Glass looks half full to me

Trawling through the general election results, I see that the Liberal Democrats finished second in 91 seats.

Disappointed they didn’t finish first in all of these? Of course. Disappointed they didn’t finish first in even 10 of these? Yes, that too.

But the disappointment should be set in relation to the progress the party has made since 2015 and not just compared to expectations from earlier in the summer this year. For this, I’ve been crunching some numbers to see how Liberal Democrats have fared over recent general elections.

Following the 2015 election, there was a general expectation that it would take many years for the party to recover. That’s still the case. Remember, in 2015 the Lib Dems came fourth or worse in 524 seats. And in 185 of these seats the Lib Dems actually finished fifth, sixth or seventh.

So the party could potentially claim a respectable result in barely 100 seats across the UK four years ago. By contrast, in the 2019 election the party finished in the top three in 443 seats.

Remember too that the party finished second in 38 seats in 2017, which was a fall of 40 per cent from 2015, making it tougher to win seats this year.

Similarly, the number of people voting Lib Dem in 2017 was actually lower than in 2015.

And, as everyone knows by now, the number of people voting Lib Dem earlier this month rose by more than half. The party increased its vote share by more than any other major party.

It cannot be a great surprise to any Liberal Democrat when the rigged first past the post system bites you in the bottom.

Looking more closely at the 91 seats where Lib Dems have just finished second, we can see that in 80 of those seats a Tory finished first.

The average majority these second-placed Lib Dems will face in the next election is 14,873 – a marked improvement from 21,816 in the last election.

Fifteen of the seats to be targeted at the next election will have majorities of less than 5,000, a further 11 have majorities of less than 10,000, and another 17 have deficits of less than 15,000.

With this in mind, Chuka Umunna’s words following the election are pretty sensible: “The national result was obviously disappointing and lessons must be learnt, but we should not let that obscure the progress that was made.”

Lastly, credit for the the 2017 and 2019 election data to @ChrisRandWrites and to The Electoral Commission for 2015 data. Mistakes in analysing the figures are mine alone.

* Ed Moisson joined the Liberal Democrats on 2nd June 2015

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56 Comments

  • David Evans 21st Dec '19 - 2:40pm

    It’s always good for morale to compare back to the worst result in living memory and pretend that real progress is being made. However, looking back to 2010 or 2005 shows that what Ed is are looking at is a much smaller glass than would have ever been considered acceptable to those who built the party up in the previous 50 years.

    Over that time we worked, fought and made our party real contenders that the BBC or ITV could not ignore. Generation Clegg destroyed that. Now it is up to the next generation to start again.

  • Christopher Clayton 21st Dec '19 - 3:03pm

    Do we not still have 12 seats, a net loss of zero? Is the gain in Northan Ireland being overlooked by everyone but me? Why is nobody recognising Stephan Farry’s North Down win for our sister Party, AllianceNI, which has always taken the LibDem Whip in both the Commons and the Lords?

  • Colin Paine 21st Dec '19 - 3:48pm

    Agree on Alliance, as a NI exile in England since 1986 great to see them get a seat.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 21st Dec '19 - 4:21pm

    “Why is nobody recognising Stephan Farry’s North Down win for our sister Party, AllianceNI, which has always taken the LibDem Whip in both the Commons and the Lords?”

    This statement is obviously incorrect. During the 2010-15 coalition, Alliance MP Naomi Long sat on the opposition benches while the LibDems sat on the government ones.

  • I’m sure we all agree it’s great that Stephen Farry won his seat, but he is not a LibDem. Sister party yes, but we did not fight the election under a joint banner or joint manifesto or with a shared campaign, and Stephen does not take the LibDem whip and nor did Naomi Long when she held Belfast East in 2010-15. So he’s not our 12th MP, and it’s wishful thinking (and a tad arrogant if you think about it) for us to say otherwise.

  • Matthew Severn 21st Dec '19 - 5:04pm

    if the glass capacity is for example 65 seats, 10% of the commons, (our 2005 high and best result for a third party since 1924 was 62) the current glass, whilst it has more in it than in 2015, still is much less than half full.
    We had a seat total of 25 so closely within our grasp. Some of that is our fault, much of it isnt. But we dont do anyone any favours by saying the current situation is good.

