Tag Archives: political realignment

Could the Liberal Democrats be part of the Official Opposition by 2025?

In politics, we see a ‘paradigm shift’ occur generationally, which we are now seeing with the Conservatives in office, but not in power. Labour is a party heading for power, but not yet in office. Where do we as Liberal Democrats stand in this generational event, or could it be an event of a political realignment which usually happens once in a century? 

Antony Hook has started a serious debate about our long-term vision after the General Election. This article seeks to furtherer this debate, and will prove to be controversial to some readers. However, as Liberals we believe in free debate, as this is a fundamental right in a free and fair society and it is in this spirit, this article should be read. 

This article presumes that there will be two seismic political events next year, on which I will focus on the second one:

  1. General Election
  2. Conservative Leadership Election

With Keir Starmer likely to be Prime Minister after the General Election, the Conservatives will have a leadership election, which will lead to a civil war within their party. As Conservative Home points out, One Nation MPs have fallen out with the Conservative Grassroots. This has been further illustrated by Tim Montgomerie, who wrote that

He (Nigel Farage) got quite the reception. I’m convinced party members would choose him as leader if they could.

Rishi Sunak has even left the door for Nigel Farage to return to the Conservative Party. It is evident that Farage is seen as the doyen of Conservatism, and Liberal Conservatives may need to find a new political home after the General Election.

Despite One Nation Tories pledging to hold Suella Braverman (or Liz Truss) to account if she is elected, they are more likely to have more in common with the new cohort of Liberal Democrat MPs who will be elected at the next General Election, as they will be representing their traditional heartlands

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 47 Comments

If there is a realignment, liberalism must claim its place

A lot of early evaluation of last Thursday’s elections has written the obituary of the Labour party as the ‘Red Wall’ further fell to Johnson’s populist Tories. There is a strong sense that a realignment is taking place in British politics and if so, Liberalism needs to be part of it.

While the death of Labour is, I think, still premature, the implications of the realignment analysis should not be lost on Liberal Democrats preparing for the electoral battles of the decade ahead. Many commentators have confidently concluded that Keir Starmer’s party has lost relevance and cannot recover now that the Tories have been accepted as a credible alternative in places that were solid Labour. That is, Labour is trying to hold together a coalition of younger, metropolitan types with older working class voters and there is a clash of values.

This evaluation is far from conclusive. The elections took place during a national (and international) crisis, 4.2 million furloughs were being paid by the state on polling day, Johnson has taken the credit for a successful vaccine rollout, as Tim Farron pointed out, the electorate has tended to support incumbents in England, Scotland and Wales, plus in analysis of the 1247 key wards there was actually a small swing to Labour. Don’t forget, after the 1992 election, there was similar analysis that Britain now lived in a one-party state. And it really wasn’t that long ago that commentators were wondering if there could ever be a route again to the Conservatives commanding a majority. So let’s take care with apocalyptic predictions.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Breaking the stranglehold of the monoliths

Embed from Getty Images

One of the most distinctive statements we have made in recent years has been that we are not afraid of coalition government; indeed we entered into one in 2010. Now the media see serious divisions in the two apparent monoliths who swap power between them, and ask whether the time is ripe for a new ‘party of the centre’. Vince speaks often of a realignment of politics and implies that the Party could benefit significantly from such a seismic shift. Which begs the questions, in what way and with what objective?

It has become clear that neither Labour nor the Tories are actually monolithic; each contains factions hardly on speaking terms with each other. Applying a simple left/right measure there seems to be a hope that both moderate Tories and moderate Labour voters can be persuaded to fall in behind a moderate, centrist banner, carry the day and emerge as the new monolith displacing one or both of the two current ones. But why on earth would we want a new monolith?

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We don’t need a NEW pro EU party


Ever since the referendum vote to leave the EU last year there has been feverish speculation about the need to set up a new political party. Yet 9 months have gone by and nothing has so far emerged. I would suggest that they have missed the boat. Thousands have already joined the pro-EU parties, notably the Lib Dems and the new party missed the opportunity to recruit them.

Even if it had been set up 9 months ago, would it have worked? Some see a parallel with the SDP formed in 1981 by the “Gang of 4”; Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and Bill Rodgers. It is worth recalling that they were all substantial political figures in their day. Had any one of them won the Labour leadership back then they would have mounted a far more serious challenge to the Tory government led by Margaret Thatcher. Instead Labour elected Michael Foot who was doomed to fail and Roy Jenkins led the SDP which brought in 50,000 new members (the Liberals had 100,000+), but in alliance with the Liberal party despite polling 26% of the popular vote they were crushed by the voting system and eventually had to merge with the Liberal party (and hence the Lib Dems of today).

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Reclamation, not realignment

Regular readers of LDV  have recently been reminded of similarities between contemporary populist discontent and the 1930s. There is, however, one other aspect of the ‘30s which might be important to the Liberal Democrats today—and, it should go without saying—to the country as well.

And it’s not just the ‘30s. There are lessons, too, that should be learned from more recent events.

To the ‘30s first: These were deeply unstable times for British political parties and for parliament. These were the years of the National Government, of the splintering of the Liberal Party, of enormous division in the Labour Party that almost paralysed it. In retrospect, the Conservative Party was also much closer to permanent splintering than it perhaps appeared at the time.

Today, of those three parties it is the Liberal Democrats who look most likely to come through the next couple of years in best shape.

The single most important reason for that change is that it is clear, as it was not in the ‘30s, where the party stands on the most pressing issue of the day. And from a clear stance as to that main issue, positions on a variety of subsidiary issues also follow necessarily. However unsure as to the specific details, party members and the public at large can parse a variety of Lib Dem policy positions on immigration, human rights, internationalism and trade, among others, reasonably accurately based on the confident knowledge that the party is staunchly committed to the EU project.

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Realignment of the left – an idea whose time has come?

Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron have both suggested in recent days that those on the progressive side of politics need to work together to oppose the Tories and deliver change.

Of course, a defining part of Paddy’s leadership of the party was his desire to see closer co-operation on the left.

The Tories need to be beaten, now more than ever, even more than in the 1980s. Their destruction of the country then almost pales into insignificance to the damage they have done with their self-indulgent EU related civil war. How do we achieve it, though, while retaining the integrity of individual parties, most particularly this one? The last thing I want to see is the Liberal Democrats being the smile on the face of the right-wing Labour tiger.

It’s vital that we have a party that stands up for civil liberties and individual freedom in a way that neither Conservatives or Labour have managed.

Politics Home reported an interview with Tim Farron with BBC News in which he talked about the need to work together across party lines:

Asked about the prospect of a merger that would mirror the deal between the SDP and Liberal party that formed the Liberal Democrats, Mr Farron suggested the referendum campaign had led to a reconsideration of the party divides.

“Amongst the things that I think we’ve got out of the referendum is that we’ve discovered, lots of us, who have worked across party boundaries, that we’ve enjoyed doing so,” he told BBC News.

“I shared a platform with many people I won’t embarrass by naming, who they discovered and they discovered we had more in common than just our belief that Britain should be in the European Union.”

When pressed on whether he was open to the idea of a new party, he replied: “We shouldn’t put any construct or constraint on what might happen next. People could come to us, they could set up another party, who knows. But there needs to be a realignment – otherwise we’ll be left with a Tory government forever.”

In today’s Sunday Times (£), Paddy Ashdown has floated the idea of a progressive movement, talking about how political parties have failed the public:

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