What happens the day after the next General Election?

In my last article for LDV I spoke about the end of two-Party politics. Since then we have had three more opinion polls with Lib Dems ranging from first with 30% to fourth with 19%. What doesn’t change is the fact that 4 Parties, Lib Dems, Brexit, Tory and Labour are bunched fairly closes around the 20s with the Green Party on 8-10%. I do like the 30% Lib Dem one though. Many people must have gone to bed dreaming of that magic moment of being declared an MP when they saw that.

Although I am not ‘Mystic Dicky’ with a crystal ball I suspect that the FPTP system which is supposed to give us simple, decent sized majorities will land us into the deepest of no overall majority situations.

The excellent news from Brecon that the Green Party will support Jane Dodds and (I think) there is a strong possibility that Plaid Cymru will do so as well is very heartening. I believe that we should all consider on a seat-by-seat basis who is the best placed to win. In Liverpool Wavertree where I am the PPC I, supported by the Liverpool Lib Dems, have agreed to stand down for Luciana Berger. That might need to be revised as she has left Change UK but the principle is absolutely clear.
However, this is only half the picture for three reasons:

  1. In many constituencies even on the Flavible seat analysis of the last YouGov poll, there is not a clear challenger to the Tory or Labour incumbent. We will have to decide how to split those up.
  2. Labour and the Tories will fight every seat because they have yet to catch up with the reality of multi-Party politics.
  3. There are a reasonable number of Tory and Labour MPs who will be elected who, like us see BREXIT as the biggest danger to our Country and will be prepared to stop it. Almost all those MPs are people that we could work with on other issues as well. One’s view on Brexit is often a pretty good indicator of your views on a wide range of other issues as well.

My hazy recollection of ‘O’ level Physics (there is actually a black hole type space in my head which has absorbed everything I should have learned and keeps it there) tells me that one of the big questions for understanding our existence is what happened a micro second after the Big Bang. I transfer that to politics and ask, “Is the most important question that we face what will happen the day after the General Election?”

Let’s just suppose that Johnson and Corbyn were to lead their Parties into the jaws of defeat in the General Election and have not lost their seat in the process (although things do look good for us in both their constituencies) I would find it absolutely unthinkable that any Lib Dem Leader could negotiate with them. They are both dreadful characters living in a glorious past that never was. They could not be part of a stable partnership Government because they both believe in things that are clearly illiberal. They could not be replaced easily under the constitutions of both Parties although perhaps an interim Leader might be announced.

So, if we cannot negotiate with other Parties who could we negotiate with? My view is that we would finally break the 2-Party system by offering talks with individuals in other Parties whose views are most in accord with our own. I suspect that were we in such deep NOC territory a sufficient number would want to take the opportunity to jump ship to a more satisfying future.

If that scenario is to be played out, we would need to be ready for it. We need to have that as immediate post-election option that our Leader can announce within minutes of being finally sure of likely numbers. We need to start talking now quietly and privately talk to people who are existing MPs in other Parties or people who be suitable candidates in other Parties.
The other advantage of this approach is to get us away from the question that is always asked, “Will you support a Labour or Tory coalition?” The answer to that is neither of them and the new question will then become, “which people are prepared to work with us?”

We don’t know the numbers and things may not be clear right up until the last constituency is declared. At all stages we need to be thinking ahead, setting our stall for all eventualities now; and knowing where our friends are and how we might want or need to work with them in the future.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE, Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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40 Comments

  • William Fowler 1st Jul '19 - 1:59pm

    You forgot to mention the Brexit Party’s liking of PR, if Brexit is already done or revoked then a short term alignment with Farage to do PR and then a new GE?

  • Paul Barker 1st Jul '19 - 2:06pm

    These are all interesting questions that we should be thinking about.
    In my view the safest option would be to build an Alliance now (ie after the 23rd) both to maximise Progressive/Remainer Seat numbers & to draw up a minimal program for a Coalition led by The Libdems. We may not have much more than a Month to get our act together.

