Monday, 30 September 2019

Stepping Back from Party Political Activism

Two weeks ago, on a train journey back from Bournemouth, I spoke with a fellow Liberal Democrat PhD student. He is a student in Vienna and was considering stepping back from party politics. It is safe to say that both PhDs and party politics take up considerable time.

Last year, I had hoped informally to step back from party politics when I started my PhD. Over the previous 12 months, I have not been successful at this. Amongst other things, I attended several conferences, stood as a paper candidate in the local elections and helped to edit two Lib Dem related books (including writing a chapter in one of them).

This week, I am starting my second year as a Politics PhD student at Lancaster University. So far everything is going well, I successfully passed my first-year panel and was upgraded at the first attempt, a few months ago. My workload is likely to increase this year especially as I am starting teaching first year Undergraduate Politics seminar classes, which is an exciting opportunity to somebody who aims for a career in academic teaching.

This naturally means there will be extreme limitations on my time. Earlier this month I stepped back from my position on the Social Liberal Forum Executive, as their Vice-Chair North, the Chair of their Editing and Publishing Board and the Social Media Manager. However, I have now decided that I will stand down from the Social Liberal Forum Council next Summer when the Council is once again up for election.

In addition, I will be stepping back from using Twitter. My days as a “keyboard warrior” are gradually coming to an end. Twitter currently tends to reflect the echo chamber of our contemporary political crisis. This in turn reinforces tribal party positions and facilitates aggressive partisan trolling. Such an environment is not healthy for my personal anxiety levels, especially as someone who has a pluralistic approach to politics. So, I will be limiting my presence on Twitter to my new Twitter account devoted to my academic work, teaching and research.

However, I have also now decided that it is right for me to take a step back from most aspects of Liberal Democrat party politics. This is especially the case given the likelihood of a general election in the next couple of months. In the previous two general elections I was the election agent for the Liberal Democrats in Blackpool South; however, my participation will be limited at best to an odd afternoon of leaflet delivering for the party at the next election.

I am not leaving the party, of course, but my involvement in party related activities will be very limited for the next 2-3 years while I complete my PhD. It is also likely that my attendance at party conferences will be limited over the next couple of years. I wish the best of luck to all those who remain active in the Liberal Democrats during this time, I am extremely hopeful that several of you will be elected MPs in the near future. You will undoubtedly serve your constituents, your party and your country exceptionally well.

The party currently has the ideal policy in relation to Brexit; Revoking Article 50 following the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government, or in the event of a hung parliament, negotiating for a People’s Vote referendum where the party would campaign to Remain in the EU. I would encourage the party to make the social justice case for the EU not forgetting the vital protections for workers and the poorest regions of the Union, as well as arguing that the EU is the most successful peace process in world history. 

The party must be a vehicle for social liberalism and social democracy and I hope the party’s ambitious new welfare policies are not side-lined during the upcoming general election campaign. Social justice needs to be at the forefront of any future Liberal Democrat campaign, alongside our commitment to “Stop Brexit”. I encourage the party to reconnect with its radical political heritage, build on the big ideas of the past and develop new and imaginative narratives for the present.

As a lifelong social liberal, social justice and its capacity to advance individual freedom has been consistently my driving passion in politics and will continue to be so. It was after all the ideals of that great social liberal, Charles Kennedy which originally drew me into the Liberal Democrats in the first place. I would plea with the party to reach out more to working class communities and to recognise that the Remain cause is not just limited to middle class areas. In my native Blackpool for example, despite the high Leave vote in the EU Referendum, almost 22,000 people voted Remain. It is votes like these which could prove pivotal in any future People’s Vote referendum.

I hope my close Liberal Democrat friends will forgive me if I appear a little distant over the next couple of years. I will of course remain easily contactable on E-mail, Facebook and Twitter. I may be taking a break from party political activism, but my involvement in the study of politics as a social science is only going to increase. This is an exciting moment in the history of the Liberal Democrats. I will continue to be with you in spirit and wish you all the luck, good fortune and success over the next 2-3 years.

Monday, 25 June 2018

The Three Possible Outcomes of Brexit

At the weekend I joined over 100,000 other people marching for a ‘People's Vote’ in London. This marked the second anniversary of when Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union. Negotiations to formally leave the EU have been ongoing for the last 15 months. As things currently stand, Britain will Brexit on 29 March 2019.

