Tuesday 8 November 2016

Are the Lib Dems conning the 48%?

The media and right-wing demagogues are attacking the independence of the judiciary - and, by extension, the rule of law.  An element among them appears to be suggesting vigilante action against Gina Miller and those seeking to uphold Parliamentary democracy.

What exactly is the Liberal Democrat leadership doing?

In the Witney by-election some activists claimed the party's pro-EU message was concealed from literature to all voters.  It certainly was kept off centre stage while used heavily in targeted mailings.    Anecdotally, this strategy was electorally successful.  Time will tell whether similar strategies work in the much more pro-Remain territory of Richmond Park.

But a Liberal party that seems finally to be agreed on the need for a core vote does not seem to be using this golden opportunity to seize that pro-EU territory.  Nick Clegg - still a divisive figure - now appears to support EU withdrawal if it means remaining in the single market.  Other Lib Dem MPs remain off-message, or would do if only the party were clear what message it had.

There has been some lip service paid to welcoming the High Court judgment - but nothing more.   No Liberal vision of what an Article 50 negotiating position- nor a critique that in fact no sustainable position is possible.  Perhaps that is because of the contradiction at the heart of that position.  While saying the Lib Dems are the 'party of remain', or saying 'the Lib Dems are the party that wants the softest Brexit possible' are both coherent positions, mixing them is not.

Surely the Liberal position is to trenchantly oppose mob rule?  That should mean both holding the Government to its commitment to respect the independence of the judiciary, and to remind all that incitement is a criminal offence - and that far-right extremists running papers or in the form of UKIP leaders who incite violence face jail.

And on the subject of mob rule, the extremist-legitimising mindset of the broader media must be challenged. After all, the Liberal Democrats will hardly lose much coverage over such challenge.  For example, the party has for years taken a stance on the BBC that is inherently conservative - even Conservative; the party does not challenge broken British institutions, as a rule. Party figures have clamped down on any challenge to the established orthodoxy.  As the corporation has retrenched into being part of Britain's problem, it as with other failing institutions deserve robust challenge.

But back to the Lib Dems.  It is pretty much the worst of all possible worlds to pay lip service about being the voice of Remain voters while at the same time leaving open the possibility of voting to trigger Article 50.  The ordure heaped at Labour for its muddled position demonstrates that if you want to become politically active to fight EU withdrawal, it is not the party.  For the Lib Dems to do the same in that context is tactically stupid as well as politically wrong.

The idea that you can fight your way back onto the political map with only 8 MPs as part of a non-existent political orthodoxy is, to use a technical term, bollocks.  When fighting a must-win by-election against a plutocrat fraudulently portraying himself as an independent outsider, it is doubly bollocks.  Even some activists are threatening to take action to help the party hit this gaping open goal.  As nobody else will do it, it is up to Tim Farron to point out when this system is rigged.

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