Tag Archives: lib dems

Snap British election gives Farron and Lib Dems a genuine chance to unite anti-Brexit voters

Tim Farron has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to forge a new broad-based liberal, moderate and pro-Europe party across the United Kingdom. (Daniel Hambury / Stella Pictures)

In calling a snap election for June 8, British prime minister Theresa May has done exactly what former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown didn’t do a decade ago — taking initiative to win a personal mandate and extend her party’s majority for up to five more years.

With Labour’s likely support tomorrow, May is set to win a two-thirds majority to hold an election, in spite of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act that would otherwise set the next general election for 2020 — long after the two-year negotiations triggered last month by Article 50 to leave the European Union are set to end. May and the Conservatives now hope that voters will give her an emphatic endorsement for her approach to Brexit — and a much wider majority than the 17-seat margin the Conservatives currently enjoy in the House of Commons. Though some commentators believe a wide Tory victory would make a ‘hard Brexit’ more likely, a lot of sharp commentators believe that it could give May the cushion she needs to implement a much less radical ‘soft Brexit.’

In any event, it’s not unreasonable for May to seek a snap election while EU officials pull together their negotiating positions for later this summer — since the last vote in 2015, the country’s experienced the Brexit earthquake and a change in leadership among all three national parties.

It will also come as the Tories are riding high in the polls by a margin of around 20% against Labour, now in its second year of Jeremy Corbyn’s hard-left leadership. If the election were held today, every indication points to a historic defeat for Labour. It’s not only the polls, which are dismal enough. Corbyn has made so many enemies among the parliamentary Labour Party that many MPs will not stand for reelection (including former home secretary Alan Johnson, one of the few genuinely popular figures around who represent ‘New Labour’).

Corbyn’s electoral record, too, is weak. When Jamie Reed, a Corbyn critic and an MP since 2005, resigned, Conservative Trudy Harrison captured his Copeland constituency by a 5% margin against the Labour candidate in a February 23 by-election. Not only was it the first gain for a governing party in a by-election since 1982, it was a seat in Labour’s once-reliable northern heartland, held without interruption since 1935.

Without a major change (and it’s hard to see anything that could swing voters on Corbyn at this point), Labour is doomed. The next 51 days will likely bring iteration after iteration of Corbyn’s political obituary, with a crescendo of the infighting within Labour that has characterized his leadership.

It will be ugly.

Labour, with 229 seats, is already near the disastrous levels of its post-war low of 1983 (just 27.6% and 209 seats), and there’s reason to believe Corbyn could still sink further. No one would laugh at the suggestion Labour might lose another 100 seats in June. For Corbyn’s opponents within Labour, the only silver lining to a snap election is that a decisive defeat could end Corbyn’s leadership now (not in 2020), giving Labour an opportunity to rebuild under a more talented and inclusive leader.

Moreover, in the wake of a call for a second referendum on independence for Scotland (which would presumably seek to rejoin the European Union), Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon could well improve the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) position — the party now holds 54 of 57 seats in Scotland with the unionist opposition divided among the three national parties.

So where does this leave anti-Brexit voters who are uncomfortable casting a vote for May’s Tories?

The Liberal Democrats. Continue reading Snap British election gives Farron and Lib Dems a genuine chance to unite anti-Brexit voters

Cameron stops by Letterman in New York, flubs Letterman’s grilling

UK prime minister David Cameron stopped by The David Letterman Show (a popular late night show in the United States, for non-US readers), and flubbed a few questions.

Notably, Cameron couldn’t name who composed Rule Britannia (Thomas Arne wrote the music — not Edward Elgar, as Cameron suggested — and James Thompson wrote the poem upon which it is based) and he couldn’t translate Magna Carta (it means, “The Great Charter”).  Magna Carta was the 1215 charter that limited the powers of the English monarchy and set forth certain liberties for certain English nobles — it became the foundation for much of the following English, British and American liberties, including the U.S. Bill of Rights.

By the end of it, it was clear that Letterman’s “dumb American questions” were a joke at Cameron’s expense.  He took the jibe well, however, and joked, “You have found me out. That is bad, I have ended my career on your show tonight.”

British media are having a poke at the prime minister today, but it’s not likely to cause Cameron any lasting harm — indeed, it may have stepped on the attention from the media to the speech of Liberal Democratic leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at the Liberal Democratic Party conference this week.

Labour leads, as Clegg and the Lib Dems struggle during UK convention season

As conference season gets underway in the United Kingdom, the Labour Party, under relatively new leader Ed Miliband, now leads the Conservative Party by a 41% to 31% advantage in the latest Guardian/ICM poll, with the Liberal Democrats trailing at 14%.

Labour, which performed generally better than expected in the last election in May 2010 (which was supposed to have been a complete landslide for the Tories), hold 254 seats in the House of Commons to 304 seats for the Tories and 57 seats for the Lib Dems.  Although the next election is not expected until 2015, and the current Tory-Lib Dem coalition shows no signs of fracturing, despite some strains, Labour would be set to return to government.  That’s the best poll performance for Labour since well before the era of former prime minister Gordon Brown.

The support comes largely from the drop in support for the Lib Dems, who won 22% in the 2010 election and have watched support crumble as the junior partner of UK prime minister David Cameron’s government.  Just last week, Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (pictured aboverecorded an apology for violating its 2010 pledge not to raise tuition fees — the Tory/Lib Dem coalition has voted to lift the cap on tuition fees to £9,000.

