As the Tory in-fighting over Brexit gets more vicious by the day and Labour fall over themselves squabbling about anti-Semitism, no one is paying any attention to the Lib Dems. They should be, because the current climate of dissatisfaction from supporters of both the left and right are creating the perfect storm for a Lib Dem resurrection.
Take me, for instance. I’ve been a Labour supporter since my student days. Manchester University in the early ’60s was a left-wing university and Harold Wilson had just begun his first term as Prime Minister. Other than a brief flirtation with the Liberals and the SDP in the ’80s, I have been a dedicated Labour supporter ever since. Until now.
As a center-left, moderately minded individual I’ve always been able to reside comfortably under Labour. I remember celebrating when Tony Blair came to power in 1997 because that was exactly the sort of party sentiment I could relate. But that seems a far cry to the party policies of today.
There’s a whole host of reasons why I have found the Labour Party at odds with my own beliefs. Anti-Semitism is just one issue - there’s also the confusing positioning on Brexit, not to mention the incoherence of the economic policies. As a result, I have found the Labour Party increasingly difficult to support, and I know many members feel marginalised and have even been ousted from the party because they’re not left wing enough.
For me, the problem lies firmly with Jeremy Corbyn, who is frankly unelectable - and, thanks to Momentum’s control of the constituencies, impossible to remove. It’s clear to me that Corbyn is neither competent nor capable of being prime minister. I’m sure I’m not the only one finding the Labour Party increasingly difficult to support; with the inevitability of a Momentum takeover, there’s little empathy with someone who is a moderate or a social democrat, or a liberal, in the greater sense of the word.
If you look at the Tories, they’re set to be taken over by by the right wing of the party - I’m sure you know who I’m talking about - and led from there, voted in by the Tory heartland, the Shires. These voters - white, affluent, middle class - are totally unconnected to the wider population, so we could face going into the next election having to choose between Corbyn and Boris or Mogg, none of which appeal to anyone in the centre ground.
That leaves the population who remain in the middle. We are going to see increasingly more disenfranchised voters in the centre, like me, politically homeless. So what am I doing about it? I’m doing the only thing I can, and pledging my support to the Lib Dems. I never thought I’d say it, but they are our best hope at instilling some real-world policies again. That isn’t to say that I think the Liberal Democrats are deserving of my vote as they are - but I would support what I believe the Lib Dems can become, and that’s the key.
If the Lib Dems get their act together, they could tap into a whole pool of the conflicted electorate. All they have to do is convince the politically homeless, people like me, that they’ve got themselves together.
First, though, they need a decent leader. Gina Miller is passionate. David Miliband would be very good; he would be a bit like the returning messiah. Nick Clegg was the human face of the coalition. I think I’d support a party with those three at the helm.
Next, they have to win over three areas of support. To do this, a centrist party of any hue would have to make inroads, or hold, the traditionally Liberal strongholds of the South West; they would need to impact on the looser Tory seats in the city suburbs, improve their standing in university towns with significant student votes, loosen the SNP’s grip Scotland and make inroads in Labour’s industrial heartlands. All difficult - but all doable.
Add in the public’s dissatisfaction with Brexit and a pro-EU Lib Dem party, under a dynamic new leader, could well bring a much-needed realignment of British politics.