I’m just in from one of the worst nights of my political life. Don’t get me wrong, at my count, Liberal Democrats in every seat increased their vote share. For election after election, I, as Scottish Party Treasurer, would have to set aside a ridiculous amount of money that could have been spent on campaigning to cover lost deposits. Not many of them this time around.

Any other time we would be celebrating a bigger increase in vote share than any other party.

It is kind of ridiculous that a rise in the Conservative vote of 1.2% was met with 50 extra MPs while a rise in the Liberal Democrat vote share of 4.2% resulted in  one fewer parliamentarian.

And it’s truly bloody awful when that one parliamentarian is your leader of just 4 months. Jo took a courageous stand on Brexit and offered radical, generous spirited, liberal policies on other issues. Yet she lost out to the SNP by just 149 votes. There are no words to describe how heartbroken I feel about her loss from Parliament.

There is a cruel irony that many of the women she encouraged now make up the majority of our  parliamentary party. She’s delivered on one of her key interests to make the party more diverse but won’t be able to work with them in Parliament.

The night ranged from the shock of the exit poll to the relief that our data was more accurate. Christine Jardine eventually won with an increased majority. Yet just an hour’s drive away, our leader lost by 149 votes. Could we have done more to persuade people to go there to shore up our vote? We’ll hever know.

The sickening, stomach churning moment when that exit poll suggested that there would be no Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland at all  We’d hoped for five – and we got 4 when we gained Wendy Chamberlain in North East Fife. She enters Parliament along with a second term for Sarah Olney.

Other lows included  not winning Sheffield Hallam, both Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger losing their seats. And Tom Brake losing Carshalton after 22 years by approximately 400 votes.

I’ll crunch some more numbers later, but it is worth noting that we might have had several more seats and Boris Johnson might have had some fewer if we had stood aside, say, in Chingford and Wood Green  against Iain Duncan Smith or the Greens had too aside in Sheffield Hallam. For future elections, we’ll need to work to ensure that we minimise the number of Conservatives in Parliament.

The reality of having a government, elected by a minority of the electorate, which is endorsed by Tommy Robinson fills me with dread.

We will have to focus on how we get rid of it.

But that’s for after I get some sleep.



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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • As much as I like Sir Ed Davey he can’t be the next Lib Dem leader. Swinson was constantly having to defend her record in coalition. At this point we have to find someone else who is articulate with a strong vision. That will be difficult with just 11 MPs.

  • Yes, a tragic night.

    I posted some comments about the management of the campaign on the last thread.

    On the big picture, our principal mistakes were:

    – presenting as the status quo party at a time when so many people want change;

    – catastrophically mishandling the EU issue by appearing to deny the referendum;

    – hubris and misjudgement in the way we tried to present our new leader as next PM;

    – diverting too much effort to support defector MPs dropped into arbitrary new seats;

    – saying our entire focus was denying the Tories a majority but then not acting like it.

  • Would that Labour becoming the fourth party in terms of Scottish Westminster MPs would convert them to Westminster PR, but they will probably carry on with their own more traditional internal arguments about what went wrong.

  • Ed Shepherd 13th Dec '19 - 9:02am

    I would have thought Sara Olney would be a good bet for LDP leader. Seems well-balanced, not tainted by coalition and seems to have played a blinder.

  • Fiona CampbellTrevor 13th Dec '19 - 9:15am

    Don’t be too hard on the few of us who still lost our deposits. I doubled our vote but missed the vital 200 extra votes I needed to save us £500. Instead I went back to CSER where I live and probably guided safely in us 200 odd there…

  • Well done and thank you Caron for all of your hard work.

    Inevitably there will be a lot of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve in the analysis, but I agree with Christian that any leader would have been subjected to the same ‘but the coalition’ during the campaign. I saw Ming say that he thought party leaders normally got a poll boost, but this year they all took a hit. I think social media subjects them to much greater and targeted abuse.

