LibLink: Ryan Coetzee: The Liberal Democrats must reunite, rebuild or remain in opposition

Ryan Coetzee has written a long article for the Guardian in which he analyses our election defeat and looks to the future.

He looked at the three fronts of the electoral battlefield, Scotland, Labour-facing and Tory facing seats. He looked at the Tories’ fear tactics throughout the campaign:

About four weeks from election day it became clear that The Fear was hurting us. We tried everything we could to counter it: fear of a Tory minority government in hock to its own right wing, Ukip and the DUP; fear of Tory cuts to welfare, schools and other unprotected departments; ruling out participation in any government that relied on SNP support; offering ourselves as the only guarantors of a stable coalition. All of it was trumped by The Fear, and on a scale we didn’t see coming.

I cannot help wonder what would have happened if Miliband and Clegg had turned round to David Cameron and told him that he was talking nonsense. By ruling out coalition with the SNP, we legitimised his depiction of them as the ultimate bogey party. They were never going to anything other than a pain in the backside. They aren’t monsters. The worst they would be able to do would be to propose amendments on the likes of Trident which would be voted down by virtually everyone else bar a few of us and a few Labour lefties. I understand, I think, why we didn’t do that – it hadn’t gone so well when Clegg faced down Farage, however much we might admire his courage in doing so. I suspect, though that a joint initiative to combat the Tory fear might have helped Clegg and Miliband see they could work tougher and  combat the ridiculous Tory scaremongering. Mind you, Labour’s policy platform was so weak, it might all have been in vain anyway.

He tries to get the Lib Dem leader on side by invoking Lembit…

We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters, offering both a strong economy and a fair society. There are of course improvements that could have been made to the design and execution of the campaign, as there always are, but in retrospect it is difficult to imagine a different campaign producing a significantly better result. Doubtless some will disagree, but consider this: our excellent candidate in Montgomeryshire, Jane Dodds, ran a Roll Royce campaign. Lembit Opik, the man who lost us the seat in 2010, was by all accounts the opposite of an excellent candidate and put in very little effort. He polled 9% more than her.

What does he reckon this means for the future?

My tentative conclusion is that it is probably not possible to succeed electorally in coalition government under first-past-the-post while remaining equidistant from the two big parties. If we can’t win the fight for proportional representation, it may be that we have either to stay in opposition or pick a side. There can be little doubt we would have fared better in this year’s election had we stayed in opposition or, conversely, gone into government and then ruled out any future coalition with Labour – guaranteeing victory in our Conservative-facing seats while sacrificing the rest. But had we stayed in opposition we would have failed the country, and had we abandoned equidistance we would have split the party and compromised its liberal purpose.

Do you agree with that analysis? Didn’t our positioning all but rule out coalition with Labour as well as the SNP? It’s hard to see how doing so would have helped.

There are three options for the party now: remain in opposition unless we can change the electoral system, even if a coalition opportunity presents itself again, allowing us to be whichever version of our liberal selves we like; seek once more to reunite the left by merging or aligning with Labour, thereby creating a path to power for liberal ideas; or rebuild, take the next chance to be in government, and do it differently in the hope of a different outcome.

We can certainly rule out merging with Labour, I think, but I can’t see us willingly entering coalition with the Conservatives again. Perhaps the best option is to be comfortable in our own skin as Liberal Democrats and articulate a radical, establishment-busting, responsible, planet-saving, freedom-respecting optimistic message. Let’s make the next five years about heartfelt liberalism and not process.

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

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This entry was posted in LibLink and Op-eds.


  • Bill le Breton 23rd May '15 - 12:10pm

    Do I bother to dignify the thoughts of this superb campaigner and brilliant strategist or watch McCullum batting at Lord’s? Tough.

  • Ryan Coetze certainly puts his finger an some critical problems.

    Bill le Breton: a response is certainly deserved.

    The big question is that of coalition. The campaign definitely did imply coalition: restraining Tory cuts and Labour profligacy and there were/are a significant number in the electorate who claim to like coalition governments and might even have voted for one if they could have done so – but they could not.

    The coalition experiment has opened a question whether we would ever try it again under the present system. Could we go into the next election stating that we would not go into a coalition? With only 8 MPs, perhaps we can easily brush any such questions aside as unrealistic. Perhaps we could say that we will not refuse an invitation to talks but we are not seeking a formal coalition. Alternatively we could state that the Party was too stretched in coalition with only 56 MPs and that we would need significantly more for a future coalition arrangement.

    The insistence of media commentators to press our representatives on the politics of forming a coalition rather than to discuss policies has been harmful. Could we get away with a dusty response that coalition is not on the cards and not up for discussion?

  • The Guardian has a long history of giving acres of column space to people who can ‘talk the talk’ but who failed massively when being paid massively to ‘walk the walk’.

    He talks of ‘battlefields’. There were no battlefields largely because of the influence over five solid years of people like Ryan Coetze. In battlefields you have ordered troops under strategic direction with clear aims and purpose. Rather than battlefields we had pockets of guerrilla resistance, in a handful of which, thankfully, we were successful.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd May '15 - 12:41pm

    Caron – you and others have written about what an awful Party the SNP are.As you put it :”they have a strong authoritarian, illiberal streak which goes against all my instincts”

    Not to mention their desire to extract even more money from the English taxpayer.

    If Labour had a strong leader like Brown or Blair it might have been different but Miliband was weak leader who was ( correctly ) perceived would be told what to do by the SNP.
    The reason why ‘the fear’ was so dangerous to us was precisely because it was reasonable.

    I have no idea what we should have done – or do on this in the future but saying the SNP are not too bad certainly is not the answer. .

  • On Coalition, we should rule out ever entering another unless we are the dominant grouping.
    On Labour, any re-alignement depends on The Labour Coalition breaking up. We should rule out any formal mergers ever again, Electoral arrangements, as with The Alliance are a different matter.
    For our strategy, Caron said it better than I can.

  • Stephen Howse 23rd May '15 - 1:05pm

    “We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters” – no we did not. We offered bland, insipid, difference splitting equidistance. Offering to dilute the policy platforms of other parties is not in itself a coherent ideology or programme for government, and nor is a meaningless four word slogan (top tip: if nobody could ever possibly disagree with a political statement, it’s probably not worth making. See also: pronouncements on “fairness”.). We did not articulate what a Liberal Britain would look like and why it was better than the alternative. The campaign, frankly, was boring. If it bored me then I wonder what effect it had on those casually observing it from the outside?

  • As I have often mentioned I am confused about the SNP and particularly about Lib Dem attitudes towards the SNP. Is Caron changing her position? Her reflections are interesting and seems to be a mollification of tone regarding SNP issues. When SNP and Plaid were small parties, the character of the parties was not an issue when a ‘rainbow’ coalition was discussed. The representation of SNP that our leadership put forward, was a party that would act against UK interests, but in the wake of a referendum and with no prospect of an EU referendum, there is no reason why SNP could not have signed up to a coalition agreement, outlining plans over 5 years for the UK.

