Left, right or centre? How the Liberal Democrats continue to divide voters

Jo Swinson’s election bid seems to be over before it even began; a damp squib if you will. However, if we rewind, it was just a few months ago that MPs were defecting left, right and centre to join the Liberal Democrats, and Jo Swinson seemed to be riding high. So where did it all go wrong?

It was clear from the outset that this election was a major opportunity for the Lib Dems, maybe once in a generation, with huge chunks of the electorate disillusioned with the two major parties and Brexit still dragging on. The Lib Dems are well aware of this, so it didn’t come as a surprise when they launched a campaign to try and win a majority. But putting Jo Swinson at the helm seems to have cost them dearly. Although, I must admit that when Swinson beat Ed Davey in the leadership bid I was excited. The injection of youth Swinson brought was promising and different – seemingly exactly what the UK needed.

However, it is precisely this which has proven to be one of her biggest downfalls. Being almost two decades younger than her rivals, she simply lacks the maturity and experience to fight in such a tough and complex election. The jeers and applause which followed one audience member’s remark of “before you were born” confirmed this. You could see Swinson’s eyes widen.

When the Lib Dems revealed their manifesto last week, things went from bad to worse. They proudly led with the policy: “Revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit”, clearly appealing to the 16.4 million voters who opted to remain. Yet this seems to be a case of misjudgement from the campaign team. The policy, which brands them as hardcore Remainers, has muddled the image of the Lib Dems as a centrist party. Despite large numbers of people agreeing with the policy, to most, it simply appears divisive at a time when all the country needs is unity. Combined with the party’s complicity in years of Tory austerity, this stance seems to have lost them the ‘traditional moderate votes’ that their party is founded upon.

The Lib Dem campaign is sprawled chaotically across the political spectrum, lacking any sense of structure and coherence. They claim to have Left-leaning policies for issues such as climate change, but their pledges look meek next to Labour’s radical suggestions; and their hard line on Brexit drags them towards Johnson on the Right in terms of rhetoric.

One of Swinson’s most revisited narratives is that the country deserves more, that we deserve a choice that is not Corbyn or Johnson. Whilst it may be true that the country deserves more, it doesn’t follow that the Lib Dems provide it. Just like the almost sacred phrase, ‘No Deal’ alludes only to the lack of something; the Liberal Democrats currently seem to be no more than the negation of the two other major parties.

With a recent YouGov poll predicting a landslide majority for the Conservatives and a mere thirteen seats for the Lib Dems, Swinson has nowhere to go. Even her own begging pleas to be recognised as a serious contender for PM lack conviction. In going for the win herself, it seems all that Swinson will achieve is dividing the remain vote thus confirming the very thing which she sought to prevent. It seems that sometimes the line between ambition and delusion is easily blurred.

Image: Adambro via Wikimedia