    Working with other progressive parties needs careful thought, and I hope Labour will be a bit more receptive next time, but it can’t become a permanent one way street.

    I do think this is a good time to push PR and electoral reform back up the agenda. ERS and the Make Votes Matter campaign are doing a lot on social media today which we can amplify.

    Every thing else needs a pause for a bit of rest and reflection. Well done on the increased vote share and deposits saved.

  • Richard Underhill 13th Dec '19 - 9:27am

    We are waiting for the result in St Ives, affected by bad weather in the Isles of Scilly.
    The RAF are helping to bring in the ballot boxes.

  • No shock to me, I forecast 10 – 15 seats 5 weeks ago. We never seem to learn, we initiated the elction, really why, total case of cutting our nose off in spite of our face, always ignore the base position we start from, I keep referring to all those (360) lost deposits in 2017, a crazy idea of Jo being PM and the 320 seat aim. Then there are the personnel at HQ who never seem to change whatever happens, urgent clear out required.
    The party now has 4 – 5 years of electoral peace, get a leader new to Parliament not tainted by coalition, restructure all these committees, get rid of some and above all clear out the HQ staff who seemingly fail and fail again.
    Why not move HQ to Salford Quays, handy for the BBC with a link office in London. Show commitment to the North and put Brexit way down on our list of highlighting policies.
    Major problem will be if Labour elect somone frrom their Centre right, ie Keir Starmer.
    We will be squeezed again.
    But time will move on,” events dear boy events”, will inevitably occur , so look on the bright side!

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Dec '19 - 9:32am

    I’ll crunch some more numbers later, but it is worth noting that we might have had several more seats and Boris Johnson might have had some fewer if we had stood aside, say, in Chingford and Wood Green against Iain Duncan Smith or the Greens had too aside in Sheffield Hallam.

    If we had the Alternative Vote system, that problem would not have occurred. All those issues of parties having to consider standing down, and voters having to consider voting for someone who is not their first choice in order to avoid splitting the vote and letting their last choice win, would have gone away. People could have voted for whoever they wanted, with their vote going to their second choice if no-one had a majority rather than being lost, so that the final winner would be the best compromise majority supported.

    Very much like the system used to elect the leader of the Conservative Party, where the lowest supported candidate has to stand down and there’s another vote until one does get a majority.

    So, why don’t we have AV to elect MPs? We did actually have a referendum on it, and people voted “No” to it.

    Did they vote “No” because they fully understood how it worked and what its purpose was? Were they properly explained that? No. I did say at our London party conference just before the AV referendum, when we still thought it would get through, that I was felt the vague way in which we were not properly explaining it, would mean we would lose it.

    So, who got it right in stating how it should have been campaigned? Me or the party leadership?

    Wouldn’t using the AV referendum as an example of how things go wrong because people vote more to make a general protest than for what the referendum is about have been a good idea?

    Wouldn’t the damage caused by not having AV, and so the split vote problem in the latest general election, have been a good idea to explain how we get things right but damage is caused because the two big parties come out against us?

    Wouldn’t the way that AV is not really our ideal, since what we really want is STV, have been a good way to explain how in the Coalition we could not get everything we wanted? Instead we had to compromise, and so move things only a little way to what we would really want if we were the main party in government.

    I did put effort into suggesting we should do things like this …

  • Ian Different Ian 13th Dec '19 - 9:36am

    With two seats left to declare, 43.6% (Conservative&Brexit Party) + 2.0% (Brexit Party) is 45.6% … otherwise known as 6.3% less than the percentage that ‘Leave’ got in the 2016 referendum.

    That’s the vote for having Brexit happen without another referendum.

    For Brexit in general, because the DUP manifesto was silent on whether or not to have another referendum but is still pro-Brexit, we’ll add their 0.8% so get to 46.4% or 5.5% less. Did I miss any other pro-Brexit parties with 0.1+%?

