Vote 2011: Liberal Democrat campaign diary

Lib Dem activist Dr. Prateek Buch continues Left Foot Forward's dispatches from the front; the campaign diaries of party activists on the election trail.

With elections and a referendum throughout the UK today, Left Foot Forward brings you dispatches from the frontline of politics, with party activists reporting  from the campaign trail; Liberal Democrat activist from Waltham Forest and executive member of the Social Liberal ForumDr. Prateek Buch, continues the series with his campaign diary

The leaflets have been delivered, posters posted, internet campaigning maximised; today is polling day. As any eve-of-poll prediction runs the risk of self-inflicted petard-hoisting, I’ll steer clear of quantitative foresight and discuss in more general terms what would make Liberal Democrats happy on May 6th.

With the economy still in the doldrums and a number of unpopular coalition policies beginning to bite, many commentators have predicted disaster for the Lib Dems, in particular north of the border; the irony of a party, traditionally seen as a receptacle for protest, losing votes in protest at their record in government, will not be lost on activists.

In the face of this, however, it’s worth remembering that communities with hard-working Lib Dem councillors (and MPs for that matter) often see the benefit of the incumbent’s local activism and stick with them despite a worsening national picture; naturally this isn’t only true for Lib Dems, but added to their strong record in local government (often running councils in coalition with either Labour or Conservatives) we hope that this may go some way to softening the usual bashing government parties take at local elections.

What is clear, no matter how hard these elections results are, is that the party needs to re-assert itself as the voice of centre-left progressivism within a difficult coalition of necessity. It needs to distance itself more effectively from Tory dogma, not least on NHS reforms and the economy, and to communicate more effectively just how much we’re delivering on our manifesto, despite having 57 MPs to the Tories’ 305.

Independent analysis shows 75 per cent of our manifesto being implemented, suggesting that we’re just not getting across how much of an influence we’ve had on government policy.

A tough ask, but questions over how we retain and communicate the distinct Lib Dem ethos will undoubtedly be raised in the event of significant reversals at the polls today; the Social Liberal Forum has begun to address these concerns already, as have our parliamentarians involved in planning for the next phase of this coalition government – indeed we’ll be discussing them at our own policy conference on June 18th to which everyone is welcome.

As for the Alternative Vote, the picture is much clearer; only a Yes vote would be a good thing, for several reasons. As progressives on all sides of the partisan divide acknowledge, the current First-past-the-Post (FPTP) system is corrupt, disenfranchises millions and is dire need of being replaced. As the Yes campaign has made clear throughout, this is a chance to rid ourselves of the rotten system that gave us MP’s expenses and seats that haven’t changed hands for decades.

So less for the advantage of one party – as the enlightened amongst the Labour Party seem to recognise – and more for the benefit of the country, we need to overcome the lies and deceit of the Tory-dominated No campaign and deliver fairer votes.

Should this opportunity be missed, by virtue of the No campaign’s misinformation, we will nonetheless have succeed in changing the political discourse surrounding electoral reform; there is an appetite for change, and today’s referendum is just one part of said change to how we do politics. With reform of the House of Lords and of party funding still on the cards, whether today or in the near future, we will deliver a fair political settlement.

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