Author Archives: Ben Rich

European Elections aren’t about the Lib Dems, they are about Remain

Tim Farron rightly gets lots of criticism for his lack of clarity on one issue. Unfortunately, this tends to obscure the huge credit that he should receive for his boldness – back on 24th June 2016 – in being the first to argue that there would need to be a final vote for the British people on whatever deal was eventually strike. I’m biased, but that looks visionary: not only was he clearly right but it gave the Lib Dems a raison d’etre, at a time when they might otherwise have seemed wholly irrelevant.

The Lib Dems now find themselves, increasingly, on what appears to be right side of history. Whether or not a people’s vote is achieved and ultimately Britain votes to remain, the party holds a position that will be a key determinate of how people will vote for decades to come.

And yet, the Lib Dems have frequently been right in the past without reaping political rewards. Even at this moment of greatest opportunity, going into EU elections, the party runs the risk of annihilation.

Yesterday’s Today programme carried two set-piece interviews about the forthcoming EU elections: the first with Nigel Farage about the launch of his Brexit party and the second with Anna Soubry MP about Change UK’s campaign. News is called that for a reason: what is new always trumps what is old.  And the Lib Dems are old.

The emerging media narrative for the EU election campaign is a fight between, on the one hand, the two new parties as the champions respectively of leave and remain, on the other, more broadly between the old parties and the new. Despite three long years of championing the remain cause the Lib Dems simply have no place in this narrative – they are irrelevant.

And yet despite what must now be viewed as an existential threat going into these elections, it feels uncomfortably like ‘business as usual’ for the party: 

There is some griping about the unwillingness of TIG to form a pro-EU alliance, but why would they? They see our brand as fatally tarnished. Whether they are right or wrong, they aren’t ready to do deals.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 46 Comments
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