    And as the DUP loathe Johnson’s “worse than May’s” Brexit and the Brexit Party hate it too we’re left with a ‘mandate’ of 43.6% for Johnson’s deal.

    I hope the eleven MPs and the peers never stop pointing that out.

    And roll on the first by-election!

  • Barry Lofty 13th Dec '19 - 9:44am

    Yes a very sad result but one I have witnessed many times in my life, yes there are many things to ponder on what went wrong for us but at this moment in time I feel extremely sorry for Jo and the others who have lost their seats.
    I cannot help being at a complete loss as to how our country’s electorate could ever bring themselves to vote for a government that is in the control of such self serving liars and cheats as the one they have just elected, I thought our country was better than that, how naive of me.

  • @Paul Of course we need electoral reform, but we misplayed that issue when we had the chance, and now it mostly depends on how long it takes Labour to come round to the idea of plural politics. We didn’t exactly help them with that during the campaign, did we?

    Meanwhile we must try and put our own house in order. It was a disastrous campaign, for reasons being well spelled out by others. Our 11.5% puts us back at the level the Liberals got in 1970 – indeed if you consider that they only stood in about half the seats back then, in “per seat” vote share we are back to the Liberal vote share of the 1950s.

    Yet we started the campaign with a fifth of the electorate willing to support us. Complacency and suppression of the full and frank discussion we need is not the way forward.

    I joined the Liberals in the 1970s because I wanted a better society. The Liberals of those days were able to articulate a programme for change that helped the party grow in the decades that follows; an inspiration that we seem to have lost. If all we stand for today is managerial politics and some tweaks to the status quo, we might as well not bother.

  • Paul Murray 13th Dec '19 - 9:53am

    Stinging comments about the Lib Dem campaign by Simon Hughes on Sky just now. Sympathy to all the candidates and activists who have worked so hard.

  • Last night was an appalling missed opportunity. The election campaign started with over the top predictions and the pushback to those saw a national campaign revert to desperately lashing out with incoherent messaging.
    The real mistake was in helping to trigger the election. We were growing weekly in parliament as the other 2 parties shrank, johnson was wilting under the glare of a hung parliament and the libdem were doing the job we had been sent to do in that parliament.
    Why we suddenly turned round and backed an election in December with the connivance of the SNP I just do not understand. Triggering one for the most short term political self interest was I think reacted against very strongly by many of the voters that we need.
    I was glad that we stayed clear of toxic Corbyn and the manifesto had many good policies in the small print. Corbyn and his antisemite cronies destroyed this election for anti conservative forces in England so I’m glad we are not defiled by contact with him.
    The mistake was that some people in HQ willed themselves into believing that we were ready and that our voters wanted an election and so we missed the golden opportunity of a hung parliament to restrict the government and keep growing our numbers.

  • Jeremy Cunnington 13th Dec '19 - 10:24am

    Very disappointing results, was hoping we’d win at least a couple more seats off the Tories in the south of England.

    While we obviously made a big strategic mistake with the revoke policy, I think we suffered from historic factors (our weakened councillor base and that we finished second is so few seats in 2017) and factors outside our control – electoral system, and the “polarising” nature of the two leaders of the main parties.

    However on the positive note:

    With the seats we won we won with increased majorities and in the case of England mostly with 50% of the vote or over meaning we have some “safe seats”. We have finished second in a lot more seats than in 2017 and in some places (Winchester, Wimbledon) a very close second. Some of the places where we finished second are places where we did not have the organisational infrastructure which is good. However, the places where we won / gained had the strongest second places were places where we had the organisational strength in the form of existing councillors / strong local party.

    Thus going forward, what we need to do in the places where we finished second but have a weak local infrastructure is help develop that infrastructure building on the “success” and large number of new activists in these seats. Eg in Finchley and Two Cities using the London mayoral elections to build on it.