    In reality any realistic threat to UK unity emerges from a Tory government’s EU referendum and plans for English votes for English laws.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd May '15 - 1:06pm

    McCullum is out.

    Try this analysis from Julian Astle in the Independent on 15th May – long quote follows:

    “The proximate cause of the Liberal Democrats’ identity crisis was the decision to fight the election as centrists rather than liberals – a decision that the party leadership knew, deep down, risked leaving them with a functional and lifeless message, devoid of the sense of moral purpose and historic mission that made Clegg’s resignation speech his best of the campaign.

    But as so often, the “science” of the party’s internal polling won out – in internal discussions, numbers beat opinions. Discovering that many potential Liberal Democrat voters thought the Tories too right wing and Labour too left wing, it was decided that the Lib Dems would present themselves as the “anchor” that would stop either party from drifting too far from the political centre. In so far as this gave the party a reason to exist, it was to moderate the worst excesses of whichever party it might end up working with in government – a dismal offering. Not only did this tell voters nothing about the party’s own vision for the country, it actively undermined its claims to have one. If the Tories want to travel 10 miles to the right, and Labour 10 miles to the left, the logic of the Lib Dem position was that they were prepared to travel in either direction, but only for five miles.

    What is more, that message didn’t even serve its intended tactical purpose in the 2015 election. It is a matter of simple human psychology that people who hate or fear the Tories or Labour don’t want a party that will moderate them in government. They want a party that will keep them out of government. The Lib Dems were unable to provide that assurance in either their Conservative-facing, or their Labour-facing, seats.”

    end of quote.

    I take it that the strategy that Astle and many of us were criticising was conceived and implemented by Cortzee – if it wasn’t what was he doing?

    I would ask readers to recall that the response things falling apart was the Blukip campaign – launched on the 25th April – which was of course seven days after the Tories forst used the SNP/Lab scare. So, the response was to identify the fear as a Tory/UKIP coalition.

    As I have pointed out frequently – including to Paddy at the time: we needed a counter attack against the Tories NOT a fancy idea, Blukip, that actually persuaded the LD>Tory switchers to go Tory to keep UKIO out and the LD > UKIP switchers to go UKIP because they had a real chance (so we were telling them) of ‘strengthening’ the Tory resolve on Europe and immigration.

    To my mind both the above ‘mistakes’ – ‘Not Right:Not Left’ + Blukip were symptoms of very poor strategic thinking.

    Plus Cortzee was the ‘author’ of the polling construction and analysis that was so misleading. I have written at length about the comfort nature of theese polls – the second VI question coming after a series of positive statements about our candidates and negative ones about the opposition.

  • Paul Holmes 23rd May '15 - 1:23pm

    Ryan says that ‘The SNP Fear’ was the ‘unexpected’ cause of the worst election result in our Party’s entire political history. Of course, those who have been fighting UK elections for a long time know that the Tories using a last minute ‘fear’ tactic is not new, as with Labour’s tax bombshell in 1992 or the attack on the Lib Dems illegal immigrants amnesty in 2010. But surely there were also some earlier clues as to what was to come? Such as our consistently abysmal Opinion Poll ratings for 5 years in a row and the unremitting slaughter of our Cllrs, Scottish Assembly Members, MEP’s and Parliamentary by election candidates from 2011-2014?

    Ryan, not unsurprisingly, concludes that his election strategy was nonetheless the right one. He was after all paid £140,000 a year with an advertised job description of keeping the Lib Dems in Coalition Government -with a strong sub text of preferably with the Conservatives.

    Equally unsurprisingly many of us disagree with his conclusions and some of us made ourselves very unpopular with the ‘powers that be’ by saying so between 2010 and May 2015. Of course Ryan was only responsible for the election strategy as such -other Nick Clegg appointed advisers such as Richard Reeves and Julian Astle were responsible for the ‘higher’ political strategy and must share full credit for the worst election result in our history.

  • Tony Greaves 23rd May '15 - 1:35pm

    This man Coetzee was in charge of the election strategy and had been for two or three years. Perhaps a little modesty might be in order.

    But it does show more than anything just how useless our campaign was. All targeted at a tiny sector of the electorate as defined by Coetzee’s polling; all based on the aridity of focus groups and identifying voter IDs and tailoring the message to what he found; lots of detailed policies and no over-riding narrative (as they say nowadays) – other than the useless one of moderating whatever anyone else says about anything; lots of irrelevant media initiatives and no vision; and most of the country abandoned to its fate. At least he has exposed the aridity of his “thinking” to the rest of the world.

    We were paying him more than £100,000 a year for his services.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 23rd May '15 - 1:42pm

    Sorry, the most ludicrous thing about his article has just hit me. We now have just eight MPs. This means that the next Westminster election will probably be about struggling to get back up to the mid-twenties. Has Coetzee the slightest idea how that is going to be achieved? Does he have the slightest idea of what this party is and how it works, and what it can do to start to rebuild from the bottom upwards? (These are of course rhetorical questions)


  • Thanks Iain for the link to the full article, a fascinating insight into the psyche of one of the people that drove the bus off the cliff. I think it vindicates those who had been saying for years there was a sense of delusion to the parties position. : “disbelieving, horrified, guilty, embarrassed, angry, vulnerable, resentful”. He articulates “waking up” well, and I note that this happened to him on election night! He kept believing despite the facts that had been presented, right up until the exit poll. Also, there are clearly things he believes that aren’t true that he’s clinging on to, for example he says after Cleggs resignation speech “people finally gave him a hearing and, I now suspect, regret not giving him one earlier”. So, it’s clear he’s still deep in the fog and has retained Cleggs line about not wanting members like myself – “Seeking a reunification of the left is superficially attractive but, I fear, practically impossible”.

    A great explanation of the core party delusion but no realistic views or suggestions regarding the future. Caron’s last line was certainly more agreeable than anything Ryan wrote here.

  • @Tony Greaves
    Agreed, also the boundary changes won’t help either :

  • On coalitions we have demonstrated that a coalition government can be effective and stable, but we have also demonstrated that we, as the minority partner, get slaughtered.

    I can see the temptation to use this column to attack the man and the decision to pay him however too much it was for the job, but the issues, some of which he raises and related issues such as Bill has highlighted are what matter now.

    Tony Greaves suggests that at the next election we will be struggling to achieve numbers of MPs in the mid twenties; implicitly ruling out the second (joining Labour!) of Coetze’s options, however irrespective of whether Coetze has an idea how it can be done, we still need to identify our strategic objectives. There are implications for the leadership campaign.

