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Friday, 21 February 2020

Whoever you are, the Liberal Democrats will stand up for you


By the middle of 2019 in the United Kingdom, Leavers and Remainers could be considered neck-and-neck. A significant number of the elderly who had voted Leave had died since the 2016 Referendum; new young voters, overwhelmingly Remainers, had joined the electorate.

Every poll showed that Remainers were on average younger and better educated than the Leave voters and by all normal standards that ought to have given the edge and allowed them to outperform,  to win and reverse the 2016 Referendum result. They didn’t. Why?

One very large part of the answer lies in what is called the narcissism of small differences. Nice educated Remainers could not bring themselves to sink their differences in the face of an overwhelming threat to their way of life. They went around saying Oh, I couldn’t possibly vote for someone who is on record having said in 1973 that …. or I draw the line at someone who does not believe in the rights of penguins or In the past, they collaborated with the Tories. They did not look to the future,only to the past. In contrast, Leavers focussed on the main issue of getting Brexit done, sunk their differences (which were manifold), and turned out to vote for the only party which clearly announced that it would get Brexit done - and indeed  did, very rapidly, on 31 January 2020. So old and uneducated they may have been, but Leave voters understood how to think and act strategically. They got what they voted for.

Remain voters didn’t because in places like the nice, middle-class university town of Lewes they went out and voted Green and Labour thus ensuring the defeat of the Liberal Democrat, the blindingly obvious choice in Lewes to beat a very hard line Brexiteer Tory*. The margin of defeat was  smaller than the combined Green  and Labour vote. But, honour  satisfied, the Green and the Labour voters had not betrayed their Principles as they no doubt made a point of reminding everyone at every opportunity. (* Added 15 May 2020:Maria Caulfield MP who has now got her name in the papers for re-Tweeting a doctored video clip of Keir Starmer culled from a far right/conspiracy theory account. Well done, Lewes!).

This local inability to think strategically was reflected at national level, where the “strategists” of the Labour and Liberal parties went out of their way to rub voters’ noses into the fact of their differences, Liberal leader Jo Swinson leading the way but Labour not far behind.

The Liberals are now completely without any strategy. Yesterday I received an email from them headlined

Whoever you are, the Liberal Democrats will stand up for you

It's called desperate marketing. And I hope it's untrue; there are people out there who I trust no political party will rush to stand up for.