At the risk of annoying my fellow activists, can we please stop pointing fingers at the Labour Party over their targeting of the Lib Dems in recent years and blaming them for our performance in the General Election. It’s time we looked at ourselves.
Over the past 5 years we’ve had ample opportunity to spot that the electorate was not exactly enamoured with our performance. The loss of thousands and thousands of councilors up and down the country. The party of Europe being reduced to a solitary MEP. Deposit after deposit being lost in by elections. And now going from 57 MPs to just 8. And still I see fellow Lib Dems shouting “you SEE!!!’ at Labour for having the temerity to point out that they didn’t like us much.
It’s true that Labour’s failure to focus their ire on the Tories may well be the decisive factor in explaining their own downfall. But there does seem an inability to accept that what we’ve done in Government over the last 5 years may have been the dominating factor in bringing the latest electoral disaster to our own door.
The thinking amongst some in the party seems to be that it can’t be down to us – because look at all the brilliant things we’ve done in government; Pupil Premium, raising the income tax threshold, introducing free school meals, same sex marriage et al.
This is like the errant husband, caught inflagrante for the umpteenth time, arguing that yes, it’s not ideal, but think of all the occasions he’s mowed the lawn and taken the bins out. Laudable to be sure – but not enough to wipe out the memory of other indiscretions.
Nor can we argue that we haven’t had the chance to do something about it. We have 2 conferences a year to debate this stuff. But time and time again we’ve failed to grasp the nettle. I’m reminded of Sir Humphrey Appleby’s description of how the Foreign office deals with a crisis.
“In stage one we say nothing is going to happen. Stage two, we say something may be about to happen but we should do nothing about it. In stage three we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there’s nothing we can do. Stage four we say maybe there was something we could have done…but it’s too late now”.
Well it is too late now for 49 Parliamentary seats. But it’s not too late to start building again. But that process doesn’t start by shouting there’s a red tinged Labour bogeyman under the bed, who’s being nasty to us. Nor indeed does it involve finger pointing within the party. The last thing we need right now is factional infighting.
But it most certainly does start by taking a long hard look in the mirror.