  • As Bill Clinton (or was it one of his advisers?) said – it’s the economy stupid. And yet the Lib Dems seem uninterested in the economy far preferring an upper middle class bubble and bemoaning how the oiks seem to be becoming less liberal and more parochial. Why not ask why? Could it be that a lost decade in improved living standards, a collapse in housebuilding and continual cuts to public services might be partly to blame? Stronger economy fairer society sounds fine but what’s the reality? One of the most unequal countries in the Western world with per capita incomes way behind the leading western nations. Do you honestly think those things are likely to be achieved by a Tory party that’s been the longest governing party in Britain over the last century? The Lib Dems were happy to go along with Cameron and Osborne’s nonsense that the economic disaster of the last 7 years was caused by Labour spending too much money. Criticise Labour all you want but for their failure to regulate finance – ably supported by the Tories at the time – not for the minor sin of a fiscal deficit before the bubble burst. And yet the Lib Dems never did that.

    I think Cable’s New Statesman piece was very good but I found the most revealing part was when he talked about the abuse from Labour after the coalition was formed. No doubt the anti-Labour/socialist/social democracy of Clegg Alexander and David (there’s no money left) Laws helped shift the national conversation towards the ignorant right. I hope they are satisfied with the results.

  • Paul In Wokingham 23rd May '15 - 3:03pm

    A few weeks before the election I suggested that over the summer we could expect a number of self-serving accounts of the election campaign in which the authors would point the finger for the impending disaster at everyone except themselves. I should have anticipated that the first adventure in self-exculpatory revisionism would come from Ryan Coetzee.

    The SNP “scare” was undeniably a gift to the Tories and came out of left field after Sturgeon’s performance in the leaders’ debate – but this was still many weeks before polling day. A Tory scare story was always on the cards and we clearly (as Vince Cable stated recently) had no good response to it.

    Our message was one of bland, competent management that could not stand against a message of fear. We offered no vision that would inspire voters. We payed the price.

  • Ruth Bright 23rd May '15 - 3:23pm

    Bill – watching the cricket and posting on LDV at the same time, never let it be said that only women can multi-task!

    Did I hear mention of Julian Astle, late of this parish? Remember what he told us in the Guardian in June 2011: “What defines these politicians [Conservative and Lib Dem leaderships in coalition] and separates them from their party colleagues, however, is a talent for alchemy, for taking base metal from left and right and turning them into political gold.” Only four years ago – such happy carefree days, apart from the fact that we’d already lost 700 councillors in our first electoral test post coalition.

  • I really do think the Conservative party has morphed into a truly terrifying monster far worse than the quaint grouse moor image of Alec Douglas Home. In the 1980s they were taken over by a harsh ideologue but the party as a whole was still fairly middle England. With it’s decayed activist base it’s now the plaything of billionaires many in the financial sector. No amount of scandals in the City will alter the Tory’s view that it’s our country’s greatest economic asset. Despite the mass criminality of our popular press they show fealty and are rewarded with support and the smearing of their opponents. No doubt defending the square mile will be uppermost in Cameron’s thoughts when he renegotiates our relationship with the EU. But thinking of Mr Home it is surely the attitude to Scotland that is most remarkable abut the party now. Perhaps the billionaires have decided Scotland is a threat and their best hope is a Britain transformed into a greater Luxembourg or Monaco with the plebs in provincial England and Wales remembering what is good for them.

    Labour has problems not least with the union link. But it’s hardly the unwieldy beast of 40 years ago and compared to the Tory monster seems rather tame.

  • Clegg should ditch the centrist fallacy that people want a colourless mush. Labour supporters hate the Tories and vice versa. People who hate the Tories do not want Tory-lite. People who hate Labour do not want Labour-lite. If voters think the reason for Lib Dems is just to dilute the Tories or Labour, they will vote for the big party they least dislike. It is a recipe for destroying the Lib Dem vote: ministers beware.

    Chris Huhne writing in the Guardian June 2014. Lib Dems must show they want to change the system, not just run it

  • With us losing 48 MPs, some of great experience and accomplishment, it is clear our campaign strategy was disastrous. Not only did MPs lose their jobs but all their staff too. We, at the very least, need some accountability now.

  • In the days of William Hague and Amanda Platell, I wondered if ever there could be a political aide who could make Platell look good. After 10 years I’d almost given up hope. Then we discovered Mr Coetzee. Take a bow sir, you achieved something few thought possible!

  • Who do you think said this?–

     “I’m a strategist but strategy is only part of what I do and not even the most important part. Strategy is like a steering wheel, where the engine is the vision grounded in a philosophy, the cause and the authentic core of the organisation and its objectives. Strategy can steer the way and get you there but only if the engine operates properly. You can’t manipulate strategy and you can only build the brand if it’s authentic on the inside, ”

  • John Minard 23rd May '15 - 8:35pm

    I’m just interested in how the Fine Gael and Labour coalition is playing out in Eire. Anything to learn from that?

  • Tony Greaves 23rd May '15 - 11:06pm

    Just won a referendum which we could not.

  • Look at how the Fianna Fail/ Green coalition worked out for the Greens. You’ll struggle to find the Greens in Eire. As to Labour they are at 7% in the latest opinion poll; last election “At the 2011 general election, Labour received 19.4% of first preference votes, and 37 seats”. The fate of the smaller party in coalition appears to be by default grim, if you sign up to one make sure you get your main aim (in this case it should have been PR) and don’t be fobbed off by a few kind words and ministerial cars.

  • Tony Greaves:
    Do you think that we would not have won a referendum on gay marriage?

    More seriously, as a Liberal do you not have severe misgivings about referendums on this sort of thing and referendums in general? Is there not a serious danger that referendums could be used as a mechanism for oppressing minorities?

  • John Roffey 24th May '15 - 6:47am

    I suppose it is to be accepted that many members of the Party are still in denial given the extent of its rejection by the electorate just a few weeks ago – however, can anyone really be have been that surprised after a similar rejections of its councillors and MEPs over the last few years?

    Unless these members have successfully insulated themselves from political commentary in the mass media during this time they must recognise that the decline in the Party’s fortunes began with NC’s breaking of his pledge on tuition fees. This made him and the Party distrusted and even at a time when politicians are considered less honest than estate agents – this act topped the perceived dishonesty of the other parties.

    Saying ‘sorry’ was never going to remedy this single act – only NC’s resignation would have given the Party a chance of reversing its fortunes – and no amount of spin could or can change how the Party is viewed by the electorate. Presently, this ignoble reputation is being further damaged by the approach that has been adopted by many here on LDV in their comments on the leadership election – which is also tearing the Party apart.

    If the Party is to survive it is necessary for there to be a single objective that can bind all members together. Since dishonesty has been its downfall – it seems very likely that the adoption of scrupulous honesty would be its saviour.

    Not only that – since politicians are regarded with such contempt for their lack of integrity – a party that did adopt such an approach could not help but shine brightly by comparison to the others – by the time of the next GE.

  • Going back to Mr Coetzee’s essay in The Guardian — it is not at all obvious that the scale of the disaster has really sunk in.
    It is not just that we ended up with only 8 MPs and precious few second places.

