What Lib Dem Voice members think about Nick Clegg stepping down as leader

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of the General Election results. Some 1065 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Was Nick Clegg right in standing down on Friday?

    92% – Yes
    8% – No

It’s no real surprise that after the poor results the overwhelming majority of Lib Dem Voice members felt it was time for Nick to make way for a new leader.

Before the General Election, did you expect that Nick Clegg would still be leader by 2016?

    39% – Yes
    61% – No

This was a question that I wanted to ask in the weeks running up to the general election, but both the lack of time I personally had, plus the wariness of having these sort of numbers around meant I waited until the results were in. It’s clear that for whatever reasons most Lib Dem Voice members felt that Nick would either jump or be pushed before the year was over.

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78 Comments

  • People will have different views on Nick Clegg’s time as leader.
    Members who have joined the party since 2007 because they were attracted by the personality of Nick Clegg will probably be the most loyal to him. I am surprised that only 8% in this survey thought he should should carry on as before.

    It is worth recalling the situation of the party before he became leader —

    In May 2007 Gordon Brown became PM and the Liberal Democrats were around 25% in the terms of popular support.

    Liberal Democrats were in power in these local councils —
    Liverpool, Newcastle, Rochdale, Stockport, Hull, Caradon, Chesterfield, Durham, Eastbourne, Hinckley and Bosworth, Lewes, North Norfolk, Northampton, Oadby and Wigston, South Somerset, Vale of White Horse, Cambridge, Eastleigh, Pendle, South Lakeland, Three Rivers, 
    Watford, West Lindsay, Kingston, Sutton, 
    (forgive me if I have missed some — there were such a lot with the thousands of councillors that we had at that time).
     http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_local_elections,_2007

    We were a party of power, real power, putting Liberal Democrat ideas into practice.   
    We worked with people to bring about change in their communities, change for the better.

    We had around 10 MEPs and we had 62 MPs.

    In December 2007 we had a leadership election.   The rest is history.

    We should be careful how we vote in the 2015 leadership election.
    Which contender is likely to gets back to the positions of power that we held in 2007 ?

    Do we need a change of approach from the last eight years?  
    Or do we need “more of the same”?

  • Simon McGrath 21st May '15 - 8:54am

    John Tilley – how odd that you forget to mention the 5 years when we had (some) real power in Government.

  • Alex Macfie 21st May '15 - 9:21am

    We had real power in/over government before that — in the European Parliament, with 10 MEPs all on committees, helping shape EU legislation in a liberal direction. Unfortunately our European election campaign failed to make any mention of that at all. and that is one reason we fell to only 1 MEP.
    Also what got us into government nationally was the luck of a hung parliament. It was nothing to do with anything our leader or the party did. We coasted in the 2010 election — down from 62 to 57 MPs. In an election in which we were fighting a tired, unpopular Labour government, we lost seats to Labour and failed to take several seats from them that should have been easy pickings.

  • Simon McGrath
    Most objective observers recognise the difference between minority influence and real power.
    Thousands of those elected as Liberal Democrat councillors and who have experience of the use of power , real power, know the difference between minority influence and real power. You should try and get elected yourself.

  • David Evans 21st May '15 - 9:27am

    Simon McGrath – How odd that you should choose to totally ignore the massive long term damage to the party in the country and only concentrate on the headline grabbers in Westminster. Membership still down by over 10,000 compared to when Nick became leader; councillors down from 4,700 to 1,800; MSPs down from 16 to 5; MEPs from 12 down to 1 and the final judgement of the British people on Nick Clegg and his 5 years in government – 8 MPs. The disaster that was Nick Clegg has taken the party back to where it was in the 1970s. 40 years of other Lib Dems effort wilfully sacrificed for five years of pretending Nick giving a great speech was any substitute for thousands of Lib Dems fighting for their communities. Nationalism rampant in Scotland, UKIP outpolling us in England and the toxic Tories rehabilitated. Some people are easily fooled.

  • Phil Rimmer 21st May '15 - 9:47am

    @ Simon McGrath: I for one do not buy into the Clegg/Laws line that we had “(some) real power” in government. We had as much as the Tories would give in the face of serious negotiating errors by our leaders. What we achieved was a handful of policies and a mild watering down of some Conservative policies.

    The cost? Near oblivion for our party, a crippling of our ability to do anything about Tory policies for the next 5 years and absence from government for who knows how long.

    Was it worth it? No, not in my opinion, though it could have been, which is why I supported the Coalition at first.

    Clegg took over a healthy vibrant Liberal party and, in his efforts to turn it into an exclusively Economic Liberal one, almost led it to oblivion.

  • There is still part of me that thinks the problem goes back further than 2007 – in fact, to 2006 when Charles Kennedy was forced out. That was when the Parliamentary Party really lost touch with members’ views – not to mention the general public – most of whom would have been perfectly happy for Charles to take a break for 6 months or so to sort himself out before returning in time for a General Election. That’s really when the drift rightward started.

  • @ Simon McGrath……..I wonder, I really wonder…..
    Had we not gone into coalition would Cameron have risked an early election? …After failing to win a majority over the most unpopular PM/government in living memory would he have risked? I doubt it …

    But say he had, and had won a majority equivalent to the one he has now…How more extreme could he have been with LibDem/Labour scrutinising every move?… We would have kept our integrity and those who were disenchanted with Labour’s last few years in government would have an alternative party where “No more broken promises” would have meant something….

