Despite a strong showing in some held councils, Liberal Democrats are today reflecting on another bitterly disappointing set of local election results with the number of Lib Dem councillors likely to fall below 3000 for the first time ever. It is a travesty that so many excellent councillors and campaigners will no longer be able to serve the communities that they have represented with such distinction. The results emphasise that the party is struggling to set out a distinctive vision for how Liberal Democrats in government are working to bring about an economic recovery and enhance social justice. Since the formation of the Coalition the Social Liberal Forum has called for the party leadership to make it known how we differ from the Conservatives, by publicly calling for policies that will increase social justice and promote jobs. We need to make it clear that we do not agree with many Conservative policies, and are arguing against them in government, by offering fairer alternatives. Liberal Democrats need to explain much more clearly why the government is better for having us in it. The strategy of demonstrating that we are loyal has not proved effective. It is time to switch to the approach the SLF has always advocated: demonstrating that we are radical, progressive and independent. With our traditionally strong local government base being further eroded, the party has to recognise that to defend our record in power in the run up to the 2015 general election we must address voters’ concerns over the party’s direction of travel and play our role in coalition with greater clarity and distinctiveness.
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