Opinion: 10,000 reasons to be cheerful

Different people adjust to adversity in different ways.  Some were unwittingly preparing for 8 May for months.  Some didn’t see it coming.  Others may only be starting to sense it now.

All three groups were represented at the informal catch-up I had in Yorkshire last Friday, and all were present at Liberator magazine’s post-election drink last night.  The welcome set of thank-you receptions and new members’ parties will provide the opportunity for catharsis and preparing this fightback.

And it really is a positive thing.  For whatever reason, we have an unprecedented and totally welcome surge in membership.  Some relishing a new future; some doing what I did in 1992 and joining this great party so a shock general election result like that doesn’t happen again.  And many of the rest of us who have had our grumpy moments in recent years are feeling curiously optimistic too.

We also have an opportunity for free and open dialogue about delivering the change the Party needs.  With painful decisions around – especially for staff for all we must all feel huge sympathy – we can do what perhaps we should have done in the past and take decisions to clarify our decision-making and structure, making us more efficient and effective.  We know we can learn from the success of the Tory campaign as well as from the areas where we perhaps could have done better.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity of all is the relative certainty with which we face the future.  We know what we have stopped the Conservatives doing in Government; we have a pretty good idea of what they will do next.  They have found themselves in a position of huge risk with little or no political buffer zone.  We have a Labour Party descending into soulsearching that is likely to last some time.

We know we are well-placed to lead campaigns against the biggest attacks to Britain’s liberal core in a generation or more. Although there are some who are not seeing things so positively, I for one think that we are beginning to develop some momentum for a Liberal cause we really believe in: a mission for change.  As Greg Mulholland has put it, we are all leaders now.

Hell, I’ll even deliver a few extra rounds of the Thank You FOCUS.

* Gareth Epps is a member of FPC and FCC, a member of the Fair Deal for your Local campaign coalition committee and is an active member of Britain’s largest consumer campaign, CAMRA. He claims to be marginally better at Aunt Sally than David Cameron, whom he stood against in Witney in 2001.

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  • I am a new member who joined the party on the 8th May. I really think that, along with looking at the Conservative campaign as mentioned, that we should look closely at the SNP’s campaigning and political campaigning since the Referendum too.

  • Agree, there’s a curiously optimistic feeling up our way, great post Gareth. A 30% increase in our local membership certainly helped lift the mood!

  • It’s great to see that over 4/5 of these new members are completely new members

  • I watched Simon Hughes on Newsnight last night talking about how it feels to have lost his seat. He was very humble and concerned mostly for fellow constituency workers. After the programme I searched Twitter for “Simon Hughes” and found a wall of bile and venom against him from those I’d describe as “Labour class warriors”. In an instant I knew why I was a Liberal, and they were not. I’m sure that there are very many decent Labour supporters, and they’d likely say “ignore them… all parties have people like that”, but I don’t think we do. I’ve come across Liberals who would fall into the “no sympathy” category, but that’s a mile away from the aggression and hate of these class warriors. I saw them in the 1970’s when the SDP was formed, and they are still there. It’s illiberal, pure and simple.

    On the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning Nick Harvey was talking about being a newly unemployed former MP. He seemed dejected, but with an appropriately stiff upper lip. He spoke of former colleagues having lost seats in 2010 who have still not worked a day since then. He also spoke of the party having talked up the “incumbency” effect until the pundits and pollsters, and even the MP’s themselves believed it, but that possibly it never existed at all.

  • What if the membership surge is a kind of election on the election results?

    No one knows the sea like the British, what is with deliberately sinking a ship, then jumping on board it in droves to try and stop it going down? Maybe the sinking part was not so deliberate? I blame FPTP, but there could be other also valid explanations that I am not seeing.

  • @George Flaxman The way Hughes’s seat was targetted by Labour – and Lynne Featherstone’s – was nasty. The tribal ‘Labour class warriors’ saw us as Quislings, and ignored the bigger picture – that by not voting tactically in seats like Twickenham (as they had in the past) they handed a majority to the Tories. But we will need to rebuild bridges with Labour as realistically we will need support from left-leaning voters to regain some of our losses in 2020.