    IMO 2015 would have seen a LibDem party with 100 MPs and far more councillors…Now that is what real power looks like really holding power…Instead all was squandered…

  • @expats

    “IMO 2015 would have seen a LibDem party with 100 MPs and far more councillors…Now that is what real power looks like really holding power”

    I agree, what was the point in holding the tories back in a coalition for 5 years, only for the party to then have been wiped out, Tories gain a majority and reverse all the Libdem policies that they did not really like in the first place and introduce the ones that Libdems blocked.
    In short all that happened was Libdems delayed things by a couple of years

    Had the Liberal Democrat only given Cameron a Confidence & Supply, or indeed made him govern as a Minority, Cameron would not have been able to introduce the policies that he did, welfare reforms and NHS.
    And had Cameron called this mystical early 2nd election and won a small Majority {Doubtful as all polls pointed to Labour} Liberal Democrats would have probably had about 50Mp’s at the time in opposition.
    Had Cameron then run a Tory administration from 2010-2015 and governed as the True Government he said he would now and introduced the kind of policies he says he will now introduce.
    At the 2015 election, The Tories would have been booted out of office and Liberal Democrats would now be sitting with probably 100 MPs
    As it is the UK is now suffering from a whole decade of Tory rule and it is going to take till 2020 for the country to them out. Unless of course Cameron loses control of his small majority during this period.

  • Whilst having Councillors and MEPs is great (and yes I’m aware of the finances they bring to the party), to the general public as a whole they barely impinge upon their consciousness.

  • @Alex Malfie “We coasted in the 2010 election — down from 62 to 57 MPs. In an election in which we were fighting a tired, unpopular Labour government, we lost seats to Labour and failed to take several seats from them that should have been easy pickings.”

    That’s somewhat revisionist. We didn’t get the benefit we should have in 2010 (I) because the work wasn’t done prior to 2005 to put us in a good position to reap the rewards in 2010; we were too far behind in too many Labour-facing seats because as usual we were obsessed with fighting Tories when we should have been fighting Labour 2) because the Cleggasm was dispersed and 3) Brown’s rallying of the faithful in the final week of the campaign.

    Don’t forget Clegg added votes in 2010 (votes/seats being arbitrary in FPTP) and overall the party prevented the Tory majority which was on the cards right up until the short campaign.

    We have always done badly when the Conservative Party is on the ascendancy

  • @matt “As it is the UK is now suffering from a whole decade of Tory rule and it is going to take till 2020 for the country to them out. Unless of course Cameron loses control of his small majority during this period.”

    It is usual for the government to lose by-elections during a parliament, so if the Tories don’t lose them then that’s a sign that the alternatives aren’t attractive enough, and/or they’re doing better than expected.

    The signs are that Tory Central Office knows what it needs to do to add the blue-collar vote that has deserted Labour to UKIP.

  • David Evershed 21st May '15 - 11:05am

    The point of a political party is to make a difference to people’s lives.

    By making the decision to go into coalition (with the subsequent endorsement of MPs and the membership) Nick Clegg enabled 70% of the Lib Dem policies in the manifesto to be implemented. The higher personal allowances, pupil premium, equal marriage and so on still continue today.

    But most of all, being in coalition meant that despite the unsustainable government borrowing, there was stable government, borrowing could continue at record low rates, and mortgage interest rates remained at record low rates, thus preventing the economy going into freefall. It is not an exageration to say we could have ended up like Greece without a stable government given the amount we are in debt.

    I hope the Lib Dem party would do the same again even knowing the sacrifice it was making , for the good of the country. Many have made greater sacrifices in time of war and we have been fighting an economic war against the perilous position past government mistakes have put us in.

  • TCO – Tell that to someone in Manchester, again a Labour fiefdom who has had his benefit arbitrarily stopped and whose Labour councillor dare not speak out; or a resident whose council wants to walk all over her rights in leafy Surry. Lib Dem councillors listen, Labour and Conservative councillors and MPs don’t. Sadly for the last seven years, Nick chose to copy them and we will pay the price for decades.

  • @David Evans the point I’m making is that if we controlled all the councils in the country and had all the MEPs, the public would still view us as ineffectual and irrelevant if we had no Westminster representation.

    And if you want proof of this look at turnout in local and European elections vs turnout for Westminster.

  • TCO – Quote TCO “We have always done badly when the Conservative Party is on the ascendancy.” In 1979 when Thatcher came to power we had 1,059 councillors, we gained every year until 1988 when we had 3,518 councillors and by the time of John Major’s victory in 1992 – 4,123. Likewise over that period we rose from 11 MPs in 1979 to 20 in 1992. Your lack of a grasp of such basic facts lead you to make ridiculous comments in your rush to belittle the work done by Lib Dems all over the country who know what has gone wrong. I suggest you try to comment only when you have real evidence rather than pure hyperbole.

  • Cameron owes his majority to Sturgeon’s brilliance and Clegg’s stupidity.

  • I repeat. No one gives a stuff about councillors. We garnered councillors as a protest by a minority of the electorate in mid term.

  • TCO.
    If the Lib Dems had fought along the lines suggested by you the Seats would have gone earlier. The reason the Lib Dems fought harder in Conservative facing seats was because the other opposition parties were not strong enough and this meant that voters who did not want a conservative government were attracted to the Lib Dems because they had a real chance of taking those seats as well as offering socially liberal policies. The drop of in support for the Lib Dems was almost immediate in 2010 and it is the delusion that there was a mass soft tory vote that did the damage, followed by a campaign that was clearly aimed at a continuation of the coalition. I sat and watched the election and the first few results, all northern seats, showed lost deposit after lost deposit, votes down to a few hundred. In fact the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in the south handed most of the seats to the Conservatives simply by default because the Conservatives were always in a strong second place. The Right of the Lib Dems got it completely wrong from start to finish and it is time accepted this. One MEP, 8 MPs and the loss of millions of voters do not lie. Those of us who were against forming the coalition were saying this from day one. Nick Clegg had only been a LD candidate for a relatively short time when he became leader and either didn’t understand the nature of LD vote or wilfully ignored it because it didn’t fit with his plans for the party.

