May 11, 2015 10.06 am This story is over 106 months old

We fared badly, but we’re determined to fight back

Elections results reaction: “I will make sure a liberal voice is always heard in Lincoln,” writes Lib Dem candidate Ross Pepper.

On the evening before the count, I got a tweet asking me for a song request. After thinking for a few moments, I chose Ellie Goulding’s Anything Could Happen based on the fact no one could predict the outcome of the election. I never thought that what happened ever could.

Before I take a look at what the election brought, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who voted Lib Dem in both the parliamentary and local elections.

I am sorry I could not deliver a local voice for Lincoln and the hope that the Liberal Democrats offer.

This was supposed to be the election Labour would walk. Facing a government which seemed to be unpopular with lots of the public, they should have emerged as the party forming the next government (either alone or in coalition).

The fact was Labour stood still in areas they should have increased their vote and hurtled backwards in others, especially Scotland. There are many theories as to why this happened; unconvincing leader, poor core message or they moved too far to the political left.

The most common agreed theory is not that of Labour’s doing. The Conservative scare message of ‘vote Labour or UKIP – end up with the SNP’ seemed to hit home and turn many floating voters at the last moment. This was the overriding message of the last part of the campaign and I think secured the Conservative vote enough to propel them back to Downing Street with a majority. Liberal Democrats also fared badly from this message, losing all but 8 seats of the 57 held previously.

Years of experience from veterans like Simon Hughes and Vince Cable, and new stars like Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson disappeared. Our country is worse off for not having their voices in parliament.

Locally, I knew it would be a tough campaign. Having only four months as a candidate meant I was way behind my main rivals, and I knew that for them to win they would have to squeeze my vote. It reflected the result which was repeated nationally. Nick Clegg, who has led the party since 2007, announced his resignation on Friday lunchtime leaving the party on the hunt for a new leader who will be in place by July.

There is one thing I know for certain; Liberal Democrats never give up. The team in Lincoln is already geared up ready to start the push for next year’s local elections and for the parliamentary election in 2020.

There is a great team of enthusiastic individuals who are ready for the fight back and that team is growing already. Since the close of polls on Thursday, our membership locally has grown by 35% – a monumental figure. This is also reflected nationally with over 7,000 new members (at the time of writing) coming to help the Lib Dems in the fight.

The fight we face is a terrifying prospect – a Conservative only government wielding the axe on benefits, the removal of the Human Rights Act, a repeal of the Hunting Bill, the introduction of the Snoopers’ Charter, a reduction of Workers’ Rights and ever deeper cuts for no reason than ideology. All these things were stopped by the Lib Dems whilst in coalition.

The reason people are flocking to join the Lib Dems is that they are realising what a brake we as a party have been to curb the majority of the Conservatives’ extreme policies, and that without the moderating influence of the Lib Dems, the Conservatives are reverting to type. The worrying thing with the voting system we have is that, despite having a mandate in terms of number of seats, the Conservatives do not have a mandate in terms of votes cast.

Only 37% of the population wanted to see a Conservative government in power. That is not a mandate in a modern democracy, and I am sure the issue of voting reform will be highlighted time and time again – but falling on deaf Tory ears.

At a time where our freedom, liberty and opportunity are under threat, people are realising that we need the values and principles of liberalism and a strong liberal voice in the country. They are joining to ensure our voice is still heard and to lead the fight back.

Liberals have been in darker places before and the party has built itself up with grit and determination to fight back. I will continue over the next five years to fight these measures that the Conservatives want to bring in just like my colleagues did from within the coalition, and I will make sure a liberal voice is always heard in Lincoln.

Ross Pepper was the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Lincoln in May 2015. He is the chair of the Lib Dems locally and is a Parish Councillor for Skellingthorpe. Ross was born and brought up in Lincoln currently works as an optical assistant for a well-known opticians.