication IMHO.

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '12 - 3:59pm

    I think the LDs this time around have managed to demonstrate their capability to defend councils in the south of England against the Conservatives, and even make limited gains from the Conservatives.

    However, this is clearly not enough. There has to be a narrative to defend Lib Dem seats against Labour attacks and there has to be a story to tell in the North of England, in Scotland and in Wales. Could I suggest that the government considers a fully empowered representative from each party to represent the regions, in the same way as Heseltine did in the 80s? It’s clearly in neither Coalition parties interest to abandon the north to Labour, is it? And I doubt that Labour taking all 63 seats on a given council will lead to good governance in that council, either. As for the Labour attacks, they leave me bemused. We know that the government’s cuts amount to no more than the Labour Party was planning in its own 2010 manifesto, how hard can it be for the two Coalition parties to put across this inconsistency in Labour’s current positioning?

    Schadenfreude prompts me to note the collapse of the vote for the so-called, “Liberal Party”, in the train of the present difficulties for the Liberal Democrats.

  • @JUF – the problem is that before, the 16% vote share was in seats and councils which we held. Now it isn’t. The change has meant that the power bases which we had in the North and Scotland have gone, but not been replaced by the South. It also, I suspect, means that the voters now are not where the activists are. Also, the party is finding it hard enough to motivate activists at the moment – if it tacks further to the right now it will become almost impossible.

  • jenny barnesMay 04 – 1:30 pm…..Jason “There are a whole constellation of fundamental economic problems facing the UK ..”.

    Jenny, I didn’t write that. My views are different to those of RC.

  • RC – indeed there are.

    I had to laugh last night when Mark Serwotka accused the government of an aggressive plan to pay off the debt in 3 years.

    It’s eliminate the deficit, Mark – the debt will keep on growing for the next 5 years. No wonder we got into such a mess with this degree of economic illiteracy in the Labour Movement.

  • David Sea “Not sure I’d be keen to have a doctor who only spent a third of their degree on medicine ”

    You already do – to an extent.

    The first three years of a medical degree are spent on anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, statistics, pharmacology, etc. Its only on the second degree, of 2 years, that doctors finally get to do practical medicine.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th May '12 - 5:34pm

    @ Tabman- if you and I were watching the same programme, Mark Serowotka mentioned that he was no a member of the Labour Party.

    Like the Labour party I , I do not have a complete aversion to trade unions who I believe have a right to fight for the rights of their members. especially when their bosses are paying to bend the ear of the PM at suppers, but I think that Mr Serwotka is not part of Labour’s economic team.

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th May '12 - 7:20pm

    RC: “Labour left an economy geared to consumption rather than production and with extremely high levels of household indebtedness.”

    Labour left an economy which was growing at 1.1% pa, and indeed had exhibited positive growth in four successive quarters up to and including Q2 2010. This was a fragile but reasonably well established recovery. From Q3 2010 onwards, when the coalition’s economic policies took effect, the record has been growth – decline – growth – decline – growth – decline – decline (the double-dip).

    As others have pointed out, it simply won’t wash trying to use Euro-contagion or other international factors as an excuse when most of our neighbours are doing better than we are. At the time the coalition took power, the UK had the 10th highest growth level of the 25 European countries reported on by the OECD stats website. Two years on and we’re down to around 20th. Apart from Slovenia, the only countries doing even worse than us are the rogues’ gallery that is Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

    Of course it is impossible to prove what would have happened under a different government (which is why your opening assertion in this thread is unsupportable) but the evidence suggests that we could, and perhaps should, be doing much better than we are. Refusing to even consider the possibility that the current government’s economic policies might have killed the recovery of 2009/10 stone dead is the height of complacency.

  • Stuart Mitchell 4th May '12 - 7:23pm

    Tabman: “No wonder we got into such a mess with this degree of economic illiteracy in the Labour Movement.”

    It’s a common error. On at least one occasion I have taken an LDV writer to task for using the terms “national debt” and “deficit” interchangeably.

  • @Paul McKeown “As for the Labour attacks, they leave me bemused. We know that the government’s cuts amount to no more than the Labour Party was planning in its own 2010 manifesto, how hard can it be for the two Coalition parties to put across this inconsistency in Labour’s current positioning?”