  • @George Flaxman
    “On the Victoria Derbyshire show this morning Nick Harvey was talking about being a newly unemployed former MP………..He spoke of former colleagues having lost seats in 2010 who have still not worked a day since then. ”
    Seriously, what does that say about those MPs (presumably the five that were lost in 2010) after all the trumpeting of the millions of jobs created in government by this party?
    I wouldn’t like to say Simon Hughes had it coming – nobody should be subjected to such venom after serving his constituency so successfully and conscientiously – but he really irritated most of the audience who groaned loudly at his slavish support of George Osborne when he appeared recently on Radio 4’s Any Questions?

  • Stephen Hesketh 13th May '15 - 12:32pm

    I agree with both Gareths, Mark and Dan.

    The next thing is to contact and involve them so as to ensure as many as possible become Preamble-commited activists.

    Nationally, I particularly commend Dan’s clearout of the ‘deadwood’. They should count themselves lucky they weren’t being paid by results!

  • @Stephen Hesketh I agree about clearing out the dead wood but we shouldn’t stop at the national level. I think the new members will provide the drive and energy to challenge stale thinking at all party levels

  • @Will Mann to avoid inevitable vote losses when Labour are or could be In the ascendancy we need to attract and importantly retain liberal voters, not left wing voters. The big lesson of the last 5 years is to never again borrow votes from elsewhere; they just get returned with interest

  • Jane Ann Liston 13th May '15 - 2:32pm

    @Sean Blake ‘…Nick Harvey was talking about being a newly unemployed former MP………..He spoke of former colleagues having lost seats in 2010 who have still not worked a day since then. ”
    Seriously, what does that say about those MPs (presumably the five that were lost in 2010) after all the trumpeting of the millions of jobs created in government by this party?’

    I must defend any former MPs from 2010 still unemployed; very probably employers simply didn’t like the look of them, which doesn’t mean the fault lies with the ex-MPs. Employers can be capricious creatures, especially when there are so many applicants for each post. As I’ve posted elsewhere, I haven’t managed to find a job since being made redundant in 2011 after my MSP boss lost his seat, despite lots of experience and 2 degrees. I therefore have every sympathy with the former MPs.

  • Am absolutely for clearing out the deadwood, and as soon as possible. How though do ordinary members ensure that the fallen grandees do jot simply try to resume ‘business as usual’ as soon as they feel able? How can we be sure that the new members won’t be simply turmed away, turned down or even ground down by inertia?
    Finally, could we have an equivalent of a local association for people who would rather not work through their geographical local associations to opt into instead? Even the Olympics has a space for ‘independent olympians’!

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 13th May '15 - 9:46pm

    Gareth – a great Article.

    Two, no in fact three things that have become clear to me:
    1. There is NO such thing as a “Safe” Lib Dem seat – we ALL know we have to work 10 times as hard as the Big Two, to win Parliamentary seats in the first place – and of the 8 we still have, probably only one is in fact a Liberal seat, the other 7 being won from other parties. So that is ONE Liberal seat out of 650 in the land.
    2. Going back to the days of SDP/Liberal Alliance, I HAVING been a member of the party since my student days at M’ch Uni in 1983, the received wisdom (and it presumably remains) is that to get around 20 – 25% of the National Vote ie what was achieved in 2010, but Not last week !!!
    3. We really do need to have a long hard look at the demographics of all categories of the electorate that voted in particular for the party in 2010. The young people vote will take a great deal of winning back, but without that “lifeblood” the party will find it very hard to “have the legs” to start winning again locally and Nationally, I dread to think how few Cllr’s must now be left nationally ?? Nick Cotter.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 13th May '15 - 9:50pm

    The above should have read “to make a National breakthrough”………..have to get 20 – 25 % of the National Vote …………………….

  • peter tyzack 14th May '15 - 11:14am

    it’s a good job I am sitting down.. I am agreeing with Gareth..! Excellent post, mate…
    – and I like Stephen’s ‘preamble committed activist’, I must be one of those, though a bit less active nowadays..

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