  • Sopwith Morley 21st Dec '19 - 5:34pm

    “So the party could potentially claim a respectable result in barely 100 seats across the UK four years ago. By contrast, in the 2019 election the party finished in the top three in 443 seats.

    So for the LIbDems to finish in the top three in 443 seats next time, all you need is the UKIP/Brexit Party/Reform Party? to stand down in 320 seats again.

    I do admire your use of selective data to suit your argument, and you even have a bar chart.

  • The author must have a tiny glass. Our vote share per candidate is barely above the floor of the Liberal Party back in the 1950s, after a campaign when, uniquely, we lost nearly half of the support we had at the outset.

  • And what was the Brexit companies share of the vote Morley old son, err 2% if they had stood in all constituencies they might have got over 4%. Even Question Time will struggle to justify getting Farage on with that score. So Brexit Company busted flush, perhaps a new populist party will rise but it needs to be something new.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 21st Dec '19 - 6:30pm

    @frankie In about 60 out of the approximately 260 English and Welsh seats in which both the Brexit Party and the LibDems were standing, the Brexit Party got a higher share of the vote than the LibDems.

    Sopwith Morley makes a good point here. It is good to see some critical commenters rather than the typical pollyannas.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier, Sopwith Morley – ok, so you two reckon we should stop looking at the positives ? I take it that means you both think we should focus on the negatives ? Doing that will only make us do worse in the future, we cannot move forward by dwelling on the negatives or we will cease to exist as a party . . . and its that final bit that you two undercover Tories really want. 😉

  • While we can argue how many mililitres of liquid is in the glass, the task for us poor infantry is to get back out there and deliver the thank you focus and recruit members, supporters, donors.

    We should of course learn the lessons but unless someone has a TARDIS up their sleeve arcane discussions on the exact depth of liquid are something of a waste of time.

    I predict one thing! That is the next 5, 10, 20 years are totally unpredictable. But we can be prepared for them just as the liberals of the 60s, and 70s were for the 80s and 90s.

    By making complete and utter nuisances of themselves locally, standing for election even if they only got 8 votes and holding packed meetings only because they held them in telephone boxes!

    Remember that election results good or bad are complete and utter fiction

    Folks, we march once again towards the sound of gunfire !

    Some of us may be mowed down in that march – if only metaphorically – hopefully !!! But for every one person who is felled two will rise up to take their place!!!!!

  • Paul Barker 21st Dec '19 - 8:43pm

    The Years 2010 to 2017 were all downhill, thats what we are recovering from. So far our Recovery has only run for Two Years, its not surprising we havent gone far.

  • Christopher Curtis 21st Dec '19 - 8:54pm

    It’s not really a matter of half empty or half full. Whatever you think about what’s in the glass, doesn’t actually change its contents, only what you tell yourself. Selecting some of the data in order to tell yourself more positive stories is probably not helpful. If you have to look for good news, the news is probably not that good. Above all, we have to be honest, particularly with data. It’s dangerous as well as sad that “LibDem bar chart” is becoming part of the language meaning data twisted to show something other than the truth.
    Objectively, it was a bad election for us, following a number of bad elections. Objectively, we are now powerless to do any more than watch a terrible government do whatever the hell it wants. Objectively, we failed to meet even our basic targets. That’s all true even though we saw a pleasing increase in our vote share and a change in the situation in a number of seats so that there is more to fight for in future than there was in the recent past.
    Our first task is to keep the support we won. That’s not easy. I suspect many who voted LibDem did so to try to remain and to try to keep Boris Johnson out. We failed on both counts and there’s no changing that now.

