by Stephen Tall on June 6, 2014
I got a call from the BBC’s Daily Politics this morning asking if I’d be willing to pitch up this lunchtime to discuss the Lib Dem performance, as the party wasn’t willing to put up anyone official. (Labour didn’t either.) I duly did so and you can see what I said below. If you want to skip Grant Shapps and Roger Helmer, I pop up briefly at the 12 minute mark. As ever, you only really get to string together a couple of sentences: I blogged my fuller views on Newark this morning here.
For those who asked afterwards: I haven’t changed my mind since last week, I still think Nick Clegg – for the good of the party – should stand down. That’s rough justice. I like and respect Nick a lot. He has shown grit and resilience for the past four years few of us can imagine. In a fair world, he would get deserved kudos for what he’s achieved as Deputy Prime Minister.
But we don’t live in a fair world. Though the Newark by-election in itself isn’t that significant, what it points to is: at the next election as it stands the Lib Dem vote will collapse in most areas bar our bastions. At the last election the party finished in first or second place in almost 300 seats across the UK. That figure is likely to be in double digits in 11 months’ time.
I don’t think a new leader is a magic wand. I’m not at all sure it will much improve our poll ratings (certainly not if it’s the result of a bloody coup). Bluntly it’s a last roll of the dice – but one which might, just might, be enough to rally activists and restore enough momentum before May 2015 to save a handful of extra seats and shore up the Lib Dem vote. As importantly, it will mean the party has in place a leader who can negotiate with authority and credibility in the event of a hung parliament.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.