Forget soft or hard Brexit, neither seems likely to happen. There is hardly any sign that Britain is heading towards a soft Brexit, where Britain remains inside the Single Market and the Customs Union after Brexit. The House of Commons recently rejected the opportunity to stay within the European Economic Area (EEA). The Conservative Government appears reluctant to commit to any kind of customs union, especially since the Labour opposition now support ‘a customs union’. The linchpin of any soft Brexit is membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, there is no sign that either the government nor the opposition is considering EFTA membership, let alone actively putting together a formal application to re-join EFTA.

As for a hard Brexit, the EU is unlikely to grant a Brexit deal that allows for all of the current benefits with none of the costs. Tory Brexit fantasists who dream of a ‘Global Britain’ are living in a previous century. With the rise of right wing populists in central Europe from Italy to Austria and potentially even Germany; there is even less chance of Brussels conceding to the wishes of hard Brexiters. Added to this, the lucrative trade deals that were promised by hard Brexiters seem currently next to non-existent. Hard Brexit was always a delusional fantasy and as reality begins to dawn this is especially the case.

There are only three possible outcomes to the Brexit negotiations; No Brexit, Free Fall Brexit and Zombie Brexit.

No Brexit

A No Brexit scenario is where Britain doesn't leave the EU after all. It may be the case that after two years of negotiations, given the looming impact on the economy and businesses quitting the UK, that government ministers pull the plug on Brexit. It may also prove to be the case that due to a mixture of government incompetence and unrealistic expectations that the Brexit negotiations fall flat. Should the issue of the Northern Ireland border prove to be insurmountable, then the government could choose to abandon Brexit as the best way of maintaining peace on the island of Ireland.

There would be an obvious political cost to a government that has devoted itself to the project of Brexit. Right wing newspapers would be merciless in their attacks on the government. The Prime Minister may be forced to resign and the Conservative Party itself could fracture. The potential political chaos of a No Brexit scenario would be minuscule compared to the potential economic and diplomatic chaos caused by the next possible Brexit outcome.

Free Fall Brexit
Unlike with the No Brexit scenario, where Britain steps back from the cliff edge; this event is where we collectively jump off the cliff. This is when negotiations fall flat and come to nothing and we choose to Brexit regardless. No transition deal, no economic safety net, no protection for citizens' rights, no open border on the island of Ireland, no trade deal and no preparation for the loss of EU rules and regulations. In other words, Britain goes into free fall.

This could potentially be the biggest political crisis in modern British political history. The worst-case scenario would be like the Suez Crisis and the 2008 Financial Crisis rolled into one. This would leave lasting (and possibly permanent) damage to our economy, our living standards and our diplomatic relations around the world.

There is another potential fear attached to a Free Fall Brexit and that is the rise of political extremism. Far from undermining the hard right, a Free Fall Brexit could embolden them yet further. Take for example the rise of hate crimes that followed the Brexit vote in 2016. An uglier, more hateful and nationalistic form of politics could emerge if we collectively jump off a cliff edge.

Zombie Brexit
The final possible outcome of Brexit is a Zombie Brexit. This is where Britain is kept in a perpetual limbo state many years after officially leaving the European Union. This is the fudge of a never-ending Brexit transition deal; where Britain is neither officially inside nor outside the Customs Union and the Single Market. Britain would be unable to strike trade deals with other countries and membership of EFTA would be impossible. Britain would be utterly powerless, both politically and economically; nothing more than a voiceless piece of flotsam and jetsam on the periphery of a European economic superpower.

The effect on the country would be a state of semi-permanent political and economic paralysis. Uncertainty for business would be rife and as a result Britain would be over-exposed to any future economic crisis. This Brexit of the living dead would achieve one unexpected outcome, which is managing to enrage A.C. Grayling, Anna Soubry and Jacob Rees-Mogg in equal measure. This zombie-like fudge of a Brexit would satisfy neither Remainers, nor soft Brexiters, nor hard Brexiters.

