There has been a lot of speculation as to why the Lib Dem campaign has failed to launch. I stick to my assertion that it got off to a good start, but I think it was always doomed for many reasons. One which I didn’t expect to see arise has been the degree to which presidential politics has been a factor. I knew it would be with Theresa May, but it’s interesting to see how, in the latter stages of the campaign, Labour have started to put Corbyn more to the fore as well, somewhat by default and with mixed results.
This has resulted in the election becoming about who you want to be prime minister, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, and very little else. I know several people who have voted Lib Dem all their lives who are voting Labour this time for that very reason (which shocks me still, but there you have it). It isn’t even a left or right thing, really, although obviously that’s a factor in determining which side of this question you fall on. It just comes down to the two individuals involved and which you prefer.
It has scuppered the Lib Dems’ main line of attack, that of the Liberal Democrats being the sole party that can stop Brexit. People on the Left have figured out that there is very little the Lib Dems could do about Brexit unless they gained a massive amount of seats, which no one believes is possible. In spite of Corbyn having whipped through Article 50, most Remainers have come to the conclusion that Corbyn becoming prime minister would result in the best possibility of Brexit not actually happening. Yes, he’s a life long Eurosceptic, but if you look at how he makes policy, in his own words, he does it on a collegiate basis. “The party decides,” as he told Paxman the other night. Given most of the members are passionately pro-European as well as most of the PLP, the idea that Corbyn wouldn’t either stall Brexit intentionally, try and reverse Article 50, make some deal where we become Norway, or just bugger the whole thing up so badly we just sort of stay in the EU forever by default is not really plausible. If somehow he won the election, or became PM through a coalition/supply and demand thing, Corbyn would very possibly halt Brexit quickly through sheer weakness. And, as I say, Remainers have figured this out.
The question is, have Leavers? Because if they have – and my hunch is, they have – Theresa May’s bacon will be saved by Brexit in this election. This is why I still think the Tories will win big – there are a lot more Leaver constituencies in the country than Remainer ones, sadly.
As a result, my prediction of the Lib Dems ending up with six seats is looking optimistic. I don’t know what the floor is, but it could be zero MPs. I really, really hope not.