At the end of the day, it’s the end of the day…

I’ve rather left the rest of the LDV team to their own devices today. Without a campaign of my own to worry about (we were stood down for the Greens, here in Bury St Edmunds), and with the nearest target seat fifty miles away, I’ve been slightly adrift from the experiences of the rest of you, and thus free to mind the shop, so to speak. Here are some thoughts…

It wasn’t a great night. Losing four sitting MPs, including Jo, and all of the newcomers is hardly something to celebrate. But, our share of the vote was up by more than 50% since 2017, from 7.4% to 11.6%, and we gained North East Fife, Richmond Park and St Albans. We aten’t dead, as Granny Weatherwax might have said.

The problem is that we rather got our hopes up. The Local and European elections in the Spring rather encouraged us to believe that we had turned the corner, and that we had a foothold again. As it turned out, the British electorate is still pretty fickle, and when push came to shove, chose to vote for what they believed was the best option to defeat what they feared most. Despite all of the social media buzz, and talk of tactical voting, that isn’t yet us in many places, at least not in the eyes of the people who really matter, voters.

That shot in the arm during the Spring and early Summer raised expectations, and last night we saw them dashed. For the old timers amongst us, we’ve been there before, but for our newer members, this is something new and unpleasant. We’ll need to be kind towards each other over the coming weeks and months, and allow everyone a chance to get over their disappointment in their own way. And given that you’re (mostly) a lovely bunch of people, I retain some optimism there.

There will be an inquest, as usual, plus, unfortunately, another leadership contest. These offer us a chance to calmly assess what went wrong, what went right, and what we might do to maintain and strengthen a movement to promote and apply liberal values in villages, towns and cities across our country and beyond. Try not to personalise that, regardless of the temptation. Yes, it may be that mistakes were made, but they weren’t deliberate or malicious, and the data they were based upon might not be freely available beyond the core decision-making team. Also, a new President will have the challenge of taking up the baton in less than three weeks – we’ll know who that is tomorrow.

As you may guess from today’s content, Liberal Democrat Voice aims to be a safe place for some of that discussion. We’ll try to offer anyone with a constructive idea, even if it might be controversial, an opportunity to make their case. And there’ll be more of that tomorrow. So, enjoy this evening as best you can, in whatever way suits you best. Take as long as you need to get over the disappointment but remember, liberalism is about holding power to account, and that’s one of our key tasks for the next five years. We’ll need your help to do that…

* Mark Valladares is a member of the Liberal Democrat Voice editorial team.

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15 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '19 - 10:18pm
  • The search for a new leader. No rush. Ed Davey was elected deputy leader and can step into the leadership role for now. We might be happy with him, or we might not, but let’s allow the dust to settle and give ourselves time to suss out the new political geography before kicking off another leadership election. After all, it’s going to be a good few years before we need a fire-breathing leader to fight a GE campaign.

  • When the inquest is held, let me suggest the verdict. The LDs have lost the plot on Europe. As Democrats, we should be clear that laws we have to obey must only be passed by people we elect and can get rid of. No to the EU there. As liberals, we should believe in decision making that is devolved to as local a level as practical. Not Bruxelles. We should believe that none should be enslaved by conformity. Another word for conformity is harmonisation, an EU favourite. Had the LDs been true to liberal values and on the leave side, the party would at least now be the official opposition.

  • This is an excellent article Mark. You make all the right points very well.
    And while I’m at it, thankyou again for keeping us updated with the campaign press releases. An excellent service from LDV – as always.

  • Once upon a time people voted for us because we promised to be different. Then coalition with the tories happened, and since then there is widespread disbelief.

  • Yeovil Yokel 14th Dec '19 - 7:45am

    Summary of the 2019 General Election: the UK has spent over 3 years digging itself into a deep hole. The Orange party offered the country a reliable escape ladder, but the choice for most voters was a Blue shovel or a Red shovel.

  • I am a Labour voter, so I am going to be biased here. However I feel my suggestion to what Labour needs to do now applies also to the Liberal Democrats.

    Despite a terrible night for Labour, one of the seats that Labour did well in was Plymouth Sutton & Devonport. Further to that they also won Plymouth City Council during the council elections, where Corbyn did badly.

    Luke Pollard, the sitting MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport was a Remainer. The seat is a Leave seat, and quite working class. The armed forces are of particular importance to Plymouth and this seat. Luke managed to hold the seat by around 5000 votes, and campaigned mainly on local issues, anti-austerity and a pro forces position. He has also been a very active MP with boots on the ground since 2017 with no let up.

