There has been much talk of the Liberal Democrats failing to make any ground in the run up to this election. Like many others I joined up for a single issue and my belief that the LibDems simply could not fail to capitalise on their distinct position on Brexit. It seems I had misjudged their uselessness completely.
Having spent some (probably too much) time on a variety of LibDem forums it has become glaringly obvious that the LibDems are their own worst enemy. There is no central strategy, no evidence of any planning and no cohesion. The party is essentially a disparate group of people, many of whom are fervent believers and put in a great deal of effort. Imagine one hundred people in harness all pulling against one another. A great deal of redoubling of effort has gone on and the result is the same. An increase in effort with no change in outcome.
Being LibDems then most people are very pleasant to one another whilst all thinking that there is a different/better way to focus effort. Many do not feel encumbered by lack of knowledge of a topic and are happy to offer ill-informed and at times plain ignorant opinion that others are equally guilty of swallowing. If one contrasts this against the Conservative election winning machine it is depressing. The Tories may be toxic but when the time comes they manage to run with a modicum of discipline and focus that eludes the LibDems. In response many LibDems cite a ‘free-spirit’ vibe that they feels defines the party. That is as maybe but it is not going to win an election. Remarks like, “a solid second” are made. In UK parliamentary elections there are no medals for second place. Second is just the first loser. Bemoaning the unfairness of the First Past The Post (FPTP) System is no good. If you want Proportional Representation then the system requires change from within and that will only happen if they win under the present set-up. A game is being played whether you like it or not. Play that game, win at that game then set about changing the rules. Losing but consoling yourself that you remain on the moral high ground means that the party will never govern, but be relegated to the status of a disorganised think tank. To cap it all the leader, Tim Farron, may be a great guy though he lacks the charismatic leader qualities of Macron, Trudeau, Blair, Thatcher etc. You either have that or you don’t. Farron simply hasn’t got it.
There has been one superb article from Hugo Rifkind in The Times that describes very well the argument for a new centre ground party to emerge. Have this discussion with many LibDems and the amount of “yes but” replies is staggering. Funding, FPTP, no suitable leadership candidates within the ranks etc. All these excuses mean it is impossible: if they are listened to. A new party needs a great leader, funding and a bit of time.
If a start-up business approach was taken to forming a new party then it is a possibility. There needs to be a professional approach from the outset. This means a good team, a business plan and money. Rifkind observes that there are many disaffected Labour and Conservative heavy hitters that do not like the way their parties are lurching. They are career people and need to see a good proposition for themselves in much the same way as potential backers need to see an RoI. Why this can’t be pitched to potential backers in the same way a business idea is is beyond me. Capital wants a return and the added bonus of a political party is that it is selling a centrist ideology that I suspect many people will identify with. With the Labour party lurching to the left and insulting the electorate by being obsessed with itself in the form of infighting, whilst the Tories lurch to the right with the assumption of UKIP and their apparently useless stance on Brexit then there is a vacuum.
An economically sensible, environmentally and socially conscious middle ground party is something the current LibDems can never be. They are seeded with pseudo-marxists on the one hand and economically conservative liberals with a social conscience on the other. The two sides of this yellow coin will never see eye-to-eye. It is time for a new player.