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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Labour panics as remain voters switch to Liberal Democrats

The Observer outlines the consequences for Jeremy Corbyn's three years of fence-sitting and supporting Theresa May over Brexit, as it reports that senior Labour figures were engaged in a desperate battle to shore up the party’s support last night, amid warnings that its stance on Brexit was helping to “detoxify the Lib Dems”.

The panic has been prompted by news that new polling suggests Vince Cable’s party is running in first place in London and could even beat Labour overall:

One senior party figure warned: “If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem.” Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said “lifelong Labour voters” would not back the party this week due to its Brexit stance. He added: “It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation.”

The paper adds that an Opinium poll has found that the Liberal Democrats have narrowly overtaken Labour as the favourite party of remain voters, with 29% of the group now backing Cable’s party and 28% backing Labour:

Meanwhile, a wider poll found that the Lib Dems are set to top the poll in London and could even push Labour into third place overall in the European election.

The YouGov/Datapraxis poll of more than 9,000 voters, commissioned by the pro-remain Best for Britain campaign and Hope Not Hate, found the Brexit party leading in all other regions apart from Scotland, where the SNP leads.

It found that the Lib Dems had overtaken Labour, once the pollster had removed voters who said they did not know how they would vote, or would not vote. It put the Lib Dems on 17%, Labour on 15% and the Greens just four points further back, on 11%. The Brexit party was leading on 34% and the Tories were on 9%.

A Tory cabinet minister also told the Observer they were worried about the Lib Dems, as remain supporters abandoned their party. “I’ve been warning for some time that the Lib Dems are not dead and could come back, but have been ignored,” they said. “If you map the local elections on to a general election, there are seats in which big majorities of over 10,000 votes could be wiped out.”

Serious concerns are being expressed among Labour MPs. One senior frontbencher said: “Labour should take the Lib Dem revival seriously.

“If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem for a party that is coming from younger voters, students, people who rent – a whole cohort of voters who in previous times may have voted Lib Dem. We can’t afford to lose them.”

As if to underline the strength of the Liberal Democrats revival and the toxicity of the two main parties, the Observer also reports that Michael Heseltine has announced that he will vote for us on Thursday.

The former deputy prime minister and lifelong pro-European said the party has become “infected by the virus of extremism” and he cannot endorse its support for leaving the EU. Bring it on.
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