Britain's Liberal Democrats hope for revival but are unlikely to find it in Thursday's general election

Liberal Democratic Party leader, Tim Farron speaking at a campaign event in London on April 24, 2017.
Liberal Democratic Party leader, Tim Farron speaking at a campaign event in London on April 24, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - It started out with much promise - the only party with an unequivocally anti-Brexit agenda that promised to be the party for the 48 per cent who voted Remain.

The Liberal Democratic Party's biggest selling point in its manifesto is a second referendum after a deal with Brussels is reached, with an option to stay within the European Union.

Yet, poll after poll showed voters were hardly moved by the prospect. Support stagnated at around 8 per cent, from a high of 10.9 per cent when election campaigning started in April.

In the 2015 election, the party also performed similarly in polls, which eventually earned it just eight seats in parliament, down from 57 in 2010 when it formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party.

If this was supposed to be the revival the party was hoping for, it is not likely to happen.

The problem could be down to the "Re-leavers" - those who voted to remain in the EU but feel that the referendum result should be respected and the government has a duty to leave.

Pollster YouGov said this third group is as big as 23 per cent, while "Hard Leavers" form 45 per cent and "Hard Remainers" form 22 per cent.

Given these numbers, the pro-Brexit electorate is actually 68 per cent.

Another issue dogging the Lib Dems is the realistic size of its representation in parliament.

"There is no way the Lib Dems will have enough numbers in parliament to have much influence over Brexit, and certainly not to push through a second referendum," said computer programmer Joshua Seymour, 34, who lives in Peckham in south-east London.

He is voting Labour over the Liberal Democrats in his constituency for this reason, although he still wishes Brexit could be undone.

Ms Merlene Toh Emerson, 56, who ran on a Liberal Democrat ticket for the London constituency of Hammersmith in the 2010 general election, said the battle is not over yet.

"Brexit is such a big decision that we just can't suddenly give up. We still have a chance to see in this election how people vote. And if there are enough votes against a hard Brexit and against Theresa May, it strengthens our hand to say that she has to negotiate in a different way," said the Singapore-born solicitor turned mediator, who co-founded the Chinese Liberal Democrats.

 

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