Today’s by-elections – only half have a Liberal Democrat candidate

According to our friends at ALDC, there are four council by-elections taking place today. Sadly, in only two of them, in Brighton’s Hanover and Elm Grove (lovely name for a ward) and Mid Sussex’s Lucastes and Bolnore (ditto) are the Liberal Democrats even fielding a candidate.

I am of the view that we need to at least be on the ballot paper in every single public election to give people the chance to vote Liberal Democrat. I know that in Scotland we have missed opportunities recently, so we’re not perfect either. This, for all the doom-mongers around you, is not a sign of coalition based malaise. It’s been an issue for as long as I’ve been around in some wards.

It pains me to think that voters in Conwy’s Caerhun and North Kesteven’s Sleaford Holdingham have no other choice.

The Brighton result should be interesting. The city’s Greens have been riven by dispute, as Dan Falchikov tells us. How will the recent strike by refuse collectors affect their fortunes? With further industrial action by greenkeepers in the area on the horizon, the ruling party’s troubles are far from over. Defending a ward in these circumstances is not the last thing that they need.

Good luck to Lev and Nick in their elections. We will let you know how they get on tomorrow.

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

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  • David Wilkinson 11th Jul '13 - 10:52am

    The downside of the Clegg effect

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Jul '13 - 11:19am


    Yes you are right; even when we were riding high in the polls and had many more councillors than now, there were always some wards for which candidates could not be found for May elections. Where I disagree with you is that these are by-elections. Even in moribund wards the constituencies that I worked in for the Liberals and Lib Dems could usually find a candidate, (even from out of the ward), to add to the ballot paper. I think this is a reflection of reduced activist numbers.

  • David Rogers 11th Jul '13 - 11:20am

    Hanover ward (as it was then) has an interesting history in relation to what is now our party. In 1980 (I think), the late Tom Forester left the Labour Party and fought a by-election there as a Social Democrat, winning a substantial victory. He joined me and five other Liberal councillors on the then Brighton Borough Council – we had won two wards in 1979. This was before the foundation of the SDP by the gang of four.

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Jul '13 - 11:27am

    Nick Clegg tells us that attitudes of some of the activist base are part of the problem that has prevented us becoming a ‘fully-fledged party of government’. Could this not be a good thing, like much reduced vote share is a signifier of the tough decisions that Clegg also makes?

  • Well, Caron – you have brought us “doom-mongers” out this morning, as you predicted! I do follow some events in Scottish Lib Dems quite closely, through my friend in Edinburgh, who is pretty well-informed on Lib Dem issues, certainly across the Central Belt. I know that another old friend, Willie Rennie, has encouraged more candidates in the various leadership roles he has held, both south of the border, and especially since he returned to Scotland. He, like many of us, has always attempted to make the best of all situations, since standing as a Council candidate in Paisley as a student and getting nearly a quarter of the vote, when 5% would have been an expected maximum at that time! I am sure he must be deeply frustrated by the new downturn he will be seeing now.

    I won’t reiterate words from Caracatus, which reflects my views – I have already along with other “doom-mongers” written much in a similar vein. But some time or another, Caron, you and others are going to need to engage positively with those of us from the doom monger wing , to acknowledge there is a political, if not ideological problem that everyone in the party needs to face. When that moment comes, I am not sure, but my current feeling is that it will be late May next year, when we have taken a complete battering at the Euros, and in the London elections. It seems unlikely to me that we will keep any more than 2 or 3 MEPs, and our Councillors in London will be greatly diminished. The media will pick it up much more than they did in the Counties this year, and especially if we come in behind the Greens, and whisper it softly, possibly even the SNP. By the way, has anyone any figures on resignations of defeated County Councillors? Thought not – as the party tends to look at membership ending only through lapsing of membership payments as Richard Grayson pointed out with his recent lapsing.