    Additionally despite the large Johnson majority I also think there will be opportunities in the months and year’s ahead as Johnson’s lies about Brexit comes home to roost and he has to break some of the different promises he made to his different interest groups

  • I think we should look at a separate Party Leader from someone outside of the Parliamentary Party. There’s no such thing as a safe LD seat. And we could do with choosing from as wide a pool as possible. We can do the same as the SNP. Have a Westminster Leader, but have a separate Party Leader. I’m afraid we should really consider this.

  • Ruth Coleman-Taylor 13th Dec '19 - 11:40am

    “Getting Brexit done” clearly resonated with a lot of people. Here in the in the one-time Labour heartland of West Yorkshire we found a lot of lifetime Labour voters switching to the Tories to “get it done”. They despised Corbyn’s equivocation on Brexit just as they rejected our theme of Revoke.
    I was heartened – a little! – by the number of people on both sides of the Brexit argument who said they don’t believe it will ever happen.

  • Laurence Cox 13th Dec '19 - 1:38pm

    The result wasn’t unexpected based on the unfairness of the FPTP system. From the beginning of the SDP-Liberal Alliance we typically won a similar number of seats to our poll percentage, before tactical voting in 1997-2010 approximately doubled our numbers. In retrospect we were overperforming during the Blair era; now we are back to our ‘normal’ level. From now on we will have to rebuild one seat at a time and hope for by-elections.

  • Paul Holmes 13th Dec '19 - 2:00pm

    @IandifferentIan. Ian, please no can we stop this now. We have lost the Remain argument at every vote. In the 2016 Referendum, in the 2017 and 2019 GE’s and not once did Parliament vote to reject Brexit or for another Referendum between 2016-2019.

    Neither can we argue that Boris has no mandate for Leave. We have just fought an election saying that if we won 326 seats we would have a mandate to Revoke without further ado. Well Boris won a lot more than 326 so we clearly believe he has his mandate now even if we didn’t accept the 2016 Referendum result as a Mandate.

    Neither is there going to be a huge surge of public demand to rejoin (on worse terms than we previously had) anytime in the next few decades.

  • John Marriott 13th Dec '19 - 3:44pm

    @Paul Holmes
    As usual, Paul, you talk a lot of sense. After all, you’ve done the lot and, unlike me, you have retained your commitment to the cause. In fact, you’ve probably worn out that T shirt long ago! The Lib Dems need to park Remain for a while now that, however you look at it, Johnson has a mandate, albeit a tenuous one, as not all of his 47% are Brexiteers. However, if you factor in the Brexit Party vote, together with Labour voting leavers, I really can’t see a major difference from the result in 2016.

    @ Matthew Huntbach
    Do you remember when Cameron agreed to accede to his Lib Dem coalition partners’ insistence on a referendum on voting reform? First they chose a system, AV, which was only slightly fairer than FPTP and then he went off and allowed his attack dogs, notably one Matthew Elliott, formerly of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, to rubbish it. Their main tactic was to deliver a series of leaflets on the lines of “do you want this man (picture of Nick Clegg about to enter No 10) as Prime Minister?”. They and their ‘associates’ such as Working4UK pulled a similar trick this time with Corbyn. It is not in the Tories’ interest ever to grant PR. The only hope is for proper cooperation between all the anti Tory parties, and that includes what is left of the Labour Party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Dec '19 - 4:10pm

    John Marriott

    Do you remember when Cameron agreed to accede to his Lib Dem coalition partners’ insistence on a referendum on voting reform? First they chose a system, AV, which was only slightly fairer than FPTP and then he went off and allowed his attack dogs, notably one Matthew Elliott, formerly of the Tax Payers’ Alliance, to rubbish it

    They chose AV but could have had STV?

    No, I don’t think so. I’m assuming that AV rather than STV was as far as the Conservatives would let us go. So I think that was a good illustration of how the Conservatives wouldn’t give us everything we wanted.

