Nick Clegg resigns as leader

Nick Clegg has said that he needs to take responsibility for the “crushing” election result for the Liberal Democrats and he resigned with great dignity.

He said that the election had been crushing, much more so than he expected and he had to take responsibility for that. He then went on to quote Edinburgh Western candidate Alex Cole Hamilton’s tweet after the 2011 Scottish election. Alex said that if the price of his defeat was that no child would spend a night in an immigration detention centre again, then he accepted it with all his heart. Nick gave a passionate defence of the good things we’d done in government and said that he thought history would judge us more kindly than last night.

He then talked passionately about the need for British liberalism. He acknowledged it wasn’t faring well against identity politics and the politics of fear but it was really needed.

Fear and grievance have won. Liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it.

It is easy to imagine there is no road back. There is.

This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.

We’ll update this post with reaction to Nick’s resignation. I’ll write at greater length about his leadership when I’ve had some sleep, but I have huge admiration for the man. He has borne the difficulties of the last five years with dignity, good grace, humour and resilience. He has been ridiculed by vested interests from left and right. You could argue that any Liberal Democrat leader in such a position would have faced exactly the same. He’s made mistakes, from the Rose Garden to secret courts to the bedroom tax to the one that everyone associates with him. Here’s his statement in full.

I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats, given the heavy responsibilities we have had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.

But clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared.

For that, of course, I must take responsibility and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

A leadership election will now take place according to the party’s rules. Our President, Sal Brinton, will be in touch with you later on today with details of that process.

For the last seven years it has been a privilege and an honour to lead a party of the most resilient, courageous and remarkable people.

The Liberal Democrats are a family and I will always be extremely proud of the warmth, good grace and good humour which our political family has shown through the ups and downs of recent years.

I want to thank every member, every campaigner, every councillor and every parliamentarian for the commitment you have shown to our country and to our party.

It is simply heart-breaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.

In 2011, after a night of disappointing election results for our party, one of our candidates in Edinburgh, Alex Cole-Hamilton said that if his defeat was part-payment for the ending of child detention then he accepted it with all his heart.

Those words revealed a selfless dignity which is rare in politics but common amongst Liberal Democrats.

We will never know how many lives we changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.

But we have done something that cannot be undone.

Because there can be no doubt that we leave Government with Britain a far stronger, fairer, greener and more liberal country than it was five years ago.

However unforgiving the judgement has been of the Liberal Democrats in the ballot box, I believe the history books will judge our party kindly for the service we sought to provide to the nation at a time of great economic difficultly and for the policies and values which we brought to bear on government – opportunity, fairness and liberty – which I believe will stand the test of time.

It is no exaggeration to say that in the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership, Britain’s place in Europe and the world, and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself, is now in grave jeopardy.

And the cruellest irony of all is that it is exactly at this time that British liberalism – that fine, noble tradition that believes that we are stronger together and weaker apart – is more needed than ever before.

We must keep fighting for it.

That is both the great challenge and the great cause that my successor will have to face.

I will always give my unstinting support to all those who continue to keep the flame of British liberalism alive.

On the morning after the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded it is easy to imagine that there is no road back.

But there is because there is no path to a fairer, greener, freer Britain without British liberalism showing the way.

This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.

Our party will come back. Our party will win again.

It will take patience, resilience and grit. But that is what has built our party before – and will rebuild it again.

Thank you, so much, for everything you have don


When I first met Nick 17 years ago in a dingy office in Leicester, I hadn’t expected to be impressed by him. His CV was the most boring thing I had ever read that wasn’t a phone book, but he blew us all away talking about how he wanted to improve life chances for disadvantaged kids. His first speech as leader was about mental health, about improving opportunities for people with mental ill health. He has championed both causes in government.

He is actually one of the most straightforward and consistent and decent people I’ve met in politics. It was right that he should go in the wake of such a calamitous defeat and it is to his credit that he did so quickly and with dignity.  I’m sad it had to end this way, though.

Update: Kirsty Williams comments on Nick’s resignation:

Nick Clegg is a man of both decency and integrity who helped transform the face of British politics.

In 2010 Nick demonstrated what true leadership looks like at a time when our country most needed it. His decision to form a coalition government was the right one for the country, and these isles are a more liberal place because of it.

Sadly, Nick is right to say that fear and grievance have won the day, while Liberalism has lost.  But this is just one battle of many to come and my party has been here before.

The Liberal Democrats are a party of great resilience and we will come back fighting for what we believe in: our values of freedom, tolerance, equality and community are needed now more than ever.


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

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  • Eddie Sammon 8th May '15 - 12:37pm

    My eyes were welling up as Clegg was giving his speech. I thought it was a great speech. It was right that he resigned, but he still speaks for me on a lot of what he says, and perhaps that is why I found it moving.

    So thanks Nick and all others who have helped. I don’t want to give an opinion on what comes next right now, I just want to say thanks and ask for reasonableness and decency to continue.

    Best regards

  • Stephen Harte 8th May '15 - 12:37pm

    Nick will be judged well by history.

    No one expected us to have the opportunity to go into government 5 years ago – if anything it was Nick’s performance in the debates that probbaly gave us the boost we needed to rob Cameron of a majority. we could have sat on our hands but we didn’t – a decision that was not taken by Nick but by the whole party. I suspect that we were more hurt by the fact of our colaition with the Tories than any aspect of it – and that deicsion can not solely be placed on Nick’s shoulders.

    Did Nick make mistakes? yes – but then again who doesn’t. All in all, I believe we served the country better than last night’s results suggest.

  • I was very sad and depressed though not surprised to see the results coming in last night including my former seat where from being a target seat until fairly recently we finished 4th!. I left the party following Nick Clegg’s election as leader as I could not support the road he was taking the party down. The consequences of which are plain for all to see. He has done the honourable thing by resigning.

    The Party has a mountain to climb in order to recover even the smallest amount of ground. Like many people I’ve been without a home politically for nearly 10 years if the party returns to being a progressive radical party then I for one will be willing to help the new leader in that process heaven knows this country is crying out for Liberalism more than ever.

  • @David Evans
    “Self justifying and almost self congratulatory from the man who has done more than any other except possibly David Cameron to destroy British Liberalism, root and branch.”

    This is just so far from the truth. Totally and utterly wrong. How did Nick Clegg single handedly engineer the UK’s flight from the middle ground towards politics of extremism and grievance?

    David, the VOTERS destroyed liberalism, not Nick Clegg. The voters wanted simple black and white solutions, in this case (in England) how to stop the Scots ruling the rest of the UK. They chose the Tories for that task and that is why we lost so many English seats.

    The voters have chosen extremes of left and right and we are left facing the consequences. The outcome, as will be seen in the near future, will be disastrous for the country.

  • @Rob Sheffield

    You will see in very short order that all that you have written is entirely wrong. The Conservatives on their own in government will be far, far worse and more right wing.

    Then you will eat your words.

  • as will Jack

  • outsider looking in 8th May '15 - 12:52pm

    I’m just reposting something I wrote last night that I think is probably more applicable to this thread.

    to add: I think there will be a lot of over analysis as to why the lib dems got hammered as hard as they did. I think though my ‘feel’ of why before does encapsulate the view of voters who are centrist non-tribal but not liberal democrats.

    N.B. similar simple anaylsis also applies to Labour. It was quite simple with milliband, when he said he didn’t think labour had overspent in the previous labour government, most of the country think they did. At the end of the day, as a voter I just don’t trust Labour on the economy and can’t see Milliband as a leader.


    A viewpoint from outside the lib dem camp.

    I just did not get your campaign message at all. “bring heart to conservatives and head to Labour”…. In plain English what this says to me is “vote Lib dems and have no idea who you you will get” or ” vote lib dem and get someone else” …. In truth it was/is a very strange message as if i wanted to vote left then I’d vote real and vote labour, if i’d vote right, I’d vote real and vote tory.

    It must have been a case of emperors new clothes and nobody say “that sounds a bit daft?”…

    Fundamentally though, ever since Nick Clegg broke his promise I have never been able to trust a thing he said, not mater how good/plausible it sounded. He promised a new politics, that lib dems would be different. The breaking of the tuition fees simply said ” we are the same as the others, you just can’t trust us”

    And people never have since.

  • matt (Bristol) 8th May '15 - 12:54pm

    Good bye Nick Clegg, I think he is an honourable man, although I did wish frequently intensely he had not been elected leader or carried out several of things he did.

    I still like him, I never wanted him to be leader or DPM, but think he would have made a great home secretary.

    However he and the period of his leadership will be seen in future, we need to let him go with dignity, not abuse.

    Everybody should put the knives down, or we will all bleed.

  • matt (Bristol) 8th May '15 - 12:55pm

    Oh and council votes are still being counted. Pipe down just a little bit, people are still enduring a difficult day wherever they are – for the sake of party.

  • It’s good he’s resigned. Perhaps we would have had less of a mauling if he’d done this a year ago but there it is. Time to move on. We have a lot of work to do.

