The Liberal Democrats repeatedly ignored the warning signs that their strategy was not working.
- We have lost 45% of our councillor base since 2010 (we now have 2,257 compared with 4,088 in May 2010).
- We lost 71% of our MSPs in 2011.
- We lost 91% of our MEPs in 2014.
And yet the course was not altered. Forwards to the looming iceberg we went, and in the 2015 General Election we lost more than half of our deposits across the country, and 86% of our MPs in one night. In 2008, shortly after being installed as leader, Nick Clegg boasted we’d have 150 MPs by 2015. We now have eight.
While that result was worse than even the most cynical predicted, for a Party that champions evidence based decision-making, it is wholly unacceptable that the strategists chose to ignore the very clear message voters were giving us year-on-year. And for a Party steeped in enlightenment values - that include critical thinking and the questioning of authority - it is deeply disappointing that the strategists went broadly unchallenged by the members at large. There was precious little accountability within the Party. We left it to the voters to make the decisions for us. That must change.
The last five years have not only led us to an election result that has decimated the voice of Liberalism in the UK, but it has helped create the conditions for a break up on the union, Brexit, a major attack on our civil liberties, and a total slash and burn of public services.
Of our 56 MPs, just 8 remain, and excluding Nick Clegg there are 7 possible candidates for the next leader, though all but Tim Farron and Norman Lamb appear to have ruled themselves out.
As well as setting out their vision for rebuilding our movement, those who want the top job must also show humility, and articulate to the Liberal Democrat activists where they think we went wrong in alienating 4.4 million voters since 2010. Without showing some contrition, no rebuild will be sustainable in the long term.