  • Theres not much point even discussing this before we have the facts. Has the proportion of contests with Libdem candidates fallen, by how much & when ? Someone must know but its not me or anyone else on the comment thread so far.
    I would say to the “doom-mongers” that membership has fallen because we are in Government, the political make-up of the administration is unimportant, the same thing happens to Tory & Labour when they are in power. The only alternative is never to enter Government, is that what you want ?

  • @ paul barker

    It is true that parties in Government do usually lose support, but not 90% of their representation in the HofC as is likely to be the case for the Party.

    This will be as a result of its failure to seize, what was a golden opportunity, to make its mark whilst in Coalition – by advocating policies that people actually wanted – but being seen to be frustrated by the Tories [the raising of personal allowances apart] .

    Quite why Liberal Democrats view themselves as ‘all knowing’ and immune from the usual concept of democracy [the will of the people] is beyond me. As someone who is usually optimistic – I do not see myself as a doom-monger, but as a realist along with the others who predict a precipitous fall unless some action is taken soon to change the impression of the Party as aloof and out of touch.

  • Kevin McNamara 11th Jul '13 - 12:55pm

    john, are you seriously arguing that we might lose around 51 mps in 2015?

    tim, not sure where these predictions are coming from. we always finish fourth in the euros even during the good times. what makes you think that we’re going to lose three-quarters of our representatives? might i also say there’s a hint of rubbing your hands together gleefully in your comment? i think you’d still have something to say even if your post-apocalyptic prediction didn’t come true.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 12:58pm

    If there is no-one willing to stand as a Liberal Democrat in a by-elecgtion, then there will be no candidate.

    When a leading adviser to our Dear Leader writes an article in the media telling activists we aren’t wanted, and we should go off and join Labour, what do you expect?

    When our Dear Leader refuses to listen to what activists are saying, when he continues with the disastrous “Rose Garden” presentation tactics that are making us embarrassed to come out publicly as Liberal Democrats, what do you expect?

    When our Dear Leader tells us that anyone who disagrees with him is a coward who is afraid of power, and has no right to express concern at the way the party is going, what do you expect?

    When our Dear Leader rubbishes so much of what the party and its activists have done in the past, telling us that was all nonsense and now what our party should be about is promoting him in his job as a junior part of an extreme right-wing government, which he thinks is a wonderful thing, the fulfilment of our dreams, what do you expect?

    I have stood in by-electiuons in the past, some winnable, some just as a token candidate. If I were asked now, I would not stand. I am fed up of this party being led to disaster by its incompetent leader, and of the insults he throws at those who criticise him for that.

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Jul '13 - 1:08pm

    Paul Pettinger

    “Nick Clegg tells us that attitudes of some of the activist base are part of the problem that has prevented us becoming a ‘fully-fledged party of government’.”

    Nick Clegg tells us a lot of things: insulting his party’s activist base is a speciality of his.

  • David Evans 11th Jul '13 - 1:11pm

    I really enjoy Paul P’s irony, especially the “much reduced vote share is a signifier of the tough decisions that Clegg also makes?” I’m sure it is as tough on Nick as it is on us – Always having to put up with failing activists who for some reason expected him top get something out of coalition for the party and its values, and not just a long list of debacles and surrenders.

    As for Paul B’s “It happens to everyone.” Actually, that’s not true Paul. There are many councils where we made a success of coalition. It’s just nationally in government where Nick has made an awful mess of things. Tell me, didn’t we go into coalition to make things better, “An end to broken promises” etc. Now who made a mess of that?

    As for Caron’s Doom Mongers comment, it makes me very sad that she is engaging in (admittedly mild) name calling as promoted by our Dear Leader. Until the “it will be alright on the night” brigade actually start to engage with those who can recognise real facts and figures and know that success in government takes hard work, ability and the courage to stick to your principles, we will remain divided and the collapse will continue.

    Secret Courts showed how much our leaders have gone native and I remember how upset Caron was with that at conference. It hasn’t changed since then Caron. Come and join those fighting to save some sort of future for our party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 1:12pm

    paul barker

    I would say to the “doom-mongers” that membership has fallen because we are in Government, the political make-up of the administration is unimportant, the same thing happens to Tory & Labour when they are in power.

