When Theresa May made her announcement that she was cutting and running to the country, I hate to imagine the mood in Labour offices in the Commons. Turkey farms just before Christmas probably had cheerier inmates.
In the Lib Dem HQ, by contrast, there was whooping, shouting and cheers. This general election presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to change the direction of our country, saving it from Theresa May’s disastrous hard Brexit.
The public will have a very clear choice. If it wants to keep Britain in the single market, and keep a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is its chance.
There are three UK-wide Brexit parties (the Conservatives, Labour and Ukip) and one party that has always seen Britain’s future in Europe: the Liberal Democrats.
And this is not us framing the general election in a way to suit us. Theresa May was explicit on the steps of Downing Street – she cited the opposition of Liberal Democrats in Parliament as a major reason why she needed to have a general election. We’ll ignore the irony (we have been pushing from the start to give the people the final say on the deal, but this has been rejected at every opportunity by the Conservatives).
Instead, we will seize this chance. In any general election air war, the media want two sides. And, far more importantly, the voters want a real choice. They will be presented with three other parties all offering the same, pro-Brexit message. It is incredible that all the other parties support a hard Brexit that some independent forecasters predict will cost the UK economy £200bn over 15 years.
We will be the only party calling to keep Britain in the single market. While Labour trooped through the division lobbies to support the Conservatives on a hard Brexit, it was Liberal Democrats who fought to give EU citizens the right to remain in this country. Similarly, when it came to the EU protecting worker rights, the environment, and our streets from organised crime and terrorism, it was the Liberal Democrats who throughout this Parliament provided the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit Government.
If you are a progressive and see the Conservatives as the problem, then the Liberal Democrats have to be part of the solution. No one seriously suspects that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party can prevent a Conservative majority. Indeed, it would be a major shock if they gained a single Tory seat. Every credible pundit is expecting them to lose large number of seats. The only question is whether this general election for Labour is fatal or merely an abject disaster.
And after all, Corbyn ordered his Labour MPs to vote with the Conservatives for Brexit, so it is far from clear how Britain would be significantly different under Labour. Only we are offering something different, which is a Britain still in the single market.
Jeremy Corbyn, when he heard the news, must have realised that he was looking into the abyss, you could see it on his face. He can’t seriously expect to gain a single seat, let alone make gain on what he already has. Expect to see fewer than the 229 MPs they currently have coming back in June.
As for Theresa May, she clearly wants a dull election capitalising on Labour’s capitulation. She is apparently refusing TV debates, perhaps mindful of how Nick Clegg came from nowhere to change the entire course of the 2010 general election.
We will not let her bore the public into submission. We are going to fight the most energetic, dynamic general election campaign the Liberal Democrats have ever managed.
There are a large number of Tory MPs in areas that voted Remain – or voted narrowly to leave – where people are horrified by Theresa May’s harsh, economically illiterate Brexit. The Tories used to be the party of business; now they are the party of economic self-harm.
It is amazing to think that at the last general election the centre ground was a crowded place in which some people said it was hard to tell the parties apart. Not this time. This is a once-in-a-generation general election. Only the Liberal Democrats are arguing that you need a functioning economy, rooted in the European market, that will generate the wealth necessary to have decent hospitals and schools. That shouldn’t be a controversial message, yet it is opposed by the Conservative and Labour parties with equal fervour.
If the public gets behind the Liberal Democrats early, anything can happen in this general election. We can build the momentum. This is your chance to save us from a hard Brexit. If you vote Liberal Democrat, the start of June could be the end of May – and her disastrous hard Brexit.
Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats