Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Jo Swinson and Ed Davey.

The revival of the long-standing Scottish liberal tradition could help thwart the SNP’s bid for independence.

Are the Liberal Democrats about to save the United Kingdom? Their performance in the recent EU elections indicates a return to a degree of popularity, with the party increasing progressing from one MEP to 16. With nearly 20 per cent of the vote, it came second only to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Since then, a number of Westminster polls have put the Lib Dems in first place. This surge may not last — it didn’t in 2010, when Nick Clegg seemed on the edge of a defining breakthrough. But something is happening.

The Lib Dems are clearly benefitting from identity crises among voters of both left and right: soft Tories aghast at the idea of an extreme Brexit and cosying up to Farage and his supporters, and alarmed by the grisly prospect of PM Boris Johnson; and Labour voters disillusioned by the party’s cynically muddled stance on Brexit and by the broader unpleasantness of the Corbyn project.

Having seen off the threat of Change UK, the Lib Dems now seem the most likely vehicle for any centrist resurgence in British politics. The performance of their new leader — we should learn on 23 July whether that will be Jo Swinson or Ed Davey, with internal surveys currently favouring the former — will be crucial. Clegg brought an air of vigour and competence to his party’s public image, something that has not always been a given. Those looking for an alternative to the two main parties will need to see something similar from whoever emerges triumphant from this contest.

Never let a good crisis go to waste. The solipsistic behaviour of Labour and the Tories has given the Lib Dems a surprise opportunity to recover their standing. The 2010 coalition with the Tories seemed to have finished them off — in 2015 they plummeted from 57 seats to just eight. Now, if they can offer moderation, decency and professionalism, and avoid the eccentricities which have unmoored them so often in the past, they may soon find themselves a significant parliamentary and political force once more.

This could have consequences for the survival of the Union too. Swinson is a Scot who represents the East Dunbartonshire seat. This would go some way towards addressing the ongoing Anglicisation of the two main parties. It would show Scots, unhappy with the direction of travel at Westminster and perhaps tempted by Nicola Sturgeon’s siren offering of a second independence referendum, that there is still a front-rank place for them in UK politics.

It would be no bad thing for that long-standing Scottish liberal tradition to be revived. After the first elections to the new Scottish parliament in 1999, the Lib Dems found themselves in government with Donald Dewar’s Labour. Their leader Jim Wallace was a popular and high-profile deputy first minister. But by the 2016 election, they had fallen from 17 seats and 14.2 …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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Can the Liberal Democrats save the United Kingdom?

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