LibLink: David Steel – Six ways Nick Clegg steered the Liberal Democrats to disaster

On the Guardian Comment is Free, David Steel has a must-read article with remarkably perspicacious observations:

Let us hope that we in the Liberal Democrats can, unlike the Labour party, analyse the causes of our disaster without rancour. The first thing that needs to be said is that history will be kinder to Nick Clegg than the electorate has been. Back in May 2010, many politicians and pundits predicted confidently that the coalition would not last. The fact that it did, for five years, was largely due to Clegg’s dedication and skill. His typically eloquent resignation speech spelt out legitimate achievements of which he can be proud. His Question Time appearance was superior to those of both Cameron and Miliband, and the election campaign he led was also, under Paddy Ashdown’s chairmanship, the most professional of the 14 in which I have participated. So why did it not work? I would argue that it was doomed even before the election began for six reasons.

You can read the full list here.

I take issue with one point. David says:

…he created a negotiating team (in 2010) entirely of newer and younger colleagues (than Kennedy, Campbell, Beth, Bruce) whom he could dominate.

Hello? Chris Huhne? Andrew Stunnell? (Advice given by) Jim Wallace? Hello?

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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72 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 11th May '15 - 9:35pm

    I’ve read the list and listened to David Steel on TV and I am afraid that people who think the problem with the Party of IN campaign was going on TV with Farage are mistaken. It was not going on TV against Farage that was the problem, it was the whole campaign, which mostly, besides the going on TV part, was supported by the likes of David Steel.

  • “lost the trust of the public”

    I was one of those who lost trust in Clegg and the Lib Dems. I will watch with interest to see what direction the party now takes. A rather interesting comment on a different thread noted that the Lib Dems were fighting in different ways in different places.

  • David Evans 11th May '15 - 9:47pm

    I’m sorry Eddie, I think it is you who are mistaken. Politics is primarily about people: people who vote and people who ask for their vote. Nick has been tainted goods in the eyes of the vast majority of voters for four and a half years. Thinking he could go into battle with a performer like Nigel Farage and gain any traction for our candidates was just pure hubris. The campaign slogan “The party of IN” was I believe a Clegg, Coetzee production, but I may be corrected by those who know the detail. Certainly Nick’s love of the EU is well known.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th May '15 - 9:49pm

    OK David, well at least we seem to both agree the Party of IN campaign was a mistake, but it is also a mistake to say it would have been fine as long as we didn’t go on TV with Farage over it.

    Regards

  • Eddie, I agree that even if Nick had not done the debate with Nigel Farage it would have been bad, but not as bad. In South Lakeland we were the only area to get a majority of votes for Lib Dems in the EU elections (except O&S?), but even here, on the doorstep Nick and the debates were a big negative.

  • I don’t disagree with anything on this list, though it feels very incomplete.

    However, the key trait running through the whole, though not given a heading of its own, is the success that Clegg had in insulating himself from criticism, even from senior members of the Party. An important structural question we need to ask is how to keep this from happening again. Is it just down to the personality of the Leader? Or was the office of Leader structured in such a way that it was possible for Clegg to create an wall behind which he was sheltered from facts and immune from answering to anybody?

  • yes, I have to say I really hope Nick Clegg keeps a low profile in the upcoming Euro referendum – because he will tell the truth about Europe BUT he will push more people into the No camp than he persuades….. That is where we have got to and why we need a new broom untainted by the issues David Steel raises

  • @David-1 11th May ’15 – 10:20pm

    Very good point.

    Apart from the usual crew on the right trying to rewrite history here, or trying futilely to undermine Steel on twitter even as I write, anyone with any common sense accepts Clegg steered the party on the rocks with quite some determination. I think some kind of official investigation within the party would be really useful: how did it happen? why did it happen? how can we prevent it happening again?

  • The Party of IN campaign was certainly a big mistake, if only because whether you are pro or anti EU is a domestic issue, not a European issue. Having the Westminster party leader front the campaign was also a serious error, because the European Parliament is nothing to do with that.

  • George Potter 11th May '15 - 11:27pm

    The problem with the Party of IN is that it became nothing but being in favour of being in the EU rather than explaining why we believe in being in the EU or the kind of vision we have for it and Britain’s role in it.

  • Paul Pettinger 12th May '15 - 12:31am

    “the election campaign he led was also, under Paddy Ashdown’s chairmanship, the most professional of the 14 in which I have participated.” golly – not sure how an Election campaign that tried to hid the serious situation by waisting a large amount of money on push polls; that complemented the Labour Tory squeeze by scaring the public about the impact of other minor parties in a hung parliament, and which framed the Party as one against the politics of ‘grievance’ can be described as professional. Self important, out of touch and iliberal, yes. Professional, no. I assume Lord Steel felt he had to praise some things so as to be listened to more attentively on others.

  • @George Potter: I half agree; having a European election campaign based just on wanting to be in the EU made no sense. But I also don’t think “Britain’s role” in the EU has any relevance either: MEPS don’t

  • [cont] MEPs don’t group by nationality, but instead by party, like in any other legislature. So our European election campaign should have been about our specifically liberal vision for the EU, and what our MEPs had done (including working with liberal MEPs from other countries) to achieve this. Unfortunately we had a leadership that thought that only Westminster matters at all, so that message never got out.

  • I don’t even like Nick Clegg, but I think that the monumental risk that he took heading into Coalition, actually avoided the extraordinary danger he could have dragged the party into by demanding PR as a condition for any deal, or there was the option of the hazardous path of getting himself, therefore the Lib Dems the blame for causing a second election in 2010. I wonder what he could have done after the 2010 result that definately would have pleased enough people, in a very divided country, with a broken electoral system, that it safeguarded the success of the most vulnerable party in the mix?

  • WildColonialBoy 12th May '15 - 1:37am

    @Samon

    How can the Lib Dems be considered the party of in when they made it clear they would happily enable a Conservative referendum that might take us out of the European Union?

    Like so many other things, the Lib Dems proclaimed principles on Europe seem to be up for negotiation if it can be used to buy another ministry, another portfolio

  • @ R Rossim
    “I wonder what he could have done after the 2010 result that definately would have pleased enough people, in a very divided country, with a broken electoral system, that it safeguarded the success of the most vulnerable party in the mix?”

