5am update

Party members have just received this email from James Gurling, Chair of the Federal Communications and Elections committee:

…This is not the email I had hoped to be sending you.

We wake this morning to a double blow. A Conservative majority Government, hell bent on pushing Brexit through, and the loss of our Leader, Jo Swinson from Parliament.

First, let me pay tribute to Jo. Her declaration speech in the early hours of this morning moved us all. Focusing on the future of our country and, importantly, standing by our principles and values as a Party. She will make a formal statement later today.

Parliament and our party will sorely miss her determination, passion and talent.

If you are wondering what happens now, Ed Davey will act as temporary Leader in the Commons and our Party President, Sal Brinton will help fulfil the other functions of Leader for the wider Party. Together they will jointly assume the Leadership functions of the party.

There are some wonderful gains amongst the shocking loss. Seeing talented people like Munira Wilson, Wendy Chamberlain and Daisy Cooper win, and Sarah Olney retake her seat – is something from which we can collectively draw strength.

We have achieved astonishing rises in vote share in places like Esher and Walton, Wimbledon, South Cambridgeshire and so many more. There is much we can build on from here, and we will be careful to learn the lessons to build for the future.

As I write, there are still some results yet to come in, so we will send you another update later.

Britain still needs the Liberal Democrats, today more than ever.

Thank you for everything that you have done during the course of this campaign and for the cause of Remain.

James
James Gurling,
Chair of the Federal Communications & Elections Committee

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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31 Comments

  • This is a catastrophe. It’s only fair to take time to digest it properly rather than instantly recriminate but it’s an utter catastrophe. Arguably an even bigger catastrophe than 2015.

  • John Marriott 13th Dec '19 - 6:07am

    A catastrophe in terms of seats; but 12% for a ‘liberal ‘ party is as good, if not better, than most European liberal parties usually get. Could it have been different? Yes, but it might be best to allow the dust to settle before learning any lessons, if that is possible. However, there is the not insubstantial necessity for the Lib Dems of finding a new Leader in Parliament.

  • There will be going forward many comments stating ” The Tories went low they lied, we played nice and went high” yes very true but remember this they won we didn’t stop trying to be “nice” it doesn’t (expletive deleted by editorial team) work.

  • Martin Land 13th Dec '19 - 6:34am

    Very much as I expected. Time to bring back the King over the Water?

  • Ed Shepherd 13th Dec '19 - 7:29am

    Many, many mistakes made by the Lib Dems this year:
    Euro elections have low turn outs and are skewed by the keenest voters
    Defecting MPs are more of a problem than an asset
    Individual MPs are not that important
    Insulting voters is always a mistake
    No point joining the right in dissing Jeremy Corbyn
    Once important Tory and Labour grandees are irrelevant
    Nationalism is a powerful force but not always to be dismissed as regressive
    English voters will never accept Scottish party leaders
    Middle-class benefits of the EU such as Erasmus and villas in Spain are rubbish arguments against Brexit
    Some kind of progressive alliance is the only way forward for the Lib Dems, see Canterbury and Brighton
    Coalition in 2010 was a massive error that has led to Boris Johnson’s landslide
    Glenn is right and Peter Martin is worth listening to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Dec '19 - 7:36am

    Well now, I put a lot of effort in the past couple of weeks, see for example here telling our party what it needs to do to recover, and my belief that it was doing the exact opposite.

    That’s me. I always get things right. I am always ignored.

  • This is bitter, I admit I voted for a independent after the scrap article 50 and left the party. So I will be coming back. Why did it go wrong..

  • Jonathan Linin 13th Dec '19 - 8:05am

    CALM DOWN. deep breaths everybody. Everyone is disappointed, probably sick with worry but we need to reflect. There is plenty of time.
    I would urge us not to rush the leadership election, wait until everyone has their feet under the desk before seeing who is capable of leading us.

    But to all of you who have worked so hard in so many constituencies, thank you. Now go and have a lie down.

  • Graham Jeffs 13th Dec '19 - 8:12am

    I assume you haven’t published my comments because they are critical of HQ. How sad is that?

  • Reappointing the same campaign manager, after the fiasco of 2017, is just one of the many avoidable mistakes made on the administrative side of the campaign.

    The strategic, messaging and policy errors have already had a good hearing in the media, and we’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the days to come. But the campaign was also a complete mess as a managerial project.

    Leaflets were often poor. The decision to send tactical squeeze letters into absurd locations like Warrington and Hornchurch, where anyone with even basic knowledge could see they were nonsense, wasted time and money, dented our credibility, and blew back on our national effort via social media. Many of these were posted, at significant cost. We have at least proved that raising a lot more money doesn’t make for a better campaign.