The move, which came in advance of this week’s annual Lib Dem conference, has dominated political discussion — Clegg’s video has even gone viral:

As we approach the expected 2015 election, if Lib Dem support remains subdued, the calls for a new leader will only become louder.  This week’s favorite is Vince Cable, who has been the business secretary in the coalition cabinet since 2010.  That’s perhaps ironic, given that Cable is just as pregnant with support for the central Tory program of budget cuts as Clegg.  Nonetheless, the Guardian/ICM poll showed that the Cable-led Lib Dems would increase their support to 19% from 14%.

Throughout the conference, Cable and Clegg have both emphasized that the Lib Dems will run in the next election as a separate party, not jointly with the Tories or in favor of any particular coalition.

All things considered, today’s polls are of limited utility nearly 30 months before the next election.  Furthermore, I still think — despite a strong performance by shadow chancellor Ed Balls and an increasingly sure footing for Ed Miliband — that the polls are a reflection less of Miliband’s stellar leadership than of the collapse of the Lib Dems under Clegg and the tepid reviews of Cameron’s Tories, given the austerity program that chancellor David Osborne is pushing forward with, even with the UK mired in a double-dip recession.  So there’s much time for the economy to turn around, and if so, Cameron and Clegg will both in better shape going into an election expected in 2015, and Miliband still seems like (and remains closer to) Neil Kinnock, the perennial loser of the 1980s and 1990s British politics than to Tony Blair, who delivered three consecutive Labour routs.

The left has savaged Clegg because he refused to apologize for the actual hike in tuition fees (and not just for breaking the pledge), but the more damning criticism is that by offering up such a mealy-mouthed apology and by refusing to stand up to the Tories on not just student fees, but the direction of the economy, Clegg sounds like just another politician.  Given that Clegg’s ascent into government came largely from his freshness and the appeal of a new approach to government (Cleggmania!), that is perhaps the most dangerous aspect for Clegg’s leadership.  Continue reading Labour leads, as Clegg and the Lib Dems struggle during UK convention season

Tensions start to appear in Tory-Lib Dem coalition in the UK

There might be no more yawn-inducing issue in UK politics than House of Lords reform.

But that issue has led to the greatest moment of crisis between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, which together govern the United Kingdom in a first-of-its-kind Tory-Lib Dem coalition government.

The importance of the week’s jousting is not about electoral reform, to save the suspense.

It’s about the that it marked the first major tear in the Coalition: a Tory bid to stymie Lords reform led Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (pictured above, right) to declare that he would direct his party to vote against another electoral reform measure supported by the Tories.  It’s the first time Clegg has so aggressively and directly fought back against his Coalition partner.

Right-wing newspapers are already savaging Clegg.  But for its faults, the two-party Coalition still remains more united and disciplined than the Tories were (when they were governing by themselves!) in the last years of John Major’s government in the mid-1990s, when Europe and scandal hopelessly split an undisciplined party.  It’s probably more united than the New Labour government in its last years, hopelessly split between Blairites and Brownites on the basis of no true underlying policy differences.

The most alarmist talk about the danger to Cameron’s government is overstated — more most surprising, perhaps, is that the Coalition made it nearly halfway through the natural term of the parliament with so much unity.  Clegg has not yet flinched in giving his party’s support to Tory leader and prime minister David Cameron (pictured above, left), even as the budget cuts of a severe austerity program implemented by Tory chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne seem to be dragging the UK economy back into a double-dip recession, to say nothing of student fees or other policies that are less than satisfying to the Lib Dem rank-and-file, which has typically been more of the left than of the right.

As The Guardian notes, Clegg can claim a moderating influence on the current government:

Most of the cases that [Clegg] can demonstrate are negative ones. The Lib Dems have played a vital role in making Tory legislation less extreme, less red meat. The health reforms could have been worse; Europe policy would have been more barking; welfare changes would have hurt the vulnerable even more.

But voters don’t seem to be giving Clegg much credit.  The center-left Labour now has a five-point lead over the Tories (39% to 34%) in the latest Guardian/ICM poll from late June, but the Lib Dems have taken the greatest electoral brunt with just 14% support, a sharp fall from its 23% vote in May 2010.

Luckily for Clegg and Cameron, most of the UK was too busy on holiday or watching the Olympic Games in London to notice (although Cameron must not be thrilled that his semi-rival, London mayor Boris Johnson, has received such fawning attention).

So what happened? Continue reading Tensions start to appear in Tory-Lib Dem coalition in the UK

Not a good day for the Lib Dems

That Chris Huhne has resigned as Cabinet minister is horrible news today for the Liberal Democrats, who haven’t had the easiest year and a half, politically speaking, in the Coalition.  But it’s just the latest in a long string of unfortunate scandals, personal and public, that have beleaguered several of the Lib Dems’ brightest stars.

Huhne, who lost two narrow leadership elections, the first in 2006 to Menzies Campbell and the secon in 2007 to current leader Nick Clegg, had been one of the younger rising stars among the Liberal Democrats, serving as Spokesman for Home Affairs from 2007 to 2010 and was serving, until today, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change under the Coalition government. Continue reading Not a good day for the Lib Dems