Imagine you’re a liberal person like me. You found the general election campaign torturous because on one hand you didn’t want Boris to win, but you also wanted Corbyn to be politically annihilated, and the chance of both of those things happening simultaneously seemed slim. Ah, but there was one hope: what if the Lib Dems did really well? Okay, they pathologically run bad general election campaigns but this time they have defectors from Labour and the Tories, people who will help them not be rubbish this time out. Right?
Then, it happened. It feels inevitable in retrospect, as political events always do in hindsight. Now what?
A few times over the past several days, I have come close to joining the Labour Party. What the hell, Tyrone, you might have just said to yourself. Why would you even think about doing that? You know that Jeremy Corbyn is still technically the leader of that party, right? And they look set to try and install Rebecca Long-Bailey as leader, ensuring the continuation of Corbynism, something the Trots will almost certainly manage to pull off given everything else they have sucked the membership into swallowing over the past four and half years. Why would you want to get involved in any of that? And that’s before we get into all the things I have never liked about the Labour Party, even when they were relatively sane: the “Red Flag”, the religiosity of the whole enterprise, that “we are the good guys, always” pomposity that infects the party which led directly to the anti-semitism crisis.
The answer is simple. If you don’t like Boris Johnson and want an alternative, the 2019 general election showed us that a functioning, competent Labour Party is probably the only answer. Perhaps by getting involved, I can help make that happen. But then I think of Corbyn and McCluskey and the anti-semitism and all of the Corbynist shenanigans and I just can’t do it. Sorry, Yvette, sorry, Jess, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Not yet.
Then I think, maybe the Lib Dems can be rescued. But I’ve fallen for that one way too many times. Lots of people have pointed out the following: that the Lib Dems gained vote share in 288 seats; that there are now scores of seats the Lib Dems are in second place in, primed to win next time. I get all of that. What those who point this out are missing is this: the Lib Dems never learn and they never listen. They just keeping doing the same exact thing, every time. They are always sure that THIS election is Lib Dem time; that everyone is going to fall in love with the party, like a magic trick. They are incapable of examining the political terrain as it is as opposed to how they wish it was, and then acting accordingly. I mean, completely incapable.
This election was a perfect encapsulation of the party’s deep failings. Blessed with defector MPs from both main parties and millions of pounds in donations, they buried the defectors in the basement of HQ and slaughtered several forests to bombard the poor denizens in their target seats with twenty leaflets per household. It’s all they know how to do; they are incapable of being different. Which is why they will continue to lose. I’m sorry to tell you that, but that’s how I see it. Unless 50+ Labour MPs defect to the Lib Dems and set about radically changing the culture inside of the party, the Lib Dems will keep on losing.
All of that brings me to then think: should I try and link up with liberal Tories? If Labour are on a slow burn suicide mission and the Lib Dems just want to retreat to a West Country village and debate weed and trans issues amongst themselves, perhaps the only logical step is to try and help those within the Conservative party who are still resistant to the charms of Boris Johnson to try and win their internal battle?
But then I think about Johnson and the cynical election campaign he just skated through and this idea feels unappealing as well. That’s it: there is nowhere to go, no one I believe has any good ideas about how to move forward. And so, I will do what I have done for most of the last five years: sit here and bide my time, hoping that something politically inspiring comes along eventually.
Since I’ve been such a downer here, I will close on the positives. The reign of Boris Johnson will not be nearly as bad as most Remainers and leftists are expecting. I don’t think he’s going to crash us out of the transition period with no deal, simply because I don’t think it is in his interests to do so. He will splash out on some infrastructure projects that the country desperately needs, so even if when Boris exits stage left loads of bad things have happened, we will at least have an infrastructure we can work with as a country. That’s no small thing. I don’t think that would have happened under some sort of Labour-LD-SNP monstrosity, cobbled together government either.
Try and look on the bright side, folks. Happy holidays. Remember: politics isn’t everything in life.
James Belchamber says
This is an interesting analysis of the dilemma a Liberal finds themselves in within British politics. I empathise with this a whole lot.
The conclusion is dumb – “biding your time” might as well mean rotting in your seat. If you have good ideas then they need to be tested, not kept in cold storage. By going out and putting a stake in the ground you give yourself endless opportunities to fail in your aims – and in that process, create opportunities to succeed.
I have planted my flag with the Lib Dems, since at least I am in a party that doesn’t make me politically homeless every couple of years as they coalesce around an ideology that is not my own. I am a Liberal and the Lib Dems is the home of British Liberalism. And even if I only catalogue a lifetime of failures within the party, that will be of more use to people who share my aims than if I sat on the sidelines.