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Lib Dems celebrate remarkable turnaround in fortunes since 2015

March 11, 2017 11:06 AM

There has been a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrat party since it was almost wiped out in the House of Commons on General Election Day, 2015.

Sarah Olney, Liz Leffman and Tim Farron (Jon Ball)These are the landmarks.

  • General Election Day, 2015. 45,555 members.
  • By Autumn 2015, 20,965 people join. By the end of 2015, membership reaches 61,598.
  • 2016 - Liberal Democrats at the heart of the Remain campaign, alongside many other pro-European campaigners.
  • Membership is 62,500 on June 24th.
  • Tim Farron gives speech the day after the referendum, pledging to continue making the case that Britain is stronger in Europe. Thousands more join the party
  • November 2016. Donald Trump elected. Thousands more join, to oppose the politics of hate, fear and division he represents.
  • 2nd December, Sarah Olney (pictured, with Tim Farron) wins the Richmond Park by-election
  • 1st January 2017 party membership reaches 78,407.
  • January 2017, Theresa May reiterates her push for "Hard Brexit" - Lib Dems lead opposition to her plans.
  • 4,000 new members join Lib Dems.
  • March 10th 2017 - membership reaches 85,094

Our new members have come from the Labour Party, the Conservatives and from people who previously belonged to no party.

There are three events behind the membership surge:

the 2015 General Election, in which a party was elected with only a quarter of those entitled to vote, a predictable consequence of our inequitable voting system; the Brexit vote in June 2016; and, to a lesser extent the election of Pres Trump, which spurred many people to stand up for the politics of decency, honesty and compassion.

The next two years are going to be torrid, politically, in the UK as the government negotiates hard for what appears to be a Hard Brexit.

If you don't hear too much from the Lib Dems in Parliament in the broadcast media, that is because our numbers are too small for us to be regularly called to speak by Mr Speaker. The same will go for coverage in the press, which is largely pro-Brexit. But be assured Nick Clegg and others are working hard to make the best of this sorry mess.

The next big challenge for us locally is the May 4 county council elections. The Conservatives have been in control of Bucks since 1889, which makes them (it is widely agreed) the longest continuous rule by a single party in the world.

Let's be realistic. The Conservatives are still polling well over 40% nationally, while our rating is down around 11 or 12%. But those of us on the executive committee now believe that we are at the beginning of a process which could bring a far stronger Liberal Democrat presence on the council (whichever council that might be, after the Secretary of State has ruled on the rival bids for unitary status).

We welcome new members' commitment to the party. Members may get involved in whatever way they want. Simply by joining helps our cause: it helps strengthen our case and, importantly, contributes to our finances.

There's more to do, for those who want to get involved. You could help us with delivering leaflets (the most effective ways to reach the electorate) in forthcoming elections - even an hour or so delivering in your street would help us a lot. There's more serious work to do if you want to join one of our teams for a weekend delivery session in some of the many villages in the constituency.

We welcome contributions to our Facebook and web site, and your thoughts on policy. And if you wanted to be a candidate in the future, now is a good time to get started, connecting to like-minded people, putting your name about, and perhaps delivering some preliminary Focus newsletters. You could do this once the May elections are over, which has to be our priority over the coming weeks.

We live in challenging times. But to paraphrase the party's hashtag, the fightback starts here. #LibDemFightback