  • paul barker 8th May '15 - 1:06pm

    Nick has been gracious in defeat & its up to the rest of us to imitate that grace as well as we can. Id ont see that we could really have done anything but join The Coalition & there is certainly no point in going over old battles one more time. We are not dead & we will recover quickly but while we are out of the spotlight theres a lot of things we need to sort – getting a lot more Women as candidates for a start.
    We have Elections & at least one Referendum to fight, lets all forgive each other & get back to winning.

  • Nick will be remembered as the man who broke a pledge and destroyed a party. Nothing more and nothing less. What good policy bits we got will only continue as a result of Tories liking them – anything too ‘lefty’ will probably go as a sop to Cameron’s ‘bastards’.

  • @Mark Wright: You can dismiss critical comments if you please; as for me, I am going to have a lot more time for those people who were right about what was coming than for those who were wrong. Abusing people for having had the temerity to accurately see what was coming and make suggestions as to how to avoid it is in no way the way forward for this Party.

  • @Matt (Bristol) “However he and the period of his leadership will be seen in future, we need to let him go with dignity, not abuse.

    Everybody should put the knives down, or we will all bleed.”

    Your words give a fine example to everyone posting on this thread as to how to post with grace, reflection and humility. Thank you.

  • @paul barker: No, you certainly wouldn’t want to rehash old battles, would you? Though I am curious — to what extent were you aware that you were talking rubbish and just kept it up “for the troops,” and to what extent were you really self-deceived?

  • @RC: “You will see in very short order that all that you have written is entirely wrong. The Conservatives on their own in government will be far, far worse and more right wing.”

    I have never disputed that the Tories alone would be worse. The problem with that argument is that the choice wasn’t between a Tory majority government and a coalition. Without Lib Dem support many of the worst policies the Tories have put through would not have passed Parliament.

  • outsider looking in 8th May '15 - 1:16pm

    @paul barker…

    I actually don’t think the majority of the public had too much of a problem with the lib dems joining the coalition. Although the was a significant shift to lib dems in 2010 from those who were dissatisfied labour (or centerist labour) voters who could not vote for a Brown government but would not vote tory who felt let down by Lib dems enabling a centre-right government.

    But the killer is why vote for the tripling of the student fees? David dimblebly said what most of floating voters think ” why did you not just abstain on the vote?… why did you have to actually vote to triple the fees”.

    It was the break of that integrity and principle that did it. As I said in the post above.. Clegg promised a new politics to be “different from the others”… within weeks, with his actions he said “nope we are exactly the same, you can’t trust us” ….. oddly if it had been 6 months to 1 year into the coalition if might not have had such a dramatic effect.. but so quickly after the election.

    All trust was destroyed.

  • Nick always comes across well, hence the Cleggmania of 2010. But his decisions have been awful. 62 seats down to 8 says it all. The four million voters who have deserted us since 2010 won’t come back for maybe a generation.

    It is necessary for someone senior in the party to say that coalition was a terrible mistake. Otherwise we will struggle to move on. We cannot keep banging on about what we achieved in government during a time of crisis, because the election has shown that voters didn’t care about that.

    And realistically, our best bet is to tack left for the next five years, which we will probably will anyway under Farron. Staying centre right will only remind people of our follies in coalition.

  • Well said David Evans. Well I think all the orange bookers have gone, not too sure on where all of what remains stand but their architects eg Laws, Alexander have all but disappeared and now the Party can try and rekindle its radical roots away from the obsession with the economy, libertarianism and unfettered markets.

  • matt (Bristol) 8th May '15 - 1:30pm

    TCO – thank you – I envisage opposing many of the solutions you and others of similar ethos have seemed to hint at on here, tooth and nail. But now is very much not the time and I wish many people would see that.

  • Peter Watson 8th May '15 - 1:31pm

    @Will Mann “It is necessary for someone senior in the party to say that coalition was a terrible mistake.”
    PR would lead to more coalition government (albeit on a different basis than this last one) so we would be shooting ourselves in the foot to use that message while pushing for electoral reform.
    In hindsight, going into that coalition may or may not have been the best choice but it was certainly a valid option at the time.
    But it is the way that being in coalition was handled that was a terrible mistake. At the beginning Clegg suggested there was not even a fag paper between the two parties and that there would be nothing to argue about at the next leader debates. Lib Dems made ridiculous claims about the high proportion of Coalition policy that was Lib Dem policy. The way that cabinet collective responsibility was adopted meant that Lib Dems were enthusiastic cheerleaders in the media for policies they previously opposed. And people on this site – not least Matthew Huntbach – were shouting about the folly of this approach from the very beginning.

  • “He has borne the difficulties of the last five years with dignity, good grace, humour and resilience. ”

    I hope that is the very last time I ever hear that word. I have grown heartily sick of it. Every single time the Party loses somebody pops his head up and squeaks “resilience! resilience!” What does it mean except getting your nose repeatedly bloodied and nothing to show for it? I don’t want a “resilient” party. I want a Party that fights.

  • David Evans 8th May '15 - 1:36pm

    Mark Wright – I have a lot of time for you, and am gutted by your result in Bristol South. I totally believe that was not your failure, but Nick’s. You may disagree with me, and I will bow to your judgement here, but how long do you think it will be before the Lib Dems get back to second place in the constituency, a place we haven’t been since the two horse races prior to 1970? I also see in Bristol City as a whole we had we have 13 councillors going into elections yesterday. That was down from our controlling group of 38 in 2010. Did the 25 deserve to lose? Were we that bad? Or were they drowned by a tidal wave of Anti Lib Dem fervour in the following years? How many feel that the loss of representation in their part of Bristol was “a price worth paying,” and “so be it?” I hope and pray all the Lib Dems in Bristol hold on. Not just for the sake of the Lib Dems in Bristol, because I know you are all good people, but mainly for the sake of the people of Bristol.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 8th May '15 - 1:37pm

    Well said Caron. Nick Clegg is a decent and honourable man. His tenacity, resilience and grace under fire have been remarkable. I really don’t think he went into government to ride in limousines and be accompanied by guys with guns 24*7. He did it for the good of the country and helped save us from an economic disaster.

  • I’ve seen Foot, Kinnock, IDS, Hague etc as party leaders, but I’ve never seen anyone damage his own party like Clegg. If history does judge him – and I don’t think it will bother – it will not be kind.

  • @Matt (Bristol) actually I think you’ll find that we have far more in common than we disagree on, and compromise on those areas of disagreement can always be reached when two parties are prepared to listen, reflect and move towards an acceptable compromise.

    Personally I enjoy having my preconceptions challenged by vigorous yet good humoured debate and am always willing to modify my views when presented with a well structured and evidenced argument.

    I look forward to some lively and good natured discussion in the future.

  • No doubt about it, It was a mistake going into coalition in 2010.
    People who argued that there would have been an early 2nd election may have been right technically, however, the liberal democrats as a political party would be in a far better position than what they are today.
    Had that early 2nd election been called and Liberal Democrats lost maybe 10 seats. They would have still been a strong political force in opposition, holding a Tory Government to account.

    Instead what we saw was a coalition government where Liberal Democrats lost their identity and with that swathes of left of centre supporters who identified themselves with the party.
    Liberal Democrats enabled the Tories to implement some pretty abhorrent policies for which many could not forgive.
    Nick Clegg failed to deliver the kind of politics that he promised, a fair, open, honest and transparent way of doing politics. Everything was hidden behind closed doors, there were no public disagreements on policies, in fact in most circumstances, Liberal Democrats were sent out to defend them.
    Sure the Liberal Democrats won a few policy concessions, but how long do you think those policies will now last now that the Tories have a majority? They will reverse the ones they do not like within 6 months all in the name of austerity, so was it worth the sacrifice if that is what now happens?

    Had the Libdems refused a Tory Coalition in 2010, maybe there is a possibility that the Tories would have won an early 2nd election, If they had of done and implemented some of the policies that are being spoke of now, There is no way they would have won a Majority in this election. They would have been booted out of office.
    So instead we are now facing a whole decade of Tory rule.

    It is a disaster that SNP has cleaned up in Scotland and Labour / Liberal Democrats and Tories are to blame for that.
    The Tories were successful in dividing the country and creating fear. Fear of the SNP
    Labour failed to combat that fear and Liberal Democrats enforced it by Nick Clegg’s constant talks of being illegitimate and how he would not support a Government that involved any kind of support from the SNP.
    This disastrous approach cost the party its seats in South West.

    I hope now that those people left on the left of centre of the party manage to steer the party back towards its more traditional roots. It will take a lot of guts hard work and sheer determination.
    I am going to watch eagerly to see what happens next.

    I have never been a member of any political party and always been a floating voter. However, depending on what happens over the next couple of months, I may well join the party.

