What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?

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Parliamentarians have returned to the House of Commons following the Supreme Court’s verdict on the unlawfulness of Boris Johnson’s prorogation, ready for another fresh attempt to stop no-deal. Imperative to this goal are Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats, who must cease their fanciful discussions of the party winning hundreds of seats in a General Election if they want to be taken seriously. Instead, the party should sideline their tribal objections to Jeremy Corbyn, and work with Labour and other opposition parties to prevent the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal on October 31st.

One might forgive the Liberal Democrats for making yet more grandiose statements about the extent of their ambitions; it is after all what the electorate has come to expect from the party that in 2010 promised the world, only to facilitate five years of austerity under the Conservatives. However, at a time of such immense political volatility, the party’s position is irresponsible at best, downright dangerous at worst. Their promise to revoke Article 50 is deeply unhelpful. It is indicative of an unwillingness to live in the real world, and an inability to accept that the party’s growth is tightly restricted by Britain’s ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system. In a cynical attempt to gain a negligible improvement in polling, Jo Swinson has proven herself to be the furthest thing from a democrat, and has totally undermined the position of those opposed to a no-deal Brexit. Let us make no mistake, the policy of revocation adopted by the Liberal Democrats is every bit as unlikely to break the Brexit deadlock as the strategy favoured by Jacob Rees-Mogg and the extremists of the European Research Group. 

Defenders of the Liberal Democrats would contest that their policy does at least provide a degree of assurance at a time of crippling uncertainty in British politics. Labour, they argue, has made no concrete commitment to a resolution to the Brexit crisis, an assertion only substantiated by the party’s conference voting in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s policy of ambiguity. Yet Labour is the only party capable of uniting Britain, presenting a programme for government which appeals to voters on both sides of the Brexit debate. Perhaps the greatest irony is that Swinson’s decision to embrace revocation merely nudges Britain closer to a no-deal cliff edge, and the regulatory bonfire that would inevitably follow. In their desperation to cling onto Brussels, the Liberal Democrats have yet again enabled the Conservatives, only accentuating Boris Johnson’s calculated framing of Brexit as a ‘people v parliament’ issue. 

While Labour’s Brexit policy is far from perfect, it does at least have the potential to unite Britain by delivering on the result of the EU referendum while protecting jobs and workers’ rights. The importance of delivering Brexit with a deal cannot be understated. Without it, public faith in British democracy will continue to waver, and the vital issues of the NHS, education and the welfare state will continue to be neglected. The Liberal Democrats have abdicated from their responsibility as the potential kingmakers of any new parliament, and instead opted to live in a fantasy world where a Lib Dem majority is a feasible possibility. What advice would I give to this so-called party of pragmatism? Get real.

Image Credit: Sky News