    From my armchair I quite liked the coalition agreement, but I didn’t check the wording of the tuition fee pledge. I don’t understand how the party agreed the coalition agreement when it didn’t state that all Lib Dem MPs would vote against any increase in tuition fees. What I most disliked about the coalition agreement was accepting Tory spending cuts after fighting an election campaign that said they would be the wrong thing to do (history agrees). I also hated the narrative that these Tory cuts were necessary to stop us becoming another Greece. If we had rejected the Tory cuts (not seen us as another Greece) and made sure we could kept our tuition fee pledge and not increased VAT then maybe we wouldn’t have lost so much support in the first year.

    The AV referendum is problematic. It wasn’t our policy, but our policy was not spelled out in our 2010 manifesto (as it was this year). It was the Labour party’s policy as a way of keeping the Labour party together (as the 1975 referendum on EEC membership was). The Conservatives had not agreed any change to voting system until we started to negotiate with Labour and then offered the Labour party’s policy while Brown promised AV without a referendum without knowing if he could deliver it. It has been suggested that we should have accepted a commission to make a recommendation on changing the voting system. Without a commitment that if it recommended a change to the voting system that kept constituencies that those in government jobs would have to vote for it and there would be no referendum I am not convinced it would have become law. With this policy it might have been possible to argue that it was a better deal than Labour was offering and it had a much greater chance of becoming law.

    If the Tories had accepted our budget plans then maybe we could have avoided the bedroom tax. The coalition agreement does not say that it would change the sanction regime and if we had ensured it was not changed maybe there wouldn’t have been such an increase in food banks and the deaths of ill people who had been sanctioned. The NHS reforms were a mistake and were against the coalition agreement.

    There is also the mood music issue. If our leadership had understood that they didn’t have a mandate to agree to things not in the coalition agreement maybe we could have held on to our supporters. We should have made it clear that we could only agree to things outside the coalition agreement if our party members had agreed. (I can’t imagine Nick Clegg and David Laws even thinking of this.)

  • Bill le Breton 12th May '15 - 7:25am

    I agree with Paul Pettinger and his accurate criticism of the campaign, ” not sure how an Election campaign that tried to hide the serious situation by waisting a large amount of money on push polls; that complemented the Labour Tory squeeze by scaring the public about the impact of other minor parties in a hung parliament, and which framed the Party as one against the politics of ‘grievance’ can be described as professional. Self important, out of touch and iliberal, yes. Professional, no. I assume Lord Steel felt he had to praise some things so as to be listened to more attentively on others.”

    But actually I don’t blame Paddy – I think he was genuinely doing his best to create a campaign consistent with the Clegg administration’s strategic decisions. It was these that were wrong and it was these which led to the list of own goals that Paul reminds us of.

    We must remember that there was more than one way of ‘managing’ Coalition. And here we hit another weakness of the most recent former Leader. He didn’t listen to Steel. He denied the effectiveness of both Paddy and Charles as leaders, therefore he actually put little weight into their ideas or valued their experience. It is a genuine criticism to say that for some reason he was temperamentally unable to take advice from anyone older than him.

    I spoke to Paddy in the summer of 2010 about the character of the Coalition. He may not thank me for this but he told me straight, “But Bill, he doesn’t listen to me!” (I did not make up that exclamation mark.) Lord Jim Wallace, one of the Party’s most experienced and wisest politicians on the conduct of Coalitions traveled all the way done from Scotland to Westminster to advise Clegg and was left kicking his heels outside the room. Senior figures from our continental sister Parties came over but their clear advice was counter to what Clegg wanted to hear.

    And so his team breezed on. The damage was done very early on. Approx five million of our voters had gone by December 2010 – see the Ashdown mega polls of that time. But the lack of trust meant that he (and we with him as our figurehead) was never going to win them back. He HAD to be told to make way for a different person. I made that point as forcefully as I could after the disastrous and confirmatory May elections of 2011.

    Remember trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback – in this case it left in a Jaguar.

    That is where I do blame the ‘senior’ members of the Party , but the patronage at the disposal of the DPM was just too powerful.

    I would like to thank Paddy and Olly who always gave me a hearing however much I tested their patience.

  • Jonathan Pile 12th May '15 - 7:32am

    Steel calls it right 🙂 @libdemfightbac

  • Paul Pettinger 12th May ’15 – 12:31am
    “the election campaign he led was also, under Paddy Ashdown’s chairmanship, the most professional of the 14 in which I have participated.”

    🙂
    Actually I think it can be accurately described as “the most professional” if that means high salaries going to “professionals” to do a job that at one time was done largely (but not exclusively) by spirited amateurs.

    Oddly when there were large numbers of amateurs involved in getting Liberal Democrat MPs elected we were successful. Now the whole thing has become thoroughly “professional” we have had the worst result for 45 years.

    A lesson to be learned there I think.

    I also do not blame Paddy and Olly. I am not bothered about blame but to learn the lessons of history we need to get that history right. In future if anyone suggests a six figure salary for a “professional” to be shipped in from another continent to teach grandmothers to suck eggs we need to think twice.

  • Olly Grender 12th May '15 - 8:03am

    Thanks Bill and you NEVER tested our patience and we were ALWAYS willing to listen and treated every suggestion seriously. In fact given that Paddy and I spent a good part of the campaign speaking to people and asking them to shift to target seats we asked them how they felt it was going and read all feed back. As for the rest of the debate above it needs to happen fully and freely so just one small point (for now). Am surprised on all the threads so far no-one has mentioned money. We had £3 m, Labour £15 m and the Tories were believed to have £50 m and yet for us it is always an after thought but so fundamental. I hope someone includes that in their thinking/comment at some point.

  • I have to make my apologies too. It was my suggestion that there should be an in vs out TV debate between Nick and Nigel Farage. (See the comments section of the Wythenshawe election article on LDV) Too late I realised that it was a massive error. Farage ran rings around Nick. It really did not help that Nick used the argument that 3 million jobs would be lost if we left the EU. Even the original researchers have distanced themselves from that claim.

  • Bill le Breton 12th May '15 - 8:16am

    Thanks Olly – I also made that point (of your accessibility and willingness to listen) to Paul Reynolds in a comment to his piece.

  • Olly Grender 12th May ’15 – 8:03am
    We had £3 m, Labour £15 m and the Tories were believed to have £50 m and yet for us it is always an after thought but so fundamental. I hope someone includes that in their thinking/comment at some point.

    Good point, Olly.
    But ’twas ever thus.
    It is not just how much only we have — it is how we spend it. For example — if we had spent less on fancy polling that seems to have achieved nothing and diverted those hundreds of thousands to half a dozen constituencies last October .

