A visibly tired Nick Clegg has just done his first post-European Election TV interview. Clegg conceded that the Liberal Democrats had taken a ‘bigger hit in the ballot box’ than he expected they would when he took them into coalition. But he made clear he wasn’t quitting and that he thought it would be a massive mistake for the party to leave the Coalition now as its ‘big judgments were being vindicated’.
Clegg attempted to explain the scale of the defeat to his party by saying that the Liberal Democrats were hit by the double-whammy of being both in government and pro-European. He tried to console them by saying that they fought for what they believed in and were the only ones to take on Ukip and its agenda.
The Lib Dem leadership is keen to stress that it is happy to talk to the party about strategy, to listen to the concerns of its MPs. But short of leaving the coalition, which Clegg has repeatedly ruled out, it is hard to see what the Lib Dems could do differently that the voters would actually notice.
The brutal truth that Liberal Democrat activists have to accept is that the 2005 coalition that Charlie Kennedy assembled for the party is gone — and it isn’t coming back. If the party tries too hard to woo them into returning, it risks endangering its relatively solid position in its Tory facing seats.
Some of the Liberal Democrats’ MPs are done for and there is nothing they can do to save them. The Clegg strategy might well result in the loss of around twenty Lib Dem MPs but there is no alternative strategy that would do better in 2015.