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.


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  • @kim
    It’s not our policies which have failed, it’s our party leadership who have failed to pursue our policies. Indeed it seems that our leadership didn’t believe in our policies and weren’t prepared to stand by them.

    Thus we have Nick Clegg apologising for making a promise, which he should have stood by, which was consistent with our policy, instead of apologising for breaking a promise. The very essence of his apology encapsulated the problem with him. He doesn’t have the understanding of the word promise held by the British people at large.
  • I hope SLF will be taking into account some of this evidence too –
  • “We are proud of our record” cut no ice in communities which have been decimated by cuts to services, demonisation of the poor and disabled, and policies like the Bedroom Tax which takes £1000s out of local economies every week. Whilst myself, like most people I know, had enormous respect for our local MP we could not vote Liberal Democrat because that would be to to endorse the Lib Dems voting for all of the above, and since Clegg and Laws had said they wanted a repeat coalition with the Tories, it seemed like a vote for the Tories anyway. There was no apology in the campaign literature, no vision and the line that the Lib Dems had prevented the Tories making even worse cuts made no sense to people whose lives have been turned upside down by the cuts that WERE made.

    To be clear, I supported the SDP in the 1980s, I was not thrilled on the merger and remained supporting David Owen, but after Paddy Ashdown became leader of the Lib Dems I was sold on the project, the talk at conference of not abandoning SDP values, and this continued under Charles Kennedy. It seems that since then the fact that the Lib Dems included people who had come from the SDP was completely forgotten, and under Clegg the idea that the poor, disabled and unemployed had values as human beings was completely ignored in government.

    Those of us like myself who supported the idea of a coalition expected the Lib Dems to be an ameliorating influence on the Tories, not an enabler and we expected the MPs we had voted for to be able to represent us. But they did, or perhaps could, not, and the Lib Dems in coalition showed only that they had both lost their heart at a national level but were completely delusional about the daily lives of people who had voted for them.
  • Naomi thank you for your all your courage in speaking out throughout the coalition period. You have helped humble activists like me stay sane during a very dark time. My Mum lost her council seat in Southwark last May. It was hard being lectured by Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg and even Martin Horwod that where we worked hard enough and “got our message across” we would win. We worked like slaves; we didn’t win.
  • I hope you are not thinking that our policies have failed. Liberal Democrats have, I hope, always taken the view that we must decide what is right, based on the evidence and our own liberal values. It is then our task to explain why we believe what we believe, and thus persuade voters to our cause. I hope we never change from that starting point. If there was any failure, it is that we have not put our case clearly enough to the electorate. I think the results of this election have shown that we have been in a phase where it has been particularly hard to explain to people what the issues are, and what options lie ahead. As Andrew Duff remarked in his letter about the dangers of an In/Out referendum, we live in an increasingly complex world and asking simple questions is likely to get you simplistic answers. The massive influx of new members to our party is perhaps the first evidence that the people are waking up to the realities of the new world. With the exception of the SNP, who had an easy message to sell, it seems that none of the parties actually succeeded in explaining what they are about. (A cynic might observe that for the Conservatives, that has worked in their favour.) So, let’s have a review of strategy, by all means, But let it be about how we reach the electorate, not about what we stand for. And let’s not be too critical of past strategy.
  • @soclibforum tweeted this page. 2015-05-10 13:58:58 +0100
  • @soclibforum tweeted this page. 2015-05-10 13:58:44 +0100
    We alienated 4.4million voters - let’s never ignore evidence again