    The number of Lib Dem candidates who lost their deposit was 335.
    That is 335 in seats where fewer than 5% of those who bothered to vote, voted Liberal Democrat.

    Does anyone have the figures for the number of seats where we kept our deposit but still came fourth, or fifth or sixth?

    Mr Coetzee’s concluding paragraph about rebuilding the party is beyond satire.

  • Alex Macfie 24th May '15 - 7:40am

    John Roffey:

    “the decline in the Party’s fortunes began with NC’s breaking of his pledge on tuition fees”</

    No, it began long before that, perhaps when Charles Kennedy (an election winner for us) was deposed. Remember that in 2010 we lost seats, including some to Labour, when we should have been winning from them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th May '15 - 7:41am

    What was wanted in the campaign was for it to be pointed out that a party with some 50 MPs in a no-majority Parliament can’t just get what it wants, it can only get things if it can get support from one of the other parties for it. Quite obviously the SNP could not have forced policies on Labour unless it had Conservative support for them. What was needed was for someone with experience of leading a party with some 50 MPs in a no-majority Parliament to point this out, and so undermine this Tory campaigning line. Who might that have been?

    Instead our party’s national campaign went along with this Tory nonsense, thus further damaging ourselves by pushing this idea that a party in that position is all powerful, when we were losing most of our vote because people wrongly believed that and so were angry with us because, thanks to that misassumption, they thought we had failed to do what we could have done or were secretly far more right-wing than we made out in the 2010 general election campaign.

  • @Alex Macfie the time we should have won seats from Labour was in 2005 when Blair and the Iraq war meant they were at the height of their unpopularity in the sense of pushing away their core vote and fracturing off their middle class and BME voters.

    By 2010, although Brown was deeply unpopular with the middle classes, he had solid appeal to the core vote and rallied them back up to the 29% (and defence of core vote seats) that they eventually achieved.

    It has long been my contention that we should have been planning to take Labour seats from Day 1 of Blair’s landslide, and most certainly from 2001 when we knew the lie of the land.

    I do agree that support for the party dipped before tuition fees; examination of the polls will show it fell almost immediately we got off the fence and joined the coalition. Anecdotally I know it from my own experiences of talking to people who voted anti Tory (but I was hearing the opposite, ie “don’t prop up Brown” from the anti Labour side).

  • Is it really more complicated than the sad but undeniable that , for 5 years, the Party was led by a man widely seen by Joe public as a joke?

  • @brianD “Is it really more complicated than the sad but undeniable that , for 5 years, the Party was led by a man widely seen by Joe public as a joke?”

    But enough about Ed Miliband 😉

  • The view from Ham Common seems a lot clearer than the view from Cape Town —

  • Fiona White 24th May '15 - 9:21am

    Thank you for your views, Ryan Coetzee. I do agree that we must reunite and rebuild but that is a strategy most of us could have thought out. Otherwise there is not much in your article which makes sense of the situation we are in now.

  • Can we now forget the ‘strategies’ which lost around 50 MPs and thousands of other fine party workers over the 5 years – and focus on ways forward. We have almost 59,000 LD members, many waiting for a clearer vision of the way we work to support each other and how we will re-build an open party again. We have been led far too much from the top instead of inspired by each other. Clearly there are many issues to be dealt with by the party and I applaud the decision to run an early leadership election. Let’s clear up the issues we’re saddled with – especially strategies! We don’t need a perfect leader – just one who communicates with all of us and cherishes our ideas. We hope he includes members’ views openly – showing how quickly we can dump too many lost years.

  • Peter Watson 24th May '15 - 10:40am

    In Ryan Coetzee’s defence, he only took on the job in September 2012 so could only work with what Clegg had left him by then, he could only do what the leadership of the party would let him, and he was chosen despite not having a background in the British electoral system or the Liberal Democrat party. Coetzee might have been good, bad or indifferent in his role but the failure of the Lib Dems in 2015 had more to do with 56 MPs and their leader than it did with one south african spin doctor.

  • Bill le Breton 24th May '15 - 10:58am

    Richard’s piece contains sound advice.

    Yes we could and should have fought the election differently.

    Yes, we needed to accept this was an existential battle and that the range of outcomes from the campaign (obvious for a number of years) was somewhere between 12 and 24. The High Command did not view it that way and the comfort polling and inexperience on the ground obscured their view of the true frontier.

    Over a year ago I was suggesting a very different targeting strategy on the members forum, so this is not hind sight. Just experienced campaigning.

    Richard is right about narrowing the pressure points of our campaigns. Napoleon taught us that.

    The rough conclusions we cd have reached back in April 2014 was that we would not win any Labour facing seats. We would not win any seats where a long standing MP was standing down – (of course we should never allowed any of them to do so – given the existential nature of the situation, but that is another matter). And finally, following the Scottish Parliament elections (and reinforced by the effects of the referendum in Scotlan), we were only ever going to win one seat in Scotland.

    So, the fight was always in the Con facing seats south of the Border and that meant identifying and working on every potential Green and Labour switcher.

    So we should not try to fight on three fronts, but direct force that affects other fronts. Nor did we need to, because between Lab and Cons one will generally beat the other and so our resources need not double up the efforts of the winner between those two. Finally in this section of thinking, the winner of that battle was always going to be the Tories. (I have been consistent in that belief throughout most of this Parliament). So, we had a double win from concentrating on beating the Tories – given that it also wd play well to the Green and Labour switchers.

    (Of course during the campaign we also talked up the other important voting block in LD/Con seats; viz UKIP. Our Blukip campaign as I have said repeatedly and which I believe vulnerable MPs did raise with the High Command – strengthened Con fears of UKIP influence and strengthened the resolve of LD/UKIP voters in our top targets to go UKIP.)

    To run such an existential campaign we needed to know our real and not imagined strength on the ground and to get seasoned campaigners to visit our top 12 seats (under the above criteria). People like Peter Chegwyn should have been employed to do that. As far as I can see the area or regional people were just too inexperienced to assess such strengths and weaknesses. Clearly the Dragon’s Den people were incapable of doing that. You have to be in a patch to know it. And you have to be a real campaigner and not with respect a member of a Dragon’s Den or the campaigns department which is still playing out the old Rennard play book, because that is what they were trained to do.

    With a realistic assessment by mid summer 2014, we could have made tactical decisions and employed the right people in the right places to get the range of possible wins nearer 24 than 12.

    Why am I still talking of 12 as the bottom of the possible results, because the Tory SNP scare was a genuine innovation – though, as John Pugh wrote in his article, Ed Davey had raised the question, what do we do with the Tory late scare tactic? at a Parliamentary away day – to which there was no answer. So, a better central campaign might have brainstormed that and found the SNP scare. Why, we could even have tested it in our private polling. But of course Cortzee and his party pollster argued against testing Tory attack lines in that polling (because of course mention of them wd have reduced the voter intention outcomes for the second voter intention question in the comfort polling).