  • nigel hunter 1st Jul '19 - 2:16pm

    We should be aiming for Govnt and grasp the opportunity with gusto. Stop thinking apologetically that we are not used to being a front runner.At the moment there is much talk of liberal govnt. Those in charge are NOT liberal but CONSERVATIVE wearing liberal clothesi.Like the emperors new clothes point out they are not LIBERAL and there naked conservatism will show.

  • Another good article from Richard including the bit about Wavertree. Paul is right that we don’t have much time. It is looking quite likely that the new tory leader will lose an immediate vote of no confidence at the end of July if Corbyn has the guts to go for it.
    MPs like Luciana, Hedi and Sarah Wollaston will need to decide soon what label they want to wear in a GE in September. Under FPTP getting elected as an independent is very difficult. Hopefully discussions are being held with all the ex and current Change MPs and some in both tory and Labour. There could be some fast movement out of the 2 dinosaurs when a vote of no confidence is held, hopefully to us but would they hold their seats?
    If the 4 way split in the opinion polls carries through to a GE then it becomes a bit of a lottery under FPTP. Our Russell Johnston held Inverness in 1992 with 26%, 400 votes ahead of 4gh place.

  • A scenario in which no single party has a majority does seem highly likely.

    In interviews, both Jo Swinson and Ed Davey seem to be encouraging the impression, that post-election they won’t speak to a Corbyn-led Labour party in any circumstances. Talk about myopic; if a confidence and supply arrangement can provide: full HoL reform; PR for local elections and improved transparency it’d be utterly ludicrous for the Lib Dems to sit on their hands and not cooperate in shaping core shared policy objectives.

  • Paul Barker 1st Jul '19 - 3:57pm

    The problem with forming a Coalition with either Labour or Tories is that neither are one Party anymore, The Conservatives are 2 Parties & Labour 3 or 4. How could either of them follow through with any deal they made ?
    The first issue for any New Government will be Brexit, that rules out any deal with The Tories & makes a deal with Corbyn virtually impossible.
    All that is putting the cart before the horse, we should be aiming to be the largest Party, leading a Progressive Coalition built round Liberal values.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Jul '19 - 4:09pm

    Cllr Richard, as often, good.

    Firstly, back Luciana , Heidi, Sarah, regardless of their party or lack of it. Thy are part of no grouping pitted against our party.

    Then, no to any deals or discussions with parties led by Johnson or Corbyn, ever.

    New leader new openness. These two are awful.

    Agree with Richard on these aspects very strongly.

  • christopher moore 1st Jul '19 - 4:22pm

    Andy 1st Jul ’19 – 3:08pm In interviews, both Jo Swinson and Ed Davey seem to be encouraging the impression, that post-election they won’t speak to a Corbyn-led Labour party in any circumstances. Talk about myopic; if a confidence and supply arrangement can provide: full HoL reform; PR for local elections and improved transparency it’d be utterly ludicrous for the Lib Dems to sit on their hands and not cooperate in shaping core shared policy objectives.

    Such measures can be supported from the opposition benches.

    If Labour insist on pushing through Brexit, the Lib Dems will not be part of such a government or indeed co-operate on a supply and confidence basis.

  • chris moore 1st Jul '19 - 4:30pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin, Firstly, back Luciana , Heidi, Sarah, regardless of their party or lack of it. Thy are part of no grouping pitted against our party.

    Yes, that’s quite right. Those three and the lion ‘s share of other MPs within continuity Change and Tiggers 2 are political friends, even if they don’t share some aspects of liberalism.

    There are serious local Lib Dem parties in the constituencies of all three of the MPs you name, which could make a big difference to their possiblities of electoral survival.

