Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Liberal Democrats new immigration policy will not appeal to Remain voters

The Liberal Democrats dream of becoming the party that represents the 48 per cent of the electorate who voted Remain.

But what policies should such a party have? The same question would face a new party that expressed this ambition.

Research by Christina Pagel and Christabel Cooper suggests it is not an easy one to answer.

They surveyed 7000 UK voters to rank 13 challenges for the UK in order of importance to them. Having analysed the results, they write:
Using this data, we examined whether the numbers add up for a new party – and what such a party might stand for. 
First off, we can debunk the notion of united Remainers: we found three distinct groups that, apart from not caring about immigration, have very different priorities. 
We call the first group ‘left wing Remainers’ – they prioritise reducing inequality, improving housing, jobs and public services. They do not care much about control over laws and regulations, independent trade or ensuring economic growth. 
The second group we call ‘Liberal Democrat’ types, who prioritise the economy above all, then jobs and housing. They also are not at all concerned with control over regulations and trade. 
The third group we label ‘sovereignty liberals’ - they prioritise the economy, control over laws and regulations, and independent trade but do not care about immigration - and least of all about inequality.
You can quibble about the label 'Liberal Democrat' for that second group, but the important message here is that their is no simple policy programme or clever act of positioning that will unite all Remain voters behind one party.

At the very least, there is a lot more thinking to be done.

But there is another important message here and it's in that throwaway phrase "apart from not caring about immigration".

That's right: the one thing Remain voters have in common (apart from having voted Remain) is that are not worried by immigration.

And what are the Liberal Democrats doing at their conference? Proposing to adopt a new, stricter immigration policy.

You can read Jo Swinson promoting that policy - and some critical comments on her article - on Liberal Democrat Voice.

I have long thought that one of the Lib Dems' fundamental problems is that we have no clear idea of who it is we are trying to attract. "We can win anywhere" has its downside too.

Our new immigration policy is nothing to do with an ambition to unite moderates, centrists or Remain voters. It is about not upsetting more conservative voters in the handful of constituencies that we hold.

We are trapped in the wide gap between where we are and where we dream of being.


Anonymous said...

I was a member of Copeland Lib Dems during Paddy Ashdown's watch. I put out regular Focus newsletters, I stood in 3 local elections. First time I came last with 244. Then second time, runner up (in a by election) with 376 and the third time 590, beating 1 tory and 1 labour and missing being elected by TWELVE votes.

The Lib Dems have'nt registered on my radar since the Con Dem government.

Coming forward to the recent Copeland parliamentary by-election, I did'nt bother to vote.

If there was a party that was English Progressive, Anti-Austerity and European' (sort of SNP or Plaid Cymru), it would get my support.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a bit too soon to write off the strategy of transforming the Lib Dems into the "Conservative Lite" party. It's only had about ten years so far, and Rome wasn't built in a day. Just give it a bit longer and see what happens.