THE BLOG

The Witney Result Signals That The Liberal Democrats Are Back In The Political Big Time

21/10/2016 16:52 | Updated 23 October 2016
Matt Cardy via Getty Images

Bill Clinton famously called himself the "Comeback Kid" in 1992 after his second place in a cold, snowy New Hampshire. Last night the Liberal Democrats achieved the same, but this time in the lovely villages of West Oxfordshire.

At the General Election, we came a distant fourth with just 6.8% of the vote. In the recent by-election we dominated the campaign with a positive and upbeat message. A lot of praise should go to our brilliant candidate Liz Leffman. I am immensely proud of her and the hundreds of activists who campaigned day after day.

By-elections are usually stand-alone events, but their effects ripple out throughout the country and you can draw informative conclusions from some of the results. If the huge swing to the Liberal Democrats of 19.3% was repeated across the country, it would wipe out Theresa May's majority and hand 26 seats from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats. The swing rivals those of many that were seen in our famous by-election wins under the leadership of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy.

The result not only signals that the Liberal Democrats are back in the political big time and the return to third party politics, but also a clear rejection of the Conservative Brexit government's plan to take Britain out of the Single Market.

Don't underestimate what we have achieved. We started here in fourth place but have blown Labour and UKIP out of the water. Voters rejected Labour because it has no economic credibility and is unfit for government.

This was the tenth safest Tory seat in the country with a massive 25,000 majority, yet the Conservatives were seriously rattled. They are riding high in the polls, but my sense is that has largely been because people did not feel there was a credible opposition. Witney proves there is now a credible opposition - and that opposition is the Liberal Democrats.

Real election results are proving that this party is revitalised, with amazing campaigning strength. Since May we had gained 21 council seats, and in Witney we proved that the Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government.

Added to those 21 seats were the ones we won in May, when we gained more seats in the local elections than any of the other main parties. This is a trend I intend to continue.

Voters who used to support David Cameron are now starting to worry about a Conservative Party that is divisive, uncaring and extreme. The pressure on Theresa May will now be intense to abandon plans for a Hard Brexit, and instead to give parliament a vote on the terms of our negotiations.

But whatever happens to the Conservatives now, the Liberal Democrats are back.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS