This weekend, Layla Moran has set out her stall in terms of what her leadership of the Lib Dems would look like. Unsurprisingly, Layla plans to move the party to the left. Possibly, far to the left. “I will be more radical than Labour and I will be unapologetic about that,” she said. She ruled out ever working with the Tories again while leaving the door open for a Lib-Lab something or other. She wants to “fundamentally change how people perceive the Liberal Democrats”.
There is almost no way this course of action won’t result in total electoral annihilation for the Lib Dems. I just don’t see where the new seats are under this strategy, while I think pretty much everyone of them currently held by the party would be under threat. I have to concede that there is one way I could see it working, however. I can’t see what I’m about to lay out actually ever happening, for reasons I will go onto explain, but it’s not totally impossible. It would be the only conceivable way the Lib Dems don’t get wiped out as a parliamentary force if they move even further to the left than they are now.
Basically, the hard left of the Labour party would have to join the Lib Dems en masse. For this to happen, I reckon it would take all the most visible members of this clan in media terms, Owen Jones, Ash Sarkar, Zarb-Cousins, Bastani, to defect to the Lib Dems on the same day and make a really big deal in the media about having done so. While doing this, they would have to intimate that they have taken over the Lib Dems and that it is now a radical socialist vehicle that has very little in common with the old Liberal Democrats. The idea would be to communicate that the far left has essentially eaten the Lib Dems. This is the one thing that would probably get the target voters Layla wants so badly to think again about the party. Should this happen, the old right of the Lib Dems would be off for good but you would have a lot of new, young members. Also, the new influx would get along well with most of the remaining Lib Dem membership. A lot of what has separated the Corbynistas and the Lib Dem left over the past few years is down to little more than tribal loyalty and semantics. One calls what they want socialism, the other radical liberalism, but it all boils down to nationalising utilities and introducing UBI in the end. You can call that whatever you like.
Again, it is very difficult to see this mass defection happening, however, for loads of reasons. The first is the most simple: those people that I mentioned, Jones, Sarkar, et al, are Labourites with varying yet strong degrees of loyalty to the party. They are not going to flounce off just because the short term politics might make sense. The second point is, from their perspective anyhow, the short term politics don’t even make sense anyhow. As they saw when the other side of the Labour family tried to leave Labour for the Lib Dems, they would be departing from one highly structured, highly organised party to join another that is, sorry to say, a bit shambolic and extremely hollowed out in every sense. Third point: hatred of the Lib Dem has been a constant part of their lives for years. This is sort of an addendum to the first point, I realise, but does need to be spelled out separately – when you’ve spoken of a party as the enemy for many years, joining them would be a massive step, even if the plan is to change that party entirely. The fourth and final point is that the hard left of Labour think they have a good shot at getting the Labour party back after the next election anyhow. Once Starmer fails, which they all figure he will, they can reassert themselves. Just bide their time and they can have the big prize back again.
Layla Moran and Lib Dems of her political persuasion just cannot grasp how much the left hates their party. The coalition years happened, whether they like it or not. And unless some very visible part of the left joins them en masse, I don’t see how they have any hope of getting those voters back again any time within the next couple of decades at least.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
It’s available here: