One thing Jo Swinson got very right when she became leader of the Liberal Democrats was saying that, while she was more than willing to work with pro-Remain Labour MPs, she would not prop up a Jeremy Corbyn premiership. This is a key message for several reasons, not least of which is that taking Labour on is vital to securing electoral success for the Lib Dems.
Many Lib Dem activists feel instinctively more comfortable attacking the Tories than going after Labour. In some ways this is understandable. Yet the next general election, and that could be mere weeks away, will be largely about showing Tory voters than a vote for the Lib Dems is not a vote for a Corbyn government, while simultaneously showing Labour Remain voters that a vote for the Lib Dems will not result in a Conservative landslide. The Lib Dem attack on the Tories is straightforward to some degree: it’s about Brexit, in an election that will be all about Brexit, with the Tory and Lib Dem positions easy to understand. How to attack Labour is trickier – but the broad outlines are obvious if you think about it.
A Labour government would lead to Brexit as much as a Conservative government would. That should be the core Lib Dem message on Labour. Corbyn has said again and again that he would look to negotiate a new Brexit deal if he came to power. Surely he wouldn’t be pledging to do so if he didn’t believe such a deal was possible? And if he thinks it is possible and desirable, why wouldn’t Labour back their own deal in a referendum? A further thought: a Labour government could lead to a no deal Brexit. How? What if Labour doesn’t get a new deal, something which is highly probable? Do they put no deal against Remain in a referendum? What if no deal wins? Would they enact a no deal Brexit? They would clearly have to.
All of this does messaging, done well, would mean that Labour need to try and explain their Brexit policy more and more. And since it is badly cobbled together smoke and mirrors, it could make the whole Labour general election campaign unravel. So much of how the Lib Dems do in a 2019/2020 general election comes down to how they take on Labour. Otherwise, it could be the Liberal Democrats who end up getting squeezed.