The Resurrection of the Liberal Democrats?
Although Thursday's North Shropshire by-election result was surely a defeat for Boris, we may be beginning to see the roots of a Lib Dem resurrection.
Good morning all.
Yesterday, I wrote that it was hard for me to “consider [Thursday’s North Shropshire by-election result] a Lib Dem ‘victory’ in any other sense than that they happened to win the most votes.”
In other words, I didn’t think the Lib Dems really won. Rather, the Tories just lost. The reason? Simple. Sleaze, pandemic restrictions, and accusations of dishonesty, all related to our embattled Prime Minister.
But as the day progressed and I thought about it more, I began to think about the folly of that statement. Why did the Lib Dems do so well and Labour do so poorly, especially given Labour’s national lead in the polls?
Then it clicked. With Brexit (largely) out the picture, we may be once again emerging into a political ecosystem reminiscent of the days of the late Charles Kennedy; where the Liberal Democrats lived up to the values of their founders and offered a competent Third Way to the Tories and Labour.
You may think from my blog that Britain is a two-party state - that couldn’t be further from the truth. And with the recent quantum shift away from the executive and back to Parliament, small Parliamentary coalitions could become more important still while Labour refuses to hold the government to account.
Of course, the big problem with the Liberal Democrats is that they - since the disastrous election in 2015 - have simply failed to be liberal and refused to be democratic.
With the ghost of Brexit and their outrageous policy to overturn (without a mandate) the 2016 EU referendum fading from the public’s memory, their momentous victory in an overwhelmingly Leave seat means that, under new leadership and the promise to live up to the logic of the name, disenchanted Tory voters seem more likely to back the Lib Dems than they would Labour.
Anecdotally, it seems like Brexit failed to come up on the doorstep at all. Leave Tories seemingly are willing to give the Lib Dems a chance to fix the issues that actually matter.
Add to that the relative competitiveness of the Liberal Democrats against the SNP in Scotland, which already sees many Scottish Tories vote Lib Dem in their constituencies and Conservative on the list, the Lib Dems could be set to take their rightful place to the right of Labour and left of the Conservatives.
You know, if Labour and the Tories ever decide what they actually stand for.
Given their illiberal baggage, it was thus quite surprising to see that the Lib Dems were whipped to vote against the government’s new coronavirus restrictions. We really need a mainstream party willing to lend a nuanced approach to lockdown critique. It’s surely no coincidence that disenchanted Tory voters gave them their unequivocal backing mere days later.
Only time will tell if the Lib Dems make anything of their new liberal momentum. But if the Conservatives insist on becoming the illiberal party, we might be glad we have access to a Liberal one.
In the meantime, the Lib Dem’s burst Boris’ bubble in a literal (as well as metaphorical) sense. Not sure it made the point they wanted it to, but it sure was funny!
You literally could not make this stuff up
It was revealed last night that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case’s office - the man responsible for the investigation into Downing Street parties last Christmas - held at least two Christmas parties last December.
There is no accusation that Case himself partied it up, but he “popped his head in” at various points in the evening to chat with the staff present. In other words, he certainly knew about it.
I’m exceedingly convinced that with every party that is revealed, the country ultimately cares less and less about “Christmas partygate.”
But still, you literally could not make this stuff up.