    I believe the United Kingdom needs a strong Liberal Democrat Party which has strong social values who will always be a voice for the most disadvantaged people in our society, a party that will shout loudly for the poor, sick and disabled.
    God knows they are going to need it after the last 5 years and the next 5 years to come.

  • This reminds me of my late Father-In-Law’s retelling of Vietnam. He died having never accepted the US made any mistakes there, just couldn’t come to terms with what was written in the history books. In this instance it will be recorded that Clegg broke a promise in one general election and that destroyed his party in the next.

    A big part of my problem with the party is its insistence on telling stories rather than discussing the reality, it seems that there’s more of that ahead still. It’s not just Nick Clegg’s reputation that’s been destroyed, I think some people here should realise that their writings over the last 5 years have been works of pure fantasy and in this moment everyone can see it.

  • Phil Beesley 8th May '15 - 1:58pm

    @Paul Walter: “I really don’t think he went into government to ride in limousines and be accompanied by guys with guns 24*7.”

    Agreed. As a young man, Nick Clegg could have applied to join the Labour or Conservative parties. All he needed was the
    membership subscription. Given his intelligence, eloquence and energy, he could have been riding in a Labour or Tory limo courtesy of Blair or Cameron.

    But Nick Clegg chose to join the Liberal Democrats and get to Parliament the hard way as a liberal. He made many mistakes as party leader, but I cannot ascribe them to limousine fetish.

  • skybluemike 8th May '15 - 2:05pm

    As an ex-member who quit in 2012, I completely agree with the likes of David Evans, Jack and David-1. I hope that someone like Tim Farron can restore this party to something I feel I can join again.

  • Some people need to read “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

  • Will Labour now take up the mantle of electoral reform? If only to keep the Tories from having unfettered power? It will be interesting to see. Clegg (a decent man) should have been deposed as leader at least a year ago. Sometimes, we are as a party are simply not ruthless enough.

  • I am interested to know, how many staff job losses? Nobody mentions them, they have my utmost sympathy and they should be spared a thought. It is a tough world to be unemployed.

  • SmokedKipper 8th May '15 - 2:32pm

    The LibDems deserved much better than this.

    I’m a member of UKIP and I disagree with most LibDem politics, but without you this country would have suffered severely in 2010. I hope you can recover as a party.

  • Glenn Andrews 8th May '15 - 2:36pm

    Look on the bright side everybody; at least now we’re not shackled to that mob of sociopaths any more….. and given the self serving tory instinct for survival maybe the EU referendum gets put on the back burner now the Tories have their majority (especially given what’s happened after that referendum in Scotland).

  • Susan Jordan 8th May '15 - 2:40pm

    I was a member of the Lib Dems for many years and served as a local councillor. I resigned from the party, not over tuition fees, but over the NHS reorganisation which has been disastrous and affects many more people than tuition fees. My great concern now is that we have another five years for the Conservatives to carve it up even more.

    Also I did not see a great deal of action to stop IDS in his zealous persecution of those in receipt of benefits and many more may be going hungry after another 12bn chopped from the welfare and pensions budget. The election campaign never seemed to be about what type of society we want to live in.

  • I left the part in 2010 after they joined the coalition, it was obvious to me that the Lib Dems had signed a suicide note and no good would come of it. Over the years I’ve watched the election results come in and the chorus of emails and articles countering them with the assertion that the General Election would be better. Well it wasn’t and you didn’t. The first thing you need to do is eat some humble pie. You’ve lost most of your MP’s most of your MEP’s and if you don’t realise that the Tories are as much if not more of your enemy than the Labour party you’ll fade away to nothing. You need to take the advice of the likes of Bill le Breton and Matthew Huntbach and treat with care the pronouncement of the Panglossian posters who proclaimed all would be well (it wasn’t and never could have been). I would even suggest you go over the list of lost members and mail them saying “You where right, we where so wrong please come back”.

  • The time in government should have been an invaluable experience. It is the raison d’etre of any political party. It brings huge responsibilities that require grown up policies and practical decisions. If things did not work out, you must not blame the experience or the electorate, but discover how you let yourselves down.

    Those who regret the experience – what is your purpose?

  • It is good that Nick Clegg has recognised his responsibility for our crushing defeat. We have fewer MPs and a smaller share of the vote than in 1950. We need to rebuild the party and reject the idea that being an economic liberal party and supporting individual liberty is enough. We have to stop talking about “fairer” without talking about liberalism and the need to protect the vulnerable, the poor and reducing poverty and inequalities.

    We have to recognise that we made huge mistakes when part of the government and try to ensure that the leadership can never ignore the decisions of Federal conference again. We had a good manifesto but a terrible message. In the past we learnt not to talk about deals and coalitions during a general election campaign and concentrated on getting our policies for improving Britain heard. It is a shame we forgot that lesson this time.

    On the question of the coalition, the party must still point out that the numbers didn’t work for a coalition with Labour in 2010. We will never know what the result would have been of a second general election after the 2010 election, but it is hard to believe it would have been worse than yesterday. Time will tell if the Conservatives alone will be a lot worse than the Coalition. If it is, then we will have the evidence that we stopped the Conservatives being worse. Also as time goes by we will see if those things we see as being our achievements in government will be long lasting achievements.

    @ D McKay
    It was once said that Joseph Chamberlain broke one party and nearly broke another. I wonder if it will be said that Nick Clegg broke the Liberal Democrat party.

  • Coucillor Ron Beadle 8th May '15 - 2:49pm

    Alongside others in Liberal Left I opposed the Coalition from the start and argued that it would result in exactly the annihilation that we witnessed last night. However I also believe that those who took the majority view, including Nick, did so because they genuinely believed that this was the right course. Whatever our views; that period in our history is over and we mustn’t turn on one another – there are simply too few of us left to be able to afford that. In particular the leadership election should be everything that the last one wasn’t – it should be about ideas and we should use it as an opportunity to bring our party’s leaders and members together to remind of us of what unites us, to begin healing and to start to develop both a vision and a policy programme for 21st century citizens who are in fact more liberal than any previous generation.

  • Phil Beesley 8th May '15 - 2:51pm

    @Matt: “Sure the Liberal Democrats won a few policy concessions, but how long do you think those policies will now last now that the Tories have a majority? They will reverse the ones they do not like within 6 months all in the name of austerity, so was it worth the sacrifice if that is what now happens?”

    Five years after the Rose Garden ceremony, Lib Dems understand that they were stitched up. Nobody knew how to construct a coalition agreement — apart from government departments pushing their ambitions and Conservative political lobbyists. So the Lib Dems were swallowed up.

    One of the great liberal attributes — open thinking — exposes liberals to snide operators. Nick Clegg was a sucker, my liberal friends were suckers and I was a sucker in 2010.

    That man sinking in a pit of mud? Do you offer your hand to pull him out, or do you decline because he might steal your watch?

  • When I first joined the Liberal Party 48 years ago, I think we had around 8 MPs. I rejoined this December and we’re back down to 8 again. Was it something I said?

  • Chris B
    Who is the real winner in todays Vietnam? I don’t think it is Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy.
    Will Britain go forward or backwards under the Conservatives?

  • LiberalFace 8th May '15 - 3:01pm

    Joining the Coalition wasn’t wrong. Nick as leader wasn’t wrong.

    Joining the Coalition and appearing like one party in the first 2 years *was* wrong. The fees pledge *was* wrong. Not heeding the warning signs in elections since 2010 *was* wrong. Trusting the Tories until parliament was dissolved *was* wrong.

    If these lessons aren’t learned, the Party is done for.

  • Clegg is an orange book liberal, he was comfortable with the Tories. Lets be honest, orange book Liberals are Liberal Tories. The problem is the orange book wing of your party treated all the voters who felt betrayed by the coalition as if they were spolit children who simply didn’t underatand.

    There was no choice you said. In reality you could have let the Tories govern as a minority. Parliament could have become independent of the executive. Bills would only be passed if they deserved to be passed on their merits, not by the power of the whips. An outcome a true Liberal party would support.

    Sadly you got done by the Tories. You let them cut and cut and cut and for what? Pupil premiums, about all you got.

    Fortunately the nightmare of the coalition is over, and there maybe a chance of saving the Liberal Democrats, However it will only happen if those that have walked away in disgust at the actions of the orange book liberals come back and take back their party.

  • @exdem if I want to be told my political orientation by you I’ll ask you.

    On you point about the Conservatives governing as a minority, the ftpa was passed by the coalition. Any tory minority government could have called an election at any time.

  • As we have no leader or deputy leader amongst our MPs, might it be appropriate for the president of the party to issue a statement about what happens next?

    The present situation of the former leader resigning in the wake of election losses was always a possibility, sonI assume President Sal Brinton has a full plan rehearsed and ready to putinto action. So it would be helpful to the members to know what that plan is.

    Elections are like buses. You miss one and there is another one along before you know it. There will be a Scotland election next year and a London election and no doubt numerous others. Clegg has gone as leader, he is as they say “history”. That is the fact of the matter. No point in recriminations – time to move on and rebuild the party.