    As with everything else in the Coalition, we should have made clear that what we were getting wasn’t our ideal, it was just as far as the Conservatives would go towards us, which in all cases was not very much.

  • Ian Different Ian 13th Dec '19 - 4:24pm

    @Paul Holmes

    No, we should not shut up. The second Brexit happens, we should lead the campaign to rejoin.

    I’ll say it again: only 43.6% voted for someone supporting his crap deal.

    Had we got a majority – and we never were, so I really don’t know why it was in the manifesto – then we’d have needed more votes than that.

  • John Marriott 13th Dec '19 - 7:15pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    Regardless of what the Tories were prepared to accept, why did the Lib Dems run such a useless campaign? We got a lot of young people parading around city centres in Yes to AV T shirts, while the No campaign aimed low with a series of leaflets delivered to each home (I reckon we got about three), featuring that photo of Clegg crossing the: threshold of Number 10. The only Lib Dem cabinet minister to take Cameron to task was Chris Huhne, who, it was alleged, might have beaten Clegg to the leadership had late arriving postal ballots been allowed. Given what happened to Huhne later the Lib Dems were saved from further embarrassment, following the early resignation of David Laws in what could in some ways be compared to what happened to the Duke of Windsor in 1936.

  • @IdifferentI. No, we are already well past the point of flogging a dead horse. We are supposed to be a Political Party not a single issue pressure group fulminating against past events.

  • I’m not a fan of FPTP but what happened was the vote share went up but the seat count went down, when the increase in vote was the result of emphasising a particularly polarising policy and at the expense of losing second and third preferences of other parties. People are tactically voting and doing a form of DIY-AV. It’s a feature not a bug of AV (and to an extent STV with smaller seats) that hardening voters attitudes against you loses you seats, and this applies to the British form of DIY AV too.

    Back when I was a member (in a seat we had taken from Labour with a record swing it previously having been one of their hundred safest seats) there was the expression “Where we work we win”, and “There are no no-go areas”. That seat voted 68 percent Leave in the referendum, we lost 2/3 of our votes there between 2015 and 2017 and it was taken by the Tories on Thursday while we lost our deposit. After 3 years of refusing the 2016 referendum it’s no longer true that the Lib Dems can win anywhere, is it?

  • Whoever takes over the leadership definitely needs to not have been part of the coalition. The mistakes of those years got thrown in our faces time and time again during the run up to the election. Hopefully Labour might be more amenable to facilitating tactical voting after Thursdays debacle, waking up in a Blue constituency due to a split anti-Tory vote was not the start to Friday that I wanted that’s for sure.

  • Ian Different Ian 14th Dec '19 - 11:45am

    @Paul Holmes

    Rejoin is not the only policy, but there is an existing coalition: “People under the age of 49 overwhelmingly opposed Brexit. They support a liberal worldview: Immigration, diversity, climate change action, racial and gender equality, international economic justice” to quote the latest of Ian Dunt’s excellent articles at

    If the Liberal Democrats are not leading players in that, what are we for?

  • Ronald Murray 14th Dec '19 - 1:22pm

    It was marvelous on election night to be along at the Fife count in Glenrothes. It was also heartwarming to see NE Fife win the seat back. Without any gloating glee such as Nicola Sturgeon showed when Jo Swinson lost her seat. All candidates being quite gracious about the result. Anyway now there should be no recriminations against anyone but a sustained campaign to win next time. One amusing point as arrived early in my Land Rover wearing a suit and my Hoggs of Fife country coat some Conservatives thought I was one of their group initially.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Dec '19 - 8:48pm

    I think this is the 16th General Election I have been politically involved with. I think our campaign, given the circumstances of them all, has been the worst of all 16. And don’t blame Jo Swinson for that.

  • Why are Luciana and Chuka always described as ‘loosing their seats’ they got great swings in seats they had never previously stood in let alone represented?

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