  • Bolano 11th May ’15 – 10:41pm …………Apart from the usual crew on the right trying to rewrite history here, or trying futilely to undermine Steel on twitter even as I write, anyone with any common sense accepts Clegg steered the party on the rocks with quite some determination. I think some kind of official investigation within the party would be really useful: how did it happen? why did it happen? how can we prevent it happening again?……….

    Absolutely…..The years of single figure polls, Loss of 9/10 MEP, many hundreds of good councillors, etc… Whilst all this was happening most of the LDV threads were supporting Clegg…..Any suggestion that he be replaced was treated as heresy….
    LDV must bear a lot of the responsibility….I used to read newspapers, view the media and talk to ‘the man in the street’ and then come onto LDV and ‘it was a different world’

  • Jenny Barnes 12th May '15 - 8:44am

    “history will be kinder to Nick Clegg than the electorate has been.” No it won’t.

    As to the Euro election campaign, those leaflets looked like adverts for UKIP. I think the campaign then lost us votes.

    Rossim “I don’t even like Nick Clegg, but I think that the monumental risk that he took heading into Coalition, actually avoided the extraordinary danger he could have dragged the party into by demanding PR as a condition for any deal,”
    That would have actually made the coalition worthwhile. As it is, he set the cause of PR back for nothing. I read somewhere else how pleased Hague was when Clegg agreed to AV referendum: ” I think I have destroyed the LDs”.
    And so it has proved.

  • Arthur Snell 12th May '15 - 8:55am

    Lots of people will be able to criticise the record of the past 5 years. The results speak for themselves. I’d be more interested in David Steel’s views on the fight back. After all, he dates from the “taxi cab” low point of the party.

  • I fail to see what is “must read” about the hatchet job of a failed former leader who doesn’t even support half our principles now he had a comfy seat on the red benches, nor do I see what help healing on the blame on Clegg will do when the problem was clearly systemic failure of the entire leadership/head office structure.

    If we allow all the blame to be heaped on a man who has already resigned, that conveniently allows all the other people who messed up, and continued allowing the messing up to happen, to get themselves completely off the hook. None of this helps us to recover.

  • (1) In fairness to our stance as the party for IN, previous Euro election campaigns had seen the three major UK parties, including our own, sidestepping European questions and seeking to win votes by concentrating on issues of domestic policy relevant to their core electoral support. Our decision to use the most recent Euro campaign to present ourselves as the party of IN may have been “brave”, but it chimed in with our underlying beliefs and was, as I recall, generally – maybe not universally – welcomed within our ranks at the time.
    (2) It should not be overlooked that audience polling done before and after the first Clegg-Farage debate showed that prior to the debate there was already an anti-EU preponderance among the audience and that after the debate there was more support for Clegg among the audience than there had been beforehand.

  • A minor but revealing sentence early on in David Steel’s article.
    Writing about hisnthoughts atbthe time of the 2010 election DavidbSteel says —
    “… I really did not know Clegg and indeed recall having met him only once. ”

    Is it not strange that 2 years after becoming leader of the party and at a ime when David Steel was doing a lot of media appearances he had met Nick Clegg only once?

    I realise that David Steel had first been elected an MP literally before NC was born but it seems odd that the new leader of the party in 2008 amd 2009 did not make a point of having a meeting with his predecessor, who was still active in the House of Lords if only to ask if the older guy had some tips on leading the party. Given Clegg’s desire for coalition you might have thought he would have treated David Steel to dinner to chat about how things went during the Lib-Lab Pact.

    Those of us outside the magic circle of the Liberal Democrat Leader’s Office in Westminster (which the BBC reported yesterday has now been handed to the SNP) often assume that are parliamentarians in both Houses are frequently in touch with each other. Clearly this is an illusion. It would appear that in May 2010 Nick Clegg had met me more often than he had met David Steel.

  • “The problem with the Party of IN is…” (George Potter 11th May ’15 – 11:27pm)

    I think part of the problem was that both IN and OUT wanted reform of the EU and specificially the UK’s relationship with Europe; something that fundamentally UKIP also wants… Hence a problem is articulating a reform agenda whilst avoiding the awkward question of what do you do if you don’t get the reforms you want… At least the OUT crowd are in some respects honest in their viewpoint,namely: we’ll walk off the cliff and see if we can fly… Whereas in avoiding the awkward question the IN crowd are trying to convince people that everything is just fine and dandy, when it isn’t.

  • Jennie

    Every failure needs a scape goat, and given how big a failure this was the need for a scape goat is greater than ever. The failure was a collective failure of the Parliamentary party to play hard ball when they had the chance. They should have demanded PR and given tuition fees was their top policy in 2010, they should have demanded no fees too. If the Tories had balked at that and another election had been called even if they had won you would not have had the five years of slow death inflicted on the Lib Dems. If in future you have the Tories or Labour by the spherical objects I’d advise you to squeeze them like a vice and not worry if it brings tears to their eyes or even screams from their lips.

  • Jane Ann Liston 12th May '15 - 9:49am

    Jennie, I don’t think you can possibly call David Steel a ‘failed’ former leader. The Lib-Lab pact worked, inasmuch as it got inflation down to single figures, and the Alliance paved the way for the new party and the successes of the Ashdown & Kennedy years.

  • I have voted Lib Dem and Labour in the past and retain an interest in both parties succeeding. Olly Grender makes a very valid point about the disparity of funds available to the parties. I have a lot of reservations about the Union’s links with Labour but sadly it is the only thing that keeps them in the game financially.

    Tories and their wealthy backers and media friends dominate this country. We will now see attacks on the Unions to further stymie Labour’s chances, we will see the BBC emasculated so that Murdoch et al get an even freer run. I honestly do believe that it is becoming increasingly impossible for a government that is not acceptable to big business to get elected in the UK. I really wanted Dan Jarvis to stand for the Labour leadership but fully understand why he doesn’t want to – anyone who is a threat to the financial interests of the wealthy will be abused and denigrated in the Mail, Sun, Telegraph, Express day in day out for the next 5 years.

    When they start attacking the BBC (already underway) I bet we see changes slid in that weaken the broadcast regulations so that a Fox News type operation is allowed.

    It is a depressing situation but unfortunately any “progressive” government we elect in the future is going to have to lean very heavily towards the centre and can ditch any ideas of taxing non-coms, bankers bonuses, tax evaders etc. The hedge fund managers will want their pay back now. Whether we like it or not a Blairite-type alternative is going to be about as good as gets in terms of a serious opponent to the Tories.

  • Julian Tisi 12th May '15 - 9:55am

    Well said Jenny.

