Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election: Labour win easily, Ukip beat Tories to 2nd, Lib Dems lose deposit

Labour comfortably won yesterday’s Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, caused by the sad death of Paul Goggins just five weeks ago. Here are the results:

    Labour: Mike Kane – 13,261 (55%, +11%)
    UKIP: John Bickley – 4,301 (18%, +15%)
    Conservative: Daniel Critchlow – 3,479 (15%, -11%)
    Liberal Democrat: Mary di Mauro – 1,176 (5%, -17%)
    Green: Nigel Woodcock – 748 (3%, +3%)
    BNP: Eddy O’Sullivan – 708 (3%, -1%)
    Monster Raving Loony: Captain Chaplington-Smythe – 288 (1%)
    Turnout: 23,961, 28%

It’s clear there were two winners from the election – though the very low-turn-out (barely one-quarter of the registered electorate bothered to vote in what was a foregone conclusion by-election) should caution us against reading over-much into it.

Labour will have been pleased not only to retain the seat, but to do so with a clear majority of the votes cast. It’s clear that their local ground-game was much sharper than in Bradford West, scene of George Galloway’s triumphant return to the Commons, as evidenced by their increased vote share and the high number of postal votes (more than 40% of the total votes cast).

Ukip were widely expected to beat the Tories into second place, and did so. I’ve seen some suggestions this was a poor result for the Faragistas because second place is no longer good enough. I don’t buy that at all, I’m afraid. To come from a poor fifth place in the space of three weeks with no get-out-the-vote infrastructure in place is impressive. True, it’s not as impressive as was their second place on 25% in last May’s South Shields by-election, triggered by David Miliband’s retirement from Westminster – but that poll was held on the same day as local elections across England, and on a significantly higher turnout.

For both the Tories and the Lib Dems, that the result will be written off as little more than expected is in itself worrying for each of them. The result feeds into the narrative that Ukip is gradually becoming the opposition to Labour in the north of England; a safe English nationalist protest vote; more classless than the Tories, more gritty than the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems will feel hard done by, losing our deposit for the eighth time this parliament – this time, by just a handful of votes. Our vote share collapsed, by an even greater proportion than did the Tories’, down from a decent third placed 22% to a fourth place 5%. That clearly isn’t a reflection on our candidate, Mary di Mauro, but on the impact on joining the Coalition, especially in northern areas like Greater Manchester.

There’s one (relatively speaking) positive to take from this result. It’s clear there are areas where the Lib Dem vote has utterly collapsed, chiefly in places where we have little on-the-ground strength but have polled decent third places in the past. In Wythenshawe and Sale East, our support slumped to less than a quarter of what it had been in 2010. That does suggest, on some sort of law of averages, that our poll ratings are holding up rather better in those areas where we have an active local party with councillors and MPs.

The downside of this is clear enough: the party is being driven back into its strongholds. At the last general election, there were almost 300 seats – close to half the seats in the UK – where the Lib Dems were either the winners or the runners-up. That meant there was great growth potential for the party. While none of us can be sure how successful the party will be in holding on to its existing seats, we can be pretty sure there will be far fewer seats where we’re competitive in 2015.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Your comment, Stephen, about joining the coalition leading to vote collapse, which in a nuanced way, most of us would probably agree with, should surely make us look once again, at the motivations for joining that coalition, or more accurately, the expressed reasons for doing it. We are back to “the economy, stupid” – and the exaggerated statements made about a second Greece etc etc. Most economists do not accept this. I know I risk RC and others coming out to tell me I am talking nonsense, but it is essentially because we accepted that story line, an a “blame the Labour Government for everything” line that we are in the mire we are. Had we done what we should have, NOT accepting the Orange Book line, and pressured Labour to join an administration (probably not in direct coalition), and put pressure on for a genuinely new economic line, it would have pushed both Thatcherite Tories, and nuLabour to at least consider a rethink towards a more collective, less turbocapitalist line. Now we have in practice, accepted turbocapitalism ourselves, we no longer have any real USP to offer the electorate. This will run and run till a development occurs which somehow allows people to choose the genuine new politics and economics, without feeling that it is extremist. I am convinced that Clegg going is necessary, but not sufficient, for any such development to occur.

  • Andrew Martin 14th Feb '14 - 9:30am

    This ‘north of England’ thing is rather annoying – if you are going to generalise, it’s the URBAN north (or at least it is in the North West).

  • Wasn’t the Lib Dem vote actually less than 5%, or the deposit would not have been lost ?

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '14 - 9:48am

    There needs to be a public inquiry into the result and any other introspections left until after May’s elections. 🙂

  • Tim Farron was on Radio 4 saying yet again that the Tories, if left to run a minority government in May 2010, would have called an election in October 2010 and won it.
    It makes a good story, and one that supports the spin that the Lib Dems somehow saved us from a worse fate, but there is no indication that the Tories would have won a majority in the autumn true.
    Does Mr Farron possesses a crystal ball ?

  • Of course arguments to ‘save the economy’ backfire when wealthy Tory parts of the country are flooded due to bad weather and suddenly money is no object (noticeably this statement wasn’t made when mainly Lib Dem Cornwall and Somerset were first affected). Perhaps if money had been no object to regenerating poorer regions your vote might not have collapsed. Instead your party supported an attack on the welfare system and cuts to council spending which disproportionately affect non-Tory parts of the country.

    If you want people to vote for you, start acting like you care about them.

  • Laurence Scott-Macka 14th Feb '14 - 10:23am

    Well its not looking good for the Liberals. In Scotland I am sickened to my stomach to see them being the attack dogs of the Torys. I can not believe Danny Alexander telling me we can not use our currency – its so over – but who will represent Liberals now.

  • @ Sandy

    “It makes a good story, and one that supports the spin that the Lib Dems somehow saved us from a worse fate, but there is no indication that the Tories would have won a majority in the autumn true”

    It does indeed make a good story, mainly because it is utterly realistic. The Lib Dems (and Labour) were effectively bankrupt after the last election, while Tory donors were queueing up to give them cash for a second fight. That, plus beating us Lib Dems with a stick that we were irresponsible and holding the country to ransom for our own ends, making the UK ungovernable, and we would have been toast.

    @ Tim13

    ” it is essentially because we accepted that story line, an a “blame the Labour Government for everything” line that we are in the mire we are. ”

    Which bit of leaving a deficit of 11.4% of GDP, a manufacturing sector that had halved to 10% of the economy, a degraded education system that had plummeted down international rankings, high unemployment, massive growth in benefits spending, massively indebted households and a broken financial sector should we not have blamed Labour for?

    All these problems, particularly the massive deficit and private sector debt levels, are at the heart of all the difficulties and the unpopularity faced by the current government. Do you really think that pretending they weren’t there or accepting responsibility for them, we would somehow have managed to make ourselves popular?

    Particularly when Labour still blame Margaret Thatcher for Britain’s problems a quarter of a century after she was Prime Minister.

    “Had we done what we should have, NOT accepting the Orange Book line, and pressured Labour to join an administration”

    There was no stable majority that could have been formed and it would have flatly gone against our promise to seek to form a government with the party that won the most support in the election. Plus Labour had just been kicked out with 29% of the vote. Labour LOST the last election and we would have been propping them up. In addition, they would simply not negotiate seriously on any matters of real substance.

    How popular do you think we would be now under those circumstances?

  • PS with respect to my last comment, I’m not arguing that Cameron really is throwing all the money he can at the flood regions, just that he has put a firm, financial commitment to helping them. Imagine the effect on voting intention if, in 2010, the Coalition had said – we will regenerate the North, money is no object? Or, we will lower the costs of rent, money is no object? Or, we will lower rail fares, money is no object? Or, we will lower energy costs, money is not object? Etc.

  • As bad as I expected. I expect all our MEPS to be voted out in May. Things are getting worse , they are not stabilizing. The party is finished, we spent 30 – 40 years building it up and have managed to destroy ourselves in the first 6 months of the coalition. The coalition government has been good for the country, bloody awful for the minor party within it. Once May is over we have to leave the coalition and get a new leadership. We are living in the past and not looking forward, the election of the Deputy Leader last month was another example, what common sense elects a person who is leaving the Commons within 16 months, and ignores one of our best and most competent women. It makes you want to cry.,

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Feb '14 - 11:21am

    “That clearly isn’t a reflection on our candidate, Mary di Mauro, but on the impact on joining the Coalition, especially in northern areas like Greater Manchester.”

    We were going to take a hit if we entered a coalition with either of the largest two Parties, but I don’t think anyone thinks we got less than 1/4 of the vote in this seat compared to four years ago just because we joined a coalition. The observation insults LDV reader’s intelligence and comes across as rather extreme spin.

  • This is the 8th time the Liberal Democrats have lost their deposit in by-elections.

    This party can not afford to naval gaze. Sure the Tories are doing badly in by-elections and being beaten by UKIP but they are still managing to hold on to their deposits.