    It wouldn’t be hard if the coalition hadn’t spent most of its first year describing Labour as deficit deniers who just wanted to spend, spend, spend. If they can’t have it both ways, neither can you.

  • Paul McKeown 4th May '12 - 7:55pm

    @Nigel

    You will have to explain that one! Labour certainly do seem to make continual extraordinary claims, contrary to their manifesto, that the deficit is a mere bagatelle and was nothing to do with them, anyway. The contradiction is all Labour’s!

  • @ Stuart Mitchell

    “Labour left an economy which was growing at 1.1% pa, and indeed had exhibited positive growth in four successive quarters up to and including Q2 2010. This was a fragile but reasonably well established recovery. ”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.Could you please stop repeating this lie that the economy was recovering? Labour threw everything including the kitchen sink in order to achieve this “recovery” creating a deficit of 11.4% of GDP in the process. It was on the fiscal equivalent of horse steroids at the time in a totally unsustainable fashion. There was nothing remotely self-sustaining about it and had any government continued with that level (or even higher) of deficit, without any plan to reduce it in a rapid fashion, Sterling would have gone down the pan.

    Labour left a consumer driven economy with no consumers left to drive it. That is the problem and solving it is proving a total nightmare. That is why the Lib Dems are suffering.

  • @ Stuart Mitchell
    “As others have pointed out, it simply won’t wash trying to use Euro-contagion or other international factors as an excuse when most of our neighbours are doing better than we are”

    Euro contagion is not an “excuse” it is a FACT and the only reason anyone else (e.g. Germany) is doing better than us is because they still have balanced economies with manufacturing sectors and mostly don’t have as much consumer debt and a savings ratio which went down to virtually zero. The recovery of the savings ratio alone has taken several percentage points off consumer spending.

    The UK’s underperformance is due to our economic structure, not government policy. The underlying base of our economy is in such a poor state and that is fundamentally Labour’s fault.

  • David Thompson 4th May '12 - 10:02pm

    I rarely comment on here, I’m yet another former Lib Dem voter with left wing views and as such have been reminded many times that I am the wrong sort of voter.

    Having said that, I simply cannot believe that so many are still repeating the whole ‘it’s labours fault’ line. Ridiculous….and as for those that have said today that the Lib Dems will be saved by moving further to the political right, the less said, the better. Wrong. UKIP & the Tories are soaking up the right wing vote, those Lib Dem voters on the left have, well, left and won’t come back to yet another Tory Lite party.

    If I were still a supporter then I would feel pretty sad however it’s been made quite clear that anyone with my views are no longer welcome in the tango orange glow coming from Westminster.

  • The results last night are unsurprising. In the decade before 2010, the Lib Dems nationally claimed to be to the left of Labour on issue after issue (often in a strident, moralistic way). I’m talking about on public service reform, on nuclear, on civil liberties, on tuition fees, and much, much more. But the truth was that much of the party wasn’t to the left of Labour: they were pragmatic, centrist, and often in coalition with the Tories at local level (out of choice).

    So there was a real element of dishonesty in what was happening. I remember Nick Clegg before the 2010 election going to a constituency in the north of England – a traditional working-class Labour constituency – and trying to win votes by telling the people that the Lib Dems were on their side and Labour had betrayed them (my, how those people are hurting now under the Coalition’s tax and benefit policies!)

    So it is no wonder that after the 2010 election, when the Lib Dems threw their lot in with the Tories, many of their voters felt utterly betrayed. This is not a moderate Government. On many issues it is well to the right of Thatcher, whether on tax cutting, or privatising the NHS, or nasty welfare cuts that are devastating for so many families.

    This is not a question of mid-term blues. These left-wing voters have gone for good. It is not a question of what happens now and what the Lib Dems do in government. The issue is what happened before the 2010 election (pretending to be left-wing).

    The real potential now for the Lib Dems is as a party of the centre right. We should nudge the Tories to the right (where they seem only too willing to go) and make Jeremy Browne leader.

  • All hail Professor Pongoo!

