Thursday 15 August 2019

The Liberal Democrats' Worst Nightmare

It's not been a good day for the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson. Still on a high after snatching a seat at the Brecon by-election, chillaxing in the after glow of picking up another recruit from the much-missed Change UK, and making uncomfortable waves for Labour with her Tom Watson chum-in, I expect she arose this morning felling quite chuffed. 

And then that utter bastard Jeremy Corbyn went and ruined everything. 

In his letter to the leaders of opposition parties, and the smattering of independents and disgruntled Tories, he holds out the hand of friendship. To stop no deal, in the event of a successful no confidence in Boris Johnson's government JCorbz proposes a Labour-led caretaker government that would apply for an Article 50 extension and call a general election in which Labour would campaign on the basis of a second referendum with the option of remaining. Surely the Liberal Democrats, the self-styled party of remain would applaud Labour's move to stop no deal. After all, this disastrous outcome must be avoided at all costs, yes?

Not on your nelly. Throughout the day the LibDems have doubled down on their refusal to back Labour's plan. This is despite a positive reception from Caroline Lucas (partly making up for the weekend's nonsense), a cautious welcome from pro-EU Tories, and pressure from centrist Labour MPs. Awkwardly, even Sarah Wollaston, the newest LibDem MP, has shown a flash of pragmatism. And so watching LibDems, FBPE weirdos, the remnants of Change UK, and Z-list celebrities lose the plot on Twitter this afternoon was the most fun I've had on that blasted platform for many a year. Because for all their bluster, Labour's plan against no deal is the LibDems' worst nightmare.

First off, name me a single LibDem policy that isn't punting for a second referendum. Unless you're a real nerd or the LibDem spox for something or another, you can't name one. Just as Nigel Farage cornered Brexit in the dog days of Theresa May's premiership, the LibDems under Uncle Vince and Jo Swinson believed, not unreasonably, that they could do the same by positioning their party as the remain party. And what do you know, it worked for this year's EU elections. In a second order election given to the venting of frustrations, they took moderate pro-EU voters off the Tories and remainy Labour voters (and not a few members) impatient at its refusal to simply become an outright remain party. In the victory flush, the party calculated they could carry on and repair the damage inflicted on them by their near-death coalition experience years ahead of the most optimistic forecasts of recovery. They didn't pay attention to the pivoting toward a second referendum by Labour's leadership and, well, the small matter of repeatedly trooping the PLP through the voting lobbies against May's deal and no deal. The notion Corbyn is a secret Brexiteer around whom Stalinoid pig iron and tractor fetishists enforced the leader's will with a chain link lash meant there was absolutely no chance he'd seize the initiative back from the LibDems. Hubris and Nemesis, when will they ever learn.

By refusing Labour's offer, Swinson and co. are left with a rump of hard remainers and very little else. And by accepting Corbyn's proposal, their strategy collapses and they lose some of the voters they've recently won over anyway. Sucks to be them, but also sucks to be us if they are prepared to kamikaze and throw away the opportunity of thwarting no deal - the position they've staked everything on. Oh yes, and there is another matter of self-interest the LibDems won't declare that has a bearing on their decision-making. Polling consistently shows the SNP are surging in Scotland thanks to the ongoing Brexit nonsense and the distinctly English nationalist tone pushed by Johnson and friends. We're not talking 2015 tsunami here, but certainly enough to knock back the 2017 Tory, Labour and LibDem recovery. Would Swinson's East Dunbartonshire seat be one of those to fall? Ordinarily, a 6,000-strong majority is a comfortable cushion to have, and she shouldn't have anything to worry about. Ordinarily.

Once again, Corbyn's opponents have grossly underestimated the Labour leader and believed their own hype about their genius and savvy. They've got caught out, and are getting rinsed. We now have a clear road map about what can be done. Will it work? Who can say, but all of a sudden it's Labour who are offering a solution out of the Brexit impasse. The choice is now clear: no deal and all that entails with Boris Johnson, or a deal or no Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn. What's it to be?


Karl Greenall said...

Jo Swindon's interview on Today this morning (Friday)was the spin doctor's nightmare alright!
It bears out all you say, Phil.
If I were a Lib Dem member or voter, I would be very worried about what Jo is about. Having clearly learned nothing,she still identifies with the Tories rather than the possibility of progressive politics and a hopeful future for the country.
Yet again, in the face of the naysayers, Jeremy Corbyn is showing the political savvy woefully lacking in his opponents.
More fool them.

Boffy said...

Swinson has destroyed the Liberals come back.