    Something needs to change and change quickly for the party to have even the slightest chance of turning things around.

    I see the right to recall has been dropped now as well. Liberals are blaming this on the Tories.

    Right to recall was included in the coalition agreement and is the area for which Nick Clegg is responsible, Constitutional Reforms. House of Lords failed, boundary reforms failed and now right to recall has failed. Nick Clegg is not exactly doing very well in his post is he.
    The party could have seized on this and said it was a fundamental part of the coalition agreement and it had to be implemented and failing to do so would break the agreement giving the Liberal Democrats a way out of this mess, but yet again they fail to act and seize the opportunity.

    Time and time again we see Nick Clegg being outclassed, out-smarted and out-maneuvered.

  • The disturbing feature of this result is just how low our core support is. It seems that the commitment to Liberal values and representative democracy does not muster that much support. Nonetheless it is important to continue to argue the case.

    A lack of core support has been identified elsewhere (Peter Kellnerfor example), Lib Dems do lack the historic component and allegiances have generally been loosened. The key question for the Party is whether we should be strengthening or weakening our fundamental principles. Nick Clegg’s appeal to the centre ground inevitably leads to the latter and gives people little cause for commitment; strengthening our Liberal identity might reinforce commitment, but be more of a turn off to the many who do not particularly care for core Liberal values and might make us more of a political minority interest group.

  • Paul In Twickenham 14th Feb '14 - 11:59am

    What, no analysis? No excuses? Just “Yeah, whatever, life’s hard and then you die”? Is that the official position, Stephen?

    I am astonished by the “where we work we win” meme that is now being propagated. Mr. Clegg has created a situation where the rank-and-file must work extra hard to hold onto the votes that his stewardship of the leadership has otherwise lost. “He’s lost the votes, so you bust a gut to get them back” would seem a more honest statement. And how is that going to work during a general election campaign when already depleted resources are stretched thinly?

    It seems to me that this endless stream of polling and election disasters goes back to the hubristic master plan for remoulding the party that Mr. Clegg and his inner circle clearly established some years ago. It has nothing to do with being in government : if it did then the Conservative vote would be imploding too (and “implosion” is the only word that describes losing over 3/4 of your vote).

    Apparently the entire human body is completed replaced every seven years. Mr. Clegg seems to believe that the same can be true of political parties and their principles. The problem is perhaps that the “core” vote for an FDP-like party is very much smaller than the “core” vote for the party that campaigned on the 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto.

  • matt: I think you have to do better than that. I do not think ‘right to recall’ was ever a worked out policy. If you think it is the key issue, you need to clarify how it could be implemented in a way that does not lead to a string of vexatious campaigns against targeted politicians. I do not think this is a case of being outsmarted, but simply that the proposal was not smart enough in the first place. The ‘failure of boundary reforms’ is hardly an example of being outsmarted either, given that they would have further entrenched FPTP.

  • Nick Collins 14th Feb '14 - 12:09pm

    When I first became aware of politics, in the 1950s, and became involved, in the 1960s, Liberal lost deposits were a common occurrence. It looks as though those days are about to return. The difference is, of course, that in those days the threshold required to save a deposit was 12% of the votes cast; now it’s a mere 5%.

    You could be on course for many more lost deposits than MPs in 2015. That’s unless the lost deposiits are exceeded by uncontested seats; I gather that there is currently a shortage of would-be candidates prepared to face the humiliation.

  • @Martin

    You are missing the point entirely, Constitution reform was under Nick Cleggs stewardship, what has he achieved under that post…….Not a lot.

    Liberal Democrats championed constitutional reform.

    For the record, I was not in favor of boundary changes, to me that was gerrymandering the system to favor the Tory party.

    The point is though that the Liberal Democrats need a get out clause for this coalition in order to start to repair the damage that Nick Clegg and those at the top of the party have done to the reputation of the party.

    Holding on and naval gazing, pretending everything will come good before the 2015 election is just ludicrous. It is not going to happen. The Liberal Democrats are not being credited with any recovery of the economy, because those at the bottom and middle rung of the ladder are not feeling any of the benefits and it’s these are the lost voters that the Liberal Democrats rely on to save their seats.

    It’s not rocket science

  • Seems to me Lib Dem voice is now showing more and more comments that display despair over the current situation.
    The task now is to get the leadership to admit the same and change themselves, the personnel and the overall strategy.
    I am a coalitionist but there is no future in it for ourselves, unless we regard 10 MPs or less as a success!!!!!

  • If we can’t call for a leadership election now, when can we? I’m from Manchester and the Liberal vote there matters to me, and others. The challenge of appealing to voters in the North can NOT be shrugged off, it’s lunacy. Clegg needs to go. Now. Before the locals in May. I am sick and tired of excuses.

  • Nick will be seen as a failed Deputy Prime minister who could not get through any of the areas of reforms for which he was responsible, which he championed and which was in the coalition agreement.

    The Liberal Democrats ethos of entering government to reform politics and make a fair economy for all is failing miserably.
    Tuition Fee’s was a failure
    No more Nuclear Power stations was a failure

    The party has done more U-Turns that Jane Torvil and Christopher Dean.

    If the party is not going to be credited with upturn in the economy, how do they win back former voters who voted Libdems because they believed the party would champion the causes that so many Liberal democrats value dearly? i.e Education, Nuclear Power, lifting the poorest out of poverty and Political Reforms

  • paul barker 14th Feb '14 - 1:01pm

    The big winner was the “What Election Party” with 72%. That makes it hard to draw any conclusions, probably only 2 in 5 of the voters who will vote next year voted yesterday. The main opposition Party did OK in a safe seat. The main Protest Party did alright with a result very close to the average of their previous 5 byelections.
    In the worst Recession for 80 years the Government Parties were hammered.
    What this tells us about The General Election is nothing.

  • I have to mention this but I have not seen much Liberal Democrat involvement in the floods in the media. Nothing on here either. What does that say to the electorate? You do not care perhaps?

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Feb '14 - 1:23pm

    How unfair that Nick Clegg should have to take personal responsibility for anything – he’s only the Party Leader, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for political and constitutional reform. Lib Dem Voice are a neutral force – they’re not backing a horse in this race – but as it noted on Jan 6th “The Lib Dem of the year without doubt has to be Nick Clegg. Everything that has happened in 2013 has vindicated his strategy.” (https://www.libdemvoice.org/liberal-democrat-voice-roll-of-honour-part-2-37727.html).

  • Don’t lose your heads when things are tough. theakes is pretty much spot on with “The coalition government has been good for the country, bloody awful for the minor party within it.” We went into coalition with our eyes open, indeed Chris Huhne told us to be ready to go under 5% in the polls. The establishment have been brutal but we have achievements to our name, and we have stopped some of the policies that would have caused real damage to the country. We’ve only had 2 by-elections in this parliament where we stood a chance: Oldham and Eastleigh and we performed creditably in both. Yes in olden days we’d have had a go at a seat like this, but those days are gone.

    It’s not a zero-sum game. Imagine if we had stayed out. The Tories would (probably – not definite but more likely than not) won a second election in 2010, and we’d be carping on the sidelines while tuition fees were uncapped, business rights removed, snoopers charter into law, EU referendum planned, and UKIPesque immigration policies. We’d be just as frustrated but on the outside.

    Having said that, why on earth are we permitting MPs recall to be ditched when it’s a coalition agreement policy? This would be a good time to say that until this is done, nothing that we don’t fully agree with goes into the Government programme unless it’s in the coalition agreement. And matt is unfortunately right that while Nick Clegg has (in my view) made a good leader and DPM, his record as a minister is appalling with major problems with every piece of legislation in his area – only Andrew Lansley has a similar record in this Government.

    You’ll probably say that I’m covering my ears and hoping the problems go away. I have a mighty tough defence of my council seat coming up in May so far from it. But I know that by working my ward hard, by getting Lib Dem achievements in Government known I have a chance, and that in-fighting or a swerve in direction now will only reduce it.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 14th Feb '14 - 1:26pm

    Eight lost deposits now and after every one I have exhorted you to replace your leader (preferably by Charles Kennedy) and leave the coalition. That will be the only way you can reclaim a fraction of the respect you lost by joining the Tory xenophobes and Chicago School Welfare State dismantlers and privatisers. (Next thing to be privatised, I hear, is the Land Registry). Doesn’t the fact that in every by-election Labour’s share of the vote increases and yours declines tell you anything? Or that Labour has won by-election after by-election since 2010, save for one or two exceptions? The Russians were forced to extricate themselves from their Molotov/Ribbentrop pact. You must extricate yourselves from yours before the catastrophe.

  • Sadly Mack is right, we now have to seek life after the coalition. If not the next step is the crematorium!!!

