Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

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Richard Kemp – Only the Liberal Democrats can stop a huge Tory majority

by Ian Shires on 19 April, 2017


The Lib Dem Bird is flying high as we  enter the first hurdle of the County and Regional Elections. It will be soaring when the gains come in after those elections and before the recently announced General Election

When I woke up this morning I did not think that by midday I would be talking to journalists from across the City Region about a General Election.

I had to think on my feet but fortunately as you can see from my last blog I had already been doing some thinking about the likely course of politics and who the main runners and rider are.

I was particularly thinking and talking about the recent leaked internal polling of the Tories when I was on the media earlier. This polling suggests that the Lib Dems will take back most, if not all, of the seats that the Lib Dems lost to them in 2015. In particular the pollster suggest that the Lib Dem seats are strongest in London and the South West.

This corresponds to the latest real votes that have been cast in council and parliamentary by-elections. In SW London the Lib Dems took back the seat of Richmond Park which we actually lost in 2010. The Greens didn’t stand and Labour lost their deposit. In fact the Labour candidate got less votes than the number of members of the Labour Party in the Constituency!

In the South West there have been a stunning set of gains in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Avon from everyone in site in local elections. In both cases real votes have been given in very large numbers to the Lib Dems which backs up the polling over a wider field.

Four things have been apparent in all the 5 Parliamentary elections held recently.

  1. Labour dropped in some cases very badly.
  2. The Tory vote basically flat lined at levels below that you would have expected given their apparent runaway lead in the polls.
  3. Greens, UKIP and the rest are absolutely nowhere. The Greens have lost their deposit in all the fights that they even contested.
  4. There has been a marked increase in the Lib Dem vote in all Constituencies. The lowest increase in the Lib Dem vote was approximately 6% and in Witney and Richmond it was 30%+

I was also thinking about the last General Election in 2015. The Lib Dems were like rabbits in a cars headlights. Dispirited; tired and lacking in financial and human resource we went into the trenches. We didn’t quite expect the annihilation we got but we didn’t think the outcomes would be good. Today it’ a very different Party. Our membership is more than double what it was less than 2 years ago. In fact I understand that more than 1,000 have joined today. We will go into the election on the back of local elections where a minimum level of gains is thought to be 100 council seats on top of the 45 gained last May and the net 33 gained since then.

The same is true in Liverpool. Our members is 250% higher than it was in 2015. We had a very good result in local elections for both the Mayoralty and the City council wards last year and have a plan in place to make a minimum of 7 gains next year. We are not over endowed with cash but we are solvent and have real money to spend on campaigning.

Why has she done it? May has a number of problems and an opportunity:

  1. She does not lead a united party with massive differences in opinion between remainers; soft Brexiters and hard Brexiteers.
  2. She does not have a coherent position on what to do next. She and the Chancellor; Foreign Secretary; Brexit Secretary and Business Secretary have vastly different ideas about what to aim for in the negotiations which must take place.
  3. She does not want to complete negotiations which will be eminently unsatisfactory and face a General Election very soon after.

On the plus side she has er…. Jeremy Corbyn! No-one thinks that he can effectively lead Labour into and through a General Election. No-one thinks that Labour will not lose seats in June. The Labour Party is deeply divided. Even after the General Election was announced I heard Labour members on the radio and TV calling for the de-selection of this MP or that MP.

The Liberal Democrat positions will be very clear:

  1. Demand a second referendum to let the people decide whether they want the deal negotiated for them by the Tories;
  2. Fight in the meantime to ensure that immigration; the single market; tariffs; the role of our universities and many other things are forcefully and coherently negotiated for.
  3. To ensure that there is adequate funding in place for the NHS and Social care Services. We will make clear that we want to put up income tax and/or other taxes to pay for what is needed and will bring together at a local level all the services to ensure a smooth and effective path through difficulties for all patients but especially the elderly;
  4. Fight for our environment and reverse the cuts that have been made in things like solar power subsides since 2015.
  5. Create a level playing field within education for all schools and find the money to reverse the cuts made since 2015.
  6. Send much decision making to local communities and break the power of Westminster and Whitehall over the many day to day decisions which they currently take.

There will be other policies too but of course the ones above have been clearly foretold by Tim Farron and Norman Lamb.

So we’re up for it. As the fighters say, “bring it on”. Only a fool will make too firm a prediction at this stage but I am absolutely confident that the Lib Dem vote will have a very big increase as will the numbers of Lib Dem MPs.

Onwards and upwards. I’m now off to deliver a boot full of newspapers which are the last of our 50,000 run in support of Cllr Carl Cashman. We will do well in that; well in Wavertree and then take stock for at least 24 hours after May 4 to map out our General Election proposals.

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