Black Friday for Lib Dems: it’s worse than we thought

When I quickly penned this morning’s results round-up, I thought I’d struck a more or less appropriately pessimistic tone; that the results were undeniably grim for the party, but we’d have to wait for the rest of the day to see if there was something of a north/south divide.

Well, I’ve waited, and I think we can now more or less officially say: these results are a disaster for the Lib Dems, worse than most of us had feared they could be.

In Scotland, the party has been reduced from 16 MSPs to just five. In Wales, we clung onto five of our six AMs. But in England it wasn’t just Labour’s northern, urban former-heartlands that rejected the party — most of us had been braced for that — it was also the English district, unitary and metropolitan councils across the country.

At the time of writing, the Lib Dems (according to the BBC) have made a net loss of 625 seats. If you look down the ALDC website list of results, showing net changes in all councils, it’s depressing.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of councils where the party has made a net gain of seats; in almost all others, the party has made losses, including some quite devastating ones. There have been double-digit losses of councillors in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East Riding, Kingston-upon-Hull, Windsor & Maidenhead, Chelmsford, Chesterfield, and North Norfolk.

And, to cap it all, even the AV vote — which most of us had quietly resigned ourselves to losing — seems now to be facing a trouncing beyond even the more pessimistic pollsters’ imaginations. With half the results now declared (at time of writing), it appears to be settling at a 69%/31% defeat for the ‘Yes’ camp.

We knew when we entererd the Coalition, there would be tough days ahead. But it’s easy to say these things, quite another to live through them. For a party that has grown used to having its own heartland vote in the ‘celtic fringes’ of Scotland and Wales, and enjoying favourable local election results in many parts of England, today’s reverses are bitingly painful.

The pain is accentuated by knowing there’s no simple get-out-of-jail card. Our latest survey shows party members still overwhelmingly back the Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition; to back out of it now would be highly unlikely to help the party, either in the short- or long-term. Those few who reckon replacing Nick Clegg would somehow be the answer are, I think, utterly deluded.

There is no quick fix. There may be no fix at all. All we can do is re-commit ourselves — at all levels in the party — to working harder still to deliver Lib Dem policies in government, and communicate them effectively. The rest is up to the voters.

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87 Comments

  • Graham Armstrong 6th May '11 - 6:58pm

    I won’t be surprised if this kills off most of the grass-roots support both for the Lib Dems and for voting reform. It seems to me that too much has been given and not enough received in return. Fair enough, get back in there and continue to work but this reform was one of the major policies for the government and once again a conservative government has quashed it. It will leave a lasting sting.

  • matt severn 6th May '11 - 7:12pm

    DISASTER. we have 4 more years – lets hop to it and start getting some decisions our way nationally.

  • Has it occured to you that the voters are rejecting your policies? That maybe they elected you under the assumption that they were electing a very different party to the one they ended up with? That aybe if you blindly continue on your current course you will be utterly destroyed forever?

    I never thought that I’d see a party whose response to its actions in government being absolutely condemned by the electorate to blindly continue on its disasterous path. For all the rhetoric of Brown clinging on to power, a nasty right wing lie incidentally, you guys really are behaving abominably.

  • Can I just say this is NOT because you entered coalition. It is because of the policies you adopted in coalition. There is a subtle but important difference. If you’d stayed true and fought more for what you committed to in the campaign, people would have flocked to you. You did the opposite, and you’re now going to pay the price: 20 years of work building a base, destroyed inside a year.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 6th May '11 - 7:25pm

    “Our latest survey shows party members still overwhelmingly back the Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition; to back out of it now would be highly unlikely to help the party, either in the short- or long-term. ”

    I said that you would use this survey carried out before the elections to justify staying in the coalition post the election results – rather than waiting for a post results survey. Just a guess but the next survey will be considerably less favourable.

    As for the AV result – I wonder how long it will take LIbDem members to realise that it is their leader who has done more than any single individual to put back the cause of fairer voting for at least 20 years. He cannot say that he wasn’t warned to rush into referendum, or not to hold it on the same day as the local elections, or to keep away from the campaign. As for the totally stupid compromise remark during the general election campaign.

  • Foregone Conclusion 6th May '11 - 7:33pm

    Funnily enough that had occured to us. What didn’t occur to us quite so much is how people who vote nationally in local elections – it’s never happened much to us before…

  • The Lib Dems won 2 FPTP seats in the Northern Islands, plus top up seats in three other regions. In short, the regional list is where you vote for the party you really want to win. A party will win one with about 6% of the vote in one of Scotland’s eight regions if they haven’t won a FPTP seat in one of those regions. Here’s what has happened on the regional lists in Scotland on a 50% turnout –

    Central Scotland 1.4%
    Glasgow 2.5%
    Highlands & Islands 12.1%
    Lothian 5.5%
    Mid Scotland & Fife 5.9%
    North East Scotland 6.8%
    South of Scotland 5.4%
    West of Scotland 3.2%

    You lose a £500 deposit for getting less than 5% of the vote on a FPTP seat and a £1000 deposit for failing to get 2.5% on the regional list. I never thought one of the big three so called national parties could lose a £1,000 regional deposit. I’m really surprised by the scale of this, I thought they’d get 8 or 9 seats.

    I’m an ex-Lib Dem who’s personally glad this has happened. To put it bluntly, the Lib Dems core voters were young intelligent people. I don’t know about now but younger voters and those with or seeking university education were the group most likely to vote Lib Dem. And the Lib Dems pissed on them, they totally hosed them with £9,000 a year tuition fees and no cuts at all for the baby boomers seeking a pension soon. Being young, educated and not tribal the Lib Dem voters weren’t stupid and simply shifted or withheld their votes.

  • Sorry but no suprises really.

    I never supported AV, but the date was wrong. Many pointed this out months ago, even pro AV Labour figures had other priorities. They were starting from an incredibly low point and had to realistically concentrate on this. Clegg was stubborn, refused to admit there was a valid argument for moving the date and the rest is now history. I’m not sure it would have changed the result but the figures would certainly have been closer.

    In council elections and probably Wales and Scotland as well, candidates paid the price for the tuition fees disaster and for the manner of the coalition.

    People on this blog, some well respected Lib Dems, have been saying for months that the tone of the coalition needed to change. the leadership ignored this and are only now starting to talk about a change. Too late….

  • Kevin Colwill 6th May '11 - 7:46pm

    I admit got it wrong…I seriously underestimated how much you’d be spanked in the North. I assumed, wrongly, that a significant part of your support up there were tactical Tory voters and “Orange book” types who were anti-left.

    It looks like I did them a serious injustice; they were left of centre voters who just wanted better governance.

    I don’t know how the Lib Dems can win them back. It won’t be easy to get left leaning voters to put their X in a Lib Dem box if there’s any real alternative.

    In the south there is no real alternative for left voters but you still might struggle to mobilise them to support you. The bigger issue will be how you can win votes from the Tories when you’re in government with them.
    I bet Ladbrookes have shortened the odds on the Tories winning the next general election.

  • LE 2012 and 2014 could just add to the misery, I don’t want to rub salt into the wounds but if you do not stop and listen to what the voters are saying it will only get worse… sorry

    It will be bad for the country to lose the Lib Dem movement into the (others), but I think that is what will happen over the next few years, even backing away from government you will suffer, but that way you would at least survive, if not then the Lib Dem local base will be gone except for odd places of core support but even that I can see going once the majority of your local base disappears.

    It is an anti Lib Dem movement country wide and you think it will get better; well the losses may slow a little if that is any consolation, but stopping, no I don’t think so, you are determined to go your own way, and the electorate will be just as determined to punish you as you do so.

  • Brenda Lana Smith R. 6th May '11 - 7:58pm

    And so it is… next…

  • We would be deluded if we didn’t think this was confirmation that we have acted as a human shield for the Tories. I think walking away from the coalition should be on the cards.

  • There is only one way now that LibDems can save your Party and that is to separate yourselves from the Tory Party as fast and as far as you possibly can. if after these results you still think that ex-LibDem voters, who believe that last May they were utterly betrayed, will return to you with feeling of gratitude, then there really is no hope.

  • I think that today’s election results largely boil down to the fact that Lib Dem voters, while accepting the need for the coalition (the Tories got most general election seats, coalition is the only route for LD influence, etc), have discovered that while THEY have deeply held policy ‘red lines’ – e.g. on higher education and the NHS – these have turned out NOT to be shared by Clegg and the LD MPs they elected.

    Had the coalition been approached by the LDs in a very cautious ‘someone’s got to do it’ way, primarily focussed on economic matters, I think this voter rejection could have been mitigated. Cuts do NOT need to be accompanied with a wholesale shakeup/privatisation of the health service, free schools and a tripling of tuition fees/80% cut in the higher education budget. Even the sharp 1981 budget cuts weren’t accompanied by such radical changes, I recall – and these are changes for which many, many folk think LDs don’t have a mandate.