  • Jonathan Reeve 1st Jul '19 - 4:39pm

    This is not about Parties it is about character and courage. Right thinking members of all Parties put Country before Party so LibDems need to talk to right-thinking people in other parties both in and out of Parliament. There is a job to be done: stop digging and start climbing out of the suicidal hole we have dug for ourselves. Our mission should be to make sure the right people are in charge here and in Europe – which in my view is now suffering an existential crisis triggered here. In a previous UK crisis, Radicals, Whigs and right thinking Tories saw off those profiteering from hunger and starvation and between them created the Liberal Party. That label came later; first the boil had to be lanced. So the question for now is who can we work with to do what is right, regardless of Party? Get back into Europe first; then we can talk about Parties and who takes the whip.

  • christopher moore 1st Jul ’19 – 4:22pm

    Such measures can be supported from the opposition benches.

    True.

    But depending on the numbers in the HoC, there could be a risk unclubbable behaviour by the Lib Dem leadership results in the opportunity being squandered for another generation. Especially given how infrequent such opportunities come around under FPTP.
    Don’t lose sight of the fact that the Tories are the true enemies of progressive democratic/constitutional change. And allowing them to recover, as disunited progressive parties squabble over leaders’ personalities, should be unthinkable.

  • John Marriott 1st Jul '19 - 6:26pm

    Let’s assume that, whoever becomes the next Tory Party Leader, the chances are that someone, probably Labour, will table a No Confidence Motion, which could actually get through. If so, don’t rule out an attempt, or several attempts, within the fourteen day window of opportunity to form an alternative administration.

    If that fails, only then will a General Election take place under the Fixed Term Parliament Act. In this election under FPTP it is vital that in what will be in reality a quasi EU referendum the ‘Remain’ vote is not diluted, especially between parties such as the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and the SNP. Therefore ‘arrangements’ have got to be made. If only the ‘Remain’ sections of the Tory and Labour Parties would come on board as well.

    Of course, none of this is going to solve the Brexit dilemma. That has still got to be up to Parliament; but probably not this particular one. Perhaps the words of Oliver Cromwell to the Long Parliament, repeated by Leo Amery to Chamberlain in 1940, need repeating again.

  • As far as the MPs are concerned, we must remember that turkeys will not vote for Christmas. The question is how do they see Christmas coming for them. Of course some will say that they are acting in the best interests of their party. But we must accept that holding seats is of interest to everyone.
    As far as we are concerned we must resist discussing the possibilities of trading the votes of people who would like to see our policies put in practice.
    Therefore clarity about what our priorities are. We need to be clear about them, but then to sell them. We can be sure that any ideas which are potentially attractive will be attacked bitterly by vested interests with the sort of arguments we have always heard.
    On many issues I like the stance that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took in the US Congress when her Green New Deal was discussed. Her answer to we can’t afford it was that we can’t afford not to do it.
    However we have new members, we appear to have the resources to send out lots of emails. Let us see the arguments given to the members so they can talk to people and spread the word. First priority is Europe. What is the truth about the EU needs to be spread. We need this to be prepared and sent out. We also need to find ways of involving our members. We must get away from the idea of using of members in order to target resources. We must recognise that when they sign up as members they are equal to those of us who have been members for a few years.
    We can present ourselves as a movement if we are one. We need then to justify any arrangements concerning candidates in elections in terms of achieving our long and medium term aims.

  • John Marriot
    Plaid and the SNP are first and foremost nationalist parties, committed to independence for their respective homelands . That will be their focus in any general election. They don’t actually want Britain to stay in Britain, let alone care whether or not it stays in the EU.

  • Paul Barker 1st Jul '19 - 7:11pm

    This whole thread is getting ahead of itself a bit. A few days after the 2 Leadership campaigns finish, there will presumably be a clutch of Polls to see what, if anything, has changed. If those Polls put The Libdems nearer to 30% than 20% then the enthusiasm for a General Election among Tory/Labour MPs could well evaporate.
    Of course I am assuming some sort of rationality, that might be a mistake.
    Clearly our New Leader needs to start talking to other Parties as soon as they are in post, we may have very little time or quite a lot, we just don’t know.
    I would prefer a proper Alliance/Coalition agreement but that’s a minority position. Whatever, we must at the very least maximise the number of Remain/Progressive MPs in any New Parliament.