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Feb '14 - 1:32pm

    tpfkar wrote “Oldham and Eastleigh and we performed creditably in both. Yes in olden days we’d have had a go at a seat like this, but those days are gone.”
    The Party achieved a swing against of 5% in Oldham and 19% in Eastleigh.

    tpfkar wrote “[Clegg’s] record as a minister is appalling with major problems with every piece of legislation in his area”.
    Well said.

  • markfairclough 14th Feb '14 - 2:02pm

    a more interesting bye-election would be in a Tory marginal where the Libdems are 2nd & Labour a distance 3rd or even 4th with Ukip not far behind or even in front of Labour , I wonder what the result would be there?

  • Peter Chegwyn 14th Feb '14 - 2:07pm

    Like it or not and despite more and more people saying what a few of us have said ever since 2010, nothing can or will change before May’s local and euro elections.

    However, if we have yet another electoral disaster on 22nd May then something has to change and it has to be (i) the leader who sadly is toxic in electoral terms and (ii) the direction in which the leader is taking us.

    Nick’s poll rating of minus 57 speaks for itself. And it’s getting worse, not better.

  • We are in 2014. It matters little what happened in 2010 and who says what about the situation at the time.
    What matters is the future of the party. As Paul inTwickenham points out, the coterie around Clegg had a deliberate plan to hollow out the party and make it into the sort of party that Jeremy Browne spoke about shortly after he lost his ministerial post.

    For party members ( and those who resigned in protest but I hope will return to help us) the important thing for the future survival of the party is to change not just the leader but the direction of the party. We need to re-establish a party which thrives on the work and enthusiasm of local members rather than exploiting the members for the benefit of a rightwing clique who captured the party six years ago.

    The election of a deputy leader of the MPs against the wishes of Clegg is a first step. The moves by local members to do the necessary to trigger a leadership election iboa notcher step ( although tht is one which will take time to come to fruition). There are other actions being taken to take our party back. The Clegg years are coming to an end. They have been a disaster for the party and many causes which we have struggled for over the years. Removing Clegg is an important step but it is not the only one. We cannot afford to have another Cleggite in his place, there has to be a more comprehensive change at the top.

    Eight lost deposits and a halving of the membership do not need analysis. The message is obvious, we need to act on it.

  • paul barker 14th Feb '14 - 3:02pm

    Can all the people calling for a Leadership challenge please either get on with organising one or stop going on about it. Thank you.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 14th Feb '14 - 3:02pm

    @ Mark fairclough
    “a more interesting bye-election would be in a Tory marginal where the Libdems are 2nd & Labour a distance 3rd or even 4th with Ukip not far behind or even in front of Labour , I wonder what the result would be there?”

    At Eastleigh the general opinion, as I recall, was that if there’d been another week of campaigning the Lib Dems would have lost to UKIP. As for your notional by-election I would suggest that on the basis of your lost deposits and Labour’s impressive increase in vote share the Liberal Democrats would fail to sustain second place.

    In the 1980s it was the Left vote that was split between Labour and the SDP/Liberal Alliance. Wythenshawe suggests that this is now happening to the Right with the Tories and UKIP in the North fighting for the right wing leftovers. Incidentally, UKIP appear to be making life much harder for the Lib Dems by copying your chameleon tactics: masquerading as Socialists in the North and Thatcherites in the South. The trouble for you and UKIP is that the electorate have seen through that deception.

  • I don’t think this result says much about how we would do in a general election.

    A by-election in a safe Labour seat was always going to be a GOTV contest. And as weren’t even second last time our vote was always going to be squeezed. We came 4th instead of 3rd ahead of the Greens and the fringe parties, but that was the UKIP effect. We could have saved our deposit if more people had come to help, but I guess a decision was taken that we should let local parties pursue their own campaigns ahead of May. Did we miscalculate? It’s embarrassing but does it matter?

  • Chris Manners 14th Feb '14 - 4:10pm

    “In the worst Recession for 80 years the Government Parties were hammered.”

    The worst Recession was 5 years ago. The Government were indeed hammered.

    Your government is supposed to have presided over some economic miracle now. See Clegg’s words.

  • John Tilley: re

    the coterie around Clegg had a deliberate plan to hollow out the party and make it into the sort of party that Jeremy Browne spoke about shortly after he lost his ministerial post

    I can see it may comfort to believe this sort of thing, but if Clegg and co had half the mastermind ability to hijack and change the party as you suggest, Liberal Democrats would be doing a lot better. Clegg is a lot more centrist, and it really is centrist rather than right wing than I am happy with, but your narrative only feeds into the mythology that is likely to be yet more damaging in the elections. If I could see a path that improved party fortunes that included a change of leader, I would suggest it; I do not think it is an option. The main task for the leadership is to vigorously put forward achievements in government and defend decisions that have been made, particularly those that are contentious or plain wrong. If the leadership cannot lead on this, who can?

    Assuming the next general election gives an overall majority one way or the other, I am sure that Clegg will step aside, however it would be a grave mistake to reject any continuity; experience of government must be advocated as a virtue; it is not one Liberals are used to. I have not read the ‘orange book’ and I am unable to separate insult form reality when it is mentioned, however on one particular, you are certainly right and that is that we will need to re-evaluate, to reposition and to set out a clear Liberal and democratic direction. I would add the warning that although we might like it, you cannot guarantee that the electorate would find it so attractive.

  • Various people have said things like – “A by-election in a safe Labour seat was always going to be a GOTV contest.”
    The evidence of the history of this party shows that there is nothing inevitable about a seat like Wythenshawe..
    Before Clegg we used to win seats like ths .
    Simon Hughes and Sarah Teather are still MPs in seats that were once “safe Labour”. They are not the only examples.
    Have people forgotten that before Clegg we did not just save deposits, we won by-elections?.

  • Martin, I am glad we agree that we will need to re-evaluate, to reposition and to set out a clear Liberal and democratic direction.

  • There was a by-election yesterday?

    First I knew of it was when I turned on the TV this morning and heard the result. Where was the coverage before that? Where were the begging “please come and help or give us a tenner if you can’t” emails? Who was the MP who died anyway?

    Speaking as someone who is pretty clued up on politics, I completely understand why 75% of voters didn’t turn out – they simply didn’t know it was on….

  • ErnstRemarx 14th Feb '14 - 5:05pm

    So, the continued implosion and slow suicide of the party is coming to its next episode – May 22nd.

    I’m more than happy for LibDem loyalists to continue to write off disasters like WSE as ‘blips’ or to pretend that all will be well on the 22nd. They won’t. The data tells us – and canvassing reinforces it – that it’ll be another horror story for you and the beginning of the end for Clegg and his followers.

    You really deserve better than you’re getting. If, however, you don’t believe that an even greater catastrophe is about to hit you, then you probably deserve what’s coming.

  • Steve Griffiths 14th Feb '14 - 5:08pm

    John Tilley

    Yes we used to win by-election contests from Labour as well as the Tories. In addition to Bermondsey and Brent East, I recall Leicester South, Dunfermline & West Fife, Liverpool Edge Hill (also Greenwich by the SDP). We have not won one from Labour (or indeed made a by-election gain from any party), that I can see, since Nick was leader. Funny that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Feb '14 - 5:26pm

    I have stopped bothering contributing to Liberal Democrat Voice, because I am tired of going round and round the same arguments. I’ve been saying it since May 2010, and some of it since the leadership election. You know what it is, or check up much of what I’ve written in the past if you don’t.


    I told you so.

  • Mason Cartwright 14th Feb '14 - 5:28pm

    I feel sorry for some Lib Dems activists as they have seen all their hard work over the years (even decades in some cases) torn apart in the blink of an eye by a few bad seeds.

    Some other party members have actually enabled this however and deserve the inevitable outcome.

    The road back from this will be long and tortured and there is a very strong possibility that the party will split after 2015.

    The good news is however that the future looks very bright for the current Lib Dem leadership as I’m sure many lucrative opportunities will emerge for them post 2015.

  • Keith Legg – Paul Goggins, who was previously Home Office (Drugs, I think?). It wasn’t kept that secret.

  • David Allen 14th Feb '14 - 6:11pm

    Matthew Huntbach,


  • Paul in Twickenham 14th Feb '14 - 6:34pm

    @David Allen and @Matthew Huntbach: I hear you, but without the reality being spelled out at every opportunity, groupthink will win. The ground is clearly shifting. Tonight’s Guardian front page may provide people with further pause for thought on the quality of Mr. Clegg’s judgement.

  • Tony Dawson 14th Feb '14 - 7:04pm

    The Liberal Democrats in Manchester, having been an effective and credible opposition to Labour in the City up till 2010, have lost ALL of their Councillors two years in a row. Following a ‘gap year’ they have just lost a deposit in a by-election. Are the Lib Dems in Manchester responsible for this? Or is someone else?

