"Now is an excellent time for the party to rediscover its passion for serious, brave and original ideas"by Peter Kellner / June 13, 2016 / Leave a comment
After their post-election gap year, should we be paying a little more attention to the Liberal Democrats? Little noticed by the media, which concentrated on London, Scotland and Wales, and the better-than-expected Labour performance, the Lib Dems had reason for satisfaction—making a net gain of 48 seats and shoring up support in most of their local council strongholds. Is there a case for saying that they are laying local foundations for a national recovery—not immediately but, say, in the 2020s?
I doubt it. Here’s why. In September 2012, I wrote Prospect’s cover story about the Lib Dems. Its headline was: “Extinction: end of the third party?” I predicted that the party would end up at the next election “at least 20 seats down.” I was technically right though, like most people, I was surprised that they lost more than twice that number.
However, my fundamental analysis held up. The 24 per cent won by the party in 2010 comprised three roughly equal groups: protest voters; anti-Conservatives who for tactical or other reasons (for example: Iraq; student fees; ideology) didn’t vote Labour; and genuine, positive Liberal Democrats. Soon after the 2010 election they lost the first two groups and never won them back.