Thursday 7th of May, a date that means very little to the majority of the population. Although, to 15 Liberal Democrats who sat on the Party’s governing body, it was the start of a lengthy process that eventually led to the publishing of a General Election review, governance review and the biggest party restructure since its formation.
The media widely reported that the general election was a disappointing evening for the Liberal Democrats, which it was. However, the real story is what was to follow. So what exactly have the Liberal Democrats been up to since May?
Gaining nine seats in by-elections since May, a membership surge of over 10,000 and polling at their highest this year, does the Liberal Democrats have their mojo back?
The recent review of the election last May published by the party’s Campaign and Communications Committee shows the could be heading in the right direction. A surprise for many will be that the deterioration of their support didn’t dissolve overnight, the report outlines they began to lose their support in 2010 and more rapidly in 2011.
Does the admission of their digression go far enough back? On paper – no. The Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg never entered an election, at any level, and came out better. However, that said, the Liberal Democrats are proving to be the most progressive party in British politics at the moment.
Since his election in July, Tim Farron has been leading the party towards a more progressive, sustainable place. Housing was a huge part of Farron’s election, but has recently being under scrutiny by members, one Tweet from a Liberal Youth member asked:
Despite being pointed, it’s certainly a fair question to ask. Why are the Lib Dems running with housing? It’s easily explained in two points;
1) The Liberal Democrats are right to pick housing as an issue – they’re playing the long game.
Post 2020, but local authorities will not be receiving a government grant, subsequently meaning the only way for councils (where the Lib Dems had succeeded most) to realistically find new housing is to force private developers to effectively give them homes. Which will ultimately result with there being a lack of social housing developments, by which the point the Lib Dems would have been saying for over five years.
2) It’s not only housing that the Lib Dems are championing…
The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront with some of the most emotive events that have faced the UK since May. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Junior Doctors, refugees, Europe, tax and universal credits and more recently the legal use of cannabis for recreational purposes.
To say the Liberal Democrats are only championing housing is naive at best and unfair at very least.
However, it’s not only in the Houses of Common that the Liberal Democrats have been making hard stances against the Conservatives.
Baroness Featherstone laid a fatal-motion in the House of Lords which killed proposals from Conservatives to pass second legislation which would hit the growing renewable energy sector hard, and if they go ahead are expected to cause thousands of job losses as well as setting back Britain’s transition to a secure and green energy infrastructure.
Alas, it’s not all positive for the Liberal Democrats. Cracks are beginning to show in their ‘fightback’ with the resignation of Federal Executive member Kavya Kaushik who resigned after a disagreement with an event by Liberal Youth London held on Valentines Day.
The Liberal Democrats face a tough few months with 30,000 of their members set to renew their membership over the next 6 months. Outlined in the above election review, the capacity for campaigning did not match the plan set and that’s why certain aspects of the Liberal Democrats general election campaign failed.
In order to continue on the upward trajectory they are currently on, it’s down to each of their members to take on responsibility they haven’t in the past. Whether that be electioneering, standing as a candidate, becoming or renewing as a member – the Liberal Democrats need their members to become active now more than ever.
After all, wouldn’t it be disappointing to receive more criticism from their members who have shouted from the sidelines about how awful the campaign is or individuals are for campaigning, despite throughout their whole time as members never campaigning themselves?
The Liberal Democrat fightback isn’t something that will continue to happen on, it’s down to each and every member to carry the momentum.