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The Lib Dems were crucified – what went wrong?

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14 May 2015
As the people of Britain remain open-mouthed after the Conservatives won the election with a 331-seat majority, I’ve been pondering the Lib Dems crushing defeat - from 57 MPs in 2010 to only 8 MPs remaining after last week’s stunning results.

As you may or may not know I am a Liberal Democrat voter – mainly for ideological reasons.

My mate who was working in London tweeted me the day before the election with a picture of the ‘Barclays Bikes’ that you hire - one blue and one red. I immediately tweeted him back asking “Where’s the yellow bike??”. The point I was trying to make with our Twitter exchange was that I hoped that the Lib Dems wouldn’t get “crucified” on Election Day. And of course they did.

All the polls got it wrong prior to the result, as did the political pundits.

Lord Paddy Ashdown, who after the publication of the election night’s shocking exit poll said he would “eat his hat” if the Tories overall majority were true, later said: “We were absolutely blindsided, just like everyone else…hence my ‘eat my hat’ comment.”
Blindsided we were, and none more so than the Lib Dems, with the exit polls showing the party with only ten seats. When all the votes were counted, the situation was even more disastrous – the actual result showed only EIGHT Lib Dem seats! Dropping to eight MPs is an enormous loss and should be analysed to understand why the electorate left the Lib Dems in their millions.  

While the defeat was fatal for Nick Clegg, who resigned as the Lib Dem leader last week, I heard a positive nugget on the radio last night - that since the Liberal’s demise last Thursday, 10,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats – long may it continue!

Was I surprised that the Lib Dems got crucified? No.  Was I surprised that the Scottish Nationalist Party in Scotland butchered the Labour Party leaving with Miliband with only one seat? No.  What I think we’re all surprised about was the extent of Cameron’s victory and his overall small majority.

The Lib Dems have undoubtedly suffered with their involvement in the Coalition and in my view were treated extremely harshly by the electorate - given the economic revival that has taken place over the last five years and the general feeling of harmony between the two parties.

However Cameron’s victory in my view was the right victory.  Labour suffered hugely from their previous administrations under Brown and Blair and their treatment of the economy. Like the Liberals, Labour could face ten years in the wilderness if the Tories manage the economy correctly and don’t let the debate over Europe internally rip themselves apart.

So what shaped the result? For a start, the British public appear to have voted conservatively (with a small “C”) across the board - giving UKIP four million votes in more rural and working class northern constituencies demonstrates this. I think a lack of confidence in Labour’s Miliband, who no one could quite connect with, and the punishment of the Lib Democrats for their involvement in the Coalition shaped the result we all woke up to on Friday morning, when we learned the Tories had won by a mile, a surprise result that "shook British politics to its core" as The Times reported.

But was 2015’s result as historic as everyone suggested it was? I’m not so sure. In my opinion, two or three party politics will continue to govern, as we’ve seen for the last 100 years. The Scots will replace the Lib Dems as the third largest party in Westminster, and Cameron’s majority will be the potential check on his mandate.

Cameron said post-victory that “he hopes to govern in the interests of the whole of the UK”. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen, but I think what can be expected is a steady stream of vitriol from the UK voters that didn’t choose to support a Conservative government, and for the Lib Dems to be thinking long and hard about what went wrong on that the fateful day of Thursday 7th May 2015, in preparation for a 2020 comeback.
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