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From Iain Donaldson, a Manchester Liberal Democrat Learn more

Politics: That was the year that was

by Iain Donaldson on 6 October, 2016

With the Party Conference season now over and our Westminster MP’s due to retake their seats in the mother of all parliaments I thought I might indulge myself with a little summary of where the parties active in my part of the world are up to.

Labour

With more security inside the hall than outside and a large chunk of the party bound to be unhappy whatever the outcome of what must have been the longest non-leadership contest in living memory, the Labour Party now has a situation in which 80% of its MP’s think their leader is useless and their party unelectable.  Meanwhile at the grass roots many long standing Labour members are now ditching their party either to join other parties or to leave politics for good.  This is not good for democracy or for the country.

Labour may have discussed some policies but other than the fact that they are split on Trident the general public are really none the wiser.

There are boundary reviews coming which will throw many Labour MP’s out of Westminster and as Parliament resumes next week the party will try to show unity with its leader, for  a while, until the next time he says something they don’t like.  It won’t be long.

The Conservatives

Theresa May has now managed to absolutely isolate those in her party who supported Britain remaining in the EU, and even the leavers who wanted either free movement or free trade or both are now finding that she has no intention of delivering for them either.  The reality is that the Conservatives are now positioning themselves where UKIP used to stand, on the far right with the xenophobes and homophobes.  About 10 years ago Theresa May stunned the Party by pointing out that it was seen as the Nasty Party by so many people.

Today the Tory Party has a home secretary who, as I have pointed out in other posts, is lifting her policy directly from Mine Kampf.

Under the leadership of Mrs May the direction of the country is the 1930’s, in Germany, before long we can expect her new grammar schools to be turning our an elite May Youth who will claim that the future belongs to them.
Meanwhile, the pound is dropping; foreign workers are to be added to ‘lists’; a hard Brexit will lose the UK easy access to our major market in the EU; human rights are to be abandoned; and our NHS will continue to crumble.

UKIP

So let us then turn to the Party the Conservatives now aspire to be, UKIP.  After a fractious conference and the low turnout in the election of a leader who resigned after just 18 days in the job, we have seen this party all but vanish in local elections and tearing itself apart at its conference as it decides what other politics it might engage in now it has won Brexit.  Interestingly this is before section 50 has even been actioned.  The big question is what are they for, and the resounding answer that came out of their conference is that they don’t know.

The Green Party

Erm, I think they had a conference and I think they replaced their former leader (whose name I forget) with two half leaders, one half being the excellent Caroline Lucas (who I would not be disappointed to see sitting alongside Tim Farron in the Commons).  With all the militants who joined them in the 80’s, 90’s and noughties now returning to the Labour Party and their membership nationally below 10,000 (by their own estimates) they have a lot of thinking to do about how they might achieve any of their aims.

The Liberal Democrats

With over 78,000 members and having won most by-elections since June, the Liberal Democrats could be looking forward with quiet optimism.  However the party’s internal structural review has not changed the illiberal top down management structures, the success in local by-elections has not yet fed through to parliamentary by elections and the long awaited philosophy statement has not yet been commissioned.

The party is growing, and attracting experienced politicians to its ranks, but as yet it is not in a position to take on the Tories and take back the ground it lost in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats have a lot to be hopeful for, but they must at this stage caution optimism with prudence.  There is a long way to go and getting distracted from sorting out the internal structural problems will not serve them well in the long term.

Having said that, whilst they have not yet returned to the strength of 2010 in the ballot boxes, they are stronger now on the ground than at any time in my lifetime, and a good result in Witney will only serve to feed that strength.

Most recently in Canada, and before than in Japan; the Liberal Democrats were virtually wiped out only to return to government within three terms.  I has been done before and can be done again.