Today the Liberal Democrats have published an independent review into their disastrous showing at the 2019 election, which saw its former leader Jo Swinson lose her seat, and the party drop to only 11 MPs in the Commons – despite starting the campaign at 20 per cent in the polls.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the election review doesn’t exactly pull its punches when it comes to the party’s 2019 performance, describing the election as ‘a high speed car crash’ where the party’s policies failed to cut-through, ‘didn’t add up to anything cohesive’ and ‘alienated large chunks of the population’ with its Stop Brexit stance. The report is equally brutal about Jo Swinson’s leadership of the party. It says that the campaign was micro-managed by the leader’s office which not only slowed everything down, but also ‘concentrated decision making in a small group whose belief in the leader and the mission was so strong that challenge was at best ignored and at worst actively discouraged.’ Ouch.
Mr S was most amused though by the silver-linings the report’s authors have found after the election. As Politico’s Jack Blanchard points out, the ‘positives’ section of the report only takes up just over two pages of the 61-page document, but even so, Mr S wonders if the Lib Dems might still be scraping the barrel.
According to the report, the number one ‘silver lining’ to take from their election crisis is the ‘The gift of time’:
“‘The time for preparation, which we lacked in the volatility of two snap elections, is something we do now have.’
Considering the Lib Dems actually helped trigger the 2019 election, Mr S wonders if more time will really be that helpful to the party…
Another positive is simply listed as ‘dignity’, noting that ‘While there are elements of this election which showed us at our worst, there are also stories which showed Liberal Democrats at their optimistic and pragmatic best.’
But Mr S was most amused by the report’s suggestion that the party's ability to elect a new leader is something to be positive about. After all, the Lib Dems nominated Jo Swinson as a new leader in July 2019, a mere five months before its catastrophic defeat. Clearly a fresh leader is not exactly a guarantee of success.
If this is what the Lib Dems have got to look forward to, Mr Steerpike pities the next person to take charge…