More coming in from Dr Matthew Ashton – on why it was such a bad night for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
“This result is a disaster for Clegg, but one of his own making. Based on the current results it’s unlikely the party will recover anytime soon. There are three distinct reasons to explain this result.
1) A failure to appreciate how much of the party’s electoral success in 2005 and 2010 was the result of disaffected Labour voters switching sides because they saw the Liberal Democrats as a more left-wing alternative. The prospect of supporting a party that helped the Conservatives into power saw them switching their support elsewhere.
2) Disillusioned Liberal Democrat supporters feeling that they’d been betrayed. An awful lot of them weren’t comfortable with the idea of going into coalition in the first place. At the time they were placated with the promise of a referendum on a new, fairer, voting system, and the idea that they’d be a moderating influence on the Conservatives. The vote on AV plus was a poisoned chalice he was always destined to lose, and most of his supporters didn’t see much moderation. Instead they saw the so-called “bedroom tax” and certain members of the Liberal Democrat leadership starting to behave like they’d been life-long Tories.
3) The broken pledge on tuition fees. This will probably haunt Clegg as long as he lives. It wasn’t just that he broke it. He then voted to triple the fees he’d promised to abolish. At that point he effectively waved goodbye to a huge chunk of the youth vote.
It’s now highly doubtful that he can stay on as leader, not that there’s much left to lead. However their isn’t an obvious successor within what’s left of the party now.
The SNP have effectively become the third force in British politics and it’s doubtful whether the Liberal Democrats can even be counted as a major party anymore.