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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

Clegg could lose both his leadership and seat in UK election

clegg

Though the office of deputy prime minister is relatively new in British politics, and though there have been stretches since 1945 when British governments haven’t even featured a deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg risks becoming the first sitting deputy prime minister to lose his constituency in the United Kingdom’s general election on Thursday.United Kingdom Flag Icon

Throughout the campaign, Clegg has struggled to take a clear polling lead in Sheffield Hallam in south Yorkshire. His party, the Liberal Democrats, are predicted to lose up to half of their 56 seats in the House of Commons, and Clegg’s surprisingly tough race means that his future as an MP is just as fragile as his future as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, which joined a formal coalition with the Conservatives following the May 2010 general election. In that campaign, Clegg stole the spotlight in the country’s televised leader’s debates against both current prime minister David Cameron and then-prime minister Gordon Brown.

This time around, Clegg has been forced into an awkward mix of defending his record in government while attacking Cameron’s Tories for going too far in cutting social services in the party’s zeal to reduce the country’s budget deficit. Clegg’s popularity collapsed early in the coalition, when he not only agreed to budget cuts in the midst of a recession, but particularly after he consented to an increase in tuition fees from around $3,000 to around $9,000, backtracking on what had been a key LibDem pledge in the 2010 election. A groveling apology to LibDem voters only made things worse for Clegg.

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RELATED: Why Clegg should step down as LibDem leader

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A Lord Ashcroft poll released April 29 showed Clegg losing to Labour’s Oliver Coppard by a 1% margin. A Guardian/ICM poll released May 4, however, indicates that Tory voters are voting tactically for Clegg in a bid to retain his seat. The Liberal Democrats have historically been somewhat left of center, most importantly opposing British participation in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in the 2000s and creeping civil liberties abuses by Labour. Clegg, with a market-friendly, traditional economically liberal perspective, is still seen as the most likely LibDem leader to bring his party into another coalition with the Conservatives after May 7.

In contrast, if Clegg loses his seat and the party is forced to choose a new leader quickly, the favorite would be the secretary of state for business, Vincent Cable, whose views on economic policy lie much closer to Labour’s than to the Conservatives.

Even as Clegg signals that Cameron’s promise of a 2017 referendum on British membership in the European Union need not be a deal-breaker for a coalition, he’s said that his party could partner with either major party, adding ‘a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one.’  Continue reading Clegg could lose both his leadership and seat in UK election