Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lib Dem Membership Falls Sharply

Regular readers will remember that I reported here on this blog the dramatic loss of votes for the Lib Dems in the recent Greater London Assembly elections. Well, more chickens are coming home to roost as reported in The Independent on Sunday this week. One in five members has left the party in the last year in disgust at the Lib Dems propping up of the Tory minority government by their continued participation in the coalition at Westminster.

Furthermore, the Independent report goes on to say that over half of the Lib Dem student wing, Liberal Youth, have ditched the party and in some areas even remaining members are refusing to campaign for the Lib Dems at elections.

In London, Sarah Teather, the Children’s minister has lost a whopping 42% of members in her local party in Brent. In Haringey, Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities minister has lost 21% of activists in her constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, with numbers dropping below 300, which makes them not much bigger than Haringey Green party. I’d give you pretty long odds on her retaining her seat at the next general election, which she won in 2005 from Labour on the back of local opposition to the Iraq war, and general dissatisfaction with the Labour government.

How could the Lib Dems have expected anything less? The ConDem coalition has presided over extremely damaging austerity policies, the privatisation of the NHS, the rolling back of the welfare state and tax cuts for the richest people in the country.

I think we have here a classic case of politicians wanting important jobs in government, and all that goes with it, rather than sticking with what principles they had and is surely a lesson to us Greens should we ever get into a position of power nationally.

So, where now for the Lib Dems? Can they avoid a wipe out of their MP’s (not to mention local councillors) in the coming years? Personally, I doubt it. The writing is on the wall now, and they will take big hits to their elected representatives whatever they do in the near future.

Interestingly, Polly Toynbee writes in The Guardian that they should replace Nick Clegg with Vince Cable as leader, and then leave the coalition government. This might save them some Westminster seats, although it would likely lead to an early general election, at which they will lose seats, but the alternative is just hanging on and hoping something will turn up in their favour to change their fortunes.

At least by ending the coalition with the Tories, the Lib Dems could start to re build the party, and Nick Clegg can then join the Tories, which is where he should have been in the first place.

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