The party faithful feel conned by coalition

It was a big fight by the Liberal Democrat Stephen Lloyd to wrest Eastbourne from the Tories. Now, voters are furious

It's been a lively week at the Liberal Democrat headquarters in the serene south-coast town of Eastbourne. New MP Stephen Lloyd is still full of smiles as he jovially passes around a bowl of sweets. This should, after all, be celebration time in the pokey office on Seaside Road. Yet something is not right. After all their efforts, many of the town's Lib Dem voters feel they have been conned, sold down the river in the deal that saw their leader around David Cameron's cabinet table last week.

For two decades, this Sussex seaside town has been ruled by its former MP, Tory Nigel Waterson, whom Lloyd ousted by 3,435 votes. "I was exhausted, and I am still a bit tired, but very excited," Lloyd insists.

The enthusiasm is not so keenly felt outside these four walls, where an acrimonious yellow-blue poster war reached a confused finale. Volunteers manning the phones at Seaside Road admit that it's not just been congratulation messages that have been coming in since the general election.

"That first day we had a lot of calls," said Beryl Teso, a Lib Dem activist for more than two decades who was part of Mr Lloyd's campaign team. "People were really upset. We stopped recording the calls as there were so many. They were saying: "'We hate you because you've sided with the Tories.'" She said she had got used to the idea as the negotiations had gone on, and that the final agreement was for the good of the country.

It's a particularly hard sell in areas such as this where canvassers gave up hours of their time, intent on hindering David Cameron's path to Downing Street rather than facilitating it.

Other Lib Dem MPs have also found themselves fire-fighting. Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey & Wood Green blogged that she had "lots of emails against coalition with the Tories". Lorely Burt in Solihull similarly said yesterday that two-thirds of 800 emails she has received have been disparaging about the national deal. And although the party says there have been few deserters, activists with clout in local campaigns have made a show of their departures. Alex Kear, chairman of the Lib Dem branch in Worcester, is among the disillusioned who have walked away.

In Eastbourne, people who voted for the Lib Dems for the first time are annoyed. "I wouldn't describe myself as a natural Lib Dem voter," said Mike, a youth worker who plumped for Mr Lloyd after accepting Labour had no chance in what had been a Tory heartland. "I'm very disappointed – it's not what I was hoping for when I voted Lib Dem. I certainly won't be voting for them again and I would say to them: 'You've made a big mistake.' I feel I've been naive – it was stupid to think they wouldn't go into a coalition."

Mark Waterman, deputy manager of a Mind charity shop in the town centre, had also previously voted Labour, but this time around went yellow to get rid of the Tories. "I'm a bit annoyed about it really," the 40-year-old said. "It's good from the point of view that it brings the Lib Dems in, but if they're in coalition with the Tories it lessens the impact of them winning here – it doesn't give them the gravitas of being independent."

Colin Buttle, 56, a former teacher, said he was "appalled at the outcome". Both he and his wife Kathryn say they are natural Labour voters, but threw their weight behind Mr Lloyd to block the Tories. "I can't understand how the Conservatives can suddenly, on a whim, say they're going to do proportional representation and electoral reform. It was this huge gap and now they're best buddies."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own