They were the results of a contest that nobody really cared about. A party that since 2015 has seemed pretty aimless and lacking in purpose. For the last five years, the Liberal Democrats have been without strong leadership. They’ve lacked a clear vision and time and time again have failed to grasp the attention of the electorate.
The Lib Dems are supposedly the party of the centre-ground, and after five years of tribalism and populism on the right and left of politics, you would have thought there was an appetite for centrism. Well, there is, but not necessarily the type of centrism the Lib Dems are dishing up.
No matter who takes charge of this sinking ship, they will always struggle to shake off the public perception of them being the party of broken promises. As we are reminded time and time again, the Lib Dems are of course the party, that when in government with the Tories failed to abolish tuition fees, cap bankers bonuses, not increase the rate of VAT, as well as add 3,000 extra police officers on the streets and create 100,000 jobs.
The only hope for the Liberal Democrats going forward is for them to abandon the sinking ship, grab the nearest lifeboats, sail their members away from what was the Liberal Democrats and reach out to fellow centrists (former Tory MPs and New Labourite MPs). In the hope of one day being able to re-form The Liberal Party.
If Ed Davey is telling his party, they need “to wake up and smell the coffee” well then maybe he should stop buying the same brand of cheap coffee, that nobody likes the taste of, and instead focus his energy on building a new Liberal organisation. The TIGers, Change UK, Renew UK, and even Rory Stewart attempted to take London by storm with his British ”En Marche!” movement.
No centrist, since Blair, has been able to capture the nation’s attention. And considering he was also the same man who drove people away from the idea of voting for a similar figure, trust in centrism may take some time to restore before Britain is ready to vote Liberal again.
But that means Sir Ed Davey must be ready to take the fight to Boris and Keir. Both leaders claim to be more centrist/liberal than their predecessors, but their downfall will always be their core membership being on the right and left of the spectrum. Whereas Davey has the upper hand of already having a core-centrist membership to start building a new/refreshed movement on.
In his acceptance speech, he said he would rebuild the party. He is seeking to replace Brexit as the party’s key theme and focus on support for carers and investment in the green economy.
This may be a more effective strategy, but with only a handful of MP’s and not much support in the polls, the new leader is facing the most significant challenge any Lib Dem leader has had to face.