    Labour need to get out of London and visit Plymouth to see how it’s done. My own preference would be for a much more “Blue Labour” version of the 2017 manifesto – similar economics to 2017 – and dialing back from the over the top nature of the 2019 manifesto, but with an acceptance of Brexit, and furthermore accepting the patriotism and the social conservatism of voters. Scrap quotas, gender politics and other nonsense. They need a suitable leader too – Preferably a Northern MP with no baggage, and who is quite happy to join the Corbynites in nationalising the railways and stand up to the Saudis, whilst also standing up for Blair’s Sure Start, the Good Friday Agreement and investment in schools.

    In a similar view, although I am no fan of the Lib Dems (although I did vote for them once under Kennedy – and I do like some past Lib Dem MPs), the Lib Dems need to get out of London and stop being the “Westminster Party”. Corporate values and identity politics have no appeal nationally. Go West too. Cornwall used to be largely a sea of yellow. Now it is all blue. The West Country is no longer a Liberal stronghold. If the party can’t win a single seat west of Bath, and Corbynite Labour in many old strongholds came second, then the party really needs to sort this out. And I’d rather see Andrew George in St Ives – a man who I think us Labour boys and girls could work well with – than some Tory.

    I say this as a critical friend. When the Lib Dems do well, Labour does well. I’m glad Swinson has lost her seat – let’s hope the party can rebuild and ditch being the party of Westminster and the City and return to the West Country base.

  • Thanks Mark.

    You make some good points, and I think especially that we need to be kind to each other. The temptation will be there to pick on something that we personally didn’t like as a reason for us not winning more seats, and we’ll get plenty of ‘advice’ from people who aren’t actually interested in the party doing better – just in us being cheerleaders for their cause and in some cases, for another party. Loud voices aren’t always thoughtful ones.

    In particular, we need to be mindful that if we have a wide range of policies, and they include radical, “forward thinking” ideas, that there will always be some people who don’t like one or two of them. Unless we want to have the most boring manifestos, or admit we are OK pandering to prejudice, then we have to accept that will always be the case. That’s not to say we ignore those concerns, but do we want to be dictated by them? I see men complaining that we focused too much on women’s rights. While some men might roll their eyes at women’s rights, us women roll our eyes right back at men who think that it’s not important.

    We were definitely hit hard with Labour supporters worried we’d ‘jump into bed with the Tories’, and Tory supporters worried we’d let Corbyn into Number 10. I think our own messaging on the subject was mainly fine, but it was completely swamped by the messaging of the Tories and Labour respectively who were pumping out anything and everything that would cast doubt. I’m just not sure how we can counter that level of misinformation. Ultimately, those parties have more money, more media support and more campaigners and they will have that advantage at the next election too. After the dust has settled, I’m fairly sure a lot in Labour will be wishing they’d directed more of their campaign and campaigners towards the Tories instead of towards us, but we can’t rely on them remembering that particular lesson come the next election, and a decent chunk of them will be blaming us and our ‘misleading bar charts’.

    We have to be mindful that we are still suffering the consequences of the coalition, of mistakes made during the 2010 campaign, as well as the 2015 and 2017 ones. We can’t force voters to ‘move on’ and it’s not a mistake of the current one that they don’t.

  • David Evans 14th Dec '19 - 8:47am

    Yeovil Yokel – Summary of the 2019 General Election: the Conservative Government has spent over 3 years digging itself into a deep hole. The Orange party offered the country a new unproven and untested escape ladder, while, in its media pronouncements, it effectively discarded the alternative escape ladder it had spent years building in conjunction with others. It also promoted a message that its way would produce a new leader for the country who would not need to work with others to make the escape ladder better because its leader would be able to exert absolute power and force everyone to use her ladder.

    However, the facts were that the yellow party was only the fourth most powerful party in parliament with less than a tenth of the MPs of the biggest parties, far too few to have any chance of making its leader the next PM. Hence many people simply dismissed the proposal as arrogance and decided to stop supporting a party that changed its position on something like a personal whim.

    The party was almost destroyed in the subsequent election because as usual its leaders and so many of its members preferred to believe a quick fix fantasy rather than do the hard boring but essential work needed to grind down the Conservatives in parliament.

