Brit Dopers: What do you think are the prospects of the LibDems?

Britain’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, has remained a third-place minority party since the Liberals and the Social Democrats merged in 1988. I don’t suppose it’s possible that they’ll be a majority party in the foreseeable future, or even supplant Labour or the Tories in second place. But is it possible that in the next election cycle or the one after that, no majority party will be elected to Parliament, and the LibDems will become indispensable to a governing coalition?

Dunno; they have taken a couple of substantial PR hits just lately, and this will doubtless set them back a little at least, perhaps a lot.

They are (IMO) actually rather good at running local government, perhaps because their ‘middle ground’ position allows them just to get on and do what they perceive as necessary; sometimes this will align them with Labour and sometimes with Conservative, whereas the other two main parties often seem desire to (appear to) do or say the exact opposite of each other (on final details of policy), even if it’s not what they really wanted to do at all.

As far as their role in national government, I don’t see them winning a general election or even coming second anytime soon; maybe it will happen eventually, but for the immediate future, they will probably continue to act as the conscience of the other two parties, or just be ignored (or a bit of both)

Hadn’t heard that. Details?

Charles Kennedy, the old leader, admitted to a drink problem (which had been heavily rumoured) and stepped down a while after that.

One of the people who then announced themselves as candidates for the position, Mark Oaten, had an affair with a male prostitute revealed, causing* him* to withdraw (no pun intended).


Their leader, Charles Kennedy, bowed to media pressure to run a leadership (he had intially said it would not be necessary), then he pulled out of the running because of a revelation that he was struggling with alcoholism.

Then the front runner was a guy called Mark Oaten (I’ve met him a few times, BTW), but he had to withdraw from the running after it was revealed that he was (or had been) involved with some unusually degrading act with male prostitutes.

The media tried to create a scandal out of the sexuality of one of the other candidates - Simon Hughes, who is apparently gay, but denied it at some point, but he came out of it largely unscathed by saying (in so many words) “so fuckin’ what?” and “Yeah, I denied it because the media are a pack of lunatic vultures”.

On another form of PR (Proportional Representation), have the LibDems got anywhere? I gather they’re keen on introducing PR since presumably it would give them better numbers in Parliament.

I know a national referendum on PR was one of Tony Blair’s campaign promises in 1997. But he’s a busy man, you can’t expect him to get around to every little thing right away . . .

Hey, I saw him on “Prime Minister’s Questions” last Sunday. (C-SPAN broadcasts it here every Sunday evening.) The camera was fixed on Campbell, the current party leader, as he was asking his questions — but you could see Kennedy up and to the right, sitting a couple rows back, staring blankly into space.

Anyway, poor guy. His heart just didn’t seem to be in it anymore.

They had both Campbell and Kennedy on the same show? Usually they only have one panel member representing a party - was it a special?

Balls, disregard that; thought you were talking about Question Time, not PM’s questions (to which there are rather more than one member of each party present). :smack:

Right, PM’s Questions. I haven’t seen this Question Time of which you speak. (Can’t be much of a show though, if they only ask one question. They should expand the format a little.)

I probably wouldn’t have noticed Kennedy, there in the background among the vast sea of heads, but his red hair really stands out.

Incidentally, I once saw Margaret Thatcher in an interview years ago, talking about how in her day, PMQ was held twice a week, whereas nowadays it’s only once a week. She seemed to be boasting a little, like the job was more challenging when she had it. However, I thought I heard from somewhere that PMQ was held twice a week for 15 minutes each session, whereas now it’s once a week for 30 minutes — meaning that PMQ is pretty much the same amount of hardship that it’s always been.

As a taster, here is perhaps the most (in)famous interview from the show. Watch the clip - it manages to be serious, hard-hitting, entertaining and painful to watch all at the same time.

(BTW, it only starts to get interesting about 2 and a half minutes into the clip, but it’s worth the wait).

I think you’ve got confused, too; that’s Newsnight. :stuck_out_tongue:

You can view the most recent ep. of Question Time from it’s web site.

Coincidently Charles Kennedy is one of the panel on tonights show.

The show has a panel of 5 people made up of MP’s, journalists, commentators and sometimes just plain celebs. It’s a very good show when the right guests are on. There is a lot more than just one question asked.

The Lib Dems are doing quite well at the local level: they’ve broken the Labour domination of Luton, for instance, and given the Tories’ left-ward lurch, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two form the next government.

Hmm… I suppose a declaration of interest is in order: my father used to be a Tory concillor and one of his cousins used to be a Lib-Dem councillor.

Jeffrey Archer’s very interesting and well-written (IMHO) political novel First Among Equals has some interesting passages on how the LibDems might play a king-making role in a future UK election. Get the British edition, not the American; they have different endings.

No doubt. I was having a bit of fun with the name.

(I need to use the smiley icon more often.)

“Tories’ left-ward lurch”?! That sounds interesting! Please tell us more!