    It was obvious we were targeting too many seats in the last week – as I posted here in response to the campaign manager’s earlier LDV article – and I warned then that his awry assessment of the campaign would come back to bite him. On eve of poll our member website was still directing people to help in obviously no-hope seats like Cambridge and Portsmouth South, and deploying helpers into such seats cut right across our stated last week objective of concentrating on denying Boris a majority. And we ought to have learned that decapitation tactics don’t work after our last attempt.

    There is a lot more that can be said, and of course we all know that the voting system is a massive handicap for us. Nevertheless it is tragic to see such a rare opportunity thrown away like this, with so many of the mistakes being entirely self inflicted.

  • Ed Shepherd 13th Dec '19 - 8:26am

    Other reasons for this election result being so bad for the LDP and other retainers:
    Young voters are not necessarily anti-racist Europhiles. I meet many young voters who are racist and Brexiteers.
    Parties are better built on long term members than defecting MPs.
    Voters expect referendum results to be respected.
    Sometimes it has to get worse before it might get better.
    A nationalist alliance has worked in Ulster. There’s a lesson there.

  • Graham Jeffs 13th Dec '19 - 8:29am

    Let me try again, albeit slightly modified.

    Not a good national campaign because, among other things:

    a) The ‘Revoke’ commitment has gone down like a lead balloon, even with many Remain voters. We succeeded in making it sound undemocratic and handed a gift to our enemies. We should have led with a commitment to another referendum with a caveat that in the unlikely event we won an absolute parliamentary majority we would take that as a signal for Revoke. Promoting it the other way around was plain stupid.

    b) There seemed little, if any, effort to build empathy between our leader and the wider electorate. There seemed to be no plan to truly acquaint people with JS as a person. Her assertiveness was allowed to be seen as dictatorial, her ambition as delusional.

    c) Some abysmal output from HQ, which seemed to mirror their significant tactical deficit. This included the email to encourage us to sign the petition re the exclusion of JS from the TV debates between Corbyn and Johnson. (I signed it) Unbelievably, we were told that this was a debate between two “white, old, leave men”. Arguably grossly offensive – the people responsible for this sort of campaigning do us no favours.

  • @ Ed Shepherd “English voters will never accept Scottish party leaders”.

    What a load of…………. Jo Grimond, David Steel, Charlie Kennedy were all well thought of and relatively popular in England.

    Time for a bit of honest thinking before rushing into anything. What’s for sure is that the next General Election is five years away and it will have to be fought in a totally different political landscape with a totally different agenda..

  • Ed Shepherd 13th Dec '19 - 8:59am

    I stand by my comment about English voters not accepting Scottish leaders. Gordon Brown was not accepted by the English as a prime minister. Jo Swinson had little traction in England. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are highly effective leaders but like Brown, Swinson Grimond, Steel and Kennedy they might have been respected for their cleverness but would never have been accepted as Prime Ministers in England. People who live in Scotland struggle to understand the political views of the English regions. Another reason why the LDP have failed today.

  • There was a respectable increase in the vote share of the Liberal Democrats. The antiquated voting system caused a decrease in the number of seats. Compare to the much more modest increase of the vote share for the Conservatives and the SNP, who increased their seats much more than the Liberal Democrats.

    But how to change the voting system, when it favours the party in power?

  • David Evans 13th Dec '19 - 9:16am

    So we are back to where we were in 1979 – 11 MPs but down about 2% in national vote share. Brecon and Radnor gone (sympathy to thanks Jane), NW Norfolk (We are so grateful Norman for all you did). 40 years of hard work totally squandered. Generation Clegg have achieved their objective – we are back to being a niche liberal Party of the comfortably well off with a social conscience and now without a single policy of national relevance.

    Where will our Remain vote go in five years time? If we can’t hold it there is a massive chasm that will open up beneath us. Why did we all let this this happen? Why is it that all the key structures in the party centrally are so impervious to what is going on in the real world? How do we get rid of those who are still in positions of power and influence, but have done absolutely nothing to save Liberal Democracy over nine long years?

    We have a lot to do to make sure we save the party. Then we can start to plan the next 50 year long march to rebuilding our relevance. But first we have to agree we need to change.

  • David Becket 13th Dec '19 - 9:17am

    I have never seen such a massive opportunity turned into such a disastrous car crash.

    Consider some of the reasons;

    Revoke,
    A major mistake that allowed time and time and time again our opponents to claim we were the Liberal Undemocratic Party. Make a simple point often enough and it sticks.
    Even Mark Pack cannot see it, still claiming a week out that the policy was very popular with Remainers. Rubbish Mark, if that was true we would be looking at 50 to 100 MPs.

    The media.
    The BBC were particularly bad, they wanted a two-party debate and did everything they could to get it. They set Jo up with their unbalanced Question Time.