  • TCO

    Any tory minority government could have called an election at any time.

    We’ve heard this argument a lot of the last 5 years. It would result in a Tory majority peoples said, look how terrible that would be. Well, look what we have now. 5 years of right wing coalition, now a further 5 years of right wing government thanks to the ftpa.

  • Stephen Campbell 8th May '15 - 3:53pm

    You lost my support not when the coalition was formed, or when you broke your pledge on tuition fees. I was indeed an early supporter of the coalition. Genuinely thought you’d keep the Tories in check, that disagreements would be public and open to debate in the public sphere. I thought you’d act like European parties do in coalitions – have strong red lines and keep your identity.

    You lost my support, though, when you went ahead with the Tories’ welfare and NHS “reforms”. It wasn’t so much that you voted for them, but the fact that you suddenly acted as if you supported them as a matter of principle, not as a business agreement, which is what the coalition should’ve been from the start rather than a love-in. The horror of seeing Danny Alexander on the telly, multiple times, suddenly arguing in favour of the welfare reforms when he campaigned against Labour’s mistreatment of the vulnerable just a few weeks before. That was when the penny dropped for me that a large portion of your MPs were happy to trade their compassion and principles for a smattering of power and join in the Tories’ bashing the weak and the poor.

    As someone who relies on the NHS for mental health services, I have been left despondent that my level of care has steadily decreased over the past 5 years. I expect it to get even worse now. I looked on in horror as you voted through the Bedroom Tax, which you were warned would hit disabled people disproportionately. I felt sick seeing mentally ill people being sanctioned by the DWP or found “fit for work” when some of these people were not even well enough to understand the process they were being put through. Seeing the terminally ill being placed in “workfare” schemes. Watching foodbanks multiply across the country. And these policies, so alien to the very soul of Liberal Democracy, have ended up in early deaths and suicides. Shame on you. Shame on the MPs who voted for all this. Shame on LibDems who thought sacrificing the poor and disabled was a price worth paying for having a tiny bit of power.

    The Tories have played you like a fiddle. They’ve used you, eaten you and have now spat you out. So many people told you this would happen, but you were more concerned with bashing Labour and attacking anyone who dared point out reality. People who pointed out that this is exactly what would happen were constantly smeared as “Labour Tr0lls” and moderated into oblivion.

    The “strategy” (if it can be called that) of turning yourself into “Nice Tories” has failed utterly and completely. You are nothing if you are not a centre-left, radical, people-before-profit party. The “Nice Tories” you thought you’d hoover up went for the real thing. Centre left voters such as myself have gone to Labour, the Greens and the SNP.

    Despite it all, I am sad that many good LibDem MPs lost their seats. I won’t be sad to see the back of the likes of David Laws and Danny Alexander, though. Losing good, Preamble Lib Dems such as Charles Kennedy, though, actually does hurt. You need to reconnect with those people you threw to the wolves. You need to become a party who champions the weak, the powerless, the disenfranchised, the sick and disabled and the working poor again. You need to stop fawning over global corporations and the ultra rich who hold our country to ransom. You need to be on the side of those who wield little power, not those who hoard their power. You became a party that was on the side of those who govern, rather than those who you governed.

    In short, you once more need to find your soul, humanity and above all your compassion. You need to follow the wise words set out in your Preamble. Then and only then will centre-left voters such as myself consider voting Lib Dem again.

  • Forming a coalition with the Tories was strategically either wrong or right. The scale of defeat suggests that it was wrong, though had we not gone into coalition there would soon have been a new election in which we would have been blamed for uncertainty. Of course we will never know how much we would have suffered for this, though it is easy to assume that it would not have been on this scale.

    It certainly raises the question much acutely than I had ever feared. The demonstration of a workable coalition is still an important plus, though under what circumstances would the party agree to repeat the experiment? I would expect that should an occasion reoccur we would demand a much higher price.

  • When does Clegg resign as DPM/Lord President of the Council?

  • David Allen 8th May '15 - 4:02pm

    The public made it crystal clear, throughout the last parliament, that they did not accept Ed Miliband as a potential Prime Minister. Labour, in their ineffable wisdom, knew better. Labour believed that they had the right leader and the right programme, and that if only they kept on repeating their message, eventually the public would be bound to come around to accepting that Labour were right. It was blinkered arrogance, and because of it, they lost heavily, despite the manifold failings of their principal opponents. They have only themselves to blame.

  • The demise of the libdems along with labour supporters voting UKIP has allowed in the nastiest Tory party ever. Into government. The poor the disabled and most vulnerable in OUR society get ready for what IDS has got coming down the track. A sad day for the country and also a sad day for the libdems albeit it was brought on by not listening to the very people who voted for them 5 years ago.😓

  • Stephen Campbell 8th May '15 - 4:06pm

    Here’s just one thing you could have done differently that could’ve made a huge difference.

    I felt sick to my stomach watching LibDem MPs cheer when Tory cuts were passed. You gave the impression that not only did you now support measures you once considered beyond the pale, you did so with glee. You could have come out and said “That was disgraceful behaviour from the Tories. We don’t agree with these cuts, but they’re the price of some concessions in government. These cuts will harm some very vulnerable people, so they should not be cheered, but we will do all we can in government to mitigate their worst effects”.

    But you didn’t You put Danny Alexander and David Laws and others on the telly to tell us, actually you now support and like these policies you once opposed.

    But you didn’t And now we are all paying the price.

  • David Evans 8th May '15 - 4:07pm

    Anne is right to mention the staff. They have my sympathy. Of course it has happened once already after te Euros last year. My worry is the knock on implications of that. 49 constituencies many of which will now have quite a number of local councillors who have rarely written, typeset, printed or paid for their leaflets or organised an election campaign, and constituencies that cannot afford the cost of Connect, coupled with the loss of income for the national party. Councillor losses will inevitably continue for another three years, though many will choose to deny it. Then there is Scotland. Sorry, I could only guess at the issues there.

    This is a huge thing to plan for and hardly anyone to do it. As John says we have to move on, and recriminations are useless, but we do have to accept the facts and learn the lessons. Otherwise we will just repeat them.

  • He has done the honourable thing albeit at least a year too late. I do think it right that people play The ball and not the man though. I have felt bitterly disappointed by a number of his decisions over the last five years but wish him well for the future. I don’t think history will be much kinder to him, I’m afraid he will be remembered as someone who promised to take the party to over 100 seats and ended up dragging it back to 8….

    Regarding MP’s staff, those that do find themselves out of work and reliant on benefits will be worse off now then they would have been in 2010. In the lengthy post mortem that will follow this result I hope that is not lost. Amongst the good work on raising the tax threshold a section of society at the very bottom have seen their situation worsen…

  • @g tell me where you get your hindsight from so I can stock up.

  • For Scotland, the appropriate thing to do is to let the Scottish Liberal Democrats become a fully independent party, allied with the UK Party but capable of taking a different line and adjusting itself to the Scottish situation. The politics of Scotland are now so utterly unlike that of England and Wales that the Scottish Party and the UK Party are, to use a biblical phrase, “unequally yoked.”

  • Phil Beesley 8th May '15 - 4:37pm

    @David Evans: “49 constituencies many of which will now have quite a number of local councillors who have rarely written, typeset, printed or paid for their leaflets or organised an election campaign, and constituencies that cannot afford the cost of Connect, coupled with the loss of income for the national party.”

    Just get on with it. Grow up and do not assume that servants will sort out your political laundry.

    Wot? You have councillors who can’t organise a leaflet campaign? And if they can’t afford a Connect subscription, how are they expected to pay for an election campaign?

  • I’ll be honest, I had often dreamed of this day coming, but now it is here there is no pleasure to be had.

    I understand Clegg cried. I hope he has cried for the people he helped inflict emotional pain on by enforcing the bedroom tax. He helped spread SNP fear which means people were put off voting Labour,

    These seem dark times for both Labour & the Lib Dems.
    But the Labour party seem to still have a very firm base, many have been joining today apparently.

    The rise of the Tories, UKIP coming third in Wales and increasing their vote share in England & the rise of nationalism should leave us with heavy hearts.

    Now the Orange Bookers are ousted – can the party not explore its Dem part and look to help build a centre/centre left bloc with Labour in the future ? Separate in vital areas but close enough to propose policies that will be electable and keep out the Tories for a generation.

    Very sad day, for the people and public services that will suffer in the next five years.

    I just wish people on LDV had listened to the many, many warnings. We may not be looking at a Tory majority today if they had.

  • TCO

    @g tell me where you get your hindsight from so I can stock up.

    I’ve been commenting on this site for years making that argument. As have numerous others. It’s also quite common across the entire spectrum of political punditry.

    It’s not hindsight. Lots of people predicted this, it became obvious it was likely to happen when you started to lose council seats, then continued to do so. It was even more obvious when all the polls started putting you on about 10%.