    So, when once the scare story gripped – I first heard it coming back at the doors on the 16th April – we had to make people similarly scared of a Tory majority. Wow – that was our home territory and we missed it! It was never about giving the Tories a heart – it was about pulling their teeth out!

    Instead we were working up the Blukip campaign, which we launched on 25th April. Like the army going west when the strike force was coming at us out of the east !

    Cd our own scare have worked? Yes. The release of the Child Benefit scare did very well. But we did not press it beyond one day? Were the dogs called off? I was promised more of the same. None came. Did Paddy lose a debate on this?

    So, there you are – the alternative strategy .

  • There seems to be two questions.

    1. Are you Social Democrats

    2. Are you Liberals

    The LibDem bubble response I assume would be that you embrace the best of both traditions, whilst the view from outside the bubble might be that you have abandoned a unique set of values and aspirations (Liberal) for the sort of internationalist frightened pragmatism of social democracy, clustering together in large groups to hide from the bogeyman.

    Where is the pride in the nation and its people that was expressed without ambiguity in the summation of the 1945 Liberal manifesto with such clarity in one sentence

    “It has revealed a mighty nation, renewed in its youth, with vast stores of energy and enterprise. It has the skill, the confidence and the determination; what is now needed is a Government wise enough and courageous enough to set the pace of advance.”

    That spirit of confidence in the future of our country by the war generations is gone completely from the party, to be replaced by generations that have convinced themselves of, and resigned themselves to a process of gradual but inevitable decline.

    Perhaps you need to ask yourselves as the population rediscovers its national spirit and sense of identity, is there a place for a party that seems to have little or no interest in the concept of nation or identity, and is clearly frightened to death of the resurgence of a “mighty nation” in spirit and aspiration, without supra governance by an outsiode entity.

  • Peter Chegwyn 24th May '15 - 11:36am

    I’m surprised people are devoting so much time to Ryan Coetzee. A loser.

    Much better to spend time learning from the Conservative campaign run by Lynton Crosby. A winner.

  • The Party should never have attempted to fight the election while in government, but should (as many said) have resigned well before the election and fought the election fully independently. The pride of Clegg and the other ministers has been the Party’s downfall.

  • Raddiy 24th May ’15 – 11:06am

    You have mis-represented the spirit of the 1945 Liberal Party Manifesto.  It is not glorifying nationalism – quite the opposite.

    The third para of Point One in the 1945 Liberal Party Manifesto reads —

    “We must strive to preserve the common purpose of the United Nations, who have humbled Germany. 
    In particular, the close comradeship in war between Britain, Russia and America must be preserved, fostered and developed in peace. 
    The new World Organisation coming to birth at San Francisco must be supported and strengthened. 
    Nations, like private citizens, must come to acknowledge the rule of law and of impartial arbitration in their dealings with each other. 
    The tasks of peace, like those of war, are too vast for any one nation to accomplish alone. 
    Much patience and self-control will be called for in harmonising various national interests, but the war has taught with tragic clearness that no people can survive in selfish isolation.”

  • Peter Watson 24th May '15 - 12:01pm

    @David-1 “The Party should never have attempted to fight the election while in government”
    The party very much gave the impression that continuity was its preferred outcome, so in that context it made sense to stay in government while fighting the election.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th May '15 - 1:16pm

    @Simon McGrath: We disagree with the SNP. We disagree with Labour and the Conservatives. The SNP are illiberal and authoritarian. So are Labour and the Conservatives. What they aren’t is monsters and demons. The Tories treated them as such and we legitimised that approach. I think MIliband and Clegg should have grown a pair and stood up to it – might have done something for MIliband’s reputation too.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '15 - 2:12pm

    We should be careful not to criticise someone just because of being a South African, some of them are excellent.

    The Progressive Federal Party had one MP in the Apartheid parliament.

    As a Jew Helen Suzman was in an ethnic minority and a white skin.

    When she came to London she advised government ministers and packed out the National Liberal Club. “She said “We do not want to be dominated by the ANC either, which is why we support proportional representation.” They got that.

    I do not fully understand why this incredibly liberal party got into a merger, maybe it is something to do with size, even under PR.

    Former newspaper editor Donald Woods had investigated the death of Steve Biko. When he addressed a huge meeting at Liberal Democrat federal conference he reminded David Steel “We are Liberals”.

  • New members please note – not everyone in the LibDems is diplomatic.

  • paul barker 24th May '15 - 2:42pm

    Now that Labour have caved in & will back the Referendum on Europe, what should we do ? My initial reaction is that we should still oppose it, even if we end up as the only Party voting against, we should be proud of that.

  • Lord Smith:
    We need to hear from everyone, perhaps even more from those who made strategic mistakes. More than this we do have to debate whether future coalitions ca ever be realistic possibilities under the present electoral system and if not what are the implications for strategy and for the Party?

    I think there are implications for an EU referendum campaign too, quite apart from having little to spare in resource, in terms of strategy can Lib Dems afford to stand on the same platform as Cameron? My guess is that a vote to stay in would be followed by a backlash that would hurt us. It may be that we should assume that with a lot of funding and dire warning s of the consequences of a vote to get out, Cameron will get some kind of majority and that we should maintain a low key role that states the positives but steers clear of the negatives.

  • @ John Tilley

    Are you sure it is me mis- representing the spirit of 1945.

    I quoted the conclusion or sum up as it is called, which in my experience is usually intended to provide a potted interpretation of the analysis and research expressed in the document. You chose to cherry pick one paragraph in isolation , and then apply it to fit your chosen narrative. Where did I mention glorifying nationalism, you read what you wanted to read, when in my view it was simply a statement of a job well done by a proud and determined people, with a bright future to look forward to,

    Your attitude goes to the core of the problem for the LibDems, you really don’t like the patriotism of your own people, I’m not even sure if you object to them considering themselves English or whatever, and you seemingly refute unequivocably the increasing democratic demand that you act in their interests first and foremost. Despite all that has happened you are still pontificating amongst yourselves like two bald men fighting over a comb, about how you might embellish your discredited policies to make them more palatable.

    Without being rude there are some things you just can’t polish, and unless you accept the supremacy of the British people to know what is best for their own country, then I fancy you will subjected to a self-inflicted residency in the political wilderness for a considerable period of time.

  • Nigel Jones 24th May '15 - 3:06pm

    I agree with Lord Smith of Clifton and also with Caron’ s own last paragraph of what we should now aim to do. I remember challenging Ryan at the Lib-Dem local government conference last June and on one of my points I gained support from Simon Hughes; there were also some very emotionally-stated points from other local councillors. Nothing changed. The ultimate responsibility for continuing the disastrous approach of course lay in Nick Clegg’s hands and he has made the honourable response; so should Ryan. The fundamental situation was against us anyway, but it need not have been as bad.
    The most noticeable response in my local area is that number of people who have remained connected to the party yet inactive who are now offering to help, because Nick Clegg is no longer our leader,
    I really urge all of us in the party to put both Ryan and Nick into the background, and take a good broad look at what we are about in our beliefs, aims and where we can practically promote these among as many other people as possible.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '15 - 3:19pm

    We have a U-turn from the Tories already, the new Business Secretary will not be trying to sack people for no reason at all.