    I actually disagree with David Steel on almost all of his points.
    1) This plays into the myth that a coalition with Labour so nearly happened, if not for us going to the Tories first. Rubbish. Labour were never serious. The rule of thumb put forward by Nick beautifully blunted the one question Lib Dems were only ever asked – who will you back in the event of a hung parliament? This was previously the only thing any journo ever cared about the Lib Dems and left all policies of ours ignored.
    2) It was right to go into government quickly. The markets needed it, but most of all Britain having never had a coalition in our lifetimes needed a result. We had to show that coalition could work
    3) The negotiating team got a good deal, given our parliamentary clout. The problem was we got no credit for it!
    4) Well yes, clearly tuition fees. Agree.
    5) The problem with the AV referendum was never its timing it was its execution. The campaign was very very poor and should have been more inclusive. Labour didn;t help of course, but the message was awful and confused. It was never simply explained what the problem with FPTP was and how AV would improve things. Awful campaign with a capital A
    6) It was right to challenge Farage. Nick was good on the first debate but poor on the second – I think he was poorly advised. Also as others have mentioned, the “Party of IN” was a poor slogan which appeared to suggest we stood for the status quo.

    Overall a poor article by an ex-leader.

  • John Barrett 12th May '15 - 10:08am

    David Steel has hit the nail on the head, with one exception, that this was the most professional campaign of recent years.

    The lack of criticism of Nick he mentioned was partly as a result of him being surrounded by his ‘mates’ at all levels, from the negotiating team, to his Ministers, donors and more. FEw, if any, were prepared to tell him what he did not want to hear and Paddy acted much the same way during the campaign. If not, why did Nick feel that the right man to make Chief Secretary of the Treasury was his good friend – a former party press officer in Scotland, who went on to become the European Movement Press officer, then the Cairngorms National Park press officer and was then elected as an MP. Presumably for the same reason David Cameron felt able to make his best friend in Parliament the Chancellor. When the top two people at the Treasury are appointed because they are best pals of the party leaders, we have a problem. The fragile improvement in the economy is as much to do with other factors as their influence.

    People might hope history will be kind to Clegg and no doubt people will come to their own conclusions based on the cold hard facts under his leadership……such as.

    Our vote went down from 6.8million in 2010 to 2.4 million in 2015
    The number of MPs reduced from 57 to 8, with over 300 lost deposits.
    Last year the number of MEPs reduced from 11 to 1
    At the Scottish elections in 2011 the MSPs reduced from 17 to 5 (wipeout saved by the list system)
    Membership dropped from over 64,000 to0 44,000 (thankfully many are now returning)
    Councillor numbers have reduced from around 4,200 to approximately 2,000 (difficult to get exact figures)
    Activist numbers…who knows? I estimate that this had dropped by half, in line with the number of councillors.

    Hopefully – the only way is up. ( and that is not a suggestion for a new campaign song)

  • Jonathan Pile 12th May '15 - 10:41am

    @ Jenny Barnes
    “I read somewhere else how pleased Hague was when Clegg agreed to AV referendum: ” I think I have destroyed the LDs”.
    And so it has proved.”
    I completely agree. This was the biggest mistake from Clegg, – the only way the party might have escaped the consequences of a toxic link-up with the Tories was for 2015 to have been fought under AV or a PR system. When the referendum was lost – ( in hindsight) we should have walked and left the Coalition in 2011.

  • Neil Sandison 12th May '15 - 10:47am

    Clegg was not alone .Danny Alexander allowed the bedroom tax and Pickles back door re introduction of the poll tax for low income households in local government. Orange book Liberal Democrats had the wool pulled over their eyes so many times by the Tories it became embarrassing to watch.
    Never again should we allow good liberal ideas on social justice to be subverted by tory spin and misrepresentation.

  • Helen Tedcastle 12th May '15 - 11:23am

    John Barrett’s post makes sobering reading. Lucky that Lib Dems are like locusts and will come back from this.

    Clegg seems to me to be a decent man who was utterly beguiled by the Tories. I always thought Vince’s ‘business-like’ approach to the Tories was always the best way to handle them.

    Our key messaging in the campaign was unclear it seemed to me: Vote for us because we are middle of the road and not the other guys.

    An FDP-style message only goes one way.

    A very hard lesson has been learned. back to our radical roots now I hope … oh and a listening leadership.

  • Neil Sansdison – ” Pickles back door re introduction of the poll tax for low income households” I don’t quite get this. Can you explain a bit more?

  • John Barratt – One point we disagree on. The 2015 campaign *was* the most professional campaign we have ever had. Professional, hugely costly and rubbish. 🙁
    At a fringe meeting at conference in Liverpool I had the pleasure of telling Ryan Coetzee that he was extremely dangerous. I underestimated him. He was even more dangerous than that.

  • @Jonathan Pile
    Yes, absolutely, but Liberal leaders in the past have ended up being heavily criticised for making too much fuss about PR. The Tories spin it as petulant tantrums because the little party cannot get it’s own way.

    I know people are upset about other things, and they are mostly valid objections in my opinion, but as far as I can see, a Coalition with either larger party meant shrink back to 8% (happened, always was our core vote in my lifetime), or get the system changed before then next GE.

    Never trust a Tory.

  • @Jenny Barnes

    I would have thought so too, except the Liberal Democrats are not actually entirely destroyed. People are joining the Liberal Democrats. I don’t think it is clear where this leaves the party in the long run. As for electoral reform, that battle is not dead, UKIP are asking for it, the people have not given up all hope of it. If people in here don’t want it, that is their opinion, fine, but from all over this country I can see people still saying they want it, still looking for a chance to make it happen and maybe there are a load of people who can see why it is needed now, when they could not before Thursday happened.

  • Everyone is concentrating on the Party of In part Steel’s Criticism. but points 1 and 2 are clearly questioning Nick Clegg’s approach to the coalition in the first place, My main problem with Party of In debates was that he was entering a fixed fight. The press was never going to say Clegg trounces Farrage even if had, coz they’re mostly right-wing. To me Clegg just failed to understand the nature of the Lib Dem vote then failed to understand that coalitions are anomalies rather than something that can be worked towards underFPTP. The wider mistake of the Party was turning on Lord Oakeshott when he tried to do something about the rot that had set in at the last realistic point when something could be done.

