Jonathan Eida | Opinion
The Liberal Democrats have been having a really hard time of things of late. Having had the rug pulled out from under them at the last election, followed by the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Liberal Democrat party has now been left gasping for attention and relevance. The ‘one-nation conservatism’ outlook preached by Boris, and the election of Sir Keir Starmer as Labour Leader, has meant that their battle for the centre ground seems to be a losing one.
Leadership has also been an issue inside the Liberal Democrats. Their interim leader, Ed Davey, seems reluctant and elusive, leaving the Liberal Democrats floating aimlessly with – seemingly – no goals or future path. All in all, a very poor showing!
In order to counteract their current irrelevance, they have decided to supplement themselves with a large dose of virtue-signalling, just to let everyone know that they still exist.
Ed Davey announced that the Lib Dems would be fasting on the first day of Ramadan and that they would also be having their own ‘virtual Iftar’, which is the meal that is held after the end of the fast day. Liberal Democrat Councillor Hina Bokhari, the author of this scheme, called the idea ‘a significant display of solidarity’ with those of Muslim faith.
The whole endeavour went to pot at around 4am before the fast even started, when Lib Dem Councillor Ian Manning undermined the so-called ‘show of solidarity’ by posting a picture of his pre-fast grab… which consisted of bacon strips! You really couldn’t make it up! But regardless of this mishap, the whole idea was defective in the first place for a number of reasons, and it also revealed the flawed thinking of a section of society that really ought to be called out for what it is!
Firstly, how the Liberal Democrats are not being done for cultural appropriation, I will never know. Most of the Liberal Democrats are not Muslim and have no connection to the faith at all. So for them to all of a sudden adopt practices that have no cultural bearing on them, I would assume is rather insulting to those who practice this faith. If Kim Kardashian can get scolded by the Woke Police for having her hair braided, then how this cannot receive the same level of condemnation, I do not quite know.
More seriously, this stunt comes out of sheer ignorance for what it means to be a religious person. For people of faith, the rituals surrounding the faith have a significance attached to it, which is meant to elevate the act itself to something more spiritual. Each spiritual action is also part of a large web of customs, all interwoven to form a bigger picture. This is why Ian Manning, the Councillor who had the bacon for breakfast, is getting so much stick.
It shows how superficial all these acts were, that they gave no real thought to what the bigger significance of the fast day was, nor understood how it is supposed to fit into a larger context. The reality is that all of this was a show in order to appear more modern, tolerant and woke.
I also believe that this exploit is indicative of a growing attitude on the Left that places style, outward appearance and image above substance and value. Let’s be honest for a moment: nobody asked these Lib Dem members to do what they did. No-one believed that they were going to negatively impact the Muslim community before and this Ramadan stunt did nothing to prove that they would, above any other Party, defend Muslims in the UK in the future.
So what was the point of all this? The reason is that being seen to be doing the ‘right’ things and maintaining a woke image is the key for winning adulation in Left-wing circles. In order to be successful on the Left, you need the external image to be in fashion. People should be seeing this for what it is – political pandering – but nonetheless, the fact that they believed this was a good strategy for gaining popularity is symptomatic of that attitude.
Not being seen with those who have views slightly outside of the liberal agenda has always been something the Liberal Democrats, in particular, take very seriously. The former Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron was virtually hounded out of the party when they found out about his conservative religious beliefs, even though those beliefs are not against the party’s platform. In his resignation statement, he said that he was “torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader”.
For the Liberal Democrats, being a practising Christian apparently makes one an unsuitable leader. Similarly, in November, the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Stoke-on-Trent South constituency, Robert Flello, was deselected due to his Catholic beliefs.
In response to his deselection, he said: “Not only do I feel betrayed by the false promises of the Lib Dems, but I am profoundly concerned that people of faith who adhere to their religious beliefs are not welcome in their party.” Again, Liberal Democrat manifestoes of the past couple of elections have said nothing about these issues. But to be associated with those who have non-liberal values in some areas is a threat to their image, and therefore cannot be tolerated, no matter how capable the people in question are.
Then there is the Left’s obsession with celebrities. Labour and the Lib Dems have got into the habit of parading around every celebrity they can find, in the hope that they will be seen as the most popular and trendy party. At the last election, Hugh Grant, Lily Allen and Stormzy were just some of the personalities used by these two parties. Why it is assumed that they know more than anyone else is a mystery, but the Left doesn’t care about that – the image is more important. This is especially true concerning the last election, when both parties were clearly overcompensating for something, namely unpopular policy platforms.
This virtue-signalling seems to be an attempt to move away from substantive discussion as a tactic for winning elections and instead choosing to run an image-based campaign. With their party’s life on the line, the strategists at Liberal Democrat HQ chose this poor advertising tactic as a replacement for the renewed policy proposals they so dearly need, now all the ground has disappeared under their feet.
It could also be argued that the breakdown of the saintly image surrounding Corbyn was part of what caused his demise in the last election. In 2017, he was the lovable grandpa who could attract large crowds at Glastonbury, but by 2019, after all the scandals surrounding him had come to the fore and his policies were becoming increasingly radical, his loveable façade had fallen away – revealing just an old, angry Socialist.
Political parties should be based on policy platforms, not on images built upon silly gimmicks like those that the Liberal Democrats have attempted to perform!