So there’s to be a snap general election. Many are running scared predicting that the 48% who voted remain do not have a snowball in hell’s chance of winning on 8th of June. The 48% are too divided to find common cause. Many are assuming that the only party defending the 48%, the Liberal Democrats, are too small, too weak and too tainted by the coalition years to put up enough of a fight to win this election. With just 9 seats in Westminster, with a leader very few know anything about and with no single national paper or media openly supporting the Liberal Democrats it looks unlikely that those who share the objectives of the 48% are capable of beating Theresa May in June 2017.
The Liberal Democrats, quite clearly the underdog in this campaign, have every chance of winning. It’s going to be tough but not as impossible as the naysayers suggest. Before we begin to set out the case for how the underdog can beat the front-runners let us set out Theresa May’s strengths – and we can all agree May holds a lot of trumps (no pun intended) in her hand .
Her first trump is Corbyn. He is the least popular Labour leader nationally since records began. The British voter does not like him. They can not see him as their next Prime Minister. In a binary choice between May and Corbyn the voter will chose May regardless of what they think of her Brexit policy.
Her second trump is our political system of “First Past The Post” (FPTP). We do not have proportional representation. This leads some voters into negative, blocking voter tactics rather than voting for their preferred choice. The “anything but the Tories” line of thinking. This means that the Liberal Democrats, who Theresa May fears more than Labour under Corbyn, will not gain seats. This is to her advantage.
Her third trump is she controls the narrative. She has the support of roughly 70-80% of the national papers. The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun and The Times are all predicting a land-slide victory for Theresa May on the 8th June. All of these papers believe that exiting the EU is in the country’s national interest and are throwing their weight behind Theresa May. The BBC are terrified of not being considered impartial thus will continue to give air-space to pathological liars and cheats such as Farage, Johnson and Gove. The Guardian, like the Labour Party, is fighting internal battles. They can not be relied on to send out a clear message. Another advantage to May.
Her fourth trump is timing. Her weakened opposition has all but a few weeks to get their act together and go out there and campaign on a united front. She is estimating they won’t. Theresa May, on the other hand is organised and bang on message. She appears in control and can deliver a successful Brexit.
Her fifth and final trump is her image. Make no mistake. May is a swivel-eyed, fanatical, goon but she doesn’t look like it. She presents herself as a well dressed, strict but competent and hard-working head-teacher rather than the ideologically convinced opponent of the EU which she is. Corbyn, on the other hand, looks like the slightly annoying, sulky maths teacher with an ego that does not match his abilities, who likes to surround himself by a bunch of pupils who fan his ego and who simply can not understand why the majority of pupils and staff don’t appreciate his brilliance as much as he does. No wonder May has a better image than the vainglorious, weak chinned Corbyn.
So, what does this mean for those of us who are vehemently opposed to Brexit and who would like nothing better than to see May and Corbyn given the boot? Should we throw in the towel? Give up? Continue bickering amongst ourselves over the best way to defeat Theresa May?
Here’s how the underdog can ensure that Theresa May does not get the clear mandate she is so desperate for to make her vision of a hard exit from the European Union reality.
Firstly, there is this general assumption that the choice in June is only between May or Corbyn. This is wrong. The voter does, in fact, have a viable alternative to choose from – the Liberal Democrats. They are an established, experienced and well rounded party with sensible policies on tolerance, minority rights, social justice, health care, the economy, education, environmental regulation, defence, international trade etc. They can be distinguished from the Conservatives and Labour because they are the only party which has consistently supported the UK’s continued membership of the EU. They can be distinguished from UKIP because they are not a one-trick, protest party full of fear, anger and fuelled by outrage. They can be distinguished from the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP because they are the only party governed by moderates and not fanatics. This means they are well positioned to appeal to the millions of moderate voters who are tired of acrimony, anger, disharmony and the sudden lurches to the fanatical left and right we’ve seen in both the Conservative and Labour parties. Under the current state of affairs the Liberal Democrats are the only party capable of reaching out to the millions of moderate voters desperate for a return to some kind of normality after the mess of last June’s referendum.
Secondly, the first past the post system can work to our advantage. Much as euperspectives would prefer a system of proportional representation we have to work with what we have got. One thing going for the FPTP system is that political landscapes can and do change dramatically from one election to the next. If political circumstances adjust or if the mood of the nation shifts then the colour on the electoral map can and does change over night. Look at how Labour was annihilated in Scotland in 2010. Look at how many Tory big-wigs from Michael Portillo to Chris Patten lost their seats when Tony Blair won a landslide victory in 1995.
There is no such thing as a safe seat when political circumstances change – and let’s face it since the EU referendum in June 2016 everything has changed which means there is all to play for.
There is no point looking to how people voted in 2015. That was then. This is now. In 2017 we should assume that there is no such thing as a safe Labour or Conservative seat – but there could be a shift towards a more moderate, mainstream and less fanatical party such as the Liberal Democrats. For this reason euperspectives believes that the best way to prevent a Brexit is to deny a vote to Labour and Conservative candidates even if they did support Remain consistently. This is not to be dismissive or ungrateful of their efforts but because winning this election with a new, explicitly pro-European and moderate party has to be our priority. It would be a good idea to try and persuade them to abandon the two sinking ships while they still can and join the Liberal Democrats but if they insist on sticking to the two parties being held hostage by fanatics then so be it.
Further, rather than looking to the results of 2015 a more effective strategy may be to look at which constituencies voted overwhelming for Remain in 2017. Where did Remain lose by the merest of margins? How would the voter vote now in a general election? Let us not forget that thousands of young people who were denied a vote last year will be able to vote in 2017.
A further focus should be on constituencies where the Liberal Democrats have traditionally been strong but where they were punished in 2015 because of their coalition with the Conservatives. There is every reason to believe that with a new leader and a new agenda those who switched sides in 2015 may be willing to vote for the Liberal Democrats again.
If we, the 48% campaign on a message of hope, social justice, tolerance and a positive belief that our country’s future lies in the EU we offer the millions of moderate and young voters a real choice. A viable alternative to May and Corbyn. There is all to play for which is why euperspectives believes that the 48% who marched for Europe in London, who have put so much of their personal energy and resources into lobbying MPs to remain in the EU, who have devoted their time and their resources into fighting Brexit should stick with the Liberal Democrats and not vote for Labour just to keep the Tories out. Don’t forget if you vote Labour the chances are you’ll get Corbyn as your next Prime Minister (who is just as much committed to Brexit as May) whether that was your intention or not.
In the dark days when Article 50 was triggered, when the 48% were told by their Labour and Conservative MPs that it had to be triggered because it was somehow “the will of the people”, the only party who stuck with us were the Liberal Democrats. In the dreadful days when the 48% were accused of being “citizens of nowhere” because we believe in a peaceful Europe – the only party that stood by the us, that offered us hope, that came to our march and stood up for what was right and not what was popular was Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats. It is not too far fetched to believe that if the Liberal Democrats campaign with confidence and with a positive message on Europe they can and will turn the country from blue to yellow.
Let us be in no doubt. The road to 8th of June will be tough, there are huge challenges to overcome. There are trolls aplenty ready to throw us off message and undermine our confidence – but there is every reason to believe that if the 48% unite behind the Liberal Democrats then todays underdog will defy every prediction and offer a landslide victory on 8th June 2017.
Yes, we face a huge challenge – but I am is up for it. Are you?