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  Seismic times could yet see the Lib Dems eclipse Labour
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Last EditedRalphie  Feb 20, 2009 12:36am
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MediaNewspaper - Guardian
News DateFriday, February 20, 2009 06:35:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionConsider the paradox. We are living, as politicians never tire of saying and everyone under the age of 80 now agrees, through unprecedented economic times. Yet, at the same time, domestic party politics still goes on more or less as before. Common sense and history both say this disjunction cannot last.

Right on cue, this week brought early evidence of a bit of potential reshaping of British politics. If nothing else, the fresh Labour leadership speculation is a sign that the economic hurricane is starting to shake some political trees. But perhaps it is also the start of a wider uprooting.

History suggests that seismic events redraw the British political map, though always in different ways. Both world wars certainly had an effect of this kind. The first war completed the "strange death" of the once mighty Liberals and opened the way for Labour. The second war allowed Labour to re-emerge as a party of majority government and to create the welfare state.

If a Lib Dem recovery really is happening, why is this? Part of the answer is that Lib Dem strength reflects Labour weakness and decline. As voters who have stuck with Labour through the early part of the recession lose confidence in Gordon Brown's government and see it as a spent force, a proportion of them are turning not to the Conservatives, as they did for much of the last three years, but to smaller parties, particularly the Lib Dems.
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