One little discussed element of Crewe and Nantwich concerns the Liberal Democrats, and it needs addressing by “Shagger” Clegg and his team in swift order if they are to have any chance of holding their ground at the next General Election.
Despite the best efforts of Chris Rennard, and the presence of World’s Most Agreeable Politician (tm) Vince Cable, Lib Dem candidate Elizabeth Shenton made little impression on the contest. Swing voters went for Edward Timpson (the man with marginally more charisma than a Burton’s dummy) and the Tories romped home.
With an increasingly red-top style to Tory campaigning (see earlier post “How the Tory approach works”), and Labour turning their efforts to countering it, there is a real risk that the Lib Dems will struggle to make themselves heard. And if they repeat the Kennedy business in any way, they won’t even struggle.
Let’s consider the Lib Dems since the 2005 Election.
At that election, they won 62 seats. More even than the 58 won by David Lloyd George in 1929, after he had been prevailed upon to open his wallet a little wider (actually, the Liberals won 59 seats that year, but the member for Shipley jumped ship straight afterwards). Ten times as good as the dark days when Jo Grimond carried the flame of Liberalism with perhaps five others.
So what did the Lib Dems do to show off their good fortune? They dumped the unfortunate Charles Kennedy, rather than rally round him at a time of personal difficulty. They looked to have caught Big Party Disease (tm), but they weren’t a big party. Signs of delusional behaviour?
How do the electorate respond to a party fighting like ferrets in a sack? They treat them like Siberia – everyone knows where it is, but nobody wants to go there.
When the next General Election comes round, there is the strongest chance since 1929 of a hung parliament – although this comes with a big if: that chance only remains strong if Corporal Clegg can knock some discipline into his motley platoon and at least retain those 62 seats.
And make himself heard.