The public has finally been able to express its view on the direction that the Liberal Democrats have taken since 2010.

The General Election results were an unmitigated disaster. To claim anything else is to insult both the candidates and the campaigners who worked so tirelessly, and to the voters who responded to a poor and unappealing offer. 

In 2010, Liberal Democrat MPs were elected on a social liberal manifesto, in keeping with the party’s traditional, left-of-centre, radical, progressive stance, inherited from the Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell years. 

Yet during the 2010 parliament, the ‘Orange Bookers’ – with unprecedented patronage and support from the leadership – were for the first time able to control the party’s direction. In yesterday’s election, the voters have had their first chance to deliver their verdict on this strategy. They have overwhelmingly rejected it, dealing the Liberal cause its worst result since 1970. We have lost most of our MPs and have a string of lost deposits to our name. 

Liberals need to turn back from this centrist blind alley and find their soul again. The 2015 ‘split the difference’ strategy has failed. We need to consider what liberalism has to offer the public, and why people have previously voted Lib Dem – and why they have now ceased to do so. It is clear that the 2015 General Election strategy has no appeal. If we look to our heritage, we have been successful when we have been a reformist, left-of-centre, environmentally-focused party that makes no apology for its radicalism, and which carves out a positive, distinctive message. Voters deserted us when we deserted that position. We abandoned our values, and the voters understandably, abandoned us.    

While the right is resurgent, it is plain that attempts by the centre and the left to accommodate the right have not met with any success. We urgently need to unite the centre-left against the conservative narrative of austerity and despair, in favour of the politics of hope. It is time for a wholesale reform of our electoral system. Those in all parties who have consistently opposed the most egregious aspects of the last parliament must come together to fight for the poor, for the marginalised, for the hopeless, and for a better, more inclusive and prosperous society that maximises human capability.

It must start with hope, and it must start today. 


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  • We need to stop going on about left and right. We are a broad church, and long may we remain so. What unites us, I hope, is a philosophy of putting the general good ahead of vested interests, and an optimistic world view that might be termed humanist. Equally, there were many who I would regard as on the ‘left’ or at least centre of the party who contributed to the Orange Book, and so calling the Clegg/Alexander/Laws axis orange bookers is unnecessarily alienating.

    That said, what you say about us being a ‘reformist, left of centre, environmentally-focussed party’ is spot on and we need to build around those values and welcome all who can support those priorities. The ‘party of hope’ is not a bad strap line either.
  • I agree with Naomi. Unless the Lib Dems return to left-leaning values and can prove that they mean them they will never again have my vote. They had my constant support for the best part of two decades (before that the SDP had my support) but after 4 years of coalition, I found myself last year completely unable to vote for them in the Euros and cast my vote for Plaid instead. This year I looked to see if the Lib Dems offered anything, after years of their supporting the cuts that had decimated my town, but they did not. I like and admired the Lib Dem MP (now ex-MP) but there was nothing to vote for, everything to vote against. I saw Plaid’s manifesto a far more positive and relevant for Wales and voted their again. I see this as democracy, not as abandonment of the party, not least because the Lib Dem leadership clearly took people like me for granted, assumed we would vote for the party despite what it was complicit in doing to our community, and then tried to tell us that voting for anyone else “would let the Tories in”, as if they had not just spent five years voting for Tory policies!
  • If this is an opportunity, then it is to choose our issue over the next few months and campaign on it. Mine would be defending civil liberties from an undoubted Conservative attack in the guise of fighting terrorism. People value their privacy and freedoms to protest, free speech and actions within the law. Perhaps Theresa May has thrown us a life line.
  • If this is an opportunity, then it is to choose our issue over the next few months and campaign on it. Mine would be defending civil liberties from an undoubted Conservative attack in the guise of fighting terrorism. People value their privacy and freedoms to protest, free speech and actions within the law. Perhaps Theresa May has thrown us a life line.
  • Spot on analysis Naomi. The Orange bookers experiment has spectacularly failed. Now it’s time to recapture the soul of the party and rebuild.
  • @soclibforum tweeted this page. 2015-05-08 05:16:45 +0100