Britain’s Liberal Democrats were polling as high as 20 percent in September, when it seemed just possible they might beat Labour into third place. The projection now is they will end up with 11 percent support in the election on Thursday, up from 7-8 percent in the last two elections but still a far cry from the 22-23 percent Charles Kennedy and Nick Clegg won in 2005 and 2010.
Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, even lost her seat in Dunbartonshire East to the Scottish nationalists by a margin of 149 votes. It means her party will need to find a fourth new leader in five years.
Boris Johnson, who once described himself as a liberal, has made common cause with the reactionaries in his party to take power; forced out 21 principled moderates who opposed his Brexit policy, including ten former cabinet ministers, two former chancellors and one former deputy prime minister; and unlawfully suspended Parliament in an attempt to prevent debate on his Brexit deal, which, for all his bluster, is essentially the deal the EU offered two years ago.
In a month, Britain will have its third election in four years. Once more the reason is Brexit, or rather the lack of Brexit.
I’ve argued before that Britain’s departure from the EU is accelerating a breakdown of the two-party system. The upcoming election is like a kaleidoscope. Every time you shake it, a new pattern appears.
Yet the stakes are simple enough. For the Conservatives, all that matters is winning a majority. The other parties merely have to stop this from happening to claim victory.
This British election is an impossible choice for liberals like us.
We can’t possibly support Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies of nationalization and unilateral nuclear disarmament would compound the disaster of Brexit — which he did far too little to prevent — many times over.
After they formed a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010, Britain’s Liberal Democrats only lost elections — local, mayoral and national.
The low point came in May 2015, when the party lost 49 of its 57 seats in the House of Commons. Big names, like Danny Alexander and Vince Cable, were voted out. Liberal strongholds across South West England simply vanished.
Liberals have talked up a “LibDem revival” since that dismal election result and commentators have dismissed it as sheer optimism.
If Labour reelects the far-left Jeremy Corbyn as its leader this week, which seems likely, and the Conservatives under Theresa May do lurch a little to the right, that should leave space in the center of British politics for the Liberal Democrats.
Unfortunately for them, that space will never be very wide.
I argued here the other day that May is breaking — however carefully — with David Cameron’s liberal legacy in order to secure the support of suburban and provincial voters who are more right-wing than the party has been. Many of them voted Conservative in 2015 and many voted to leave the European Union in the referendum in June, prompting Cameron, who had advised a “remain” vote, to step down.
A rightward shift under May, on education and immigration policy, could tempt more urban and liberal-minded voters to defect, I warned:
If May seems in thrall to those who voted to leave the EU because they are dissatisfied with the modern world, don’t be surprised if those who only voted for the Conservatives when they had finally come to terms with the modern world abandon her in the future.
With Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives expected to once again fall short of a parliamentary majority in the election this week, this website is hoping the Liberal Democrats will scrape together enough seats to keep the two parties in power. The last five years of coalition government have been stable and successful. The alternative, a Labour government held to ransom by Scottish separatists, would be anything but. Read more “Five More Years: British Should Reelect Cameron, Clegg”