Canada, France and Ireland prove there is an appetite for progressive politics—it's up to the Liberal Democrats to provide it hereby Vince Cable / June 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
Tyre marks and the smell of burning rubber have been spotted in Whitehall this week. On this occasion it has not been due to some stunt by Top Gear, but instead some dramatic u-turns by Theresa May.
Despite being elected (just) only two weeks ago, the Conservative party has already dropped significant parts of its manifesto: from a vote on fox hunting through to creating more grammar schools—not to mention its “dementia tax” plans for funding social care.
How the Conservatives managed to win the Copeland parliamentary by-election in February, to make significant advances in the May’s local elections, start the General Election with such a commanding poll lead, but end up so close to being thrown out of office, will be a continual source of amazement for psephlogists and political commentators.
Yet, after such a dismal result for Theresa May, there is another legitimate question to be asked: why the Liberal Democrats made so little progress. Yes, we increased our number of seats from 8 to 12. We also came painfully close to picking up a few other seats: in Richmond, neighbouring my seat of Twickenham, we were just 45 votes away from winning. We were just 312 votes short of winning St Ives and regaining our foothold in Cornwall. Incredibly, we were robbed of winning Fife North East by just two votes.
Yet there is no denying that we also saw a very small decrease in our national vote share compared with the 2015 General Election.
Give how little confidence Labour MPs have had in their party leader over the last two years, and that a significant section of the electorate are opposed to the Conservative’s plans for a hard Brexit, we must look seriously at why the Liberal Democrats weren’t able to pick up more votes.
What we got wrong
In trying to explain this situation, I would make two observations.
Firstly, while Europe is in fact a huge issue for this country—and, in time, it will play a key role in the shape and composition of our Parliament—right now we are in the lull before the storm. While we have already seen prices creeping up, with a painful effect on some people on low incomes, it has to be said the real impact of Brexit…