By David Evans

The result of the Rochester by-election on Thursday has been a humiliation for our party and surely must be a final wake up call for all Lib Dems, but particularly for all our MPs.  The lowest share of the vote ever for a Lib Dem or a Liberal we are told.

Since Nick’s total failure in the Euro elections campaign, I was first hopeful, then disappointed and finally dismayed with the lack of reaction of almost all our senior figures and MPs who sadly seemed to be either unwilling or unperturbed by the wanton destruction being done to our party and its values.  Since Nick became leader, the party has lost nearly a third of its members, almost half of its councillors, two thirds of its MSPs, and all but one of its MEPs – even in 2010 we lost five MPs despite Nick’s performance in the first leadership debate.  Only Wales has managed to stem the tide, where we only lost one AM in 2011.  However, it all makes the target Nick set in 2008 of doubling our number of MPs in two parliaments a cruel joke.

We have heard sources close to the leader decrying our left of centre supporters and saying the Lib Dems were not a home for them; dismissing as mere protest voters those who believed us when we talked about the Lib Dems being different in our way of doing politics; and apologising for making a pledge but not for breaking it.  Hardly anyone except a favoured few seem to trust Nick, and I am afraid that very definitely includes me.  Many long standing members have left the party in dismay and disgust and they will never return unless we do something dramatic and decisive now. 

Originally I was thinking of e-mailing to ask all of our MPs why they have done nothing so far to turn the party round from this ongoing catastrophe.  The party was collapsing around us in May and yet MPs did nothing of substance.  However, that is all history now and as we know history is made and written by the victors.  What we need to do is make sure that Liberal Democracy is not the loser.

Bad as May’s performance was, things have actually got worse, and I am sure will continue to do so unless our MPs have the courage to make them change.  The picture with Nick posing, holding the Sun newspaper shows a total lack of judgement, and not just for Lib Dems in Liverpool; choosing Danny as our Treasury Spokesman against all advice for the television debate with George Osborne and Ed Balls will be a disaster; and simply not turning up in Rochester and then going into hiding after the result show a total lack of regard for the wider party.  

However, what I really fear will be the pinnacle of these self inflicted disasters will be Nick’s appearance in the leaders' debates, speaking for the party, when it will simply remind most people how good he made them feel in 2010 and how disillusioned and let down he makes them feel now.  Many will simply think “Liar,” others “pledge breaker” and others simply “out of his depth.”  Very few will think “I trust that man” and Trust is the issue.

I am now convinced things have got so bad that if they are not changed soon there is a substantial risk that there will be no Liberal Democrat party at all within a generation: not the five or six MPs that Jo Grimond had around him to start the recovery in the 1960s, but none.  That will be a tragedy and an indictment of us and our party, as its values, and most importantly, the people who rely on us in cities, towns and villages across the country will have no one to support them against the faceless bureaucracies favoured by Labour and Conservative.

As Jo Grimond famously said liberals should be on the side of the governed and not the governing. All Lib Dems know that every one of the really successful councils we have run had it in their DNA.  Sadly it is Nick’s inability to work out how to do this in coalition that has been the cause of his failure.  Labour and Conservative MPs are both most comfortable when they are part of the establishment.  Lib Dems should never be like that.  They must be the “Representatives of the 
people in parliament” and not the “Representatives of Parliament to the people.”  Nick has never looked like one of the former. What is vitally important is what we choose to do now.  There is a chance, a slight chance to turn things around but it has to be done quickly.  I am urging everybody to write to all of our MPs, asking them to write to Nick, write to him publicly, and tell him he has to go now, apologise for the mess he has made so that the party can have its mea culpa moment and we can start to rebuild.  Otherwise it will be a long lonely road to oblivion.  

It is self evident that it has to be said clearly and publicly, and not couched in weasel words, as far too often coded messages have been portrayed as the misgivings of a few weak and misguided malcontents rather than those with a clear awareness of the damage Nick has done and continues to do as leader of our party. 

Over the last few days, I have written to all our MPs urging them to do this.  However for it to have a real impact, we need to get lots of people to join in, contact our MPs and make it clear something has to be done.  And that means everyone who believes in Liberal Democrats values, whether a member, supporter and particularly ex-members who have left in the last few years.  If Nick ceasing to be leader would make you consider re-joining and getting involved again, do join us.  Even if you do not fully share my view that Nick now poses a threat to the actual existence of the party, it is clear that the destruction has to be stopped, and our party needs your help.  Please contact us at and we will help you with a draft letter and e-mail addresses. Finally, we have asked each MP to tell us what they propose to do, even if their view is that that they support Nick totally or they propose to do nothing until after the general election.  

Personally, I 
believe it will be too late then and many of our previous supporters will not be prepared to forgive us and we need to do something now.   Ultimately we will be collating the responses we receive (including non-responses) and sharing them with everyone who shares our deep concerns.