2011 was a tough year for the party, no doubt. But that is not to say it was a year that did not prove beneficial to the party. It proved to be the best learning curve possible as we saw the true impact of Coalition on the Liberal Democrats. We were tested to the very core and were on the backfoot on more than one occasion. With the Alternative Vote referendum we were made to pretty much solely fight the ‘Yes’ campaign on our own (due to a lack of strong support from Labour) whilst the local elections and Scottish Parliamentary elections proved too big a mountain to climb. The party lost many wonderful councillors, MSPs and even suffered further embarassment (if that is to be the appropriate term) with the crushing rejection of the Alternative Vote from the electorate. But as I said, this was all part of a big learning curve for the party. What one would hope is that any successes or failures seen in 2011 are taken on board and are used to fuel a much needed comeback in 2012.
In ways it feels that the party has fallen as low as it can in terms of public support and it would seem like the only way is up. Although this may not be the case, we need to make sure it certainly is. One thing we must accept is that 2012 will not bring the economic prosperity this country craves and that is something we must accept early on. The party and indeed the Government need to be wary of any positive outcomes that arise as it will be too easy to get complacent and revel in the successes of Coalition Government (you certainly would not blame a party who have gone through what the Lib Dems have for doing so!). Apart from the economy there definitely are areas of success that the party should highlight further. 2010 and 2011 were not great years for promotiom of party achievements. Something went wrong along the line and this has to be changed in 2012. We can not as a party allow the Conservatives to capitalise on popular Lib Dem policy in the same way we cannot allow the press and Labour to portray a message that we are not pulling our weight in Government.
If anything the aforementioned idea of celebrating Lib Dem achievements seems almost a no brainer. It is a shame that we even need to remind the party to share its successes with the wider world but there is clearly a lack of such opportunism. I think if the party solve this one issue of communicating with the electorate better it may solve many of the arising problems that we have already seen in Government so far. Not just a small consolation poll boost but genuine progress in rebuilding the bridges of trust and belief between the party and the people. Further on from this the party also needs to sustain its brilliant by-election record by translating these into major victories in the local elections as well as the much anticipated GLA and London Mayoral Elections; elections that will provide fantastic opportunities for Liberal Democrats to assert themselves as a party that is still very much independent and that can be trusted to govern.
But whatever else 2012 brings, I want to think that come this time next year we can remember 2012 as a year that was worth celebrating. And not just because of the Olympics.
Merry Christmas and have a brilliant new year!