It’s a mission made even harder by the fact that just 57.6 per cent of party activists bothered to vote as Sir Ed defeated Layla Moran.
If they’re not motivated, how can the party inspire the rest of the country?
And while Sir Ed appeared to understand the scale of the challenge – “voters don’t believe Liberal Democrats want to help ordinary people get on with life” – the problem is a familiar one.
Just how does he, and his party, win back the trust of those who are unwilling to forgive the Lib Dems joining the Tories in the ‘austerity’ coalition of 2010-15 or that U-turn over student tuition fees?
Until that conundrum is resolved, the party’s existential crisis will persist – it’s not even assured, despite its past record on the environment, of the support of those young activists who want a more radical response to green issues.
That Sir Ed used his acceptance speech to acknowledge that the party is out-of-touch did mark a necessary change in tone from his predecessor Jo Swinson and her delusional belief that she was going to be Prime Minister until she lost her own seat.
He has to find a way to galvanise grassroots supporters if the Lib Dems are to become a renewed force when the party is so compromised by lingering public mistrust, the electoral system and failure to accept the result of the 2016 EU referendum.
Now it falls to Sir Ed to reappraise the purpose of the Lib Dems; identify who the party intends to appeal to on the doorsteps and also to devise a way to draw a line under its recent past.
For, if he doesn’t come up with a sustainable strategy, both he – and the Lib Dems – risk becoming political footnotes at a time when the void and vacuum in the centre ground of British politics is a significant one.
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