The Liberal Democrats, now in the midst of the political wilderness with just 12 MPs, have chosen to attempt to weather their current storm by defining themselves with a single issue - Brexit. While very much the opposite to Ukip, another single issue party that lost its way when its single issue was taken away from it by the Tories, the Lib Dems look as though they are in line for the same fate of disappearing from the political spectrum completely.
But, to truly prevent Brexit, the Lib Dem leader and the former leader should surely be turning up to vote on the very legislation that is pushing it through Parliament. Last night, Vince Cable and Tim Farron failed to turn up to stop Brexit, discrediting their claim that their party is the only one capable of doing so. To even have the slightest chance of succeeding, the Lib Dems’ obsessive Brexit policy must be acted upon in Parliament.
In making the decision to become a single issue party, the Lib Dems have left behind the electorally popular, centrist issues that they used to champion. While this process truly began when they jumped into bed with the Tories in 2010, Brexit really has been the nail in the coffin of the so called centre-ground. They are ignoring the collapse of the NHS, the housing crisis, the worst economic growth in Western Europe, and the largest fall in living standards for a generation, just to become the ‘Remain Ukip’. This will define the Lib Dems’, now inevitable, downfall.
The single issue party should be turning up to vote on its single issue. The Lib Dems have confined themselves to Brexit, to the point now where they will be defined by it. So when they do eventually begin to talk about other issues again, like Ukip, they will not cut through with the electorate. While they may have gained votes in the Lewisham East by-election last month in the wake of a stop Brexit protest vote, after Brexit is done with, this factor will be ruled out, and so will they.
As more and more prominent political figures, most recently Justine Greening, call for a second referendum on the terms of the deal with the European Union, the Lib Dems’ only unique selling point becomes irrelevant. Previously, they were genuinely the only mainstream political party that had major players calling for a re-run of the referendum. But with former cabinet ministers from the Tories and Labour both now calling for the same things, it has become clear that recognising Theresa May’s fudge of a Chequers deal is not exclusive to the Liberal Democrats.
While the Lib Dems and Ukip are clearly worlds apart in terms of ideology, the strategy is the same. But, it is difficult to see how top Lib Dem strategists have not learnt the lessons from the soon-to-be electorally defunct Ukip.
The fact is that the electorate concerned with Brexit used to look to Ukip for answers, until the Government took over negotiating and fulfilling Brexit. Now, the portion of the electorate wanting to stay in the EU at all costs look to the Liberal Democrats, and this will happen until a larger party backs remaining or Brexit is fulfilled. But, either scenario has a time limit and, in undermining their relationship with the electorate last night, Vince Cable should be concerned that the same demise that struck Ukip could befall his own party when the Brexit debacle is over.