If you trawl this very website, you will be able to see various strains of extremely wishful thinking regarding the Liberal Democrats’ electoral prospects come May 7th, 2015, all written prior to that day, obviously. Like when I thought the party would get 17% of the vote. Or speculated on the possibility of 45 seats. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read many articles from Labour people that remind me a lot of what I and many other Lib Dems sounded like five years ago. I thought about citing examples, but I don’t want to pick anyone out, it’s unfair – I have too much sympathy with the authors. I know what it’s like to follow your heart, the one that’s telling you everything is going to be okay – while your head tells you the exact opposite.
The structure of such arguments is surprisingly similar too: okay, I know it looks like the Lib Dems’ (Labour’s) electoral prospects are screwed because of having gone into government with the Tories (Corbyn’s leadership race win) or worse, because of tuition fees (everything Corbyn’s done since becoming leader), but I’m not worried – something unforeseen and miraculous will come through prior to the next election (which is miles off, I hasten to remind you!) to ensure that the electoral pasting that seems all but guaranteed from today’s perspective is definitively avoided.
As a veteran of the entire cycle, I am in a position to offer my Labour friends and readers some advice about the whole process. For a start, it is probably better to be emotionally prepared for the inevitable, as opposed to denying its existence all the way until polling day. Because let me tell you something, that exit poll on the first Thursday in May, 2020 will hit you like a ton of bricks otherwise. Particularly as May 2020 is shaping up for Labour to be much like May 2015 was for the Lib Dems – much worse than anyone expected. And that’s considering that Lib Dem hopes were very low anyhow (24 seats-ish, i.e. still losing more than half, would have seemed like a triumph). So given that the expectation out there seems to be (I know from the responses to an article I wrote on this very topic a few days ago) that Labour will come out with about 180 seats – what’s the actual number going to be come the day?
And you may think this is just some embittered Lib Dem projecting his pain onto the Labour Party – if you’d prefer to be in denial and that makes you feel better to think that is the case, please be my guest. But I really am being honest when I say I can empathise with those within Labour that are in denial, and I can assure you that there is no sense of feeling good about any of it. I’m not looking forward to the 200 seat Tory majority anymore than you may be. When the day comes and the sky falls in, I’m available for counselling.