9 times the Lib Dems demanded a recall of parliament (and didn’t get it)

LONDON — Few things in British politics are certain — but you can always count on the Liberal Democrats to demand a parliamentary recall.

The centrist, anti-Brexit party is at it again this week, with a push for parliament to be recalled from its Easter recess in the wake of strike action from junior doctors.

As the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, attention can be hard to come by — meaning the eye-catching ask can help the party “cut through” in the crowded Westminster bubble with an easy-to-understand, headline-grabbing demand.

Let POLITICO run you through all the times in recent years that the Lib Dems asked for — but didn’t manage to get — parliament’s early return from recess.

Bollocks to Brexit (and summer recess)

August 2019: Remember Brexit? The Lib Dems certainly do — they made stopping it their raison d’être in the early years after the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU.

It was in that spirit that the party, then led by Jo Swinson, co-signed a letter calling on Boris Johnson to end parliament’s summer recess early in order to debate the then-looming possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson said no. Nonetheless, a modern tradition was born.

Virtual parliament

April 2020: As the COVID death toll grew in the early months of the pandemic, the Lib Dems were joined by Labour, senior Tories and other opposition leaders in a call for an immediate — virtual — recall of parliament over the Easter recess.

Instead, MPs returned to parliament as planned on April 21 — though with a new, virtual hybrid system for the first time ever.

Vaccine passports

July 2021: After waiting a little while, the Lib Dems were at it again during 2021’s summer recess, which came as the U.K. began to open up post-lockdown.

Party leader and *checks notes* mad-for-it raver Ed Davey wasn’t amused when the government said vaccine passports would be required for any brave Brits who wanted to venture to nightclubs, and called for … parliament to be recalled to debate it.

Predictably, it wasn’t.

Boris fined? Bring back parliament

April 2022: In a rare period of restraint, the Lib Dems initially avoided calling for parliament to be recalled over the so-called Partygate scandal — until Boris Johnson was slapped with a fixed penalty notice for attending a lockdown-breaking party in No 10.

At that point, the Lib Dems, followed by the SNP and Labour, called on the government to recall parliament so MPs could hold a vote of confidence on Johnson as prime minister. Unsurprisingly, Johnson was less keen for this to happen — though he was forced out of office months later in a clear victory for the Lib Dems.

Working ferry service

August 2022: Never one to miss out, the Scottish Lib Dems got in on the act amid widespread disruption in the ferry system that links the Scottish mainland to its islands.

The call for a Holyrood summer parliamentary recall — made by a party that has widespread support in Scotland’s island communities — generated heat toward the SNP-led Scottish government, but did not succeed. Obviously.

Rising energy bills

(Later) August 2022: After drafting legislation that would have thwarted a planned hike in energy prices, the Lib Dems called for (another) summer recess to be cut short in order to debate it.

As the Tories were too busy tearing themselves apart in a fractious leadership contest, the call went unheeded.

That mini-budget

September 2022: The Lib Dems had a pretty good reason to make their fourth recall plea in as many months — Liz Truss’ disastrous mini-budget and the market chaos that followed. Keir Starmer did the same as the pressure grew on the embattled then-PM.

They needn’t have bothered, in the end. Less than a month later Truss reversed much of the budget herself in a desperate — and doomed — bid to stay in office. Another win for the Libs.

A&E delays

January 2023: Winter in the U.K. often brings a crisis in its stretched National Health Service. Last winter was no different, with pressure in some A&E departments (hit by strikes and long post-COVID waiting levels) exceeding levels reached during the pandemic.

The Lib Dems went out on a limb and called for an immediate recall of parliament. We’re going to shock you here: They didn’t get it.

Junior doctors strike

April 2023: Not to be deterred, the Lib Dems on Tuesday made their latest plea for parliament to return as junior doctors in England began an unprecedented four-day strike.

Blaming Health Secretary Steve Barclay for the government’s failure to reach a deal with the doctors on pay, Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said he was “putting 1000s of patients at unnecessary risk.”

Parliament hasn’t been recalled yet. But you never know.