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th May '12 - 11:25pm

    clempalme

    So it is no wonder that after the 2010 election, when the Lib Dems threw their lot in with the Tories, many of their voters felt utterly betrayed.

    Yes, but that would only be logical if the LibDems had been able to do something else, which they were not. It was not a choice between coalition with Labour or coalition with the Tories, it was a choice between coalition with the Tories or a Tory minority government. We didn’t “put the Tories in”, as is often claimed – the people of this country by the way they voted in 2010, combined with the distortional representation electoral system did that. Then in the 2011 referendum the people of this country voted by two to one in favour of keeping that electoral system – which ends any claim that the Tories aren’t entitled to the power they have on just 36% of the vote.

    There’s a simple lesson here – if you don’t like it, don’t vote for it, and don’t sit back and do nothing and let it win either. Anyone who voted “No” in the referendum last year, or sat back and let “No” win, effectively acted in support of this government because they endorsed the “first past the post” principle that the biggest party should take full control – which it did. How can any sane person moan about the LibDems not doing enough to stop the Tories – and then go out and vote for an electoral system whose supporters claim its main benefit is that it weakens third parties and strengthens the biggest party? Yet millions of people did just that.

  • Jane Mansfield – Mark Serwotka may protest at not being part of the Labour movement but his union is paying for it.

  • Mathew .
    There was a choice, let the Conservatives govern as a minority government and vote on issues that you agreed with. The election was hung,. It wasn’t an endorsement of anything other than the individual support the main parties polled . The rapid decline in Lib Dem fortunes rather suggest that this coalition certainly wasn’t what its voters wanted.
    The point is that electoral reform was less important to the electorate than the other policies. It’s sad , but that’s how it is.

  • Dave Eastham 5th May '12 - 1:03am

    @ Tabman

    Would you like to give a reference for PCS donations to the Labour Party?. The PCS is not an affiliate to the Labour Party. In what way are they “paying for it” (PCS) then?.

  • Dave Eastham 5th May '12 - 1:21am

    @ Glenn
    “There was a choice, let the Conservatives govern as a minority government and vote on issues that you agreed with”.

    Don’t think so me. Methinks a slight re-writing of history is going on here. There was no alternative “coalition”, the numbers simply did not stack up. The country needed a stable government, (Given that the undermining of the country that DC and friends had been up to during the election), not a “supply and confidence” arrangement which would have collapsed a few months later and a Tory majority government would have been the result.

    Supply and confidence didn’t work the last time David Steel tried it.

    Matthew is right in what he says

  • Barry George 5th May '12 - 1:40am

    The country needed a stable government, (Given that the undermining of the country that DC and friends had been up to during the election), not a “supply and confidence” arrangement which would have collapsed a few months later and a Tory majority government would have been the result.

    Reallly ? sounds like magical thinking “me thinks”. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that such a scenario would have happened.

    Surely you have better evidence that it was right to enter this coalition than a pre scripted logical fallacy.

    We just got beat by a penguin and your defence is a non sequitur that conveniently implies that we were in fact superman, saving the country from an inevitable tory majority.

    Something tells me the public doesn’t buy that argument.

    Unless people get their heads out of the sand there will be no Liberal Democrat party left for me to vote for !

  • RCMay 04 – 8:08 pm…………..Euro contagion is not an “excuse” it is a FACT and the only reason anyone else (e.g. Germany) is doing better than us is because they still have balanced economies with manufacturing sectors and mostly don’t have as much consumer debt and a savings ratio which went down to virtually zero. The recovery of the savings ratio alone has taken several percentage points off consumer spending.
    The UK’s underperformance is due to our economic structure, not government policy. The underlying base of our economy is in such a poor state and that is fundamentally Labour’s fault.

    Labour were responsible (by the fact that they were in government) for the situation prior to 2010; post 2010 the responsibility became the coalition’s.
    Years of steady growth (under labour) were claimed by each Tory leader (and there were many) to be due to Labour continuing John Major’s policies. Weeks before the collapse of Lehman Brothers Osborne wrote a column in the ‘Telegraph’ promising to, “Match Labour’s public spending”. The Tory leadership consistently called for ‘lighter’ regulation of the financial markets. However,when the financial crash came it was, suddenly. “Labour’s mishandling of the economy’.

