Sir Vince Cable could not afford to strike a pessimistic note at his party’s conference. He must hope that Brexit is an unmitigated disaster and that his proposals for wealth taxes receive a fair hearing. Further, he has to rely on the volatility of the public mood.
However, the Liberal Democrats have damaged their appeal with three key social groups. The poor were alienated by the austerity of the 2010-2015 coalition government. The young resented the Liberal Democrat betrayal over tuition fees. And the affluent are unlikely to support wealth taxes. Supporting another referendum on Brexit is unlikely to be sufficient to mend these broken fences.
It should be remembered that there is nothing certain in politics. A significant Liberal Democrat revival is improbable before the next general election. But it cannot be ruled out a priori. This is because political science has not got the predictive capacity of a ‘genuine’ science. Labour Party supporters cannot afford to be complacent. Professor Colin Hay confirmed:
“the predictions… [political] science is capable of generating are likely to have a limited shelf-life…Yet for critical political analysts in particular, this is a wonderfully liberating thought. Things, in the end, can be different.”