What a pity though that Corbyn allowed the Liberals and Blair-rights to make a comeback in the first place. He has wasted three years in pursuit of an impossible reactionary Brexit, during which time he could and should instead have been leading and building a mass social movement to stop Brexit, and to present a progressive internationalist programme as the real solution to workers problems, and would thereby have starved the Liberals, Greens, and Blair-rights of the oxygen they needed to recover.

The question now is whether having failed to do that, it is too late.

Dipper said...

way back on the 27th July I wrote this:

"Johnson is going to steamroller parliament. For Parliament to stop Johnson they are going to have to unite and vote against him. They aren't going to unite, as uniting requires a single figure to unite behind, and however much people don't like Johnson they don't like uniting behind Swinson/Starmer/Corbyn/Watson even more as that will be the end of their faction's dreams of power, and there's a sizeable number of Labour MPs in Leave seats who will not vote to prevent Brexit."

and so far everything is going according to this plan.

So far, Johnson's premiership has been a glory to behold. Open, diverse, liberal, optimistic, confident, populist where he needs to be. It is a refreshing joy to see someone taking the reins of power and using them, challenging the opposition to do better, instead of years of bellyaching about how we cannot do this and we cannot do that. Years of Government by Excuse are ending and we have government taking responsibility

If Brexit was about transformation then it is delivering.

Dipper said...

As a Tory, if I were to choose my opposition for the next election, I'd definitely have Swinson in there. A strong Lib-Dev surge is good news as I think it will cannibalise the Labour vote more then cannibalise the Tory vote. There are significant differences with Labour that allow Tories to set one against the other, and she says bonkers things like she wants a second referendum only if it will deliver a Remain vote. So I sincerely hope she isn't blowing up yet.

Corbyn came close last time and clearly is a formidable campaigner, and has a line that a lot of people are prepared to vote for. It is obvious rubbish, eg going on about Austerity when the tax take as a percent of GDP is at a multi-decade high, and a McDonnel/Corbyn government will be a complete disaster unless you happen to be a friend of senior people in Labour in which case you can fill your pockets. But that will be a tough campaign for the Tories as Labour will take it onto areas of weakness for the tory government.

Paul Cotterill said...

Good post.

The mess Swinson's got herself in here is pleasingly complicated by section 22 of the LibDem federal constiution (inserted, I think, post Clegg-Cameron 2010 love-in, which requires that any negotiated arrangement for government with any other party goes to special conference for approval.

So to try to dig herslef out of the whole Swinson, short of just accepting that Corbyn as LOTO should be PM, she'll have to try to do work a deal with others, but LibDems actvists are likely, I suspect, to want to have a say on this at the annual conference, and given it would have to come back to them anyway, a half sensible annual (not special) conference will instruct, by amendment to their existing Brexit motion (woolly crap) Swinson to deal directly with Corbyn for a LOTO-led government.

I'd like to think Labout HQ understand the conditions under which the LibDems operate, of course, and that this isn't just luck.

Speedy said...

Dipper, Brexit was about leaving the European Union, and that hasn't happened yet. Although the pound has plummetted and the country is heading recession-ward. Thanks.

Brexit was sold as - the Golden Goose. Well, that's never going to happen.
Renewed Sovereignty - which apparently means whatever Donald Trump says it is.

As I say in the thread below - about you! - the only thing Brexit is really about is Thatcherism. An end to the social safety net, workers rights, the NHS, hell, retirement for all but the very wealthy. It is a celebration of greed, cruelty, inequality and selfishness, wrapped up as self-sufficiency, hard work and national pride (which will mean scapegoating anyone from fifth column "remainers" to the usual suspects).

That's what you'll be getting and I appreciate why you are cock-a-hoop. But please, it was never about this "transformation" - about 30 per cent of nasty bastards voted for this, and the other 22 per cent were just useful idiots. And yes, they were idiots. Bravo.

Dipper said...


This is nonsense. Brexit simply allows the UK population to pick its government. If its about all those things you say then it will be because the UK government west elected to implement those policies. Corbyn is anti-EU because to will allow him to implement his hard-left policies which he cannot do whilst in the EU.

Just a reminder that real wages are going up for the first time in a decade or so. Needless to say the notion of workers getting higher pay is greeted with horror by the righteous left. And that's on the back of highest ever number of people in work. And its the EU that's heading for recession. If we leave we should have some turmoil then do well in faster growing international markets.

Jimbo said...

I read your articles daily and I really like your writing.

I voted to leave the EU in 2016 pretty much because if the circumstances that I found myself in. I'd had my car broken into and nails but in my tyres so I felt very bitter at the time.