    Now the yellow party is known for little more than its repeated failure, and those MPs who came over to it have lost their seats, providing to its enemies the perfect example of what would happen to any others who might try it in the future.

  • David Evans,
    Yes the coalition was a terrible idea. But the people who bought into it need time to either depart ( quite a few have to greener pastures), accept they made a bad mistake ( again quite a few are slowly acceptting that) or forget they made it as it was so long ago. The coalition as a weapon against us will be less and less effective as time goes by; ironically it may even be seen as a golden age as the turmoil of our politics goes on ( I sugguest while we may hope the public see it as that, we don’t fall for that delusion, it was a disaster for the party and by enabling Tory majority governments a disaster for the country).

  • Barry Lofty 14th Dec '19 - 9:53am

    Strange that the dominant party in that coalition is know in power with a large majority. Sometimes you have to have the guts to take a brave decision for the good the country, the country was on the brink of monetary collapse at the time of coalition and was I proud of our contribution in saving our economy even though there were plenty of mistakes made in other areas. Never mind I will soon be kicking up the daises.

  • Sopwith Morley 14th Dec '19 - 10:04am

    Before you trap yourself into returning to the same old, same old Lib Demmery magic pill that doesn’t exist that will attract people to you, perhaps you should give some thought to where Farage has suggested he intends to go next.

    With Brexit more of less done or dusted, it was noticeable at The Brexit Party rallies that whilst Brexit was important, the failure of our political system to honour a democratic decision, put reform at the centre of every discussion. Farage may go to the USA and get on with his life, or after a rest he could activate the REFORM party he has already registered.

    Although Boris won because he was considered the best option to get Brexit done, I fancy general Conservative support will now fall back, the plague on all your houses mindset of the country has not gone away. He may initially act to bring the country together, he may even succeed, although I very much doubt it will last long with his ‘business as usual majority’

    In 6 months time The Reform Party could be demanding political change, reform of the electoral system, citizen involvement in policy, abolition of the House of Lords, a parliament for England in a fully federal system, reform of the civil service, reform of the BBC, reform of Quangos, etc, etc.

    This is going to happen after the undemocratic behaviour of the last few years, the question is will your party get involved, or will you just whinge on the sidelines telling everybody ‘ that is not the way we do it’. Alternatively you could just carry on as you are, namely getting nowhere fast.

  • Farage may indeed return and attempt to raise a populist party ( for that is what it will be) but the problem he will have is on the back of the GE he got few votes, no MP’s and soon will have no MEP’s either, so even Question time will struggle to invite him on ( although they will try). I suspect his backers will have limited interest as well, unless the Tories become so toxic they need another distraction to prevent people voting for a candidate who can beat them in which case the money will flow.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Dec '19 - 11:28am

    Pete 14th Dec ’19 – 7:54am
    Thank you for your contribution. I am a Lib Dem who has never voted Labour, although I liked the coalition in the Scottish Parliament in which the Liberal Democrat deputy leader twice deputised for the then Labour leader at Edinburgh.
    You might have liked David Penhaligon, former MP for Truro, our lost leader.
    Candidates at a hustings were asked about the price of barley. The Conservative and Labour candidates read out from their briefings. Penhaligon said ” I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about the price of barley” and heard a loud voice say “I’ll vote for thee! There isn’t any barley grown with a hundred miles of here!”

  • We have to get back to being a party for all liberals, not just Remainers.

    The Remain Alliance was doomed from the start. To get 20% of the overall vote, we’d have needed 40% of the Remain vote. That might just have happened after an absolutely outstanding campaign.

    Revoke was based on winning an overall majority. To do that we’d have needed about 34%, if Brexit Party had got 20% + (very unlikely in my view). Or closer to 40%, in the actual circumstances. To get 40% overall, we’d have needed 80% of the Remain vote.

    I’m assuming zero Leave vote, as Revoke told all leavers we really really didn’t want them supporting our party. They could go and take a running jump.

    What is the likelihood we could have won 68% of the Remain vote (Brexit Party stands successfully). Or 80% of the Remain vote in the actual circumstances.?

    The likelihood was ZERO.

    These are very basic and obvious psephological points, which have totally escaped our leaders and strategists.

    Please, please, please, employ a couple of decent strategists.

    Please, please, please, do not make supporting LDs conditional on swallowing highly unpalatable policies on Europe.

    Look at the West Country.

    We have not so much built up a “core” vote, as melted down to the core. And then beyond.

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