Liberal Democrats in 2016: the challenges that lie ahead

Tim Farron

The party has a mountain to climb, but can they do it?

The Liberal Democrats were reduced to just eight MPs in the 2015 general election. The party was optimistic for more, but on the night the party performed very poorly.

However, their 8% in the election shows that they have strong showing of core voters. Yes, in 2010 they won 23% of the popular vote, but their 8% shows that the party still has a strong contingent of voters, voters resilient to the firestorm that stood against them following their decision to go join a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

With a strong base the party can rebuild and try to gain trust of more voters. Where should it start?

The party has a few opportunities in 2016.

Improvements on their 2011 performances will show that the party is making progress. Stagnation will be unwanted but bearable for the party as it will only be a year since the 2015 election. Losses will be bad news.

Scotland

In 2011 the SNP won a majority of seats in Holyrood and the Liberal Democrats were reduced to just five seats. Their only constituency seat was won off the mainland - like in 2015 - but the party won list seats across Scotland. Holding onto their 5 MSPs will be top priority next May, but with the SNP surging and likely to retain power it will be a difficult challenge.

Wales

The 2011 Welsh elections also left the party with five members in the Assembly, but unlike in Scotland they only had six before. Getting back up to six members in the assembly should be the party’s goal if they want to show they are making progress.

London

The previous London elections took place in 2012. The party lost out on third place as they were beaten by the Green party’s Jenny Jones. However, the parties were within less than a percentage of each other so the challenge will be to beat the Greens. Furthermore, the party only got 4.16% of the vote - getting to 5% would be seen as a step forward.

In addition to that the party lost one of its three members of the London Assembly. Getting back to three would be seen as a step up for the party.

A brighter future?

Getting back to the road they were on a few years ago will be a mighty challenge for either Tim Farron’s or Norman Lamb’s party. Whoever wins the leadership contest will have a tough time on their hands.

If the party makes marginal improvements in 2016 then they might just have a chance in getting more success in the future.

If they fail then the party could be doomed to the history books.

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