    Still, keep saying the mantra, “It’s all Labour’s fault”….After all, Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and Alexander seem unable to string three sentences together without inserting that phrase.
    They, and you, do not grasp that things have ‘moved-on'; they, and you, have learned nothing from these election. The fact is that the coalition are now being held responsible for ‘UK Plc’ and, with each passing month, blaming Labour is less and less effective and yet that appears to be the only strategy.

  • @ Jason

    It seems to have failed to reach your attention that I am not a member of the Tory party nor is this a Tory party site, so what the Tories did or said while in opposition does not interest me in the slightest.

    The fact is that when Labour came to power, consumers’ finances were in balance and debt levels were low. When they left power, debt levels had rocketed to £1.5 trillion, leaving a massive financial hangover which has yet to subside. Which bit of that do you not understand?

  • Londonliberal 5th May '12 - 9:21am

    RC- but the Tories were just as blind to that as labour. It does make a difference what they said in opposition cos they’re now claiming to be all wise on economic matters. But a more than superficial analysis of their economic policy shows them to have just as economically illiterate as labour pre-2010. That should worry you- doesn’t it?

  • RCMay 05 – 9:15 am……………….It seems to have failed to reach your attention that I am not a member of the Tory party nor is this a Tory party site, so what the Tories did or said while in opposition does not interest me in the slightest………..
    It ought to; after all, we have ‘hitched our wagon’ to them and their policies.

    ……The fact is that when Labour came to power, consumers’ finances were in balance and debt levels were low. When they left power, debt levels had rocketed to £1.5 trillion, leaving a massive financial hangover which has yet to subside. Which bit of that do you not understand?……….

    I don’t deny that. However, the financial meltdown was not caused by, nor limited to the UK; which bit of that do you not understand?

  • We would traditionally get in the mid 20s in local elections in recent years so 16 pc is drastically lower than we’ve been used to . If we have lost 10pc – 12pc I think we can safely predict that will happen in a GE and we will deliver around 11-13pc of the national vote – taking us back to our 1970s position!!

    There is an in built media defaut against the third party. I’ve been a member since 1983 and I can tell you that every single election (local or national) has been portrayed as a disaster for us or, where we have done relatively well, it’s either been ignored or downplayed. Our relationship with the media is a fundamental issue that needs tackling. The way we communicate is crucial. There were some brilliant things to shout about in these elections but no one was listening because our image has been destroyed.

    The party is a long way from dead but I do think it needs a change of tac and quick!

  • Dave,
    Point taken, but I’m not so certain that the result of a snap election would have favoured a Tory government.. . On their own they would have taken many of the same economic decisions, added a few more and looked even more divisive. The economy would be doing no better and the social unrest heightened.
    I find it amusing that they are looking at this local election and bizarrely coming to the conclusion that they aren’t Right Wing enough Look at the trumpeting that surrounds Boris Johnson, Had Labour been less swayed by the personality cult (I suspect they didn’t think they could win, hence Livingstone) the Tories would have been denied even that crumb.
    But mainly, I was thinking about what would have benefited the Lib Dems and the coalition plainly hasn’t. . It was always going to alienate a huge chunk of the people who were actually voting for the Party. Having said that, there’s no definitive proof of what would have happened, Either way the Lib Dems are now the most unpopular part of an unpopular government and that is very sad.

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th May '12 - 10:31am

    The latest set of election results and near-meltdown of the party in Scotland is a wake up call to the top of the party. We have to distance ourselves from the Tories and fast. For example, Lib Dem MPs like David Laws, appearing on the Daily Politics and defending right-wing policies on Welfare and Education as great reforms by this government, does not go down well with our left of centre base -or many activists.

    We are a left of centre party and we’re in coalition with a very right-wing Tory party. They haven’t changed.

    Originally, I was in favour of the Coalition Agreement, because I thought we would be able to hold back the worst elements of Toryism but we haven’t and we can’t. I naively believed that the Coalition Agreement would be followed and that no neo-liberal, ‘free-markets solve everything’ Toryism, would be held in abeyance.

