Is there a secret Lib Dem plan for another coalition with the Tories?

Nick Barlow
4 min readNov 19, 2019

The election for party political activists on social media is a rather different beast from the election as anyone normal might experience it. It’s a world of impenetrable memes combined with breathless speculation, mixed with candidatitis-inspired peaks of the greatest hope and troughs of the deepest despair. It’s very easy for tight in-groups to form within these circumstances, and for a belief to quickly circulate and be adopted as true by those groups without any evidence for it.

One belief that I’ve seen circulated widely is that Jo Swinson wants nothing more than to take the Lib Dems into another coalition with the Conservatives and this explains everything about Lib Dem strategy. See, for instance, this (it’s the most recent example of it I’ve seen):

Yes, this (and so much worse) was an actual campaign that people thought was a good idea (source: Independent)

First, it’s always worth considering that a badly executed campaign strategy might just be a badly executed campaign strategy. If you’ve seen such previous Lib Dem highlights as somehow managing to lose seats in 2010, or 2015’s “Stability. Unity. Decency.” debacle, then the idea that the party might not be the greatest at running general election campaigns isn’t too outlandish. From what I’ve seen the 2019 Lib Dem campaign’s main thrust is a don’t-scare-the-horses strategy with a “plague on your both your houses” message and overall air of trying to project centrist stability and competence in a system that’s lacking them.

Part of that strategy involves pointing out that the choice between Johnson and Corbyn for Prime Minister is a terrible one and insisting both are so bad, the party couldn’t support either of them in a hung Parliament. It’s rational on the surface, but fails to take account of the different response it gets from the two sides. “We won’t work with Johnson” gets a Tory shrug and a “like we care, we’re going for a majority” response, while “we won’t work with Corbyn” creates a lot more antipathy with Labour activists who remember Lib Dem attacks on other Labour leaders as well as the coalition and jump to the conclusion that…

Nick Barlow

Former academic and politician, now walking, cycling and working out what comes next.