  • James Sandbach 12th May '15 - 3:14pm

    It could have all worked out differently if Nick had listened to former leaders and others, sometimes disparingly dismissed as ‘Grandees’, who’ve had dealings with other Parties over the last few decades and are still around – 2010 was not a ‘zero based’ start of talking and working with other Parties to promote a Liberal agenda whilst trying to keep our Party and policies distinctive and in-tact; the 1974 overtures by Heath to join the Govt and the Lib role in the 74 hung Parliament, the 78 Lib-Lab pact, the Lib-SDP alliance, subsequent merger and rows with the Owenites etc, the balance of power debates in the 80s (with Owen doing us no favours when he signalled willingness to work with Thatcher), the overtures from John Major when he took the whip away from his Eurosceptics, the Blair-Ashdown talks/JCC and Cook-Maclennan Agreement, the Wallace-Dewar Scottish Exec Coalition, Kennedy working with anti-war labourites and progressives, the Brown overtures to Ming Campbell etc. Also the experience of veteran Council leaders in running joint administrations, Tony Greaves et all on co-operative community politics. Many experienced people who’ve had to practically work through these relationships and situations, the opportunities and risks they have presented and learnt from etc…but Nick seemed to completely sideline them and ignore all advice. The Rose Garden joined at the hip press conference in 2010 set the wrong tone and message from day 1 of the last Govt making subsequent attempts at LD differentiation that much harder. Hubris or ‘only I know best’ syndrome is a common failure amongst leaders, and sadly Nick fell into this trap, picked and relied an inner circle of advisers who would adore rather than challenge him.

  • All this analysis is pointless, you ran as a left of centre party, then entered government with the Conservatives. A party left of centre voters hate. You then spent the next 5 years telling your left of centre voters they were wrong, and that we would see the light and vote for you.

    Well we didn’t see the light and non of us voted for you. Want us back, change your polcies. Don’t want us back, go on about presentation.

  • AC Trussell 12th May '15 - 5:25pm

    1 Labour was booted out for ruining the economy. How on earth could the lib/dems prop them up?

    2 I thought it was an emergency? Needed young blood- couldn’t hang about waiting for the old codgers to discuss for a few weeks!
    3 )I agree with Julian Tisi;” The negotiating team got a good deal, given our parliamentary clout. The problem was we got no credit for it!”

    4) Student fees- say no more! Well I will; without this one problem all the others would not have added up to the disaster we have endured.
    As practically all the media is bias toward the Tories or Labour they were never going to “let it lie”. It was the perfect storm to defeat the interloper with. It was repeated at every opportunity. Used at every explanation of Lib/Dem’s future actions. At every promise. In every joke. In every insult. To every student. In every possible way imaginable- incessantly, for nearly five years. The public were slowly being “conditioned” as “Pavlov’s dog” was to the bell and food : Lib/Dems = tripled student fees!!!. Eventually they all stopped listening to any thing we said.
    They have said it so much that even the Lib/Dems feel it, and think it was such a terrible thing!!
    Coalition= whatever we dropped would have been used. That was a “feel sorry for the students” one.
    It was wrong but it wasn’t THAT BAD!!
    Labour did the same – twice!- before the internet, but as they had some of the media it was allowed to pass.

    No media outlet said: it’s only like a tax. If you end up with a average payed job; you will only pay £1 per day. Not bad for a university education. ( or something similar).

    We need to find a way of communicating our side of the story. ( perhaps Murdock will see the light. :-))

    5 Again I agree with Julian; And of course the Nasty party’s propaganda was classically insidious. They know how scare the public.
    6 Farage was allowed to say a lot of waffle.

    Nick Clegg is one of the best. He would have made a great Prime minister; he still could be.

  • AC Trussell 12th May '15 - 5:35pm

    It is impossible for any other party to get into government- Lib/Dems only got a little toe in and they have been destroyed by the system.
    Ironic- the Lib/Dems wanted PR. If PR had been in I -don’t think-the SNP would have risen- to squeeze out the Lib/Dems.
    UKIP will find this out.
    People will have to take to the streets before things change!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill le Breton makes a devastating observation, “… the patronage at the disposal of the DPM was just too powerful. That must never be allowed to happen again.

    His inability or unwillingness to listen and his poor choice of advisors make Clegg the Ethelred the Unready of our times. It didn’t work out too well that time either.

    The best and most able leaders have something about them and the way they work that makes them effective. An ability to discern which advice is good and which bad is part of it but only part. It’s not a quality that you can capture and bottle but rather a happy combination of elements that combine together to create a certain magic and it’s not always what you might expect. One of the most effective leaders I ever met was a shy, cerebral type who thought a lot and delegated a lot; another was a mandarin to his fingertips, yet another a warm and generous people-person.

    The point is you can’t always work out in advance who will be an effective leader. What you can do is observe is how good they are at delivering – which for a politician means winning elections.

    Clegg fails that test. He started in the contest for leadership as the run-away favourite but then only managed to squeak it by the narrowest of margins. In the 2010 GE he lost both votes and seats although not in huge numbers. Of the Euros the less said the better and for anyone still in doubt last week was the final demonstration.

    So, when I consider who to vote for as the next leader I shall be looking for someone who is good at winning.

  • My guess is that most people reading David Steel’s article will be aware of the result in their own area, maybe some will know of the resuts of our defeated MPs and will of course know that we are down to just 8 MPs.

    But how many are aware just how badly we did in hundreds of other seats?

    David Steel’s six points about the Clegg Disaster have to be seen in the context of —
    Hundreds of fourth places and far too many fifth and sixth places–
    It was humiliating for our candidates.
    I believe the number lost deposits is in the region of 355.

    In some seats where we were only a handful of votes behind in second place in 2010 we came fourth — eg Sheffield Central where LDV’s Joe Otten went from 168 votes behind Labour to less than 1,000 votes above fifth place.
    In Hampstead and Kilburn we dropped down to just 5% of the vote in a seat that we almost won last time.

    The scale of the disaster fully justifies David Steel’s comment that we have been set back decades because Clegg steered us to disaster.

    We have to move on and rebuild. To rebuild effectively we have to recognise the scale of the humiliation and learn the lessons. From some of the comments in this thread and some of the other recent articles in LDV it is not clear that everybody has really taken the scale of the defeats on board.

    We were in second place in only fifty something seats. Those simple bar charts calling for tactical voting will be used against us in almost 600 seats next time.

    That is why we need to be disciplined and concentrate on community based campaigning — we have no choice really because if we were fifth or sixth this time it will take a heck of a lot to convince the voters in the next general elecition.

  • David Allen 12th May '15 - 7:40pm

    David Steel makes some particularly perceptive comments about Clegg’s abnormal negotiating stance prior to coalition, in which Clegg dreamed up a new “principle” all of his own which told him that he must talk primarily to the Tories. As Steel says, Clegg could easily have gained much more leverage with the Tories had he first opened talks with Labour – even if he did not really expect those talks to succeed.