    It’s tough, setting up a coalition that takes account of both the will of the people (i.e. reflecting the Tory majority) while protecting your own voters’ red lines, but I think a much better job could have been done of this. Obviously, this assumes that the LDs are in fact the ‘sensible social democrats’ that they’ve sold themselves to be wherever I’ve lived & voted: seeing Clegg et al in government, one realises the LDs are really two factions, with some members apparently to the right of many Tories…

    This has been a win-win for the tories. Even if they are ‘nice’ to the LDs – sitting side-by-side, standing up for them in the TV studios – they know that by doing so they are driving away anti-tory LD voters, making the parties merge in the public mind… And it doesn’t help having both Lord Steel and Paddy Ashdown coming on the media today and blaming the voters!

  • What has been gained from this coalition exactly?

    How has Clegg not been incompetent at every stage post election?

    Those are the real claims you need to answer, and polling the remaining hardcore and unrepresentative members in your members-only forum won’t find you the answer.

    Strangely enough, even after much anger and post-student fees basically deciding I would have to vote Labour at the next election, I am set on voting Liberal at the next election. Not because I agree with basically anything this coalition is doing, and not because I think Clegg is a good leader, but because after much reflection I have decided I am a liberal and can’t be anything other than a liberal, even if there are good few liberals in this party who don’t want ‘left-wing’ voters like me anymore. I want this party to survive, do you?

    Prove it by thinking hard about the real reasons why everything has gone wrong. Why more perceptive outsiders were able to predict these catastrophes in last may. Steven Tall writesthat those who want Clegg gone are deluded, but who is deluded here? I understand that you have been wanting to keep the mood positive, but I feel for you because your analysis of the situation over the past 12 months has finally and incontrevertibly been destroyed by reality. Don’t keep on deluding yourselves. I don’t know if the party will recover in the long-term, but in the short term the only hope of survival is for you to vote against the NHS reforms and become the party that saved the NHS. That will mean indisputably that one good thing at least came from the lib dems this parliament. If the party doesn’t do this, and out of fear tries to cling on for the sake of its survivial without so much of a whisper it will be destroyed (at least in the short term).

    You can already see a vicious cycle emerging, the actions of the coalition are not only annoying voters, but they are demotivating activists… especially the younger idealistic types like me who campaigned for you at the last election. So if you go on like this you’re faced with a double whammy. Not only will voters be turned off the liberals by the coalition, but the party won’t have the human resources to draw upon to campaign at the next election, causing a further loss of votes.

  • paul barker 6th May '11 - 9:50pm

    If some of the moaners above had had been in Canada whenThe Conservatives were reduced to 2 MPs, what would they have said ? Poilitics can see massive shifts of fortune & Parties that want to make a real difference have to work long-term. We have been here before & we keep coming back.

    On Electoral Reform, 2015 will probably see another hung Parliament, the issue isnt going away & neither are The Libdems.

  • Apologies for the errors and diction in my above post, I’m dyslexic.

    I agree with basically everything ExLD has written above. The problem, which the poster identifies, is that you have two or more sets of people with different ideas about what being a liberal democrat is about. The first set are the voters, who were largely centre-left liberals. Yes- liberal not socialist, in nature and in general beliefs. Yes, in the past they may have voted for the illiberal labour party, but most of them are still social democrat liberals in their core beliefs, they just believed that Tony Blair was a kind of liberal too.

    The second group are the members who are more centrist, but as polling has shown tend more to the left than the right. I would say this group encompasses most lib dem councillors as well.

    Then there are the MPS who are an ecclectic mix, with an unrepresentative amount of libertarians and orange bookers (in consideration of the views of most lib dem voters an members) thrown in there.

    Then there are the leadership whose views can be found within the orange book, and are at odds with the majority of voters and (probably) the majority of members. They are directing the party in the opposite direction to the direction that most of the parties supporters, especially its more long-standing members, feel it should take. It is deluded to claim that they are doing what they are doing merely out of pragmatism, a large part of it is essentially ideology. Clegg’s ideological views are not distinct from Camerons, they are both essentially neo-liberals. The problem isn’t that Clegg isn’t showing his differences with Cameron, it’s that he doesn’t have any real differences with Cameron,and is thus much more reluctant to stand up for the views of most lib dems, since he doesn’t agree with them. He was elected as the leader of the party basically through deceit, pretending to be all things to all people, although I do not think he was conciously deceiving people, he just thought that the point of politics is that your allowed to say anything as long as it will get you or your party elected. I’m sure he’s a commited liberal in some sense, but he had no qualms about pretending to share the views of the majority of the party which he disagreed with. Just as he had no qualms about arguing for policies at the general election which he disagreed with. And you can’t really expect someone who doesn’t believe in the policies of your party to effectively defend them or stand up for them in a coalition with a leader whose policies they agree with much more strongly.

    One more thing. I hope this result shows that this isn’t just about ‘being in government’ or ‘being the smallerparty’… I hope that some here stop deluding themselves. I hope you realise that the centre and centre-left vote in this country should be taken seriously. because that is what you have lost today.

  • I think those Lib dems who are trying to paint this result as being an unfortunate effect of foolish voters not realising that the Lib dems are ‘doing the right thing’ and/or limiting the damage that the Tories can do are profoundly mistaken.

    Opinion polls and anecdotal evidence suggest that many people who voted Lib-dem consider themselves to be left of centre. See this poll for example: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/poll.aspx?oItemId=2755&view=wide

    They were people who either naively believed the Lib-dems to be left-wing or ‘progressive’ and/or felt that New Labour had abandoned its principles and/or felt that tactically voting Lib-dem would keep the Tories out.

    I suspect many of these people now feel utterly betrayed by what the Lib-dems have done in power, and the results support this. The more that you try to defend the cuts and the marketisation of public services as being or in anyway progressive or necessary as opposed to being ideologically driven, the more you alienate them.

    I cannot see you winning these votes back. Not while you are in coalition with the government. Maybe not ever. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve spoken to who had previously voted Lib-dem tactically but who have now sworn never to vote for you again (many preferring to abstain or spoil their ballots).

    I am in favour of voting reform and support PR (that and abolishing tuition fees were the only liberal policies I agreed with), but I voted against AV partly because I did not think it would increase the chance of my vote counting for anything, but principally because I wanted to see the Lib-dems humiliated. I suspect I am not alone in this motivation.

  • The people have spoken for the survival of your party listen to the message. Get out of the coalition.

  • Mike Barnes 6th May '11 - 9:55pm

    Oh dear.

    It seems Matthew Harris is one of the many Lib Dems who still isn’t getting it.

    Watching various MPs and former councillors whinging on TV today that the electorate doesn’t understand (highly patronising by the way) is just making the party look even worse. The first step in any recovery plan should be to drop the holier-than-thou attitude and try and understand why people might be a tad angry, rather than just dismiss them as being wrong.

    Keeping Paddy Ashdown off TV for a while should be step two. Staggeringly pretentious.

  • “I admit got it wrong…I seriously underestimated how much you’d be spanked in the North. I assumed, wrongly, that a significant part of your support up there were tactical Tory voters and “Orange book” types who were anti-left. ”

    I don’t think it’s just that, it’s also an issue of credibility.

    It’s true that there might be quite a few right-leaning conservative voters or even lib dem voters who don’t think higher education should be free, or don’t necessarily disagree with what the lib dems have done. That said, the whole student fees fiasco along with the other things the lib dems have enabled hasn’t just hurt their credibility with the left, but also the right.

    If MPs, for example, are going to sign a pledge with an absolute statement that they will vote against higher fees this parliament, and the don’t, you don’t just annoy people who believed in keeping fees at current levels, you make the party look like a complete joke even to people who agree with the stance. People are not going to vote for a party, even if they agree with its actions, if they know that it might stab them in the back, left or right.

  • The same Paul Barker who a week ago opined….

    I would dispute how badly we are doing anyway. Look at the Leader Approval figures ( ignoring dissapproval ) & compare them with The Vote shares last May, there is no suggestion there that anything fundamental has changed. What has happened is that Voters who didnt like us now dislike us more & that affects Opinion Polling. There is no evidence yet that it will effect real Votes. We will know in a week. I am predicting losses of under 200 council seats.

    I will take @ExLD’s analysis to be more on the mark.

  • “On Electoral Reform, 2015 will probably see another hung Parliament, the issue isnt going away & neither are The Libdems.”:

    Based on what? We have absolutely no way of knowing what is going to happen politically in 4 years time based on current events that is anything other than utterly wild conjecture. Unless of course we can start making wild guesses? In which case I think we should start making approaches to the Monster Raving Loony party because they’re “probably” going to become a major player some time in mid 2013

  • geoff grimsby 6th May '11 - 10:09pm

    Reflecting on devastation beyond our control. It’s not us who have lost, but our communities – handed back to the dinasaurs, Labour’s faults forgiven in an instant. Here we think Clegg must go, a brand that cannot be decontaminated. The destruction over one day’s elections is immennse. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether liberalism survives forlorn on the east coast, but I can’t join the tories, or go back to labour. We drift away

  • Lib Dems need to take a deep breath, walking away from the coalition would be extremely silly, as would overthrowing Nick Clegg at this moment in time, although he will remain toxic right through the next election.

    This isn’t a time for knee jerk reactions, but Lib Dems need to realise there are a lot of angry centre left voters who now see the Lib Dems as propping up a right wing Tory government, what amazed me last night was Simon Hughes suggestsing Lib Dems would only agree on issues that are in the coalition agreement and would possibly play hardball on other issues, that is exactly what people expected them to do in coalition.