A People’s Vote: Our Last Hope?
As the Brexit deadline looms ever nearer, one of these outcomes seems extremely likely. None come without consequences, however the No Brexit scenario is by far the least damaging. There may however be one way for the government to limit the potential risks and that is to hold a ‘People's Vote’ in early 2019. Ironically this could offer the Tory government the only meaningful way of saving face when confronted with the potential calamity of Brexit. Should the Tories refuse to give the people the final say, then their electoral prospects look dire regardless of which outcome comes to pass. However, this is nothing compared to the lasting damage of a Zombie or Free Fall Brexit. By accident or design Brexit must be stopped. Britain's place in the 21st century depends upon it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Bombing Syria is a Mistake

Today, Parliament will likely vote to start British air strikes in Syria. This is a mistake. Britain should not get entangled in yet another Middle East war without a long term plan.

No-one knows how to actually defeat ISIS or end the Syrian Civil War. Do we have a timetable for a long term plan or for starting peace negotiations? No. Do we have an exit strategy? No. This war will take years, perhaps even decades to resolve.

Bombing alone will not defeat ISIS, we need strong ground forces. Is there anything that British bombs will achieve that American, Russian or French bombs can't achieve? No.

The Syrian Civil War is five-sided conflict between the Assad Government, the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian Kurds, ISIS and smaller Islamist groups. Currently America, Russia, France, Australia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Qatar and Bahrain are all involved in Syria. In short, Syria’s complex.

Are ISIS just in Syria and Iraq? No. ISIS are also in Libya and Nigeria, with affiliates in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are we going to bomb all these countries? Probably not.

I’m not a pacifist, I want to stop ISIS. But bombing will not achieve this, primarily because western air strikes have been going on for months in Syria with very little results. Instead of bombing we should use our resources to arm and train the Kurds.

The Syrian Kurdish ideology “Democratic Confederalism” mixes libertarian local democracy with secularism and feminism. The Kurds are well-organised and they have been effective in combating ISIS in Northern Syria. Unfortunately, many groups like the Assad Government and several Islamist groups are almost as bad as ISIS. Also it’s unclear how many of the Free Syrian Army are still “moderates”.

I encourage all MPs to vote against British air strikes in Syria (especially Liberal Democrat MPs). Instead, we should arm, train and equip the Syrian Kurds. We also must start to negotiate a long term peace plan for Syria, post-ISIS. Britain must not bomb Syria, it would be a mistake on a par with Suez or Iraq in 2003. Wars are very easy to get into, they are much more difficult to get out of.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Why I oppose British air strikes in Syria

Westminster is gearing up for war in Syria. Following the horrific Paris Attacks, a couple of weeks ago, the war against the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) has intensified. IS are a fascist death cult using one of the world’s great religions to try and justify its crimes. The need to challenge IS is fundamental, however I am opposed to the United Kingdom joining air strikes in Syria.

It is clear that David Cameron wants Britain to join other Western Powers in bombing the so-called “Islamic State”. However, air strikes are an ineffective military strategy. Air strikes have been going on in Syria for several months with only a minimal impact. Air strikes might be able to destroy some IS ground targets, but ultimately IS will have to be defeated on the ground. A military force will have to march into IS’ territory and take it from them. Of course, there are already ground forces in Syria; the Kurds, the Syrian Government and the Free Syrian Army.

Air strikes in Syria won’t defeat IS, primarily because IS are not just in Syria and Iraq. IS also has a presence in Libya and Nigeria as well as having affiliates in Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Are we going to start bombing in all these countries too? We must stop thinking in national terms. IS marry a medieval ideology with a modern globalist perspective. The impact of IS is felt across the Middle East, as well as many parts of Central Asia and North Africa.

Bombing in Syria will not make Britain safer, especially if there is no long term plan to reconstruct Syria, once the Civil War has ended. When Britain illegally invaded Iraq in 2003 and intervened in Libya in 2011, we did not have a long term plan. Following the conclusion of Western military interventions in Iraq and Libya, both countries descended into anarchy.

If Britain should not bomb in Syria, then how should we deal with the Syrian Civil War and the so-called Islamic State?

Britain should help those ground forces that are effective against IS; such as the Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq. The Kurds desperately need help from the international community. They need the equipment, the training and the arms necessary to roll back IS. The Kurds are secular, well-organised and have a relatively positive view of human rights and women’s rights. Instead of bombing IS in Syria, we should us our resources to ensure that the Kurds are properly equipped and properly trained to combat IS on the ground.

