Advertisement

Liberal Democrats change tactics after Jo Swinson-centred campaign fails to appeal to voters

The Lib Dems have suffered a steady squeeze in the polls since the campaign began. Credit: PA

What a difference a week makes.

For months the Liberal Democrats’ leader Jo Swinson has been telling us she could be our next Prime Minister.

Not any more. The half way point of this election campaign has been marked by a change of tack from her party. The Lib Dems still want your vote, but not because they believe they can win; instead the message now is vote for Jo Swinson to deny Boris Johnson a majority.

So why the switch? The reality is the party has suffered a steady squeeze in the polls since the campaign began. The Lib Dems put Swinson front and centre of their campaign, emblazoning her face on election leaflets and the Battle Bus alike.

But, as last week’s Question Time on the BBC so brutally showed, she simply doesn’t appeal to voters in the way they anticipated.

Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems have dialled down their original message. Credit: PA

Instead, she’s become the victim of her own ambition. Her insistence she could make it to Number 10 never felt more out of touch with reality than when ITV News accompanied her to flood-hit Yorkshire. There, packing clothes for victims, we found volunteer after volunteer with no idea who she was or why she was there.

But it was the Brexit Party’s decision to give the Tories a clear run in more than half the country’s seats, unifying the Leave vote, that really did for the Lib Dems. It made a change of tack inevitable, the only surprise being that it has taken this long.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson at the Design Museum in London on Saturday o discuss the party's tech policy. Credit: PA

To win seats now, Swinson has to persuade Remain-inclined Tories that Johnson can’t be trusted. So while Chuka Umunna’s speech on Monday was meant to be on foreign policy, he found time to accuse the Prime Minister of lying “again and again and again”. You can expect to hear much more like that from the Lib Dems from now on.

Of course, to prevent a Tory majority Labour also need to do well. Just a few days ago Jo Swinson was calling Jeremy Corbyn unfit to govern. It will be interesting to see whether she tones that kind of rhetoric down.

If keeping Boris Johnson out is now the Lib Dems raison d’etre she might have to.