Liberal democrats

A Lib-Lab coalition would be hilarious

Talk of a new Labour-Lib Dem coalition is in the air. This is piquantly nostalgic to those of us whose earliest political memories were forged in the fire of the red-hot excitement of David Steel and Jim Callaghan’s short-lived Lib-Lab pact of 1977-78. My initial reaction, along with many others I’m sure, was a guttural ‘oh God no’. But a moment later a different aspect of it occurred to me, in a fine example of what the young people call ‘cope’. My banter senses started to tingle. Because, yes, it would drag out and exacerbate the country’s current despairing decline. But it would also be hilarious. PR might very well

Why aren’t the Lib Dems doing better?

This weekend, the Liberal Democrats announced that they are mounting a ‘blue wall’ offensive, a campaign aimed at affluent voters in Tory-held seats located in the south of England. The theme of this campaign will be the Tories’ handling of the NHS, which the Lib Dems have done local polling on and discovered might be a vote winner in these areas. ‘Might be’ is key here because if you look at nationwide polling, you have to wonder how many seats the Lib Dems are actually capable of winning, even if the Conservatives do fall apart before the next general election. Rishi Sunak hasn’t turned the polls around for the Tories

After Boris: what will politics look like?

Boris Johnson has so dominated politics for the past few years that it is hard to imagine things without him. His premiership, though relatively brief, has been both eventful and consequential. With him in Downing Street, there was a constant – and exhausting – sense of drama, with frequent cast changes and plot twists. But next week Johnson’s run as Prime Minister will come to an end. Of course, he will not disappear entirely. There will be speeches and memoirs and his comments are bound to attract attention, which will make his successor nervous. Johnson, as previous Tory leaders will attest, knows how to disrupt the news agenda. Already he

Could the Liberal Democrats become kingmakers once again?

The narrative around the 2022 local elections looks something like this at present: Labour is strengthening their vote share in London, even taking former Tory citadels like Wandsworth and Westminster. Yet they are doing less well outside of the capital, where there is growth from the Corbyn era but it’s looking much smaller than they had hoped. If similar dynamics continue, the next general election is going to be close, probably hung parliament territory. This makes the Lib Dem performance interesting. If the next general election is as close as today’s result, then a few seats here and there can make all of the difference to who gets to be Prime Minister.

The Liberal Democrats’ strategic ambiguity

This week’s local elections have mostly been framed as a contest between two options: first, whether the Tories will be given a punishment beating by the electorate over recent scandals; or, second, whether Labour will underperform, giving a second thought to whether or not they can win big again. But there is a third dynamic concerning how the Lib Dems will do, especially how well they will perform in parts of the south of England and particularly in Tory-held constituencies that they will be targeting at the next general election. The Lib Dems have managed some remarkable breakthroughs in recent by-elections, namely in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, the latter being particularly

It’s time to take the Lib Dems seriously again

As far as seismic by-election results go, North Shropshire is one for the ages. The Tories had held onto the seat for 200 years before they lost to the Liberal Democrats last night. And their majority at the last general election was over 22,000. The Lib Dems managed to increase their share of the vote from 10 to 47 per cent, leapfrogging Labour in the process. But is North Shropshire the beginning of a Lib Dems resurgence? And, more importantly, how worried should the Conservative party be about the party’s rise? For starters, this is an even worse result for the Tories than their Chesham and Amersham by-election loss to

Katy Balls

Tory defeat in North Shropshire as Lib Dems take former safe seat

Ministers are waking up this morning to a big Tory upset in North Shropshire. In the by-election sparked by the Owen Paterson sleaze row, the Liberal Democrats have won the seat from the Conservatives overturning a majority of 22,949. In what has long been regarded as a safe seat for the Tories (they have come out on top in the area for almost 200 years), the Liberal Democrats won 17,957 votes with the Conservatives managing just 12,032 votes. This gives the Lib Dems a majority of 5,925. Labour came third with 3,686 votes. This result clearly will be tied to Boris Johnson’s leadership and the difficult time the Prime Minister

The Liberal Democrats have a dangerous vision for the City of London

Liberals have always set great store by laws and declarations. It was joked about Lord Loreburn, the liberal Lord Chancellor in the years before the First World War, that if told the Germans had landed he would immediately have taken steps to obtain an interim injunction from the Chancery Division requiring an immediate withdrawal. These days something similar seems to be happening as regards the Liberal Democrats’ approach to climate change. Last Thursday Ed Davey took aim at the City, which he has decided to add to the party’s growing list of climate change villains. In a curious interview with the Guardian he put forward a modest proposal to deal

Ed Davey’s nuclear U-turn

Sir Ed Davey has called on the government to ‘keep the British taxpayer out of’ the Sizewell C nuclear plant, arguing that a part nationalisation of the project would ‘be a total betrayal of taxpayers and cost every household in Britain a small fortune’. Ministers are reportedly considering plans to strip the Chinese state-owned energy firm CGN of its 20 per cent stake, bringing the costs onto the Exchequer’s books. Mr S is pleased to see the Liberal Democrat leader stand as a lone voice for fiscal prudence — particularly because he hasn’t always been opposed to cripplingly costly nuclear deals. Between 2012 and 2015, Davey served as secretary of

Can Cole-Hamilton prevent the death of the Scottish Lib Dems?

