The local election results were obviously another bad night for the Liberal Democrats – losing hundreds more councillors and having a less presence in local government than ever before is not something one can easily disregard. However in the fine traditions of spin, I have tweeted a few silver linings as follows.
Silver lining 1: Liberal Democrats kept control of all seven
councils (albeit one with Mayor casting vote).
We were defending control of seven councils at his election.
In Portsmouth, South Lakeland and Eastleigh we increased our numbers, and we
kept control of Cheltenham, Three Rivers and Watford. While we lost control of
Cambridge, we have 21 out of the 42 seats and so, in effect, we control it with
the Mayor’s casting vote.
In areas which have Liberal Democrat MPs, our vote seems to be
holding its own after two years of unpopularity, which must look good for the general
Silver lining 2: It is entirely consistent for governing
parties to do badly at mid-term local elections.
This has been the case in the over 30 years or so that I
have been following politics. In 1981, Michael Foot’s Labour gained 988 council
seats. In 1999, the Tories under William Hague took over 1,300 seats. Both
successes were followed by heavy defeats.
Silver lining 3: If you are going to go down, who better than
a Tory to take with you?
A bit rough maybe on our coalition ‘partners’ but then they
did take such joy in our difficulties last year when they did surprisingly well.
Perhaps I read Conservative Home too much.
Silver lining 4: UKIP doing well will help us in Con-Lib Dem
I am very fond of UKIP, and our local party are nice chaps.
My fondness is not about their policies (most which I disagree with) but that they
are not Conservative or Labour – and I think the more people vote away from the
big two, the more chances we will get of genuine change in this country.
It is a fact that many of their policies (tax cut for the
wealthy, more grammar schools, a freeze on immigration, expansion of the navy, environmentally-sceptic
and of course their main objective) are music to the ears of a certain kind of
Tory – and by taking votes away from such Tory supporters, it can only help us.
Silver lining 5: Peter Bone is not happy.
Perhaps it is unfair again for me to pick on Mr Bone, when I
could have chosen any of dozens of backbench Tories. But this group passionately
hates the coalition and passionately hates Nick Clegg when they should be
grateful to him for putting the Tories in government and all the flak he has
taken subsequently. If Peter Bone, who today called this ‘the beginning of the
end of the coalition’, is unhappy – then I know we must be doing something
Silver lining 6: Above all, let’s remember Lib Dems are in government!
Isn’t that what it is all about?
Ask any political party to choose between a major role in
the UK government, or control of a few councils, and they will always choose
the former. Ed Miliband would gladly exchange all of Labour’s council successes
in return for walking into Number 10.
Most of us never expected to see the day that Liberal Democrats
would be sitting round the cabinet table, or putting Liberal Democrat policies into
practice, such as taking the poor out of tax, helping disadvantaged schools, setting
up an environmental bank, installing fixed term parliaments, protecting the
state pension – the list goes on! This is what is important.
It is three years to the next election – and let’s be honest,
it may be quite a while before we are in government again – so, after these election
results, let’s get off the floor, dust ourselves down, and get back to work. There
is still so much to do in so little time.