    We have a U-turn from Labour. Their second female leader has accepted that there will be a referendum on the EU.

    She should not be allowed to get away with claiming that Labour are first with their new method of electing their leader.

    She could be reminded that some MPs left Labour and founded the Social Democratic Party for precisely this reason.
    Other reasons included the Labour Party’s attitude to the European Union.

    We should take Bill Clinton’s advice. You do not need to be a neuro-scientist to read “The Political Brain”. Do not allow your opponents to control the use of language. Sub-editors in a hurry use “Europe” when they mean the European Union. We can be brief while being more accurate. The UK is in Europe and in the European Union while not being in the euro. Belorussia is in Europe, but, as a Stalinist dictatorship is nowhere near being eligible for the club of democracies that make up the EU.

  • Paul Barker:
    The real problem is our policy to hold a referendum in the event of treaty change that transfers powers to Brussels. Do we really think this is tenable? Even if there is a new treaty within 5 years of a Brexit referendum? The difficulty is that this policy was put into law. What frequency of referendums on the same issue is acceptable?

    Perhaps we should oppose the referendum that it would necessarily overwrite our existing policy and then if a referendum goes ahead announce that our previous policy had lapsed as a consequence.

  • Voting against the referendum in light of Labour’s change of policy is probably just an empty gesture now.

  • paul barker 24th May '15 - 5:18pm

    I dont like Referenedums for anything except major Constitutional change, theres a reason why they are popular with Dictators – they are easy to manipulate . The present policy (tranfer of powers) is daft & we should drop it anyway & yes, we cant have multiple Referendums on any subject. As a rule of thumb, there should be minimum gap of 30 years – a generation.
    Gestures dont have to be empty, a vote of 342 to 8 would paint us as small but feisty.

  • Chris Davies 24th May '15 - 6:28pm

    Caron. I love your last sentence.

  • John Littler 24th May '15 - 7:20pm

    The stated equidistance between the buggins turn two parties seems to have been made in the view that the LibDems would benefit from tactical voting from either side, when in fact it allowed both sides to suggest that a centre vote would or could be a vote for the other side, instead encouraging a squeeze from both sides.

    Given that this was long and broadly expected to be a close fight, instead of this making the LibDems valuable king makers, it forced more electors to instead take sides . The Nat surge seems to have provoked the strongest labour fear factor since Foot and the ludicrous Building Industry nationalisation policy, in ’81.

    In short, instead of allowing the LibDems to possibly choose governments, they decided to chose sides themselves. Voters may well have found LibDem policies acceptable in large numbers, but as they could not form the government, they decided to vote against the Tories or Labour/SNP instead.

    The soft centre/loose canon approach was a disaster and the LibDems should re-build long term based on clear distinctive Liberal principles, kindness and realism in social policy, a progressive Industrial and business policy and an open and International stance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th May '15 - 9:50am

    Ryan Coetzee (in his Guardian article)

    it is wishful thinking to imagine we could have done government differently and convinced supporters deeply averse to our coalition partners.

    No it is not. Here is the nub of the issue and why this article makes me so angry, this condescending dismissal of critics, this “I am right, and you just don’t know what you are talking about” attitude towards party members who did not like the direction the party was being pushed by the PR people responsible for its national image.

    The coalition was always going to be difficult, yes. Those who have seen how coalitions work in other countries, and those who have experienced being a small group holding the balance of power in local government here know that. The usual role of the smaller coalition party is to take the all the blame for things that go wrong and none of the credit for things that go right, and this is particularly so in situations where coalitions are not the norm. Those running our party’s public relations should have been aware of this and done all they could to defend us against the accusations that would inevitably be thrown at us. But they did the opposite, they did all they could to make those accusations sound credible, to let the mud stick.

    Right from the start we should have played down what could be achieved in the Coalition and made clear that the balance of parties given to us by the way people voted and the distortions of the electoral system meant that the central thrust of the Coalition would have to be that of the Conservative Party, and we would only be able to make minor modifications. The Coalition should have been presented as us accepting the inevitable as it was the only stable government that could be formed, us giving in to the will of the people in the way they voted and the way they endorsed the distortion of the electoral system a year later, and NOT as some sort of triumph for us.

    Sorry, Mr Coetzee, it is NOT wishful thinking to say we could have presented things differently. It is common sense based on experience and thought, and I resent people like you who have dominated the top of the party with your dismissal of those like myself who have tried to give this sort of advice. The “Rose Garden” love-in image was so wrong, and I said so at the time. The attempt to give the impression that we were equal partners in the coalition was so wrong, and I said so at the time. Pushing the compromises we had to accept as if they were what we really wanted in the first place was so wrong, and I said so at the time. Running a publicity machine culminating in a general election campaign in 2015 which accepted so many of the Conservatives’ dubious propositions was so wrong, and I said so at the time. We could have had the Coalition without having all this.

    We could have set out the clear message “This is not our ideal, but we accept it as it is what the people voted for, in 2010 and even more so in 2011 when they endorsed the distortion that gave the Conservatives 500% more seats than us with 50% more vote. We can give advice internally, and alter the balance a little, but with most of the Coalition’s MPs being Conservative it is inevitably a government more Conservative than Liberal Democrat. If you want a government that is more Liberal Democrat in flavour, vote Liberal Democrat and so give us more MPs”. We didn’t do that. I don’t think it is “wishful thinking” to say we could and should have done.

  • There’s a lot of sense in his article, more than I expected from the headline, which made me wonder who amongst us would argue, “The Liberal Democrats must NOT reunite and rebuild…”. I particularly liked his para suggesting Cameron should have been told he was talking nonsense about the SNP threat. Instead, Nick Clegg managed to talk up the threat.

    I think the national campaign was better than I could have expected, though it seemed to suffer from the same weakness as the 2010 campaign, a lack of planned timings for major media pushes. Most winning councillors will know the sort of thing: while you establish a theme for your whole campaign and keep repeating one to three simple messages, you also find ways of making people think your campaign is developing. Something new happens at the end of the first week and something else at the end of the second. In local campaigns this might just be the sudden appearance of a lot of stakeboards, but in a national campaign you need something like a big push on one issue – which of course will have been in your manifesto all along. One hopes.

