It is no secret that the upcoming election is going to be a major test for the Liberal Democrats and that the outcome will likely see many good, hard-working MPs defeated and their staff on the dole.

For the first time in living memory the Lib Dems are heading into an election with a record which we will have to both defend and justify.

The decision back in 2010 to enter into the first coalition since the war was one that many people in the party, including myself believed was unthinkable.

Personally, I never imagined that it would be possible for the Liberal Democrats to go into Government with the Conservatives, a party I had spent the previous 32 years campaigning to keep out of Government!

My politics aren’t left or right, they are Liberal.  I grew up in the far South West following the likes of David Penhaligon, David Morrish and John Pardoe. I have always seen the Conservative Party as our natural opposition. Labour, on the other hand, have always been our natural competition whom we compete with to keep the Tories out of power.

Labour therefore should have been, and still are, our more natural coalition partners, even if such a pairing would always present as many dangers and difficulties as the current arrangement with the Tories.

Of course, there is a lot we can be proud of from our time in Coalition Government, and despite my reservations at the outset, I don’t think we should shy away from broadcasting what we directly achieved nationally, the policies we brought to the coalition and the policies we prevented the Tories from introducing.

Nor should we, or will we, be slow in propagating any gains for our constituencies.

We’ve successfully put into the statute book much that was in our manifesto and we’ve helped to oversee a reasonably stable economic recovery. However, at the same time, we will inevitably have to take the punishment voters will mete out. 

That punishment will be made worse by those who have given up on us but who remain our liberal friends. I came to the conclusion after the first year in coalition that the task of rebuilding a radical progressive Liberal Party would be that much more difficult if I gave up and took to the garden.

We simply must hold on to as many seats as we possibly can to rebuild a party from as strong a platform as the voters will give us in a few weeks time.

We are all guilty of spending too much time commenting and not enough time campaigning and it is campaigns that win us support. The campaign to rebuild our party has begun in the seats we are trying to hold and will continue into the next Parliament whatever the result.

We have a new generation of liberals to enthuse over how and why we fight to win political power with people in order to free them to control their own lives.  Community politics will be the key if we want to unlock a future for our cause.

The Western Morning News once described me as an old fashioned West-Country Liberal, yet the old-fashioned West-Country Liberal Party I joined was a modern progressive campaigning force that drew on the radicalism of Lloyd George, John Maynard Keynes and Beveridge while evangelising the theory and practice of community politics.

The evangelists of the time, such as John Tilley, Tony Greaves, Bill Le Breton, Gordon Lishman, to name a few, are still active, if greying and wearing the lines of weariness, but showing through social media and other platforms that they have the answers based on decades of political experience to help this movement start to grow again.

Help me, and other candidates trying to hold their seats this time. Put your frustration on one side for the next few days and give what you can in time, effort, stamps and money to give us a chance to grow again.  

Adrian Sanders was first elected MP for Torbay by just12 votes in 1997. He can be contacted at


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