    Being in coalition has upset some potential voters, but enabling the Tories on issues not in the coalition agreement is what’s losing the Lib Dems votes, the Lib Dems need to decide whether they want to be Tory Lite or the Lib Dems, whereas the north may be a lost cause for a while, it’s places like Solihull, where the Lib Dems were the party disaffected Tories were turning to, that’s really going to do the harm, if the ex Tories there decide they should just vote Tory, the Lib Dems are going to hurt, and looking at the results from Solihull, that is what happened yesterday.

  • Philip Rolle 6th May '11 - 10:13pm

    The acid test is going to be how the Party reacts to this between now and October.

    It’s not a question of “why did this happen?”. In their guts, all Lib Dems know exactly why it happened. It’s a question of “what do we do now?”

    My fear is that the Lib Dems’ inexperience in government will expose them in the fractious situation that may be expected to follow. The media will feast.

    Perhaps a special conference is caused for to gauge members feelings, before any major decisions are taken?

  • Kevin James 6th May '11 - 10:19pm

    Quite simply, parliamentary Lib Dem MP’s need to TOTALLY wreck the NHS reforms & show the electorate that they are on their side on this issue.

    They cannot attack any bill related, wholly or in part, related to reducing the deficit but the NHS reforms have nothing to do with deficit reduction so they need to make this the issue on which they will show clear distinction from their Conservative partners.

    Wreck the bill & gain some respect.

  • I am totally depressed. I have been a LibDem voter for 25 years and now what choice have I got? I think the Lib Dems are now dead. Political reform was the key issue. I have spent 25 years with no choice- 15 years in a Labour stronghold seat and 10 in a Conservative stronghold. The recent local election choice I had for 2 seats was Conservative, Conservative, LibDem with the Conservative candidates being husband and wife!! No political reform in sight for the future now so what’s the point in voting any more … I give up on politics, the country and the future and will now concentrate on my immediate family- how sad is that! I am totally depressed with the people of this country! I was so pleased that I had seen a LibDem party in power but history will show that we were corrupted by that taste of power. I wish I had been less greedy and kept to my principles .. This is a worse feeling than seeing Maggie returned to office 3 times in a row!!!!

  • I keep hearing the same tune from the Lib Dems. If only the nasty public understood the nature of coalitions, if they understood how much we have achieved. Yet it was the Liberal leadership that failed to understand how to negotiate the coalition agreement. Cameron had tried to change the appearance of the Tories, his attempts to green them, and detoxify their brand was deeply unpopular with the right-wingers in his own party. They accepted him, because he was meant to be the Tory Blair, the man who could win them power, and he failed.

    Cameron was desperate for an agreement, this was probably his only chance to be PM. Tories show no mercy to failures. Clegg could have driven a much harder bargain. He could have asked for STV, moderated the cuts, kept his pledge on tuition. Demanded that the rich paid their fair share in tax, and reform of the city. He could have played Labour and the Tories off each other, to get the best deal.

    Instead he rolled over, he was grateful to be allowed into government. He got a few Ministers, but in policy terms very little. The public don’t care about pupil premiums, and it has turned out to be little more than moving money about in practice. The AV referendum was sunk by the Tory press, and Tory campaigning machine. Raising the tax threshold is something that the Tories had little problem conceding.

    I was willing to forgive the weak agreement, if I could see Lib Dems fighting for progressive left of centre positions. I’m a moderate social democrat, and that is what I thought I was voting for. Were where the Lib Dems when Lansley tried to privatise the NHS by stealth, with his any willing provider clause? Why didn’t Lib Dem Ministers stop the sell off of the Forests? Why was it left to the public? Why haven’t Lib Dems been fighting cutbacks? Demanding that the rich and the city pay for the mess they created? Instead of the poor being given a good kicking, while the rich dodge tax and pay themselves massive bonusses as usual.

    I look at the Government and wonder what would be different if the Tories ruled by themselves. Very little I’m afraid. If the Liberal Democrats are incapable of exerting any real influence on a government they are a part of, then what is the point of your party? My whole family have been Lib Dem supporters for years, you have lost all our votes, and the polls show that we are not alone.

  • Friends and family in Scotland, the north of England and the Midlands usually vote either Labour or Lib Dem depending on local issues and whether we are happy with the Labour Party at the time. None of us ever considered any possibility of the Lib Dems going into coalition with the enemy. What we thought was a safe, alternative anti-tory vote has been taken away and our wishes betrayed.

    I believe this is what has wiped out huge proportions of your support. I personally will never risk voting Lib Dem again, even if the local candidate is excellent and I like the policies, as I can’t stomach supporting the tories. Ever. My choices are now Labour and Green.

    Good luck with your next steps.

  • Personally I’m going to take the weekend to gather my thoughts about this disaster. I joined the LibDems to change things for the better but this has just set us back many years.

    Sad really.

  • @Fiona as someone from the midlands I wasn’t surprised the Lib dems joined the tories in government, they joined with the tories in a loose agreement in 2004 when Labour were the largest party but short of majority, it’s one of the reasons I found the “Vote Clegg, Get Brown” Tory campaign absurd, it’s also one of the reasons I found Nick Clegg’s comments about wanting to support the largest party odd.

    I also don’t think it’s wrong for the Lib Dems to join the tories, Labour, Greens or whomever. However what has been disappointing is the way the Lib Dems have enabled the tories, some of this is surely because the Tories are far more experienced, they have played the Lib Dems well, we’re only a year into a new government and the Tory vote stood up well, I’m not sure how this compares to past years, commentators today were talking about how well Labour did in 1981, but that was two years into a government, not one whilst a lot of the reasons for voting for a change of government are still relatively fresh.

  • I find it an odd critique that the reason the Lib Dems are been punished is because of the policies we have adopted in Government. We are implementing 75% of our manifesto as a junior coalition partner, compared to just 60% for the Conservatives.

    People that voted Lib Dem are getting 3/4’s of what they voted for! Is the rest of the Government programme that abhorrent? I guess based on the results we have seen it must be!

    So the message is clear…. Conservatives are toxic, voters want us no-where near them. This in spite of the fact the Conservatives have helped enact more Lib Dem policies than any government in the last 80-odd years.

    I guess a more intelligent analysis would be that voters like our policies, but not our priorities.

  • Philip Rolle 6th May '11 - 11:04pm

    The correct analysis is that voters don’t like being misled.

    Clegg said the Lib Dems were different. Voters believed him. They did so because he was extremely plausble and because they wanted to.

    They then found that the party broke the firmest of its pledges, that relating to tuition fees.

    Whether or not directly affected by tuition fees, most people regard that as a breach of trust. And they don’t vote for those who mislead them.

    It really is that simple.

    Don’t blame the Conservatives – all this human shield stuff is nonsense. The knub of the issue is whether Nick Clegg is capable of being decontaminated. Lib Dems need a special conference to consider that.

    If it is decided that he is not so capable, then he will need to be replaced for the good of the party.

  • You have to decide what you stand for. I voted for you in the general election never believed you would get in power to be Cameron’s poodle.

    You are good people who’ve worked hard in local councils (to lose your seats last night!) yet youve sold your soul to the tories. They make cuts you take the blame

    I support AV and fairer systems but i would not vote because of Clegg’s disgraceful u-turn on student fees. You are paying the pay the price for this and other support of tory cuts! Wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!! Coalition is screwing you.

  • On Broadland District Council in Norfolk we acheived a better result than four years ago. In 2007 we took 9 of 47 seats but managed to add three by elections since, today we returned 12 Councillors (no change).

    Personally I took a seat off the Tories that they have held since 2004 by 200+, we made two more gains off the Tories with good majorities. We retained all of our by election gains. Sadly two long serving Councillors were narrowly defeated and in another where our Cllr retired his vote didn’t transfer to the new candidate.

    I am proud to say that our campaign was completely local and unashamedly Lib Dem in how we attacked the Tories. We are confident that we can build on today for the county poll in 2013. We owe it to our local residents to keep working and campaigning, hopefully not letting any setbacks in national politics get in the way.

  • What on earth happened in Chesterfield!

  • Dave Thawley 7th May '11 - 12:08am

    We don’t need to dust ourselves down – clegg needs to resign. that would do for a start. Then the rest of the leadship should ask themselves if they are tory or lib dem. If they want to continue to be tory they should at least leave the party and join the tories. If they see themselves as lib-dem they need to immediately start acting like it again. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this will help anytrhing in the short or medium term – since the population now think we are a bunch of lying muppets regaining trust will be practically (if not totally) impossible – but it is the only way forward.

    Anyway until then there is only one logical move that I as a lib dem member with lib dem ideologies can make – stop funding the mini tory party Nick has decided to turn us into. The leadership are not listening to us, they have grabbed control and are operating well outside any mandate or desire the majority of supporters want – I certainly am not going got pay for them to do so and since they wont listen to me i have no function in the party over and above a funder for policies I don’t wan t to be implemented – so like many many true liberals I have just resigned. I wish for all our sakes Nick follows suite soon so I can return to this once great party.

  • “There is no quick fix. There may be no fix at all. All we can do is re-commit ourselves — at all levels in the party — to working harder still to deliver Lib Dem policies in government, and communicate them effectively. The rest is up to the voters.”

