12 Months to the General Election: State of the Parties #3 – The Lib Dems

by Ray_North on May 26, 2014

images-3In the Euro Elections the Lib-Dems have had their worst set of results since 1990, whilst polls suggest that they are in danger of actually losing every one of their MPs at a general election. Things couldn’t get much worse for the Lib-Dems.

So, let’s analyse their performance:

What do the Lib-Dems need at the next general election?
What they would have liked is to maintain the size of their Parliamentary Party and, perhaps, after five years in coalition, add a few – realistically, today, they’d be happy to come through the next election with about 30 MPs, less than half their current number.

Performance since the last election.
It’s almost totally bad – the Lib-Dems have gone from being a credible centre party and recipient of many people’s protest votes, to being a party that, initially, no one trusted, and now seems increasingly irrelevant. Loyalists will say that they have helped the recovery of the economy, whilst tempering the excesses of the Tories; they will bang on about removing people from the tax system, expanding the pupil premium and expanding apprenticeships – but in reality the Lib-Dems have done nothing to stop the steady erosion of public services, the brutal cutting of the welfare state and the regressive changes to our education system.

In addition, the Lib-Dems have failed to introduce any of the changes that they promised to our constitution – the made a complete mess during the referendum on voting reform and totally gnarled up the changes to the House of Lords.

But their biggest problem is that many of things that they seemed to hold dear, they ditched – University tuition fees, protecting the NHS, Europe all these things have fallen by the wayside and now the public don’t trust them.

High Points and Leaders Performance
High points? Hmmm, they will say the economic recovery and, as I said above a smattering of policies that they’ve managed to foist upon the coalition. As for Clegg, his demise has been absolutely spectacular. He is now seen as an untrustworthy, weak and irrelevant. The word is that he is now detached from all but a small number of inner-circle friends, and that he is no longer able to respond in any meaningful way to the electorate and the challenges of political debate – a case in point being the decision to debate with Nigel Farage, which seemed to show a desperate man making another colossally bad call.

Situation now.
In a word…. dire. And getting worse: one MEP, a massively reduced councillor base and behind the Greens and UKIP in the polls – the Lib-Dems could end up with a parliamentary party that is similar in size to that led by David Steel in the 1970s or Joe Grimmond in the 1960s. Ouch.

What to do between now and the election.
They have two options – option one: hold their nerve and hope for the best.
Option two – panic, change their leader, pull out of the coalition and try to suggest that they didn’t really mean any of it.
Sadly for the Lib-Dems, neither option will make the remotest bit of difference, they are toast. If they choose option one, they’ll be all but eradicated; if they take option two, they will look like they are desperate opportunists, which is what most people think of them anyway. For me, the best thing that they could do is at least put together a coherent programme on public services and Europe – and campaign on that, because those are going to be the two biggest issues at the next election.

How will the Lib-Dems fare in 12 months?
Like a snowball in a Chinese laundry.

Chances of them getting my vote?
Slim. And I say this as a former senior party apparatchik and Parliamentary candidate.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Alx w May 27, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Lib dems have created a credibility problem for themselves with this whole working with the biggest party as bending to the public will. It means that it sounds like they will switch their views according to whoever is in power. They have been an ineffective coalition partner in the sense of not setting out and clearly communicating their non negotiables. The nhs was probably their chance to make a stand, instead the tories called their bluff with a ‘pause to consult’ followed by carrying on as normal. This should have been the issue that potentially brought the coalition to an end with clegg going to the brink and making cameron blink. Instead they just rolled over with barely a whimper. So why bother vote lib dem, since anything they put in their manifesto is up for negotiation when they go into coalition? I’d suggest they set out a handful of things that they will not budge on as non negotiables in any coalition. However i’m not sure what they have left to make such as stance on.

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George_East May 27, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I agree with that Alx. Does anyone really doubt that Clegg will go back into coalition with the Tories after 2015 if the numbers stacked up, even if it is on the basis of a referendum on membership of the EU and withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. There really are no red lines.

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catford cat May 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Can’t say i disagree, can I just comment that you’ve used the old logo of the Liberal Party – http://www.liberal.org.uk – who are most certainly not the same thing as the lib dems…

(e.g. this snippet from their website –

“We believe that the ‘LibDems’ as a party have traded any last vestige of liberal principle or belief for a few seats at the cabinet table. In so doing they have made themselves party to a cruel and uncaring government which is now seeking to make the poorest and most vulnerable in society pay for the mistakes of bankers and financiers who appear to have come out of the financial crisis relatively unscathed.”

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George_East May 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Thanks Catford Cat, but on the logo I think it is Ray’s running joke. He used the Irish labour Party logo for the Labour Party and the old Tory torch logo for the Tories.

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catford cat May 27, 2014 at 10:09 pm

fair enough – not noticed it on here before.

just thought that the liberal party might be offended by being confused with what may soon be a smaller and more insignificant party…

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Ray North May 27, 2014 at 10:12 pm

That’s a fair comment actually – it is me just being a bit silly – perhaps I’ll change it to something else in due course. I do wonder if the Liberal wing of the Lib-Dems will now be tempted to go their own way, though, in reality, it should be the social democrats who are most pissed off. It’s an interesting time for the Lib-Dems and not interesting in a good way!

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