  • John Marriott 1st Jul '19 - 7:21pm

    @Glenn
    Plaid aren’t likely to win many seats anyway; but they could queer the pitch for others, notably the Lib Dems. The SNP is a different matter. If the U.K. leaves the EU and Scotland were to gain its independence, which is not of the question (whereas there seems little appetite in Wales to ‘go it alone’ at the moment), trying to get back into the EU won’t be a walk in the park for the Scots. So, it would make sense for them to work with others to avoid Brexit in the first place.

  • John Marriott is correct. It would help if Glenn told us where he is based. Judging by his comments I doubt very much if it is in Scotland or Wales.

    Certainly the SNP has voted more consistently against Brexit than the member for Eastbourne.

  • Glen is desperate for Brexit to go away. The only way he can envisage that is for it to happen, he will therefore throw any amount of whatabouttery about to get his Brexit. The problem is Brexit isn’t a race it’s a road crash, so even if he gets his Brexit they’ll still be the blood bath to sort out afterwards.

  • A commentator on Sky News last week stated: “LibDem Government by Christmas” and she was deadly serious.
    A poll was mentioned in the media which found a rare or unique (so far) majority of Welsh people for leaving the UK based on Johnson and brexit. Scotland too had a 53% for separation poll when that flaky name was mentioned.

  • It is worth pointing out that when faced with prospect of being ejected from their seats the Tory party can suddenly find a magic money tree to pay for any amount of goodies. A sobering thought, which should be born in mind if you try to deal with either Corbyn or Johnson, both will try to nail any blame on anyone foolish enough to play patsy for them. Remember, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Don’t get fooled again like Clegg and Co where.

  • What happens the day after a General Election is called? Pencilling in a date for Special Conference, perhaps? Seriously, we need to be crystal clear as to where decisions are to be taken. If there is a collision between First Past the Post and multi-party politics it will be every bit as serious as the collision between direct and representative democracy that brought us to the current crisis.

  • If I had a pound for every time I’ve read how the decisions, taken in Tory/LibDem coalition, showed how this party put country ahead of party I’d be able to taket my wife out for a decent meal.Now it seems neither Jo Swinson and Ed Davey will even speak to a Corbyn-led Labour party in any circumstances..
    Such nonsense will ensure that a Right wing party/alliance will be the only winner in any future result.

    Welcome back ‘Orange Bookers’ all is forgiven…

  • To be fair to them they’ve also said they won’t deal with the Tories headed by a Brexiteer, so coalition is off. Perhaps they did learn a lesson from the last debacle.

  • I think there are 3 points.

    And let’s assume for ease whether next Thursday or 2022, the Brexit context is roughly the same (may be unlikely but it’s scenario 1 and more likely than one might suppose)

    Assuming we aren’t the biggest party:

    1. Our redlines. Certainly immediate legislation on a whipped vote for a People’s Vote that would be considered triggering a vote of no confidence if it didn’t pass. But we may have others.

    2. No to Corbyn and Boris as PM

    3. The Lib Dems able to introduce their own bills as Government Bills in Government time. The more lib dem MPs the more bills we get. We and the Government party would have to get their bills through Parliament but there would be an incentive to support each others’ bills so they do get through.

    And 4. (!)

    Before the election we should concentrate not on processes but what concerns people. I’d suggest a green skilled prosperous economy. As we can’t compete globally unless we are green and skilled. Coupled with well funded services esp the penny for the NHS.

    And be clear we (I believe) support properly regulated responsible free market capitalism unlike the Tory ERGers who would have it run amok. And we won’t strangle capitalism as is the want of the hatd Cornynite left.

  • And if I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that tired old phrase a penny for the NHS…………………………. Or is it for education………… or for the guy on bonfire night.

