The Liberal Democrats have sealed their fate to remain in the political wilderness at the next general election, by declaring themselves as the party of remaining in the EU.
At the Liberal Democrat annual party conference at the seaside resort of Bournemouth over the weekend, the Liberal Democrats confirmed what everyone knew already – they are the defacto ‘Remain Party‘.
The party membership voted that should they win a majority at the next general election, they would withdraw Article 50 and remain a member of the European Union – and more importantly – do it WITHOUT a second referendum.
It was always expected that new leader Jo Swinson, at her first conference since being elevated to the top, would use the national media exposure to confirm that the party would go in that direction, even though the party had positioned itself there some time ago.
The problem for the Liberal Democrats is that there are quite a few dynamics at play in the current Brexit debate, and non of them will play favourably for them at the polls.
Granted, the Lib Dems have done very well in recent weeks with the numerous defections trickling through being independent and then crossing to their ranks, but those members of parliament who have defected will struggle to defend their seats as Lib Dems at the next election. In fact, in all likelihood they will all be given a resounding rejection by their constituency electorate at the next poll – and so they should.
The Liberal Democrats also don’t have the draw that the Brexit Party has. What’s going for the Brexit Party, and to some extent, the Conservatives, is that the country voted to leave the European Union, but it hasn’t happened yet.
To position your political party, and thus your political future against the majority of the electorate is really rather brave politics, and in all honesty, reckless. The Liberal Democrats are going to have MP’s both from the new intake, and those that are “actual” Lib Dems, attempting to be re-elected in leave-voting constituencies.
Obviously, if Jo Swinson thinks she has a plan, a manifesto and the arguments so strong that it will win over enough leave-voters to actually vote Lib Dem, then good luck to her.
I cannot see, other than some disenfranchised Labour voters lending the Lib Dems their vote, that they are going to make any progress at the next election, in fact, quite the opposite. I can see the Lib Dems going backwards, potentially back to the immediate aftermath of the 2015 election, where they effectively ceased to exist after being punished for being terrible coalition partners.