What happens the day after the next General Election?

In the days after the next General Election it might be that the people who sit in this place are more important than the Parties that got them elected

In a recent Blog I spoke about the potential end of two-Party politics. Since then we have had three more opinion polls with Lib Dems ranging from first with 30% to fourth with 19%. What doesn’t change is the fact that 4 Parties, Lib Dems, Brexit, Tory and Labour are bunched fairly close around the 20s with the Green Party on 8-10%. I do like the 30% Lib Dem one though! Many people must have gone to bed dreaming of that magic moment of being declared an MP when they saw that.

Although I am not ‘Mystic Dicky’ with a crystal ball I suspect that the FPTP system which is supposed to give us simple, decent sized majorities will land us into the deepest of no overall majority situations.

The excellent news from Brecon that the Green Party will support Jane Dodds and (I think) there is a strong possibility that Plaid Cymru will do so as well is very heartening. I believe that we should all consider on a seat-by-seat basis who is the best placed to win. In Liverpool Wavertree where I am the PPC I, supported by the Liverpool Lib Dems, have agreed to stand down for Luciana Berger. That might need to be revised as she has left Change UK but the principle is absolutely clear.

However, this is only half the picture for three reasons:

  1. In many constituencies even on the Flavible seat analysis of the last YouGov poll, there is not a clear challenger to the Tory or Labour incumbent. We will have to decide how to split those up.
  2. Labour and the Tories will fight every seat because they have yet to catch up with the reality of multi-Party politics.
  3. There are a reasonable number of Tory and Labour MPs who will be elected who, like us see BREXIT as the biggest danger to our Country and will be prepared to stop it. Almost all those MPs are people that we could work with on other issues as well. One’s view on Brexit is often a pretty good indicator of your views on a wide range of other issues as well.

If we look at the Liverpool situation there are two Constituencies which, according to the Flavible analysis, have combined Remain votes bigger than the Labour vote. Add the notional Lib Dem, Green and Change vote together and Remain would win. That roughly corresponds to votes cast in the local elections and European election in May. Clearly in the European elections people thought that the one issue was more important than old Party loyalties. I’ve lost count of the number of Labour members never mind voters who told us that they hadn’t voted Labour in either of these two elections.

My hazy recollection of O’level physics (there is actually a black hole type space in my head which has absorbed everything I should have learned and keeps it there) tells me that one of the big questions for understanding our existence is what happened a micro second after the Big Bang. I transfer that to politics and ask, “Is the most important question that we face is what will happen the day after the General Election?”

On the day after the General Election I can easily predict immediate talks with Green, SNP, Alliance and Plaid Cymru MPs. But what if that does not give a majority? Could we start talking with the 2 Parties which are currently the biggest but may or may not be so in the future? Let’s just suppose that Johnson and Corbyn were to lead their Parties into the jaws of defeat in the General Election and have not lost their seat in the process (although things do look good for us in both their constituencies) I would find it absolutely unthinkable that any Lib Dem Leader could negotiate with them.

They are both dreadful characters living in a glorious past that never was. They could not be part of a stable partnership Government because they both believe in things that are clearly illiberal. They could not be replaced easily under the constitutions of both Parties although perhaps an interim Leader might be announced. Any replacement process would take time as the markets plummeted and confidence was lost even further in our Country.

So, if we cannot negotiate with other Parties who could we negotiate with? My view is that we could finally break the 2-Party system by offering talks with individuals in other Parties whose views are most in accord with our own. I suspect that were we in such deep NOC territory a sufficient number would want to take the opportunity to jump ship to a more satisfying future.

If that scenario is to be played out, we would need to be ready for it. We need to have that as an immediate post-election option that our Leader can announce within minutes of being finally sure of likely numbers. We need to start talking now quietly and privately talk to people who are existing MPs in other Parties or people who be suitable candidates in other Parties.

The other advantage of this approach is to get us away from the question that is always asked, “Will you support a Labour or Tory coalition?” The answer to that is neither of them and the new question will then become, “which people are prepared to work with us?”

We don’t know the numbers and things may not be clear right up until the last constituency is declared. At all stages we need to be thinking ahead, setting our stall for all eventualities now; and knowing where our friends are and how we might want or need to work with them in the future.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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