David Boyle has at least begun to map the problems we face by describing what has happened to the Liberal Democrats in recent years:
I remember how thrilled I was to sweep through a neighbourhood delivering Focus leaflets with 20 or so other young people, at a jog. We believed in the inevitability of the cause – to take power in order to give it away. We felt like the political wing of the counterculture that grew up at the same time.
Since then, I’ve watched those I ran with age at the same rate as me (possibly even faster) and take their seats in parliament. I saw them wrestle with government.
What happened? There was a clue in the email I received yesterday morning from one of the party’s radical stars of the 1990s, taking exception to the slogan “stability, unity, decency”.
“I joined the Liberal party because I hungered for change,” he wrote, “radical change to make the world a better place, not to keep things as they are.”
The problem is that the trauma of coalition moulded the party into a deeply pragmatic force, provided them with the dullest manifesto in political history, with all the hallmarks of having been written in Whitehall.