After another bruising local government election in Hastings & Rye – a parliamentary target back in 1997 – the Liberal Democrats remain without any councillors on Hastings Borough Council and notched up a pallid 7% of the vote across the town.
This is pretty much a re-run of the 2012 result. Once again, targeting just one Council ward, we achieved a swing from Labour to Lib Dem, but did not come close to a gain.
This is one of the foremost bellweather constituencies of the South East, and is already a key Tory-Labour battleground for the 2015 General Election.
We have a functional local party here, with committed folk, many of whom have been members for a very long time.
I know that we have worked like stink for as long as I have lived down here (since 2007, when I was first selected as PPC) trusting in the leadership and the old slogan of ‘Where we work, we win’. Except it’s not true.
Where we work, and where we have massive organisation, and one of the two main national parties is nowhere, we now win. Anywhere else, we seem to be getting a total pasting.
To use the Great War language that is currently part of the discussion over the Leadership, we are the Hastings & Rye Pals. We are in the trenches, shovelling the shit, week in week out, month in month out.
We are only too aware of the possibility of General Lords Ashdown and Clegg, and aides de camp Laws and Alexander discussing strategy over the political equivalent of Lafite and Filet Mignon.
The arrogance of Lord Ashdown on the television this weekend, in the wake of activists suggesting a review of leadership and strategy was breathtaking; and reminded me personally why I did not join the party under his leadership, and why I learned to like him more in his avuncular, post-Westminster incarnation.
By the way, we have not signed the open letter in Hastings & Rye. We have decided instead to have a formal, democratic debate about whether to become one of the 75 constituencies needed to request a leadership election.
Most party members still left here supported the Coalition – its formation, as well as the need for it to continue until 2015.
Most believe that the Party must stick to the thankless task of putting national interest before party interest.
But the leadership should reflect, as it sips from the metaphorical cut glass, on the whole political generation sacrificed across the party…
Even if there does not end up being a leadership change before the General Election next year, this does not mean it is not worth the leadership listening to the cannonfodder in the trenches.
Unhappily, the perception is that Clegg has chosen advisors who, in the words of Blackadder, can hit a six, and take a hot crumpet from behind without blubbing.
It is just-about-not-too-late for the leadership to demonstrate that it is being advised by electorally successful, battle-hardened activists from around the country, and from some different political terrains than represented just by the parliamentary party.
The leadership needs to show that it cares about us still being a national Liberal Democrat party; not just a party of government. And not just a party of a few citadels (even if there is a pragmatic reality about what we need to do next year).
And it needs to show day in, day out, that it remains passionate about our values as espoused in the preamble. All of those values – the indivisible positive as well as negative freedoms. Not just through high-minded media pontificating, but in street-smart national politics.
If it does not, then the sacrifice will no longer have been worth it.
* Nick Perry is an approved mental health professional and was the parliamentary candidate for Hastings & Rye at the General Election.