    So expect the same trouncing next May? After which the parties organisational base will be so damaged that there won’t be a route back. Not to mention why anyone would want to bother standing for us if the same scenario is on the cards (there is a danger that many councillors up for election will stand down making things even harder).

    The “we need to communicate our message better” is exactly what Labour said after local election reverses – remind me again how far that got them.

    This was not an anti government vote. If it was how do you explain the Conservatives in government having a net increase in councillors and councils something they managed just 4 times in the 79-97 government

    The electorate gave us an almighty kicking – they’ll expect to see us do something other than say “ah you don’t understand how difficult it is”. Does anyone seriously believe Clegg can sell a positive message about why to vote for us any more?

  • I hate being the voice of I told you so. But I emailed the day after the Coalition was formed saying this was exactly what would happen.
    The basic problem is that Liberal Democrat leadership doesn’t understand their voters and consistently fails to distinguish between the punter who votes for policies and activists. who work for the party. Voters do not have an interest in the fortunes of a political machine. In this case the fact is that they may have settled for a coalition, but not the one they got. It’s like the Democrats agreeing to Govern with the Republicans. It’s a dim idea. I’m not going to use the term Left Wing and Right Wing. But there are diametrically opposed values involved. The leadership is being arrogant by dismissing great great chunks of people who voted for as disgruntled Labour protesters rather people who do not have Conservative values. It’s also plainly obvious that electoral reform is a side issue..
    I voted Lib Dem in a couple of elections because I agreed with the policies. The last time I didn’t because I felt that a coalition with the Conservative Party was not in my interests and did not fit with my ideals. IMO they;re an anti-Europe, anti-progress party, full of closet racists and wretched old dinosaurs. One or two of them are nice enough , but the party is still basically awful. I am a liberal in the broad sense. I don’t like that kind of thing. It isn’t a disgruntled Labour voter reaction.. I vote for the things I believe in. The idea that this coalition is the interest of the country is a moot point. I don’t think tuition fees, boundary gerrymandering and euroscepticism is in anyone’s interests. And nor is hiking up indirect taxation because you don’t want to tackle avoidance and huge inequality.

  • “The “we need to communicate our message better” is exactly what Labour said after local election reverses – remind me again how far that got them. ”

    Not only that – it’s exactly what the Tories were saying in the mid 1990s. I guess all three parties have been arrogant enough to conclude that the voters just don’t understand, rather than facing a more unpalatable truth – that they understand only too well.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 7th May '11 - 1:01am

    You might all like to think about attending the Social Liberal Forum Conference in London on 18 June.
    Go to:

    http://socialliberal.net/

    for more information.

  • I couldn’t help but be curious when I saw an item in the “Lib Dem Bloggers” section entitled “Why I have joined the Labour Party”
    http://timstarkey.mycouncillor.org.uk/2011/05/06/why-i-have-joined-the-labour-party/

    A Lib Dem parliamentary candidate last year, evidently.

  • (This is a different David from the one posting above.)

    I think that yesterday’s vote marks the beginning of the end of the coalition. It will not end today, nor tomorrow, nor even several months from now, nor even in a year. But it has created fault lines within the coalition which, over time, are bound to widen. The Liberal Democrat ministers can hardly fail to understand that the anti-government vote largely bypassed the Conservatives and struck directly at their own party; and they must ask themselves how long they are going to be both the Conservatives’ (increasingly frail and threadbare) cover, and a whipping-boy for Conservative policies for which the Conservatives go scot-free. Clearly this is a partnership that is only advantageous to one partner; and one has only to look at history to see how many times the Conservatives have chewed up and spit out their coalition partners — starting with the Lloyd George Liberals back in the 1920s.

    The Liberal Democrats have been criticised for being too political. If that charge is to be hung around their necks anyway, perhaps they ought to earn it, and for the future ask of every governmental decision: How will this help the Liberal Democrats?

  • Miriam Moss 7th May '11 - 3:17am

    I am a liberal leaning social democrat. I look at the three main Westminster parties, and now find not one, that I could happily endorse. Labour’s authoritarian streak horrifies me and I see little evidence that those who run the party have any real enthusiasm ( or ability ) to rectify this.

    The particular brand of liberalism preferred by Clegg and his clique, ensures that the LibDems are no longer a viable alternative. I believe voting is important for sustaining democracy but I also believe there needs to be real choice. Lack of choice breeds apathy and who knows where that will lead.

    I look at the government now and see both sides of the coalition, defending the end of the post-war settlement and telling us, the voter, that ‘ we need to accept tough decisions’, any time, we dare to question this. At its most basic level, if the LibDems ever want my vote and I suspect the vote of most, who would define themselves as centre left, at the very least put a break on this now. If in 2015, we still have a recognisable welfare state and a NHS that exists as more than a ‘kitemark’ for private sector health providers, than maybe, just maybe, I might reconsider my options.

  • I’ve been a Lib/Lib Dem voter ever since I could vote, and was a member of the party until last year. I am genuinely now at a loss to see what would motivate me to even consider voting LD ever again and the message of the local elections is that I am not alone in those thoughts.

    Mr Clegg chose to enter a coalition when he had other options (a time-limited supply and confidence arrangement would have done the trick, but I suppose it doesn’t come with any nice red boxes and ministerial cars?), albeit meaning a second election in 2010 which the party could probably ill afford. Now the LDs are associated with a Thatcherite government, surrounded by the evidence of broken electoral promises, and with only paltry signs of any benefit to their voters from their being in government. Worse still, the trust in the LDs has now totally evaporated; even if they leave the coalition now, they’ll see their position deteriorate further over the coming months.

    To cap it all, as one poster here says, Clegg has blown the one chance (probably for a generation) of considering PR in some form by gleefully accepting a low key referendum on AV on the same day as local council elections. As someone who still knows what it is to be liberal, I am finding it deeply disturbing that the party for which I should naturally want to vote has so alienated me (and many like me, by the look of it) that even if you were to ditch Clegg now, you’d struggle to win back voters’ trust over the next two decades. Very sad. Please, Nick, resign. It’s a start. And your judgement has been truly incompetent.

  • ROB SHEFFIELD 7th May '11 - 8:57am

    “Lib Dems have made a net loss of 625 seats”

    According to the SN results page a few seconds ago the Lib Dems have lost (net) 866 (EIGHT SIX SIX) seats…..

  • An eloquent explanation of why the LibDems lost Newcastle (and I’m sure it is equally true for other Northern cities lost to Labour) has come from Coun David Faulkner, the outgoing leader of the council, as reported in the local newspaper:

    “There are three distinct factors in Newcastle which contributed to this. The first is that it is a city with a very large number of people in the public sector, and they have been concerned for their jobs.

    “Second, it is a city with high levels of deprivation, with people worried about benefit cuts. And, of course, it is a city with a disproportionate number of students, and those are the three groups which are most affected by the more painful policies of the coalition Government.

    “And we have been punished for our association with those issues.

    “A lot of people told us they liked what we have done in the city but they will not vote for us because of what has happened nationally.

    “We are in a city where Conservative is almost a dirty word and our association with that has not helped us.

    “We are out of power until the coalition delivers better for the North East. We have to fight for Liberal Democrat values in the coalition, we need to see Nick Clegg flex his muscles in the coalition, we need to rock the boat a little and show more of what we can do in the coalition.

    “We have 60% of our manifesto in the coalition agreement, but it is clear that on the really big issue, the speed of the cuts, people are unhappy about the way that is happening.

    “I have mentioned that several times, to anyone who has asked me the question. I have said it to Nick Clegg several times privately and I have told Danny Alexander and I have told Vince Cable.”

    The alarming thing is that, as he says, Coun Faulkner has previously pointed out these concerns to the LibDem leadership – clearly, they took no notice!

  • Ex-liberal voter 7th May '11 - 3:36pm

    I used to be a member of the Lib Dems, but I let my membership lapse. Why? Quite simply that by sleeping with the enemy, the party has quite simply lost its way and now effectively exists as the left-wing pressure group, the “wets” within a Tory government. I’ve got the emails, of course, trumpeting Lib Dem reforms in government as huge concessions while in actual fact they’re baubles given by the Tories designed to distract the Lib Dem rank and file while the Tories get on with what they really want to do – use the economic crisis as an excuse to reshape the country as they see fit.

    Cleaning up an economic mess is one thing, but unleashing the very market forces that lead to it on the country as the “solution” is quite another. The NHS, which Cameron and co said they wanted to stop the reform of, is in actual fact subject to an attempt to open it up to “competition” and “choice” – which of course means carving it up and giving it to private companies. The Lib Dems wail about it, but can’t do much. Cameron and Osborne snigger as well-meaning Lib Dems go out to justify what is basically just a fire sale of a treasured institution.

    Universities have an 80% cut in budgets, private companies allowed in to take over, and students expected to pay through the nose for a university education in order to apparently make up for this. Scratch the surface a bit more and again, you see that it’s basically a fire sale. The private companies that come into the sector are for-profit, rather than the not-for-profits that make up many US elite colleges. The US government has in fact investigated the likes of the University of Phoenix, a private chain university, for fraudulent practices! And yet now we’re being told that it’s a good thing these are coming to the UK – we’re not going to get quality private charitable universities, but rather a bunch of “pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap” chains looking for the next mark because the US is getting tired of being taken for a ride.