As expected, Alex Cole-Hamilton has put himself forward to lead the Scottish Lib Dems, announcing his candidacy with an obligatory walking-and-talking video introducing himself to party members. It’s unclear whether anyone else will stand before the August 20 nominations deadline and it could well be that Cole-Hamilton wins by default. The rules certainly favour that outcome, with only Members of the Scottish Parliament allowed to stand, and the party having only four of those. Cole-Hamilton represents a generational shift from outgoing leader Willie Rennie, an old-fashioned social democrat at a loss to keep up with — or, frankly, understand — the lively array of identity-centric grievances threatening to replace liberalism

The Tories should ignore the Amersham by-election

Chesham and Amersham has fallen. The once uber-Tory Chilterns citadel has been snatched by the Lib Dems, with local campaigners citing planning reform and HS2 as the main drivers for their success. After the ginormous swing — from a 16,000 majority to an 8,000-vote deficit — fears are growing that the Tories’ planning reforms might become a victim to demographic subsidence. Many of the government’s backbenchers are keen to undermine the party’s house-building efforts. They fear Amersham-style retribution from similar voters, eager to punish them for devaluing their most-prized asset and adding congestion to their quaint country lanes. The Nimbyist revolt has been a major political force for yonks Isle of Wight

Could the Tories lose the South?

The coming Batley and Spen by-election — triggered by the incumbent MP’s election as the first mayor of West Yorkshire — is currently attracting a lot of attention. It is a northern constituency that Labour won at the last election with less than 50 per cent of the vote and that voted to Leave, which has led people to wonder if the Tories can repeat their by-election success there. (It is, though, worth noting that the 2019 Labour share of the vote in Batley and Spen was 43 per cent compared to 38 per cent in Hartlepool).  But there is a group of Tory MPs who’ll be watching the Chesham and Amersham by-election even more

Vince Cable: on Brexit and the case for working with Beijing

Sir Vince Cable is talking about Brexit and damaged bicycle wheels. ‘The metaphor I like to use when talking about the economic consequences of Brexit is a slow puncture,’ the 77-year-old explains from his home in Twickenham, South West London. ‘Because effectively we’re losing access to Britain’s largest market of goods and services.’ ‘I was initially encouraged that Brexit campaigners wanted to pursue an open and global Britain,’ he says. ‘And I think that’s absolutely right because that is very much part of the old free trade tradition… But we are now in a world which is probably going in the opposite direction. And I fear that Britain now stands

David Ward plots another comeback

Much has changed in the world of politics since May 2015 but one thing certainly hasn’t – former MP David Ward is still causing problems for the Liberal Democrats. The one term wonder achieved little in his year five stint in Parliament other than notoriety for a 2013 website post to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in which claimed he was ‘saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza’. He was subsequently temporarily suspended from

The Lib Dems’ campaigning loophole

Following the sad news on Friday of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey tweeted out his condolences writing that ‘As a mark of respect to the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen and the Royal Family, the Liberal Democrats are suspending the national election campaign today.’ A civil gesture of commemoration, one might think. But while the party’s leading MPs like Layla Moran and Alistair Carmichael are following the example of ministers in respecting a media blackout until after the funeral, no such restraints are on local activists out campaigning across the country throughout this weekend. Mr S was sent a number of leaflets on Saturday which showed members out in Tower

Has Starmer already missed his chance?

Hindsight is the easiest weapon to employ in politics — as Keir Starmer of all people should know. When you have witnessed events unfold already, it is simple to point out what politicians should have done. Yet when it comes to post-Corbyn Labour, some mistakes have been made that may just have been avoided — and hindsight is not required to reach that conclusion. The clues were there this time last year. Starmer has moved too slowly and has made the error that many unsuccessful Labour leaders tend to make: assuming that the party requires less mending than is actually the case. Sir Keir has employed the same logic that

The new opposition: an interview with Ed Davey

When Boris Johnson sought to extend the government’s emergency powers for another six months last week, he faced little opposition in the Commons. Rather than fight for parliament’s right to scrutinise the government, Keir Starmer told Labour MPs to vote with the Tories. There was only one party of opposition: the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey, the party leader, complained in parliament about the ‘draconian’ powers taken by the government, and whipped his MPs to vote against them. The 11 Lib Dem MPs are a much-depleted force from the 57-strong party that propped up David Cameron in the coalition years. After they have spent years struggling to find ways to be

Gove hints at vaccine passport app

It wasn’t so long ago that ministers were lining up on broadcast to insists vaccine passports were out of the question when it came to the UK. While they could be used for travel abroad, the UK was — as Matt Hancock put it — not a ‘papers, please’ country. Instead, the UK appears to be turning into an ‘app, please’ nation. On Monday, Michael Gove met with MPs across the House for a private ‘listening exercise’ on immunity IDs. Although the purpose of the session was supposedly to gather MPs’ thoughts on the issue of vaccine passports, attendees were left with the distinct impression that they would be going ahead regardless of

At last, the Lib Dems are behaving like liberals

Last night in the House of Commons, MPs voted to give the government six more months of emergency powers by a tally of 484 to 76. Simple maths will tell you that the Tories could not have achieved this on their own; Starmer whipped the parliamentary Labour party to vote the measure through. It makes one wonder why — or even if — we have an official opposition at all any longer. The only party that voted as a bloc against the extension of emergency powers was the Liberal Democrats. This followed up on some fiery performances by Ed Davey in the media in the build-up to the vote, asking

After Starmer: Labour’s liberals should plan for a new party

Labour’s left appears to be licking their lips at the thought of Starmer’s ignominious end as leader, something which they now seem to hope will be coming sooner than they could have ever dreamed back in the summer. Should the party do poorly at the May local elections, the plan seems to be to agitate for a change at the top and unite around John McDonnell as Corbyn’s true successor. If the Labour party was taken over by the far left again, this would leave liberals in a difficult position. Since Keir Starmer took over, most liberals have folded into Labour, correctly seeing that they are the only vehicle for