Britain and the international community must facilitate peace talks and negotiations in Syria. They must include the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Kurds. The West and Russia must get Assad to stand down. In-order to end the Syrian Civil War, the international community might have to be prepared to see the partition of Syria between the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds. A similar crisis to that which emerged following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s is a real possibility. The UN therefore would have to deploy peacekeepers and establish new borders for the partitioned Syria. Furthermore the UN and the International Community would have to draw up a long term plan for Syria, once peace is achieved.

In-order to defeat IS, we will have to challenge its Salafist Islamic Fundamentalist ideology. However the antidote to Islamic Fundamentalism is not Western Liberalism. The antidote to Islamic Fundamentalism is Islamic Liberalism. The West cannot impose Liberalism. We must support liberal voices within Islam and the Islamic World through our foreign policy. For example, we should stop selling arms to oppressive regimes in the Islamic World, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also a central exporter of Salafist ideology. In Britain, the media should change its negative depiction of Islam by giving a greater platform to liberal and mainstream Muslim voices.

Britain should not start air strikes in Syria; they are symbolic at best, and ineffective at worst. We should avoid a knee-jerk reaction to recent terrorist attacks. The Syrian Civil War is a five-sided conflict between Assad, the Free Syrian Army, the Kurds, the Islamic State and smaller Islamist groups. Syria is deeply complex. Wars are easy to get involved in; they are much more difficult to get out of.

Three things that Britain should do instead of bombing Syria:
1. Arm, equip and train the Kurds in Syria and Iraq.
2. Start diplomatic negotiations between the Syrian Government, the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Kurds.
3. Support and promote liberal voices within Islam and the Islamic World.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Labour’s Great Ideological Showdown

This summer I’ve become gripped by a new TV drama. A TV drama being played out in front of the nation’s media with episodes of this drama shown on almost every edition of the nightly news. But sadly unlike most TV dramas this isn’t a work of fiction, it’s the Labour Leadership Contest.

The Labour Leadership Contest has turning into a massive duel between the two great traditions of Labour politics. On the one side you have the New Labour establishment represented by Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. On the other side you have the Old Labour socialist insurgent, Jeremy Corbyn. These are two great titans fighting to the death for the ideological soul of the Labour Party.

What makes this political duel so interesting is that according to the latest opinion polls Jeremy Corbyn is in the lead by some margin and very well could be Labour’s next leader. Corbyn who was initially seen as a distant outsider, has to horror of Blairites, become the favourite to win the contest. Tony Blair even labelled those MPs who nominated Corbyn as “morons”. To put a Corbyn win into some context, Labour hasn’t been led by an overtly socialist leader since Neil Kinnock in 1992. Furthermore, Labour has not been led by someone outside the party’s establishment since at least before the Second World War. Even Michael Foot served as a cabinet minister before becoming Labour’s leader.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I cannot even begin to contrast the huge differences between the Labour Leadership Election and the Lib Dem Leadership Election. The Lib Dem Leadership Contest was a mostly private affair conducted at regional hustings and through social media and the internet. The short two month contest resulted in a clear victory for Tim Farron, with Norman Lamb transitioning seamlessly from leadership rival to frontbench Health Spokesperson. Tim Farron has already begun to make his mark by leading Lib Dem MPs to oppose Osborne’s latest welfare cuts. While a divided and indecisive Labour Party chose to abstain in the welfare cuts vote.

Labour quite clearly faces a big battle for the party’s soul, maybe even for the party’s very existence in the long term. But how on Earth did Labour go from promoting its own version of Thatcherism to being on the verge of electing a genuinely socialist leader? Despite New Labour’s three successive election victories, it failed to take many traditional Labour supporters with it. Tony Blair’s gamble was that Labour supporters would remain loyal to the party, despite New Labour’s embrace of the Thatcherite free market. This gamble would only work if there wasn’t a credible progressive alternative to Labour. However recently a progressive alternative emerged in Scotland in the form of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP went on this year to annihilate Labour in Scotland.

New Labour didn’t just alienate people in Scotland but many progressive voters across England and Wales as well. Blair hollowed out the Labour Party leaving behind an ideological void, which Burnham, Cooper and Kendall have struggled to fill. However despite its lack of principles New Labour did achieve three successive election victories, the first and only time Labour has achieved this.

