The Lib Dems must be pleased with a respectable overall vote and some surprising gains from Labour. But Kennedy's strategy of replacing the Conservatives and pretending to be the "real alternative" has been shown to be a shambles. Far from replacing the Opposition, the Lib Dems lost votes and seats to the Conservatives. Where they did gain support, it was in Labour territory, and while they took a handful of seats from Labour, their surge put more Conservatives into Parliament than Liberal Democrats. Mostly, their growth was in safe Labour seats and produced no change at all. So what now?
Will Kennedy quit? Will the Orange Book liberals be given a chance? If the party which Vince Cable and Mark Oaten believe they belong to really existed, it would be an attractive proposition to the rising generation who believe the state has too much power over our lives. But the party cannot be more individualist than the Conservatives and more collectivist than Labour at the same time. Would an Orange Book liberal party have to shed the party's growing strength among unionised state sector employees? And could it win any seats?