    But we are NOT “in power” as Tory and Labour were in the past. For them “in power” meant it was a government of their party, they were responsible for all it did.

    What we have now is NOT a government of the Liberal Democrats. It is a government which in membership is five-sixths Conservative, and its policies reflect that. Quite obviously, such a government is going to be putting forward policies which are more those of the Conservative Party than those of the Liberal Democrats. If our party keeps going on about us being “in power”, and talking about the current government as if it’s all our government, what a government that is entirely Liberal Democrat would be doing – and that IS the line its leadership is taking – it’s hardly surprising that our support is collapsing.

    I’m not opposed to the formation of the coalition, but we needed to have made it clear from the start that we accepted it because it was the only stable government that could have resulted from the way the people voted and the distortion of the electoral system. We should have made clear that since it is a government in which we have just a small influence, it is very far from our ideal. Instead, our leadership has done the opposite. I cannot put any work in for the party, or agree under any circumstances to stand as a candidate under its banner while its aims and objectives are being so undermined in this way by its leader.

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Jul '13 - 1:17pm

    Though a reflection of targeting, local election results in held seats have been quite good considering the national picture. John R, if you think the Party will get below 39 MPs (as I do if we fight 2015 with Nick Clegg as leader) then visit Ladbrokes:

    Paul Barker offers a false choice: ‘The only alternative is never to enter Government’ – I find it hard to single you out however Paul when the leadership continually offers false choices and puts up straw men so as to help justify its jobs club

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 1:24pm

    @ Kevin McNamara

    It is quite possible – it will depend on the ability of the most well liked MPs to use that popularity to battle against all of the negativity that has developed for the Party since it became part of the Coalition. I think that members have been too close to the everyday twists and turns of being in government to realise just how scorned the Party has become.

    The loss of the protest vote is huge – and the fact that UKIP has taken this along with its policy of halting immigration will ensure that they are very successful at the next GE – mostly at the expense of the Party, because I expect them to have come to some arrangement with the Tories before then.

    @Matthew Hunchback.

    Yes, I was asked by the leader of the local party if I would help out at the recent local elections – even though I had left the Party. I had to say ‘no’ – and explained that I could not whilst Clegg was leader, although I suppose I could have worn a burka so that no one would see me squirm with embarrassment!

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 1:29pm

    Thanks for that Paul – I would dip heavily into my savings if someone would assure me that NC will continue as leader!

  • Kevin As far as MEPs go, London, NW, and SE Regions are the only ones with big enough lists to sustain our top candidates. If 16% was our average vote share in 2009, which it was approximately, it is unlikely on current poll ratings that we will get higher than 10% (and I think that is optimistic). That means that only where the Regional list is around 10 or more (the 3 regions I mentioned) are we likely to have anyone elected. I would hope we could return Graham Watson in the SW, but I am doubtful. As for your comment re- “rubbing my hands gleefully” – only in the sense that I thoroughly oppose leadership policy at present (in most respects). All the indications are that, as I have written on another thread, the Lib Dems have lost their USP.

  • Simon Shaw – This discussion has been had before. If you believe that Richard Reeves said no such thing, then you are right. Most people in the party, however, believe that was just what he was saying.

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Jul '13 - 3:45pm

    Richard Reeves (Nick Clegg’s former head of ‘strategy’) may well have said it, but went as far as having his views published,

    The writing has been on walls, as well as the Guardian, for years.

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 4:22pm

    @ Paul Pettinger

    An interesting article – which probably does explain the apparently unreconcilable differences between these two groups within the Party. However, it was significantly out-of-date even in 2008 – although few would recognise that at the time [including me!].

    Even today the Bilderbergers are not generally recognised as a political group, despite the fact that they have completely different objectives to other political group and are far and away the most powerful with many of our leading politicians members.

    I still have not come across a spell checker that does not highlight ‘Bilderberg’ as an error. When will the political lexicon catch up?

