Targeting disillusioned Corbynistas is no way back to relevanceby Vince Cable / July 1, 2020 / Leave a comment
Sadly, not too many people know that the Lib Dems are in the process of choosing a new leader. The contest is between Ed Davey and Layla Moran. Although it is easy to dismiss us Lib Dems as unimportant, our localised strength and overall level of support (fluctuating between the current 8-10 per cent and the 20 per cent or so of a year ago) are sufficient to make a big difference in future elections. So it matters how the Lib Dem leader positions the party in relation to the new Labour leadership. One of the wackier ideas being floated is that the party should move to the left of Labour to scoop up disillusioned Corbynistas.
The old left-right dialectic is however becoming increasingly unhelpful. It doesn’t comfortably fit into the increasingly important “politics of identity”: where one stands on Brexit, race, immigration, Celtic nationalism. Or the politics of gender. Or the politics of the environment. How do we classify a trans-phobic, anti-immigrant, Labour Brexiteer who happens to believe in clause four socialism? Or a green, feminist Tory? As someone who self-identifies as a social liberal, a social democrat and centre-left I am used to being regarded as too left-wing by Tories and too right-wing by socialists. So I treat these labels lightly.
To the extent that these labels have meaning, they relate to the issue of how far ideology played a part in the disastrous Labour defeat and the disappointing Lib Dem failure to make a serious advance in December. Brexit clearly played a major role in turning off Labour voters in the north and Lib Dem voters in the south west. But the Corbyn far-left agenda, which may have seemed a refreshing antidote to Theresa May’s robotic campaigning in 2017 was, after two years of exposure, more obviously a toxic mix of nastiness and wildly unrealistic utopian economics. That is the main reason why Conservative Remainers failed to deliver the expected harvest of Lib Dem victories in Remain seats. The message on the doorsteps was: “given a choice between a Corbyn-led government and a Tory Brexit, we will take our chances with Brexit.”
Keir Starmer seems to have turned around the Labour Party’s fortunes very quickly. He is so obviously an improvement both in style and substance and…