There can be no argument, in both the City of Lincoln Council and European elections, the Liberal Democrats were punished at the ballot box. Now is the time to assess and look forward to the general election next year.
The Liberal Democrats positioned ourselves unashamedly as pro-European; yes the EU does need reform but I still believe our country’s best interests are served by remaining a member of the European Union, simply pulling out is not an option.
There are many unanswered questions about what would happen if we left: what would European businesses which invest in Lincoln do in the future? What would happen to our health service which relies on foreign staff? What would happen to British citizens who wanted to work or enjoy their retirement in another EU country?
If we are to compete in the global market with countries such as China and India, each with a population of over a billion, would a country of 65 million be heard? Or would having the clout that half a billion people commands be advantageous when negotiating trade agreements?
Our pro-EU stance failed to engage with people, but it does not mean that the underlying motives were wrong.
Secondly, the Liberal Democrats are in government. As is often the case with mid-term elections, the electorate turns away from the party/parties in power. In this case it was the Liberal Democrats who bore the brunt of the electorate dissatisfaction, after so often being the beneficiaries.
Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats have done some good things in government, and have acted as the party of reason in the coalition, curbing the excesses of the Tories and making sure our economy grows in a fair and balanced way.
The biggest travesty of last Thursday was that a massive two-thirds of those eligible did not even go and collect their ballot papers. How can any election be a true democracy when the minority decide for the majority?
For the very few who did collect their ballot paper and then wrote “None of the above” or left it blank, I applaud them for sending a message to politicians. As a society, we cannot continue to ignore our duty as citizens. It could be argued that a very different outcome might have occurred if everyone had cast their vote. But we will never know.
Politicians of all political colours need to engage with parts of the electorate which are least engaged, in order to drive up turnout and make politics relevant to the majority.
So, where do we go from here? Well on the 7th of May 2015, everyone has the opportunity to cast his or her vote. People will have a choice, as I see it, between three options:
Option 1 is a vote for one of the two old parties who have battered this country for the past five decades and still have proved unable to look after anyone but their own.
Option 2 would be to vote as a protest for a party that are cynically preying on the fears of the electorate, and who have very few serious policies other than taking Britain out of the EU.
Alternatively, option 3 is a vote for the Liberal Democrats, who have shown over the past four years in government that they are the party for the people who want to get on in life, enabling an economy that is fit for the future, and a society in which we can all live equally and freely.
It is thanks to the Liberal Democrats that income tax has been cut for 24 million people so that nobody pays income tax until they are earning £10,000. The Liberal Democrats have introduced the pupil premium providing additional funding to help the poorest children and to improve education in our schools.
The Liberal Democrats lead on the creation of one million new jobs, 1.2 million apprentice places and provided employers with money for job creation. The Liberal Democrats are driving the government’s environmental agenda through investment in renewable energy, introducing the Green Deal which provides grants to enable people to make their homes more energy-efficient, and set up the green investment bank.
Our task over the coming year is to persuade you that the Liberal Democrats can provide a positive vision for this country, one which enables everyone to achieve their aspirations, to continue rebuilding our economy, and to build a fair and free society.
My colleagues and I will be working hard over the next year to listen to your concerns and ideas, and convince you that next May you should turn out and vote Liberal Democrat.