Here’s Labour’s problem, New Labour is as much an outdated project as socialism. New Labour supporters lack a distinctive message in an age of economic insecurities. Burnham, Cooper and Kendall are three career driven, media managed politicians made in the model of New Labour. Corbyn is anything but.  Does Corbyn look like a potential Prime Minister? No, but it seems difficult to see how any of the candidates have the skills, charisma and imagination needed to get Labour back into power.

This Labour Leadership Contest will define the party for a generation. Will the New Labour modernisers triumph or shall socialism be resurrected from the grave? In the aftermath of the vote, there is a great potential for rifts, fractures and SDP-style breakaways. Do I judge those Labour supporters (including a couple of my friends) who back Corbyn? No, I can hardly blame them for supporting a radical candidate in line with their values, when the only alternatives are so bland and unimaginative. 

From what I have seen of Labour’s Leadership Contest, it is clear that Yvette Cooper has the best leadership ability and that Jeremy Corbyn has the strongest values and principles. Regardless of who wins Labour’s great ideological showdown it is clear that the contest will finally determine which direction Labour takes. On the chance that Corbyn does go on to win, then the 2020 General Election will be the most democratically distinctive election since 1987. A genuine socialist party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a genuine liberal party led by Tim Farron and a genuine conservative party led (most likely) by George Osborne would be a fascinating prospect.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Values, Vision and Liberalism: It’s Time for Tim

Following on from a very difficult general election result, the leadership election is on to see who will take the Lib Dems through this tough time. Despite only having eight Members of Parliament, the Liberal Democrats have fielded two fantastic leadership candidates, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both of these candidates are miles ahead of anything on offer in the Labour leadership election.

During our party's time in Coalition with the Conservatives we were undoubtedly a moderating influence on the Tory right. From raising the tax threshold, to the pupil premium, to restoring our civil liberties, to ensuring same-sex marriage, to defending workers rights, the Lib Dems achieved many progressive policies. However it is clear that during our time in Coalition we lost trust and we lost identity.

The party might only have a handful of MPs but it's vital that we choose a leader who is able to inspire Liberal Democrat supporters and regain the trust of those millions of voters that we have lost. The party needs a radical vision and a reassertion of our progressive liberal values. Beyond everything else we need a leader who is going to challenge the status quo of British politics and challenge the inequalities of British society and Britain's political system. I believe Tim Farron is the man to achieve this and to revive the cause of British liberalism.

Tim Farron has grasped a fundamental truth of modern politics, which is that in order to enact change you need to create a movement. A movement from the grassroots to the green benches of the House of Commons. A liberal movement committed to liberty, equality and community. A movement that understands that people need to be free from an overbearing state but also free from poverty and social inequality. Tim Farron has correctly identified the need for a house building revolution in Britain. Such a mission should be at the heart of any liberal movement along with tackling climate change and protecting Britain's human rights, civil liberties and EU membership.

For the last two decades millions of people across the country have become disillusioned and alienated from mainstream politics. This has resulted in the rise of nationalism in both Scotland and England. Those most alienated by British politics have been the most vulnerable members of society. I for one hope that Tim Farron can give a voice to those who have often been left voiceless. A hundred years ago, the Liberal Party was at the heart of a campaign to achieve social reform and to tackle the extreme poverty of the industrial age. Today the Lib Dems need to rediscover the spirit of the new liberals and restore a sense of community and compassion to British politics. The Lib Dems must champion hope over fear.

For any party or movement to succeed it needs a strong campaigning spirit. The community politics of the 1970s proved that even a small party with a few MPs can make a big difference. Tim Farron is a committed and experienced campaigner. He understands the importance of community politics and grassroots campaigning. I've seen first-hand what a committed campaigner Tim is in Westmorland and Lonsdale. He's taken what was a Tory safe seat less than two decades ago and transformed it into the safest Lib Dem seat in the country.

Britain needs radical liberal activism. It needs a liberal movement committed to liberty, social justice, the environment, house building and the EU. It needs the Lib Dems to spearhead this movement in Parliament and at the grassroots. The Lib Dems need a committed experienced campaigner leading the party. We need someone who can restore trust in the Liberal Democrats. We need someone with values, vision and with liberalism in their heart. It’s time for Tim Farron!!!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Where the Lib Dems Went Wrong

For the Liberal Democrats the general election was the worst in terms of seats won since 1970. No one expected the Lib Dems to be reduced to just eight seats. This article will examine where the Lib Dems went wrong and what could account for such a dreadful result.