  • Paul Pettinger 11th Jul '13 - 4:37pm

    I would like to be in a political Party that includes lots of classical and social liberals, lead by crazy non-conformist notions of being lead by consensus, rather than our current militant tendency. I live in hope.

  • jenny barnes 11th Jul '13 - 4:55pm

    Just to be pedantic – They are liberal principles, not principals, in the Richard Reeves article. Although perhaps he means principal principles? Anyway, you don’t need to listen to what people say, so much as what they do, and it’s pretty clear that the LD leadership would just as soon do without the rest of the party, except as voiceless footsoldiers.

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 5:03pm

    Out of interest sake I searched LDV for ‘Bilderberg’. Ten references came up [the most recent in 2011] – but of the five I have checked any reference to the Bilderberg Group seems to have been removed – including this from NC in 2008:

    Nick Clegg attacks Policy Exchange for “offensive” and “underhand …
    Oct 24, 2008 … “People who argue that the world is being controlled by the Freemasons, the Jews or the Bilderberg Group are crazy. In fact, they’re probably … -underhand-briefing-5064.html

    My post above did not get included!!! Hmmmm …

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 5:11pm

    Simon Shaw

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “When a leading adviser to our Dear Leader writes an article in the media telling activists we aren’t wanted, and we should go off and join Labour, what do you expect?”

    I would be very surprised if anyone wrote any such article

    I am referring to the article written by Richard Reeves published in the New Statesman issue dated 19 September 2012. Here is the link to it:

    I explain in more detail why I interpret it as I do in the issue of Liberator dated November 2012:

  • The party still seems to have its head in the sand. In many constituencies there is simply no party apparatus, no active members, just continually bemoaning this and that avoids the task of dealing with this disastrous set of circumstances.
    There is no future for the party for at least 5 years unless something radical happens and our image to the public changes.
    It has to start with the leadership.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Jul '13 - 5:22pm

    John Roffey

    @Matthew Hunchback

    That is not how my surname is spelt. It derives from a place-name in Staffordshire. The -bach ending to place-names is found in the West Midlands and the Welsh borders, though the town of Sandbach is the only largish place whose name takes that form.

    Huntbach Street in Hanley is named after a notable 19th century Liberal Michael Huntbach. The Wiki article on the antiquarian John Huntbach shows the name being spelt in the 17th century as it is now, and also mentions its origin.

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 5:44pm

    Matthew – profuse apologies – complete accident.

    The forum that I have used most frequently provides an option to ‘preview post’ which I always used – it is taking me a little while to adjust to posting without this facility.

  • John Roffey 11th Jul '13 - 6:11pm

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I read your article in the Liberator with great interest. I was alarmed by the Reeves article in the New Statesman – and more or less decided that if that was what Liberalism and the Liberal Democrats are really about – I have no real interest in the Party [I was not a member long before I joined prior to 2010]. However, if your definition is much closer to the truth – this is not the case.

    Having read your article, you probably understand why I was interested to see what discussions there had been on the Bilderberg Group.

  • David Wilkinson wrote:

    “The downside of the Clegg effect”

    It isn’t the Clegg effect. It’s the coalition effect. The party is unpopular because it is propping up a Tory government, not because Mr Clegg is leading it. It would be just as unpopular if it was led by anyone else. Please don’t attribute to Mr Clegg powers he doesn’t have. Mr Clegg didn’t take the party into coalition on his own. He had the support of the overwhelming majority of party members. The blame has to be squarely and democratically shared, I fear. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not any kind of Mr Clegg fan. What I fear is that by focusing our frustration on one individual, we’re averting our gaze from the real evil, which is the coalition, and we’re risking a student politics type blood-letting fest over personalities.

  • David Wilkinson 11th Jul '13 - 9:43pm

    The reason I say its the Clegg effect is due to the type of comments he makes, I was in Manchester at Local Govement Confernce he then decided to insult those who had worked in the party for previous 30/40 years with the remark they weren’t serious about government, that alone shows how out of touch he is with his own party,never mind the public.

