So, I have become a statistic. I have spent the last six weeks fighting against strong Tory opponents who have canvassed my ward and fought on local issues. It was all to no avail, as the ward was won by Labour. What is sad is that Labour did not put out any literature about local issues. Instead it was just standard, cynical ‘let’s punish the Lib Dems’ national messages. I am not alone, of course. This has happened to hundreds of decent hard working councillors all over England, and to some extent other parts of the UK.
Of course, every cloud has a silver lining, and we managed to buck the trend by getting three new councillors elected too. In fact we are still the largest opposition party on Wycombe District Council. We achieved this by one councillor, who won by one vote! This certainly goes to prove that every vote counts – a lesson there, I think.
Labour’s gloating must be tempered by their abject failure in Scotland. Surely a referendum on Scottish independence must now seem likely – and Labour will know that a Westminster majority without Scotland would be almost impossible for them.
Unseated Lib Dems must steady their nerve, however. It is quite clear that Labour is little more than a party of protest, at this time. Just as in my local District, nationally Labour has no coherent alternative vision. They are just saying, ‘vote for us because you don’t like the difficult decisions that we left for the government to deal with.’ That simply won’t wash for very long. We at least are doing a responsible job – and by and large we are doing it well under the circumstances.
If there is a lesson, it is that we need to be better at communicating what we have achieved, and continue to achieve. Last week, I met a voter who told me he was voting Labour because of all of the promises we had broken. When I asked him, ‘which ones’ he couldn’t name any! We have certainly implemented many of our manifesto pledges, and this has gone largely unnoticed. It would have been nice to implement all of them, but (a) we didn’t win the election and (b) Labour spent all the money!
So whilst I must accept my defeat with good grace, I certainly don’t feel that Labour deserved the win. But then, that’s politics for you!