We’ve been here before. The promise of the Great Liberal Revival. Last witnessed c. April 2010 it took the form of Nick “I Agree with Nick” Clegg. This time it is embodied by Jo “Bollocks to Brexit” Swinson. I was suckered into believing to believe in 2010; I am still not yet ready to forgive the betrayal.
Whilst I commend the Liberal Democrats clear and unequivocal stance on Brexit, I am worried that there are undercurrents of political opportunism at play in their rush to the ballot box. The Liberal Democrats clearly believe that their policy on Brexit will gain them parliamentary seats, by hoping to pick up a large proportion of the Remain-supporting voters. I am not so sure. Even taking into account Unite to Remain non-aggression pacts with the Greens and Plaid Cymru, I do not think they have the numbers. In fact, they may even find themselves worse off than they are at the present.
In the 2017 election, the public returned a measly 12 Liberal Democrat MPs. At the time of the 2019 election that number had swelled to a more respectable 21, purely as a result of the defection of MPs from other parties, but some of these defectors, most notably some of the biggest names amongst them, are going to struggle to retain their seat.
In 2017, Sam Gyimah won East Surrey for the Conservatives with a majority of 23,914. In that constituency, Conservatives polled 59.6% to Liberal Democrats 10.5% of the vote. He is now standing as PPC for Kensington, which in 2017 saw both Labour and Conservative very closely matched with 42.2% of the vote each, and Liberal Democrats with 12.2%. Are that number of voters likely to change party allegiance purely to swing behind Sam? I think not.
Chuka Umunna, formerly of Streatham, faces an equally great challenge. When he was a Labour MP his majority was 26,285; Labour receiving 68.5% of the Streatham vote to the Liberal Democrats’ 6.5%. This time around, he is fighting Cities of London and Westminster, which in the 2017 election returned a Tory MP with 46.6% of the vote; Liberal Democrats trailing in third place with 11.0% of the vote. It would be a Herculean feat to overturn such a majority and take the seat for the Liberal Democrats even in such a strongly Remain area.
I fear that defection rather than election may continue to be the Liberal Democrats most effective means of gaining MPs, which raises an interesting question. What happens if you form a majority in the House of Commons with a party comprised entirely of defecting MPs? Where is our democracy then?
But could this actually be the strategy for the Great Liberal Revival? Rather than enter into non-aggression pacts with smaller parties, better instead to get your MPs to pose as Labour and Tory candidates in safe Labour and Tory seats, and then have them defect to the Liberal Democrats as soon as they are elected.
© Beery Sue
Beery Sue’s political acumen is wasted propping up the bar of her local. Clear a space for her at the counter of the Strangers’ Bar.