    For whatever reason, and to be frank, if I had made the decision they did I might have chosen not to believe it too, the party’s politicians and cheerleaders ignored it, assumed things would get better. A very human mistake, but a mistake.

  • No one has mentioned the boundary changes coming down the line giving the Tories at least another 25 Rock solid seats. I wished for the libdems to be punished for voting for the cuts to welfare but I have today been taught a lesson that one must be careful what one wishes for.

  • John Barrett 8th May '15 - 4:54pm

    Life in any bubble is dangerous.

    It was not only Nick who was in the bubble, he was surrounded by people who repeated the message that where there were incumbents all would be well, despite having had four years of bad election results at all levels. Many outside the bubble were saying that the ship was heading for the ice-berg and needed a change of direction. If people read over comments made on LDV over weeks, months and years, many questioned the direction of the party and the decisions of the leadership only to be taken to task by others who did no more than back the leadership line, regardless of what the issue was. The party, or its leadership, became part of the establishment. One example of this was putting friends of the leader and major donors into the Lords showed that the Lib-Dems were acting just like the other parties we used to criticise for such behaviour, was another nail in our coffin.

    Watching our sister party in Germany going from over 90 MPs to 0 after a period in coalition and who then made getting back into Government a key message of their losing campaign, was raised with Willie Rennie, who told me he would pass this warning on at election planning meetings. What happened was that getting back into Government was one of our key messages during the election. You could not make it up.

    The campaigns department and Paddy’s leadership of the campaign need to be looked at in detail. Paddy and Sal appeared to be there to back up anything Nick said. Reading through the messages being sent out right up to the last minute, many were clearly out of touch with what what happening in reality throughout the country. Saying “we are winning here” does not make it happen.

    Since 2010 we have received a pasting at council level, Scottish Parliament and in the European Parliament elections.

    The only reason our MPs had not suffered a similar fate was because they had not yet been up for election. Today’s results are not a change, they are simply a continuation of our electoral demise over the last 5 years.

    The tuition fees debacle started the rot, not just because of the U-turn but because it ended many years of the party being trusted. During the 2010 election, after Nick, Danny etc. had all confirmed this was a fully costed policy. We should remember that Nick opposed this policy when the party debated it and when it was later dumped, it was no surprise to many. The apology he made was for making the pledge, he did not apologise for breaking it. He was convinced he was right all along. Being in the coalition was not the mistake, it was what the party did and how it acted while in coalition that has led to the decimation of our MPs.

    Sadly, many good MPs have been swept away by the SNP landslide, or for other reasons in the rest of the country. We should also not forget their staff, will now be made redundant. No Peerages for them.

  • @PB BROWN “Now the Orange Bookers are ousted”

    That’s very presumptuous of you. We’re paid up legitimate party members and are not going to be forced out at your say so.

    – can the party not explore its Dem part and look to help build a centre/centre left bloc with Labour in the future ? 

  • matt (Bristol) 8th May '15 - 4:57pm

    David-1 — AFAIK it’s not a thing your resign as; from the minute Cameron kissed hands on a commision to be PM, he was commissioned to form a new government. The whole appointment process in theory derives from the sovereign’s new request to the new PM.

  • That depends on who is elected leader and how the legitimate party bodies decide to take policy direction. But I don’t see any future in abandoning equidistance to become Labour’s little brother

  • @Alan it’s a bit late now.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th May '15 - 5:00pm

    TCO 8th May ’15 – 4:26pm
    “@g tell me where you get your hindsight from so I can stock up.”

    The trouble with hindsight is its very high cost. Foresight always works out significantly cheaper.

  • @Stephen Hesketh 8th May ’15 – 5:00pm

    “Foresight always works out significantly cheaper.”

    Who needs foresight when you’ve the dead hand of the market on the steering wheel?

  • @Stephen Hesketh are you the Special One?

  • What Stephen Campbell said.

    Everyone cites tuition fees as the key breach of trust with the electorate but it goes much further and deeper.
    I fear we will now find that legislation passed by the Coalition has, after all, teed up the NHS for sweeping privatisation and marketization as many warned. How will the rump oppose that when they voted for it? And then there is TTIP which is a wet dream for footloose global capital but the antithesis of liberalism.

    So, I think that going forward there are three huge tasks.

    Firstly, to rethink how its central organisation works. At present it’s demonstrably not fit for purpose, top heavy with committees, cumbersome, deeply (small ‘c’) conservative and risk averse, either terrified or incapable (I’m not sure which) of original thought. HQ should instead be agile, innovative, proactive – none of which are remotely possible with the current structure. Strangely, the very scale of this defeat may offer hope. Even the dullest mind must now comprehend that we can’t go on as before. An the shortage of funds will likely force a radical downsizing so there’s less space for the supernumeraries. I hear that the lost deposits alone could total around £60,000.

    Secondly, develop a coherent and, ahem, liberal narrative. It’s long been obvious that the present Party structure can’t do this which is why I put reorganisation first. That will take time but we do have one crucial resource – the activists which, to be frank, are always what’s kept the Party afloat, never the central organisation. As it is we are constantly ill-prepared as for instance when, after the Scottish referendum, ‘federalism’ was suddenly the order of the day yet the one party with a federal structure had almost nothing to contribute to the debate which was driven by others. Ditto on the EU which has long been overdue for reform. We could have shot UKIP’s fox but preferred not to rock the boat – or perhaps rock it just a teeny bit for form’s sake.

    Thirdly, we need a new culture. The Party has always been far too deferential to the leader, not just Clegg but right back to the beginning whereas the Conservatives dump their leader as soon as he/she looses the plot. It makes them a far far more successful party. In contrast we are nominally super-democratic but act Stalinist.

    So, yes, Clegg needed to go. But that’s only the beginning of a very long climb back the next leader has to orchestrate. If that’s not well in hand within six months then I fear it’s all over and until liberalism re-emerges in some new guise.

  • Phil Beesley 8th May '15 - 5:24pm

    @John Barrett: “The tuition fees debacle started the rot, not just because of the U-turn but because it ended many years of the party being trusted. During the 2010 election, after Nick, Danny etc. had all confirmed this was a fully costed policy. We should remember that Nick opposed this policy when the party debated it and when it was later dumped, it was no surprise to many. The apology he made was for making the pledge, he did not apologise for breaking it. He was convinced he was right all along.”

    I think this is a debate which must be cleared quickly if liberals wish to reconstruct themselves. The no fee policy appeared to be affordable in 2007/2008 but it was bonkers a few years later. It was a false promise.

    Go to work lads and lasses. The Fall!

  • Ed Shepherd 8th May '15 - 5:33pm

    Scotland’s independence referendum is one of the key aspects that did for the Liberal Democrats. I did not comprehend the position of the Liberal Democrats during the run-up to the referendum. Instead of joining with Labour and the Tories on platforms supporting a “No” vote and demonising the SNP, the Liberal Democrat Party should have issued a statement during the run-up to the referendum stating, “It is the official position of the Lib-Dem Party that Scotland would be better to stay within the Union and we advocate a federal system throughout the UK.” Then the Lib Dem Party leadership should have withdrawn from the independence debate and said nothing more on the subject.

  • Can any one explain how in the West Country the LD has gone down 15-25% yet UKIP has gone up 6-9%, Conservative a few % and also gains by Labour and The Greens ?
    Perhaps we need to ask why people who had voted for the LDs voted for other parties. I cannot see many people running small businesses voting for us if we tie up with Labour which is run and funded by public sector unions.

    If people say it was the Coalition which did so much damage what about coalitions which occur in many other European countries?

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th May '15 - 5:35pm

    TCO 8th May ’15 – 5:16pm
    “@Stephen Hesketh are you the Special One?”

    Ho, ho. No, just a bog-standard Lib Dem activist who, like many others here, has put years of activity into this party.

    The fact that we were totally ignored means that many of us need to release just a little anger before moving on. I would respectfully ask you to respect that need.

  • Julian Critchley 8th May '15 - 5:37pm

    John Barrett has this right. Clegg moved in a political bubble of decreasing size, involving those who were unable to look what was coming in the eye and accept they’d made a terrible mistake. Only last week they still expected to maintain 30-40 seats, and be rewarded by those “soft Tories” Clegg thought were so much more numerous than the 5 million centre-left voters he jettisoned from 2010.

    It’s very important that the remaining LibDems realise that this isn’t some sort of unavoidable Greek tragedy, or unpredictable outcome of external factors. This is the result of choices which were made, largely by Clegg, Laws et al, to shift this party to the economic right and enthusiastically support a right-wing government. I see plenty of denial on here already. Which is remarkable, given the scale of this catastrophe.

  • I presume that PBBrown’s reference to “Orange Bookers” meant the actual authors of the Orange Book, all of whom other than Nick Clegg are now out of office.

  • Bill le Breton 8th May '15 - 5:46pm

    May I just mention the party’s internal polling. I had access to some of those which were done before the start of April. It was obvious that they were an exercise in concealing the true state of affairs. I just can’t understand why certain people appear to have relied on them. Clearly the post 4th April polling was also questionable.