  • Nigel Jones 11th Jul '13 - 9:46pm

    It is true that part of the problem is the coalition; it is true that the vast majority of the party supported going in to coalition, ( I was one of them), though most were doing it reluctantly and for pragmatic reasons, not with the enthusiasm that Nick then showed. During the first 2 yrs this held as a credible position in spite of the policital difficulties, if only because the coalition had a measure of success in tackling the deficit, the key reason for it.
    It was made worse politically because our leaders failed to remind people that many decisions were inevitably due to Tory ideas not ours; in particular the spending on Free Schools and the Health and Social Care Bill and other areas of policy which were outside the agreement.
    The key time for change was the budget of 2012, when Nick Clegg made the huge mistake of trying to tell the public how wonderful it was that we had influenced it. He should have said clearly first that it was not a Liberal Democrat Budget and an example of how coalition means compromise, spelling out where we disagreed with it and hence that we had not changed our principles.
    Since then, the predictions are that the deficit will not reduce much more under Osborne’s policies and therefore our leadership should be speaking much more loudly against all those Conservative elements in Coalition decisions. Such forthright speaking would show the public that being in coalition means having to accept things you don’t like, but that does not mean we cannot say what we as Liberal Democrats would have wanted. Such speaking would put at risk the continuance of the coalition, and our media would have really set about saying we were not loyal to the coalition. In the light of the deficit reduction predictions, such risk would be justifiable. Such speaking would also keep the Tories guessing as to whether we would stay the course and hence increase our bargaining position in government.

  • David Wilkinson,

    I consider your criticisms of Mr Clegg and his appalling presentation to be fair and well made, and I probably agree with most of them. What concerns me is that many of our fellow members are labouring under the delusion that replacing Mr Clegg with someone else (Dr Cable?) would make a haporth of difference to the party’s fortunes, so long as we remained in the coalition. There are those who maintain that better presentation would have lessened the negative impact that the coalition has inevitably had. But is that really true? I fear not. Former supporters and tactical voters I meet tell me that the reason they now hate us is because we’re propping up a Tory government, not because Mr Clegg is an ineffective leader who insults activists. The party’s constitution makes it extremely difficult to oust a leader. In reality, only the Parliamentary Party could do it. And they won’t, because none of them is crazy enough to want the job under present circumstances. You can try if you like, but the result will be a bloodbath that will lead to headlines of the “Callaghan Savages Benn” type emblazoned across the tabloids. If by ousting the leader an immediate end to the coalition was guaranteed, then I’d run with it. But no such guarantee exists. However, if we left the coalition, rather than oust Mr Clegg, then Mr Clegg would go anyway. We’d kill two birds with one stone, while focusing on ideas and values rather than personalities. Make no mistake. Leaving the coalition pronto, and taking immediate actions to wipe away the stain, is the only realistic way to save the party from fracture, marginalisation and ultimately oblivion.

  • Commenting as an ex-Lib Dem who still retains an interest I do think a lot of the problems the party is experiencing stem from Clegg. Many accepted that Coalition was a necessary evil but, as another commentator said ,Clegg embraced it with enthusiasm and that perception has never diminished in my opinion. The real shock to me was that post May-2010 Clegg seemed absolutely delighted with the Coalition, he gave the impression that all his Christmases had come at once. I am certain that Cable or Kennedy or Farron would have set a very different tone and that’s why I think a good portion of the problems the party faces are down to the “Clegg Effect”. I left not because we had gone into a Coalition with the Tories per se but because working with the Tories was the only political option I could ever see Clegg taking in the future.

  • Just trying to find out about Lucastes and Bolnore – it is not a DC byelection, but a Hayward’s Heath Town election. The fourth principal council election today is for Forest Heath at Exning. Also no Lib Dem. So three quarters of principal council elections without LD candidates.

  • In Brighton, Lev Eakins 56 votes (2%) – our only candidate of the day.