    A removal of the cap on train fares, the mass selling off of public land, including the allotments which we’ve enjoyed the right to since the 19th century… are these really all things which the Liberal Democrats are meant to believe in? The Lib Dems have campaigned against such issues before, fighting to protect the rights of the individual from the excesses of both the state and the private sector. The Lib Dems go into coalition with the Tories, a step I initially supported as being necessary, but then what happens? It is decided that the Lib Dems must be “as one” with the Tories, and be shown to be “taking hard decisions” in what is actually an overwhelmingly Tory manner, and then defend them.

    I don’t really think of the Tories as a party as such. To do so is to give them far too much credit. Rather, what they simply are is a vessel to plunder the collective wealth of the British public painstakingly built up over years at rock bottom prices. That’s it. As soon as a Conservative-dominated government gets in, basically the entire country goes up on eBay for 99p. Want some forests, a part of the health service, a university or a former government agency? Fine – it’s for sale at a knock-down price! No obligation as of course you’ve paid enough into the Tory coffers to ensure that any little inconvenience goes away – look at what happened with BSkyB after it was taken off Vince Cable.

    Really, that’s what the coalition has opened up for the country, only for a while some at the top of the party just ignored that and enjoyed having “The Right Honourable” after their names for the first time in years. The voters outside the M25, however, see it differently. What’s happened now is that having seen many of the things the Lib Dems were supposedly against be waved through with possibly some grumbling and little else, they don’t see a reason to vote Lib Dem any more. So they go elsewhere.

    I live in Edinburgh, and I was faced with a choice. EIther I can vote for a Lib Dem MSP, or an SNP one. I decided to vote for the SNP instead, and so did many other Lib Dem voters in Scotland. We’re not a bunch of separatists yelling “Alba gu bràth!”, but rather people who saw that many of the things offered by the Lib Dems in Scotland were being offered by the SNP. No tuition fees? A commitment to renewable power? Actual defence of the NHS as opposed to “choice” or a fire-sale? I read the manifestos of all the parties, and came to the conclusion that indeed, I could find what I liked about the Lib Dems elsewhere and in a party that actually meant it.

    I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of soul-searching, and those at the top are going to start talking about “fighting for alarm-clock Britain” and all other manner of catch phrases that mean nothing outside of Westminster. If instead they came down from the Mountain of the Gods in the middle of London, they’d learn what actually happened: they removed all reasons to actually vote Lib Dem. Of course now we’re seeing attempts at talking up the “differences”, but come Monday Lib Dem MPs will return to Westminster and carry on marching into the lobbies to rubber stamp the fire sale of Britain.

    The prospect of electoral reform lies in ruins. In England, the resources of local communities, the nation and indeed anything that isn’t bolted down is being sold off. Bankers clink champagne glasses and eye up cars on Edgware Road while everyone else watches as prices rise and government aid, which most normal people will need at some point in their life, disappears as Cameron puts in a prize winning performance telling us that it’s “necessary” before going to a party with the people that’s he’s really there to represent – the “haves and have-mores” to borrow a term from George W. Bush.

    And all this is made possible by the Liberal Democrats. Want to know why you got such a kicking? This is why. I now hear of course that by 2015, the country will “forgive” the party and come back into the fold – but with everything sold off and toll booths by everything the exact opposite will happen. The electorate aren’t stupid, and that’s obvious. Indeed, when Alex Salmond turns around and offers an independence referendum, I might well vote Yes. Why? It’ll mean that there will never be a Tory influence in Scotland ever again, and perhaps there will be a place in the British Isles where things can be done right, which actually respects the public rather than treating it as an ATM machine.

    Feel free to call me a “soggy socialist” or a “deficit denier”, but that’s why you lost this vote. So many others will say the same.

  • I voted LibDem in the last three general elections. I supported the LibDems as a party that, I thought, supported a more ethical foreign policy, was in favour of decent welfare and redistributive tax principles, would stand up for good, taxpayer-funded public services, etc. etc. And I especially thought you were more honest and trustworthy than the other parties.

    My vote was not a protest vote – it was a vote for hope.

    But I – and clearly millions like me – feel utterly betrayed. (Why? Read many of the postings above about what your former supporters don’t like. And note especially the tuition fees lies and the fact that you’re not just in the coalition, but you are also supporting things that are absolutely anathema to us!)

    You can argue until you’re blue in the face that you ‘had no choice’ and that you’re doing ‘lots of good things’. But If your party is ever to recover and regain our trust, you need to make a decisive break with Nick Clegg and with your leadership’s actions over the last year. Simply staying in the coalition, even with a more independent spirit or spin, is simply not going to wash.

    So many of us former LibDem supporters simply *hate* most of what the government is doing. It’s not what we voted for!

  • Brilliant post, Ex-Liberal Voter. You’ve said everything about how most of us in the North now feel about the LibDems.

    The more southern and London-based LDs just don’t get it. Most of us up here actually see the Tories as evil. The ruined communities and families all in search of one thing: profit (more money). We now see the LDs as exactly the same thing. From Birmingham to Scotland, we vote mainly social democratic. This is why the LDs are now finished here and in Scotland: you pretended to be one thing when wanting our votes and did the opposite once you had these votes. To me, and many others, this is fraud.

    The only way people like me will ever vote LD again is if you drop Clegg and leave the coalition now. For the sake of the NHS, the poor, the sick/disabled, students and anyone else who cares more about community than money, just go and go now. Otherwise you will be out of power for at least another 80 years.

    Ignore your voters at your peril

  • I think this is the beginning of the end for the Liberal Democrats, I really do. The writing is on the wall. What on earth do you think will happen in the next UK General Election? Frankly, your only hope is to have Clegg resign in a few months, have you new leader call for a new mandate for Lib Dem participation in the coalition, hope and pray it is rejected. If not then people will do the following at the next General election.

    Why vote Liberal Democrat when they are just like the Tories?

    Why vote Liberal Democrat when I can just as well vote for the Tories?

    If you can understand the dynamics of that then you will understand why it will happen.

  • I naively voted in the survey in favour of the coalition. I now see that the Conservatives expertly outmanoeuvred the Liberal Democrats and that the trust and credibility we used to have and treasure in the relationship with the public has gone. For whatever reason – very much right and left wing press spin and Conservative manipulation – in the eyes of the British people, the Liberal Democrats are now Second Class Conservatives. This will not do. This will not do. No changes are possible that will change this perception – only leaving the coalition and accepting the storm of criticism from the Conservatives. But in this case, the Liberal Democrats will be punished for a few years instead of a few decades. To make it all so much worse, the loss of a form of Proportional Representation is simply not an acceptable payback from the coalition deal. This should simply have happened instead of allowing the Conservatives to promise the referendum then destroy any chance of success. Too many people rely on and need the Liberal Democrats so a short term coalition arrangement muct not be allowed to destroy the Liberal Democrats.

  • Old Codger Chris 7th May '11 - 10:46pm

    If the Lib Dems were ever to excercise any power at all it was always going to involve a coalition with either Conservatives or Labour. We all knew that didn’t we? The whole country knew it, and the party used to talk about what a good thing coalitions were.

    If Labour had won more seats than the Tories last year and we had entered a coalition with them, the criticism would have focused on propping up a failed government, and 2011 would still have been a very difficult year. In northern cities voters would have wondered why they switched to the Lib Dems as an alternative. In the south, we would have been crucified by the Conservatives.

    What made things much worse was 2 big mistakes. The Tuition Fees fiasco which even Tories are using as a stick to beat us with – not because of the policy but because of the betrayal. And the AV referendum.

    So what now? We must soldier on in coalition – under Nick Clegg. Even those of us who dislike Clegg must realise that if he and the coalition were ditched before 2015 the party would truly be finished.

    We must do more to publicise the positives brought to the coalition by the Lib Dems, and to emphasise differences with the Tories – but in a grown up way, not by public whining about bully boy Tories picking on poor little Lib Dems (as in Vince Cable’s outburst today).

    We must apologise unreservedly to voters for the Tuition Fees debacle, and tell them the lesson has been learned. And we must be patient.

    Much may happen before 2015. For example – will Ed Milliband emerge as a credible future PM? Will Scots vote for independence and – if they do – will the Lib Dems join the Tories and Labour in attempting to deny it to them?