  • nvelope2003 21st Dec '19 - 9:00pm

    When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party I was about the only commenter who predicted that this would be a disaster for the Liberal Democrats. Almost everyone else thought the voters would come flocking to us and the opposite happened in 2017. It is true that there was an upsurge in support for the party in the May 2019 local elections and the European Parliament elections but the fear of a Corbyn Government damaged the party instead of strengthening it and also many voters thought Labour was more likely to stop Brexit than the Liberal Democrats despite the equivocations of its leader because they felt most Labour leaders in Parliament were Remainers.
    It is likely that the 4.2 % increase in support could be because of the votes of Remainers but when we leave the EU it will no longer be a major issue and we need to regain the votes of those who traditionally voted for us in places like Cornwall where our vote fell although it rose in other parts of the South West and many other places, in varying degrees. This Government already seems to be backtracking on some promises and after a brief honeymoon it could be in trouble. If Liberal Democrats can increase support in the recent difficult circumstances it is not beyond the realms of possibility that under a popular leader there could be further improvements though I note from recent opinion polls that 47% dislike the Lib Dems whereas before 2010 that number said they would vote for us if they thought we could win so there is somewhere to go.

  • But Tobias the Brexit Company won’t be here at the next election, so they are very much in the rear view mirror. As we enter hard times the poltical landscape will change rapidly, many who thought they where safe will find they are not and what they do then will be intresting to see.

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 21st Dec '19 - 9:28pm

    Thanks, Ed, for these facts and figures. It’s always helpful to know where we are. And, really, where we are is the only place that matters.
    We have had a great past, some parts of it greater than others and we all hope to have a great future as a Party. But the only way to the future lies through the present moment. Right now, as Christopher Curtis says, we all feel pretty powerless and many supporters and candidates are wondering what on earth we can do next. This is unknown territory and pretty scary with it.
    What we have on our side is the support and solidarity of other Party members, even if we don’t always agree on the best strategy. We have our basic beliefs in a liberal society and the policies we have worked together to produce. Many of us even like each other!
    As the Government tries to bulldoze its way into a new relationship with the EU, we can contribute our knowledge and understanding of how the EU really works, assisted by continued contact with our sister parties in Europe. We can also use our practical knowledge, gained from fellow liberals in many other countries, of what the WTO rules are and how they apply, to challenge the Tory fantasies.
    And, at grass-roots level, we have many local elections next May, just as the new economic order will start to bite.
    It isn’t going to be easy but I am absolutely certain that this is not the moment to give up.

  • In 2016 after much debate, there was a democratic vote to settle the question: “Should the UK leave the EU or Remain in the EU.”

    In a massive vote the people voted to leave.

    End of story.

  • I have been following the recent flurry of articles with interest. I am relatively new to this front line politics and find the mechanics fascinating, not least the bar charts and the detailed analysis they stir up. But I also am trying to understand the bigger context in which we find ourselves. In particular, what is the essence of Brexit and hence the new government? I feel we have been through a titanic struggle between two elites (reminds me slightly of how power has shifted between dynasties in China). One elite (let us call it globalist) sees its advantage in working with like minded elites in other countries, with the EU being the central pillar. The other elite (let us call it nationalist) sees advantage in controlling its own patch as much as possible. In the recent election the country chose to replace a globalist elite with a nationalist elite. But Brexit involves more than a choice of ruling elite. We now move into a new phase that focuses on the details of our relationship with the EU. I can see a clear role for us here. We can articulate very specific things we wish to get out of this relationship. If we pick topics that resonate with the wider public (while matching our values) we could find ourselves newly relevant. We may even be surprised to discover that leavers and remainers agree on lots of things here. I am acutely aware my analysis is amateur and probably naive, but I will leave other more experienced people to decide that.

  • Sandra Hammett 22nd Dec '19 - 12:22am

    @Andrew
    ‘We now move into a new phase that focuses on the details of our relationship with the EU. I can see a clear role for us here. We can articulate very specific things we wish to get out of this relationship. If we pick topics that resonate with the wider public (while matching our values) we could find ourselves newly relevant. We may even be surprised to discover that leavers and remainers agree on lots of things here.’

    Agree entirely. This is where we need to be RIGHT NOW.

  • As Christopher Curtis points out the general election for us was not a success. We failed to meet our targets and the Conservatives have a large majority. It is quite pleasing to see that we didn’t massively increase the number of our second and third places (up from 374 to 395) and that the total number of second and first places is only 102. Perhaps our targeting wasn’t as bad as I thought.

    In 2010 I expect we targeted about 75 seats. I think that must be the maximum we can target at the start of the next general election campaign. (In 2010 we won in 57 seats and were second in 243 seats.)