  • @Glenn. Ever since 1997 we knew that Labour would lose seats and the tide would turn against them. We also knew that at some point that would mean we would lose our Tory-facing seats.

    As a result we should have been planning for this since May 2nd 1997 and positioning ourselves as strong second in as many of the 400-odd Labour-held seats as we could. Then, as Labour gradually lost popularity, we would pick up seats. And we would be compensating for the inevitable loss of our Tory-held seats in the South and West.

    We. Did. Not. Do. This. At all. And now we’ve reaped the consequences.

  • TCO – We gained councillors every year including GE years against the Conservatives.
    In 1983 we rose from 2,171 to 2,331. In 1987 from 2,971 to 3,640; and in 1992 from 3,672 to 3,728.

    As Churchill famously said “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.”

  • paul barker 21st May '15 - 1:54pm

    With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we can now see that we should have stayed out of Government & let the country go to the dogs. Of course that does mean we would have seen a 2nd Election in 2011 or 2012 so we might have seen the same squeeze we just suffered, only 3 or 4 years earlier. We can never know what would have happened & its pretty pointless speculating.
    Its also pointless & damaging to re-fight old battles – lets leave that to Labour & the Tories. I am more interested in what happens next.

  • Jonathan Pile 21st May '15 - 2:57pm

    @ Paul Barker
    “With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we can now see that we should have stayed out of Government & let the country go to the dogs. Of course that does mean we would have seen a 2nd Election in 2011 or 2012 so we might have seen the same squeeze we just suffered, only 3 or 4 years earlier.”
    Paul I don’t agree with all of that. We should have gone in on better terms (C&F or a looser Coalition), put Tuition fees before an unwinnable AV referendum. If we had fought for something on tuition fees instead of an agreement to abstain when didn’t work, such as a fees cap/freeze or gradualised rise then our position would have been miles better in 2015. The whole process in 2010 was pressurised and rushed and the voters were NOT forewarned of a possible Tory coalition, most wanted a progressive coalition with Labour (sadly neither Nick Clegg,the numbers, or Labour leadership contenders in waiting wanted this). There were better options in 2010 and certainly better ways of dealing with the most toxic option of a Tory Coalition. Tell me i’m wrong, then tell the 4.9m loyal Lib Dem voters who voted against the party in 2015.

  • @paul barker

    ” we might have seen the same squeeze we just suffered, only 3 or 4 years earlier.”

    You cant seriously be suggesting the results of the last election were a result of the party being squeezed?
    That would be a ludicrous interpretation of the results.

    Had the Libdem not gone into “formal coalition” with the Tories in 2010 and instead offered a confidence supply and the Conservatives called an early election in 2011, it is likely that the Liberal Democrats would have then been squeezed, however, I dare say that would have only meant libdems losing approx 10 seats. Leaving them with 47 MPs in 2015 to build upon.
    And they would have built upon that, because the country would have been ready to kick the Tories out of office had they served in an all Tory Government for 4 years and introduced any of the polices they are now talking of introducing.

  • There does appear to be massive cognitive dissonance going on here by the anti-coalitionistas.

    On the one hand, we went into coalition and had next to no influence on it, so it introduced “hated Tory policies”. Yet after five years of these hated policies, the Tories were voted in to offer a stronger dose of the same hated medicine.

    Yet in 5 years time we are supposed to be the beneficiaries of everyone hating the Tories?

  • Jonathan Pile 21st May '15 - 3:42pm

    The Myth of the 2010 General Election – there was no alternative Coalition to the Conservatives. A LD Coalition with Labour would have had 315 votes against 306 Conservatives. A Labour-Lib dem queen speech would have probably survived a vote even with the DUP joining Conservatives (making 314 votes) and SDLP, Alliance, Greens in support perhaps with SNP and PC abstaining. The attitude of future Labour leader contenders was to quit and get into the election but if we had taken a more constructive approach to Labour and conciliatory attitude to Gordon Brown. Clearly Brown and Clegg had no chemistry but perhaps it was as much on Nick Clegg’s side. Politically a Labour Coalition in 2010 would have been better for the party and possible. It would have delivered on PR.

  • @ Paul Barker “Its also pointless & damaging to re-fight old battles”

    We need to have this discussion to make sure that we all properly learn the lessons of the last 5 years. What I find most worrying is a small but vocal minority seem not to be prepared to learnt any lessons. They seem to be stuck on auto pilot – feeding out the same lines from before the General Election. Open your minds and think what could the party have done differently – we must have done something wrong!

  • @Simon Shaw

    My main criticism is not necessarily that we went in to coalition – it was the completely inept way the leadership managed the coalition – from the rose garden love in – through tuition fees – the timing of the AV referendum – to NHS reform – I could go on.

  • @Simon Shaw “If we hadn’t we would have suffered the long term accusation that “There’s no point in voting Lib Dem; when they had the opportunity to enter government in 2010, they ran away, scared.””

    Quite.

    As the old expression goes: better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st May '15 - 4:38pm

    JohnTilley21st May ’15 – 8:14am
    “Do we need a change of approach from the last eight years? … Or do we need “more of the same”?

    John, I was thinking of setting up a new group … ‘The sado-masochist Lib Dems’
    #more of the same please … What do you think 🙂

  • Simon Shaw,
    We know for certain what the results of going into coalition were. 8 seats. That’s where the coalition lead the Lib Dems. The evidence is quite clear the people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and before did not want a coalition with a right wing conservative party. Most of them had already gone by the end of 2010. virtually every bye election over the period clearly showed this. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance involved, especially when you could see the outcome of similar coalitions elsewhere, notably in Australia.

