On the day of Jeremy Corbyn’s storming victory in the Labour leadership election, I posted eleven observations about the news. The last of them was as follows:
‘Corbyn’s first sin could be saving the Lib Dems. What do you have to do to finally extinguish the Liberal Democrats? Just when they are finally driven to the brink of extinction, the Labour Party zooms off into the left field and offers them a chance to survive in the gap which opens as a result. If Corbyn wasn’t bad enough already, this offence is unforgivable.’
Sad to say, this looks increasingly to be the case. The Lib Dems haven’t seen any revival in their polling numbers, but the pressure they could have been under right now from a vaguely competent Labour leader hasn’t materialised (for one obvious reason). They have been reduced to a rump, but that final push to defeat them permanently has been passed up in favour of infighting, endless reshuffling and ensuing resignations from the Labour front bench.
Not only is the pressure off, giving the remaining Lib Dems time to regroup, but the exodus of relatively sensible Labour members must involve some of them seeking a new home eventually – they may have opted for the wilderness now but I wonder how many will end up joining the yellow peril. If deselections start then that could end up applying to MPs, too (given enough time for them to accept that their Party is lost to them, and to get over their innate dislike of the Lib Dems).
While the headline on Tim Farron’s interview with The Times today is ‘We may not recover, say Lib Dems’, his actual comments suggest he is feeling more than a little hopeful about the opportunity presented by the state of Corbyn’s Labour Party:
‘”I think there is no inevitability about the speed or scale of our comeback, but I just observe that [in] 1979 we got 11 seats and a share of the vote not dissimilar to the one we’ve just got and were a lot further away from winning any other seats than we were this time around. Four years later, we recorded the highest share of the vote our party’s got since the early 1920s.”’
Who can blame a Lib Dem for keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for a repeat of the 1980s?