Baroness Sal Brinton on why she thinks the party is far from a spent forceby Josh Lowe / March 6, 2015 / Leave a comment
“I’m going to quote John Stewart Mill at you: ‘women have to stir up the zeal of women themselves’”
This is the second time Baroness Sal Brinton, new President of the Liberal Democrats, has referred to Britain’s most famous liberal during our interview—in this case, to describe how she wants to advance the cause of women and minorities in the party. Earlier she told me that the “fairer society” portion of her party’s “stronger economy, fairer society” election strapline echoes Mill’s principles of liberalism. Brinton, 59, a Lib Dem peer since 2011, runs the party’s leadership programme. She was elected to her new position by a substantial margin in a three-way race last year. If the role’s last occupant Tim Farron—now considered a front runner in any future leadership contest—is anything to go by, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her. The daughter of a proud Tory, she became a member of the Liberal party in 1974—in part to help campaign for an “in” vote on the UK’s last European referendum—and is steeped in the philosophical and political traditions of her party.
But that party looks to be in trouble. According to the British Election Study, the Lib Dems could lose all but one of their MPs come May. In the estimation of five other major election forecasters, they could be looking at anything from 16-29 MPs, down from the 57 they won last time. They’ve slumped from 23 per cent of the vote in 2010 to around 9 per cent support in most polls. Are things as bad as they seem? Will the Lib Dems face a wipeout at the election? And, whether they do or not, is there a future for them longer-term in a Britain of anti-immigration politics and euroscepticism?