  • @Jonathon Pile “Politically a Labour Coalition in 2010 would have been better for the party. ”

    But would have been an unmitigated disaster for the country.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st May '15 - 4:53pm

    TCO21st May ’15 – 12:30pm
    “I repeat. No one gives a stuff about councillors. We garnered councillors as a protest by a minority of the electorate in mid term.”

    TCO I am taking a deep breathe in the spirit of party unity but do you think this is an accurate, considered or Liberal statement?

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st May '15 - 5:01pm

    TCO21st May ’15 – 4:05pm
    @Simon Shaw “If we hadn’t we would have suffered the long term accusation that “There’s no point in voting Lib Dem; when they had the opportunity to enter government in 2010, they ran away, scared.””

    TCO: “Quite.”

    Having spent my entire life fighting against Tories and their illiberal vision of the world, I reluctantly agreed to the coalition. However, the very simple question I have for you both is did we handle it well after that?

  • @Stephen Hesketh that comment was from the perspective of the vast majority of the electorate for whom politics barely impinges on their lives; local government doubly so.

  • @Stephen Hesketh “Having spent my entire life fighting against Tories and their illiberal vision of the world.”

    Have you spent none of it fighting Labour, the Greens and UKIP and their illiberal visions of the world?

  • Simon Shaw 21st May ’15 – 3:56pm ……..This is all quite fascinating, but the reality is that we had no real political alternative but to go into coalition in 2010………If we hadn’t we would have suffered the long term accusation that “There’s no point in voting Lib Dem; when they had the opportunity to enter government in 2010, they ran away, scared.”……..

    Of course there was an alternative….As for ‘running away’….Had we voted against the NHS reorganisation, against the ‘bedroom tax and for our ‘tuition promise do you really believe that the electorate would have thought worse of us?…Don’t just take my opinion; the loss of many hundreds of councillors, the MEP and 2015 disasters says everything we need to know about what the electorate REALLY think of us…

    Jenny 21st May ’15 – 3:57pm

  • matt (Bristol) 21st May '15 - 5:16pm

    “I repeat. No one gives a stuff about councillors. We garnered councillors as a protest by a minority of the electorate in mid term.”

    Aaarrgghh.

    I give a stuff about councillors; even where they don’t directly make decisions they hold local authorities’ plans and expenditure to account, and make. With the LibDems on the back foot in my city, I fear for the sensible administration of that city.

    I don’t believe that the future if liberalism will necessarily be won one council at a time – we are in dire need of a national narrative (or at least regional narratives with regional parties free to speak to the needs of their own regions, if a coherent national narrative cannot be found).

    But If you promote a version of politics where the local is irrelevant and only the direction of the national government matters, you play into the hands of the Tory-Labour duopoly and you have written the death sentence for the party. That sort of politics could be carried out by liberal-minded Labour politicians or by liberal-minded Tories. It is not – I would contend – where Liberal Democratic politics should be headed.

    Bah. Don’t mean to be rude, but bah.

  • @matt(Bristol) because my posts are being delayed you won’t have seen the point I made earlier.

    Active Lib Dems care greatly about local government. The vast majority of the public don’t.

  • “I repeat. No one gives a stuff about councillors. We garnered councillors as a protest by a minority of the electorate in mid term.”

    Aaarrgghh… (apologies to Matt)….TCO you seem to have a knack of saying the wrong thing…My councillor (albeit an independent) is my main contact with the ‘reality’ of politics…. Most voters worry about national politics for a few weeks before/after elections….The everyday concerns of ‘Bin Collections’, ‘Potholes’, are what concern them between elections…..A strong local party supplies the ‘foot soldiers’ ….

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st May '15 - 9:22pm

    Come on TCO step up.

  • Alex Macfie 21st May '15 - 9:35pm

    TCO: I’m not being revisionist at all. I am stating the plain truth. To take your comments one by one

    (I) because the work wasn’t done prior to 2005 to put us in a good position to reap the rewards in 2010;

    Nonsense: most of our 2005 gains and all of our by-election gains in the 2005—2010 Parliament were from Labour. Historically we had tended to be strongest in Tory-facing areas, but in the latter years of the last Labour government we were winning most strongly against Labour.

    we were too far behind in too many Labour-facing seats

    This does not explain why we lost seats to Labour, or why we failed to win some low-hanging fruit from them (e.g. Oxford East, Islington South & Finsbury).

    because as usual we were obsessed with fighting Tories when we should have been fighting Labour

    Again, we had in the previous election been doing better against Labour than the Tories.

    2) because the Cleggasm was dispersed

    Cleggmania was a contributing factor to our poor 2010 result: it meant that we could no longer run an effective ground war where it mattered under the radar of the other two parties and the media, as they had noticed us and turned their heavy guns against us.

    and 3) Brown’s rallying of the faithful in the final week of the campaign.

    This would have been less effective if our ground war had not been distorted by Cleggmania.

    Don’t forget Clegg added votes in 2010 (votes/seats being arbitrary in FPTP)

    Fine, FPTP is a bad system, we all know that. But the reality is that it is the system under which elections are currently fought. This means that whether we think it is fair or not, the result was a net loss of seats despite our increase in share of the vote. It also means that we could have run a strategy that got us more seats in proportion to the our share of the vote. And at the end of the day, party performance is measured in number of seats won. The Tory landslide in 1983 was won despite a small drop in the share of the Tory vote; people often forget this, but ultimately it does not matter under our system because the level of influence in Parliament depends on the number of seats, not votes, and the 1983 result meant the Tories had a massive overall majority. Likewise, in 2010 the Lib Dems suffered a net loss of seats despite the small increase in share of the vote. For this I blame the party leadership, for failing to run a successful targeting strategy that would have seen us gain seats under FPTP (as we did in 1997 even tho’ our share of the vote fell).

    and overall the party prevented the Tory majority

    But we still lost seats that we should not have lost and failed to win seats that we should have done.

