Mark Reckons has rightly taken issue with a post from Tom Harris, which takes the line of the Lib Dems being irrelevant. It is the main line of Lib Dem attack by the two big parties: instead of engaging with the issues we raise, call them meaningless and move on. It breaks just about every logical fallacy going, but the Conlabourtives have never been big on logic.
Of course the honest answer is that the Lib Dems won't be the next government. There's an outside chance the party goes into coalition with the Tories or Labour, but we won't be running the country on our own terms. That makes the 'irrelevant' line of attack a hard one to snappily defend. But looking forwards, I think it will soon become hard for our opponents to use this line, because the Lib Dems have a great opportunity to make a major breakthrough: in local government.
Here's my reasoning.
First, lets assume that the Tories win the forthcoming General Election; a reasonable assumption given the state of the opinion polls.
The tendency for local elections has always been that a beleaguered party of national government performs badly at a local level. At the local elections this year, the Tories won with 38% of the BBC's projected national vote, and Labour slumped to just 23%. Back in 1995, it was the Conservatives in a mess on 25%, and Labour on a whopping 46%.
So after a possible blip of optimism for the fresh new Tories, their vote will slump. Who will that vote go to, Labour or Lib Dems? Well, the Lib Dems have always performed better on the local rather than national stage, and we are starting with an advantage with our 28% local vote share beating Labour's by some 5%. Are Labour going to win from an irrelevant (tee hee) third place, or are the Lib Dems going to win from second?
Winning the local elections would of course give the Lib Dems a huge boost, particularly in terms of credibility. And of course it would immediately neuter the irrelevant meme.
So be careful next time you mock the Lib Dems, because you could soon be making yourself look rather silly.