What do the Lib Dems need to focus on next year?

by Stephen Tall on September 20, 2013

That was the 250 word essay question a group of us were set by The House magazine. Mark Pack has offered up his thoughts here. Here’s my effort…

What the Lib Dems need to focus on in the next year is clear: getting the party into a position to be able to fight in 2015, billed as a “survival election” by party president Tim Farron.

The prize on offer? The chance to ensure a decade of Lib Dem participation in coalition government. You might think that, after the scarring experience of governing as a junior partner with the Conservatives, Lib Dems would run a mile from this prospect. Yet when LibDemVoice polled 600 members in July about post-2015 scenarios, almost three-quarters (73%) wanted to see us continuing to play an active role in government: 53% within coalition, 20% through a ‘supply and confidence’ arrangement. Just 13% wanted to quit for the safe harbour of opposition.

Winning this prize depends on winning enough seats. The party is famed for its targeting strategy, demonstrated again in February when Mike Thornton held Eastleigh in the by-election triggered by Chris Huhne’s downfall. Everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown at that campaign: can the party pull the same trick in 2015 in less safe seats and across the country? I don’t know, but we’re going to have to.

For the prize to be worth winning depends on us delivering in government. We need fully worked through policies which give our manifesto credibility and enthuse party activists. That’s what the 2013 Glagow conference is for. But then we also need to work up the bite-size policies achievable within the compromise of coalition that nevertheless move us in a liberal direction. That’s the much harder bit and the work needs to start now.