Lib Dems left with 8 MPs - where next for the party?

Nick Clegg MP in St Albans

After the Liberal Democrats suffered a terrible defeat on election night, and with Nick Clegg stepping down the party needs a new leader. Who?

The party, whilst just on 8 seats, has established itself as a party of government. Sure it has a long way to go to get back into government, but in the public eye they are a party with governmental experience. However, they also made some mistakes - mistakes that led to the loss of many voters. Yet they still have their core vote. 8% of the UK voting popular marked a cross beside their Liberal Democrat candidate.

A leadership battle will take place, but it looks as if the party needs a leader who can strike a balance between the two things already mentioned: they will need a leader who can recognise the decisions in government that lost them votes and they will need a leader who will say that whilst in government they did get things done.

One of the party’s eight remaining MPs, Greg Mulholland, tweeted on Friday about the future of party saying that:

“The 2010 failure to ensure no Liberal Democrat MP voted against a rise in fees was catastrophic. Now we need a leader who voted against.”

and that:

“In 2010 the party made the right decision to go into Coalition. Then the leadership made 3 fatal errors 1. fees 2. NHS Act 3. bedroom tax.”

and that:

“It really is time for a realignment of British politics & a voting system that does not grotesquely distort & disenfranchise.”

The MP for Leeds recognises the party’s mistakes but also their successes, however, he himself has ruled out a leadership bid, according to ITV.

That leaves six potential Lib Dem leaders once Nick Clegg is removed from the equation (as well as Mulholland): Alistair Carmichael (their only Scottish MP), Norman Lamb (former minister), Tim Farron (former party president), Mark Williams, John Pugh and Tom Brake.

If we work from the basis that the new leader needs to strike a balance between their success in government and recognising their failure on fees the party is left with a dilemma. Out of the remaining MPs those who were in the government all voted for an increase in fees and those who voted against were outside the government, meaning there is no remaining MP who can represent the balance.

Finding a balance looks to be hard for the party, but if Mulholland is right and his if his tweet - "Now we need a leader who voted against [fees]" - is also right then it may be better to have a leader that voted against the fees increase, something which could give the likes of Tim Farron the edge.


'Northern Irelandisation': Scotland's next step?

Britain's electoral landscape has changed - it's time for reform

Green surge alive and kicking: one million people vote Green

It's time to change our voting system, and the polls show it