  • I’m based in England. But if I was based in Scotland I would absolutely vote for independence. Recent History consistently demonstrates national drives for independence usually and rightly win. This is why, IMO, Scottish independence became inevitable the minute devolved parliaments were introduced. Also, the SNP’s support is broader than a lot of people seem to realise. For much of it’s existence it was actually fairly conservative. It and its supporters are Scottish above being European and actually SNP supporters were more likely to vote to Leave the EU than any other Scottish political grouping.. The only way they will support an alliance with what they see as English political parties is if another independence referendum is a condition of that support.

  • John Marriott 2nd Jul '19 - 8:25am

    Sounds a bit like “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” to me! Steady on. Stop chasing those unicorns! No one party can get us out of this mess. As for redlines, it’s somebody’s redlines that are largely to blame for where we are at the present time. So, be very careful where you draw them. And why not make them pink?

    In order to tackle our non Brexit problems we’ll need a great deal more than one penny in the pound!

  • Good try Glenn, but as an Englishman (actually really a Yorkshireman) living in Scotland let me tell you you’re wrong. In a post EU referendum poll, it was established that 79% of SNP supporters voted remain as opposed to 21% who voted to leave – I guess a higher percentage that in the Lib Dems.

    It’s true that many years ago the SNP were known as the tartan Tories, but that hasn’t been the case for over forty years. An unprejudiced view would be that they are a left of centre social Democratic Party on the progressive side of politics, with a tendency to over centralise (e.g. Police Scotland fiasco). In the Commons they have a progressive record and at Holyrood it is usually grudgingly accepted up here that they have been a fairly competent progressive government on social issues.

    There is also a long tradition of Scotland, going back over the centuries, being an enlightened internationalist country. If Scotland does become ‘a nation again’ it will in large part be because of Tory policies down south and of an oftexpressed ignorance and lack of respect for Scotland in England.

    Unfortunately, the Scottish Lib Dems seem to have got themselves in a tangle being pro remain wanting a second EU referendum and opposing a second independence referendum in Scotland. It’s called wanting you cake and not eating it.

  • Michael 1 1st Jul ’19 – 10:26pm………………..And we won’t strangle capitalism as is the want of the hatd Cornynite left……………

    Labour under Corbyn are for a mixed economy; the sort of economy that most of our European neighbours regard are ‘centrist’…

    Still why let facts spoil a ‘Stainist-red-commie-leftie-etc.’ rant?

  • David
    Re the Leave vote I read it somewhere, but I stand corrected . But I still think independence is inevitable no matter what happens in England. Most western countries claim to have traditions of internationalism going back centuries. Personally, I see internationalism as no more innately good than nationalism is alleged to be innately bad. I maintain that the cause of most conflicts is a refusal to recognise national borders and the right of nations to self determine rather than “nationalism”. There is a liberal tradition of supporting independence movements and none-interference in the affairs of other nations. The SNP is still essentially a nationalist organisation and that is no bad thing, is all I was saying.

  • @expats. I think you’re correct, and anybody with any historical knowledge would know that as a PM Lloyd George was far more radical and in favour of state control than Jezza Corbyn. My complaint about him is that he is a stubborn little beggar.

    Still, I suppose we’re to expect a few Tory tabloid bits of propaganda floating around the Modern lib dem party.

  • David Raw 2nd Jul ’19 – 9:50am…

    Corbyn’s heart is in the right place but the drip feed of every nonsensical idea wrongly attributed to him has made him the ‘bogeyman of Britain’. Miliband had the same (to a much lesser degree) and it worked against him.

    Labour is a broad church and trying to reconcile the irreconcilable has proven impossible, and disastrous, for the party with such a divisive problem as Brexit. One differering voice (Stephen Lloyd) has caused waves here

    Reluctantly, as I admire his stance on many things that were/are unpopular, I think the Labour party, and the country, would be best served by him becoming the ‘heart rather than the head’ of the party and gracefully stepping down..

