Eight years ago, the Liberal Democrats were at their highest and most successful point since the party was created. Nick Clegg was performing incredibly well in the TV debates, and there were even some predictions that the Lib Dems would become the main opposition at the 2010 General Election. Fast forward to today, and the party is polling just 7% and they have a leader who is unbelievably dull and forgettable. Everyone knows why the Liberal Democrats were demolished in the 2015 General Election; five years of being in government and breaking promises is going to make a party anything but popular. However, it is rather bizarre that a party can’t recover three years on from the nightmare. It is make or break time for the Lib Dems, and if they don’t radically reform and change the party then they will never be a serious force in British politics.
The 2015 General Election was a disaster for the Liberal Democrats; going from 57 seats to just 8. Ever since that awful result, they have attempted to revamp the party with the leaders of Tim Farron and currently Sir Vince Cable. Tim Farron wanted to redefine the party as the “anti-Brexit” movement, but this clearly failed. The 2017 General Election demonstrated no significant progress, with the party winning just 12 seats and their vote swing decreasing to just 7.5%. Understandably, Tim Farron resigned as party leader after the election, not only because of the pathetic result but also his controversial refusal to say whether he believed gay sex was wrong.
Sir Vince Cable has attempted to reform the party in the same way as Tim Farron, but there has been no significant improvement in the polls. The Lib Dems still haven’t polled consistently above 10%, and their “exit from Brexit” stance is nothing but irritating and undemocratic. The party is failing because of its single issue stance, whereas in the 2000’s and the run up to the 2010 General Election they offered a wide range of policies that appealed to everyone in society. It is understandable to see why they are trying to target the 48% who voted remain in the referendum, but the simple fact is not all of them want a second referendum or “people’s vote”. The Liberal Democrats should instead be trying to regain the support of students and grab more working-class voters away from Labour. However, that tactic works both ways and unfortunately the party will always be viewed as the one which broke their promises on university tuition fees and the bedroom tax.
Nevertheless, the party is beginning to realise it needs radical change. In a speech last week, Sir Vince Cable said he wanted to create a new “centrist movement” that would appeal to all types of background. Furthermore, he is attempting to introduce a party policy which would allow people who aren’t MP’s to become leader. Despite all of the attempted reforming of the party, it still isn’t enough. If the party wants to truly change, then a rebrand should be considered. After all, the party was created on a rebrand after the SDP had failed to make the electoral impact it wanted throughout the 1980’s.
The Liberal Democrats have something unique; an open slot in the British political system. Labour and the Conservatives are battling the likes of the SNP and UKIP for votes, whereas no one is occupying the centre ground. The party’s “exit from Brexit” campaign must be side-lined for a couple of months whilst they concentrate on releasing a new set of policies which could potentially attract 60% of voters. If the Liberal Democrats don’t endorse a possible rebrand and new policies, then the party will collapse.