As Luciana Berger becomes the latest arrival, the Lib Dems get caught out lying
The ranks of the Liberal Democrats have swelled further with the arrival of Luciana Berger. But even as the party celebrated, people were quick to point out that it had overstated its hand.
In February 2019, Berger was one of the founders of what was then called ‘The Independent Group’. In June, she and several others left what was now Change UK. Today, she joins former Change UK colleagues Sarah Wollaston (originally Tory) and Chuka Umunna (originally Labour) becoming one of 16 Lib Dem MPs now in parliament.
Understandably, the Lib Dems were cock-a-hoop:
Welcome to our newest MP – @lucianaberger !
The Liberal Democrats are surging – we're the biggest, strongest Remain party. The time for action is now
— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) September 5, 2019
But the party’s dodgy claim to be “the biggest, strongest Remain party” didn’t go unchallenged:
With 16 MPs almost half of whom have "borrowed gowns"? Will that last past the election? By the way SNP is the biggest remain party
— Blessing Sibanda🆙 (@BleSibs) September 5, 2019
You're still 21 seats behind the SNP.
— Liam McReanan (@LiamMcReanan) September 5, 2019
— Jack Faulkner (@Jackcantsleep1) September 5, 2019
And it’s true. Not only does the SNP have 35 MPs to the Lib Dems’ 16, it also has a larger membership. According to the latest figures, the Lib Dems have “around 115,000” members, compared to the SNP’s 125,500. So the only possible sense in which the Lib Dems could be bigger would be in geographical reach, as the SNP focuses on Scotland. But that’s probably not what they meant.
And there was a further challenge to the celebratory mood:
@lucianaberger happy sharing a party with a homophobic racist from the Tory benches?
— nick figgis (@nickfiggis) September 5, 2019
On 3 September, Tory MP Phillip Lee dramatically marched over to the opposition benches and sat down next to Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson. As with Berger, the Lib Dems celebrated gaining an MP. And as with Berger, the Lib Dems inaccurately claimed to be “the biggest party of Remain”. But there was also anger from Lib Dem members:
I am not going to welcome Philip Lee to the Liberal Democrats; his statement is entirely about Brexit, and fails to address the deeply illiberal policies on LGBT+ issues and immigration he has championed in the past.
— 🔸🔶 Alisdair Calder McGregor 🔶🔸 (@A_C_McGregor) September 3, 2019
Plenty of members don't think this is fantastic news. Obviously we're happy to see parliamentary numbers grow but Lee does not have a voting record a liberal would be even remotely proud of…
— Chris Whiting (@ChrisRWhiting) September 3, 2019
In fact, the arrival of Lee was too much to take for chair of the party’s LGBT+ group Jennie Rigg:
The chair of LGBT Lib Dems quits the party in response to Philip Lee joining.
“A homophobe, a xenophobe, and someone who thinks people should be barred from the country if they are ill.
Fuck this so hard.” https://t.co/CBcd0LZTPA
— Oliver Cooper (@OliverCooper) September 3, 2019
Rigg voiced her thoughts on her blog, announcing that she was leaving the party in response to it allowing Lee to join.
This begs the question: will Swinson’s apparent policy of welcome for any homeless pro-Remain MP make the party ‘bigger’ and ‘stronger’, or will it have the opposite effect?
Featured image via Wikimedia – Chris McAndrew / YouTube – Guardian News
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.
Leave a ReplyYou must be logged in to leave a comment.Join the conversation
Please read our comment moderation policy here.