    Inexperience Leader
    At times Jo did very well, her handling of Andrew Neil was brilliant, but there were other times when her inexperience was obvious.

    Ludicrous Claims
    Even at 20% the idea that Jo would become PM was laughable, pure fiction. A claim less believable than Get Brexit Done. What she could have become was kingmaker. All we heard on that subject was who she was not going to work with, nothing about who she would work with.

    Dodgy Literature
    Our “only the Lib Dems can win here’ bar charts have always been dicey, but are getting worse. If we are going to use them the source of the information must be stated, and the bar charts must be sized accurately..

    Policy
    We had some very good policies; our manifesto was more balanced than the others. However, those ideas were drowned by Revoke.

    Environment should have had a more prominent role, but the worst example was our failure to respond to the Alston Report.

    Labour
    Corbyn is the most disastrous party leader in history. Fear of Corbyn would have taken votes from us.

    Campaign
    A disaster, others have given many reasons. Helping to call the election was the first mistake.

    Where do we go.
    It is doubtful if the current leadership and policy makers have the ability to take us forward..
    As far as I am concerned, in my mid 80’s, I am giving up, no more money or time to the Lib Dems. My years as an activist and a councillor have been wasted as I am not bequeathing a stable society to my grandchildren, the party I have worked for has let me down. I joined the party under Ashdown, a man who inspired my wife, myself and many others. He must be turning in his grave.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '19 - 9:38am

    The retirement of Sylvia Hermon created an opportunity for our friends in Alliance.
    If the Northern Ireland Assembly was meeting he should be a minister.
    Alliance Party
    Stephen Farry
    Votes:
    18,358
    Vote share %:
    45.2
    Vote share change:
    +35.9

  • I’m a former member who left after the 2017 GE and saw all the same mistakes happening again from HQ on leaflets etc, I’ll only rejoin if I see signs HQ is learning.

    A few things:-

    -Revoke was a disaster and I’m convinced put off moderate voters.
    -Negative campaigning. The party has become very negative and rather than inspiring and saying what it will do for voters focused too much on attacking Corbyn or other parties. The party should be looking to inspire, give hope, enthuse not engage excessively in petty attacks on opponents. Also think assertive not aggressive.
    -A small activist element who were becoming as distastefully tribal as the Corbynistas.
    -I also wonder why political reform was mentioned so little. I sense it is starting to gain traction, should have trialed it during the election.
    -Branding party as “Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems” as though she was the whole party.
    -Dodgy dishonest bar charts in some places.
    -Claiming Jo would become PM.
    -Over-confidence after the Euros.
    -Targetting too wide.
    – Gymiah in Kensington, a seat held by remainer Lab MP.
    – Pollyannaish activists who somehow rate going some vote but less MPs a victory when party halved its poll rating in 8 weeks. In reality have missed an open goal to increase MPs by 3rd poor national campaign in a row.
    – Making the campaign all about Brexit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Dec '19 - 10:08am

    Back in the 1980s, those of us in the Liberal Party who had worked hard at building up the party explained to the new SDP people how just getting a medium proportion of the votes spread fairly evenly was not very helpful, and instead what was needed actually to win seats. We were ignored, and what happened then?

    Well, the electoral system has not changed since then, so what chance that it will change in the next 30 years?

    The disaster in this election came about because we did well in the local elections in May this year, due as usual to hard local work. So that led people to realise that we had not finished as a party, and that helped us do well in the European Parliament election. But then the consideration that the only thing that mattered was Leave/Remain, so that’s all we should talk about in the general election, was a disaster.

    Things were made worse by suggesting all we cared about and for were people who voted Remain at the start, and we dismissed and weren’t interested in and didn’t care for those who voted Leave. So that was throwing away a lot of those who used to support us.

    What we should have done is show sympathy and understanding for those who voted Leave, but explained to them why for most of them Leave would not give them what they wanted. We needed to explain how the EU works, what it does, and so the way it doesn’t have a big control over everything our government does.

    The mad thing is the way many who are unhappy with what the predominantly Conservative governments have done since 1979 voted Conservative because they had been tricked into thinking that the EU was to blame, and so voted Conservative to support Leave. We could have done a lot to stop that. We did worse than nothing, what we did just encouraged them to vote Conservative.

  • I am afraid you could talk until you are blue in the face but you would never change the majority of leave voters views on leaving the EU, they will just have to find out the hard way what the benefits were!

  • Roger Billins 13th Dec '19 - 10:30am

    Our worst election since the Grimmond revival was in 1970. We had six seats which I think were North Devon, Bodmin, Orkneys, Roxbrugh Selkirk and Peebles, Colne Valley and Inverness or Montgomery. We now hold one of those. Paddy and Charles grew our fringe support so we had a large Scottish contingency and every seat in Cornwall. We had a yellow/orange wall which we lost courtesy of the Coalition and the obsession with Europe. The first task of the party must be to re-engage with the radical non-socialist citizen who was the mainstay of our party since the days of Gladstone.

