BIGGEST CHALLENGE YET FOR THE LIB DEMS.

 

THE DISCREDITED CENTRE.

Britain is being run by a Prime Minister constantly looking over her shoulder at hard line Brexiteer Tories who want to not only get us out of the European Union but use the withdrawal legislation to dismantle many elements of social justice.

The Opposition is led by a left wing populist who promises the earth to public sector workers and students and who has skilfully captured the anti-establishment mood. However, a Jeremy Corbyn government combined with Brexit would have a hugely damaging impact on business and the economy.

So where is the centre ground when we need them? I’ll find some of them in Bournemouth this weekend under their new leader Vince Cable. The others may be in Brighton the week after at the Labour conference. You won’t see them on the platform, even Andy Burnham, the newly elected leader of Greater Manchester, is struggling for a slot. The moderate Labour MPs are being made to pay for their treachery against Jeremy Corbyn.

It is difficult for moderates in the Labour Party. They are embarrassed by Corbyn’s “relative” success. And it is relative, it was Labour’s third successive defeat. They have not won a General Election for twelve years. They want the party to oppose Brexit but are worried about breaking promises to the electorate and have a leader who is probably a secret Leaver. Then there is the Blair problem. The most articulate spokesman for their point of view is discredited in too many people’s eyes to get a real hearing.

Both the Labour centre, and the Lib Dems, are also burdened by the legacy of the financial crash of ten years ago. A moderate Labour government was in charge under Gordon Brown when it happened and the Liberal Democrats were part of a Coalition that used austerity to clear up the mess afterwards. The Tories are always expected to be tough on economics but the crash and its aftermath left Labour and the Lib Dems vulnerable to the populist rhetoric of Nigel Farage. He used the European Union as a lightening conductor for people’s mistrust of bankers, the EU and centrist politicians whose wishy-washy politics had let them down.

And yet my gut feeling remains that a majority of the British people, and certainly business, want centre ground politics. Economic realism with a social conscience and if we can sort immigration out, continued membership of the EU.

The Lib Dems are too weak at the moment for the Labour centre to take them seriously as a partner for a new party. Vince Cable’s task this weekend in Bournemouth is to show that they have a strategy to win back seats and be open to the idea of a new centre party that can offer an alternative to Brexiteer Toryism of hard left socialism.

Follow me @JimHancockUK

 

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