    But in his downbeat assessment of the coalition experience, Ryan ignores the massive self-harm we did with making and then lightly dropping the student finance pledge and other examples of just being too weak and naive up against the Tories. Again, local government experience could have helped and at least we can be assured that the new leader will understand and value local government and local activism.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th May '15 - 11:14am


    Ryan ignores the massive self-harm we did with making and then lightly dropping the student finance pledge

    It was very poor strategy to run a campaign based on the line “No broken promises” in a situation where the possibility of the party ending up in coalition was high, though this was the 2010 campaign so Ryan Coetzee can’t be blamed for that. A golden rule in campaigning is that if you make something that looks like a “pledge”, you make absolutely sure it can be kept in all possible circumstances, and if you can’t be sure, you at least give yourself a little wriggle room to be able to deal with the case where you can’t do it. Joining a coalition inevitably means making compromises, having to agree to things that are not what you really want, and that will inevitably come across as a “broken promise”.

    The tuition fees pledge was a honey trap. Before signing it and making it such a big feature of the 2010 campaign, those running that campaign should have asked “Are we absolutely sure we can keep to this under all likely circumstances?”. Coalition with the Conservatives was one of those circumstances. Unless we were sure that the Conservatives would have agreed to whatever was necessary for us to keep to that pledge, we should have backed away from it. The wording of the pledge only made sense in the context of being a coalition partner. Pledging to vote “No” means nothing if one is in opposition, since that’s what oppositions do anyway.

    The divisive line that was put by the party leadership about this all being the fault of party activists for insisting on that policy is wrong. Many activists have been involved in local government, and so know perfectly well about budgetary constraints. So of course there was an acceptance that this could be a policy ideal but not instantly achievable. Implementing policy means looking at ideals, looking at costs, and coming to a conclusion about what can be done next. Having a policy of full state subsidy for universities does not necessarily mean this takes priority over all other considerations. It was the decision of those running the 2010 campaign to put it that way, not the members who wanted that policy to be there and who promoted it through the party’s democratic mechanisms.

    We were also told by those running the campaign in 2010 that it was “fully costed”. This perhaps lulled us into a false sense of security about promoting expensive “pledges”. I think there is a duty from those who told us it was “fully costed” to explain how they intended the tuition fees pledge to be paid for. Why wasn’t this done some time between 2010 and 2015? Because then it could have been made more clear that this pledge could not be kept because the Conservatives would never have agreed to the balancing cost factor. Of course, if it is not true that it was “fully costed” and really they had no idea how it would be paid for, that’s a rather serious matter. But again, not the fault of the party’s democratic mechanism.

    As it happens, I feel that what the Liberal Democrats negotiated on tuition fees was its greatest success in the coalition. Not in terms of impact on the party, obviously. But in terms of positive achievement – it saved the university system. I have heard this now from the people at the top of several universities. I just wish they would come out in public and say it and thank us for it. We sacrificed our party in order to save England’s universities. Had we insisted on keeping to our pledge, the consequence would have been huge cuts – anyone who thinks this would not have been so should look to what has happened to Further Education in the past 5 years. There was a very real fear that if Labour had won the 2015 general election, because of the prominence of the tuition fees issue it would have had to meet its pledge to cut fees by making cuts to university funding.

    The Tories agreed to what was in effect very generous state borrowing and in the long-term direct state funding of universities because in their obsession with the cash market being the way to improve everything, they really did believe that bringing in full fees would result in costs bring pushed down and quality being pushed up. They had no idea (shows what little real world knowledge and common sense they have) that the reality is that it would work out that every university puts its fees up to the maximum. This is what I said would happen when the system was introduced, based on my own experience as a university admissions tutor. I could see very well that at the age people apply to university and with the optimism they have about it, the loan would be regarded as “funny money”, and with the usual very superficial approach they take to choice of place, they would make the judgement the higher the fee, the better the quality. No university would dare advertise itself as being sub-standard by having below maximum fees. And so it worked out. Since almost every university came to the conclusion almost right away that this was how to handle things, it was hardly difficult to work out that’s what would happen. And actually, maybe I shouldn’t be ageist – does not much the same apply when people take out mortgage loans?

    So no-one (ok, I accept the point about people wanting to take a second degree, so almost no-one) was shut out from a university place by being unable to afford it, as loans were available to everyone, and the generous write-off conditions mean that no-one should fear penury for taking that loan. The repayments are only what would have to be repaid in tax anyway if it had been funded by straight tax. Given the way it did not push down costs, it’s turned out to be very generous funding for universities, and underneath sure it’s guaranteed by the government who will pay the write-offs, that is, it is really disguised government borrowing. But there is no way the Conservatives would have agreed to undisguised government borrowing at this level to carry on funding universities. There was plenty of Conservative contempt for the sort of universities top Tories would never send their children to, and they would have been delighted to have seen large scale closures at the lower end of the pecking-order, perhaps replaced to some extent by private degree mills (those that have sprung up are almost universally appalling in terms of quality).

    Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, we have had no major university closures, no large scale redundancies of university staff, students still have a pretty free choice of which subject to take, and no-one need actually say “I can’t go because I can’t afford it”. I think we can be proud of that.

  • EVEN SO, who is responsible then? Who is accountable for the two thousand lost councilors, the MEPS and MPs and the £170, 000 in lost deposits.
    This is a political organisation, sentimental feelings such as “family” are they relevant, families are tied by blood, by nature, the Liberal Democrat Party is just that a political party, an organisation.

  • Alex Macfie 25th May '15 - 6:23pm

    @TCO: We DID win seats from Labour in 2005. For historical reasons there were far fewer Labour/Lib Dem marginals than Tory/Lib Dem ones. Despite this, most of our gains in that election were from Labour, and a great many previously safe Labour seats came within our reach in that election. Our failure to take many of these seats in 2010, and our loss of some to Labour, shows that we ran a poor campaign then. You cannot pin it down on Gordon Brown rallying the party faithful, as if that was some inevitable event that we could do nothing about. It should not have happened, and the blame for it goes onto the leadership of the time.

  • JohnTilley 24th May ’15 – 7:28am
    Does anyone have the figures for the number of seats where we kept our deposit but still came fourth, or fifth or sixth?

    As nobody responded to this request for info I sat and did a rough count myself.
    If my counting is accurate (please correct me if it is not) we came fourth, fifth and sixth (and even seventh) in a lot of sets as follows —

    I may have made mistakes (dimming eyesight combined with the printing in The Times that I was working from).
    If anyone can confirm or correct my rough count I would appreciate it.

  • Ruth Bright 25th May '15 - 9:08pm

    John Tilley – first and second places added tget

  • Ruth Bright 25th May '15 - 9:12pm

    Sorry – all went a bit wrong there! Attempting to say to John that it is beyond scary that first and second places added together come to a mere 70!

  • michael Harriott 26th May '15 - 9:03am

    I was a Labour voter, who lives in Totnes. Remember totnes a constituency that nearly went Lib Dem in 97 thanks to tactical voters like myself. Your mistake was to go into Coalition with the Tories. At a stroke you lost your Labour tactical voters. Nothing will ever make me tactically vote Lib Dem again, and boy did you need Labour tactical votes in the Lib Dem / Tory marginals. Then you lost your credibility over Tuition fees. The result could have been written back in 2010 for you.

