There’s no escaping just how strongly the electorate has rejected our party’s offer in the European and local elections, with a few welcome exceptions. Such heavy losses can’t be attributed just to no longer being a party of opposition, even if governing as a junior member of a coalition means supporting policies many of us disagree with. Nor is it just down to the Lib Dems being an isolated voice in taking on UKIP’s dangerous populism. So it’s right that the party seriously re-examines its strategy, how we deliver it, and what we will be offering to the electorate at the General Election in 2015 – and it is right that this debate should include who leads the party. As a democratic party, the membership will hold the key to this re-examination, and we acknowledge that views differ on how to approach these issues within the party – as they do within the SLF.
But resolving this debate and reviving the party matters because the electorate risks losing the only voice capable of representing values of freedom, community and social justice as a national political force. British politics deserves an effective liberal presence, especially in the face of rising populism at home and in Europe. Social liberals cannot stand by and see this voice fade. So the SLF will lead the discussions that rightly follow, to ensure the Lib Dems present a mix of policies in our manifesto that chime with the values voters expect from a liberal party – and that we have a leadership in place that people listen to.
Social Liberal Forum