LIB­ERAL DEMOCRATS HAVE LIT­TLE TO BE GLEE­FUL ABOUT

Daily Express - - INSIDE POLITICS -

BOURNEMOUTH will be turned into Re­moan­er­land-on-sea this week­end when the Lib Dems roll up for their an­nual get-to­gether. Un­der their new leader Sir Vince Ca­ble, the yel­low party has so far stayed as wrapped in the blue EU flag as it was un­der his pre­de­ces­sor Tim Far­ron. Blood­chilling claims about the sup­posed dis­as­ter of Brexit are ex­pected to be all the rage at the con­ven­tion cen­tre over the com­ing week; doom-mon­ger­ing has long been Sir Vince’s great­est skill.

Lib Dem ac­tivists tra­di­tion­ally hold a “Glee Club” re­vue dur­ing their con­fer­ence but have lit­tle to be glee­ful about. The party’s fa­nat­i­cal pro-EU pitch at the gen­eral elec­tion led to a drop in vote share at the poll. The dozen Lib Dem MPs in the Com­mons re­main an in­signif­i­cant rump.

Sir Vince will use his con­fer­ence speech to claim that the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre – be­tween Tory Brex­i­teers and Jeremy Cor­byn’s hard-Left dom­i­nated Labour Party – is there for the tak­ing. The problem for him is that com­mit­ment to the cause of keep­ing Bri­tain in the EU is bound to be­come an in­creas­ingly fringe opinion as the coun­try quits the European bloc, just like a be­lief in na­tion­al­is­ing in­dus­try faded out of main­stream pol­i­tics dur­ing the 1980s. The Lib Dem leader has ad­mit­ted that European Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker’s ram­pantly fed­er­al­ist “state of the union” speech to the European Par­lia­ment this week bor­dered on the “ex­treme”. Few vot­ers are likely to be at­tracted by the vi­sion of su­per-state headed by a sin­gle pres­i­dent set out by Mr Juncker in his tirade in Stras­bourg. Sir Vince’s ad­mis­sion sug­gests that he may be look­ing for a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion to take his party. His crit­ics will won­der whether some­one who has been at the top of the party for so long has the imag­i­na­tion or am­bi­tion to strike out on a new path.

There is lit­tle sign that the Lib Dems have grasped the fact that the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre is slip­ping away from their grasp. As long as the Lib Dems re­main ob­sessed with try­ing to re­verse Brexit, they are go­ing nowhere other than their own mis­er­able Re­moan­er­land.

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