  • grumpyoldmanhere 13th Dec '19 - 11:33am

    As a liberal-inclined floating voter ( with family who are libdem members )

    Other than being branded homphobic, xenophobic, racist bigots ( heard that at libdem event I was invited to ) , what else has happened to show the people in leave-voting areas that they were wrong to vote Leave ?

    If the response is ‘not much’ its not really a surprise that they felt even more disenfranchised and unrepresented .

    ( and your slogans and campaign were pants as well)

  • As someone in his late 70’s I’ve watched the ‘political and social awareness’ of the British public plummet. Anyone watching media interviews with the electorate from the 1950/60s (even in the ‘two-up two-down’ back streets) cannot help noticing the difference then than that now shown by the public.
    We have, like much of the US, been fed nonsense dressed as political comment and seem to have the attention span of goldfish. Johnson’s lies, like Trump’s, are allowed to pass without forensic examination by a supine BBC (the mainly right wing owned newspaper industry gave up actual news reporting years ago).

    This party has been criticised for not running a wider campaign but, IMO, that would’ve been wasted on an electorated fed years of “Brexit is the panacea for all it’s ills”; Johnson’s one line message of “Get Brexit Done” required no thought as to what it meant and romped home.

    That said, those running the LibDem campaign played their only card badly. ‘Revoke’ was a disaster, allowing Johnson his December election was a mistake and pushing defectors and celebrities to the fore alienated many long term supporters.

    I believe that future elections will all be won on simple phrases that can ‘mean all things to all men’; it’s a sad reflection on the nation we have become but that, for what it’s worth, is my opinion.

  • Jeremy Cunnington 13th Dec '19 - 1:33pm

    There are, understandably a number of negative comments above for the campaign, some of them justified eg on revoke, some of them not.

    Remain alliance – if I hear that one more time referring to Labour I’ll scream. I was out getting out the vote in Finchley, where if Labour had any care for the remain alliance they would have stood back and tried to let Luciana win as with their anti-semitism problem they didn’t stand a chance. Instead they were out knocking up trying to get the vote for them. It wasn’t so they could win, it was to stop us winning and more importantly keep us down in third place. Labour got 12,000, Luciana lost by c.10,000. I am sure this wasn’t the only constituency where this happened.
    Similarly this rubbish about bar charts, yes they are not always the best and sometimes misleading, but the other two parties are as bad and if not worse as I am sure many activists will have seen.
    Thirdly to say the election campaign of 2017 was a disaster is not the full truth, we were hamstrung by a polarised electorate and a leader that went down very badly and as a result did very well by gaining 12 seats from 7% of the vote which in terms of vote share to MPs was remarkably good.

  • Isn’t Tony Blair Scottish? He won 3 general elections and if the late John Smith hadn’t died he would surely have been PM before Blair. Add Charles Kennedy to those two and you have 3 of the best leaders in modern times. As an Englishman I would take any of those 3 over what we have had recently any day. Although to be fair Johnson has shown that he has a lot of support and should be given a chance.

  • Yousuf Farah 14th Dec '19 - 12:05am

    @Paul Walter
    No no no. That was a different time as you well know. In those days Britain was a solid entity, an actual united Kingdom, and there were no political tensions between Scotland and England, as there have been in the SNP’s wretched existence. Personally, I think that Ed Shepherd is absolutely spot on. The English electorate, especially now more than ever, would never accept a Scottish leader, as PM or any kind of prominence in British politics. And this is exemplified by the fact that they always vote in Conservative governments. Recently a poll came through that the vast majority of the Conservative membership would rather have Brexit; than Scotland in the Union. If you still disagree than know this, in England there has always been Anti-Scottish prejudice, though to be fair there’s an equal amount of Anglophobia in Scotland. But Westminster and London ( the UK capital) are in England, and it’s England that has the wealth, numbers, power and influence in the UK, and in the end, that’s what makes the difference.

  • Ed Shepherd 15th Dec '19 - 3:27pm

    Gladstone and Campell-Bannerman are now irrelevant. They never even had to face a universal franchise let alone the English nationalism that has been growing for decades. John Smith and Charles Kennedy were admirable people but even they would have struggled to win a majority in England in 2019. Tony Blair had not a hint of Scottishness about him, lived all his adult life in England and had an English constituency. The West Lothian question has been unanswered for twenty years.
    Since the late 1990s, I have been saying that a gaping hole in English politics is the lack of a mainstream English nationalist party. I said decades ago that the the best hope for the Tories to regain power was to become the English National Party. Looks like Boris has done just that. I don’t suppose he cares if Scotland and NI go their own way. He knows it would benefit him.

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