    The policy of the leadership to go beyond this narrow remit in an effort to appear ‘reforming’ has been disasterous.

    We have to go back to the CA and not go beyond it any more, otherwise I can’t see our party recovering before 2015.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th May '12 - 11:22am

    RC:

    The recovery of 2009-10 was not an illusion created by the deficit The recovery was built on real increases in manufacturing output and construction (up 1.6% and 8.% respectively as of Q2 2010). It’s no lie, that’s what actually happened. Two years of coalition later and manufacturing and construction are both in freefall, which is why we now have a double-dip recession.

    Of course Euro-contagion is a fact, I never said it wasn’t. The question for the coalition is why it seems to be infecting us so much more than almost any other economy in Europe.

    Regarding the deficit, you know full well that the vast majority of the deficit came about as a result of preventing the collapse of the financial sector. It was right and necessary, and this hit us harder than other countries for obvious reasons. Thankfully, our overall public debt levels were extremely low compared to the European average as of 2008, so we were able to bear that huge deficit without suffering the same fate as Spain and Greece. This was due in no small measure to Labour’s financial prudence of 1997-2002, when Brown paid a large part of the existing debt off. (If he’d listened to Lib Dem critics of the time and increased tax and spending, we’d have found ourselves in a much bigger mess come 2008.)

    Richard Dean has already pointed out that UK household debt is comparable with Germany’s, so I don’t know why you’re still relying on that to explain our poor performance, though of course it’s a huge problem. The question is how you deal with it. There are plenty of historic examples to show that withdrawing support too soon does more damage than good. That’s precisely why Labour and the Lib Dems argued against cutting too much too soon in May 2010. The Lib Dems then changed their mind, but you’d be hard pressed to find any data to support the view that they were right to do so.

    Lib Dems should put more energies into thinking of ways to improve their own government’s economic performance, instead of flailing around trying to blame Labour all the time. If the next quarter’s growth figures are also negative, then this government will have “achieved” as many negative quarters in two years as Labour did in 13 years.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th May '12 - 12:34pm

    @ Tabman – I feel that I need to say this.

    In my opinion, the Lib Dem demonisation of trade unions does you no good. A poster has already challenged your assertion that Mr Serotka’s union is somehow the paymaster of the Labour Party so it seems that you are not only anti-trade union, you are incorrect at the most fundamental level.

    My point is that unions are made up of individual men and women who choose to make a donation to a party that most represents their views and interests. Their subs are small fry compared with the millions donated by big business to the parties that most represent theirs.

    I find the demonisation of trade unions disgraceful . Since the Lib Dems have come to power,I have learnt things about the party that I was unaware of as someone who had only a passing interest in politics , an interest that never extended beyond casting a vote at local and national elections for a party that I thought was the one most likely to espouse the principles of fairness, honesty and a decency towards its most vulnerable citizens . I didn’t expect a bunch of mini-me tories who show little if any commitment to the aformentioned .

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th May '12 - 1:07pm

    @ clempalme
    I agree with you, the future of the Lib Dems is as a right wing party, although I don’t think that the party will need much of a nudge.

    I suspect that many people like myself who are somewhere left of centre will be lost to the Lib Dems for good.

  • matt severn 5th May '12 - 1:31pm

    You have missed off South Lakeland from your list of councils Mark.
    Here in ‘Farron country’ we thumped both the Tories and Labour. Local issue campaigns only, but its worth noting.

  • @Stuart

    You’ve missed the point. The improving GDP figures were based on the government stepping in in a way that was utterly unsustainable. Construction’s rise, which was by far the biggest contributor, was caused by a massive pre-election splurge on government funded building projects.

    @ Jason

    “However, the financial meltdown was not caused by, nor limited to the UK”

    Yes it was caused in large part by the UK, along with the US, and the UK still has a massive banking sector compared to its national output. That overexpansion was due to lax regulation.

    “Lib Dems should put more energies into thinking of ways to improve their own government’s economic performance, instead of flailing around trying to blame Labour all the time. ”

    They already are, but taking all the blame for the underlying state of the economy just because Labour doesn’t want to own up to its mistakes in power is not something we are going to do. Sorry if you don’t like that.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield

    Trade unions should not be demonised, At their best they are very valid and useful organisations, defending workers’ interests against overpowerful employers and pursuing worthwhile social objectives.