  • Stephen Hesketh 21st May ’15 – 4:38pm

    Stephen, there is room for a new group called ” ‘The sado-masochist Lib Dems’ #more of the same please ”

    It appears from the comments in this thread that there is already such a group and it’s most vocal member is the anonymous TCO.

    TCO says that – “TCO21st May ’15 – 12:30pm
    “ No one gives a stuff about councillors. ”
    And also –
    ” TCO 21st May ’15 – 10:49am
    Whilst having Councillors … is great … ..to the general public as a whole they barely impinge upon their consciousness.”

    This tells us much about TCO. He must live in a part of the country where local councillors do not make decisions about town planning or road maintenance, where there are no local libraries or educational facilities under the stewardship of local councillors, he must never pay any council tax or be so rich that he does not notice, he presumeably provides his own street lighting and only goes to restaurants inspected by his own private environmental health officers, he only buys from shops and suppliers that are never regulated by local council trading standards officers, he and his neighbours must never take part in local elections.

    I do not know where in the UK such a place exists. Perhaps a remote island off the Hebrides?

  • peter tyzack 22nd May '15 - 8:58am

    you beat me to it , Ian Hurdley.
    Actually Nick was an excellent choice, and has been an excellent Leader through everything that our ‘honest’ opponents and ‘balanced’ press threw at us. We get close to power and the vested interests who want to retain the status quo and their control on things, inevitably throw the kitchen sink at us. We do ourselves no favours by blaming ourselves for the results delivered by a system that opposes everything we stand for.

  • I don’t often agree with Simon Shaw but I think he is correct that had the Lib Dems scorned the chance to enter a coalition it would have led to calls of irrelevance and played into the Tory scaremongering re hung parliaments prior to the 2010 election. I’ve disagreed wIth much of what happened within the coalition but the original decision was not wrong…

  • Andrew Purches 22nd May '15 - 10:13am

    Nick Clegg, the Lib Dems answer to Ramsey Macdonald blew it the day he accepted the proposal from that dodgy committee of Lib Dem M.P’s to go into coalition with Cameron, in what he perceived to be a National Government in everyone’s interest, which of course it was not. The Tory’s won the election by manipulating the voter’s intentions in the West Country by exploiting,and even encouraging the protest vote across a range of multiple choices, and by stitching up the ballot boxes of Scotland so that only the Nationalists were able to effectively cast a vote. He was of course right to resign, although I cannot see anyone else able to replace his natural aura.

  • Surprised at the numbers.
    I moved to a black hole, described as the most illiberal place in Enbland.. We got Councillors. Numbers varied. Never in control, but you would be surprised at our influence. Now it is a black hole again.

  • Charles Rothwell 22nd May '15 - 11:05am

    Here we are again, as in 1924, 1945, 1970 and 1989 – virtually wiped out as a serious party and condemned to the fringes while “the” winner (easily) in terms of years in office since 1832, the Conservative Party, has a majority and any advances made by the Coalition are eradicated and either consigned quickly to history (pupil premium, blocking of the Snooper’s Charter, redrawing of boundaries in England to favour the Tories for ever and ever) or deftly nicked by the Tories as having been their own from the very start (“increased personal allowance”). I really felt uncomfortable when Andrew Neil asked Lembert Optik on “The Daily Politics”, “So the deal is that, after forty years building a credible party with strong representation at all levels and then finally entering government in a coalition, you are then smashed and reduced to such a rump that you will need to spend the next forty years building a credible party in order to enter government in order to be smashed and reduced to a rump?” I joined the Liberal Party in 1974 when it had 14 MPs (6 MORE than now) (although it should really be 7 more as I cannot see any point whatsoever in Clegg hanging around in Hallam South and if/when it comes up for a by-election, I would find it very hard to believe the Party could retain it?) The only hope is to adopt a clear Leninist line as in 1903 and stake out a position which makes us unique and appealing (and certainly not “Tory-lite”), otherwise we might as well just join the Greens or whatever Labour turns itself into and try and work from within to preserve and promote liberal values (the real “British” ones politicians have been so desperately seeking to promote since Gordon Brown’s time!) which (as across Europe) are now facing the greatest threats in eighty years.

  • I agree with Keith Legg, and think his analysis closest to how I perceive what happened. It all started on the internet with Ben Ramm and the “Kennedy Must Go!” campaign and the people around that, both in and out of Parliament. The parties not been the same since that moment; JohnTilley has often talked of entryism, I have sympathy with that viewpoint. Ironically for Ramm his campaign ended the party being definitively centre-left (and happy/successful) and led to a whole wave of changes that he seems to of loathed.

  • Charles Rothwell: And what exactly would that unique and appealing position be ? What policies could be devised that would make us stand out without driving away potential supporters ? The party had good policies but the voters did not seem interested in them, or not enough to vote for them. Like the USA the electorate is basically divided into those who are happy with the system (Conservatives/Republicans) and those who are not (Labour/Democrats). Those who are not happy like to hate those who are and tend to want to upset them by mostly petty attacks on their property.

    Only in Europe are there centrist parties like the Liberal Democrats, which expound the sort of reformist policies which are practical and realistic but these are rather dull and do not motivate the spiteful and discontented to go out and vote. The disaster of 1924 followed a previous upsurge which was basically caused by concerns about the radical policies proposed by Stanley Baldwin (Tariff Reform) which would have overturned the century old conventional policy of Free Trade which had formerly been accepted, if reluctantly, by the Conservatives.. The Liberal Party never recovered its position as the alternative party of Government after 1924 but the disasters of 1970 and the 1989 Euro elections were quickly followed by recovery in 1974 and 1992. All the disasters except 1989 were accompanied by increased support for the Conservatives resulting in the election of a Conservative Government and the removal of a Labour one. The Liberal upsurges in 1923, 1929, 1964, 1974 and 1997 resulted in the election of a Labour Government. The exceptions were the Alliance with the SDP in 1983 and 1987 which deprived Labour of potential support and the merger with the SDP which resulted in the 1989 disaster because of the continuing SDP contesting seats. The floating voters wanted a Conservative Government this year, as I predicted, and deserted the Liberal Democrats, particularly in traditional strongholds such as the West Country, partly because they disliked coalition governments as such and partly because when they discovered what Liberal Democrat policies actually meant they did not like them but of course they did not trust them because of the broken promise on tuition fees, although they did not seem to worry about much more important Conservative or Labour broken promises or even outright lies. Maybe they expected higher standards from us ?

