I’m a Liberal Democrat. Our party president, Tim Farron, once described us being like cockroaches in our indestructability.
Today the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party has dropped from 57 parliamentary seats to 8, slightly lower than was achieved by the Liberal Party in 1979. Since 2010 Liberal Democrat local councillors have experienced this level of defeat, as have the party’s Members in the European Parliament. It looked like things might be different for the parliamentary party, but they weren’t.
The writing was on the wall from the moment Nick Clegg and David Cameron stepped into the Downing Street rose garden in May 2010. Our opinion poll ratings plummeted from that moment, before we’d done anything else but form the Coalition.
Today, in May 2015 we lost seats to Labour because of the “Great Betrayal”, we lost seats to the Tories because people thought of the Coalition “I actually quite like this government” and then backed the lead partner, we lost votes to UKIP and the Greens because they are the new repository of the protest vote, we lost seats to the SNP because nationalism trumps all.
The night had virtually no redeeming features. I particularly feel the loss of MPs like Lynne Featherstone, Jo Swinson and Julian Huppert all of whom made significant contributions in parliament on equality, science and anti-authoritarianism. All of whom appeared to be popular local MPs, all of whom were swept aside by the national tide.
Nick Clegg retained his seat, for which I’m rather pleased. Outsiders don’t realise quite how dependent a Lib Dem leader is on their party. The things Nick Clegg took the blame for were the things we as Liberal Democrats had collectively decided. He has been the one that has born the brunt of outrage against the Liberal Democrats with good grace. He is the one, more than any of the three main party leaders, who has talked with the public.
The political landscape won’t remould itself, it won’t be remoulded by online petitions. It won’t be remoulded by the “progressive alliance” engaging in rounds of recrimination. It won’t be remoulded by endless venting on twitter, or invoking the apocalypse. It won’t be remoulded by the lion’s roar, or an idiot with a pair of trews.
It will be remoulded by people like me who spend their spare time doing local politics: sitting in interminable meetings in their evenings, posting leaflets through doors, standing for local elections, helping local people and breaking out once every 5 years or so to fight a General Election.
I’m still a Liberal Democrat. I’m proud of what we achieved in coalition in the last 5 years, it’s been the best time to be a Liberal Democrat since I joined the party in 1988.
I’m going to go back to trying to win seats at elections and making sure the liberal voice is heard.