Tuesday 24 August 2021
Following the Chesham and Amersham by-election, the Liberal Democrats have unveiled their Blue Wall target seats. There are only four, and a former Leader of the Lib Dems is already the MP for one of them. They have never been as nice as they looked. Are they going soft?
The Lib Dems were such stalwarts of the County Durham Teaching Assistants' campaign, which the results on Super Thursday may reasonably be said to have reactivated, that even I voted in 2017 for Owen Temple rather than for the lukewarm Laura Pidcock. And I have nothing but goodwill towards any administration that has overthrown the corrupt and brutal right-wing Labour machine in County Durham after more than 100 years.
But it was the Conservatives who were the moderating party in the Coalition. However slowly or slightly, austerity did begin to be eased once the Cabinet no longer contained the most direct and explicit heirs of the Whigs, of the Gladstonians, and of the Callaghan Government, including the Lib-Lab Pact.
Ever since the 2016 referendum, it has been obvious that there was a natural party of the well heeled, NIMBYish, Thatcherite, socially ultraliberal, and ferociously pro-EU section of the electorate. Had the 2015 Parliament run its course, then the Lib Dems would have taken scores of seats from the Conservatives in the South outside London, where such voters did and do predominate and even dominate. In 2024, they finally would. If they wanted to. But do they?
Not that Boris Johnson needs to worry. The Conservatives will remain in office, not only by holding their gains from 2019, but by offsetting any losses to the Lib Dems with seats that had voted twice for Jeremy Corbyn's economic programme, as the 2019 seats would also have done if Corbyn had held the Bennite line against Keir Starmer on Brexit.
It is now up to the Lib Dems whether or not they wanted the seats of which they should be the natural party. But if the people and places that had long ago voted three times for Margaret Thatcher had gone Lib Dem, then the Conservative Government would owe them nothing. It would owe us instead. It already does. Let's fill our boots.