Is the Lib Dem’s ‘Dead Parrot’ the Unlikely Saviour of Labour’s Tattered Rose?

The Brexit and Trump dirty bombs have landed and exploded. The dust is settling. The political landscape looks scorched, cratered and lifeless. I am emerging from my bunker, shocked but still alive and able to fight on on this barren battlefield with divided and disorientated centre and left legions on my flanks. The war is all around us on mutiple fronts and our reactionary enemies fight like machines without morality or mercy.

My criticism of Labour has been damning since GE2015 and since then through and beyond the EU referendum campaign. If we had fair votes in this country, Labour’s problems would not be the Green Party’s problem but we haven’t so they are.  Labour remains the only UK party capable of challenging the Tories under First Past The Post so my principled but minnow-sized party remains chained to the fortunes of Labour that keeps charging towards a cliff edge rather than at our common political enemies.

One of the main reasons the Tories took power in GE2015 was the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote and their Parliamentary seats dropping from 57 down to 8. 27 of those seats were lost to the Tories and 12 to Labour. With a Tory majority of only 12, the 27 seats lost by the Lib Dems to the Tories proved to be as decisive as it was unexpected. Most commentators expected the Lib Dem vote to hold up well against the Tories in their battleground seats and for the Senior Coalition partner to carry the can for the five disastrous years of austerity inflicted on the country. Instead the Lib Dems bled out unexpectedly and fatally to UKIP who, although very different politically, became the recipient of the protest votes that the pre-Coalition Lib Dems were used to collecting. The Lib Dems had become the Tories’ lightning conductor for the inhumanity of 5 years of austerity-driven Coalition Government.

Let’s wind on to 2016. The people of the UK voted to leave the European Union by a narrow margin of 52% to 48%. May was annointed as PM by the Tory Party. After months of paralysis, it became clear that the right wingers in the Cabinet had won the day – no continued membership of the Single Market or Customs Union. Hard Brexit it is unless by some miracle, the EU decides to let us ‘have our cake and eat it’. Labour capitulated and waved through Article 50 on a blank cheque. The only effective opposition to Hard Brexit is now the SNP, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and Green MPs.

Labour’s civil war continues with no end in sight.  Corbyn rejected the Green Party’s offer of a Progressive Alliance for GE2020 to Labour, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru out of hand immediately after the EU Referendum result.

Labour’s strategists are either unhinged or hiding unlikely genius. As I’m feeling kind, I’ll explore the latter. Labour has embraced Brexit in order to respect the Referendum result and democracy itself. By doing so, it has aligned with the right wing Tories and UKIP and turned its back on the 48% who voted remain. Labour may be willing to risk alienating some of the 48% in order to shore up its core vote outside of the major metropolitan cities in an attempt to take ground back from UKIP. If we assume that Scotland is lost to the SNP (or eventually the UK?) for the foreseeable future, it becomes a fight to win power through England and Wales. Without a Progressive Alliance and with the predicted 20+ extra Tory seats that will come from the next ‘Boundary Review’, the ability of the Lib Dems to win back seats they lost from the Tories in GE2015 becomes critical.  As a likely Hard Brexit really begins to hit the UK economically and politically between 2019 and 20, the voting intentions of the 48% will most likely determine whether Labour will ever win or share power again. In England and Wales, the only parties that continue to campaign vigorously against Hard Brexit are the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens all of whom are still perceived to be pro-EU parties by the voters. If there is an anti Hard Brexit backlash, those three parties may well be the major beneficiaries. I would argue that despite having over 600,000 members, Labour’s electoral prospects in GE2020 now lay more with the three minor parties and the 48% than it does with themselves and their ‘ground war’ army.

 

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