What a bitter, bitter night for the Liberal Democrats, for the Union and for our future as a member of the European Union. And though it is easy for us to blame 5 years of unrelenting misplaced mud-slinging from Labour and the left, I think it is important that those of us who believe in liberal values take stock of what has happened more carefully.
After the defeat of Labour at the 2010 election they immediately moved into questioning the legitimacy of coalitions and into navel-gazing as they fought the leadership contest that gave them Ed Miliband. They did not engage in a period of proper reflection on the causes of defeat and moved straight back into an oppositional “OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE EVIL TORIES AND FIB DEMS” mode which they hoped would easily see them through the next election.
This sort of brazen disregard for understanding why the electorate didn’t re-elect the Brown Government in 2010 has led the Labour party to an even greater defeat this time. We must learn from their mistakes, the main learning of which is… learn from our mistakes!!!
Bitter recriminations or, worse, a warming up of the ongoing cold war between “social liberals” and “Orange bookers” will not be useful in terms of coming to terms with what has happened and why. We must stand together, determined but humble and ask "Why?"
And it is a little unseemly to engage in any sort of recriminations when so many amazing MPs and their teams have just lost their jobs. Lynne Featherstone, a wonderful MP by all accounts, who spearheaded same-sex marriage and made a real liberal mark on the Coalition. Charles Kennedy who is not only one of the nicest guys about but a fantastic MP and my first leader. Danny Alexander and David Laws were instrumental in making the Lib Dems work within the Coalition. All have fallen to the electorates will. We must respect that will but we can still feel a little sad.
And Nick Clegg. Oh Nick Clegg. A man whose mere mention divides the party in half and who is the subject of a great deal of derision from the general public. I didn't vote for Nick Clegg for leader. If you think that's my way of distancing myself from his actions, you'd be very wrong. He won me over. His intelligence, his personality and his ability to convince are certainly something to behold. Yes, his actions may ultimate be seen to be the cause of our downfall BUT you'll never convince me he didn't join the Coalition and throw himself into making it work for anything other than the most decent and respectable reasons. He tried. He succeeded in many things. And ultimately when the judgement of the public was made clear at the ballot box, he conceded. I shall always hold him in the highest regard and thank him for giving our party and our country stability in a trying time.
We should mourn the loss of some great MPs and one great leader. And then we should pragmatically and scientifically breakdown what went wrong and what we need to do to make things better.... Onwards, always.