  • The lateness of the hour seems to have got to me. In 2017 we were second and third in 374 seats as I wrote above, but this has been increased to 432 in 2019, so maybe our targeting was not very good as I had originally thought.

  • Sopwith Morley 22nd Dec '19 - 7:31am

    @ Frankie

    “And what was the Brexit companies share of the vote Morley old son”

    No idea, but I would imagine their zero share of the vote across the 300+ seats including all of your LIB/Con marginals was very effective in putting put paid to the LIbDems making any recovery across the south of England, so with your suggested 2% for them, I expect the sky is the limit.

    You seem to be labouring under misapprehension that I care. I don’t!

    The difference between you and me, is that I look through the issue in the round, and take what I consider to be view based on the evidence as it stands, whilst you seem to rely on and chutzpah and LibDem Bar chart fantasies.

    Each to their own pet.

  • Andrew Sims 22nd Dec '19 - 7:54am

    I agree with David Evans. To say half full by comparing yourself to the worst result is not in a generation when we started at ~22% in the polls is delusional.

  • Paul Barker 21st Dec ’19 – 8:43pm…………….The Years 2010 to 2017 were all downhill, thats what we are recovering from. So far our Recovery has only run for Two Years, its not surprising we havent gone far………….

    A few months ago you were predicting that this party would replace Labour as the main opposition party (If memory serves you predicted the same thing prior to the 2017 election). Now you state the opposite.

  • The highest number of votes ever cast for a Liberal or Liberal Democrat was achieved under Nick Clegg’s leadership.

  • But Morley as you didn’t know the Brexit party achieved the sum total of 2% of the vote you obviously don’t do ” in the round” as you don’t do facts. Their choice to fight half the seats, their choice to become an irrelevance. I’ll be checking in on you as the EU citizens go home , just to see how rapidly your regular gatherings with them dwindle, quite rapidly I would suspect, why even your daughter-in-law and son may be among the tide heading to the EU.

  • Expats,
    Hope springs external and then when reality bites it disappears. But it will be back, hard times await and people will look for a replacement for the failing politicians and it will be more quickly than we think. Might be us, might be a new populist party but that their will be change I have no doubt.

  • Sopwith Morley 22nd Dec '19 - 10:46am

    @ Frankie
    “I’ll be checking in on you as the EU citizens go home ,”

    I certainly won’t be checking in on you,l I have better things to do with my time, and as it will be a racing certainty when all your Old Moore’s predictions don’t happen , you will disappear like a rat up a drainpipe.

    “just to see how rapidly your regular gatherings with them dwindle, quite rapidly I would suspect, why even your daughter-in-law and son may be among the tide heading to the EU.”

    You don’t know any real EU citizens do you?

    Do you want me to introduce you to a few?

    At least then you would speak from the basis of minimal personal experience, rather than your usual vacuous keyboard rhetoric

  • John Barrett 22nd Dec '19 - 10:47am

    We are often criticised for producing “dodgy” bar charts, which only show the part of the story that we want to show the electorate.

    This looks like one of them.

    As someone who campaigned through the 80s and 90s, then was elected to a Council in 95 and was an election agent in 1997 winning parliamentary campaign before being elected to Westminster in 2001, then standing down undefeated in 2010.

    Seeing bar charts which ignore the work done on behalf of the party, by many people, for decades, being ignored because it looks as if we are doing quite well, only if we pretend that anything before the coalition did not happen.

    Only when we accept the impact on the party of the 2010-15 coalition will we ever be able to move forward and that includes selecting a leader who was not part of that disaster.

  • Panicos Georgiou 22nd Dec '19 - 11:26am

    Whatever way we look at it the result was a massive disappointment. We can spin it whatever way we want, but unless the Conservative trade deal is an economic disaster or unless we offer radically different policies, we will only be in contention to win at most a further26 seats at the next election. We need a radical overhaul of policies and become a party that the disaffected Labour supporters can turn to. We need to become the party of small businesses and the party of the farming community. We need to become a party that appeals to the masses not a niche party

  • Christopher Haigh 22nd Dec '19 - 11:36am

    @SandraHammett -I agree with yourself and Andrew. We need to find out exactly what has been funded by the EU eg music teaching agriculture etc and hold the government to account on replacing this funding..

