The Liberal Democrats had a horrendous election, losing 49 seats and their place in the coalition. Most blame this on a lack of trust in the party after they made a load of pledges before the last election, then gave up on them in order to form a government with the Conservatives.
That tarnishing of their name may well be why Tim Farrow, the frontrunner for party leadership after Nick Clegg's resignation, is reportedly thinking about changing the name of the party. Not a lot, mind, just a little, to "The Liberals".
We wanted to know whether this plan would affect perception of the party in any way whatsoever, and who better to ask than those who have the most cause to be pissed off with the Lib Dems: students. So we went to SOAS and had a chat.
VICE: Hi Mehmet. What do you think the Lib Dems should rename themselves?
Mehmet: I don't think their name has much significance, given their reputation, given what they've done in the last elections regarding the students. I don't think changing their name would be very effective.
What should they do to improve their reputation then?
Just shut down. They should just give up. They're finished. They had their 15 minutes of fame, and that's it.
Are you still angry about their inability to stop tuition fees from being raised?
I'm not really "angry", because it's typical of politicians. But given what the Lib Dems stood for, and given what they've done, I just think it's pathetic. To jump into bed with the Tories for five years was just appalling.
Hi Steven. Do you think changing their name would help the Lib Dems rebuild support?
Steven: I think changing your name is just a way of running away from the actual problem, from sorting out deeper issues.
What's your opinion on the rise of tuition fees?
I think the Lib Dems failed their electorate, especially students.
Do you think Lib Dems have any future in British politics?
I think it all depends on the Labour party – New Labour is trying to be "Newer Labour". So I'm thinking what they'll try to do is take the position of the Lib Dems. So Lib Dems have a restricted space to define themselves. All of this is worrying, because it's a general shift to the right. Politics is not about inflicting fear, and that's what the Conservatives do. The only hope lies in the Greens, in my opinion.
Yesterday the Lib Dems announced they might rename themselves to "The Liberals". How does that sound to you?
Witold: I think changing their name is a good idea. But The Liberals just sounds too broad. I think "Liberals Democrats" is a better name, because it encompasses two ideologies. Changing to The Liberals would mean they're narrowing themselves down.
Do you blame the Lib Dems for the rise in tuition fees?
I think the fact that they weren't fully in power meant it was hard for them to do what they wanted. But personally, since I'm not British, the increase of tuition fees wouldn't concern me anyway.
Do you believe the Lib Dems are going to bounce back in the near future?
I hope so. Though they might have more chances to come back in five years than they do now.
Hi Ariel. Would you recommend the Lib Dems change their name?
Ariel: I think changing their name won't change them. If they want to do something they should change their politics.
Presumably you're still angry about having to pay higher tuition fees?
Yes I am. I protested against it back then.
Do you hate the Lib Dems for it?
No, I hate those who blame them for it, because it was a Conservative policy. I believe they did try their best to stop it, but since they didn't have the majority in Parliament there was no way they could. I don't support the Lib Dems, but I just feel like they got blamed for all the bad stuff.
Hi Yano. What does the potential change to the name The Liberals mean to you?
Yano: It sounds like a sensible decision to make. I think the intention behind it is to go back to Gladstonian liberalism and associating themselves with successes in British politics that people think about when they think about the Liberal party, and moving away from the Liberal Democrats, which I think people only associate with negatively now. It's a shift from their current identity.
WATCH: The New Wave - Lib Dems
What do you think of the whole tuition fees scandal?
I think, in the grand scheme of things, it's rather small when you compare it to the fact that all of the blame for the coalition's failings and austerity was put on the Lib Dems. The reason they failed so much in the past election is not so much because of their broken promises, such as the tuition fees – the Conservatives were seen as the only real option.
What sort of future do you see for the Lib Dems then?
I think it will be interesting to see if they're going more left or right. If the next leader is Tim Farren, I think it'll probably be left. I don't think they're likely to achieve a majority anytime soon, but there's no reason why they couldn't get their 50-something seats back.
Hi Abdullah. Do you think Lib Dems would benefit from a name change?
Abdullah: A name change is nothing without an ideological change. If they just change their name but not their policies, that won't help.
Are you angry at them currently?
I thought it was unfortunate that they lost so many MPs, because they were the only party to stand for civil liberties, privacy rights… They're important as a centre ground. I'm not a Conservative, but I'm glad in a way that there is a majority; it makes a more stable government – they won't have to compromise with other parties.
Do you think the Lib Dems have a chance of making a surprising comeback?
They'll suffer from the current distrust people have towards them for at least a decade or two. It will take a while before they become important again.
Hi Erkan. What should the Lib Dems be called?
Erkan: In my opinion, the Lib Dems should change their name to "The Passive Party", because they haven't done any effective reforms or helped us in any way, shape or form.
To call them liberals, or democrats, is ridiculous when they're saying they would have done a coalition again with the Conservative party, who really have screwed about students and people from minority backgrounds. How credible can they be as a party if they're willing to forget their values as liberals and democrats?
I take it you're still angry about the rise of tuition fees?
Yes, of course. Especially since I heard in the news – though I don't know how credible this is – that Conservatives were considering raising the fees to up to £12,000 per year.
How does the Lib Dems' future look, in your opinion?
Considering they've lost a lot of their seats, their credibility has gone down a lot. It would take a massive miracle for them to revolutionise the party as a whole, to actually gain any credibility. Especially among students – the biggest "disillusion" community in London, and potentially the UK. I don't think they have any grounding any more.
Would you ever trust them again?
No, but I don't trust any party anyway.
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