    I had access to a few from those who valued my views. In those before April, the first voter intention question was followed by a series of questions allegedly to test messaging. But these messages were positive ones associated with out named party achievements eg ITA and others which were local wins ascribed to our named candidates. These positive messages were followed by a few negative messages about Tory policies and cuts etc. There follwed a second VI question.

    The warming up process described above seemed to have pushed up the % answering LD to the first Vi to the second VI was around 50%!. The press and apparently our own leaders were given the second inflated figure.

    Only when this comfort polling was challenged did it emerge that these polls were not ‘conducted’ by a private polling firm. The firm took a quarter of a million from us to conduct field and tab exercises, ie the party set the questions and did the nalysis and the firm just supllied the process.

    Who on earth did we allow this to happen? It seems to have misled candidates and the campaign leaders.

    Perhaps this is why Clegg kept saying, I simply do not believe the polls. Sadly it was his own polls that were misleading him.

    It would seem that this subterfuge continued into the campaign. The centre must have had all target seat polling data and on the day must have had all the knock up feedback. Yet at 10 Paddy was able to say that if we went down to 10 seats he wd eat his hat – that is not the statement of an experienced person in possession of the data!!!

    Finally on the private memebers section three or so weeks ago I mentioned that there was good reason to believe at that time that Eastleigh had become a marginal and that we might be behind. I did a simple read across. Eastleigh was 15th in the list of our ‘safe seats’.

    ie if we were in danger of losing Eastleigh, then, we were in the sub 15 seat zone.

    No one commented on this observation.

    The denial was institutionalised.

    I just simply do not know how people who were paid lucrative professional salaries were so incompetent and those with the democratically assigned responsibility for their oversight were so complacent.

    I do hope this gets through the mods. It is fair criticism that deserves investigation.

    sorry for typing as ever.

  • Julian Critchley 8th May '15 - 5:47pm

    @Charlie “Perhaps we need to ask why people who had voted for the LDs voted for other parties. I cannot see many people running small businesses voting for us if we tie up with Labour which is run and funded by public sector unions. ”

    This is remarkable.

    Prior to 2010, the LibDems ran from the centre-left as a Keynesian, happy-with-the-public-sector, anti-authoritarian social democrat party. They won 50-60 seats, ran dozens of local authorities, and gathered the support of about 1 in 5 voters.

    Since 2010, the LibDems governed as an economically right-wing, anti-state, anti-authoritarian conservative party. They’ve lost all but 8 MPs, 5 million voters, and most of their councillors.

    Yet there are still people on this site warning about how the LibDems have no future if they adopt a centre-left approach. That’s some serious denial of reality right there. Charlie, you’ve just witnessed the utter devastation of the Party, and your concern is that if the LibDems tried to go back to positions where they used to attract multiples of the support they have today, then somehow that would “risk” votes ?

    As plenty of us ex-members and Kennedy LibDems have been warning since 2010, there is no room in British politics for yet another party targeted at centre-right voters. The right-wing orange bookers are squarely responsible for this catastrophe, and it was an entirely predictable one.

  • @Charlie 8th May ’15 – 5:35pm

    “Can any one explain how in the West Country the LD has gone down 15-25% yet UKIP has gone up 6-9%, Conservative a few % and also gains by Labour and The Greens ?”

    The party is a broad church in the West Country, that gathers together a great range of – in essence – Anti-Tory support. It functioned because the opposition to the Tories allowed disparate members to focus on the things they had in common rather than the things they didn’t. Once the party went into coalition that strong bond threatened to dissolve unless a really skilful leadership could’ve managed to ensure a perceived separation of the two parties. As it was, the leadership failed completely to do this – it even tried to confuse the issue. The rubber band broke, and supporters flew off in all directions except back to the Lib Dems. In short a lot of what was an anti-Tory coalition thus became an anti-Lib Dem one.

  • Stephen Hesketh 8th May '15 - 6:00pm

    Bolano 8th May ’15 – 5:13pm
    “@Stephen Hesketh 8th May ’15 – 5:00pm “Foresight always works out significantly cheaper.” Who needs foresight when you’ve the dead hand of the market on the steering wheel?”

    Let hope we can now put the wasted years of ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’ and its free market worship behind us and return to being the party of social justice Liberal Democracy.

  • [email protected]

    Well if the Orange Book brigade have dug their heels in…good luck.
    It may be a very long time before people will vote for you again.
    But you didn’t listen before, keep on the same track. It worked well didn’t it ?

    You have lost how many seats ? Do you realise what has happened ?

  • [email protected]

    Thank you. That was what I meant.

  • [email protected]

    Take issue with the presumptious voters who kicked them out.

  • Julian Critchley 8th May '15 - 6:09pm


    “Let hope we can now put the wasted years of ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’ and its free market worship behind us and return to being the party of social justice Liberal Democracy.”

    I don’t see that happening. Even if someone like Farron takes over and tries to return the party to the social democratic centre-left, that territory has been staked out by the Greens, who didn’t exist in a meaningful way when Kennedy was building the party as a third force. Likewise, I think there’s going to be a credibility issue for a generation now. The people who used to vote LibDem aren’t going to suddenly forget the last 5 years. Throw into the mix a UKIP party which now looks like its future is in attracting the disenchanted white working-class ex-Labour vote, rather than the colonels of Tunbridge Wells, and it’s a much more crowded political marketplace.

    I don’t claim to be able to predict the future for the party now as clearly as I could predict the future outcome in 2010, but I struggle to see any sort of recovery for the LibDems without both a change in the voting system and a fantastically charismatic and effective leader. And why the Tories would choose to change the voting system which has once again given them a majority on a minority of the vote is anybody’s guess.

    It’s a very bleak outlook. Very bleak indeed. For all of us who would rather not live under a right-wing conservative government.

  • It’s a very bleak outlook. Very bleak indeed. For all of us who would rather not live under a right-wing conservative government.

    And don’t forget, one which will last the next 5 years because of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, even if it loses vote after vote.

  • Reading comments from a few months or even weeks or days ago is quite an eye-opener. I had overlooked the amount of antagonism directed at those who failed to subscribe to the rosy scenario. Where now is Simon Shaw, who a little while ago was lambasting another reader for his “ignorance of psephology” because he thought that a prophecy of 28 seats was unrealistically high?

  • @Stephen Hesketh 8th May ’15 – 6:00pm

    “Let hope we can now put the wasted years of ‘Reclaiming Liberalism’ and its free market worship behind us and return to being the party of social justice Liberal Democracy.”

    Yes. Although I share Julian Critchley’s concerns. It’s going to be built a brick at a time, and before that can happen the free market worshipping needs sorting or the party is definitely, eventually, condemned to extinction.

  • TechnicalEphemera 8th May '15 - 6:17pm

    Firstly my commiserations for that result. It was worse than I thought possible and I take no pleasure from it.

    Cameron is now going to break the UK with EVEL (giving him a majority of 60 odd) and entrench this with the boundary fix up. I think whoever wins the leadership of Labour and the Lib Dems should sit down together and look at the possibility of some sort of grand coalition of opposition with the aim of securing sensible voting reform and a broadly centre left government to deliver it. This will include not standing against each other in competitive seats.

    I am not sure either party will be up for that, but necessity demands it should be looked at.

    Very shortly we will be in a very different country, I doubt any of us will like it much.

  • @David-1 8th May ’15 – 6:15pm


    ‘Tabman 16th Apr ’15 – 1:13pm
    Bolano – “Laws is toast.”

    £50 bet – loser pays to the charity of his choice – that Laws retains his seat.’

    further –

    ‘Tabman 16th Apr ’15 – 2:32pm
    Bolano – so you won’t put your money where your mouth is. That speaks volumes, and Laws will be MP for Yeovil next month.’

    Ah, Tabman and his £50 note.

  • Admittedly students watching a plasma in a university foyer next in a coffee concession aren’t especially representative, but I happened to be in the queue when breaking news came on re NC resignation late morning. Cheers, whoops, fist pumps, clapping.

    The undergrads I teach have no memory of a Tory majority – many now clearly see the libdems as the ‘nasty’ double cross party – that will live on in folk memory like the 3 day week and the poll tax – we’ll have to work on that. Nuanced arguments will do zip to dent that impression.

    For Nick himself I wish him well, I disagreed with his decisions and would not rejoin the party whilst he was leader but that does not make him any less of a decent man. Think a line should be drawn under his legacy and quickly, sorry Sal B, though appreciate how hard that message must have been to write.

  • Peter Watson 8th May '15 - 6:31pm

    @David-1 “Where now is Simon Shaw?”
    I assume he was busy successfully defending his council seat. I congratulate him on that. I disagreed with most of what Simon posted and usually found his approach infuriating, but I am sure that the qualities he often showed, e.g. persistence and attention to detail, when exercised on behalf of his voters probably make him an excellent councillor. Also, he rarely seemed to take a position other than attacking those of us who criticised the party. If he did that out of loyalty rather than ideological agreement with “Cleggism” or the “Orange Book”, then he might be equally and valuably loyal and hardworking if the party moves forward in the sort of different direction that I would much prefer.

