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What’s the point of the Lib Dems? It’s a question Ed Davey still can’t answer

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What’s the point of the Liberal Democrats? What do they stand for? What are they about? Are they just an electoral protest operation, designed to fit into whatever shape happens to be most convenient at any given time? Or are they committed to liberal principles – a voice for freedom and reason in an age of right-wing populism?

That was the question its leader, Sir Ed Davey, had to answer at the party’s autumn conference yesterday. But there hasn’t ever been much sense that he can.

The start of the speech offered some hope that this might now change. He promised to focus on “the battle of ideas” and “show people we have the new bold ideas our country needs”.

If so, it would be about time. Over the last two decades, the Lib Dems have been many different things to different people. They hoovered up student votes by standing against tuition fees in the early 2000s, before getting into bed with the Conservatives and suddenly supporting them. After the 2016 referendum on the EU, they first equivocated on Brexit, then scrambled into the furthest recesses of........

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