Image Credit: Chris McAndrew
On the 27th of August, the results of a two-month campaign and a party membership ballot finally concluded with the election of Sir Ed Davey MP as the new party leader of the Liberal Democrats. This made Sir Ed the fifth person to occupy this position over a five-year period. With these staggering levels of leadership turnover and successive disappointing general election results, surmounting pressure weighs on the MP for Kingston and Surbiton’s shoulders to reinvigorate the country’s trust in the party and his membership’s confidence in him leading it. Sir
Of course, it was exactly these concerns which the newly appointed leader had stressed in his online acceptance speech. Having defeated the more centre-left leadership candidate Layla Moran MP, the message could be no clearer that a new direction was needed for party doctrine. It was heavily insisted by Sir Ed that it is now time for the party which he loves to “Wake up and smell the coffee”. After suffering national rejection on the platform of hosting a second European referendum (dubbed “the peoples’ vote”), the party lost one seat and its leader Jo Swinson to SNP gains.
It is possible then, that this plea stems from the ever-growing need for the Lib Dems to think post-Brexit. Hopefully, by moving away from constitutional politics and appealing to left-leaning voters, Sir Ed can bring the party back toward the centre-ground, becoming a less radical option to Labour and a more heartfelt alternative to the Conservative party by targeting Red-Tory constituencies with middle of the road policies. This feeling was encapsulated in his speech last Friday, stating that the “party has lost touch with too many voters” and that what was required is a new “national listening project” to bring the party back into “national relevance” and “on the side” of “ordinary people”. As former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change under the coalition government, it is natural that Sir Ed had postulated this as one of the party’s main agendas, hoping to scoop up votes by amping up scrutiny on the government’s lack of effective performance on matters of alleged consensus among the main political parties.
With only six per cent in recent opinion polls and a clear public acceptance of Brexit, the average voter wouldn't be mistaken in thinking the Liberal Democrats are no longer a credible outlet for alternative ideologies and a mainstay of the political opposition. While the party was able to ride the tailcoats of Labour’s indecisiveness surrounding the European question in the 2019 General election, the party had achieved second place in 91 constituencies, up from 31 in the previous election. With the fallout of Brexit behind us and no pro- EU voter base to prop up the party’s clout, now more than ever, the Lib Dems need to shift the frame of debate away from their “bollocks to Brexit” rhetoric and look toward helpful allies such as Sir Kier Starmer if the Conservative party’s dominance is to be effectively rivalled.
In a statement yesterday, the newly appointed leader is already hot on the scene, scrutinising the government, accusing them of agitating the public and inciting a culture war exercising “divide and conquer” like tactics. This being in response to the heightened media attention surrounding the illegal migrant crisis and the BBCs review into omitting two anthems from this year’s ‘Last Night at the Proms.’ Sir Ed has stated that it was these exact right-wing political trappings that halted the advance of liberal values and that only by working together with other parties in the opposition can it be stopped.
(Image credit: Aimee Challenor)