    Instead, Clegg rushed to make a bad deal, complete with a series of in-built booby traps, which he spent the next five years falling into. And he didn’t dare consult his elders and betters, of whom Steel would seem to be only one.

  • @JohnTilley 12th May ’15 – 6:56pm
    “eg Sheffield Central where LDV’s Joe Otten went from 168 votes behind Labour to less than 1,000 votes above fifth place.”

    Sheffield Central is the sort of result you don’t see much made of around here – on a site where so many articles are so keen to rewrite history. All those soft Tories who deserted the party for the Conservatives. Well, the Lib Dems lost 31.2%. The beneficiaries were Labour (+13.7%), Greens (+12.1%) , UKIP (+5.9%) and the Conservatives (+1.0%).

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 13th May '15 - 12:11am

    David Steel ‘s criticisms strike me as all entirely fair, though expressed gently, and the stand-out comments from John Tilley, John Barrett, Paul Pettinger, Bill le Breton resonate most.
    But David Steel’s reasoning has usually appealed to me as well considered. Such reasoning hasn’t been Nick Clegg’s style- his hallmark has emphasised on taking ‘bold leaps’ (apparently into an abyss).
    Many within the party craved for the party to ‘come of age’ and get stuck into grubby responsibilities rather than cling to ideals- perhaps manifested with the Orange Book. And yes! It’s lost its innocence but got completely….

    The over-hasty negotiations are symptomic of Nick Clegg’s preference for dynamic ‘bold leaps’ over resonating consideration (I know the Financial markets needed reassurance of not a govt in limbo, but this needn’t have called for abandoning thorough negotiation)
    But these traits got the party into trouble even before the leadership missed some basic negotiating ploys to fix better terms with the Conservatives (who to their credit were the only party who seemed prepared for negotiations):
    – Why else was Labour’s NUS so successful to sign up LibDem MPs to pledge to vote against tuition fees, if there came to be a more “realistic and, better” policy for helping poorer sections of society get access to Further Education?
    – And the closing fight of the 2010 campaign that a “Hung Parliament” would spell catastrophe the Britain- especially in the global economic conditions, which had evaporated the Cleggmania effect by 2010 Election Day- seemed to become the party leadership’s single, most important goal to prove those critics wrong.
    – For a party who advocates plurality in politics, why were there not better preparations for negotiations in 2010?
    Paddy Ashdown is wrong to blame the polls for driving people away from voting for us in 2014 and 2015- it was our leadership’s poor reaction to it.
    The ‘In’ campaign last year set the dye in the way the electorate saw us- the crass “IN” campaign on the Farage Debate (“I’m the party of IN; Farage is the party of POOT-IN”Clunk.) or this general election’s dead-end sneer on the electorate (some of you like a brainless party, others like a heartless party. Vote for us to be the referee instead of you needing to call them to book!)

  • AC Trussell – Do give over this perpetual re-writing of history. Nick has been the worst and most unsuccessful leader of any party probably since the War. A six point rewrite may make him look good to you, but it will never repair the damage to our party. Indeed the more people who fall for it, the longer recovery will take.

  • Tomas Howard-Jones 13th May '15 - 12:20am

    I hope that Lord Oakshott might number as one of the returning members over the coming weeks.

  • I like Clegg, and think he is a good man, a solid local MP and a great technocrat, but as the review here shows, he was a poor party leader.

    The sign of a good leader is to bring people together: Nick’s time in charge was all-too-often defined by division, not unity.

  • Going back to John Tilley’s post discussing how badly the LibDems had done in many low profile seats. In my constituency in 2010 the LibDems were a healthy third with 14.6% of the vote, in 2015 they were fifth with 1.8% of the vote. After many GE’s of being around the 15% mark the LibDems have all but disappeared in my area, the third party is now UKIP who managed 15.5% of the vote.

  • I have to say that whilst Clegg should accept responsibility as the former leader, there was also a team within the Lib Dems who seemed to create the framework upon which Clegg lead the campaign.

    I watched a video the other day on youtube from a 2012 Lib Dem conference, where Stephen Tall explicitly spelled out how the Lib Dems should run their campaign as being able to moderate both the Tories and Labour. I quote from the video “more caring than the Tories and more responsible than Labour” – that’s exactly the message Clegg trotted out. So I think there needs to be a wider debate on how strategy is approved.

    Clearly the buck stops with Clegg but there should have been much more stringent objectivity and scrutiny of the campaign messaging before it went live. I have no doubt that there were a large number of people who were happy to just run with an idea they thought would work, sounded plausible in their own Lib Dem bubble and that it went unchallenged.

    Whatever happens in the future, there needs to be proper testing on messaging strategy.

  • Paul In Wokingham 13th May '15 - 1:56pm

    Vince Cable has sent a very insightful email to everyone in Twickenham in which he gives a detailed analysis of what went wrong there. He reaches the same conclusion as that which has now been extensively discussed on LDV, concluding that “fear of the SNP was a major issue in Twickenham”.

    I don’t propose to copy all of Vince’s email but this gives a good taste: The central issue posed by the Tory campaign was: ‘if you vote for Cable (Davey, Baker, Webb, Laws etc) you get Milliband and the SNP’. On doorstep after doorstep we got “we like your work locally and in government BUT we are afraid……” We had no effective counter-narrative around what a Tory government would be like. Our very positive contribution to the government of the country counted for little against the politics of fear.

    The success of Nicola Sturgeon in the first debate propelled the SNP to national attention and created an environment in which the Tories could play up the idea of puppet Miliband dancing to the tune of Sturgeon and Salmond. I do not doubt that this confluence of circumstance was pure luck for the Tories, but a perfect storm for Labour and Lib Dems.

    None of that in any way takes away from the analysis that Clegg was the author of much of the misfortune that has befallen this party: he was dealt a bad hand in 2010 and played it disastrously.

  • Malc
    Until we learn why the LDs have been replaced by UKIP and not Labour or The Greens ,I am not sure how we develop the correct strategy and tactics. People are saying Nick Clegg was to blame. We support PR which produces coalitions where the largest party tries to form a majority in order to govern . In 2010, If Labour had been the largest party then the tradition and what most people would have expected , is to have formed a coalition with them in order to create a stable government. Liberals formed a pact with Labour in the 1970s under Steel.

