Welsh Lib Dems hope for new start as conference begins

Kirsty Williams speaking at a previous Welsh Liberal Democrat conference Credit: ITV News

As the Liberal Democrat conference begins in Bournemouth, nobody is suggesting that the party is in anything other than a fight for survival.

49 Lib Dems lost their seats in the UK General Election, leaving the party with just eight MPs and only one in Wales.

The party lost half of its Welsh councillors in 2012 and came sixth in the 2014 European parliamentary election.

Meanwhile polls suggest that it could lose seats in the Assembly next May, with some forecasting just one or two Lib Dem AMs returning to Cardiff Bay.

It couldn't get much bleaker which is why senior Lib Dems are hoping that they've seen the darkest hour before the dawn.

The party has a new leader, Tim Farron, membership has increased and there have even been a handful of council by-election victories.

And, speaking ahead of the conference, Welsh Conservative leader Kirsty Williams said:

Before the fightback, however, the post-mortem.

In her speech to the conference on Monday, I expect Kirsty Williams to repeat for a UK audience her analysis of what went wrong that she laid out in a speech in Cardiff in June. Back then she said that at times over the last five years 'it felt like we were struggling to locate a compass to navigate our way through with our values unscathed.' You can read more about that speech by clicking here and watch what she said to me at the time below:

I expect she'll be even more trenchant in her views at a closed session of the conference today (Saturday) to consider what went wrong.

Others have weighed in with their views.

On his blog, Lib Dem Assembly Member, Peter Black writes that it wasn't going into coalition itself that was the problem but the way that the party acted once in government, dropping promises and showing a naivete that allowed them to be 'played' by their Conservative partners. He adds that by the time the election took place, it was too late for the Lib Dems:

Another former senior Welsh Lib Dem, Gwynoro Jones, agrees andwrites on his blogthat today's post-mortem session must deliver some answers as to why the party failed to prevent the damage being done.