Amid the gloomy prospect of life in a northern English city under a Conservative government for another five years, with the inevitable “efficiency savings” to badly needed public services and other policies that only benefit big businesses the wealthiest in society, there was one thing in the election that was a little more positive.
The losses suffered by a number of high-profile candidates offered some proof that whatever position has been held previously, constituents are the people who ultimately judge how a local MP has performed, and whether or not they deserve to be re-elected to Parliament.
Where trust no longer exists, there will always be political casualties, and no more emphatically was this demonstrated than with the Liberal Democrats losing of 49 of the 57 Westminster seats they secured after the 2010 general election.
I’ve nothing personal against any of the individuals involved, but do feel that the Lib Dems have to take some responsibility for the fact that so many people have little trust in politics. To put it even more strongly, I would accuse the party of almost single-handedly damaging faith in the political system for many – especially a lot of younger voters.
During the 2010 campaign, Nick Clegg appealed for the nation to trust the Liberal Democrats, claiming that they would do politics differently.
After all, if we couldn’t trust the Tories, and were coming off the back of a turbulent period under a Labour government under increasing pressure, it was the Liberal Democrats that we should look to as the one major party that could be trusted in way that was fair to everyone.
As the Lib Dems’ popularity rocketed during the TV debates, Clegg made a claim that “a growing number of people are starting to hope, to believe a little door has opened and that maybe this time we can do things differently.”
Amongst those believing that genuine change was possible in politics were voters who were drawn to the party’s promise to scrap tuition fees if elected into government – or at the very least, to vote against any proposed rise in fees.
But within months, tens of thousands of those very people took part in angry protests ahead of a vote which would see the majority of Lib Dems spectacularly breaking their pre-election pledges, and voting to allow universities to treble the fees charged.
I’m neither a student, nor a Liberal Democrat voter, but the issue was quite clearly going to have a damaging impact on the reputation of politics as a whole. How could a party who gained popularity by insisting that they would be different to Labour or the Conservatives be trusted after voting for a policy that went against one of the main promises used to attract voters in the first place?
More damaging, how would a smaller party rise to prominence in the future on the back of a promise to be different, when the Lib Dems had insisted that they were the very politicians who would restore greater trust to the political system, and who claimed they would keep promises in a way that Labour and the Conservatives could not.
For that reason, it’s good that the electoral system still ensures that voters are the ones who ultimately determine the fate of the MP representing them, and can make their voices heard by voting for an alternative candidate when there’s any sense of betrayal.
It’s something which should act as a future warning not only to the Liberal Democrats, but to any party who would consider abandoning promises and strongly-held principles in exchange for a few seats in the government.