There was a really good piece by Jeremy Browne on the Guardian's website last Thursday which I have only just read. In it I think he perfectly highlights the dilemma that faces the party. Mainly a large section of the votes for the Lib Dems were simply a vote against the main two parties. They were never expecting us to get into government so they were using their vote to increase the opposition to the status quo. I always felt that the Lib Dems came across as the moral conscious of parliament attempting to hold the government to account over their actions. It is logical therefore that a large number of these voters are disallusioned with the party given that they are now actually part of the decision making and it is apparent that everyone can't be a winner - particularly in this current economic climate. These votes were always going to be easy to lose just by becoming part of a coalition and I feel we would have lost about as many had the mathematical arithmatic been good enough for us to side with Labour.
At the same time there were also those people who wanted to vote for the party but were told it was a wasted vote. These are the people that the party must try to attract and convince that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is not a wasted vote as they can be an influence on British politics. This is much harder to do, and is why the party need to hold their nerve, not worry about political point scoring and continue to ensure that they make the sort of acheivements that we will be proud of from our time in Government, allowing us to campaign positively for the next election. There has always been a lot of negative voting, in my own constituancy the leaflets come round saying that 'only Lib Dem can keep the Tories out', with a lot of tactical votes, hopefully the AV referendum will be successful and this will change.
I could only read the first page of comments on Jeremy's post. They just show the anger that is out there towards the party, however I take comfort in the odd sensible post along side these, in particular:
"For what it's worth I voted Labour from 1979 until March 2003, so yes, I became a LibDem as a protest voter against illegal wars. And I still am: I can understand that my party is a junior party in a coalition, outnumbered by about 5:1 by the Tories.
I can also see that despite that the LibDems have played a good game in getting a pretty sizeable chunk of their wish list into the coalition agreement - and I can understand that the Tories have to give their followers some "wins" as well. Most usefully, the LibDems give Cameron the authority to tell his loony right members where to shove it (the ones who ought to be in UKIP but are too cowardly to face an election under that banner).
For all its faults, the coalition seems to be working together with if anything, less animosity than any Labour cabinet ever achieved, and is getting on with the job. OK, it's not popular - but if Labour had won, they'd be making savage cuts too. It needs to be done.
And I don't have a problem with being in some future coalition with Labour if that's where the cards fall. Depending on the AV vote, we may only have coalitions in future. Lots of other countries seem to survive that way... and benefit from an ensuing enforced inability to pursue an extremist agenda."
It is always those who feel betrayed who will shout loudest, there are probably more members of the public (I know plenty) who wont be interested again until 2015 when they are asked to vote. It is up to Nick, Vince, Danny, Chris, Michael and co to ensure that come 2015 when we are asking people to again put their trust in us we can turn around and point to the reasons why Britain in 2015 is better than in 2010 because of the Liberal Democrats.