  • Peter – “In 2016 after much debate, there was a democratic vote to settle the question: “Should the UK leave the EU or Remain in the EU.”
    In a massive vote the people voted to leave.
    End of story.”

    The winning side lied and cheated in order to win, if it was the Olympics theyd have been disqualified. The Electoral Commission has said if it had been a legally binding referendum it would have to have been re-run.

  • frankie 22nd Dec ’19 – 9:59am…….Expats, Hope springs external and then when reality bites it disappears. But it will be back, hard times await and people will look for a replacement for the failing politicians and it will be more quickly than we think. Might be us, might be a new populist party but that their will be change I have no doubt……..

    What will cause a rethink, by the electorate, is if/when disillusionment with the current government sets in…
    Sadly, in the election, a vague ‘Get Brexit Done’ resonated with voters to the exclusion of failing social care, homelessness, child poverty and even the NHS.
    The media, especially the ‘neutral’ BBC, failed this country…Johnson’s lies went largely unchallenged and even so called crisis moments for Johnson (the image of Jack Williment-Barr sleeping under coats on a hospital floor in Leeds) resulted in Laura Kuenssberg tweeting the unfounded Tory story that Hancock had been assaulted by a Momentum member whilst on a visit to see the child…

    Ihe Mail/Express/Telegraph will never challenge the Tories but unless the TV companies use that platform to inform the public nothing will change…

  • I just wish that since 2010 people had spent half as much energy trying to fix the problems the party has they spent trying to pretend there wasn’t a problem.

    Actually you can take that back to before 2010 – even in 2004 there were signs the party’s campaign techniques were showing signs of not being all they were talked up to be. The party is now about to embark on it’s 4th review of a disappointing campaign in the last 5 years which says something significant.

    The first thing that should happen is to publish all the recommendations of those previous review and which ones have/haven’t been implement.

  • RogerBillins 22nd Dec '19 - 1:52pm

    This sort of article makes me very angry. This election was a complete disaster of the party’s own making. We were poised in the summer for a real breakthrough but instead the party leadership agreed to a Johnson election at a time that suited him and on his own terms. We then multiplied that mistake by fighting a campaign which made us look like the reverse side of the coin of UKIP. Go on, put your head in the sands if you want to, but I’m not.

  • As some one who has on rare occasions voted for the party at local level, I agree with Hywel.
    I visit this site in part to gain an understanding of alternate political views to my own and to test my own views against others, however I find for the most part the same 20 or so regulars having more or less the same types of disagreement time and again.
    In my opinion there is little that the libdems can celebrate from the election that they in part enabled. Unless members decide whether they want to be in power or a protest group, nothing will change. ignore and / or denigrate people who don’t agree with your Brexit stance and the party will continue to lose, certainly for the next few elections.

  • Dennis Wake 22nd Dec '19 - 3:33pm

    Peter: It was not a massive vote. Just under 52% voted to leave and just over 48% voted to remain on a 72% turn out. From 1950 until 2001 turn outs varied from 72% to 84% so it was rather on the low side. It is a shame people seem unable to understand the importance of telling the truth not just on this issue but on many others, but prefer to suppress it by every means possible. In the end the truth will out but sadly not until much damage has ben done to many people, though possibly not to those who fear the truth.

  • Predictions for the new year
    1. Brexit will happen, many bad things will happen and no Unicorns, faries or sunlit uplands will be seen.
    2. Many a Brexiteer will encounter hardship and scream for help. We will be unable to help them and can only hope the discomfort they feel shocks them back to rationality.
    3. The media will find the Tories are not their friends, resist their pleas for help, their mess let them lie in it.
    4. Brexiteers will desperateĺy post on this site “forget Brexit” but reality will allow none of us too, although they will try their best reality will just keep playing ” peek a boo” with them.

  • Indeed expat the BBC was shocking, their likely reward is a reduced budget let us hope some of their more ardent Tory boosters are among the cuts.

  • Richard Malim 22nd Dec '19 - 4:13pm

    Of the eleven LD MPs three owe their election to tactical voting by conservatives, and a fourth Farron to squeezing Labour).

