THE new coalition Government is a bitter sweet moment for Hampshire Liberal Democrats who have been battling the Conservatives for years.
On the one hand the power sharing deal has given the party its first Liberal ministers since the 1940s, but it comes too late for those who have lost seats and could provoke a backlash from supporters.
that main Conservative campaign in the constituency, where she was defeated after ten years in office, had been to warn voters that if they voted yellow they got Brown.
“If people had known this was the outcome there may have been a different vote,” she said. “There were so many people that said ‘I can’t vote for you because we need a change of Government. It’s nothing personal’.” Mrs Gidley added: “I personally would have been happier with an issue by issue coalition rather than a ministerial bums on seats. I think it would have left us freer to criticise.”
She said that, given talks had broken down with Labour, the “only game in town” was the Conservatives.
“Although many of us had fought fierce battles against the Conservatives during the election, ultimately there comes a time where you just have to try to get the best arrangement you can and get on with the business of Government.”
Last night Lib Dem Martin Tod who lost to Tory rival Steve Brine in the battle for the Winchester constituency admitted his surprise and said “I didn’t fight the General Election to see Conservatives in Number 10, but what matters will be the programme for government and whether it matches up to what we were campaigning on.
“There is no point in feeling bitter about the election – it’s over.”
He said: “Labour now goes into opposition as the progressive party seeking to ensure that, over the next uncertain period, those people who need our protection and the steps that were taken to point us in the right economic direction are not undermined by policies that will put us back in recession and undo the benefits achieved over the past two years.”
Mr Whitehead added: “A huge number of people that supported the Lib Dems will be very dismayed by the turn of events.”
Mr Whitehead praised Mr Brown’s leadership as Prime Minister both nationally and internationally, which he said had saved the country from financial “meltdown”.
He added he had been a “first rate” chancellor. “History will judge him far kinder than some people are at the moment,” he said.
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications chief who has been advising Mr Brown, said he believed that the Lib Dems had made a mistake.
“I think the Liberal Democrats will regret what they are doing,” he said.
“A lot of Liberal Democrat voters have voted Liberal Democrat to stop there being a Tory government and I think they will feel very badly let down.”