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Politics is on the move in the UK - but don't plan for LibDems to keep us in EU!

PUBLISHED: 16:09 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 17 September 2019

LibDem leader Jo Swinson had a good conference - but shouldn't be planning her move into Downing Street! Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

LibDem leader Jo Swinson had a good conference - but shouldn't be planning her move into Downing Street! Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

If Boris Johnson had had his way a couple of weeks ago we wouldn't be at the start of the party conference season now, we would have been at the start of a general election campaign.

But we're not. Thank heavens (for personal reasons so far as I'm concerned). And we are, instead, hearing politicians telling their adoring supporters what they would do if they were in power at Westminster.

Of course this year, like the last two years, there is an extra frisson because no politician, not even the current Prime Minister, can actually claim to be in power. There is such a mess at Westminster that no one is really in a position to do anything.

Which means whatever politicians say, it has to be taken as an expression of their ultimate dream rather than a likely future policy.

That is especially true for the Liberal Democrats.

This week it has been their turn for the spotlight. And all-in-all they've had a pretty good week - attracting some eye-catching headlines and without making any appalling mistakes.

Because you have to judge whatever the Liberal Democrats say at their conference against the facts of the real world.

Party leader Jo Swinson caused apoplexy among some people by suggesting that a majority Liberal Democrat government would revoke Article 50 and ensure we stay as a full member of the EU for good.

"It's undemocratic! It's a betrayal of the 17.4m who voted Brexit in the referendum," was the reaction from their outraged opponents.

What poppycock!

Firstly, anyone with a tenth of a braincell knows that the chances of the Liberal Democrats forming a majority government after the next general election are infinitesimal. It simply ain't going to happen.

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If it did happen (presumably at the same time as Elvis rising from the dead and Norwich winning the Champions League) then one thing is absolutely clear. Everyone who voted LibDem would have been aware of their European policy, and would presumably have approved of it. Therefore it would have democratic legitimacy.

But coming back to the real world, that simply ain't going to happen - so for heaven's sake reserve your outrage for something that really is worth worrying about.

This country's political parties are really seeing their tectonic plates changing.

The LibDems' Brexit policy really does see them turning their backs on many of their traditional supporters in places like the South West who may have voted for them while also favouring Brexit. I can see that their anti-Brexit stance will hit them hard there.

But then the Conservatives have made it clear that a belief in Brexit as soon as possible is THE core element of their party's faith now. It is no longer the party of business, of the free market, of minimal regulation. It is the party of Brexit and if you support the other basic tenets great . . . but that's not an article of faith.

What the Tories don't want now are the free marketeers who also want to stay in the EU - they're ready for them to go off and, if they want to stay in politics, join another party so those that stay can yell "traitor" at their former colleagues.

All this means is that when the next election does come, we could see some big changes in the electoral colours of areas across the country (although perhaps not so much in this area where Conservatism and Euro-scepticism goes hand-in-hand).

The LibDems don't have many seats to lose these days, but while I doubt whether they will ever turn Cornwall gold again I can see them winning swathes of seats in wealthy parts of London, the south east and possibly in and around some university cities across the country.

The Tories may lose some of the Winchesters and St Albans of this world - but they think they can win seats in places like Darlington, Wakefield, and Crewe.

Meanwhile the Labour leadership still seems desperate to appeal to the "let's talk about anything but Brexit" faction in the country by having so many different nuances to its policies that no one knows exactly what it would do!

Meanwhile the fact is none of these parties is really likely to achieve an overall majority in the House of Commons.

The conference season merely seems to show that British politics is still broken - and the chances of it being put back together again within the next few years are as remote as ever!

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