Lib Dems will have to think long and hard after this

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There is no doubt that the Liberal Democrats got a bloody nose this week, both in the local elections and in the rejection of the Alternative Vote system they championed.

Of the two coalition government partners, they are the ones voters have rounded on.

If you’re a rank and file member of the Lib Dems, you must be feeling very flat today. All those years of desperation to be in a position where your party had a say in the governing of the country. And when you finally get into power by joining with the Tories, people make you the whipping boys in the first chance they get to pass judgment via the ballot box.

In East Hampshire, the Tories took nine seats from the Lib Dems. It was so bad that even the Lib Dem leader Jerry Janes was toppled, while the party lost one Horndean seat it had held for a quarter of a century. Over in Chichester it was a similar story, with the Lib Dems losing three seats and the Tories gaining four.

Of course it isn’t the first time in history that Lib Dem optimism about holding power has backfired. Remember party leader David Steele telling party members in 1981 to go back to their constituencies and prepare for government? It never happened.

Now the party IS part of the government of the day, but voters have sent a clear message that they are not happy with how the Lib Dems have behaved as they sit at the top table with the Tories and make decisions that affect us all.

Local election candidates talk of the issue of tuition fees coming up again and again on the doorstep.

To many, it’s about trust. The Lib Dems pledged not to raise the fees and then, once in power, were complicit in trebling them – and scrapping the Education Maintenance Allowance.

A coalition of compromise was never going to be easy, particularly between such odd bedfellows as the Tories and the Lib Dems. But the Lib Dems now need to think long and hard about where they go from here – and how they win back the confidence of people who feel betrayed.

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