  • peter tyzack 22nd May ’15 – 8:58am ……. Actually Nick was an excellent choice, and has been an excellent Leader through everything that our ‘honest’ opponents and ‘balanced’ press threw at us. We get close to power and the vested interests who want to retain the status quo and their control on things, inevitably throw the kitchen sink at us. We do ourselves no favours by blaming ourselves for the results delivered by a system that opposes everything we stand for………

    OK, Nick was a great leader, he was the only one vilified by the right wing press and we should blame everyone/thing but ourselves for our current situation….

    Just one thing; if everything we did was so good surely the answer is to carry on and expect a different result in future elections…

  • Denis Loretto 22nd May '15 - 3:57pm

    None of these comments seems to take into account that the Tories won a fortnight ago, indeed gained an overall majority. If the Lib Dems “propping up a hated Tory regime” was the reason for our downfall how do we explain the redoubled mandate secured by Cameron? What I say now is not going to be popular on LDV but….. I think the degree of misery inflicted on the British people by coalition policies and actions has been heavily overstated. It suited Labour in particular to do this and to spread the message that it was the Lib Dems who facilitated all the said misery, thereby severely damaging our reputation – helped of course by the self-inflicted debacle of broken tuition fee pledges. In fact, although undoubtedly there were people (especially those non-pensioners heavily dependent on welfare) who were adversely affected by government cutbacks, the great majority managed not too badly and in the main understood that there had to be a period of “austerity” if the parlous economic situation was to be addressed. To mention just one point, the reduction of unemployment levels throughout the 5 years was remarkable even if wage levels were squeezed.

    So when the election came, many voters quietly decided things were not all that bad and indeed getting a bit better. Even if Labour had a more convincing leader it now looks like the electorate were not in a mood to back them. The Lib Dem brand had already been so damaged as to make us appear irrelevant and in England it reverted to a straight Tory/Labour choice, with a measure of protest voting going to UKIP and to a lesser extent Greens.

    It hurts very badly for a Liberal of over 50 years standing like me to see us laid so low but I am at least happy that we made it into government in my lifetime. Mistakes were of course made but history will treat Nick Clegg better than the current commentariat. Now we face seeing almost every day what an untrammelled Tory government is like, ponder on what might have been and then get down to the work of rebuilding.

  • @Dennis Loretto “None of these comments seems to take into account that the Tories won a fortnight ago, indeed gained an overall majority. If the Lib Dems “propping up a hated Tory regime” was the reason for our downfall how do we explain the redoubled mandate secured by Cameron? What I say now is not going to be popular on LDV but….. I think the degree of misery inflicted on the British people by coalition policies and actions has been heavily overstated. It suited Labour in particular to do this and to spread the message that it was the Lib Dems who facilitated all the said misery”

    Self awareness is always a good thing … and this article is well worth a read for those who think that everyone hates the Tories.

    http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2015/05/15/labours-fruitcakes-are-turning-us-into-the-nasty-party/

  • Denis Loretto 22nd May ’15 – 3:57pm

    Denis,
    You have been around long enough to know that history is written by the victors.

    Whatever else Nick Clegg wil be called after the 2015 general electon, it will note victor.

    History has already decided about Nick Clegg. The history books already record that in 2010 his appointed general election chiefs ran such an ineffective campaign that they transformed the dizzy heights of Cleggmania into a loss of Liberal Democrat MPs and a failure to capitalise on what must have been the most unpopular Labour Government ever.

    History records that he promised a “different kind of politics” in 2010, “where people keep their promises”.

    History records that it took him less than 6 weeks to break his promise on the NHS top down reorganisation (as specifically written into The Coaition Agreement). Not because he was forced to do so by the greater numbers of Conservatives – but because he positively welcomed the reorganisation. He wrote this himself in the internal memo since pubished in The Kings Fund report.

    History records that even before the tuition fees debacle Nick Clegg was welcoming the top down reorganisation of the NHS. Anyone who was persuaded by the words in The Coalition Agrement had been sold down the river before the ink was dry.

    History will not be kind to Nick Clegg because history depends on facts, not misplaced loyalty.

  • Denis Loretto 22nd May '15 - 6:34pm

    John

    That part of history which is written by the victors will, as I have just reminded you, be written by the Tories, who may well be in power for a longer time than any of us wants to contemplate. Their version is already taking shape – the Lib Dems were just whingers who got in the way of some the great things they wanted to do.

    But not all history is written by the victors. There are actually some pretty decent historians around who will give credit to Clegg and the Lib Dems for helping to take the country through a very difficult and dangerous period – without trashing our civil liberties and maybe (let’s see) taking us out of the EU.

  • chrisjsmart 22nd May '15 - 8:48pm

    Before 2010 the libdems had power in a number of councils and been in coalition in many others . in addition they had served in coalition in the Scottish parliament without loss of reputation.

