“If only we had a competent and effective opposition, someone who would come out behind Remain, with enthusiasm and (apparently without the shackles of leading a political party)”, or so the calls come. This neglects or is ignorant of many facts currently facing British political life. Not least that in 2015, Ed Milliband, then leader of the opposition, not only lost to David Cameron, but gave him a working majority. The mainstream commentary class froth at the mouth at the possibility of having a Milliband like figure. Though back in 2015 he seemingly fulfilled all criteria for what an effective opposition would look like, occupying the centre-ground, as Blair had, with moderately progressive politics.
The context for this victory is and was frightening, after 5 years of austerity; homelessness rose, benefits were cut, and the media normalised some of the most callous policies since Thatcher. Against this backdrop, Milliband lost. The centrist, pro-European, pro-status-quo candidate was defeated. That’s significant. Significant because he offered no real alternative, Miliband and the Labour establishment were content with the status quo, and in doing so, made possible the fractious politics that exists to this day.
Yet the mainstream media remains fixated with the centre-ground; enter the Lib-Dems. I recently gave my ears to a freelance commentator who appeared on a podcast, who attributed this seeming unwillingness to move on to the current breed of journalist, that “cut their teeth” in the 90s and early 00s. This was a time of relative continuity, a period of stability without rupture or change. The economy was growing at a steady rate, capitalism remained unchallenged as the superior economic system and the British were seemingly content; as was the Westminster media and political class. Corbyn threatens this; his policies threaten tangible political and economic change, as they well know. To an extent so does Boris, though given that no-deal offers the prospect of a free-market, neoliberal utopia descending on horseback ridden by Raab and Truss, there seem to be little grievances about the prospect of his election in the autumn.
It is no wonder then that there has been a steady flocking to the Lib Dem’s amongst this same elitist class, a party that offers remain, though ironically their Parliamentary party is now made-up of more non-Lib Dem’s than were elected in 2017. More humorous is that the defectors have come from the Labour-right and the Tory-moderates, (if they exist). These same MPs now sit in a “broad-church”, with common voting records. For example, they voted for austerity, and for raising tuition fees, yet have the audacity to say they are liberal. This, to put it mildly, is nonsense. To be pro-remain doesn’t automatically make you liberal, the sooner the mainstream media realises, the better. Jo Swinson may offer a simplistic avenue to confront the Brexit question, but please consider how a revoke A50 position or a 2nd referendum would unite the country, spoilers: It wouldn’t. Such a proposal is ignorant of the fact that the political landscape has changed. Brexit, Trump, Orban, Salvini, Le Pen, and Farage are not born out of continuity and the status quo. Quite the opposite, as they claim to recognise. The people of Britain want real political and economic change, whether that be far-right or far-left, no longer is it good enough to continually offer the same deal.
To the voters of the United Kingdom, I say, please judge the Lib Dem’s on their record in government. It does not paint a pretty picture, and neither do their newfound MPs. To the media of this country backing the Lib Dem’s, I say, how do you really expect that after 3 years of parliamentary deadlock, the Lib Dem’s could possibly be the answer.
These same commentators expect Labour to come out unambiguously for remain. True, the message should have been clearer. But again, a political party such as the Labour movement has many points of view, a true political party should – where possible – look to accommodate as many of these as possible. This has all the hallmarks of a party seeking compromise, something that the mainstream media is yet to make peace with. Come November and some writers in the Guardian et al. may have their wish, the Lib-Dems may prop up the Tories once again. It will be the people devastated by the unleashing of more free-market capitalism that they will have on their conscience, they would do well to consult it a little more often.