  • It is sad to read comments such as those by Ex Liberal Voter – but I can understand the raw disillusionment behind them.
    As A Lib-Dem supporter (and will remain so), in Scotland, I am only now getting to grips after the fire-storm here. In Orkney a very good candidate was returned, but only after a hard fight. Indeed the 2 Northern Isles groups are the only surviving bastions at the constituency level.
    We should take a little time to let things sink in and then to ask some searching questions of ourselves and our leaders in the party. I don’t think a panic- stricken jump to recriminations will do anything but make things worse. The media would love a public meltdown and will likely try their best to forment one – as in a kind of modern day colloseum. There are strong vested interests out there, especialy owning the media, who would love a 2 party flip-sides -of -the- same- coin, safe and smug politics. It is so much easier to manipulate.
    As long as I can remember it has been the goal of Liberal Democrats, and the Liberals before them, to develop 3 -party politics at Westminster. It took over 30 years to steadily build a base and 1 year to see it drastically undermined.
    In 2010 the UK voters ‘almost’ chose a Tory Goverment and left the Lib-Dems to choose between ‘evils’ – bolstering a failed and rejected Labour Government (and also relying on dodgy arithmetic) or being seen to be the ones to stand by whilst a weak minority Tory administration tried to appease Britain’s creditors.
    I think history will look more kindly on the leadership who took the Lib-Dems into a full coalition with the Tories – at least insofar as they did provide a platform for stability against strong aftershocks following the Great Banking Scandal.
    We would all like the luxury of applying 20/20 hindsight 1 year on and, clearly, many erstwhile Lib-Dem voters decided to do just that at the ballot box last Thursday.
    The 2 fatal flaws which enabled the credibility of the junior partner in the coalition to be trashed and subsequently made the scapegoats for Tory cuts and threats to living standards are obvious:
    Renaging on agreements with students to fight tuition fees
    Allowing the Bankers Old Pals – The Tories – to let the Bankers off the hook under a crude ‘smokescreen’ called Project Merlin (a truely magical word for a ‘now you see us being tough with bankers – now you don’t’, little trick). Vince Cable was effectively disabled by a Torygraph ‘honey trap’ and the chance for the Lib -Dems to do what most of the electorate wanted, and force real controls on the greedy, was gone. The fact that Murdoch was subsequently allowed, by a Tory minister, to take over full control of B Skye B whilst his main UK press arm was under criminal investigation seems almost a harmless bye-product . Again the Lib-Dem’s in Government were seen to be powerless and it was left to the likes of John Prescott to lead any opposition.

    The real damage, however, is likely to be much more far-reaching. That is the prospect of the break-up of the United Kingdom within the next 5 -7 years – something which Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler failed to do.
    The effective migration of the Lib-Dem vote in Scotland and a woeful campaign by Labour allowed the ‘impossible’ to happen – an SNP Government with a thumping majority. Once Salmond has got over the shock, he will embark on a plan to manipulate mass opinion in Scotland ahead of a referendum which will be entirely of his choosing both in timing and the phrasing of the question asked. The Government in Westminster will, meantime, be goaded and blackmailed until Cameron is forced, by the fear of losing his natural English electorate, to crack down – particularly in the face of increasing SNP financial demands against a background of continuing cuts in England and Wales. Salmond the ‘Saviour’ of Scotland will then use the probability, in 2015, of a full Thatcher style Tory Government in UK (the Lib-Dems having been spent) as the backdrop for a 2014 referendum. The shock of that will galvanise the Conservative vote in England and complete the circle of fear which Salmond will forment.

    I think the Lib-Dems – weakened as they are – still have a vital part to play by holding the Tories by the throat at every opportunity. This could reduce the fear factor in Scotland and at the same time re-connect with many of its voters. The leadership cannot afford to heed Cameron’s words that if the Lib-Dems are well behaved – then by 2014 bribes can, once more, be directed to key sections of the electorate, the financial crisis seemingly beaten, with both parties prospering at the Polls.
    They should also take every opportunity to show up Labour for the lie it wants to peddle that is under new mangement and will save the people from the mess it left behind.
    There should be more freedom now to act – as there is nothing left to lose, and future generations living in a, still vibrant and functioning, UK may look back with some respect for our small Party.

  • People will vote for a party – Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative, SNP – parties have roots. A Coalition has no such roots ! At the best it is a means to an end, economic,for change, to fight a war .
    Roots mean values and vision. We don’t share these with either Labour or Conservatives. How can we work together, to guarantee continuity and a long-term programme, without undermining our own identity, without alienating those who share our vision and our values ?

  • The electorate don’t like being lied to, it’s best not to sign pledges against increase in tuition fees and then agree to triple them.

  • Christopher Heward 8th May '11 - 12:06am

    I wonder whether the Lib Dems will hold the Conservatives hostage in the 2014 Budget. I agree with the depth of the cuts but it’s clear they been introduced quickly so that they can offer the electorate sweeteners in time of the next election. However, the Lib Dems can ensure any tax cuts or benefit rises effect those at the bottom of the pile, and are progressive, by threatening to vote against the budget if they don’t. The worst case scenario would be the coalition collapsing, but I think the electorate, at least on the left, would look favourably on the Lib Dems for sticking to their principles and not backing down. However hopefully the Conservatives would go along with the Lib Dems, because they know they need to appease at least some people, following on from the years of cuts. So the Lib Dems will be in a strong position, having had to put up with years of negative press, etc. If they can hold out till that final year, it;s then down to them to milk it, yes for the benefit of the party, but more importantly, and at the same time, for the benefit of the nation. And then they’ll probably end up in coalition with Labour under Ed Miliband!

  • Just to re-emphasise that given the oddities of the AMS system though we’ve got 5 MSPs that doesn’t mean 5 constituencies; we lost the Holyrood equivalent seats for Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell, Michael Moore and Danny Alexander. In the case of Skye and Inverness we didn’t even get a regional list because the vote had dropped so far as to deny us one in addition to Orkney and Shetland (who still remember Jo Grimond, thank God).

    One thing which is really surprising to a lot of us is how, for example, the AV vote was lost even in constituencies such as Orkney where the vote was split between two Yes2AV parties (ourselves and the SNP). I can only conclude that the people saying the timing was wrong were correct and the various factions who would have supported a YES vote were distracted by the election. I assumed, like most people, Scotland would give a yes vote and the fact that it didn’t is a good indicated that the timing way badly chosen.

  • @RR – How can we work together with those who don’t share our values? Erm… I’m not sure how to answer that other than running the sentence backwards – by working together – finding areas we can agree on and policies we can reach a compromise over – with people who don’t share our values. I think like most my greatest concern about the coalition is that the sheer number of Conservatives in ministerial posts means we’ll lose control on the day to day affairs of state and the economic agenda will run away from us, but the coalition document is a genuinely excellent example of what good political compromise looks like. I’m hoping the new ‘attitude’ about stressing the divisions means that we will start doing things which I’ve been urging from the outset such as dropping the bullshit of collective responsibility (otherwise known as ‘lying about your opinions to people you represent’) and explaining both where there is division between ourselves and the conservatives and why we’ve made whatever compromises we have.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th May '11 - 2:23am

    Squeedle

    The only way people like me will ever vote LD again is if you drop Clegg and leave the coalition now. For the sake of the NHS, the poor, the sick/disabled, students and anyone else who cares more about community than money, just go and go now. Otherwise you will be out of power for at least another 80 years.

    Ignore your voters at your peril

    Well, there are plenty saying similar things, but I’ll hang my comments on this one.

    A year ago there was a general election. The Conservatives won that general election. Not quite enough seats to be the majority, but well ahead of Labour. There were so few Labour MPs that even putting the Liberal Democrat MPs together with them did not form a majority.

    So how can it be to ignore the voters to agree to a Conservative-led coalition? Particularly now the voters have voted to endorse the principle of “first past the post” – the idea that whoever gets the most votes shoukld win, even if it is well under half?

    Here is a great paradox – the Liberal Democrats have been savagely punished for their accepting the principle of “first past the post” in the formation of government, by people not voting for them and by people voting in support of “first past the post”.

    It seems to me the one argument that could genuinely be used against the Liberal Democrats – that the Conservatives should not be allowed to dominate because they got well under half the vote and the number of MPs they have in Parliament was grossly distorted by the electoral system – has been destroyed by the electorate in the way they voted in the referendum.

    The fact that the electorate have behaved in a totally illogical way does not bring much comfort, because no-one likes clever clogs who use logic to argue against them. If they hate you for an illogical reason, they will hate you even more if you try and argue against them on that basis.

    Now we have been caught between the two big parties in a difficult way. As ever, the Labour Party hates logic, it lover power, but it only loves power when it alone has power. If it genuinely had the interest of the country at hand, it would be seeking ways to work with the Liberal Democrats to promote them. If it genuinely believed there were alternative coalition arrangements possible, it would be offering them. It knows there aren’t, so it goes into hate mode – throwing abuse at the Liberal Democrats for “jumping into bed with the Tories” even though that was what the people voted for and there was no alternative to it except the chaos of a minority government – which would be a Tory one. It calls on the Liberal Democrats to implement pure Liberal Democrats policies and block all Tory ones when it knows this is impossible. As for the Tories, they sucked the Liberal Democrat leadership in, pretending to be friends and partners, and show what they really think by their “No to AV” campaign bankrolled by City fat cat money and full of the most horrendous lies. But it was seeing so many leading Labour figure endorsing those lies which angered me more. Labour can’t accept – it never can – that it lost the election, so when it does, it lashes out in a most disgraceful way. Lashing out at the Liberal Democrats for not doing the impossible is typical.

    Where the Liberal Democrat leadership went wrong was not to see from the start that all this would happen. They are fools because of course this is what would happen – the Labour and Conservative parties are acting to form. The Liberal Democrat should have made it absolutely clear at the start that they were entering the coalition ONLY because it was what the people voted for – both by putting the Tories ahead in votes and by endorsing the “first past the post” principle, which they did when they voted Labour and Tory. Instead of over-playing what they could achive as junior coalition partners, they should have under-played it. The line all along should not have been “Look at us, we have power power, power!” but “really sorry, it’s not what we would have done, but it’s what the country voted for when it voted Tory first-past-the-post, we can only get through a few technical twists in this basically Conservative government”.

