The grassroots mutiny amongst Lib Dem activists and voters has grown deeper as another Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate has been replaced following threats to stand down as a reaction to moves to discipline Tim Walker in Canterbury.
Guy Kiddey, the candidate for High Peak, threatened to stand aside if the Liberal Democrats continue with plans to take disciplinary action against Tim Walker who has stepped aside for the Labour Party in Canterbury. He has since been replaced by Lib Dem HQ in a move that has been called “disrespectful” and “appalling” by supporters on Twitter.
Walker announced on Tuesday that he intended to step aside for incumbent Labour MP Rosie Duffield who has a majority of just 187 and is facing the stiff challenge of Tory Anna Firth. The move was applauded by both Labour and Lib Dem voters as a “noble” gesture, yet Liberal Democrat central office came down hard on the local party and has replaced Walker against their wishes.
“In Canterbury, where I’d been chosen as our parliamentary candidate in opposition to the incumbent Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, we have what might be called a little local difficulty. In the last election, she won the traditionally Tory seat on the slimmest of margins – fewer than 200 votes – and, while I was confident I could substantially increase the Lib Dem vote on the back of my party’s national resurgence, it was clear there was a danger I’d divide the remainers.”Tim Walker, The Guardian
Four local Lib Dems who were approved candidates refused to stand and the local party is refusing to cooperate with HQ, stating that they support Rosie Duffield.
The backlash against the Liberal Democrats standing candidates in seats against Labour has only grown since the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand against Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, a move that will see the Tories have a free run from right-wing voters in 317 seats, a severe blow to efforts to oust the current government.
The leadership of Jo Swinson is also coming under increasing fire as voters begin to question the motivations of the Lib Dem leader, with many now stating that he intentions in the campaign are less about stopping Brexit and more about stopping Jeremy Corbyn and Labour.
The sense that Swinson has a vendetta against Corbyn has been amplified by the fact that she has welcomed five ex-Tories into the party and the Lib Dems have stood down in Beaconsfield against the former Conservative Dominic Grieve and in Broxtowe against the former Tory Change UK leader Anna Soubry. Voters have also begun to increasingly scrutinise Swinson’s voting record in parliament, having voted with the Tory Whip more often than Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt.
The Lib Dems position on Grieve has come under particular criticism with the ex-Tory having once said that “corruption in parts of the Pakistani community is ‘endemic’”, the party standing accused of putting Brexit before any efforts to effectively fight the Conservative Party, with whom Grieve and Soubry remain ideologically aligned. Grieve has gone on record to state that he is “Conservative to [his] fingertips”.
Some have accused Swinson of exploiting Remain sentiment to advance her own career and gain the Lib Dems further influence and press, with some branding her a “disgrace” to the party and others suggesting she is deliberately attempting to facilitate a Conservative victory.
The influence of Lib Dem parliamentary entryists such as the five aforementioned Tory defectors and vapid centrist Corbyn critics such as Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger are undoubtedly playing their part in influencing Lib Dem policy, yet there is equally a wilful campaign against Labour by the right-wing leaning Swinson for who Brexit has been nothing but a boon.
The Liberal Democrats and Jo Swinson have attempted to position themselves as leaders of the Remain campaign, receiving press not seen since the days of Nick Clegg. Should Britain actually remain in the European Union, the Lib Dems would likely once more fade into obscurity as the global backlash against neoliberal centrism continues, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour being the likely recipient of any defecting voters. The position of the Lib Dems is a mirror of Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party. In the event of Brexit, the Liberal Democrats can position themselves as a “rejoin the EU” party and continue the process for years to come.
For her part, Swinson seems quite at home on what has quickly become the new Tory left, having regularly voted in line with Conservative Party policy for years.
She supported austerity, voting against raising benefits, voting against higher benefits for those unable to work through disability and voting against guaranteeing jobs for young people. She voted to raise VAT, increase the income tax threshold and for increases to tuition fees. She voted to end financial support for young people in training and against slowing the rise in the cost of train fares. Seemingly a fan of the bankers and corporatism, Swinson voted against taxing banker’s bonuses, against stricter regulations on the gambling industry, voted for reducing corporation tax and voted to privatise Royal Mail.
Such is her devotion to the new Tory left, Swinson seemingly has little interest to the devastation brought by Margaret Thatcher to working-class communities across the country and instead thinks that opposition to a statue of the wicked witch has a “whiff of misogyny” and that opponents are “pretty sexist”.
“She had long-term vision about our country’s future.”-Jo Swinson on Margaret Thatcher
We can easily point to the likes of Jacob Ree-Mogg as holding the ordinary people of the country in contempt, but Swinson believing that the opposition of the working class to a statue of the woman who destroyed their livelihoods and communities is about misogyny shows the exact same level of contempt for the ordinary people of this country as the Tories.
There is no reason to wonder why it is that the Lib Dems are blocking Labour and facilitating both a Tory victory and undoubtedly a no-deal Brexit, the reasons are simple. The tactics not only allow the Lib Dems to stay relevant and perhaps increase their small number of MPs in parliament, but the party has become so full of Conservative and right-leaning MPs that the Liberal Democrats as we knew them no longer exist, they are now officially “yellow Tories” whose only interest is joining the bandwagon of fanatics and cranks who stand opposed to Jeremy Corbyn, the only other potential Prime Minister of the country.