  • Tony Dawson 14th Feb '14 - 7:07pm

    @Eddie Sammon :

    “There needs to be a public inquiry into the result and any other introspections left until after May’s elections. ”

    We are still waiting for the independent Inquiry into what went wrong in 2010…. and 2011 …….. 🙁

  • john stokes 14th Feb '14 - 7:09pm

    I think Nick Clegg needs to go. The party needs a sense of direction to move forward to the next election, at the moment and whilst in government it seems to lack ideas. In this Manchester seat, at the last general election the Party would’ve campaigned to protect the NHS just like the Labour victor did but with a unique stance and as someone said a USP.

    The leadership doesn’t even bother to mention these results, this is even more galling for party activists, Councillors etc who work hard to defend local services and improve the lives of ordinary people. What does this say to the electorate when they are being abandoned by our party which has drifted from the left of centre to the overcrowded right of centre and centre right.

    Replace Nick Clegg with Tim Farron, draw up some fresh ideas and bring back some of the party’s popular ideas eg under Charles we had an extra penny on income tax to fund the NHS. The lowering of income tax thresholds hasn’t played all that well with the electorate probably because it’s the only one good idea they identify the Lib Dems with in the coaltion.

    What was refreshing to hear from the new Labour MP in Wythenshawe was his attacks on Ukip as isolationist and scaremomgering, How I would love to hear more of this talk from our own party but can’t imagine Nick Clegg doing this, Just like a failed football manager, elections are a results business and he must go.

  • Paul Pettinger 14th Feb '14 - 7:14pm

    Martin wrote “The main task for the leadership is to vigorously put forward achievements in government and defend decisions that have been made, particularly those that are contentious or plain wrong.”

    Surely the main task of the leadership is to make judgements that are right!? People like … Vince Cable.

  • Paul Pettinger: an argument can be constructed to defend the tuition fees decisions and the case must be made irrespective of how contentious or even plain wrong we may consider it to be. The point is that it should not be primarily left to those who have no responsibility for decisions to defend the tuition fees system. I have made this point before: the leadership who were responsible for the decisions should take the lead, muster the strongest defence they can and face the music.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '14 - 8:18pm

    Tony, yes, we should have inquiries into poor results. I mean, a well resourced independent could do better. Must be money problems.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '14 - 8:54pm

    We don’t need to get a QC on it, just someone in the know tell us what went wrong. Public result – public explanation. It would be for the best.

  • This is the reality of being the junior member of a basically unpopular government, Not a good result. The problem now is fear . The sensible course is to replace the leader and end the coalition but fear for the future has the Lib Dems in a death grip,

  • The only way the Liberal Democrats can begin to recover is to get rid of Nick Clegg and start afresh.

    The coalition agreement was poorly negotiated and in all truthfulness Nick Clegg and his team where outsmarted and outmaneuvered by Cameron and the Conservatives from day one.

    The tories are callous and conniving and it would have always been their main goal to destroy and discredit the Liberal democrats whilst in government. In the hope of getting a majority at the 2015 election.

    The Ministerial posts that where offered to the Liberal democrats would have been carefully calculated by Cameron, Osbourn and their team. And lets face it the Ministerial posts held by Liberal Democrat have been a disaster and caused embarrassment and discredited.

    1st there was poor old Vince Cable given the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills. And what was one of his first tasks?? The rise in tuition fee’s and defending the government policy. Vince was in a position being forced to vote for a policy that neither he nor the party agreed with and in fact had pledged to vote against.

    2nd Chris Huhne and later Edd Davey: Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change having to defend the U-Turn on Nuclear Power.Another policy that the Liberal democrats where against.

    3rd Nick Clegg Lord President of the Council (with special responsibility for political and constitutional reform) which has been a total disaster, none of the reforms have gone through, causing a huge amount of embarrassment for the party and has also shown Nick to be ineffective and incompetent as a minister.

    I genuinely believe this was Cameron’s and the Tories plans all along.

    What the conservatives have done has been to cleverly force the Liberal democrat party in taking a pretty substantial step to the right, knowing full well that there is no place in politics for another right of center party.

    The Tories mistake however was the miscalculation of the growing support for UKIP. As more and more voters who are on the right of politics move to join UKIP, this is forcing the conservative party to step further to the right themselves. As the general election approaches and the more right winged government policies we see coming for 2015 onward, the majority of this country who are more center, center left leaning will have nowhere else to go apart from the Labour party. And I am pretty sure we will see a majority Labour government in 2015.

    Liberal democrats support is down to it’s core vote and below and it is getting worse and worse as time goes on. They are loosing deposits in by-elections, Councillors, party members.
    The party is not being credited with any upturn in the economy, because quite frankly the only people who are feeling the benefits of any recovery are the big companies and the well off and these are natural Tory voters.
    The voters that Liberal Democrats rely on, the low paid and middle income families will not being seeing any benefits of a recovery in the run up to the 2015 general election, in fact they will probably be squeezed even more considering the level of spending cuts the government is already stating that it is going to make in the next parliament.

    Liberal democrats are also heavily reliant on voters who list Education, Nuclear Power, political reforms and the NHS as their top priorities. And we already know the effect that the party has had in their ministerial positions in these area’s.

    The only way the party can save itself and start to reestablish it’s roots is to get rid of Nick Clegg and start afresh with a new leader. The party should also make it clear that they will not support any more policies that are not in the coalition agreement and especially if Cameron and the Tories block existing agreements like political reforms and right to recall. If that means that the coalition has to be dissolved and the party returns to the opposition benches and allow the Tories to continue this term of government as a Minority government would that be such a thing?
    I can not see the Tories seeking for a vote of no confidence and triggering an early election because they know they will lose and be hammered.

    But if Liberal democrats do not act and act soon then the party will be obliterated beyond the 2015 and 2020 election.

    It’s time for you to be a party again for the people that you represent and who voted for you, not for the markets and corporations.

  • “But if Liberal democrats do not act and act soon then the party will be obliterated beyond the 2015 and 2020 election.”

    It’s too late now. The party will just have to take what’s coming on the chin, and hope the UKIP bubble remains sufficiently inflated to take the edge off the Tory challenge in Lib Dem seats.

  • markfairclough 14th Feb '14 - 10:12pm

    for what its worth I think both the Libdems & Tories will have new leaders after this years Euro elections before next years general election, simple reason is both parties will want to get back their core base

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '14 - 10:29pm

    The negativity is consuming me. I know I want an inquiry, but the result of it will not be to go back to the glory days of Labour’s little sibling.

  • Frankly, (no beating about the bush), this result was an unmitigated disaster for us. In my opinion, there is only one sensible thing for us to do. We MUST pull out of the appalling coalition with the horrible Tories. We cannot stay in it for another year or else we will have no seats at all after the General Election. Let’s pull out now and start campaigning on our strengths and unique selling points. If we do that, we cannot fail.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Feb '14 - 10:46pm

    I don’t like being rude – my point is let’s separate criticisms of the result from criticisms of ideology. Some Lib Dems still wouldn’t be happy if we won it.

  • The situation the party finds its self in is not just a “leadership problem” as much as members want to believe that, when the party has backed polices of the leadership/MPs and voted to do so, there lies the problem.
    Those voters who have turned away begged the party to step back before it was too late, some of these voters posted on LDV and were driven away by ridicule or failing that moderated to an extent that made it impossible to post, I am still moderated to this day.

    Even if the party found another leader it is far too late to make any difference to the next GE, I estimated it would take a generation or two to heal the mistrust of voters… I said then and still think the same now the party needs to take the Tory voters and convert them to Lib Dem, and posted that in 2010, but the LDV moderators did not like any posts that were not euphoric of the Party post 2010 GE, UKIP have probably scuppered that as the protest vote from all parties.

    When the party and this forum unilaterally decided to ignore or ridicule those voters who tried to convey via LDV their feelings, the party set the path that we now find ourselves on; the party and members can say and do what they want now, I don’t think those who left are listening nor will they have a change of heart just because the party changes leadership.

    There have been many, many posts predicting voters will return because of the Tory or Lib Dem choice in many close seats, UKIP may help the party there by taking votes from the Tories but I think labour voters will not, I truly believe the party is in more trouble than anyone thinks, the party had a chance to show that the Lib Dems were a party the people could vote for and trust, the party failed in that quite dramatically.

    I don’t have an answer nor would I offer any if I did the party as it is, is not the party I voted for nor can I see myself voting for again, I still come to LDV in hope, but there is none to be seen on the horizon, politicians from all parties have to learn to make relationships with the voters based on truth and trust first and foremost instead of being short and deceptive with those traits.

    (Mr Clegg offered this, and then failed miserably in reality as do many politicians from all parties, that he promised so much as did the party is why we are where we are, we are failing those who need us the most by political choice we abandoned those people)
    all in my opinion…


  • So our vote in Wythenshawe & Sale East plummeted from 22% to 5%. Is anyone surprised? Our support has collapsed spectacularly in Manchester since 2010, because that city has suffered more than almost anywhere else from the Tory government’s public spending cuts, aided and abetted by ourselves. If those voters, who believed the Liberal Democrats to be a centre-left party four years ago, and who felt let down by Labour, if they now feel that the Liberal Democrats have betrayed them, who can criticise them for doing so?

