Today’s announcement of a snap election is excellent news – of that, we can be confident. Amidst Labour disarray and Liberal Democrat impotence, the probability of an increased Conservative majority being delivered on June 8th seems high.
Functioning as the main voice in Westminster for embittered Remainers, the Liberal Democrats will scent opportunity. A number of Conservative MPs defending narrow majorities against emissaries of Tim Farron’s party will doubtless suffer many a sleepless night between now and June 8th, haunted by memories of Sarah Olney’s autumn ousting of Zac Goldsmith. Their worries are not misplaced; the Lib Dems will attract the votes of many staunch Remainers, whether they wish Brexit to be prevented entirely, or merely enacted in a more moderate form. Seven weeks is a long time in politics, and it would be wrong to grow complacent. However, there is one argument that could be devastating in defusing the threat of a Liberal resurgence. What’s more, it’s tried and tested: it won us our majority in 2015.
Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist. There can be no doubt about that. And two years ago, the Conservatives defeated Labour by framing a vote for them as a vote by proxy for Alex Salmond, an altogether far more moderate figure than Mr Corbyn. Billboards the length and breadth of the country (or England, at least) depicted Ed Miliband in the top pocket of the Scottish National Party’s erstwhile leader. The message was simple: a vote for Labour is a vote for a coalition that puts the SNP in Westminster government.
Two years later, this narrative can be redeployed, with the characters shuffled. A vote for the Liberal Democrats is, within this frame, a vote for Jeremy Corbyn, whether by allowing the local Labour candidate to squeeze in, or by giving the Liberal leadership enough MPs to get into bed with its Labour counterpart. Centrist voters with Liberal tendencies should and would baulk at the thought of creating Tim Farron as kingmaker to a rotten coalition of Remoan recalcitrance, with Jeremy Corbyn the detached extremist on the throne.
Indeed, with the extremist partner in the hypothetical coalition now proposed to be its senior partner, this argument has only grown in strength. No longer would the dangerously radical party in such an unholy alliance be the chippy backseat driver: they would be firmly at the wheel. The good people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will recognise that, and vote accordingly.