  • @johntilley
    On seats where we saved our deposit, I believe (and may be wrong) that there were 171 constituencies were we 4th and saved our deposit, 15 where we were 5th (and 33 were we were third).

  • Michael Harriott and Adrian Sanders are of course both correct. What is shocking is that there are some people in the party who continue to deny the evidence even now!

    As Ruth Bright points out the combined number of 1st and 2nd places for our candidates was just a few dozen.

    Thanks to Michael for the information on the split of the saved deposits for those in 3rd, 4th and 5th place.

    Goodness know how the candidates who came 6th and 7th coped with the extraordinary humiliation of the count
    (I assume all 16 were amongst the more than 300 Liberal Democrat candidates who lost their deposit).

    It is difficult to read these shocking results alongside the statement in the Guardian that we could not have done anything different or better. I am sure we could have done better.

    Some people will perhaps continue to deny the facts of the results and go to their graves insisting that there were some “soft Tories” just around the corner who would have voted for us if we had moved our party even further to the Libertarian Right.

  • Paul in Wokingham 26th May '15 - 2:42pm

    @John Tilley

    63 2nd places (63 held deposits)
    36 3rd places (34 held deposits)
    329 4th places (173 held deposits)
    177 5th places (19 held deposits)
    18 6th places
    1 7th place

    Battersea and Hammersmith were the 2 seats where we came 3rd but still lost our deposit.

    This is based on summarizing “others” (beyond C, L, UKIP, SNP, PC, Grn) which would explain the discrepancies from your numbers.

  • Peter Watson 26th May '15 - 3:12pm

    @JohnTilley “there were some “soft Tories” just around the corner who would have voted for us if we had moved our party even further to the Libertarian Right.”
    You write this in the past tense but my impression from LDV is that it is a view that is no less widely held than it was before the election.

  • On 6th and 7th places – they were obv. mostly in Scotland and Wales and obv. there needs to be a relatively strong (for an independent etc.) independent/local issue etc. candidate in English seats for us to come 6th – the list I have does indeed have us losing our deposits in all seats with Lib Dem 6th and 7th places – the best being Dwyfor Meirionnydd where we got 4%. It has to be said that there was quite often not much between 5th and 6th.
    I give this just as (hopefully!) factual information!

  • Paul in Wokingham 26th May ’15 – 2:42pm
    Many thanks for this improved version, which I expect will be the definitive record of the worst result for 45 years..

    63 ….2nd places (63 held deposits)
    36….. 3rd places (34 held deposits)
    329 …4th places (173 held deposits)
    177 ….5th places (19 held deposits)
    18 …….6th places
    1 ……….7th place
    Battersea and Hammersmith were the 2 seats where we came 3rd but still lost our deposit.

    I had 2 candidates in 7th place. The 2 seats being Hartlepool, and the Preseli Pembrokeshire.
    Given the scale of the disaster — what’s an additional SEVENTH place amongst friends! 🙁

  • Michael 26th May ’15 – 3:36pm

    thanks, Michael.

    The tally of seats where we got less than 4% actually paints an even worse picture than the order of losing candidates.

    For example in the whole of Glasgow (7 seats) not one of our candidates got 3% and two of our brave candidates got less than 1%.

    I apologise to the candidates for Glasgow East and Glasgow North East for mentioning this but to be a candidate for what some repeatedly described as a “party of government” and only be rewarded with 318 votes and 300 votes in a general election is probably some sort of record.

    I get the feeling that if either of the famous Edinburgh pandas had got their name on the ballot paper they would have done better.

  • Richard Underhill 27th May '15 - 1:41pm

    “watch McCullum batting at Lord’s? ”

    Out first ball, bowled for a duck.

    Brilliant comeback by England!
    Fastest ever century by Stokes, drawing comparisons with Botham and Flintoff.
    Bigger century by captain Cook, more centuries and more career runs than Kevin Pietersen,
    Aggressive and imaginative field placings.
    One – Nil lead in a two match series.
    Australia to come this summer, believe!

    Free admission for under 16s on day five.
    What a pity that conservative governments have been selling off school playing fields.
    What influence does John Major have on this issue which is so important to him?

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 2:43pm

    adrian sanders

    We once said to the other parties don’t pick up the phone unless you are prepared to concede on PR. Dropping this was the single biggest contributory factor to our election result on 7th May.

    The problem is that while this is important to us, and we understand what a big difference it would actually make to politics in this country, most people don’t see it that way. So us standing firm and holding the country to ransom unless other parties gave in and agreed to us on it would very easily be portrayed as us damaging the country for some obscure political issue which no-one else cares about and we only care about because it benefits us.

    Now almost the whole of southern England outside London is represented by Conservative MPs, we need to stand up and fight for this and explain to people who don’t yet understand just WHY it is so important. How can it be right that all those millions of southerners who didn’t vote Conservative have no-one to represent them? How can some northern or urban MP speak up for poor southerners, for the particular problems of not being wealthy in a rural area or one where the urban elite suppose that the entire population consists of stockbrokers? How can some Tory MP speak up for someone in the south who never votes Conservative and is against all the Conservatives stand for?

    This motivated me in my youth and still does today. It’s a “no taxation without representation” issue, my people, the people I grew up with have no voice in Parliament (except, weirdly, they do, as the constituency I grew up in is now the only one on the whole south-east outside London to have a Labour MP). However, I have experienced so many times eyes glaze over as I try to explain it. Well, it’s a bit mathematical isn’t it, and remember the AV referendum when “duh, it’s all too complex for me to understand” seemed to be a winning line that many people on the No side were proud to use?

  • David Evans 27th May '15 - 4:37pm

    John, There is no humiliation in finishing sixth or seventh, when standing for your values. The humiliation is with the people nationally who led us to such a debacle.

  • David Evans
    Yes – I agree – but I expect it was difficult to keep that in mind when as a parliamentary candidate you picked up less than 1% of the votes cast in your constituency.

    This is what the party has been reduced to and yet in this Guardian piece RC says that he would not have done anything differently.

  • Paul In Wokingham 27th May '15 - 10:04pm

    There’s one other thing that leaps out from the data (which I got from briefing paper CBP7186 from the House Of Commons Library). Here is the average share of the vote for seats where each of the three “main” parties won:

    Con : 330 50.1%
    Lab : 232 50.2%
    LD : 8 38.8%

    So in the seats where we won, we did so with an average of less than 39% vote share.

    Now here is the average difference between first and second place for the seats won by each party:

    Con : 25.3%
    Lab : 24.5%
    LD : 6.9%

    So where the Tories won they were on average 25% ahead of second place. Labour was about the same. We won our 8 seats by an average of only 8% over the second placed candidate.

    We were perilously close to a complete wipe out.

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