    In 2010 we negotiated a deal with the Conservatives who were far more willing to put proposals in writing. Labour were not prepared to enter into a written agreement. We asked for a referendum on PR and we lost and in a pique we objected to boundary reform. We are beginning to return rotten boroughs in the UK due to postal vote fraud , religious influence and unequal sized constituencies.

    The LlDs voted in support of the coalition. We have cabinet collective responsibility yet Cable frequently briefed against Clegg. If we had been in a coalition with Labour and we had behaved in the way we had done with the Tories, we would have been treated far worse: Prescott and Mclusky would have been furious and wanted to punish us. We had about 20% of the Tories MPs and therefore could only be expected to be minor partners: if we had just a few percent less MPs then we would have had far more power.

    If we have a coalition with Labour in the future because they are the largest party ; after how we behaved with the Tories , how will they behave towards us? After Steel’s indifference to the activities of Smith, the Police re-opening enquiries into Thorpe , Kennedy’s problems and Huhne’s criminal actions , we LDs need to be careful about criticising Clegg. The LDs are often criticised for being two faced: lets not give support to that view.

    There is a saying ” Speak now or forever hold one’s peace “. Many Labour and LDs are now criticising Clegg and Milliband but did not do so earlier.. Many LD, Green and Labour supporters are beginning to resemble Violette Elizabeth Botte who used to scream when she did not obtain what we wanted saying ” I am going to scream and scream until I am sick “. Most people have vague impressions in politics , they are not interested in detail and do not respect those who lose with ill grace.

    The LD may not have many MPs but we can still develop a strategy for Britain and the tactics to achieve it.

  • @Charlie agree

  • @Paul In Wokingham
    In hindsight, this was an issue made possible by Clegg and co saying that they went into government to save the economy. By going along with this false narrative, the public would have seen Conservatives and Lib Dems both saying Labour broke the economy, making it hard for Miliband to make his case that the economy was safe with him

  • Charlie,
    The Lib Dems lost most of its votes to Labour and the Greens. Look the stats up and you will see this quite clearly. In the North UKIP clearly replaced the Conservatives knocking them down to a poor third place in a lot of seats. Whilst both the Greens and Labour were up by about the same number as the Lib Dems were down. Even in Tory facing seats the switch from LD to left leaning parties was marked and UKIP were in third or fourth place in some of these seats. We lost a few voters to UKIP but on the whole they picked up a completely different set of voters. UKIP for instance have wiped out the BNP. Without the Lib Dem collapse and without losing Scotland Labours vote would have been 274 or so seats and the Conservatives around 308 or so. And actually most of the people on here currently criticising Nick Clegg, me definitely, John Tilley, Matthew Huntbach et all certainly criticised Nick Clegg and the campaign from the off. We didn’t lose the vote on PR. There was no vote on PR. it was on AV. Actually. I accept the election result and I’m not the one arguing that what plainly happened is not what happened. In truth I think we lost this election in 2010 and said so at the time, which is why I was against forming the coalition and spend a lot of my time fighting the urge to say I TOLD YOU SO, mainly because I hoped I was wrong and that the polls were accurate,

  • Martin Lowe 13th May '15 - 9:03pm

    I think we are all clever with hindsight.

    I thought the policy of opposing UKIP during the EU elections was the right course (and even argued for it at a Regional Conference). However, I underestimated how much the SPADS would cock it up and make it too complex for use to garner support (as Reagan said, if you’re explaining, you’re losing).

    I also thought that we could enter into Coalition in 2010 with a fighting chance of peeling away any remaining One Nation Conservative voters who still hadn’t realised they weren’t wanted by their Party – but didn’t count on the elevation of the SNP as a national bogeyman (or woman).

    So what do I know? The only thing I know is that I don’t know everything. And that it’s easy to be a wise man after the event.

  • Glenn
    In most of the West Country and along to Eastbourne, the LD vote has gone down 15-25% percent, UKIP up about 7-10%, The Tory vote has gone down in some contituencies: where it has gone up, it is by 2-3 % and Labour and Green up by 0.5-2%. So far no-one has asked the actual voters why this has happened . Are protest votes which used to go to the LDs now going to UKIP? If one is someone who has worked since they left school, Clegg, Milliband , Cameron and most MPs look and sound the same. Hardly any MP looks as if they could run a factory, farm, factory or skipper a trawler.

    Are you saying you are against coalition governments or only with the Tories? If we have PR we are likely to have far more coalition governments ?

  • ” ….Hardly any MP looks as if they could run a factory, farm, factory or skipper a trawler.”

    Looking at some of the people who have run factories, farms etc. and then gone on to be MPs you might like to reconsider if it is the best of criteria.

    Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan ran his own dairy farm in Sussex whilst he was an MP. Did it make him a betterthanaverge MP?
    Cyril Smith ran a spring factory, he is not now universally applauded.
    John Prescott worked at sea (not a trawler perhaps?) but many wouldn’t regard him as the greatest DPM in history.

    Having said that, Geraint Howells (who I think I am right in saying had more sheep on his farm than anyone else in Wales) was one of the nicest and most effective MPs I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

    There have been and still are dozens of Conservatives who have inherited and run farms and factories and then become MPs. Too many to list. Many of them ran their farms and factories into the ground because they were incompetents straight out of Eton and were happy to escape inevitable bankruptcy by getting elected to Parliament where they found the bars and river view far more to their liking.

    A rational person might consider that running a trade union with a large membership was more demanding than keeping a few pigs on the estate inherited from Daddy. Would you approve of senior trade unionists becoming MPs?

  • Douglas Downie 14th May '15 - 12:06pm

    I guess I am writing this for my own benefit – for who will look at comments on a three day old article? But putting thoughts into actual words is a way of clarifying.

    Now having read David Steel’s article, most of it looked like common sense. There is more than an overtone that he thinks that he has been overlooked. But given that Mr Clegg appears to have worked closely with Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable it was not the case that he was ignoring the older statesmen.

    I really do hope that we carry out an in depth survey of voters who switched away from us.

    I suspect they will tell us some uncomfortable truths, especially around Nick Clegg. I suspect that, whatever his strengths were, at the ballot box he was sheer electoral poison. We simply cannot keep on ignoring voter ratings. Both Nick Clegg’s and Milliband’s ratings were catastrophically bad and had been catastrophically bad for years. So why should it come as a surprise when we and Labour get hammered at the polls?

    This isn’t to pick on Nick Clegg. I suspect (but to be confirmed by asking the voters who switched) that this goes back to the tuition fees debacle. I suspect it was a collective suicide pill.

    It would be much, much better if the voters were asked and their opinions analysed before we had to chose a new leader.