    Of the six defeats by 1000 votes or less, two (E. Dunbartonshire and Sheffield Hallam) can be put down to failure to attract enough t v by conservatives, the other 4 by enough labour voters, and there won’t be ‘easy’ targets like Hammond as ministers in 2024.

    The next nine losses all by under 5000, it’s the same problem.

    I don’t see much promising territory in the next eleven losses ( 9 to Con., Ross SL to SNP and Cambridge to Labour) all by under 10,000. That means 65 in second place facing 5 figure majorities – not much space for optimism.

  • @frankie “Indeed expat the BBC was shocking, their likely reward is a reduced budget let us hope some of their more ardent Tory boosters are among the cuts.”
    Another disappointment for some, expecting that reducing the BBC’s budget would mean the end of the TV licence; overlooking that Boris will need the revenues from the TV licence to continue to assist with the funding of universal broadband.

  • @RichardM: Your suggestion we only won any seats at all due to tactical voting is less than kind to our hardworking MPS.

    Tim Farron, this time, was back up (and above) to where he was in 2015. And he took a hit two years ago from the ‘get him’ tactics when he was party leader.
    Yes, Labour were down 2,122 on two years ago. But as the Tories + the Brexit Party were up 1,735 this time… you may as well suggest Tim only kept his seat because of tactical voting by the supporters of 2017 candidate Mr Fishfinger.

  • The big question for me is whether we can win with the present electoral system. If not we need to change the system. Even if we can it will be a lot easier with a proportional, preferential, multi-seat system.

  • Goodness me. There are a lot of glass half empty commentators here! Thanks for this Ed. This puts our election nicely into context. Let’s not forget that our national vote pretty much doubled from its low point a couple of years ago. Let’s also remember that 2nd places are a pre-requisite for 1st places later. And let’s remind ourselves how dire it was looking 2 years ago, with just 38 2nd places (and 12 seats) whereas we have 91 2nd places and 11 seats now. Of course it could and should have been much more and might have been had it not been for a disastrous campaign. But we certainly have more to build on than we did before.

  • David Evans 23rd Dec '19 - 2:09pm

    Oh dear, What a shame, “Glass half empty commentators.” Let’s ignore the fact we had 62 MPs only ten years ago and pretend that having lost 51 of them is a great opportunity. Nothing needs radical change, no-one was to blame and we can remain comfortable in our inherent superiority.

    But wait “it could and should have been much more,” and “it might have been had it not been for a disastrous campaign.” But we have now had three disastrous campaigns in a row, where those at the centre with no knowledge of anything other than failure, have again totally ignored those with experience of success.

    Why do we let them do it?

    Because we prefer to play with words like “our glass is half full” than actually face up to our problems? I hope not.

  • @David Part of the problem is that the “committee appoints a committee” way in which our internal party mechanisms work seems to prevent anyone from making the tough decisions needed on campaign staffing and management. It’s so much easier for the same people to work their way into position again and sitting on a large committee no-one is brave enough to speak up and state the obvious.

  • And what’s your recipe for success @David Evans?

    Presumably it’s to cosy up to Labour – and thereby lose even more centre right votes (and seats).

    And/or talk loudly about how terrible Clegg and the coalition was, thereby rubbishing the success and competence of our period in government. That seems like a great strategy.

  • Hywel – I agree; the party is in denial about the structural problems that underlie its repeated failures at the ballot box. So, what’s the problem?

    The big issue has to be party governance. Elsewhere you have commented how Lib Dem Towers (LDT) is impervious to the experience of those who have proven skill at running successful campaigns. LDT is also deaf to policy thinking from outside its walled garden.

    I put this down to the way the party’s organisational was structured when the Liberal & SDP parties’ radically different management approaches were merged into one. My reading (I wasn’t involved so others may have better readings) was that the solution adopted – possibly unconsciously – was to create a top-down organisation where the infighting of the Alliance era would be impossible.

    I see this as an attempt at ‘Intelligent Design’ of the party’s structure. The downside is it can’t evolve.

