It seems that two parties on polar ends of the political spectrum on Europe have been the losers and winners in the EU elections. UKIP romped home with major gains across the regions whilst the Liberal Democrat vote failed to shore up or even turn out in any force. The result was a Liberal Democrat cache of 1 seat and no doubt with plenty of disgruntled ex-MEP’s and councillors who may well turn against the leadership of the Party.
Many Liberal Democrat activists are social democrats and social progressives. Many feel that there is a gulf between the leadership and between members and some Liberal Democrat supporters also moved away from the Party when the decision was made to go into Coalition with the Conservatives. Yet, there is a growing sense of discontentment that the Liberal Democrat leadership must take into account and address, and quickly.
The loss of council seats and the corresponding loss of MEP seats will no doubt strengthen the campaign asking for a change of leadership within the Liberal Democrats. However, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats will not be ditching their leader and Nick Clegg will be leading the Party, however battered, into the next election. This is the only way forward since ditching a leader who has held the Coalition together would really be committing suicide at such a sensitive time as the Parliamentary elections loom over the horizon.
Support for the European project has been a key flagship policy for the Liberal Democrats and the wipe out in the results this evening means that the Party needs to reflect and act quickly. Their message on Europe failed to move the general public and also has given the wider public the impression that they may fast be becoming irrelevant. This would be a disaster for British politics since the Liberal Democrats have been and will be a force for change as social progressives and social democrats.
Whatever the future holds, now is the time for the Party to dig deep, regroup, support the Party machinery and hold its nerve whilst promoting its progressive politics to our country. Doing any less will surely lead to further defeats at the General Election.