    The ones who should be hanging their heads in shame most are the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats – those who are trying to steal the word “liberal” and make it mean what it never meant, someone who believes the main enemy of freedom is the existence of state services paid for from tax. Their numbers are tiny – the huge votes against their ideas at recent Liberal Democrat conferences shows that. But they persist because they have the backing of City fat cat money, and the Tory press has a vested interest in promoting them and making them out to be people of significance in the party. Well, look at how the right-wing press laid into them as much as any other LibDem, when it ran its lie-ridden anti-AV campaign. This goes to show, they will pretend to be your friend whe it suits them, but Tories are always Tories. This idea that there was some huge latent “libertarian” vote out there, just waiting for a party which is “liberal” on social matters and extreme right-wing on economic matters, has been shown to be utterly false. We have given the impression we are that party, and we have crashed because of it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach:

    I agree with some of what you say. I used to vote Labour, but I became disillusioned after the Iraq debacle and their authoritarianism and neglect of the working class and abandonment of their core values.. I also, as a disabled person who is still lucky enough to be able to work, became sickened with Labour’s constant “tough” stance against benefits all for the tabloids.

    In 2005, for the first time ever (after voting Labour all my life), I voted LD. That is a big move from someone whose family always voted Labour, without fail, since the 1920s. You were against the Iraq war, you spoke out in defense of the disabled. You presented and advertised yourselves, up here in the North at least, as a party to the left of Labour. You explicitly ran on a social democratic, often nearly democratic socialist platform. I liked your defense of the weak, your principles with regard to International Law, the EU and the UN. You seemed to be a left-of-centre, compassionate, strong private AND public sectors, sticking-up-for-the-vulnerable sort of party. To people like me who value community, strong public services, good health, civil liberties, help for the weakest/poorest, equality, etc, over money and greed, you spoke my bloody language! I voted for you in all local and national elections up until and including May 2010. Not an eternity, but a big step for someone from such a staunch Labour family. I even thought the coalition was a good idea at the time, and thought you would moderate the Tory excesses and be the voice of low-income, sick, left-leaning people like myself. In May 2010 I thought to myself “at least the NHS and welfare state will be safe as the LDs won’t let the Tories do anything stupid/callous.” I assumed you’d reduce the deficit in a humane way, making those who caused this crisis pay their fair share, as Labour failed to do. How wrong I was.

    It is now a year later. You are letting the Tories privatise the NHS through the back door. You are attacking the sick and disabled (and your welfare minister Webb is supporting (or, at least, not publicly correcting) Tory lies about the disabled in the press); you are not living up to your green promises, you are letting the banks take the piss out of the public STILL, you are sacking millions of good, decent public sector workers, you’ve even gone silent on civil liberties while the Met have been shown to have operated plain-clothes “snatch squads” arresting people for “pre-crime” during the Royal Wedding. You are giving greedy corporations with only profit in mind more control over OUR services. You broke personal pledges about higher education and put many intelligent working-class people off of going to uni. You fight publicly and get angry with the Tories about AV but not about the disabled, the NHS, the poor, etc. And worst of all? Seeing Clegg and Alexander pat Cameron and Osborne on the back as Tory MPs shouted “more, more!” and celebrated cuts which will hit the weakest the most. And yet you blame people like me, the voter, for not “getting it”. I get it alright. I just want to keep our NHS, keep my local library, our welfare state, make the rich pay a fairer level of taxes, stay in work but know there is a safety net for when I finally become too incapacitated to work (which will happen in 10 years, my doctors say), etc. I get it, we just no longer agree about these things.

    I repeat, DO get it. I’m not stupid or “not getting the message” as many LDs now accuse people like me of doing or being. Compromises in coalitions are required, yes. But each party should have its own red lines. You should have drawn the lines at any of their plans which hurt the poorest, their plans to destroy the NHS, tuition fees, etc. You should have stuck up for those who voted for you, those who believed your eleciton leaflets and the MPs who presented yourselves as left-of-centre.

    I have since gone back to Labour. They still have many flaws, but I know they are genuinely trying to fix themselves, bring those they lost back into the fold and find their voice again. It will take a long time, I’m sure. But I feel more at home with a party who defend the NHS at all costs, for example, than one who is willing to destroy the NHS because of a “compromise.” And every time you blame people like me, the voters, you only push us further away.

    Face it: if you present yourself as a party with beliefs and principles and then decide they don’t matter when offered a whiff of power (like New Labour), you will lose your voters for some time. European Socialists who go into coalitions don’t stop being Socialists because of this fact and neither do conservatives. But you’ve stopped being liberal/social democratic in millions of peoples’ eyes. I would like to vote LD again. But, honestly, I don’t see it happening for some time, if ever again.

    You’ve let the Tories play you like a fiddle, and instead of seeing this truth, you just blamed Labour (and many of your voters) for everything and let the Tories be Tories. This while saga (especially Clegg) is a tragedy on almost Shakespearean levels. Unfortunately, the victim isn’t Clegg. It’s most of us who actually believed him.

  • Time for the Lib Dems to Split I feel. The Democrat part would be happier with Labour and the Old Liberal part would do a decent job of opposing a philosophically vacant but vicious Tory party.

    There are enough Tory voters discontent but nowhere for them to effectively coalesce. UKIP is a one trick pony while that is about it. If you are left of centre there is Labour, LDs, Greens and in Wales and Scotland two left leaning nationalist parties.

    On the bright side of the no to AV vote – the last time the Tories got a workable majority under FPTP was 1987. 2015 is a long way off but I still think it will be hard work for them to get a majority which would mean 1/3rd of a century with no “strong” government provided by the Tories – getting near Liberal territory themselves.

    I have ended up in the LDs almost by default. I am socially liberal and financially conservative – and there is no real party that really represents me. I was a Tory but got fed up with their near communist love of their own party – so long as the person wore a blue rosette that sufficed. Voters, councils, the government and the country could be damned. From a lot of people I know down in the South East they are not dissimilar – but there is no-one for us to vote for. The old Liberal Party pretty much fits that bill.

    As for Nick Clegg – words really fail me. The party at the moment has got the worst of both worlds. Associated with broken promises and a brutal right-wing administration. If he can’t lead the party successfully then our MPs should go their own way. Vote this Tory government down and regain some credibility.

  • I’ve read a lot of apologists for what’s gone on in coalition and why it was the only option. The fact is the Lib Dems courted voters and activists on one set of policies and ditched them to play power-brokers. And it has backfired in exactly the way anyone with a brain knew it would. Dismissing great chunks of your own voters, the people who elected you, as “disgruntled Labour protest voters” is appallingly arrogant and undemocratic. If you didn’t want their votes you should not have courted them.
    Did the leadership of this party seriously think that voters in Liverpool, Newcastle and various other major cities wanted a coalition with a conservative party they mostly despise? Do they seriously think that the core committed progressive thinkers switching back to Labour or moving on to the Green Party wanted it.? In fact the leadership ripped up it’s ideology for ministerial posts and hoped that they could take voters with them. It failed to happen because, duh, people who vote for a liberal ideologies don’t like conservative ideologies. It ‘s.a no brainer. Of course they could see out this “project” until the bitter end and wipe the party out completely. People feel conned and lied to. All this gibberish about voters merely wanting the MPs to make noises at their partners is just wishful thinking. There are other options and the rebuilding of the party will be difficult, but the alternative is not even a slow death. It ‘s wipe-wipe out; as the Tories get braver, because if you don’t end the partnership they will and not only will you look like opportunists, you’ll look like losers. It’s like the break-up of any relationship that isn’t working. You can either work on it, pointlessly, and end-up penniless and homeless. Or get out with some dignity and rebuild for the future, This election and the AV vote should mean divorce.

  • I completely agree with Squeedle and particularly the paragraph beginning “it’s a year later..” In his heartfelt condemnation laying out the painful steps that he and others have had to endure, he omitted to mention the incident where Clegg unaware of his live mike, admitted to Cameron that there was nothing between them to argue over, his whispers to Cameron at PMQ’s, and his smiling agreement to all Camerons spiteful put downs.
    They are as one, and that very revealing incident plus the “more more”, and axeman Alexander on the airwaves and TV robustly defending every cut, and the overwhelming realisation that they all entirely relish their new roles is unbelievable. It’s only over AV has Clegg looked at all upset.

    Even this morning he is still pushing the ‘you don’t understand, we need to explain better’ narrative, and the Tories, who it’s alleged will now give way to the Dems on the NHS, are not doing so because it’s right or fair or decent, but because they are back to being perceived as tarnished by their nasty label again due to Lansley’s plans, and are allowing the Dems to cover for them.
    I really hope he can’t come back after this.
    And as an after thought, do you really think the public will be enchanted to see Laws re-instated?

  • Kevin Colwill 8th May '11 - 1:32pm

    Just a thought…Let’s say the ideologically driven, Thatcherite, “no such thing as society,” nasty element has lost clout in the Tory party. After all, historically speaking the Tories are a pragmatic bunch who put power before almost much anything else.

