'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Friday, 4 March 2011

I promised myself I wouldn't do this....

When I got up this morning the first thing I saw was the Barnsley by election result. ‘Deep breath, Richard’ I told myself. ‘No knee jerk reactions’.

Then I got a whole series of tweets which all, in one way shape or form, tried to tell me that ‘ it wasn’t as bad as it first looked’ or ‘don’t worry, we’ve been here before’. And that sort of laissez-faire approach does rather trouble me…

So I thought, sod it.

Ten things I think about that result last night.

1. It was a terrible result and we would do ourselves a huge disservice by pretending otherwise. Tim Farron has it right (as so often at the moment ) when he said (straight after the result was announced) ‘At this time of the evening, there's nothing more laughable than a politician who's got a kicking pretending it's all right’

2. It might have happened before (usual sensible piece by Olly Grender on this) but we shouldn’t pretend that this was all to do with no on the ground support – we’d grown our share and come second here in the last general election, with presumably similar resource issues to cope with.

3. Therefore, this has rather more to do with our perception at a national level, rather than a failure of on the ground support to get the vote out.

4. When we have a chance of winning, we might attract Tory support (Oldham); but when there’s no chance of us winning, forget it. We’re on our own.

5. In % terms at least, all our support looks like it basically went to Labour. The Tories lost ground, but their vote mainly went to the right (UKIP, BNP). Labour has spent a lot of time targeting Lib Dem Voters and workers. It’s working.

6. We got hit harder by voters than the Tories. That’s because everyone has lower expectations of how they will behave in government compared to us. When we went back on our pledge on Tuition fees, having run campaigns saying ‘no more broken promises’ we had further to fall and the bump hurts that much more.

7. If we are going to get people to listen to us, we’re going to have to win back a lot of trust that we’ve lost.

8. And because people believed we were different, it’s harder to win the trust back.

9. Does people’s willingness to vote for, ahem, ‘smaller’ parties, herald a new attitude to voting, inspired by the prospect of AV? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, there’s a referendum to win yet – but under AV will the Tories lose significant share to UKIP and others? How will this affect our electoral arithmetic on a constituency by constituency basis?

10. If the next by election is Leicester South, as seems likely – the arithmetic looks very similar to Barnsley central; Labour MP, big majority, but Lib Dems second last time, a seat we won in a fairly recent by election…. We need to start thinking now about how to stop this happening again (come on Lib Dems in Leicester, tell me I’m wrong if I am…).

I’d welcome any opposing views to any of this…


As ever, Caron's musings have a perhaps slightly less jaundiced and rounded view of things...

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