Less bang, more pop
The Lib Dem party conference gets underway, but could be quite a gloomy affair
Less of a bang, and more of a pop, the Lib Dem conference got underway this weekend. With their parliamentary numbers drastically reduced by the cruelties of electoral defeat, this conference is expected to be about learning how to rebuild and relearn old opposition politics. In their leader Tim Farron, they have the right man. Never a fan of the coalition, Farron wants to take the Lib Dems back to a more social democratic way of doing politics that he hopes will deliver them seats from Corbyn’s leftist Labour. But recriminations and bitterness from those who lost their seats - or felt the Lib Dems were led down the garden path by Nick Clegg - could surface, with political journalists looking for something juicy to write about at an otherwise less than thrilling conference.
So the path to former glories is long and uncertain. The Lib Dems thrived for so long in being the only viable alternative to the Conservatives and Labour. They traditionally did well when either of the main parties vacated the centre ground, leaving little in the way of real opposition to the Government of the day. That avenue is gone, given the insurgence of the SNP and UKIP and the rise of protest politics. Farron has a job on his hands to demonstrate that the Lib Dems are selling something nobody else is offering; a pretty tall order given the spread of options now available. Recent number crunching suggested that the Lib Dems were only around 25,000 votes from complete parliamentary oblivion, and it is by no means obvious that the party has yet reached its nadir. With local and Scottish elections due in May next year, there’s every chance they could go further down the preference order of the public. Expect a pretty gloomy week in Bournemouth…