Some Tories have turned their thoughts to the next election and are putting ideas on paper to open a discussion about how David Cameron can win a majority government. Of course it would be a brave man to predict events of the next few years, but this seemed to be a good idea so these are my own thoughts from the Lib Dem point of view.
Many in the party are dreading the next election. Our poll ratings are in single figures, we will be losing many councillors over the next few years, and we will be hit by boundary changes. The media are hoping for our MPs to be reduced to at least the six the Liberals had in 1970. But I think there are some reasons for optimism.
So let’s assume the coalition lasts its full term and we prepare to do battle on Thursday 7 May 2015. I think there are two main points to make.
Firstly, for the first time since the 1920s, we will have a record of government to defend. We need to produce a list of achievements and how much of our manifesto has been successfully implemented (which will be about 75%). Examples will include taking the lower incomes out of tax, the pupil premium, the green investment bank, linking pensions to earnings – and so on. You know the list.
We must hammer at this list again and again. This is what we have achieved. It would not have happened without us. (For example, at the time of writing, many Tories seem more interested in reducing the tax of the higher paid rather than the lower). Hopefully by 2015 the economy will have recovered and we will have returned to growth and job creation and take the credit for that.
Secondly, our 2015 manifesto assumes greater importance. Never again can anyone say that Lib Dems can promise the earth because they will never be a position to put it to the test.
Of course we aim for sole government, but it is possible that after the election we may be in coalition or some sort of agreement with either of the big two. We can put across the message that the more votes we get, the more policies we will be able to implement.
Thus in our next manifesto we need some new and exciting ideas to build on to capture the public's imagination. Further development of the economy, improvement to the public services, and continued job creation will be the main topics – and we mustn’t forget our old friend, political reform and moves towards a fairer voting system.
What we have done – and what we will do. These should be the two pillars of our campaign.
And what of our leader? No-one can have had such a spectacular rise and fall as our Nick Clegg has over 2010. But as deputy Prime Minister for five years he will have grown in stature, if not in popularity. (Mrs Thatcher was never popular but it didn’t stop her winning three elections).
There have been some who have suggested a change of leader before the next election but I disagree. I am sure in the debates that Cleggy will be able to out-debate Cameron once again and he can return to being an asset to the party.
The 2015 general eletion will be a big test, certainly the party's biggest test in the history of the Liberal Democrats. It is also a challenge, one we must not be afraid of.
Overall, if we can fight an active campaign, be proud of what we have done, and put forward a positive programme for further change and fairness, then I think we have nothing to be afraid of.