SLF welcomes the decision by Chuka Ummuna to leave Change UK and join the Liberal Democrats. After the EU elections it was obvious that Change UK’s fate was sealed with just 3% of the vote but as the interview in the Independent reveals Vince Cable had to persuade Chuka that that the party was no longer committed to austerity before he felt he could join (see this 17 minute video). As a result, Chuka is now the business and treasury spokesperson and will now be a key member in driving the economic policy of the Liberal Democrats in a clearly anti austerity direction, which we in SLF see as a welcome development.
This is all part of a bigger picture of a Lib Dem revival in which in the space of just 3 months the party is now challenging 3 other parties for the highest opinion poll ratings. And in addition to the Brexit Party, Labour and Tories, the Greens and SNP/PC parties are also likely to be challenging for power in future elections.
There is no doubt that the Liberal Democrat party has changed since the end of the Coalition 4 years ago. With a new leader soon to be elected and a huge number of new members the party has much to be positive about. However there remains difficult questions about what, beyond Brexit, the party stands for these days, and if it were to gain a block of say 100+ MPs at the next general election as some opinion polls suggest, how it would use its newfound political power.
The demand from the EU Remain movement is that the pro-Remain parties work together in order to defeat the Tories and Brexit party, who themselves may form a pro-Leave alliance. This will be far from easy as relations between the political parties of the left of centre are currently so poor. The first step in this of course is to debate and we intend the forthcoming SLF conference to advance that process.