Thursday's mixed bag of election results for the Lib Dems really should make the party ponder its future and the way it operates at all levels. Here is my analysis of where we go wrong.
1) Clinging on to power - The Lib Dems tend to be obsessed with clinging on to power even when they do not have the influence to actually be in control. Let me give you an example. In Norwich three years ago, the Lib Dems decided to run a minority administration. As a result, they were in charge, but actually had no power to influence the decisions they were bringing in. As a result, combined Green and Labour council votes were scuppering Lib Dem plans and instead they council introduced watered down and ill thought out rubbish which the Lib Dems were forced to take responsibility for. That explains part of the reason for the Lib Dem decline in Norwich.
Similar things to this happened in North Somerset, where the Tories have been for most of the council term, part of an all party administration, taking and making decisions and taking their allowances too. Then recently, the Tories withdraw, claim to be in opposition and then claim the council is doing it all wrong. So what do the Lib Dems do ? They battle on and try to do their best when in truth, they should decided that without the power, what is the point of being in charge.
Looking at results in Luton I think it shows that minority administrations lack the power to make real change and then get blamed for not delivering change.
2) Guilt by association - Similar parallels to the previous argument about clinging to power could be given in Scotland. However the Lib Dems are taking the blame for working with Labour. The "guilt by association" with Labour has seen the Lib Dems lose out in Scotland, but this was a factor in other council areas where the Lib Dems have worked with Labour (North Somerset comes to mind again). We've got to learn that if Labour are that unpopular in some areas, we need to keep them at arms length.
3) Uninspiring leadership - I supported Ming Campbell when he stood for leadership, so I am in part to blame. however, I supported him more out of a desire to stop Chris Huhne because Huhne as leader would, in my opinion, stop Nick Clegg getting the leadership in two years time. I hoped Ming would hold the fort, keep things ticking over and would be the ideal stop-gap, a Michael Howard of sorts. However, this hasn't happened.
There is no doubting Ming's qualities. His knowledge of foreign affairs, his experience and his drive are clear. However, he does not seem to engage with voters. He lack that human touch that Charles or Paddy had and that is costing the Lib Dems. I've met Ming, I know he is a funny witty man who can really inspire, but the electorate don't seem to be getting this from him.
I doubt Ming would step down, but I'd love to see Nick Clegg in as soon as possible. Until then, I know that Ming is not a liability, it's just that the Lib Dems are lacking that asset that we need as leader.