The Liberal Democrats had a good election. Everyone says so. From having 1 MEP to now having 16 MEPs. 3,367,284 votes. A vote-share of 19.58% (second only to Brexit Party, which scored 30.22%).
In London the LibDems came 1st, with a 27.2% share. London was the only EU constituency of England and Wales where Brexit Party did not top the poll (it came 3rd, behind the LibDems and Labour).
The only constituencies where the LibDems failed to get at least one MEP were Wales and North East England.
It seems clear that the LibDem surge and vote was, more than the vote for any other party in these elections, purely an outcome of the Remain/Leave binary. The LibDems are the party of Remain, Remain at all costs, Remain no matter what.
Not that the LibDem vote in these elections was solely a Remain vote, a Remain vote and nothing else, but 90% probably was. The two major System parties were both ambiguous in terms of statements, policies and, especially, their MPs. Brexit Party and UKIP were of course both unambiguously Leave. The Greens and the new joke party, Change UK, were also Remain. The LibDems got about 70% more votes than the Greens, who came 4th overall.
At an educated guess, the Remain votes that went Green rather than LibDem were from people who remember the way in which the LibDems (arguably the least honest party in the UK) enabled the dreadful and cruel policies of the Conservatives, of David Cameron-Levita-Schlumberger and his 2010-2015 “Con Coalition”, while still spouting the language of “social justice”. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander etc. Remember them?
The above being so, the support that the LibDems received in the EU elections will almost certainly not follow them into the Westminster arena. A good test will be the result of the Peterborough by-election scheduled for 6 June 2019. In 2010, the LibDem vote in Peterborough peaked at just under 20% (3rd place), which was a few points up on previous general elections. The LibDem vote fell back to 3.8% in 2015, then fell back again to only 3.3% in 2017 (as it did in most constituencies, though the LibDem MP cadre actually increased from 8 to 12 thanks to the UK’s mad electoral system).
Now, in Peterborough, the LibDems, with the same candidate they stood in 2017, look like losing, possibly badly, at the by-election. Their odds re. winning are at time of writing 25/1, joint 3rd place with the Conservatives (Labour 4/1, Brexit Party 1/5 odds-on favourite).
Brexit is not the only issue in a Westminster election. Yes, the LibDems are still the go-to “dustbin” vote out of the System parties, and there may be many (especially in the Southern parts of the UK) who will vote LibDem as a tactical measure in the next general election, but in the most heavily Conservative-voting areas that will not much dent massive Con majorities, whereas in more marginal areas it will (with Brexit Party) help to sink the Conservatives, but only in a few areas will the ultimate beneficiaries be the LibDems themselves.
In any case, by 2022, boundary changes and the reduction of MP numbers to 600 will have culled almost all LibDem MPs.
I have considered the LibDems to be effectively dead since the days of the Con Coalition. The EU elections will have cheered them, but their fires will soon be but glowing embers.
Update, 31 May 2019
If that poll were to be given effect in a general election, the result would be about (depending on various factors): Brexit Party 188 MPs (and largest party in Commons), Labour 186 MPs, LibDems 114 MPs, Conservatives 83. Hung Parliament (Brexit Party 138 short of majority). Popular vote does not exactly equal number of MPs.
Also, if that general election were held in or after 2022, remove about 10 from LibDems and about 30 from Labour; and maybe 5-10 from Conservatives.
I still cannot see that the LibDems will be able to replicate 2010 Cleggmania even if it seems that many are able to forgive and forget the “Con Coalition” of 2010-2015 (I cannot. I will not). I still see the LibDem vote next time as amounting to no more than about 10% and the LibDems as coming away with fewer than 20 MPs. I concede that I may be wrong on this if hard-core Remain voters continue to flock to LibDems and away from Conservatives (as they did in the EU Elections 2019). Everything is uncertain in that no-one knows who will be Conservative leader, how long he (or she) will last as PM (not long, I think) and whether he or she will be basically Remain or Leave.
Update, 1 June 2019
The betting on the Peterborough by-election, scheduled for 6 June, five days from now, continues to shift. At present, the LibDems, who were at 70/1 and in 4th place just a week ago, are now, as of 1 June, on 12/1 and in firm 3rd place (Conservatives 25/1 and in 4th place, and already looking well-beaten). Brexit Party 1/5, Labour 4/1. It still seems unlikely that the LibDems can win:
but it is just possible if and only if pro-Remain and/or anti-Brexit Party voters abandon both the Conservative candidate and Labour, and go LibDem. Tactical voting to block the Brexit Party candidate.
If the LibDems can pull off the coup of getting their candidate elected at Peterborough (in the 2017 General Election, her vote share was only 3.3%), it will rank, arguably, above the other LibDem and Liberal Party revivals in the post-1945 era, such as the 2010 “Cleggmania” and the 1961 Orpington by-election
In that event, the Brexit Party juggernaut would be halted in its tracks, quite possibly.
Update, 1 March 2022
In fact, at that Peterborough by-election of 2019, Labour managed to pull off an unexpected victory, scoring 30.91% as against Brexit Party’s 28.89%. The LibDems came in 4th, with 12.26%: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Peterborough_by-election.
I blogged about the by-election result: https://ianrobertmillard.org/2019/06/07/peterborough-by-election-post-poll-analysis-and-thoughts/; https://ianrobertmillard.org/2019/06/08/a-few-peterborough-afterthoughts-about-the-libdems/.
Since then, much water under the bridge. There was a General Election only 6 months later. At that election, the Labour MP, Lisa Forbes, lost her seat, being replaced by a Conservative Party MP who had not been the by-election candidate. Brexit Party nationwide was betrayed by its own leader, Farage; Mike Green stood again for Brexit Party but received a poor vote-share of 4.4%. As for the LibDems, a mere 4.9% (same candidate).