Friday was not an easy day for the Liberal Democrats. This was not a surprise. I doubt many of us expected any good news at all. There was, though. We gained five Council seats and held on to three – and some of them were even up north where we’re told by Labour and SNP types on social media, nobody will ever vote for us again.
Electing police commissioners was one of these ideas the Tories brought to the Coalition and for a time, the English Liberal Democrats, astoundingly, weren’t going to stand any candidates. It’s a shame we didn’t have a candidate in every seat, but I can understand why paying the £5000 deposit when there wasn’t even the opportunity of a freepost to put your case over each vast area might have been off-putting.
Nick Clegg has sent out another of his Letters from the Leader this week which in the main was very good. I’ll cover that in a separate post. However, I think he needs to work on his wording when he talks about election results. His team doesn’t seem to have learned anything since the poor effort in May. All we got was a brief paragraph at the top:
In a week when we saw a set of disappointing elections – with hard working Liberal Democrats not getting the results they deserved and turnout slumping to a new low – it’s worth remembering what we’re achieving in Government.
And that’s it.
No “thank you” to all our candidates and campaign teams. No recognition of their efforts in the cold November wind and rain. No “this is mid term – it will get better”. No “what you’ve been done is worthwhile.” No “when I did my phone banking, I could tell that people are ready to listen to us again.” Now, I know perfectly well that Nick is grateful to people. The emails that go out in his name, which I’m not convinced he ever sees, need to reflect that. I can’t hear the Nick Clegg I know speaking to me from that paragraph.
Compare and contrast with Tim Farron’s missive on Friday. A big tick, by the way, to the people who didn’t send it to me because I live in Scotland so it didn’t apply. I had to get it from that fount of all knowledge, Lib Dem Voice. Not that I’m biased about that, of course.
Tim nailed it. And I can hear him say every word of this.
I wanted to put on record the party’s thanks to our candidates in yesterday’s PCC elections, by-elections and Bristol mayoral election.
We had many excellent candidates and teams who worked very hard to fly the flag for our party. I thank them all and I’m sure you would like to do the same.
It was a tough day, and whilst we may not have gained anything the hard work we’ve put in lays the foundations for the challenge ahead.
However I would like to add special congratulations to the teams who helped us hold three local council seats and gain five more yesterday.
I knew when I became a Liberal Democrat I wasn’t picking the easy route in politics. I joined because I believe in liberal values like fairness and justice. I joined because no other party was going to fight for those values.
It’s on tough days like this, I think it’s good to remind ourselves that none of this has changed.
Being in Government has clearly meant that we can get hit by protest votes, but it also means we can deliver meaningful change.
I’m proud of what we’re doing on cutting tax for average workers, creating work opportunities for young people and getting more money into schools that need it the most.
None of that would be happening if we were not in Government.
We need to learn the lessons from painful days like today. We also need to learn how we update and improve our campaigning (there may be some pointers from President Obama’s re-election on that).
That’s the mission ahead for us. The challenge I’m setting today is that in next May’s English local elections, we have something to celebrate again.
Over the years I’ve seen some amazing campaigns fought in this party. I’ll back Liberal Democrat candidates and campaigners in a fight with anyone! We’re the only party with liberal solutions to the problems facing our country.
There are brighter days ahead if we stay strong and fight hard.
Best wishes,Tim Farron MPPresident of the Liberal Democrats
PS Please do take a moment over the weekend to send your wishes to our colleagues who worked so hard on yesterday’s elections. It will make a real difference. And remember, next week the fightback begins.
It was full of empathy, an assurance that the hard work folk had put in was not in vain, and ended with a challenge to get going and work for the elections next May.
Nick couldn’t have got all that in, but he could have elaborated a bit and at the very least said thank you. He could have included the Council by-elections, too.
A bit of empathy, gratitude and recognition of people’s efforts with a bit of “I’d be interested to know what you did on the ground and what worked and what didn’t” would not go amiss. I hope that we don’t have to have many more of this kind of email, but if we do, in the future, Nick’s team really need to learn from Tim.