Opinion: Mr Cameron call a general election – we relish the challenge

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I am pretty sure that everyone can remember where they were at on 7 May 2010. I, for one, was being staggered as I caught up with the results overnight that the Liberal Democrats had polled a staggering six million votes, the highest number of votes since the days of the Alliance. I was running at more or less 24% of the national vote and winning seats such as Redcar, Burnley and Bradford East and coming oh so close in seats such as Ashfield, Swansea West, Derby North. At the same time as that was happening, Nick Clegg came to the outside of 4 Cowley Street and made the following statement:

“Whichever party gets the most votes, the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern…”

It was that statement that led the way to the first formal coalition government for a generation and as I am sure everyone knows, we have been hit for six as a result. In the last set of district elections in 2012, we had no representation on 32 councils compared with 14 councils in the previous elections in 2008. I personally also suffered the backlash when I stood in Llansantffraed ward in Ceredigion and managed to poll ten votes less than in 2008 in another ward, and a drop of 4% on a similar turnout.  And yet here we are, eighteen or so months from the next election and I’ll be honest and say that I am actually feeling rather chipper about the next election.

The reason? Well, there are three reasons.

1. We did what we said we would do. We promised a strong and stable government and you have to admit that 364 seats is a stronger and more stable government than 315 seats could ever be.

2. Where we have Lib Dem MPs the electorate recognise the work that they do. This was proven by that poll a few days ago, which said that Lib Dem MPs had a satisfaction rating of +14%, compared to -5% for the Conservatives and Labour on -13%

3. The polls are not as bad as the media make them out to be. That huge mega poll by Lord Ashcroft said that in Lib Dem battleground seats there had only been a 0.5% swing to the Conservatives since the general election. That swing would only knock out Lorely in Solihull and we all know what happened the last time the Conservatives tried to uproot her.

So, having listened to Nick’s speech this afternoon, I say:

“Mr. Cameron, I know that it flies completely in the face of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2010, but go to the Palace, dissolve Parliament, call a general election if you want. We relish the challenge.”

* Harry Hayfield is a the sole Liberal Democrat representative on Llansantffraed Community Council in Ceredigion and has been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 24 years

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21 Comments

  • ‘We did what we said we would do’
    Tuition fees?

  • Andrew Emmerson 18th Sep '13 - 4:38pm

    After months of fighting that no government should be above the law, we would be mad to encourage cameron to break a law he passed

  • daft ha'p'orth 18th Sep '13 - 4:43pm

    @Dave
    Well, yeah, but we meant apart from all the things we did that we said we wouldn’t do and all the things that we didn’t do that we said we would do. Gosh, you’re so picky.

  • “We did what we said we would do.”

    Hilarious.

    Scrap tuition fees = triple tuition fees.

    No illegal wars (although the legality of Iraq was debatable ) = illegal war (stopped by Miliband)

    Increase income tax threshold by increasing tax on the rich = increase income tax threshold by increasing tax on the poor (VAT) meaning the lowest income decile is worse off than before.

    No top-down re-organisation of the NHS = top down organisation of the NHS.

    Tax cuts for the poor = free school dinners for the rich whilst kicking people on benefits.

    As for the optimism, it’s positively go-back-to-your-constituencies Steelesque.

  • Oh, I forgot.

    Don’t cut the deficit too quickly or the recovery will be destroyed and our debt will get worse – even my six year old can understand that = Greece! Panic! Cut the deficit quick, quick, quick. Oh, it won’t be paid back until 2018 now but let’s stick to the plan.

  • @daft ha’p’orth

    .. yeh! .. but you can trust them now they’ve got some new policies .. and they never did really like the old ones anyway..

  • Ok folks, THIS is what happens when you spend too much time in the party/conference bubble, you lose all touch with reality. Its like turkey’s voting for xmas. Who wants to go to the polls when you at around half of your support at the previous general election!!??

  • Philip Rolle 18th Sep '13 - 5:20pm

    I agree it’s not looking bad at all for the Lib Dems. You could ( and probably will ) lose at least 20 of your 57 seats – but still end up in government as part of a Coalition.

  • Harry Hayfield 18th Sep '13 - 5:43pm

    Oh dear, it rather seems as the main context of my article has been lost on people. Yes, Dave, we are polling at about half our general election polling, but we polled 67% less our 1950 general election tally in 1951 (and yet only lost a third of our seats). In 1979, we lost almost a fifth of our vote and only lost a sixth of our seats. What my article is saying is that you should never discount us when our backs are against the wall, and I am quite sure that come election night (or day dependent on what the Electoral Commission say) we will spring one or two surprises on all the naysayers out there

  • Harry Hayfield 18th Sep '13 - 5:47pm

    Oh dear, it rather seems as the main context of my article has been lost on people. Yes, Dave, we are polling at about half our general election polling, but we polled 67% less our 1950 general election tally in 1951 (and yet only lost a third of our seats). In 1979, we lost almost a fifth of our vote and only lost a sixth of our seats. What my article is saying is that you should never discount us when our backs are against the wall, and I am quite sure that come election night (or day dependent on what the Electoral Commission say) we will spring one or two surprises on all the naysayers out there. (Comment reposted having logged in as a member)

  • Under the 2011 Fixed Term Parliament Act , David Cameron cannot call an election before 2015. Only Parliament can do that (albeit through the Monarch on the advice of the PM).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-term_Parliaments_Act_2011

  • “We did what we said we would do.” Are you serious? It is because the LibDems did the very opposite of what they said they would do that they have lost c. 40% of their members, and millions of voters — including me. A couple of weeks after the 2010 election I (and lots of others) posted on this site that we were not happy with the LibDems’ ‘about turns’ on various issues, and I (and others) remarked that we would not vote LibDem next time. Several LibDemmers retorted that we were being childish and that of course we would ‘see the light’ and vote LibDem next time. Well, I have not changed my mind (quite the reverse) and I wonder if some of those LibDems who lectured me have now left the party like so many more. I agree with your sentiment Mr Hayfield — so “Mr. Cameron …………… dissolve Parliament, call a general election if you want. [I]We relish the challenge.”