  • Bill le Breton 8th May '15 - 7:02pm

    May I ask you all to spool up to a post I made at 5.46pm this afternoon. It got delayed and so probably is unread. It contains points about the Party’s so-called internal polling. This was hugely influential in miss directing resources and attention from the real situation.

    Our campaign proceeded in the dark because of this .

    In short some in the party did know the extent of the problem and chose to draw attention away from the real situation.

    Thank you.

  • Jonathan Pile 8th May '15 - 8:21pm

    I think Bill Le Breton’s 5.46pm post deserves reading ! if our internal polls we’re being cooked then those in the Clegg bubble were deceiving themselves as well as the party. When is someone senior going to have the guts to say Matthew Oakeshott called it right last year and invite him to return as a hero of the party.

  • @Bill le Breton: That is shocking. It fits with the general sense I’ve had of a self-deluding Party apparatus, but of course the details are necessary for a real reform to be successful rather than just words. But who now can be trusted to take charge of that reform?

  • @Bill

    Just read your post and that is indeed shocking and needs thorough investigation.

    If lessons are to be learnt then the facts need to be exposed and if there are those that are culpable for misleading then heads need to roll.

    I have been quite open over the years about my political preferences. Though I am not sorry to see Nick Clegg stand down {Finally}, Jeremy Browne left and Laws and Alexander lose their seats, I am deeply saddened at the loss of Cable, Swinson,Featherstone & Hubbert.
    Center left voters like myself would never want to see the demise of such valued socially Liberal Members of Parliament.
    I Sincerely hope that Liberal Democrats manage to find themselves again and return to the great party that it once was.

    I have never been a member of any political party, I have always been a floater between Labour and Liberal Democrats. However, one thing that changed in me during the coalition of 2010-2015 is that it made me far more interested and caring about politics and the future of politics and for society.
    I will watch eagerly to see what happens over the next couple of Months with the Liberal Democrats. I will wait to see what leader the party elects and which direction the party takes and if lessons are learnt.
    I look forward to hearing more from people like yourself, David Allen, John Tilley, George Potter and Lord Greaves, These people inspired me and I believe are the kind of people I think it will take to rescue the party.
    A party where the voices and opinions of these people are heard and have real influence over the future direction that it takes. Then I might just actually join the party.
    I believe the country needs a strong socially Liberal Party which believes in a fair and democratic society, a party that will always fight for the poor, sick, disabled, Education and a more equal society

  • If Eastleigh was your 15th then you were always doomed. I don’t understand how you thought you were going to keep it. This is what I said on the first anniversary:

    “Steve 28th Feb ’14 – 9:27am
    The Lib Dems won it because UKIP took so many votes off the Tories. If 30% of the UKIP vote in Eastleigh was a protest by voters that will switch back to the Tories at the election then Mike Thornton will be unseated.

    ATF 28th Feb ’14 – 11:12am

    Ah, the old if people had voted differently then the result would have been different line…

    Steve 28th Feb ’14 – 12:08pm
    Ah, the old bury-your-head-in-the-sands and ignore the evidence line

    22,130 people voted for UKIP/Tories and 13,342 voted for the Lib Dems

    The result was caused by a massive swing to UKIP who increased their share of the vote from 3.6% at the general election to 27.8% in the by-election. UKIP are a protest party. Do you seriously believe they’re going to poll anywhere close to that in 2015? UKIP won it for you.”

    UKIP dropped from 27.8% in the Eastleigh by-election to 15.8% yesterday. The tories increased their share from 25.4% to 42.3%

  • The rest of the exchange is here, for anyone interested in reading more denial:

  • @ GF
    I am always concerned when someone says that the organisation of the party is the problem especially being “top heavy with committees”. There is a problem with who controls the party. Is it the membership via their representatives at Federal Conference or the leadership who controls the party? Therefore if we are looking at changing the way the party works we need to reduce the power of the leadership to control the organs of the party and return control of the party to the Federal Executive Committee and not treat it as a rubber stamp. If this means employing the staff to provide the information, then so be it. If it means meeting on a Saturday, then so be it. There is no excuse for someone to say we didn’t have the time to discuss this issue properly.

    Is our policy making process broken? I don’t think so. We just need to ensure that the Federal Policy Committee is more proactive and doesn’t become a rubber stamp for our MPs.

    If we keep a representative Federal Conference (and I am not convinced we will) then we could give it the power to no confident a leader and so start a new leadership election. We could also give the Federal Executive Committee power to no confident a leader and so start a new leadership election.

    @ Julian Critchley

    The Greens are an authoritarian party of the left and I would hope we could attract people away from that to a liberal environmental party as we did after 1989.

  • David Evans 8th May '15 - 11:21pm

    RC “How did Nick Clegg single handedly engineer the UK’s flight from the middle ground towards politics of extremism and grievance?” Answer – by raising those people’s hopes with “An end to broken promises” and then almost immediately breaking their trust in him. People voted against the Lib Dems because of what Nick did. Until you realise and accept that, you will continue to say “Nothing to learn here. Move along,” and we will continue to decline.RC “

  • Ryan Dungallon 8th May '15 - 11:21pm

    “Nick gave a passionate defence of the good things we’d done in government and said that he thought history would judge us more kindly than last night”. I very much doubt it. What good things was he referring to? Voting for swinging cuts to welfare, the bedroom tax, voting for tax cuts for millionaires, privatising the NHS, selling off the Post Office at a knock down price to billionaire hedge fund managers, University Fees?

  • For me, this, from John Tilley, is the comment of the day:

    “Elections are like buses. You miss one and there is another one along before you know it. There will be a Scotland election next year and a London election and no doubt numerous others. Clegg has gone as leader, he is as they say “history”. That is the fact of the matter. No point in recriminations – time to move on and rebuild the party.”

    Given John’s long-standing views on NC and the coalition, I think this is an incredbily decent and correct attitude.

  • @ Michael BG

    It’s interesting that you jump straight to the problem of control. I think the primary problem is lack of effective leadership. But since you mention it we have seen the most epic imaginable failure of control over the last five years; a leader who chose to take the party in a way that a large majority of the members didn’t support and got away with it until the voters spoke.

    I struggle to understand how you think the policy making process isn’t broken. It’s 20+ years and we’re still waiting for a coherent narrative. The best we usually get is lists of Good Things when what we need is vision. Of course, you can’t divorce policy from leadership and committees can’t do vision.

    I agree though that there need to be ways to fire a leader. I would give that power to MPs. They know the score far better than those of us outside Westminster, they are best placed to assess how some future leader’s errant ways or plans are likely to play with the voters and it’s their job that is on the line. The trouble is that if they are ever to have that power (and I hope that it’s very existence makes that less likely) then they must be prepared to use it ruthlessly and the membership must understand it’s for the greater good, that for example there may be reasons it’s best not to air in public.

    That said I wouldn’t rule out other ways of firing a leader, e.g. via the Federal Executive Committee as you suggest.

  • Perhaps we should get rid of this unitary concept of “The Leader.” To be sure the Party needs a leader in the House of Commons, but there’s no reason that that person should be the public face of the Party and make all of the decisions, while being excruciatingly difficult to remove and having no limit to his leadership term. Other parties have done well enough with a leader who was not an MP. I don’t see why the Party cannot separate these roles.

  • @ GF
    We can agree that the party leadership has taken the party in a direction of their own choosing. Therefore the problem is how to stop this happening again. Currently the MPs have the power to no confidence a leader and start a leadership election. But they failed to do this, so we need to give this power to other bodies in the party in the hope that these other bodies would start a leadership election if they believed the party was being led in the wrong direction.

    I am very happy with our vision – “a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

    We had a clear narrative in this election. So having a clear narrative is not sufficient on its own. It has to be linked to what you call “lists of Good Things”, or what I call policies that should demonstrate how we are making society more equal, reducing poverty, increasing freedom and liberty, reducing ignorance, controlling power or reducing conformity. The problem with our policy making process is that MPs have been able to create policy and the Federal Policy Committee hasn’t kept them in line.

  • Steve Comer 9th May '15 - 7:08am

    Like many I suspect I’m still feeling pretty shattered after a long Polling Day, an overnight count that went on until daylight, and a local election count that seemed to take foeever yesterday afternoon….
    However, there are some excellent postings on this page expecially from Stephen Campbell, GF, and Bill Le Breton, and I hope these are looked at seriously by those who have to plan yet another rebuilding job for the party.

