Thursday, 14 May 2015

Some thoughts after the election aftermath: the Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats find themselves in a hideous position. In my view they did the right thing going into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, and they generally behaved well whilst in power. Their record in government is one they should be proud of. But it came at a hideous cost. It turns out that much of their vote came from the 'none of the above' voter, and going into government destroyed that sector. The red liberals also shifted in numbers to the Labour party, although in nowhere near the numbers the latter were expecting, As a result the Liberal Democrat base, both in terms of members, councillors and MPs, is tiny.

So what can they do? The answer is not much before 2020. They need to elect a leader who can find them a new position in politics, and for that reason if I was them, I would delay choosing a new leader until after Labour. But whoever gets the job has a hard task ahead of them.

They need someone who can engage with the media and sell whatever policy position and vision they develop. Sadly, none of their eight remaining MPs really seems to fit that bill if you exclude Clegg.

They also need to rebuild their political base. The last five years have been rough for them, both in terms of MPs and councillors. Yet they still have a large base of committed activists who can help them rebuild. A promising sign is that membership numbers have been increasing in the days since the election.

There is not much else that can be said about the Liberal Democrats. That is part of their problem: with the rise of UKIP and the SNP they are approaching irrelevance. They need a leader who can reverse that trend, even if full recovery takes several elections.

No comments: