Control of Cardiff and Birmingham councils where they were jointly run with Plaid Cymru and Conservatives (respectively). The party were expecting 16% of the votes, the same as last year but in the North where there were fewer Conservative Council votes the anti-government vote turned against us, we lost remaining seats in 14 town halls, nine more seats in Sheffield (except Hallam- Nick's seat where we won all five!)
Many Local Liberal Democrats around the country are becoming discontent with the leadership of the party for their concentrating on National issues rather than offering support to Local campaigners. It was interesting that the information coming out of HQ was about National issues and what the Parliamentary wing had achieved in power rather than practical help and suggestions for the local Councillors who provide the party with so much substance. Many Liberal Democrats fear that Clegg is leading the party to doom, these are the same prophets from last year but now they have two years of proof.
According to the Evening Standard (Clegg attacked as Lib-dems slump to lowest level, Nicholas Cecil, 4-5-12, p.5) a "Senior Lib-dem" has said that the party is crossing its fingers for financial recovery by 2015 to boost popularity and John Pugh MP said:
It's not just a question of economic recovery. It's giving people hope and a vision to vote for and we failed to convey that. we need to re-establish our social liberal credentials. Orange Book liberalism is proving to be electorally disastrous.
Are these calls justified?
We are still chugging on quite well in other areas. Cambridge is still run by us, seats have been taken from the Conservatives including Southport & Cheadle, Brentwood as well as Sheffield Hallam. In Hull we took back 7 seats from LABOUR which we lost last year! Our aims, according to a Communique from Libdem HQ were to hold the 7 majority controlled English Councils and we have done. Surely that is a good thing?
Further to that, lets put Labour's crowing of victory into some sort of context...
* In 1981 Labour gained 988 council seats just before Michael Foot took them to one of their biggest ever election defeats
* In 1999 William Hague won 1,348 council seats, and completely failed to dent the Blair majority in 2001 when the Tory vote share feel by 5%
So it can be seen that although Labour have made some key gains, and congrats to their candidates by the way, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to charge to ultimate victory in 2015.
Lets calm the panic and be rational.
What does need to happen in my opinion is that HQ and Nick need to take a hard long look at what we are doing and what we are standing for.
I believe that, over time, people will come to acknowledge our unique role, the Liberal Democrats, in this government as the only party that combines responsibility on the economy with Social fairness.
I agree Nick. Unfortunately I fear that it will be someone like myself in thirty years time writing a dissertation on the Coalition for their History degree long after we have ceased to be.
I really believe in what the party stand for and I believe we have a lot to offer especially locally in Medway where we have abandoned all that Party tub thumping and ideological warfare crap that the other parties seem hell bent on and are actually listening to the people and their issues definitely backing Social fairness in the face of the cuts.
I think Nick is doing a fantastic job as Deputy Prime Minister under difficult conditions but I do agree with Andrew George MP who has said we need to focus on key Lib-Dem issues and, although it pains me to say it as I truly believe in it, abandon Lords reform. The population won't care in the long run whether we've brought in greater democracy (heck 70% of people didn't vote on Thursday!). What people care about is money and help and we need to demonstrate and plug that side more other wise my prediction of the 2015 election will genuinely come to pass.
Change at the top is not needed, the losses are still manageable however we need to take stock and redirect ourselves before it does get worse.