Is this how Abraham Lincoln felt, I wondered, when he lost his race for the Illinois State Senate in 1832? Is this what Winston Churchill was thinking after the Oldham by-election of 1899?
Maybe, but it was little consolation at the time. The results were pretty damning. Despite the penchant of Staffordshire Conservatives for spending £40 million pounds on Ozymandian new offices at a time of dire austerity, the Tory won with one and a half thousand votes. Practically a thousand voted for UKIP, despite their candidate not even putting out a leaflet (or, for that matter, attending the count). Labour garnered almost five hundred. And only 187 people voted for liberalism and social democracy – for Edmends for Eccleshall – for me. In fact, if you scour ITV footage you can see me looking glum in my yellow rosette while the commentator intones ‘Lib Dem annihilation’ or something similar. Yes, it was rough.
Eccleshall is the kind of seat where a garden gnome could get elected with a blue rosette. Even so, the magnitude of my defeat – the sheer pitifulness of my performance – was down to the fact of Coalition. I’m remarkably sanguine about this. Much more so, in fact, then I was in May 2010.
Let me first make clear that I am not on the ‘Orange Booker’ wing of the party. I don’t see Coalition as an interesting symbiotic experiment in Liberal Conservatism, and I have never used the silly Twitter hash tag #coalicious. I joined the party with the intention of pushing it as far to the left as I could, and keeping it there. But I’ve got used to being in bed with the Tories, too. I can see important parts of our agenda being implemented (the tax cut etc.) and I rejoice when we block nasty Tory policies like the Snoopers’ Charter. Despite secret courts, I didn’t burn my party card, and I won’t be doing so any time soon.
And rumours have reached me that, despite the cataclysm in Staffordshire, in other parts of the country – in Cornwall, in Gloucestershire and in Sheffield Hallam – we got some good results. Some are still voting for a junior party of Government. A few of these wins, dare I say it, were down to the industriousness of Liberal Youth’s Gold Guard, as they swarmed in to target seats like locusts, turning them from dodgy orange or green to a defiant yellow. I Gold Guarded in Cambridge (I know, wasting my time in a key marginal when I could have pushed for 200 votes in Eccleshall) and the confidence around was impressive. We’ll do all right in 2015, and I think I’ll be hanging around to see it.
Reece Edmends is Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer, but he thinks this is the last post he will be writing ex cathedra as he is about to ride off in to the sunset.