Beyond anything else, the Lib Dems switching to a policy to revoke Article 50 if a majority is achieved has meant that the party has been the centre of the political conversation for the past week in a way I can’t remember them being since the 2015 general election came and went. For the Lib Dems, this is half the battle. But the policy has paid off in other immediate ways as well.
Whatever you want to say about fluffy Remain-centred rainbow alliances, the Greens have been a large impediment to any proper Lib Dem revival. It’s clear that a lot of left-leaning Remain voters tired of Corbyn’s machinations on Brexit decided to go Green in the local and EU elections this year. That makes sense – they weren’t in government with the Tories for five years, as an example, and the Greens are frankly more left-wing than the Lib Dems. This has seen the Greens poll as high as 10%, a large chunk of which the Lib Dems could really use in order to really terrify Labour and the Tories.
When the Lib Dems went revoke, it put the Greens in an awkward position. Which way should they go? Join the yellows, possibly opening them up to “what a bunch of mangoes” accusations from Labour, or should they stick to a second referendum line, possibly alienating a lot of their newfound base? They went with the latter, hard, and I think it was the wrong choice. Wrong by quite some distance as well.
Caroline Lucas has hit the media hard with anti-Lib Dem stuff. This has had two results: one, it has meant people talking about the Liberal Democrats more than they already were; two, it has seen Lucas flashing some language that I cannot imagine working for her potential voters. Take this quote about what she thinks about revoking Article 50:
“I think it imperils democracy, it tells people when they thought people don’t listen to them that, actually, they were right because if you go for instant revocation that would basically be what you are doing. You would basically be saying to 17.4 million people you were completely wrong.”
The voters the Greens have picked up over the past few years are the most core Remainery of all voters. High amongst them are people who are sure that the 2016 vote was rigged by the Russians and therefore isn’t even legitimate. To even be using the 17.4 million figures feels instinctively wrong-headed for Lucas. Perhaps I’ll end up being wrong about this, but she just seems to be pushing that vote into the arms of the Lib Dems, where they will increasingly see that voting Lib Dem, at least in the next general election if never again, will be the one way to stop Brexit.
One final note: if you want to attack the Lib Dems, calling them out for being “cynical” and “arrogant” (as Lucas did in an interview with Owen Jones), as well as very possibly being cunning and devious is a poor move. What people think about the Lib Dems is that they are overly polite and a bit naive; not worth bothering with. Painting them as political operators bar none isn’t going to work in the way that you think it will. It’s like trying to get people not to vote Labour by saying you think that they will be hard-headed and make difficult choices, some of which voters may not like. You’re helping them, even if you don’t know you are.