    Maybe they’ll go with your NHS policies and your taxation policies, your social mobility agenda and who knows what else. You might claim a higher percentage of your policies have been implemented but will it do you any good?

    Will the voters differentiate between Orange book Lib Dem economic policy and Tory policy? Will they differentiate between Liberalism in social policy and pragmatic “one nation” Conservatism?

    Be careful what you wish for…pushing your own policies might not make you look less like Tories and it might well suit the Cameron Tories to look more like liberals. All of which begs the question…if the Lib Dems do not have a centre left economic agenda what’s the point of the Lib Dems?

  • I don’t see any real surprises in the LibDem results !!!

    Remember the LibDems are: the old Liberal party and the SDP who were previously members of the Labour party; after the election these legacy SDP members showing their naivity by saying that they believed in coalition but only with Labour… What we saw in this election I suggest is many of these fair weather voters going back to their Labour roots…

    However, the only (slight) surprise I have is how many voters are still in denial about the mess created by ‘New Labour’ and hence shown themselves to be stupid enough to vote Labour!

    As for all the hand wringing in the above comments about the current coalition – what did you expect was going to happen in a coalition? and do you realistically expect the LibDems to be in a position to form a majority government in the next 20 years? I suggest the best outcome is for coalition government to be accepted as normal by voters; remember the key difference between now and a year ago is that both the LibDem’s and (current) voters have gained a year’s practical experience of coalition government…

    As for those saying that the LibDems should walk away from their public commitment to the current coalition before 2015, then you will have to accept that voters may punish the LibDems for breaking their promises…

  • Sigh. Blame Labour and call the voters stupid. On what planet will this strategy win the Lib Dems anything?

    Electoral reform is dead forever unless Labour agree to it. That was made manifestly clear by the percentage of Tory voters and donors that funded the ‘no’ campaign. The Liberal Democrats will constantly be poor relations of the Tories until they make a rapprochement with Labour. Having explicitly rejected Labour protest voters, this will need a complete change of leadership and change of heart.

    There seems to be some delusion that simply existing in a coalition is going to change the world. It didn’t before; why would it now? Junior coalition partners get eaten alive elsewhere in Europe – look at Ireland, which has a much longer history of coalitions. Why would sticking it out win the Liberal Democrats anything except the increasing and snowballing contempt of the voters? People who like what the Tories are doing will vote Tory. Where are these magical new voters going to come from to provide the great Liberal revival?

    The only hope for the Liberal Democrats in the short to medium term is to re-establish links with the Labour Party. Given that the leadership and the apologists on these pages preface every post with how it’s all Labour’s fault and that of the voters who are simply too stupid to understand the Liberal Democrats’ inherent superiority, I not only believe this to be a long way off, but am actually rather glad. This sort of arrogance requires a series of thumping, dispiriting, demoralising defeats to puncture. Such an attitude pretty much guarantees that outcome.

  • Disaster of all the Liberal Disasters! – worse than 1924, worse than 1979, worse than 1945. The public rightly or wrongly blames Nick Clegg personally and us collectively for bad things the coalition has done since last may. The mindset has stuck and we are cast as self-serving betrayers. (NOT TRUE!) however – just as John Major in 1993, this WILL last for 5 years, so annihilation faces the party. WE MUST NOT RUN. But must do the RIGHT THING. Firstly go back and scrap the £9,000 tuitition fee fiasco, which is the LIB DEMS’s 10p tax. NO NOES for an answer from the tories , they should have never asked us for this poisoned chalice. SECOND – IT’s the economy stupid – make with a proper plan for growth and jobs. HOW TO FIND THE MONEY? – Drain every tory duck pond , fleece every tory banker and threaten every tory tax dodger’s citizenship until the money is in.
    IF THE TORIES DON’T AGREE – then GO PUBLIC and talk to Labour . If we have to fight an election let it be on our ulitmatum for no to tuition fees and yes to growth than a further stab in the back from the tories.

  • Great tactic, @Roland.

    Calling left-of-centre voters like myself (who you openly courted here in the North in the 2010 election) naive or stupid is a great tactic, don’t you just think?! How dare those voters be so silly to assume you’d protect the NHS, the welfare state, higher education, etc. in Coalition. No, we didn’t expect you to get all your policies passed in coalition, but we did expect you to remain LibDems and vote against extreme right-wing Tory policy instead of not only voting for it, but going on telly as a human shield to defend it. We expected you to moderate Tory excesses, not cheer them on and pat them on the backs as we saw in the CSR. You didn’t have to vote FOR tutition fees, the Tories would’ve gotten it through anyway. But your MPs just couldn’t refuse to toe the line, could they?

    And to keep calling the electorate names, tell us we’re “wrong” or “Don’t understand” is the height of self-delusion and arrogance. You’ve lost millions of voters like me. Millions. Like I keep saying: how very arrogant. How very New Labour circa 2005.

  • Kevin Colwill 10th May '11 - 11:28pm

    @Roland… There may have been once room for a party on the right as regards economic policy but liberal on social policy. Unfortunately for your analysis that’s exactly where Cameron has pitched his tent.

    How many Tory voters will switch to the Lib Dems if the coalition is sucessful? Your reward for success might not be worth a great deal!

  • @Kevin
    Agree with your point about where Cameron has pitched his tent. I seem to remember that Blair did a similar thing back in 1997. So instead of the right (and left) getting more extreme as the pundits were predicting back in the 90’s and hence leaving the middle ground to the LibDem’s it would seem that they are now fighting over the middle ground, which does put (alot of) pressure on the LibDems.

    My concern (although I expressed it in emotive language) is why are voters still voting for Labour in such numbers, when all the evidence points directly to their mismanagement of the economy and procastination on major decisions (eg. renewal of power stations, public sector pensions, immigration etc.) leading to our current situation (this mismanagement being visible in 2006/2007 prior to the banking crisis). Is it because of their mindset? remember we’ve seen this in the old USSR countries where people still voted for ‘the party’ because it represented some form of comfort blanket. Because to a rational person it would seem that with Labour being so thoroughly discredited there is room for LibDems to take more of the left of centre position and vote (ie. legacy SDP ground). Perhaps Nick and Dave need to rewrite their scripts so that the LibDem influence on policy becomes more visible to voters, to show that the LibDems aren’t just moderate Conservatives…

    In looking at the results, what also surprises me is the massive losses suffered by the various small and ‘other’ parties. I was expecting these individuals to pick up votes, particularly as these were local elections. But then in my area there was minimual canvassing (one leaflet each from Labour and the Conservatives), was this typical?

  • I regard the results as slightly less than a total disaster. Let me point to the following crumbs of comfort:

    (1) Labour supporters are still prepared to vote for us tactically to keep the Tories out, though not in the numbers they did in May 2010.

    (2) Where we have MPs, out vote tended to hold up better, even in areas where our MPs supported the rise in student tuition fees (eg, Don Foster and David Laws).

    (3) Labour has failed to advance in areas of England where it is traditionally weak.

    I agree with Stephen that replacing Nick Clegg does not (in itself) provide a solution.The problem is not Nick Clegg, it is the coalition. If we want to party to survive in any form at all we have to find an honourable and credible way out of the coalition as fast as we can. That much is blindingly obvious.

    As the crumbs of comfort indicate, all is not entirely lost. If we leave the coalition, we will recover much of our former support (though not all of it). If, on the other hand, we continue propping this Tory government up, and do so right up to the wire, we will have three more sets of terrible local election results – losing up to half our councillors, then three weeks to persuade the electorate that we are actually a distinct political party, followed by the retention of Orkney & Shetland (if that). In other words, curtains.

    Let sanity prevail and end the coalition.

  • Robert Wootton

    The main party of socialism now is not the Labour party; it is the Liberal Democrat party. !!!!!

    ——————————–

    What an incredible statement. I had a double take when I saw that. Do you really believe that, what does it all mean ? New Labour did abandon socialism but ahem, Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander Socialist ? The current Liberal Democratic party in coalition with the Conservatives Socialist ? Are you talking about the current Liberal Democrats or a new Liberal party in the future ?

    It sounds all very radical and great but lets return to reality, the Liberal Democrats as a party are enabling the most vicious Thatcherite attack on social provision and health for many years. Enabling the privatisation and fragmentation of the NHS. Increasing Tuition fees. Enabling right wing free market privatisations of everything. Even the forests and woodlands are not safe for this fire sale.

    What effective progress is being made to regulate the banks ? Attacking Labour for something that the LDs have singularly failed to do is not helpful. Or is this a future rebranded liberal party ?

    The electorate need to see something tangible and real from the Liberal Democrats. Stopping and scrapping the NHS bill would be a start. If the Liberal Democrats allow this, there will be an even greater backlash against the LDs as this massive change is completely unmandated and not in the coalition agreement, and is being carried out on a false basis of crisis that Cameron is attempting to spin.

    The voters in the recent elections gave their verdict on the Liberal Democrats ? The vote only held up to 15% as in some areas there was no one else to vote for. Given that the General Election vote is usually less than the local elections. If the Liberal Democrats persist than there is a chance that Liberal Democrat MPs will return to single figures.

    A viable third party is needed in this country, one that can effectively put a break on the major parties. I pray some sanity prevails on these pages amongst Liberal Democrats before it is too late.

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