As if there was any doubt remaining, the Liberal Democrats have just confirmed how hypocritical they are. During their party conference on Sunday, the Liberal Democrats voted overwhelmingly to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit should they win a majority at the next general election. Whilst the chance of the Liberal Democrats winning a majority is laughably small, there are a good few reasons why this vote shows just how out of touch and hypocritical the party has become.
Firstly, throughout this entire Brexit process, the party has repeatedly demanded a second referendum or a people’s vote, stating time and again that the mood of the people had changed since June 2016 and that it was time to put the question to them again. Evidence from one recent survey suggests that this might be the right line of thinking, with a poll on 31 August by WhatUKThinks suggesting that 46% of people are in favour of remaining in the EU, and 41% want to leave.
But by suddenly deciding that if they were to achieve a majority they would instantly revoke Article 50, the Liberal Democrats are veering away from attempts to gauge true public opinion. Instead, they are moulding themselves as hypocritical and authoritarian.
The hypocrisy in this proposed move, unlikely to happen as it is, is further exacerbated by the fact that Jo Swinson and every member of her party has repeatedly called Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament unlawful and unconstitutional. Indeed, Swinson had added her voice to the petition by Gina Miller which sought to have Boris’s prorogation deemed unlawful. Boris’s decision was foolish, but Swinson and the Liberal Democrats have shown that they are equally indifferent to democratic will.
By first criticising Boris’s decision and then making a promise to revoke Article 50 without putting it to the electorate, Swinson and the Liberal Democrats come across as little more than power hungry fools, desperate to make a grab at political status by doing something that likely won’t have support from the majority of the electorate, let alone parliament.
A cynic might claim that this is all a ploy, where the Liberal Democrats have made this declaration, knowing full well that they will never achieve the necessary majority. This would enable them to put pressure on Labour to revoke Article 50 by leveraging the potential support of middle class voters who have grown tired of Labour’s non-existent Brexit position. Potentially, this might allow the Liberal Democrats to take seats from Labour in swing areas, whilst continuing to collect members, before eventually pushing for a second referendum once more.
All of this might see a tad farfetched, but given that the Liberal Democrats were amongst the parties that refused Boris Johnson’s request for a general election, it does appear to be the strategy that makes the most amount of sense. It is possible that the Liberal Democrats would be destroyed in a general election held now, given all their posturing and blatant disregard for the referendum vote. Maybe they see no better way to drum up support than by making claims that are so outrageous that they lure in figures like Philip Lee, allowing them to gain a greater foothold in parliament without an election.
This all suggests that the Liberal Democrats have never truly taken the will of the people seriously – or at least they don’t respect the views of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit. Indeed, a quarter of Liberal Democrat MPs currently with the party were not elected on a Liberal Democrat manifesto. It is not surprising that the party is making outlandish claims about revoking Article 50.
Their MPs know that it would be the end of the road if there was a general election, and the party would return to obscurity once more.
The best thing the Liberal Democrats could do in this instance is to stop claiming they are for democracy and admit they are nothing more than authoritarians in waiting. Perhaps then they might at least retain some credibility; they won’t have to cheer behind closed doors as Guy Verhofstadt talks about a ‘European Empire.’