  • nvelope2003 2nd Jul '19 - 11:56am

    How much state control existed before Lloyd George came into government ? Maybe there is not so much left to control now and it has not always proved to be the answer to all of our problems, although obviously it still has a very important part to play despite the self serving propaganda of the right and its allies in the right wing dominated press.

  • John Marriott 2nd Jul '19 - 1:07pm

    Talking of the SNP I have to confess to a sneaking admiration. Their apparent discipline in Westminster is exemplary. The introduction of PR for the Scottish Parliament did not stopped their getting an absolute majority a few years ago. They are, as far as north of the border is concerned, a force to be reckoned with. What I want to see is for them to put their money where their mouth is, and, with proposals to vary tax rates with the rest of the U.K., they appear at last to be grasping that particular nettle.

    Whatever we think about their policies as the governing party of Scotland – and it’s clear that some are apparently divisive – we mustn’t forget that those, including of course the SNP, supporting Scottish Independence were told during the Independence Referendum that the best way to stay in the European Union was to stay in the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Otherwise, a newly independent Scotland might struggle to gain entry into the EU and would have to forgo many of the opt outs currently enjoyed by the U.K. With the pound denied them, they would also probably have to use the Euro instead.

    These ‘ threats’ would equally apply today if the U.K. were to crash out of the EU. Therefore, it would seem to me to make sense for the Westminster SNP caucus to align itself with those parties that oppose Brexit and even for them to take seriously the idea of joining a ‘Government of National Unity’ as envisaged by none other than Ed Davey In the recent Leadership Hustings. Don’t rule it out. We live in strange times.

  • chris moore 2nd Jul '19 - 1:55pm

    @ Andy Don’t lose sight of the fact that the Tories are the true enemies of progressive democratic/constitutional change. And allowing them to recover, as disunited progressive parties squabble over leaders’ personalities, should be unthinkable.

    It’s not a question of personalities. The Lib Dems will not support a government that advances Brexit. Whilst JC is in charge, there’s no chance of a Lib Dem/Lab coalition.

    If JC’s views on Europe changed or he was sidelined, then there would be a possiblity of such a government.

    However, it would still be possible for a JC Labour government to put through progressive measures with Lib Dem backbench support.

    Regarding “clubbability”, the Lib Dem MPs seem much more clubable than Corbynite Labour MPs!

  • Sorry to be a wet blanket, again some will say! But we have been here before have we not. When the votes are counted we are still at 12, 14 or 23 seats. Remember 1983, 26% of the vote and 23 seats. We have a very major problem. We are so far behind in sao many seats, recall 360 lost deposits alone last time, that the voters in those seats are going to wonder where a LIB Dem vote will take them, 15% maybe, which is a waste of time, therefore Labour will probably hold most of their vote as the seemingly only refuge for anti brexit and left of centre views.
    Let us keep our feet firmly on the ground, otherwise we will be in danger of not targetting particular seats in order to get a better return than 23.

  • Mick Taylor 7th Jul '19 - 4:50pm

    Theakes. You don’t understand FPTP. When the parties are so close together in the polls as now the results can be bizarre. With four serious candidates in each seat, maybe five you can win with 23% – as Russel Johnston once did and indeed Danny Alexander. When this is repeated nationwide your guess is as good as mine what the overall result would be. We could win 23 seats or 330
    Last times results would simply be irrelevant.

  • Peter Watson 7th Jul '19 - 5:09pm

    Something else that could mess up polling-based predictions would be the Brexit Party choosing not to stand against Brexit-supporting incumbents (especially if stepping aside for both the Tories and Labour).

  • Mick, after 60 odd years I fully understand first past the post. The latest YouGov poll, even with Labour at 18-20% electoral calculus has them by far the largest with over 230 seats, we would have 66.
    You miss the point if you are a Labour voter in my marginal seat where the Lib Dems got 3% last time, you aint going to vote Lib Dem. We are so so far behind in so, so many seats that scenario is the natural reaction of first past the post. I rest my case.

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