    The election of 2010 had the lib dems in the position of a new kind of politics with no broken promises and fully costed radical policies. We had a reputation for honesty and fighting elections on the back of local government reputation. The vast majority of the membership agreed to coalition . By flagrant and cavalier voting against our polices, promises and principles on multiple occasions from tuition fees to secret courts to NHS reform the party lost the trust of most voters and half the membership. The protesters were told to grow up or join another party. So we left. But our party is the lib dems and we have no other home and will remain homeless until the rump membership remember their roots and principles and return to the party of Kennedy.

    The results of the last election should have come as no surprise. You don’t get votes if you are not trusted to do what you say and your reputation in shatters. For those lib dems who cannot see the betrayal that has taken place, try another party who are expected to lie and cheat to gain power; I will not be a member of such a party.

  • Jane Ann Liston 22nd May '15 - 9:08pm

    @Keith Legg ‘There is still part of me that thinks the problem goes back further than 2007 – in fact, to 2006 when Charles Kennedy was forced out.’

    Absolutely. I was furious that the one-member one-vote result was overturned by 25 members who just happened to be MPs, and still have the list of those names. I wrote a letter to the Press at the time, and spoke up in favour of Charles when interviewed on the radio.

    I wonder if that’s why I was deselected as a council candidate by the local members in 2006, the same year?

  • @John Tilley “This tells us much about TCO. He must live in a part of the country where local councillors do not make decisions about town planning or road maintenance, where there are no local libraries or educational facilities under the stewardship of local councillors, he must never pay any council tax or be so rich that he does not notice, he presumeably provides his own street lighting and only goes to restaurants inspected by his own private environmental health officers, he only buys from shops and suppliers that are never regulated by local council trading standards officers, he and his neighbours must never take part in local elections.

    I do not know where in the UK such a place exists. Perhaps a remote island off the Hebrides?”

    John do you ever talk to ordinary people? Turnout for local elections is less than a third of the electorate. Councils provide a logic services. I know that. You know that. We are not ordinary people, we are political junkies.

    The average person doesn’t have a clue and cares even less. Try talking to dome – you may learn something.

  • TCO: OK let’s do away with elected local councils altogether and have government at all levels run by diktat from Whitehall and Westminster. If people don’t care at all about local government, then they will not mind their local bin collection being decided by the man or woman in Whitehall.

    But they would care, and you are wrong. You are wrong because activity in local government elections played a large part in the Liberal revival over the past ~40 years. In many areas the party started by building up a base in the local council, enabling them to win control of the council and proving themselves competent at running it so that eventually voters might start giving us their vote in national elections too. All that was demolished by people at the top with your attitude, that nothing outside Westminster matters in UK politics, and so the only thing we should ever talk about is what our MPs and government ministers have done. It is your kind of thinking that caused us to coast in 2010, and fall down to only 8 seats in 2015.

    If local government was as irrelevant as you seem to think it is, the Liberal revival would never have happened the way it did.

  • @Alex Macfie yes I’m well aware of the Liberal Revival starting in local government. But basing any hopes of national revival on that track is a chimera.

    Let’s go back to the stark facts. Two thirds of electors don’t vote in local government elections. That’s a huge majority of the population who just aren’t interested. We were able to have a “Liberal revival” in local government precisely because, as a distinctly minority taste, we only needed to capture a tiny section of the electorate to win.

    “All that was demolished by people at the top with your attitude”

    You may not like this. John Tilley may not like this. I may not like this. But, I repeat, local government is a minority interest in this country. The vast majority don’t care about it. It’s not about people at the top, it’s a simple fact.

    Go out and talk to people. You might learn something.

    One of the problems we have in the party is that too many activists think that everyone else thinks the same way that they do, and have the same concerns and obsessions.

    They don’t. Which for a party that has “we believe that none should be enslaved by conformity” enshrined in its constitution, is highly ironic.

    And the sooner we realise this, the better.

  • TCO:
    I have t admit that a reasonable record of local government successes (as well as some of the Ashcroft polling) over the past year had led me to expect a much stronger showing in the election.

    Local government does help support an activist base, but you are correct to warn against self delusion.

    As for perceptions of Nick Clegg, I think it very much depends on what he does next. If he is able to establish himself as a semi-independent authoritative commentator domestically and around Europe, he may be able to establish respect that will indirectly aid the Party.

  • TCO

    You say you want to go back to the stark facts.

    Stark facts —
    1…..Your route results in 8 MPs, a total lack of trust by voters in the party leadership, the worst result in 45 years
    2…..The local council route offers gradual success, the involvement of ordinary people in elections in their own communities where they can make a difference, it educates people in how to organise and to use their own resource in politics. It also involves dedicated and persist an hard work.

    Did you not notice that in most of the 8 seats where we manged to hang on there is link between Liberal Democrat local council activity and success ?

    Did ŷou think Nick Clegg was able to walk into a seat in Sheffield in 2005 without a lot of years of local council activity by the Liberal Democrats to pave the way.

    Do you think it a coincidence that in the fifty or so seats where we came second the same is true?

    You criticise those who point to a proven route to achieve success such as Alex Macfie — but you have no alternative.
    Unless you think that the party should veer off further to the right to join the Libertarian Tea Party end of the political spectrum ? We saw how well that went down with the voters in a couple of seats in Somerset did we not?

    Maybe it is just the thought of the hard work that you do not like?

  • Alex Macfie 23rd May '15 - 9:58am

    TCO: The fact is that the Liberal revival in local government happened. Even if local government is a “minority” interest it is a very effective forum for grassroots political campaigning. We did badly in recent rounds of local (and other non-Westminster) elections precisely because of people with your sort of attitude, thinking that our record in local government doesn’t matter and we should just talk up our record in national government, never mind that many of our national voters didn’t think much of it, while they did like what we did locally. Our poor result in 2010 proved that a campaign based primarily on an air war does not work for us. The ground war matters, and that means local government.

  • @Alex Macfie you’re very much in danger of fighting the last war. Just because that approach worked in the 1980s doesn’t mean it will work now.

