Five posts to sum up June 2014

And so we reach the mid-point of the year. Already bruised, battered, fraught and fretful and along comes a Tory-UKIP bunfight in the form of a by-election in Newark to cheer us up. Not.

Stephen Tall pored over the results:

It was another dire night, to cap a dire fortnight. We didn’t just lose our deposit, we came sixth. Our vote collapsed. Four years ago, 10,246 Newark voters marked a ‘X’ beside the Lib Dem box. Yesterday, just 1,004 did so. In contrast to the Tories, not a single Lib Dem MP turned up to campaign. To be fair, they’re doubtless all knackered after a gruelling election period: but if our MPs couldn’t be persuaded to show up for our candidate why should we be surprised if the voters didn’t?

Much credit to our candidate, David Watts, who did his best in what was clearly a tricky campaign. Commenting on the result last night, David was phlegamtic: “Well it wasn’t a good result, but smaller parties often get squeezed in by-elections and that’s what’s happened to us here. We knew, from talking to people today, that a lot of our voters had transferred to vote against UKIP to make sure UKIP didn’t get elected and some have clearly gone to Paul’s [Independent candidate Paul Baggaley] campaign on the hospital which is a very important campaign.”

Nick Clegg tried to grab some momentum with a speech at Bloomberg in which he set out his liberal prospectus. Stephen argued that there might have been words to make party activists feel better but that didn’t alter the political reality:

As I’ve argued many times before, if Lib Dem members really want to remain in government after May 2015 then we will have to do a deal next time with either the right-leaning Tories or left-leaning Labour. We may not place ourselves in the centre, but our circumstances do.

So I’m sorry to break the news to you, but the Lib Dems will continue to anchor the government in the centre if there’s another Coalition: anyone who expects much more of a junior Coalition party than that is kidding themselves. In some areas we’ll move things in a liberal direction; in most others, the best we can do is restrain the most illiberal instincts of the senior partner. Nick Clegg’s speech doesn’t alter that reality, though his words were clearly designed to pacify party activists after the past fortnight’s tumult.

I was less than impressed when, just as the party was beginning to settle, Nick decided to put out a picture of himself holding the Sun. Seriously.

Now I don’t think for a moment that Nick Clegg has anything to prove when it comes to standing up to Rupert Murdoch. Let’s be clear about that. He instinctively did the right thing on press regulation. He has pandered to nobody unlike some others I could mention. Nothing can take away from that.

However, there was absolutely no need for him to go along with the rest of the herd today. At least he had the good grace to look slightly uncomfortable with it, but what would have been wrong with a statement that he wasn’t going to pose with the Sun because he didn’t need to in order to show support for England and he didn’t think it was appropriate given the behaviour of its parent company in recent years? When Vince Cable made it clear why he wasn’t taking part in the King of Saudi Arabia’s state visit when he was acting leader, it won him many friends. Staying out of the Sun today might have done the same for Nick. It’s a wasted opportunity to show that Liberal Democrats are different.

As minds turned to potential post General Election scenarios, Tim Farron and Nick Clegg disagreed on whether we might want to be part of a minority government. I still have my doubts, you know, about whether Westminster is mature enough to cope with minority government. The Scottish Parliament had built into it the expectation that parties would have to work together. It’s also easier to ensure that all views are reflected in a proportional system. Still, the over-riding factor should be whether we would be able to deliver a distinctively liberal agenda like we did in Scotland.

And, finally, there was the tale of Danny Alexander, the tinned tomatoes and the lego.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • Richard Dean 1st Jan '15 - 12:26pm

    Alcohol? Weed? … Definitely too much of something!
    Happy New Year (it is 2015, now).

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Jan '15 - 1:07pm

    Alcohol? Weed?…… definitely too much of something!

    Too much nettle soup, perhaps?

    Wishing you a Happy New Year Richard.

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