    The stock response of blaming the economic crisis on Labour is fraudulent. It was caused by the banks. And the deregulation of the financial sector that allowed it to happen was imposed on the whole Western world by the banking elite itself over the previous 30 years. Let us not forget that the Liberal Democrats fought the 2010 election on a platform of cutting the deficit over two Parliaments, and Mr Clegg himself called the Tory plan “irrational”. A few days later, he had done a complete volte face, telling us that there was now no alternative to what he had called “irrational” the previous week. If the electorate finds that incredible, can we be surprised?

    We continue to be told that if we had refused to prop up the Tory Government, Cameron would have called another election in 6 months and won an overall majority. If that is really the case, why did Cameron not do just that?

    Those who support the so-called “coalition” are running out of excuses. If the Liberal Democrats have a reason to exist, then no-one has told the electorate what that is over the past four years. Our sole purpose seems to be to give Cameron his majority, then go away and die when we are no longer of use to him.

    The Lib Dem right, which is the driving force in the Party these day, and the core support base for the “coalition”, they tell us that while they subscribe to the Tories’ free market fundamentalism, they differ from most Tories in their commitment to civil liberties, and that having Liberal Democrats in government with the Tories stops the latter accelerating the control agenda. That no longer washes. At least not with me. A week ago, Michael Gove announced that in the next Parliament the Tories will incarcerate children and young people in schools for 50 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year. What did the Lib Dem leadership have to say about this extraordinary and terrifying onslaught on individual autonomy announced ex cathedra by their “coalition” partners? Complete and utter silence.

    I hate to have to say it, as a founding and present member, but the Liberal Democrats are fast running out of reasons to exist.

  • Steve Comer 15th Feb '14 - 2:30am

    @ Eddie talked about ” …back to the glory days of Labour’s little sibling. ”
    So when were those days Eddie? I first joined the Liberal Party 40 years ago, and the only period that could be remotely described in those terms were the Lib/Lab pact years of 1977-8. In no other time did we fit that description.
    Historically we always did pretty badly in by-elections when there were Labour Governments until the Blair years when a combination of a poor Tory opposition and a foreign war changed the political; weather. By contrast we often revived when there was a Tory government as we harvested anti-government protest votes, and tactical Labour voters in some seats, as in the 1970s and 1990s.
    A coalition government really is uncharted waters in UK peacetime politics. That the governing parties lost vote share in a safe Labour seat is not that surprising, but why are we losing more support in percentage terms than the Tories? Is it simply that even when doing badly, they start with a higher core vote than we do?

  • In 2010 I believed in the second general election argument leading to a Conservative majority government. I believed that they could manage the economy and not to have any huge cuts in public expenditure because they wouldn’t get a majority for it with everyone thinking about a second general election. I believed that we would find it difficult to fund campaigns to hold all our MP seats and that we would loss votes because when given the opportunity to be in coalition we chickened out. It appears that I had a mistaken view of history. In the second 1974 election we only lost one MP and 1% of the total vote and in the 1951 election compared to 1950 we lost 3 MPs and 6.6% of the total vote (this was so large because we stood a lot less candidates down to 109 from 475).

    Therefore those that argue that our popular support would be higher now (and we would have lots more councillors) if we hadn’t gone into government I believe are likely to be right. The reason is not so much because we went into government but because most of our MPs can’t be trusted to keep any pledge they make, we have allowed the Conservatives to carry out some of their policies which we hadn’t agreed to in the coalition agreement and we haven’t protected the poorest in society from being the second and third worse effected by the cuts.

    However knowing what I knew in 2010 I would still have supported going into government but with hindsight I would not. The party has been failed by most of its MPs and the leadership.

    @ RC “a deficit of 11.4 of GDP … high unemployment … and a broken public sector.”
    As far as I recall the Tories were supporting the light touch regulation of banking and the crash was mainly due to the USA banking collapse which the UK government couldn’t do much about. The Labour government was planning to reduce the deficit to 1.3% of GDP by 2012-13 when the banking crisis hit and it was their measures to alleviate the worse effects of the crash that caused the deficit to rise and the rise in unemployment.

    @ theakes “The party is finished we spent 30 – 40 years building it up”
    I hope you are wrong. Maybe by 2025 we will be back to our 2010 position and all those MPs who broke their pledge will be gone from Parliament.

    @ Steve Comer you make some valid points. You are of course correct they have a much higher core vote than us. We lost most of our core vote in the 1920s and 1930s. However we haven’t in government done much to protect those groups who generally were more included to vote for us, students, teachers, some government workers, those interested in civil liberties to name but a few.

  • David Lowrence 15th Feb '14 - 9:20am

    @ theakes “The party is finished we spent 30 – 40 years building it up”

    How right you are

    @ Amalric I hope you are wrong. Maybe by 2025 we will be back to our 2010 position and all those MPs who broke their pledge will be gone from Parliament.
    Maybe not

    This year marks the 50th anniversary as first a YL and then a faithful member. And my last

    I feel betrayed by a leadership that allowed Sarah Teather – (Now moving on from Parliament – thank you and good night) to lead the Public assassination of Charles Kennedy, rather than try and put things right. The election of Clegg which has done us so much harm in the country. The loss of trust both locally and nationally is appalling and I can no longer support this bunch of self servants.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Feb '14 - 9:27am

    Steve, my point is the critics who want to become a centre-left alternative to Labour don’t have a realistic strategy for electoral success.

    If they want the parties to merge then fine, but this means the criticism is not about the result, but ideology.

  • About a third of comments here so far have mentioned Nick Clegg. Unfortunately he has made serious mistakes. It is very difficult to erase those from the minds of the voting public. Surely we owe it to ourselves to find someone else before our party completely implodes. There is still time to act before the general election. Maybe if there was a concerted effort, to act before the Euro election. It has to be done rapidly, no one person is bigger than the party.

    I am sorry that it has come to this. He made himself a hostage to fortune with this broadcast, see how students in particular have responded with their own lampoons. It will take a generation before this damage is undone.

  • Paul In Twickenham 15th Feb '14 - 10:39am

    There is a populous poll today that asks people who they would vote for if there was a GE today, and also who they consider to be the party they would “usually” support regardless of their current intentions. The Lib Dems get 9% for current voting intention and 10% for “usual”. For the other two, “usual” is lower than current, implying that we are at below core vote while the other two are (as you would expect) at core vote plus some more. Who is responsible for this situation?

  • john cursons 15th Feb '14 - 10:40am

    Im an interested observer of a left wing background. Im noticing that their is a lot of unhappiness here over the by-election. Previoujsly the lib dem grass roots has seemed fairly quiescent about the terrible polls etc – ~Im guessing Eastleigh calmed a few nerves. But now the mood seems different.

    In May the lib dems are looking at a massacre in the euros and locals – is there any chance of the grassroots instigating a revolt and clegg being ousted? The mps and senior lib dems seem to have been mostly loyal (apart from farron) – any chance of that changing?

    And if clegg gets ousted – would that bring down the coaltion?

  • Mason Cartwright 15th Feb '14 - 11:50am

    Removing Clegg wouldn’t help at this stage John because Clegg is a symptom and not the core problem and the electorate realise this.

    The window of opportunity for saving the party probably passed quite early in this parliament.

    Chris was right in what he posted earlier:

    “It’s too late now. The party will just have to take what’s coming on the chin, and hope the UKIP bubble remains sufficiently inflated to take the edge off the Tory challenge in Lib Dem seats.”

  • Peter Watson 15th Feb '14 - 11:52am

    Although I am bitterly disappointed by Clegg and feel he should go, I am genuinely undecided about when. My inclination though is that he should stay until after the 2015 election.
    If he goes now, the party might recover its support and reputation under a new leader, but I doubt it. If the party does badly in 2015 under a new leader there will be uncertainty about whether it was a hangover from Clegg’s leadership or because of the change, and no clear view about the way forwards.
    If Clegg stays, between now and the election the party might recover its support and reputation, but I doubt it. If the party does badly in 2015 under Clegg it will be more apparent that Clegg and the strategy of those closest to him was wrong, and the party will have a clearer direction in which to rebuild under new leadership.
    Consequently, sticking with Clegg for now, for better or worse, seems to be the party’s best chance (though will not get my vote).
    A big uncertainty in either case is the composition of the parliamentary Lib Dems after 2015 (especially if the Scots vote for independence). Those MPs with the safest seats (“where we fight we win”) will probably determine the future of the party more than the membership, and if they are the ones most to blame for the dismal performance I expect, then I really fear for the future of the party under any leader.

