Over the next few days, weeks and months there are a few grim but necessary processes which the Liberal Democrats (not to mention Labour and UKIP also) will have to go through: electing a new leader, debating the purpose and ideology that guides the party, and ultimately regrouping to lick our collective wounds.
Perhaps more important than the theatrics of these things unfolding, is the question well what’s next? The decimation of the party as a parliamentary force – following on from the sustained loss of local government Liberal Democrats over the past five years – has disrupted the status quo, and now more than ever a new generation will need to rise up to carry the torch of Liberalism.
Unlike Labour and the Conservatives with their safe seats even when relegated to the opposition benches this does not simply mean a new leader, a new direction and “rising stars”. For the Liberal Democrats we really are back to building ourselves up as a party of local and national government.
In re-building the party we have a stark choice: change versus more of the same. I suspect this phrase will be banded about plenty in the ideological and strategic battles for the party’s soul and direction, but change must come in the ‘who’ as much as the ‘what’ and ‘why’.
If Liberal Democrats really are committed to a diverse, progressive and more representative country and political system then we have to put forward a party made up of individuals that reflect it. It’s no longer good enough for our candidates to overwhelmingly be the male, pale faces that have dominated politics (in our parties and others) for too long.
The party made progress in the last election, and I was proud to have a number of friends standing as part of a fantastic slate in the 2012 London GLA elections, but now we have to have a lot more candidates from more diverse background not just in the capital but across the country.
Diversity should not be a ‘nice to have’ for a modern, progressive political party (or indeed any), it should be an absolute must. There are slightly more women than men in the UK, but far too few in parliament. Every one of our 8 remaining MPs is a straight, white, middle aged man and whilst they deserve credit for winning their seats, they must be joined by future leaders and MPs who break the stereotype.
No doubt there will be those members who will want more time to introspect, to pick apart ‘what went wrong’ and to re-hash internal divides that have been put aside in the past five years. In my view re-building cannot start soon enough, so let’s seize the opportunity to build a party – from the grassroots up – which looks and sounds like the modern, diverse Britain we aspire to represent.
* Sean Davey is the Chair of London Liberal Youth