  • Poor Lev. Ouch.

  • @nigel jones

    It was made worse politically because our leaders failed to remind people that many decisions were inevitably due to Tory ideas not ours; in particular the spending on Free Schools and the Health and Social Care Bill and other areas of policy which were outside the agreement.

    So if as you say these ideas were outside the agreement why didn’t Clegg block them? The failure was that we just forgot to tell people there was nothing we can do about it ……..? What was the coalition agreement for?

    I know swathes of people who voted lib dem at the GE , they felt let down by Labour but suspicious of the Tories and they were willing to give the party a chance, They knew what the Tories would want to do with power, and they trusted the lib dems to be a powerful brake on that power. If the answer to those people at the next GE is oh well you have to understand there wasn’t a lot we could do then the party is an even worse muddle than I thought.

  • A good start to getting candidates would be for local parties to communicate with their members. In a recent Scottish by-election in which we very publicly failed to field a candidate I never heard anything from the local party despite living right on the edge of the ward being contested. In fact I have had no direct communication from the local party since standing (unsuccessfully) as a candidate in May 2012. What price a LibDem Highlands post 2015?

  • Alex Macfie 12th Jul '13 - 9:06am

    @Tim13: As far as MEPs are concerned, we do have a USP, as the party that has a liberal vision of Europe and particularly hard-working MEPs. Also as our MEPs are not bound by cabinet collective responsibility, they are free to advance and sometimes implement the undiluted Lib Dem viewpoint on issues that affect the EU and by extension the whole of the UK. The sad thing is that your prediction of our fortune in 2014 may be accurate, because our campaigns do not capitalise on this at all. If, as seems likely, our Euro election campaign will not mention the EU at all but instead focus on domestic issues (and BTW the UK’s relationship with the EU is a domestic issue) and what we have done in government, we will do deservedly badly. If we campaign on how our MEPs have influenced EU legislation to the benefit of the ordinary citizen, and have worked hard for their constituents, we may save most of our seats. According to this article, Sarah Ludford is chairing a committee to reform the European Arrest Warrant, which while it has certainly helped catch criminals, also needs major reform… why are we not making more of this?

  • David Evans 12th Jul '13 - 9:08am


    When you said

    “Local by-elections sometimes almost take place by stealth. Unless you have someone watching the Town Hall closely and reading the local paper cover to cover every week, it is quite easy for them to be overlooked until it’s too late. A councillor can die or resign and if his/her party wishes the whole by-election process is only about three weeks.
    Another factor is that many people in a local party who would move heaven and earth to campaign in a seat where we have a chance of a respectable vote are reluctant to be diverted to a black hole at the other end of the district to get 30 or 60 votes when the winner needs 1000.”

    I thought you understood the problem fully. In the past most areas had a good motivated core of activists who did monitor the Town Hall.

    However your last sentence

    “This is nothing to do with the parties standing in the country as a whole ot the members’ perception of the leader.”

    Means you have missed the point. The reason why we don’t have activists monitoring things, and why we are likely to get only 30 or 60 votes now, is precisely down to the party’s standing in the country and the mess our leader has made of things in the coalition.

  • What has happened on the Isle of Wight should be of interest.
    The Isle of Wight has a strong liberal tradition, it has had a Liberal MP in 1983-87 Stephen Ross, always looked to be the best MP the island has had in the last 50 years. The island also had Liberal MPs in the time of Jeremy Thorpe (7% national poll ratings).
    Now, there is only 1 Liberal democrat councillor on the island: well officially, the Liberal democrats officially only contested 2 out of 39 seats! But many former LD members that left the party mainly over the UK coalition with the Tories (which is our opposition on the island) stood as independents or () : – At least 10 of them got elected to the council, many others also describe themselves as liberal.
    Island liberal group split.
    What was the party thinking of entering into an unequal coalition with such an anti-liberal principle party such as the Conservatives?
    We need an exit strategy now. Why we had to let tuition fees increase? the price we paid in coalition to see that the lowest paid got lower taxation and taken out of tax ( which Labour actually increased from 10% to 20%).
    Possibly a principle policy of fairness, Local council funding…. more funding…. we need fairer local taxation….. Local income tax proposal to replace the hated council tax.
    If coalition agrees…. Liberal democrat success !!!
    If Tories reject….. Bring down the Tories.
    Liberal principles regained.

