Hard work and optimism will be our party’s salvation

So it’s happened again. Despite hoping against hope that the polls were wrong, and that we were having an impact in the target seats way above our polling levels, we’ve been left with a diminished parliamentary party for the third successive general election.

We started with such high hopes, but end with the cause of Remain now surely lost, and a hard-right Tory government with a majority big enough to do more or less what it likes.

Are there any reasons to be cheerful?

The seeds of our possible regrowth are contained in our defeat. We must start by holding this government to account, exposing their lies and broken promises. Boris Johnson will surely get the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament now, but that is the easy part. The protracted negotiations that follow will be a major test for Johnsons’ government, and may well provide opportunities to score hits.

Local elections starting next year will be a major test, and success in these is essential to persuade people that we are coming back.

It is no coincidence that seats we won this time, such as Twickenham, Kingston & Surbiton, Bath and St Albans, already had strong council groups. The local government base was clearly crucial as it was in near misses like Winchester, Carshalton, Cheadle and Wimbledon.

In this election I campaigned in Gloucester where we have a city council group of nine after two by-election wins in the summer, including my seat. We were also asked to help in the nearest target seat, Cheltenham. Max Wilkinson came agonizingly close to winning the seat back, but Lib Dems in Gloucestershire must feel that the excellent local effort was undermined by the national campaign.

Are there any other glimmers of light?

We can point to the number of strong second-place finishes this time, and the increase in our vote share. I hope that brilliant candidates like Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Sam Gyimah will stand again or find ways to keep being involved. It is essential, in seats where we are now the clear challengers, that we select or readopt candidates early. They should follow Paddy’s ‘MP over the water’ strategy of convincing people that you would make a good MP by acting like one. This, together with a drive to increase our local government base, and a much better national campaign next time, will hopefully bring us back to success.

Sadly for our party there will be no easy fix, and our success is not guaranteed. But we have to try, and start now.

* Sebastian Field is a Liberal Democrat City Councillor in Gloucester. He won his Podsmead ward in a by-election in July.

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One Comment

  • Yousuf Farah 20th Dec '19 - 6:50pm

    Only eleven mps in parliament right now, that means ditching europeanism (for now/or dialing it down), being pragmatic and humble are ways to go; if you ask me.

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