    Fortunately we have a large influx of new members who gave a self-declared interest in national issues and no doubt will bring innovative ideas about how to move forward on the national stage.

    I’ve got no problem with people focusing on local government if that’s what interests them but let’s not kid ourselves that the electorate at large will notice.

  • @Alex Macfie actually we did badly in local and other elections because Westminster and public perceptions of it trumps anything local. Which rather reinforces my point.

  • Alex Macfie:
    I do not think that is what TCO is saying at all. I do not know why an earlier comment of mine is being held up in moderation, but I think his point is that we can be easily carried away by local government success at the expense of a realistic assessment of our position.

    Actually, I think the successes of 2005 were more driven by national or rather international issues than local issues. Local issues are certainly vital for establishing a strong campaigning base. Without such a base our position could be as bad or worse than UKIP’s, however many of our losses this time have been in the face of our local strengths. In part we certainly need a hard headed appraisal of the national campaign, particularly how a centrist message was projected, and we need to understand why there were forces at work, relating to a reaction in England to the prospect of an influential SNP representation that we were unable to respond to.

    In both, the message put forward equidistance between Conservative s and Labour and an equivalence between UKIP and SNP all of which was far too crude.

  • We generally do better in national elections in areas where we have strength in local government than where we do not. This is all the evidence needed to show that local government DOES matter. I’m not saying it’s the only thing that matters, or that votes in local elections automatically translate to votes in national elections. All I am saying is that local campaigning does matter, and TCO’s idea that we should just ignore local government because it is a niche interest keep us in the political wilderness.

  • @TCO We as a party ALLOWED local elections to be about our record in Coalition because Clegg and his coterie insisted on making all our election campaigns about him and the Coalition, instead of about our local records. It wasn’t inevitable, and nor was the scale of our losses.

  • @Alex Macfie that just isn’t correct. Thousands of local councillors will have put literature out on their own records. Some of them will have been reelected on them. But in most cases it won’t have made z blind bit of difference. Huppert in Cambridge barely acknowledged he was a Lib Dem and he still lost.

  • @Martin thanks, that’s exactly the point I’m making. Local election success is not a sufficient condition for national success and may even be counterproductive.

  • Alex Macfie:
    Whenever has a Party’s position in government not affected its performance in local elections? All governments I have ever known have suffered at the polls in mid term local elections. You may think that we could have prevented (or should it be PREVENTED?) any elections from being about our involvement in government, but just thinking something is a possibility does not make it a possibility.

    However I have to grant you that an application of the ontological argument to political campaigning is very novel.

  • @TCO: No-one is saying that local election success is a “sufficient” condition for national success. However, I strongly suspect that it is a “necessary” one. It certainly is not counterproductive. However, your comment could easily apply to national poll surges not founded on long-term success on the ground. The SDP poll success in the early 1980s turned out to be a flash in the pan. So did Cleggmania, which may actually have negatively impacted the party’s ground war campaign in key seats.

  • Richard Underhill 24th May '15 - 1:14pm

    We should give Denis Loretto a lot of respect for his political experience in very difficult circumstances in Northern Ireland.

    I was exulted when our friend Naomi Long was elected as an MP in East Belfast in 2010 with the largest swing in the UK, while sticking to her non-sectarian principles.

    I was saddened to see her defeated in 2015, partly because of a partial electoral pact between different flavours of unionism in some seats.

    A dispassionate view on what happened would be welcome.

  • nvelope2003 24th May '15 - 4:27pm

    The result of the 2015 election was caused by the traditional “swing of the pendulum”. In 2010 some voters were tired of the Labour Government and disliked Gordon Brown but they did not feel comfortable with the Conservatives, partly because of memories of the Thatcher era so some of them voted Liberal Democrat in those seats where we had a reasonable prospect of winning but even in many of those seats, despite Clegg mania, many former Liberal voters must have switched to the Conservatives as our party lost 13 seats to them, gaining only about 3.

    By 2015 the Conservatives did not seem so terrible – partly because they were constrained by the Liberal Democrats from pursuing hard line Conservative policies and also because austerity did not seriously affect the majority of the voters and they were persuaded that getting the deficit down was essential and did not trust the Labour Party to do it.

    There is also a perception that much of the public expenditure is wasted. I have spoken to people employed in the public sector and when I asked how the cuts were affecting them they smiled and said “What cuts ?”. I was told of skips full of unused equipment, books and other materials being sent to the tip. Of perfectly good furniture being replaced, not to mention the colossal pay and redundancy packages for local government officials. In some areas half the council tax goes on pensions. Practical suggestions for reducing the cost of subsidised bus services, even those put forward by the operators, are rejected because the officials had not thought of them or did not have the ability or desire to compose a timetable or understand what was put to them. The services are either cut completely, depriving people of all services, or they continue unchanged until the next round of cuts. No wonder people voted Conservative.

  • Denis Loretto 25th May '15 - 6:09pm

    @Richard Underhill

    I have just picked up your kind comment on Naomi Long, Richard. It was a remarkable Alliance Party performance, albeit losing out to the pact between sectarian “loyalist” forces. Naomi won in 2010 with 37.2% against 32.8% for DUP and a total of 26.6% for other parties with “Unionist” in their title. Despite all the bile (and worse) thrown at her in the extended City Hall flags protest Naomi’s vote actually increased substantially in 2015 to 42.8%. The DUP candidate secured 49.3% having been given the sole Unionist berth. Unquestionably it was only the existence of this pact that defeated her. In a bragging victory speech the DUP candidate Gavin Robinson did not even mention her or the sterling work she has done for all the people of East Belfast .

    Naomi is enhanced rather than diminished by this defeat. She will go on to play an even greater role in Northern Ireland politics.

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