    There has been a ‘head in sand’ attitude at the top echelons of the Liberal Democrats for far too long, not just since Clegg, or the coalition but ever since the 2005 General Election and the botched forced resignation of Charles Kennedy.
    When the party rebuilds it needs to trust the people who have a track record in doing the work over the years, and who believe in the party, rather than those who are just getting a bit of work esperience before moving on to a job in some PR consultancy.
    The experience and expertise ofpeople like Bill Le Breton, John Tilley, Tony Greaves and so many others was ignored. Offers of help with from those with knowledge of some of the inner workings of government were not taken up, and it seemed like the leadership of the party preferred to listen to postgraduate SpAds and gophers who went from Oxbridge straight into the SW1 bubble, rather than those who had been in Government at local level, or had experience of the Civil Service, or in Europe.

    Many ordinary voters looked at Clegg, Cameron and Milliband and saw three 40 something sons of privilige, who all went to Oxbridge and wore similar grey suits and white shirts! Is it any surprise that so many turned to the Green Party or UKIP (and the SNP in Scotland) as being something different? Somthing that wasn’t made in SW1?
    Liberals were the alternative voice 10 years ago when I won my Council seat. Now we have become just another Westminster obsessed establishment Unionist Party.

    I’m pleased that Nick Clegg decided to go with dignity on Friday, his resignation speech was a clear Liberal statement, Nick rightly spoke of the result as catastrphic, and put Liberalism in the European context of people searching for simple solutions to complex issues. It was probably the best speech I’ve ever heard him make, if only we’d heard more like this from him during the coalition years, and even during the campaign instead of all this claptrap about being ‘anchored in the centre.’

  • AC Trussell 9th May '15 - 8:31am

    I don’t think that people’s ignorance, fear of the SNP, and the bias -two party Media should decide who we have as a Leader. How about asking everyone of our members if they want Nick to return and if say 90% say yes; then why not? He is the best man for the job and – after all he has put up with for us- we should not lose him.

  • Steve Comer 9th May ’15 – 7:08am

    As ever, Steve, your comment puts things into perspective.

    What you describe as the “head in the sand” attitude can now hopefully be swept away.

    There is no hiding place for people who want to pretend that everything is OK.

    When the target for an election was originally 124 seats and you end up with 8 it is clear that everything is not OK and has not been OK for some time.

  • Stuart Summers 9th May '15 - 8:42am

    I honestly believe Nick Clegg to be an honourable, hard-working man who made a disastrous decision over tuition fees. However, he surely did not make that decision alone; Vince Cable and other senior party members are, in my opinion, equally culpable.

    Yesterday I rejoined the party, having resigned my membership in 2010. Lets not be afraid to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, the nation needs to hear us do that, and lets be sure we never again break a pledge we have made to the electorate.

  • @ Michael BG

    Why did the MPs not challenge Clegg more on either specific policies or the general direction of travel? That’s something we really need to understand s a precursor to making sure that never again do we experience what many see as a soft coup by a small clique.

    FWIW I would observe that there are likely to be both formal answers to this question (e.g. it might be that a challenge requires too high a hurdle number of rebels) and also cultural ones. My sense is that the Party has an undue deference to the leader, a tendency to see him as a saviour who can do no wrong so MPs would sense that any challenge would be defeated by the membership. Thus, we saw how a nascent challenge was stillborn after last years’ disastrous local elections that were a clear warning.

    In thinking about this we should be aware that those who put themselves forward for political leadership are far more likely than the general population to have psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies. Those can be energising and positive forces when they are properly harnessed but disastrous if not. We have to think of the characters who might come along in future and insure against problems, not just the experience we’ve had so far.

    The vision isn’t a problem but the lack of narrative is although maybe we mean different thing by that. What I ‘heard’ as the unstated narrative underpinning the decisions was the leadership manoeuvring to maintain its position and influence – and ministerial limos. Tory economic thinking (aka their self-serving propaganda) was adopted wholesale although intellectually incoherent. That’s IS a problem.

  • PS. Am just off the rest of the weekend so this debate will have to continue on another thread.

  • Simon Hebditch 9th May '15 - 10:22am

    Two messages in this stream of posts are important on Day 2 of the post election apocalypse. Those people who have said consistently that the Lib Dems were in deep trouble if they continued to follow centre right alliance with the Tories must be allowed at least a few days of understandable angst. But equally, it is true that we must begin the work of reconstruction. It will not be either easy or quick: we are facing a period of at least twenty years of gradual growth again as long as we have regained trust.

    We must re-define ourselves as a centre left political movement concerned with social justice. This will mean changes not just in leadership but a new direction and a refreshed political programme. It will also mean building alliances with political campaigns and social movements outside parliament, giving support to organisations that will be campaigning against government policies that will adversely affect the disadvantaged and vulnerable. It will have to be as a result of that sort of involvement that we start to build a new image in the public mind and thus help us win elections again. The winning of elections is going to be important but secondary to finding our place again as campaigners locally, nationally and internationally.

  • Simon Hebditch 9th May '15 - 10:24am

    As an illustration of my last comment, I am off now to a meeting of the Trade Justice Movement – far more important and valuable than the rough and tumble of party politics.

  • Interesting phone call from local friend. If she is anything, it is sort of Tory but she regularly offers help here and has done for fifteen years.
    She is not a typical Tory.
    She was unhappy at what had happened to libDems and had regard for both the coalition and for Nick. He had impressed her. It was a helpful perspective.

  • Steve Comer 10th May '15 - 1:57am

    Simon Hebditch makes a good point about wider engagement in politics rather than just electoral politics.

    I think the Liberal Democrats do have a problem in that when we find a useful activist we overwork them until they get burn out. They then drop out completely for fear of being sucked into the activist treadmill again!
    In Bristol many of our former Councillors have little or no involvement in the party or politics at all once they stand down or get defeated. We have an active branch of the European Movement, and many Lib Dems are member, but I’m often the only one who turns up at their meetings and events, so not surprisingly all the office holder are Labour Party members by deafult!

    In the wake of the 1970 election the Liberal Party passed the resolution on Community Politics which talked about :
    “…..a dual approach to politics, acting both inside and outside the institutions of the political establishment to help organise people in their communities to take and use power to build a Liberal power-base in the major cities of this country to identify with the under-privileged in this country and the world to capture people’s imagination as a credible political movement, with local roots and local successes.”

    Perhaps we should go back and practice what this motion really meant, rather than the revisionist ALDC/Campaigns Department tranlsation which seems to be “do more leaflets, phone calls, target mailings, and all sorts manic activity in the hope that some of the mud will stick and you get elected.”

  • Dave Parker 10th May '15 - 3:51am

    Nick’s tragedy was Coalition. Of course he and his colleagues knew the risks whatever course they chose. There can scarcely have been a worse choice. Imagine instead the ramshackle centre-left majority that was considered so implausible in 2010 (yet oddly appealing in 2015): a brake on Labour spending, all the social reforms LibDems could dream of, an electoral reform referendum with much Labour support on side rather than alienated into siding with the Tories on the day, and a keeping of faith with the many voters who intuition suggested and Thursday demonstrated saw the party as broadly socially progressive. The party might even have secured an advantageous election pact rather than seeing seats swallowed by a predatory partner, though something like AV should have rendered it unnecessary. Instead we now face a nightmare of illiberalism, with one party set to engineer its own perpetuation in power through elimination of some votes on some issues and wholesale boundary revision that will alone set back minority parties for years. And the poorest are poorer, the rich still richer. That might have happened anyway, but Coalition made it a certainty.

    The lesson? No more coalitions. Lib-Con or Lib-Lab pacts, fine; somebody has to govern. And don’t say you’ll do one thing (No to Austerity) and then do the opposite days later (the Austerity Coalition). And if you’re going to go for electoral reform, have the sense to be in alliance with a party whose voters may be similarly inclined rather than one that’s dead set against it.

    Re David 1: Yes to getting rid of the “Leader” concept. Libs & LibDems were leaders in empowering party members, now they should show a lead again by not being led. “Presidential” posturing has impoverished our democracy. More sophisticated polities happily differentiate between the roles of party head, parliamentary leader or premiership candidate: LibDems could show the way ahead.

  • @manfarang
    >Who is the real winner in todays Vietnam? I don’t think it is Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy.

    50 years later? It’s not my Father In Law either, he’s dead – agent orange poisoning! That coupled with the 1.5-3m dead during the war and I think we can all agree that “real winners” are hard to come by from the Vietnam War. My point was some people keep retelling political narrative, over and over, until they’re the only ones left that believe it.

    >Will Britain go forward or backwards under the Conservatives?

    Backwards. I’m not psychic or anything (but I did predict Cleggs resignation to within 4 hours, nearly 5 years in advance), but thanks for asking. 🙂

  • tony dawson 10th May '15 - 6:25pm

    “. You could argue that any Liberal Democrat leader in such a position would have faced exactly the same.”

    You could do so, but you would be in denial of reality. In leadership, it aint what you do but the way that you do it. I challenge the readership of this forum to name one single leader of a major political party in any country in Europe who can match Nick Clegg’s record of setting his Party’s electoral fortunes back 45 years. That is TWO generations – and done in only five years. 🙁

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