  • Tom Williams 15th Feb '14 - 1:10pm

    So many of us activists around the country are hearing one message time and time again: ‘I couldn’t vote Lib Dem, not while Clegg is still in charge.’

    Nick has become toxic to the party and toxic to our ambitions. The party needs to force a leadership contest, bring in flesh blood, bring in someone untainted by the coalition.

  • I have been in this party and the Liberals before it for over 40 years. I won my council seat from the Tories and held it for 17 years before voluntarily retiring. Given the 2010 result and the international financial backdrop at the time I believe we did absolutely the right thing in entering into coalition with the Tories. I firmly believe that had the election been re-run we would have been slaughtered as the party to ‘frit’ to govern and the Tories would have been returned with a working majority albeit held to ransom by their anti EU backbenchers.

    Sure, mistakes have been made along the way but hey welcome to the real world of government! On balance I think Nick Clegg has done a good job and we should stay with the coalition until the election and Nick Clegg should lead us into it. He’s by far the best TV performer out of the three leaders and having been in government, something I never thought I would see, I suspect we will get much more overall TV coverage than we would normally expect.

    At the end of the day we did what was right for the country not for ourselves and we will just have to take whatever the public decides on the chin. However I am one Lib Dem who certainly hasn’t written it all off just yet!

  • Philip Rolle 15th Feb '14 - 6:52pm

    The only way forward is in my view to keep going. Fight the election in 2015 by promising to commit to a second coalition with the Conservatives. Cameron will play ball if he knows he cannot win outright. Use the slogan “Don’t let Labour ruin it”.

    You can’t turn back because there is nowhere to turn. Labour don’t want a coalition with a Lib Dems.

    The price to be extracted from the Conservatives must be in Lib Dems being appointed to key offices, most notably Work and Pensions. The Lib Dems main shame in the period since 2010 is in presiding over significant erosion of the safety nets for vulnerable people. You should use the last year before the next election to acknowledge this and propose remedies.

  • I am in agreement with Robert.
    As an active member of the Ecclesall Liberal Democrats – a Ward in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency, I am not at all happy with a considerable number of the Comments in today’s LibDemVoice.
    We are in the only non-Labour constituency in Sheffield & are facing a rising tide – potentially a “storm surge” – of political hostility from across the city.
    Whatever views Lib Dem ‘outsiders’ may have of Nick Clegg as Party Leader, I can only say that he is our MP. To see sniping criticism of him from our Lib Dem colleagues, publicly aired, with the impending Local Elections just weeks away, is hard to carry from this vantage[?] point.
    I should add that somehow, despite his dual tasks away from his patch – as Party Leader & Deputy Prime Minister – he still manages regular visits to Sheffield, holding regular surgeries, monthly public Q&A sessions & also finds time energetically to promote projects – Local & Government initiatives – to help regenerate this once severely economically depressed region. Do we want to lose him? Emphatically NO.
    We are, of course, aware of the downsides arising from this Coalition, but we have a duty in this Ward – morally & with personal conviction – that we should fight for & win this seat. This is not an attempt to muzzle anybody, just to let others know what it feels like out here.

  • Passing through 15th Feb '14 - 7:13pm

    “The only way forward is in my view to keep going. Fight the election in 2015 by promising to commit to a second coalition with the Conservatives”

    That sounds like electoral suicide to me as the LDs will immediately lose any residual anti-Tory tactical support and whatever remains of the Party’s left-wing.

    Given the number of seats which are straight Tory/LD battlefields and the reality that the electorally lowest hanging fruit for both Coalition partners is each other’s marginals this would result in a complete electoral annihilation.

    In which case you may as well rename the party the “National Liberals” and formally join (or in Clegg’s case re-join) the Conservative Party.

  • Philip Rolle 15th Feb '14 - 7:26pm

    The alternative is to stand as an anti-Labour party of the left. That to me means the Lib Dems would lose all credibility as it involves a repudiation of most of what they have contributed to in government since 2010.

  • ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
    Albert Einstein

  • Philip – ‘The alternative is to stand as an anti-Labour party of the left. ‘

    There was an argument that we should have formed a coalition with Labour in 2010. It would have been a truer representation of our Social Democratic roots, rather than joining in with the Tories. Ed Balls was being nice to us recently, we should not discount the possibility of a Labour – Lib Dem coalition in 2015. Question is, would Clegg be toxic for Labour? The only way that I can see such a coalition formed is with someone other than Clegg as leader.

    We have to start thinking in these terms, even though it may seem brutal and ungrateful. The party has been seriously set back under the Clegg leadership, we need to stop living in a dream world and accept the hard reality.

  • Jonclennl … please bear in mind that at least some of the contributors to LibDemVoice are not supporters let alone members of the party!

    Joe King must have been at a different 2010 election to me. The numbers were not there to do a straight deal with Labour. Any coalition would have had to involve nationalist and/or NI MPs. Anyway Labour was totally unprepared, unlike us, and was all over the place. They won’t make that mistake in 2015 even though they won’t say that publically.

    If we cast our minds back we were told the coalition with the Tories wouldn’t last a week, then a month, then it wouldn’t get past Christmas and here we are nearly four years down the line and we’ve made it work. It was put together in a week unheard of in continental Europe where coalitions tend to be the norm. Look how long the Germans have recently taken to put their new coalition government together.

    Sure there have been upsets and disappointments along the way. Labour inclined former Lib Dem voters now hate us and a good number of similarly inclined party members have cleared off, some to join Labour. However if we had done a deal with Labour a different bunch of people would have disappeared off in the direction of the Tories.

    We did the right thing by the country and we may well not get any credit for it but I am glad we did it!

  • Does it matter what we do? We have always been a party of the left. Our fundamentally left-leaning members and supporters are disillusioned with us and are deserting us in droves. Nick has sold us down the river to the Tories and our natural supporters now see us as a discredited party. Joining the Tories was the biggest mistake we ever made and Nick has to take the blame. Our only hope of having any influence in British politics post 2015 is another hung parliament but to be honest I do not think we will gain enough seats in 2015 to make any difference even then unless Nick goes first. How can we recover? We need a left leaning (anti-Tory) leader like Vince Cable who might just be able to attract back our former supporters who have already defected to Labour.

  • Robert

    I am afraid it is this sort of response that is not helping

    You are right that some of the contributors are not members, some are not supporters but most are people sympathetic t the party as it was.

    The way that you dismiss the concerns of people like us is why you at 10% in the polls – and losing elections hand over fist.

    Remember your membership is pretty low so you need voters – if you cannot see that many of your past voters have been from the liberal and anti-authoritarian left then that is up to you. Us voters, even previously loyal ones like me, are not proving to be very happy but as long as you are content with your contribution as cannon fodder for a very right wing Tory party …

    I am interested to see why you think supporting the Tories in austerity, dismantling the NHS, setting up schools for privatisation and attacking the public sector is seen as a success? I expect it will be along the lines of ‘maxing out the credit card’ and ‘look at Greece’.

    Can you remind me how the Government has done against its 2010 targets so markedly supported by Alexander? I mean the original ones not the current ‘update’. Weren’t we supposed to have eliminated the deficit and seen significantly higher growth?

  • Mason Cartwright wrote:

    “Removing Clegg wouldn’t help at this stage John because Clegg is a symptom and not the core problem and the electorate realise this.”

    I agree. I have said so many times on this site that the reason that the Liberal Democrats are unpopular is because of the “coalition”, not Mr Clegg. I have argued that if we focus our attention on the inadequacies of Mr Clegg’s leadership, we ignore the real source of our woes, which is our role in propping up this terrible Tory government. I simply do not believe that having a different leader would make a haporth of difference, so long as we remain within the “coalition”. However, if getting rid of Mr Clegg is the necessary route to ending the “coalition”, then I am happy to support it wholeheartedly. What really did it for me was Mr Clegg sticking his neck out in support of the tobacco industry, but refusing to utter a squeak to protect the fundamental human rights of children and young people. He cannot behave like that and have my respect.

  • Theresa-1 wrote:

    “and Nick has to take the blame.”

    Not just Nick. There are the members who flocked to Birmingham and voted “yes”. Nick couldn’t have done it without their support. I blame them as much as I blame Nick.

  • William Jones 15th Feb '14 - 10:30pm

    As chair of Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency party I have read these comments with interest and feel I need to comment. I can feel the pain and concern of members. I feel it too, even though while I put immense energy into the campiagn I did not run or control it.

    We have lost much of vote especially in wards where we were strong previously such as Northenden because we courted the protest vote. I went out on the doorstep with our candidate and I know that those previous supporters have deserted us now we are in government. These supporters are lost for the foreseeable future.