  • Douglas, Taking on your point about a “collective suicide pill”, what dismayed me was the vast number of good Lib Dems who simply refused to look for an antidote. Even more were those Senior Lib Dems, like Julian sadly, who persuaded people that it would cost them their seat if they did.

  • John Tilley
    Depends upon union leaders. E Bevin was one of the best Foreign Sec’s Britain has had. Chapple and Hammond of EETPU, Laird and Jordon of AEU and Lyons of Power Workers were excellent . Scargill helped to destroy the deep mine industry. Prescott was a ship’s steward and fomented the seaman’s strike in 1966 just as Japan had created a modern ship building industry which could build 500,000T ships which occurred because of closure of Suez Canal for 8 years due to 6 the Day War. When it comes to union leadership do they understand developments in technology and trade : if they do not , then they cannot make the correct decisions. The EETPU understood the impact of computers on printing newspapers , the print unions did not.

    Callaghan earned respect from across the political spectrum. On QT , when Cyril Smith talked about small businesses , he earned respect across the political spectrum. The criticism of vast numbers of the British electorate of politicians is that they have never had a proper job which entails any risk to them.

    One aspect of being a MP is public service. Having had responsibility for successfully running an organisation where one can be killed or go bust , means someone has had to take responsibility for failure. S Smiles , the great Liberal Thinker has stated that many great people only achieve success after many failures and the ability to overcome the challenge of failures is the making of them.

    If someone inherits a farm or company and it goes bust : it depends on whether they learn anything useful from the event. Someone who can stand up and say do not make the mistakes I have made, demonstrates a humility and wisdom which would earn the respect of many. Many people respect those who try and fail rather than those who never try in the first place.

    John Tilley you seem to have a dislike of Etonians : does that include Maynard Keynes? This belief that anyone who inherits an estate or company and has gone to public school is an idiot just promotes class envy. In the 1960s , Anderson of Eton predicted that 60% of public schools would go bust. In the 1960s many grammar schools provided better education than many public schools. Many people sent their children to public schools because they worked overseas , which dramatically decline in the mid 1980s. From the mid 1970s many of the astute public schools realised they had to deliver a good academic education for all pupils , not just the scholars. Consequently, schools such Eton and Tonbridge raised the entry pass rate at Common Entrance to 65%. As C Moore has stated , Eton had many stupid sons of the landed classes in the late 1960s but this has changed by the early 1980s. Brighton College has existed for about 150 years but in the last 20 years has dramatically improved because they understand what a pupils needs to learn in order to achieve success in a highly competitive World ,as do the parents who have been successful.

    To under estimate peoples capabilities, which if you any sort of competition with them , gives them an advantage . If one looks at many landed families they learnt in the 1930s, that an idiot can ruin an estate which has taken hundreds of years to create, in a few years: this is why they pay for good advice from the chartered surveyors who employ land management experts.

    While some members of the LDs and Labour Party believe they are morally and intellectually superior to the Tories they will not learn lessons. The LDs and Labour will put themselves at a disadvantage by being patronising , condescending and conceited which will alienate a vast percentage of the British electorate: which is what the Tories did from the mid 1990s.

  • Charlie

    You mention Samuel Smiles as a great Liberal. He was in fact a Chartist and far to the left of many Victorian Liberals.
    He was neither farmer nor factory owner but a journalist and writer whose widowed mother provided the cash for the early part of his adult life.
    From wiki
    “…His father died in the cholera epidemic of 1832, but Smiles was enabled to continue with his studies because he was supported by his mother. She ran the small family general store firm in the belief that the “Lord will provide.” Her example of working ceaselessly to support herself and his nine younger siblings strongly influenced Smiles’s future life; although, he developed a more benign and tolerant outlook, which sometimes was at odds with his Cameronian forebearers.
    In 1837, he wrote articles for the Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle and the Leeds Times, campaigning for parliamentary reform.
    In November 1838, Smiles was invited to become the editor of the Leeds Times, a position he accepted and filled until 1842.
    In May 1840, Smiles became secretary to the Leeds Parliamentary Reform Association, an organisation that held to the six objectives of Chartism: universal suffrage for all men over the age of 21; equal-sized electoral districts; voting by secret ballot; an end to the need of MPs to qualify for Parliament, other than by winning an election; pay for MPs; and annual Parliaments.

    As editor of the Leeds Times, he advocated radical causes ranging from women’s suffrage to free trade and parliamentary reform. … .. .

    In the 1850s, Smiles abandoned his interest in parliament and decided that self-help was the most important place of reform. In 1859, he published his book Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct.”

    Eton
    Conrad Russell went to Eton but he was one of the few intelligent enough to very me such a poor start in life. I liked him a lot.
    I do not dislike all Etonians, I dislike the fact that they dominated the last government, many previous governments and have a disproportionate influence on public life because their parents bought them privilege and opportunity.
    Some very, very stupid selfish people have emerged from Eton. I notice that the Royal Famiy have started sending their boys there.

  • nvelope2003 16th May '15 - 1:13pm

    Glenn: The only survey I have seen appears to show that about 1/3 rd of 2010 Liberal Democrat voters stayed loyal, about 20% voted Conservative , 10% UKIP, about 20% Labour, 6% Green and 3.6 % for Scots or Welsh Nationalists. There were variations in different parts of the country but this was the average for the UK. The Greens and UKIP seemed to do well in the West Country but this has been the pattern whenever West Country Liberals fall out with their normal party as in the 1989 and 2014 European elections but in 1992 they returned to the fold. Not this time though. Maybe it will be different in 2020 but I am not sure what policies can be produced which will encourage people to support the party as, apart from a core Liberal vote, supporters seem to be equally split between Right and Left so it will be hard to appeal to both .

    Maybe we should drop the equidistant strategy and pitch the party to the left in the hope of attracting supporters of the Greens and those in the Labour Party who think like them. Perhaps it is time for an electoral pact, although obviously not with the Conservatives. This certainly produced a big upsurge of support in the 1980s and without Mrs Thatcher and hopefully no Falklands war or its equivalent might even produce many more seats.

    A completely fresh offer is needed if the party is not to disappear.The increase in membership shows there is still a demand for liberalism but there need to be policies which appeal to many people not just those that appeal to a minority or involve high taxation and borrowing. Gladstone believed that money should be left in the pockets of the people to fructify.

  • Stephen Challens 18th May '15 - 3:49pm

    It is for us to push for the constitutional convention. Whilst Labour kicks it into the log grass, Liberal Democrats should push to the front and draw in as much support from any place we can.

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