However now I'm a bit more clear headed I feel I made the wrong choice and if a second referendum is called I will vote for remain. I sincerely hope that if the situation arises that Corbyn is able to form a coalition to call for a second referendum that he will campaign vigorously to stay in the EU.

Jim Denham said...

A number of points in response to this.

1. The idea of a temporary "one-shot" coalition government to prevent a no-deal Brexit is not, fundamentally, about championing a bourgeois coalition. It is about whether we should rule out Labour forming a government with support from the LibDems, SNP, PC, the remnants of TIG and one Green which may be the only way of stopping a no deal Brexit. Obviously it is not acceptable that this be led by a Labour right-winger or a LibDem (they appear to have realised the weakness of their position with only 14 MPsm a considerable proportion of whom were elected for other parties in 2017). As it turns out, Corbyn’s demand to lead appears to be gaining some grudging acceptance. Whether this might be a minority Labour government or a formal coalition is unclear, but we should demand the former for all the obvious reasons. We should recognise, however, that the willingness of the Labour leadership to propose this is a major step forward (I thought originally that it was a cynical move designed to fail, but it appears to be gaining traction).

2. The LibDems have been strengthened in large part by the Labour leadership’s lack of a clear stance and decisive action on Brexit. Labour now appears to take a firmer stand on no deal and may be able to claw some of this back, but the LibDems have already been strengthened. Would it it would be wrong for Labour to bring down Johnson’s government because the LibDems may do well, and this may give Johnson a majority? But it is surely better that Labour do this than leave the timing of such an election in Johnson’s hands and allow him to deliver a no deal Brexit.

What's a name between Friends said...

I think Boffy told us the Lib Dems were finished when they went into the Tories, you know those idiots that brought this shit storm in the first place!

I remember thinking at the time this was nonsense and that people would pretty much forget within a few years. So the fact that Boffy now claims their comeback has been destroyed leaves me a little cold.

Incidentally the reason the liberal democrats could go into partnership with the Tories, you know those idiots that actually brought Brexit to us, but cannot stomach going into partnership with Corbyn is because for the Yvette Cooper loving centre left the Tories are much more preferable than Corbyn’s brand of mild social democracy and moreover the difference between the Tories and New Labour is so negligible its hardly worth getting excited about.

No wonder the Blairites are utterly beside themselves with having a leader who represents everything that detest!

“He has wasted three years in pursuit of an impossible reactionary Brexit”

No he didn’t, for one thing he spent numerous hours developing policy, the other thing he was too distracted with the traitors within his own ranks to have wasted everything on brexit! How much time has he had to spend dealing with the Yvette Cooper loving centre left doing everything to topple him.

“during which time he could and should instead have been leading and building a mass social movement to stop Brexit, and to present a progressive internationalist programme as the real solution to workers problems”

How do you link the EU to building any of that? Seriously where is the logic? If anything Corbyn should have been more stringent in his opposition to NATO, support for Palestinians, hostility to imperialist piracy and economic terrorism but then he has tried all of that but was shot down by his own MP’s! Typical that Boffy equates internationalism with the EU but not anti imperialism. I think this tells you everything about this scumbags chauvinistic, pro capitalist policies.

“and would thereby have starved the Liberals, Greens, and Blair-rights of the oxygen they needed to recover.”

Boffy and his alternative history!

“The question now is whether having failed to do that, it is too late”

More pertinently if he does succeed how the hell would the EU ever integrate more closely with Britain inside the tent, thwarting every move at closer integration. I mean the EU parliament would be choc full of Brexit party members. If Boffy thinks the socialist, progressive future hinges on EU membership then he he isn’t just a servile imperialist lackey, he is a deluded idiot to boot.

By the way, I did vote remain so don't blame me for any of this shit!

David Parry said...


'It is obvious rubbish, eg going on about Austerity when the tax take as a percent of GDP is at a multi-decade high'

That doesn't preclude there being austerity.

'McDonnel/Corbyn government will be a complete disaster unless you happen to be a friend of senior people in Labour in which case you can fill your pockets.'

Somehow, I doubt it would be worse than what we have now (i.e. the Tories lining the pockets of their mates at the expense of everyone else). I certainly don't think it would be worse than the mess the Tories look set to cause, what with no deal.

'Just a reminder that real wages are going up for the first time in a decade or so.'

After a decade during which they declined year on year.

'And that's on the back of highest ever number of people in work.'

In absolute terms, when the population's larger than it's ever been. Wow, such a big achievement!