    We were never going to win this by-election and our aim was to save our deposit. This we regrettably failed to do. Labour made a tactical decision to make the election campaign as short as possible. In my opinion the rules for by-elections need to be changed to allow all parities a level playing field. We were just not in a position to present our case in less than 21 days after the Lib Dem candidate selection process that was concluded on Sunday 26th January by selecting Cllr Mary Di Mauro. I was assumed to be candidate having been selected as PPC on 9th December 2013. But due to a by-election being called because the sad death of Paul Goggins I could not commit to the campaign as I work full time for Computer Sciences Corporation. Therefore I made known to the regional party on 19th January 2014.

    Calling for a leadership change because of this by-election result is ridiculous. The time to review the leadership is if we lose MEPs like Chris Davies in May 2014. If that happens I will be putting my name forward for calls for a change of leadership.

    As for the hypothesis that the Liberal Democrats will break up after the 2015. I do not see this, we are stronger than that as a party. The trajectory Liberal Democrats are currently on suggest a new direction with a new leadership and new opportunities to aim for.

  • Cllr Martin Hunt 15th Feb '14 - 10:41pm

    Two simple truths. Our vote collapsed when we voted to increase tuition fees and has never come back. And we are fighting the European elections on an unpopular ‘stay in’ policy which while right will get us slaughtered. My fear is that every UKIP vote in the Euros will be echoed by those people voting UKIP again when given a local ballot paper too. Good local councillors slaughtered by an anti-Europe vote. I have always believed Nick was brave to take us where he did but there should have been lines in the samd and tuition fees should have been the first. But if Nick has to go I can’t see anyone else who will inspire me especially if we start loving Labour.

  • I am not a member of the party and very rarely do I post on LDV anymore, just like many who no longer come and post or even check LDV, why?

    It is pretty obvious that many of us objected to what the party did post 2010 GE, again I will say we begged and begged for the party not to follow the path it did, and because of this over half of the voters will no longer support the party at the next GE, what was it 23% electorate voted for the party at the May GE but by the end of 2010 the party was polling below 12%, now the average of all polls is 10%.

    As things stand over 50% of those who voted for the Lib Dems find they cannot do so again, until the next GE we will not know if the majority were ignored, the party following polices that voters did not vote for or want is why the party is where it is now.

    Voters are not unintelligent nor are they stupid yet the government LD and Con spin against Labour has not been justified, the fear is you reap what you sow…

    We will offer a different kind of politics… smoke, mirrors and spin.


  • Mason Cartwright 15th Feb '14 - 11:41pm

    “Our vote collapsed when we voted to increase tuition fees”

    Don’t you mean triple tuition fees?

    The following items perhaps also played a small part however:

    Health & social care bill
    secret courts
    lobbying bill
    Bedroom tax (as it is commonly called)
    No attempt to combat aggressive tax avoidance/evasion
    A smokescreen rather than a real power of recall for MP’s

    and to quote the Archbishop of Westminster:

    “But I think what is happening is two things: one is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart.”

    “It no longer exists and that is a real, real dramatic crisis.”

    “For a country of our affluence, that quite frankly is a disgrace.”

    How anyone can come on this forum and try to spin this stuff positively is beyond me.

    The only thing that should be coming through strongly is shame.

    After 2015 (when the Lib Dems are in tatters) the infighting and recriminations will start, the scorpions shall begin stinging each other and we shall see how strong the party really is.

  • William Jones: “I know that those previous supporters have deserted us now we are in government.”

    Whilst I agree we lost a lot of support when we entered coalition government, we performed much worse than expected in this seat.

    It’s worth pointing out that we got more votes in just one ward in 2011, a year the last general election, than we did in the whole of the constituency a year before the next general election: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_Council_election,_2011#Northenden

    In 2011 we had an excellent candidate and ran a campaign demonstrating our local record and how the Labour Council were unnecessarily cutting services, and doing so for political purposes (we showed how comparable LD councils found the necessary savings from back office functions without cutting frontline services as Manchester was).

    We ran an energetic scrappy campaign, and although we didn’t win, we got one of the highest LD votes in the city and probably as best as we could have in the circumstances. Since then our vote has totally collapsed across the constituency, but especially so in our remaining ward in Northenden.

  • I can’t blame Nick Clegg for forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

    I *can* blame him for not fighting as hard, and as visibly, and as publicly for liberal principles within government as he would have done had he been in opposition.

  • I have just seen this article.


    ‘Mr Farron is untouched by the Lib Dems’ bruising experience in coalition government, as he has not served as a minister. This would help his future leadership chances among the disenchanted grassroots of the party, while sources suggested that Mr Farron has already developed a core of 12 to 14 faithful supporters who could manage any future campaign push.’

    ‘The party president is not thought to be particularly popular among his fellow MPs, but is considered to be the standard-bearer for the left of the party that struggles to comprehend how the Lib Dems could possibly be in partnership with the Conservatives.’

    I do also struggle with the idea that we are the lackeys of the Tories. I feel more comfortable left leaning.

    If Tim Farron is to get us out of our current hole, he has to act decisively and fast. By which I mean we need him in place as leader within the next six months if we are to retrieve any hope in the general election. We have to be honest about our failures and our inability to get out of the mess if we just blindly continue as we are.

  • William Jones 16th Feb '14 - 8:52am

    Fair enough observations from 2011 Lev Eakins when you worked really hard in the Wythenshawe and Sale East .

    What was really disappointing after that 2011 election was that our candidate disappeared from the party and never spoke to anyone who tried to speak to him again. You also left the constituency in 2012 that left a hole in Northenden, So maybe that would explain why the vote was down in that ward.

    Our membership has also declined substantially like all local parties since the 2010 high, so with the best will in the world holding together the local party is all we have been able to do rather than build to a development position. Also this by-election was something no body ever wanted at this time. We were unprepared and all we could possibly hope was to hold our deposit this time. The short election period didn’t help either.

    We also have to be realistic that the HQ with its strategy of only resourcing seats we hold. WSE was never going to be a winnable seat for the foreseeable future. We have seen the national party let many Northern Labour seats that have had by-elections since 2010 go the same way as WSE.

  • @david-1

    Neatly put and it’s what I hear all the time… At the GE the public were fed up with Labour, mistrusted the Tories and wanted the change in politics that Clegg promised (and backed by personal pledges no less). I posted at the time that the decision not to oppose fee rises was wrong, not because of economic reasons, but because it immediately poisoned the trust relationship many people had felt for the party.

    Later decisions (and I believe the NHS bill support to be the worse of these) simply rammed home the perception to those voters that the party loved government more than them. On top of that the leadership quite openly dissed members of the party (the ones who in many cases had worked for years before Clegg’s time) to the point where in some areas of the country there has been a fatal collapse in party support. The mantra of ‘where we work we win’ might as well be ‘ where we are absent we will definitely lose’.

    It could all have been very different and personally I’m glad that there is a leadership debate. A change after another local election disaster might at least save a number of seats at the GE.

  • William: ‘The short election period didn’t help either.’

    It did not help the Conservatives or UKIP either, and they kept their deposits.

  • William Jones 16th Feb '14 - 9:24am

    Joe King I think you may find some of the answers to the Consevatives & UKIP keeping their deposits in their election expense submissions. I know UKIP must have spent up to that £100k limit as the threw alot of money at this election.

  • markfairclough 16th Feb '14 - 9:37am

    Putting my last ever post on here , the Libdems members want to be at least always allied to Labour , so that will be another section of Libdem voters lost for a longtime.

  • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 10:33am

    When the King came to the people and offered a choice between being “hung, drawn & quartered” or beheaded they unanimously chose beheading and thanked him for his kindness.

    In first past the post you don’t vote for the best you vote for the least worst.

    The Lib Dems have ensured that Labour will benefit in 2015 even though they are unworthy.

    What’s the alternative?

  • @john stokes: “What was refreshing to hear from the new Labour MP in Wythenshawe was his attacks on Ukip as isolationist and scaremomgering, How I would love to hear more of this talk from our own party but can’t imagine Nick Clegg doing this, Just like a failed football manager, elections are a results business and he must go.”

    To be fair to Nick Clegg, he has been on the attack recently, regarding UKIP over the EU. While the Lib Dems have all sorts of problems like this by-election result (adding to their tally of lost deposits) he is trying to build a consensus against rising Euroscepticism. He said how many on the Tory right agree with UKIP and how Labour are just keeping quiet on it. He still has major credibility issues and the extent to which people will actually listen to him is questionable, but he is the only mainstream politician picking a side that dares to challenge the agenda UKIP is trying to set.

  • Thank you William Jones for explaining more of the reasons why we did badly in this by-election and engaging with other posters here to give further explanations.

    @ jedibeeftrix – you didn’t say if you were once a member or an ex-voter and I can’t recall if I have read such a post from you in the past. Your analysis of the issues with the Labour party hit the mark and I think you correctly identify the natural place for the Liberal Democrats is on the left. However I would like to know where the 39% of GDP tax take limit comes from? It appears that the highest rate since 1963 was in 1981-82 at 37.6%. It doesn’t seem that any UK government has tried to push the take to 40%. It appears that even with the lower limit of 37.6 there is scope to increase the take by more than 1%. Also I remember one of our popular policies was a penny on income tax to raise more money to spend on education. Therefore it might be possible to increase the tax take if the money is clearly used for a specific purpose.

