Power proves toxic for Britain's Liberal Democrats

2015-05-08 09:19
Leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband, leaves after making a speech after retaining his seat of Doncaster North at the counting centre at Doncaster Racecourse, northern England. (Oli Scarff, AFP)

Leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband, leaves after making a speech after retaining his seat of Doncaster North at the counting centre at Doncaster Racecourse, northern England. (Oli Scarff, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Sheffield - Britain's Liberal Democrats had hoped that entering government for the first time five years ago would recast their image as a party that meant business. Instead, it has brought them to the brink of collapse.

Their leader Nick Clegg, Prime Minister David Cameron's deputy, hinted on Friday he could resign after a "cruel and punishing night" in which the party is forecast to retain only 10 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons.

The Liberal Democrats lost some of their most senior figures including Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, Business Secretary Vince Cable and former leader Charles Kennedy.

Clegg himself managed to hold on to his seat in the city of Sheffield, northern England, despite a tight race but looked emotional during his acceptance speech.

It was all a far cry from when Clegg first took the Lib Dems into a coalition government with Cameron after the 2010 election, their first press conference together in the Downing Street rose garden symbolising their harmony.


But being in power proved a bruising experience for the party, which was formed in 1988 but has a heritage stretching back centuries.

One of their most damaging moments came when the coalition government increased university tuition fees, breaking a key Lib Dem promise to scrap them altogether which had drawn significant support from students.

Clegg later issued an apology but this went viral on YouTube thanks to a spoof remix.
Scarred by experience

The Liberal Democrats argued that their influence helped soften some of the austerity measures which the Conservatives wanted to introduce in a bid to cut a budget deficit which stands at nearly £90bn.

Voters seemed to disagree. As well as the high-profile scalps of some of its longest-serving lawmakers, at least 150 Liberal Democrat candidates lost their deposits.

This means the candidates failed to attract the bare minimum of votes needed for them to get back a bond which all parties standing have to pay in a bid to deter joke candidates.

Experts say the terrible results will make the Lib Dems wary of teaming up with the Conservatives, or anyone else again.

"For the Liberal Democrats and other parties it will make them even more wary of ever going into a coalition," said Tony Travers, politics professor at the London School of Economics.

Former party leader and elder statesman David Steel is among those who favour a period of opposition to allow the Liberal Democrats to regroup, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

The party is expected to meet later on Friday, after which the future of both Clegg and the Liberal Democrats themselves is expected to become clearer.

But few are under any illusions that the future looks bleak.

"I'm not going to pretend that the Lib Dems have had anything other than a bad night," a senior party source at the count in Sheffield said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Read more on:    ed miliband  |  uk  |  uk 2015 elections

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Man scores date with tennis superstar after Twitter bet

It’s a modern day Cinderella story, but one American man took ‘shoot your shot’ seriously in 2017.


You won't want to miss...

6 myths about male cancer
Who are the highest paid models of 2017?
10 gorgeous plus-sized models who aren't Ashley Graham
5 top leg exercises for men
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.