  • Also on the Isle of Wight – No it didn’t have other Liberal MPs at the time of Jeremy Thorpe – it was Steve Ross! There had been County Councillors, certainly when I was at school in Newport (1964 – 66). I still remember the celebrations when Steve Ross was first elected (1974) and he served for 4 years till retiring before the 1987 election.

  • Sorry I am getting it wrong now! 4 terms, not 4 years!

  • In Banbury we really struggle to get enough paper candidates … people even willing to stand, people willing to obtain signatures. Clegg does not help party morale!

  • I am astonished and dismayed at the level of 20/20 hindsight, disloyalty and general griping in this forum. As if going into government with a deficit of 11.4% of GDP, an economy in ruins and with a party that had six times as many MPs as us was going to be easy.

    Basically, whichever route we took in 2010 was going to be exceptionally tough. Pretending it would have been different under any other leader than Clegg is frankly blatantly unrealistic.

    The only thing I will concede is that Clegg should have presented the formation of the Coalition totally differently: as being an entirely regrettable necessity which would require some disappointing compromises and difficult choices.

    That was the reality of the situation, one which sadly many posting here seem determined to ignore, pretending there was some other easier path (which one, exactly?) which would have left our party with burgeoning numbers of activists and soaring popularity while implementing all our policies.

  • RC You present things as a necessity that we form a coalition with the Tories in 2010. It was never that.

  • Peter Chegwyn 13th Jul '13 - 1:28am

    Tim13 & Ernest – As a former Councillor on the Isle of Wight myself, and full-time Agent to Steve Ross in the late 70s, it pains me to see just one official Lib Dem Cllr. on the Island now given that we had a clear overall majority on Medina BC from 1979 and control of the Isle of Wight County Council for much of the time from 1981 until eight years ago, also another Lib Dem MP in Peter Brand as recently as the late 1990s.

    The coalition may be a factor in our decline on the Island as it is elsewhere but I have to say that the Island Liberals did have quite a talent for self-destruction even before the coalition.

    Interesting the number of ex-Lib Dem (and ex-Tory) Cllrs. who got elected under the ‘Independent’ banner in May. Good that they kicked-out a hopelessly arrogant and incompetent Tory regime including the Tory Leader David Pugh but I wonder how long the ‘new’ Independent administration will hold together?

    The Island ought to go Liberal again but who will make it happen? As in so many other parts of the country, a declining activist base outside the 60-odd seats with MPs coupled with a massive fall in the number of Lib Dem Cllrs over the past 3 years should surely concern people at the top of our party more than it appears to.

    Or don’t they care about the way our party is fast disappearing from the electoral landscape in vast areas of the country, as shown by the number of by-elections where we don’t even field a ‘paper’ candidate these days, or wards like Hanover in Brighton & Hove which had Liberal councillors in the not-too-distant past but where we now get 2% of the votes. Not good!

  • I was a supporter of going into coalition. I still believe that a Conservative minority government would have been worse and may have resulted in our loss of lots of MP’s in the general election that would have happened within a year or two. However our position on tuition fees was stupid. The state parties should have revoked the party membership of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable and all MP’s who broke their pledge by voting for the new tuition fees. They all brought the Party into disrepute and we haven’t recovered since. However I don’t think we should leave the coalition but we should have only done what was in the coalition agreement (no top-down reform of the NHS). I also think we shouldn’t have agreed to the changes in Council Tax Benefit or benefit rises below inflation, they might even be against the spirit of the coalition agreement.

