As far as political polling goes you could do far worse than keeping an eye on Business Insider. The industry rag samples double the amount of people than regular pollsters and correctly tipped an exit from the European Union in last year’s election against all the odds. And following the announcement of a snap election on June 8th it has tipped an unlikely candidate as the winner – The Liberal Democrats.
According to their poll some 40 per cent of Brits intend to vote the Lib Dems in June, compared to 32 per cent Conservative and 22 per cent Labour. Of course it defies all logic. Most polls show the Conservatives 15-20 points ahead of Labour and streets ahead of all other competition gifting the party a majority of three figures and 40 per cent of the popular vote for the first time since 1987 when Margaret Thatcher was at the peak of her political powers. For Theresa May, a commanding victory will not only supply the personal mandate she currently lacks, but also crushes any internal and external opposition as she proceeds to tackle the most significant task facing any Prime Minister since World War II- negotiating Brexit.
— Jim Edwards (@Jim_Edwards) April 19, 2017
Many in the country will rejoice at the prospect of a Conservative landslide but this writer will not. One can only describe as a most sorry state of affairs that its biggest rival is a shambolic Labour party, wholly unfit to govern and on course to suffer one of its worst election results since formation in 1900. Back in September 2016, I wrote for TLE about the Liberal Democrats and why they are still relevant. The Lib Dems have since found their voice and have grounds for feeling confident about tentatively rebuilding their presence in the House of Commons following the massacre of 2015.
Here is why they could win.
The manner in which Theresa May has immediately pursued a “hard Brexit”, gone to the Supreme Court in a bid to avoid consulting MP’s before triggering Article 50 and spoken of carrying out Brexit as the “will of the British people”, it is as if the 48 per cent who voted Remain in last year’s EU Referendum have ceased to exist. Let us recall that in London, the capital, most populous city and economic engine of Great Britain, 60 per cent of voters wanted to Remain in the European Union; a result mirrored in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Labour’s ambivalent position on Europe has rendered them impotent and wholly irrelevant. On the contrary, the Liberal Democrats have made representing the concerns of Remainers their priority. There are many young people uncertain and frightened for their future prospects due to Brexit; many of them had no vote but saw elderly people decide their futures. There are many businesses of all sizes worried about how Brexit will affect their ability to operate and grow their organisations. The public sector is worried about filling staff shortages due to immigration curbs. Our world-class universities potentially stand to lose millions in funding for research. The general public have seen food prices rise in the supermarket and the strength of the pound heavily weakened. The Leavers’ infamous claim that £350 million a week would be available to fund the NHS following Brexit has been exposed as falsehood. There is much to question as we leave the European Union; the Liberal Democrats are clearly the only political party at the present time capable of assertively articulating the concerns of the 48% (and perhaps those remorseful Leavers) with passion and veracity.
My September 2016 article made the point that the Liberal Democrats were unfairly punished at the 2015 General Election, due mainly to Nick Clegg’s ill-conceived tuition fee pledge. The Tories targeted marginal Lib Dem seats as their primary electoral strategy and ruthlessly seized them en-route to victory. The achievements of the Lib Dems in coalition should not be forgotten- raising the threshold for paying income tax, introducing the Pupil Premium and obtaining a vote on the electoral system. Above all, the party sacrificed electoral success to provide stability to the country at a time of strife and paid the price. Sarah Olney’s barnstorming defeat of Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park last December was the principal sign of a Lib Dem revival to date and it would be a redemptive story if the Lib Dems can become a political force to be reckoned with once again at the upcoming general election.
Opposing the Tories
In coalition, the Lib Dems’ most effective function was to curb the excesses of the Conservative party. A Conservative majority in 2015 followed by Brexit has had the unfortunate consequence of emboldening fusty, arrogant, detestable Tory backbenchers who sense that following a period on the periphery during the Cameron years, they are in the ascendency and back in control of their party. Unless the Labour party swiftly reconciles itself and rediscovers vast reserves of hitherto undiscovered talent after a painful defeat this June, the Conservatives are firmly set to be the party of government for the foreseeable future. In what is certain to be a testing period for this country in the coming decade, a Liberal Democrat party boasting a broad-church of support from Labour leaning social democrats, traditional liberals and metropolitan Conservatives appears the best possible opposition to a dominant Tory government running amok to the detriment of our great country.