    But nor should they be sanctified. At their worst they can be aggressive, political organisations intent on obtaining as much power and public money as possible with little regard for the common good.

    As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, the use of trade union funds is one of the sources of inequality in the current funding set up that allows us and our supporters to be excluded from wielding political power.

  • The really worrying results were in Southampton & London where we were 4th place after the greens! Success elsewhere seeemed to depend on a consistent message of local action and a determination not to mention the Coalition. The exception was in Portsmouth (the only remaining Lib Dem led City) where the Coalition was only mentioned where Mike Hancock MP had voted against it. It is probable that labour tacticians have given up encouraging tactical voting in the South because they see Lib Dems as a lost cause.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th May '12 - 3:31pm

    “Construction’s rise, which was by far the biggest contributor, was caused by a massive pre-election splurge on government funded building projects.”

    Really? What % of the rise was due to this “splurge”, and what sort of projects are you talking about?

    Construction was not the only sector growing in early 2010. Most sectors were growing, including agriculture, manufacturing, and business services.

    If Brown was investing in construction, maybe that’s because he understood that construction is one of the main drivers of GDP growth, The ONS estimates that every £1 invested in construction results in £2.09 increase in GDP. Add in induced impacts and investment in construction ends up generating nearly £3 for every £1 invested. Brown understood this, sadly the coalition does not. The huge slashing in capital projects announced in Autumn 2010 is the main reason we are now in a double-dip recession. Countries which did not pull the rug out in this way are now enjoying growth, and using the proceeds of that growth to reduce their deficits. That’s how investment works.

    Lib Dem criticism of Labour’s fiscal record would be a lot more credible if the Lib Dems hadn’t spent the entire period 1997-2008 saying that they wanted to tax & spend more than Labour were doing!

  • Peter Chegwyn 5th May '12 - 3:41pm

    I agree with much of what Helen Tedcastle said, especially her comment “We are a left of centre party and we’re in coalition with a very right-wing Tory party. They haven’t changed.”

    So long as we remain in coalition with an increasingly unpopular right-wing Tory Party that is despised by many of our core voters we are in danger of returning to our position of the late 1970s with a handful of MPs and half-a-dozen Lib Dem Councils. 40 years of hard work building-up our local government powerbase and gaining power in great cities like Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull, Edinburgh, Southampton etc. will be lost.

    In short, the Party risks sleep-walking over an electoral precipice and if we think the 2011 and 2012 council results were bad then don’t forget that 2013 could be even worse.

    And before anyone asks, I’m not one of the 800+ councillors who sadly lost their seat on Thursday. We actually gained the 2nd seat in my Ward with a Lib. Dem. majority doubled from 2010 and quadrupled from 2008.

    But when I see people saying the future of our Party is as a right-wing Party I have to say that if you want to go that way then fine but don’t expect people like me to go with you. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting Tory cuts that destroy people’s lives and I deeply dislike being in bed with a Tory Party that I have nothing in common with.

    I haven’t changed. The Party sadly has. After nearly 40 years I’m still a member, a Borough & County Councillor and a hard-working local activist… I will always be a Liberal but the national Party in its present guise is no longer a Party that Liberals like myself feel happy being a member of.

    Rant over! I’m off to the pub!

  • Simon Hebditch 5th May '12 - 4:26pm

    Nick Clegg claimed that the electorate was beginning to recognise the positive contribution Lib Dems were making to the Coalition government. Balderdash! Thie set of elections has been another disaster. Of course, there are pockets around the country which bucked the trend but the reality is that in many places the Lib Dems were consigned to the small parties and independents.

    Take London – it was claimed that the Lib Dem campaign was well organised and suitably funded and that we were looking to increase our share of the Mayoral election over last time. The reality? 4.1% of the vote – less than the Greens and nearly overtaken by Siobhan Benita, the independent.