    There are other problems with this approach. For one, the key committees are too big (~35 members). Big committees always move at the pace of their slowest members; and process dominates. For another, the practicalities of serving on them mean that the directly elected members are all (or overwhelmingly?) London-based. Thus, they reflect London concerns – metrosexual issues but not the economy for example – and simply cannot integrate views from outside their turgid processes.

    Unsurprisingly, the party’s greatest strength is now in the well-heeled parts of SW London; it has nothing to say to folk in the fringes or industrial midlands and North so Cornwall is now a Tory fiefdom.

    Moreover, it’s not democratic in any meaningful sense. In the recent committee elections only two candidates were supported by more than 1% of the membership; most got way less then that. And to argue it’s democratic “Because Conference” really doesn’t work either.

    In short, the party’s structure is unintentionally illiberal. It is top-down and disempowers whereas the essence of Liberalism is that it’s bottom-up and empowering.

    The solution? Change to a governance structure that enables EVOLUTION of policy, of campaigns etc. but also exerts democratic CONTROLS. (c.f. the lack of effective control over Clegg in the Coalition.)

  • @Gordon, very pertinent points.

    One wonders whether any member of the Federal Board, presented with the recommendation to reappoint the same person to chair the campaign who presided over the fiasco of 2017, raised even a query as to whether this would be wise?

    Like Labour, we have become a London dominated party, obsessing over issues that leave the majority of the country cold. The radical communitarianism of the old Liberal Party has been lost and replaced with the same obsession with identity politics as afflicts the Labour Party.

    You’d hope that, as a national and indeed federal party, all of the party committees would meet in various locations around the UK during a year. Is this the case?

  • Peter Watson 24th Dec '19 - 10:06pm

    For the last few years Lib Dems have pitched themselves as a safe vote for soft Tory Remainers and anti-Corbyn Labour Remainers. Given that preventing Corbynism and Brexit are unlikely to be factors in the next election, what are the Lib Dems going to do that will improve on what was a very poor result in 2019 following the even worse results of 2015 & 2017
    TCO’s comment, “Presumably it’s to cosy up to Labour – and thereby lose even more centre right votes (and seats)” highlights the fact that the economic left-right divide within the party has not been addressed: Brexit just allowed it to be swept under the carpet for a little while.
    The Coalition meant that the party could no longer rely on a vague notion of inhabiting the political centre ground to avoid scaring away voters from either side and gave the impression of a confused party that would talk left but walk right.
    Defining and communicating more clearly and explicitly what and who Lib Dems are is more important than messing around with statistics and bar charts.

  • Peter Watson

    And, of course, in an era where it is quite clear that transformative change IS required to address the many deep issues and crises around us, we need to demonstrate how that transformation will be enabled by Lib Dems. Our declared attitude to “Corbynism” is, in this context, completely wrong, and we need to move decisively away from the timid and frankly unrealistic philosophy which has widely been labelled “centrism”, but is more properly described as an attempt to hang on to an outdated economic model.

  • Peter Watson 26th Dec '19 - 1:35pm

    @Tim13 “we need to move decisively away from the timid and frankly unrealistic philosophy which has widely been labelled “centrism””
    I agree.
    Hopefully one outcome of the 2019 election for Lib Dems is that the party will have to do what it has put off for the last few years and elections, and define itself clearly without reference to Brexit (and maybe even Coalition!).

  • Tomos Utting 21st May '20 - 3:50pm

    Thanks for contributing this article Ed. I do think with the power of time to reflect on the General Election, leadership election timetable and now the Lib Dem Review, there are some lessons to take forward.

    Your point “Fifteen of the seats to be targeted at the next election will have majorities of less than 5,000, a further 11 have majorities of less than 10,000, and another 17 have deficits of less than 15,000” is valid and should be used as the basis of targeting at the next GE.

    Most of these seats will be Conservative facing. So in the forthcoming leadership election I will be looking for our next leader to try to broker a pact with Labour where we give them a free/ish run in the midlands and North West and they give us a free run in the South (outside Portsmouth South, Southampton /Plymouth/Exeter. And, using the review as a guide, we need to inject cash to into identified target seats as soon as possible.

    That is the best way we can aim for something in the 30 seat range and pick up seats such as Winchester, Eastbourne and St Ives.

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