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Feb '14 - 3:04pm

    i had seen different figures elswhere, but the guardian figures certainly agree with you.

    the IFS says 40.2 as a temporary and one time high:


    guess it depends how the figures are calculated.

  • Philip Rolle
    “Fight the election in 2015 by promising to commit to a second coalition with the Conservatives. ”

    What would be the point in that ? The electorate presented with the Cons, Ukip, Labour & ConDems ? Why would anybody bother voting LD if they knew in advance that a vote for LD would mean another coalition with the Cons ?

    I used to vote LD but will never do so again so promise a second coalition with the Cons by all means & suck it up when all your votes go to the Cons instead because frankly, there would be absolutely no point in voting LD.

  • Schrodinger's Cat 16th Feb '14 - 5:32pm

    Why not come clean about the Lib Dem position on the EU? Don’t hide behind vague claims of commitment, heart of Europe, etc.

    Declare that the country should prepare to join the Eurozone at the earliest opportunity so that we can join fully in the integration plans soon to be announced by the Commission. Work with fellow Europeans towards achievement of the Federal States of Europe. That is surely the Lib Dem dream.

    The Conservatives and Labour have relied on using stealth to integrate the country in the European Project. The Lib Dems should stand up and declare their dreams loudly – and lose every remaining vote as a consequence.

    Pro -EU, and pro-immigration and you wonder why you lose voters.

  • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 6:36pm

    Schrodinger’s cat…….that not your real name surely:-)

    I don’t think it is Federal States of Europe Vs leaving Europe.

    There are an infinite number of positions between these 2 extremes.

    Additionally I don’t think immigration or Europe are the main reasons the Lib Dem vote has collapsed. The people who voted for them in 2010 were (in the main) happy with their position on these issues prior to 2010 and remain so now.

    It’s just about everything else outside of these issues that has gone wrong.

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Feb '14 - 6:44pm

    “I don’t think it is Federal States of Europe Vs leaving Europe. There are an infinite number of positions between these 2 extremes.”

    the EU doesn’t appear very keen on us achieving any of these [potential] intermediate states…

  • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 6:55pm

    “the EU doesn’t appear very keen on us achieving any of these [potential] intermediate states…”

    Which parts of being in the EU upset you?

  • jedibeeftrix 16th Feb '14 - 7:05pm

    things like this ‘upset’ me:


    Gladstones power of the purse.

  • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 7:21pm

    Well there’s quite a bit of information (but only on a very singular aspect of the EU) and I’ve only skimmed it but I’m still in the dark about which parts of this very specific area you don’t like.

    Don’t you like the fact that the proposal has been made?
    The fact that non-euro countries don’t have to join?
    The fact that they can join if they wish?

  • Mason Cartwright 16th Feb '14 - 9:35pm

    You are correct this is off topic and we should respect the core of this thread (so I’ll make this the last post) but the chinks in the armour of this argument aren’t difficult to expose. It’s not the most compelling justification for anti-EU sentiment I’ve heard over the years.

  • If Nick Clegg really can tackle Farage, it would go a long way to turning around his own standing, improve our fortunes as a party, and stop the anti-EU rhetoric once and for all. Nick does need to be well briefed before such an encounter. How about a televised debate, just the two of them, ahead of the European election? Cameron wants to ignore Farage, so trying to organise a foursome with Ed Miliband too may not be possible. A televised debate ‘in’ vs ‘out’ would be interesting to watch. It would boost our morale too if Nick lands a few punches.

  • @Mason Cartwright – Why not get into the EU debate? We are the “party of in”. It’s our unique selling point and nothing to be ashamed of surely.

  • Unused as I am to agreeing with Joe King about anything, I am surprised to find myself thinking that his idea of a Clegg-Farage debate might have some merit. For a while now I’ve thought that the Liberal Democrats’ real struggle in 2015 will be to stay ahead of UKIP in total votes; that UKIP has taken a substantial number of voters from the Lib Dems, some of whom could be won back; that Labour and the Conservatives have failed to adequately respond to UKIP; and that it could benefit the Lib Dems to be perceived as the anti-UKIP party.

    Such a debate would be a stunt, of course, but not necessarily a useless one. However, there is one big problem with it, namely that it draws unwanted attention to the central ambiguity of Nick’s role: would he go into such debate as Deputy Prime Minister, representing the government? As leader of the Liberal Democrats, representing his party? Or as MP for Sheffield Hallam?

  • David-1 Thankyou for your agreement. Do you or anybody here have media / BBC contacts who could facilitate such a TV debate?

  • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 10:11am

    @Theresa–1 ” Why not get into the EU debate? We are the “party of in”. It’s our unique selling point and nothing to be ashamed of surely.”

    I couldn’t agree wit h you more but I am mindful of the rules Lib Dem Voice ask us to follow: “be on topic” and this thread is about a by-election. Having said that………

    The problem with anti-EU supporters is that they seem unable to offer examples of how the EU has damaged the interests of the UK in any fundamental, measurable or quantifiable way. Consequently they resort to unconvincing arguments that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    @ Jedbeeftrix “What are the most compelling in your view?”

    You are correct I should have said “give me one compelling reason for leaving the EU” as I haven’t heard one yet consequently I can’t give you and example of “most compelling”

    Also I thought that you were a Lib Dem supporter so I am surprised that you feel this way.

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Feb '14 - 12:59pm

    mason, how does th fundamental economic sovereignty not count for a country that has chosen to avoid economic and social integration via schengen and the euro?

    I look forward to seeing your forensic logic used to expose the chinks in this poor argument…

    I am a lib-dem supporter, but not a member, as noted above.

  • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 1:10pm

    “how does th fundamental economic sovereignty not count for a country that has chosen to avoid economic and social integration via schengen and the euro?”

    I reiterate the above comment I made:

    ” they seem unable to offer examples of how the EU has damaged the interests of the UK in any fundamental, measurable or quantifiable way.”

    Demonstrate how the UK has actually become economically poorer (real figures) and I may come around to your view on this particular point.

    Of course this is narrow because there are additional evolutionary considerations beyond the economic but let’s keep it narrow for now.

  • Mason Cartwright 17th Feb '14 - 8:59pm

    I understand the concern but in a way we have ended up agreeing.
    My position started out as finding something in between Federal States of Europe and leaving Europe.
    I then asked for a compelling reason for leaving Europe because I couldn’t see one.
    As it stands there is no compelling case for leaving (that I can see) but there are negotiations to be had to protect the interests of the UK and find that middle ground.
    If the middle ground cannot be found and the UK ends up in a situation where we begin to experience a net loss from the partnership I doubt that any political party would advocate staying in.
    That is not where we are today however and it is actually not in the interests of Europe to create circumstances that compel us to leave.
    This is a negotiation as all partnerships are but you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater as UKIP would advocate.
    But having read your last part you do not seem to be advocating that we leave either hence we have gone full circle and come close to the same position.
    Unless I have missed something?

  • @Mason I thought the argument of Schrodinger’s Cat was that there were only two states: dead or alive (or in this case in or out), and that the intermediate states were in effect just probability functions for the two states.

    So there are not an infinite number of intermediate positions and any party which attempts to position itself somewhere in the middle is bound to fail. A bit like the Lib Dem policy of 45% for the marginal top tax rate, while Labour say 50% and the Tories say 40%, when everyone knows we will have to settle for one or the other.

    Which is why the Tories are backing an in/out referendum after the election, which they are hoping will allow them to attact votes from pros and antis. Of course after the election they will lose half their supporters, but they don’t care about that because they are adopting manana politics.

  • Mason Cartwright 20th Feb '14 - 1:32pm

    @ Paul

    I agree in your interpretation of Schodingers Cat. I believe that he/she had fallen for the old political gag of polarised debate: In/Out

    I am arguing that life is never that simple. Of course we will not continue in the EU if it represents an overall loss to the UK. No political party (lib dems or otherwise) will.

    The question then is what constitutes “overall loss”.

    In that regard I don’t buy into the Tory philosophy. They are interested in furthering their agenda of “pure capitalism” at the expense of most of our citizens.

    I am interested in what helps and protects our citizens.

    To that end I can never follow the Tory lead as it is cynical and disingenuous.

  • Schodingers Cat can be both dead and alive at the same time, that’s the key thing about it.

  • Paul In Twickenham 25th Feb '14 - 6:41am

    @Adam – correct. The wave function is a superposition of states (dead + alive) until it is measured, at which point it collapses to either dead OR alive. In the same way, sometimes politicians views appear to be a superposition of states until they are measured at which point they collapse.

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