    We cannot even follow a strategy of “differentiation” now given that the public have shown they understand only too well that we are part and parcel of this coalition government. We are not independent, we are tied into the Tory party programme and strategy. It is time to campaign against the Coalition and for the Lib Dems to withdraw from the government not on the grounds of our electoral weakness but because the Coalition is still trying to pursue the wrong economic and fiscal policy.

  • Peter Chegwyn speaks for me except that I am an uncomfortable Social Democrat . Is it OK to be smug about taking low paid workers out of tax whilst acquiesing to cuts of benefits to people with no jobs at a time of high unemployment? Is it OK to ignore Gove’s nationalisation of seconadary education along with creating free schools for the militant middle classes at public expense? Sadly we got what Clegg deserves.

  • “So long as we remain in coalition with an increasingly unpopular right-wing Tory Party that is despised by many of our
    core voters we are in danger of returning to our position of the late 1970s with a handful of MPs….”

    Don’t you mean 1970? Six MPs were more than a handful!

  • Peter Chegwyn 5th May '12 - 7:45pm

    11 MPs in 1979 as I recall. I was the full-time agent for one of them (Steve Ross on the Isle of Wight). If we hadn’t had the good fortune of David Alton’s victory in the Liverpool Edge Hill by-election to boost party fortunes at the start of the GE campaign it might have been less.

    And with an eye on next year’s English County Council elections I can also remember the 1977 County Council elections when we got around 78 seats in the entire country, 7 of them on the IoW if my memory serves me correctly. I don’t think we can go that low again… at least I hope we can’t…

  • At least that’s better than in 1970.
    We’ll leave it there

  • Helen Tedcastle 5th May '12 - 9:19pm

    Quoting BrianD: ‘Is it OK to be smug about taking low paid workers out of tax whilst acquiesing to cuts of benefits to people with no jobs at a time of high unemployment? Is it OK to ignore Gove’s nationalisation of seconadary education along with creating free schools for the militant middle classes at public expense? Sadly we got what Clegg deserves.’

    I agree with this strongly. The party appears to be suffering from a kind of schizophrenia, where our leaders think we’re entitled to be upbeat about our successes, when the latter are upstaged and cast into long shadow by the utter brutality of Tory policies, which we’ve nodded through.

    Free schools are not a Liberal idea – they create freedom for some and exclude the rest – they are a recipe for social division. Academies, ( a Blairite idea), remove schools from local governance, undermine LEAs still further, thereby weakening local democracy. They will prove to be another tool for those favouring a return to selection eventually.

    It is hardly to be believed that in just two years, the Tories have driven through policies which even Thatcher couldn’t have dreamt of passing. And we’re in government with them…

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th May '12 - 12:18pm

    @ Helen Tadcastle
    I feel so sorry for what is happening to your party. I suspect that there is worse to come now that the Tory high command are panicked by the local election results and the pressure from the Nadine Dorries wing, who really do think that the electorate are angry with the party because of gay marriage and House of Lords reform.

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th May '12 - 1:03pm

    My opinion for what it is worth is that the Liberal Democrats should stop arguing that they have done things in government that they are proud of and confess that they have helped a very right wing government carry through policies that even Margaret Thatcher would have baulked at.

    I really do think that this is the only way forward for the Liberal Democrats unless you choose to move even further to the right to fill the vacuum left by purportedly socially liberal tories as they panic and move rightwards to satisfy the loonytunes on the right of their party.

    As a left leaning voter,I would prefer the former so that I have the option of a party that I can vote for.

  • Helen Dudden 8th May '12 - 8:21pm

    I think that there will be many Lib Dems who are not satisfied with what has happened, or happening. I believe in the House of Lords, also, about the bounderies, what is the need to keep changing, how about AV that went too. Not more to say those who are not happy will vote with their feet..

  • @Helen Tadcastle

    I think we’re a left of centre local party joined to a right of centre parliamentary party.

    David Laws & Danny Alexander are well to the right of Ken Clarke. And just try to imagine Nick Clegg promising to increase income tax to fund a shortfall in the education budget (more wine may help).

    We will need at least a parliament out of government to decontaminate oureslves from the “Tory Collaborators” tag.

  • Helen Dudden 9th May '12 - 11:03am

    Yes I agree, that is all this is about, after my membership runs out in July, I will be thinking seriously.

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