I don’t write much about politics any more. It isn’t that my interest has waned or that I don’t care about the issues facing the country and world but it is mainly because Brexit is the overbearing presence that sucks the oxygen out of everything else. Yes in my opinion, leaving the EU and in all likelihood the way we are going to leave will be extremely problematic in terms of the economy. We aren’t going to get the best trade deals the world has ever seen just because Liam Fox, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson or David Davis want it to be the case. The United Kingdom is not the global power it once was and going it alone in the current climate is going to be extremely tough.
Away from this issue though, the globe keeps spinning. The issues of inequality are still present. The country (and most of the world seemingly) is becoming far more intolerant of those who disagree with their view of the world. The rise of social media has allowed people who would usually be cautious about airing their views to have the confidence that people who agree with them, will find them. This is in large part why UKIP did well in the 2014 European Elections. People voting for candidates who basically say they won’t do the job they are running for is maddening. Yet clearly the previously silent minority came out and pushed that party forward. It happened in the US with Donald Trump. Who knows what will happen in Italy today?
So what does this all have to have to do with the Lib Dems? Probably nothing but as time has gone on, it has become ever clearer to me that the party (and indeed the activists) suffer from a similar issue. Living in an echo chamber and having deep entrenched views that cannot be questioned. Having a debate within the party is tough because should you disagree with someone on social media, the common reaction is for others to pile in and tell you that you are wrong. It is why I just don’t engage any more. I sit back and watch and see the same people backing each other up and picking on people who disagree. In my younger days I wouldn’t been more up for the debate but these days I just don’t see the point.
The party had a pretty darn good manifesto in 2017 but Brexit seems to be the be all and end all. The party saw an influx of new members who are just anti-Brexit but don’t hold many liberal values. I see it all over the place. I have seen people join the party who disagree with Gay Marriage for example. I know of people who have joined who think any drugs offence should be met with locking the person up and throwing away the key. I know of people who have joined the party that think we should all vote Labour as they are the only people who can stop the Tories.
In 2017 the party had all the momentum to fight back from the brink of oblivion but of course things didn’t go as expected. People who are vocally against Brexit and believe it is the biggest issue facing the country in decades still had to jump through hoops to vote Lib Dem. If they could find a way to vote Labour they would. It is because their is no natural Lib Dem vote and the memories of coalition are still fresh in the memory.
I follow multiple people on social media who voted Lib Dem in 2010 and vowed never again after going into coalition with the evil Conservative Party. That isn’t a shocker but when you see some of these people start voting Tory and not only that, joining that party, you just have to laugh. The Lib Dems are the worst ever for doing what they did but I’ll do the same and it is all fine and dandy. Logic.
Of course another issue the party faces is Jeremy Corbyn. A lot of people believe you can get everything for nothing. We saw this is the US when Bernie Sanders took it to Hillary Clinton in the race to become the Democrat nominee in 2016. Corbyn’s appeal doesn’t seem logical to me as he’s basically saying we should turn back time to how things were decades ago. Renationalising everything, giving huge power back to the unions, abolishing tuition fees and his position on the EU depends on who he’s talking to but he’s consistently been against the UK/EU relationship.
His rise however shows off another factor in play in this social media era. The idea of compromise and nuance have been pushed to one side. People like right and wrong. They like black and white. If you agree with 95% of what Jeremy Corbyn says but disagree with 5%, well a lot of his supporters will tell you to rack off and to leave the party. They don’t want your opinion but when it comes to the ballot box, boy they’ll want your vote.
This I suppose is what I’m trying to get at. When I go to the supermarket I tend to bring back three or four options for dinner and my partner and I will choose what we fancy that night. At the ballot box, an ever increasing amount of people want two options, one they like and one they detest. That is the Tories and Labour here in England and Wales. In Scotland the SNP are the party people have a strong opinion over and those that detest them, they are ready to split in any direction depending on whose most likely to take the nationalists down.
The Lib Dems aren’t good and they aren’t bad. People’s opinions of the party seems to basically be that they are irrelevant. In politics its better to be hated than not cared about. Things are tough for the party right now, extremely tough and even if Brexit is a disaster, no-one wants to be told that we were right all along. With every day that passes I believe that until Jeremy Corbyn (or a discipline of his) has got their shot to run the country, we’ll see two-party politics, certainly at a national level. This is why the party needs to start building up its council base once again as that is the road back to relevance.
The local elections this year on paper should be relatively good for the party. The people who vote in local elections (when there are no other elections on that day) are those that give a shit. The people who give two hoots are often those who are the most angry about what is going on. This helps the Lib Dems on two fronts. Firstly the most angry people regarding Brexit are those who firmly believe in Remain but secondly, the Lib Dems aren’t defending much. Plenty of areas that were traditionally liberal locally voted Labour or Tory nationally last year as activists poured in and people didn’t split their ballot. This year they’ll be no ballot to split. If the party can’t make solid gains at the ballot box in the current climate then bloody hell, we are in bigger trouble than anyone thought (and I think most people think the party are close to life-support anyway).
When 80% odd of voters vote Remain in a constituency but then 78% vote for strong Brexit candidates, that sums up the electorate at the moment.
So yeah, just a bit of a ramble on Lib Dem stuff. Nationally we have little hope at the moment unless a by-election came up in a seat that was ripe for the party but locally, hope hasn’t deserted me just yet.
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