Could the General Election make the Liberal Democrats the new opposition to the Tories?

Liberal Democrat Party Hold Their Annual Spring Conference
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron (Source: Getty)

Natalie McGuigan, a consultant at FTI Consulting, says Yes.

The forthcoming election will only serve to build on momentum the Lib Dems has been gaining since the referendum vote last June. It’s clear that the party has the potential to gain several seats across the country, having shown substantial promise and appeal in recent elections, overturning a whopping majority in the Richmond Park by-election, and making significant gains in several local authority by-elections. The Lib Dems’ credibility as the party of opposition can only be strengthened by the potential return of former heavyweights Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Simon Hughes. While the party may not make massive gains in numbers on the day – though current polling is likely to underplay its electoral chances – the prospect of an increased Lib Dem presence in Parliament, matched with its unapologetically pro-European stance, and a crumbling Labour party means it will be in prime position to hold the Conservatives to account.

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, says No.

The Tories certainly need some new opposition. Jeremy Corbyn began his job as the most unpopular new opposition leader in the history of polling. And even today, only 17 per cent think Labour’s policies are the right ones to win the General Election. But the Liberal Democrats will struggle to step into that role anytime soon, having gone from 57 MPs in 2010 to just eight in 2015. While the party has taken the first tentative steps towards recovery, it still has a massive hill to climb, with around 10 per cent support today and having come second in 63 constituencies in 2015 to Ukip’s 120. If any other party deserves to be the new opposition, it ought to be the SNP, who went from six MPs in 2010 to 58 five years later and have an impressive Westminster leader in Angus Robertson. But Labour’s effectiveness as an opposition will depend ultimately on who succeeds Corbyn post-defeat, assuming he stands aside.

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