    It is not the formation of the coalition that I have a problem with it is the way the leadership didn’t enforce the coalition agreement terms and lets us agree to things we should never have agreed to. Plus of course the first year when our leadership supported everything the coalition did rather that stating where we were going along with it because we had compromised and then explaining what the compromise deal was.

  • David Evans 13th Jul '13 - 4:06pm

    @ Ian Sanderson

    I think you’ve missed my point; when I said: “Another factor is that many people in a local party who would move heaven and earth to campaign in a seat where we have a chance of a respectable vote are reluctant to be diverted to a black hole at the other end of the district to get 30 or 60 votes when the winner needs 1000.”

    I wasn’t referring to the situation solely since 2010, but the situation at any time in the last 16 years.

    Yes but in your original post, you were using it to excuse Nick Clegg. The fact is that Nick’s total mess of being in coalition has led to most seats becoming “a black hole at the other end of the district to get 30 or 60 votes when the winner needs 1000.” They weren’t like that in the 90s and 00s. It is Nick’s fault and it is all exactly to do with the party’s standing in the country as a whole and the members’ perception of the leader.

  • David Evans 13th Jul '13 - 4:07pm

    Missed quotation marks in above post. It should read

    @ Ian Sanderson

    Your comment ”I think you’ve missed my point; when I said: “Another factor is that many people in a local party who would move heaven and earth to campaign in a seat where we have a chance of a respectable vote are reluctant to be diverted to a black hole at the other end of the district to get 30 or 60 votes when the winner needs 1000.”

    I wasn’t referring to the situation solely since 2010, but the situation at any time in the last 16 years.”

    Yes but in your original post, you were using it to excuse Nick Clegg. The fact is that Nick’s total mess of being in coalition has led to most seats becoming “a black hole at the other end of the district to get 30 or 60 votes when the winner needs 1000.” They weren’t like that in the 90s and 00s. It is Nick’s fault and it is all exactly to do with the party’s standing in the country as a whole and the members’ perception of the leader.

  • @ Ian Sanderson (RM3)

    You might be correct and that “the pledge was made in the spirit that we weren’t heading for government” and therefore was stupid. I think they only had to resign from the government if they voted against because the coalition agreement states they could abstain.

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '13 - 10:09pm

    Ian Sanderson (RM3) “Even after that, we should remember that less than half (27 + 1 teller) of the LibDem MPs voted for the increase. Most of those who voted aye had to if because they were in the government.”
    The coalition agreement allowed Lib Dems to abstain, meaning
    (i) those who voted aye chose to, they did not have to
    (ii) Lib Dem MPs had abandoned their pledge within days of the general election and before Lord Browne published his report

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '13 - 10:19pm

    @Ian Sanderson (RM3)
    Following your link, it was interesting to recall that our MPs assured us they were voting for “an average £6,000 a year and to tripple the existing upper limit to £9,000 in “exceptional” circumstances”. A lot of circumstances turned out to be exceptional. I am not convinced that Lib Dem MPs understood what they were supporting once they abandoned the principles upon which they stood for election.

  • Simon Banks 16th Jul '13 - 6:11pm

    I’m guessing Paul Pettinger’s first comment was tongue in cheek. By all means, let’s be a party of government with no activists and no votes.

    Some of the no-contests will be down to the diminishing membership and diminishing activist base, which afflict all the traditional parties. But it does worry me that we may be seeing the reversal of the trend in the 1970s and through the merger, of the construction of a genuine national party. In February 1974, when the Liberal Party came close to an historic breakthrough, we had no party organisations and no candidates in some areas such as Coventry. In the October 1974 election we’d plugged some gaps and efforts continued to be made to build up a presence where we’d had none for many years.

    It’s understandable that the attention of leader and HQ are now on the seats we may be able to win in 2015, but as soon as that’s over, we need a strategy for preventing Liberalism from vanishing from swathes of the country. A sprinkle of walled fortresses is not enough. That means resources going into supporting resolute strugglers where we’re scrabbling to hang on, and pioneers where we had no presence – like Harwich where I am.

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