A broken party and broken hearts: The election result shows we are asking the wrong questions

We had a small team but a committed one. We had a well respected sitting councillor along with other well respected former councillors. We came close in one area last year without even campaigning. The team went to ALDC Kickstart and attended all the sessions. We ran a campaign as close to the ALDC advice as we could given our budget. But when we stood watching the votes come in, we lost, and lost badly. Those who were elected were early 20’s and didn’t even live in the borough – clearly it didn’t matter who was standing as long as it was in red, but it doesn’t alter the fact that our area lost the best councillor they ever had and our local party is now in a poorer state because of it. So what are the questions that the party is asking following another dismal performance at the local elections?

Perhaps it is how do we show that coalitions can work? So we see the ‘rose garden 2’ coming up. We will also see the parties put out some positive spin about the coalition. But I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘work’. The coalition has been working so far and it hasn’t helped us one bit. It is not that people want the coalition to work but they want a government that does broadly something that can either agree with or at the least that they are not offended by. Too many people are offended by the decisions that this government has made. If by ‘working’ it is the Tories and Lib Dems not arguing and not falling out but more decisions that will offend people then making this coalition work is not what we or the public need.

Perhaps a question being asked is how do we show what we stand for? So we will see more ‘differentiation’ and more traditionally liberal policies being defended such as House of Lords reform and gay marriage. While these are important and appeal to liberal voters it does nothing to address the fact that many voters are offended by the decisions that this government has made. Fear is a powerful force and makes people vote against those who have made these decisions (which includes those who didn’t stop them). Every decision that is made that goes against what we believe in does significantly more damage than bringing in a policy that we do.

Perhaps it is how do we communicate what we have done better to the public? But again for every list of things we can produce that we have done well, people produce a list of things that ‘we’ have done that is far worse and many feel offended by. Providing a cherry picked list says that we are not listening to their concerns.

I have heard people put it down to the fact that this is midterm blues, or it is to be expected, or we have waited 80 years to get in to this position, or the voters are stupid, but the reality is that we are not doing what we need to do to survive and believing that things will change by carrying on with what we have been doing is madness. At the moment the strategy seems to be to get the electorate to listen to us because we have important things to tell them and convince them. But perhaps the questions we should be asking are how can we listen to them? How can we show we have listened to them? And how can we demonstrate that we have listened to them?

We cannot underestimate the damage that has been caused by the Health and Social Care Bill, the Welfare Reforms, tuition fees or things like the 50p tax rate cut. Members have left, councillors have been lost and have given up helping the party, and there seems to be an attitude that this is necessary and inevitable because we are in government. Clegg is ‘sad’ that councillors have been lost, not sorry. He should be very sorry [edit he has now emailed to say he is sorry]. Until the public think that we are addressing their concerns, or at least understand them, at a national level it won’t matter how well we campaign at local level, or how well we follow ALDC campaigning guidelines, people won’t vote for us.

3 Responses to A broken party and broken hearts: The election result shows we are asking the wrong questions

  1. Very much agree with your point about cherry-picked lists of achievements. I always feel it makes us look foolish – wilfully blind, if you will – to cite liberal positives (pupil premium, tax thresholds, green investment bank) without recognising that many people see these are outweighed by the huge negatives (some of which you list in the last paragraph). Now that may be the price of coalition with the Tories. But it is daft to pretend it isn’t the situation.

    I had a Twitter exchange with one of our MPs a while ago triggered by the “what are you going to spend your £60 on?” tax cut campaign. I said the answer to that question would be all the things that the state no longer pays for that will now have to be paid for out of your own pocket (higher train fares, etc etc) so in practice you are not necessarily better off. In one sense I was being intentionally provocative, but in another sense I was trying to point out that this sort of one-eyed representation of the situation doesn’t fool people.

    • Hi Alex, thanks for the reply and I hope that MP listened to what you said. That is a great idea. Perhaps we need to encourage more Lib Dem members/supporters to do this and maybe they would listen? I can’t defend things I don’t believe in but these are the things that come up on the doorstep every time and these aren’t even things we as a party believe in, so how do they expect us to explain them to gain votes?

  2. Pingback: Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #273

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