Losing Trust
The Liberal Democrats were right to go into Coalition, but we made a few massive mistakes none bigger than the decision over tuition fees. For much of the last few decades the Lib Dems prided themselves on trust. In the 2010 general election hundreds of thousands of young voters voted for the party over its policy to abolish tuition fees. Famously, Nick Clegg and a few other Lib Dem MPs broke their pledges not to increase tuition fees (although 21 Lib Dem MPs kept their pledges). This action to increase tuition fees was seen in the eyes of many young voters as a betrayal. Despite the repeated attempts by Nick Clegg and other Lib Dem ministers to explain the new tuition fees policy, their message was simply ineffective given the loss of trust. More than any other issue tuition fees destroyed the Lib Dem reputation for trust from which the party never recovered during its time in Coalition.

Coalition Conformity and the loss of Identity
The Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition was the first coalition since 1945. Therefore the leadership of the Lib Dems felt an added burden on proving that coalitions could result in stable governments. While no one would doubt that the Coalition was stable, the sense of Coalition conformity that resulted from the commitment to the Coalition ended up in a loss of identity for the party. The Lib Dem identity became almost unrecognisable with both Tory and Lib Dem ministers in every major department. The party also completely failed to successfully differentiate itself from its coalition partners. Although we undoubtedly made the Coalition fairer than it otherwise would have been; ultimately the net result of our efforts was to detoxify the Tory party and toxify our own party.

Demolition of the Local Government base
In electoral terms there was clear evidence that the party strategy was not yielding any reward. From 2011 until 2015 the party lost thousands of councillors. For a party that depends on having a strong local government base in order to win at a parliamentary level, this was a major blow to our ambitions at the general election. Added to this the party suffered massive setbacks in Scotland, Wales, London and in the European Elections. Although our local government base held up relatively well in some part of southern England, in northern England and Scotland it was annihilated. We should have realised much earlier on in 2011 or 2012 that the loss of our local government base was a harbinger of disaster in the general election.

Valueless Centrism
The leadership ditched the party's historic centre-left stance in favour of a committed centrism. Their aim was to try and revive the mythical equidistance of the past. At a time when the party leadership needed to renew its distinctive centre-left values it abandoned them. The strategy of equidistance and centrism was always doomed to fail. How can you be truly equidistance when you're in coalition with a centre-right party and refuse to defend your historic centre-left values? The party has never been truly equidistant, even in the Ashdown years the party was closer to the Labour, shown through the speculation of a Labour-Lib Dem coalition in 1992 and the Blair-Ashdown talks of the mid-1990s. Centrist equidistance was a failed strategy instead we should have outlined a much more distinctive left of centre liberal platform to engage our lost voters and to enable us to much more effectively differentiate us from the Tories.

Defending the Status Quo
People don’t vote for coalitions. I hate to say it but it's true. People vote for political parties. To frame an entire election campaign around forming a future coalition alienated voters from the radicalism of the Lib Dems. The party became the only true defender of the Coalition status quo. Instead of giving people reasons to vote for a future Lib Dem government we were giving voters early compromises on a potential future coalition. No party can both claim to be radical and defend the status quo. This was at a time when other parties were challenging the status quo; the Lib Dems became in the eyes of the public the most uninteresting of the parties. The party's leadership lost touch with its core radicalism and instead became the party of "stability, unity and decency.” The Lib Dems should know more than any other party that there are few votes in defending the status quo especially when you are a third or fourth party.

Learning the Lessons
The party has an uphill battle to regain the trust of the public, especially amongst young people. We should ensure that any future signed party pledges are amongst our election priorities. We failed to do this with tuition fees in 2010 and we paid the price.

In any future coalitions instead of trying to cover all departments we should have ministers in the leading departments and have a department entirely for our ministers to demonstrate Lib Dem policies in action. A good example of such a department would be the Department for Education.

The future leadership of the party should realise that if the current strategy is resulting in massive electoral losses that the party should change it promptly. Equidistant centrism has been a disaster for our party; the party will have to return to its centre-left roots if it is to recover its lost support.

Liberals should never defend the status quo, they should always seek to change it. Losing touch with our core radicalism was the final nail in the coffin of the party's electoral ambitions. The party must learn from its lessons so that in the future the great cause of liberalism can rise again.