  • Oh, I also forgot:

    Highlighting the unsustainable growth in private sector credit and house prices in 2003 = inflate house prices by using taxpayers’ money to underwrite dodgy lending by the banks and by giving dodgy loans for deposits to house buyers.

  • Forgive me if I’m won’t but wasn’t a headline policy in 2010 to make a tax cut ensuring no body pays tax on the first 10k?
    Did that happen? Yes!
    Was there a promise to protect post offices? Has the post office closure policy of labour been stopped, replaced with modernisation? Yes
    Was there a promise to level the phasing field on parental leave, giving parents the right to choose how the levee is distributed between parents? Is that happening? Yes
    Was there a promise to improve school standards for the poorer parts of the population, to level the phasing field on education through the Pupil Premium? Has that happened? Yes
    Did pensioners get promised their pensions would be raised, and locked to inflation to ensure it stayed fair? Did that happen? Yes
    Was a promise of relieving the housing market stresses via new builds and bringing empty homes back into circulation? Has that happened? 260,000 homes say yes
    Was a promise made to scrap the controversial ID card? Has it been scrapped? Yes
    Were same sex couples promised the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples? Is that happening? Yes

    I think it is fair to say the Lib Dems have done what they said they would do, within the restrictive frame of a minority partner in a coalition. Yes, tuition fees were unfortunately raised, but the lib dems are a minority partner, and don’t believe labour would have faired better… They promised no tuition fees then introduced them, promised no increases then tripled them. At least the lib dems managed to improve the repayment conditions for student loans, to make universities more accessible..

    Let’s not allow the media to re write the facts by focusing on one unfortunate casualty of the coalition… And let’s not forget Manifesto promises are based on what would happen in a majority government. I think the lib dems have achieved above their weight in this coalition, and I would have loved to have seen what could have been achieved without the Tories holding them back

  • @Steve

    You’ve made the fatal error of thinking that cutting 0.4% of GDP more than was originally planned is enough to tip the whole UK economy into stagnation over two years. It isn’t.

    The lack of growth or slowness of it has virtually nothing to do with the pace of the Coalition’s reduction programme and everything to do with high oil, food and commodity prices, the Eurozone crisis, massive consumer debt levels built up before 2008, collapsing North Sea oil and gas production and the contraction of an overgrown financial services sector. None of this is to do with comparatively tiny shift in fiscal policy relative even to Labour’s plans, so please kindly stop pretending that it is.

    As for tuition fees, how exactly could we have pushed our policy through with one MP in every 11?

    I really think that overall you have a hostile and unnecessarily negative view of what the Lib Dems have achieved in power despite being pitifully under-represented in parliament for our vote share and going into government at a time of fiscal crisis.

  • @ Steve.

    I’m not sure why you’re bigging up Miliband, since his was a last minute opportunistic move dictated solely by short term party political PR advantage.

    Instead, if you want to thank anyone you should be thanking rebel Liberal Democrat MPs, without whom Syrian intervention might have gone ahead.

    There’s a fine line between free, critical internal party debate and simply dragging up every single argument our political opponents have every slung at us and repeating it once more without adding any information or interpretation.

  • @RC

    “Instead, if you want to thank anyone you should be thanking rebel Liberal Democrat MPs, without whom Syrian intervention might have gone ahead.”

    I think you will find it was the sheer number of rebel Tories who voted against the government and the sheer number that did not turn up to vote at all that defeated the motion.
    I do not think you can claim a Liberal Democrat win for that one

  • daft ha'p'orth 19th Sep '13 - 12:56pm

    @Iain B
    ‘To make universities more accessible…’
    Is that meant to be some kind of a joke? Because as one who works with mature students, it isn’t funny.

    And as for rescuing the post office, one headline for you: Post Office staff in bank holiday strikes. ‘Modernisation’, eh, is that what the kids’re calling it these days?

    Finally of course: if manifesto promises are understood not to be indicative if you do not enjoy a majority government, then given that the Liberal Democrats are not about to enjoy any such thing, why bother publishing a manifesto at all? Isn’t it a complete waste of trees? Does it serve any purpose other than to mislead?

  • John Clough 19th Sep '13 - 4:58pm

    Harry, your reference to the election results of 1950 and 1951 when the Liberal vote declined by 67% and the number of seats won only reduced by 33% from 9 to 6, needs to be set in historical context. In 1950 the Liberals polled some 2.6 million votes and stood 475 candidates. The following year, due I would suspect to a lack of funds caused by one election following on so quickly from another, the Liberals stood only 109 candidates who collectively polled almost 750,000 votes. I believe too, though am not 100% sure, that of the 6 MPs elected in 1951, 5 were not opposed by the Conservatives. Far from being the heroic rearguard action of Harry’s imagination 1951 appears to have been the nadir of Liberal fortunes in the 20th century.
    I am ignoring the ‘Liberal Nationals’ who polled just over 1 million votes and gained 3 seats, taking their number to 19 MPs and thereby giving the Conservatives their majority. With the current leadership firmly positioning itself on the centre right of British politics and the social democrat and radical centrist liberals being marginalised one wonders whether post 2015 will see a similar schism in the Liberal Democratic Party.

  • Can anyone think of anything good that the Lib Dems have done in Government, so I can thank the Tories for it.. I mean, they are always telling us what they couldn’t do because they were the minor partner.

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