Massacre Survivor visits Liverpool to launch World Merit New Office

wm-opening

Ziauddin Yousafzi offically cuts the ribbon at the new World Merit offices accompanied by Marlou Hermsen its General Manager and Chris Arnold its Chief Executive

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the opening of the new World Merit organisation in Liverpool. Until recently I had not heard of World Merit. This is an organisation that is a major partner of the United Nations involving young people in all the 180+ Countries in the UNmin action within their communities to further the 17 Strategic Development Goals of the UN. They now have national chapters working in 80+ countries.

These goals are thought of by many as being only applicable to developing countries but most of them relating to topics as diverse as gender equality and basic education; access to health care and decent environments are applicable in differing degrees in every country.

The two speakers exemplified the work being done by World Merit and both pledged to help the organisation expand.

ahmad-nawaz

Ahmad Nawaz was one of the few young people to survive the Peshawar School massacre 3 years ago. He was accompanied by Ziauddin Yousafzi who is the father of Malala Yousafzi who shot to world prominence when the Taliban shot her down on the way to school.

Ahmad spoke movingly about his feelings as he escaped from the carnage which had caught up so many of his friends and ended their lives. “I was determined to dedicate my life to ensuring that this would not happen again”, he said. We must not let prejudice win and the only way we can do that is to improve levels of education throughout the world.

The education theme was echoed by Ziauddin Yousafzi who, having run his own schools in Pakistan, is now seeking to raise educational standards especially for young women. “My daughter established a blog when she was just 10”, he said, “for that she was targeted by the Taliban who tried to take the life of a young girl just starting out on her life. We hope that the work being done by my daughter and Ahmad Nawaz will help change things and beat down prejudices worldwide.

That is why we have come here today to support the excellent work being done by World Merit as they work globally in both developed and developing countries, with ambitions based on working in all of them to a much greater degree, to involve young people not only in educational projects but a wide range of community activity in support of the UN”

Chris Arnold, the founder and Chief Executive of World Merit also spoke and said, “we have been honoured to hear today the stories of a young man and a young woman who have survived tragedy and come through them to campaign to change the world and defeat prejudice. They will be fully backed by World Merit and we will be announcing shortly our plans to expand work in Liverpool and the UK alongside an initiative to work with local government leaders globally. It is appropriate that our City, which is the ‘World in One City’ should be the base for this global movement of young people”.

I have said that I want to help World Merit using my global contacts through United Cities and Local Government. I think we should be proud that such an organisation has developed her in Liverpool, “the World in One City”. It is an obvious place to start things off. Although the organisation does not do much with the UK at present they will be announcing over the next three to four months a major initiative in Liverpool linked to an increased presence in the UK.

IF you would like to know more contact Chris Arnold can be contacted on 07740 612728 or e-mail him at Chris@worldmerit.org

 

Posted in International Activity | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should GP practices be open 7 days a week?

rcgp-logoWe should support the RCGP and GPs generally not ask them to do the impossible with stretched budgets and too few staff

We are asking a hell of a lot from our GPs at the moment. We want them to be in the community; available at residential and care homes; participating in A & E departments; making home visits; oh and by the way being available in 8 minute snatches to deal with the needs of the ill in their practices.

Could all this be achieved? Yes I suppose it could but not with the number of GPs we have at present. Calls for 7 day services don’t really understand the nature of a GPs work. It is very much a part of the Me, Me, Me society. I have a need now and it must be met now. But GPs are not hairdresser of bar keepers. They are skilled professionals who work in a number of environments and crucially there just are not enough of them.

We must also recognise that in the near future there will be a lot less of them. In some places up to 25% of the GPs are nearing retirement age. Our surgeries have been buoyed by a large number of immigrants from the Commonwealth and other places who are now reaching retirement age. They are often in single GP practices and there is no-one to replace them. We are desperately short of people who commit to becoming GPs after their training. It’s much more trendy to work in a deep specialism in a hospital than be out on the front line of work meeting people in their own community. For decades this has been the case and successive governments for those same years have failed to tackle this problem.

Now I do not for a moment believe that GPs practices should be the same as they were when Dr Finlay (or I) were lads. The work has become increasingly complex and demanding. GPs face the same problems as everyone else in the NHS. More people living longer but increasingly become more frail with greater health needs and demands.

Yes there is the demand for time and attention in surgeries and the need in many cases for regular home visits. But that is only part of a GPs work.

The Government want GPs to work in A & E units. That makes sense. Taking part in the triage process deciding who needs a quick fix or nothing at all and getting them out again enables the A & E staff to look after people with acute A & E needs.

We need GPs to spend more time in residential and extra care homes. 25 years ago about 12% of people in such accommodation had more than the occasional need for detailed medical services now it’s up to 80% of their residents. Having regular GP visits keeps people fitter, healthier and leads to less demand on A and E services and hospital beds at weekends and holidays.

We also want GPs active in their communities when we can involve them in campaigns like Dementia Friendly Neighbourhoods and Health Eating Campaigns. Having the Doctor there really makers people take things more seriously.

But to come back to my point we just do not have enough of them to do all these things. If we accepted that there is a need to increase the number of GPs now it will still take 7 years to turn them out in sufficient numbers and that is on the assumption that Brexit will not stop some doctors coming here to become GPs or take part in other parts of the NHS.

So what can we do to help GPs who will tell you that often they do not have time to talk to people with severe health needs as their appointments are clogged up with people looking for reassurance and low level services and not the services that we actually pay GPs to provide.

Most importantly we must use other front line services more effectively as part of a local network in which GPs play a major part. Too often the front line nature of opticians, dentists and pharmacists are overlooked. Far more routine work could be done inside pharmacies most of which are now equipped with consulting rooms. The clinical work of pharmacists, dentists and opticians in recognising specific complaints and getting people appropriately into the system is underused.

Secondly we ought to be moving more services out of hospitals into GP surgeries. There are a huge range of preventive and early reactive activities that could best be undertaken with the local community. In rural areas in particular people travel miles sometimes by rare buses to get services that could easily be provided locally.

To achieve these two changes we need to do two things:

Firstly, we need to change the mind set of both people and parts of the health community to understand that hospitals and particularly A & E departments should be seen not as the first port of call but as the last resort.

Secondly, we need to help GPs modernise their part of the health estate to ensure that they can act as what are in other countries called poly-clinics. Some practices are in the right buildings in the right place. Others are not.

Whenever I have spoken to GPs and their representatives at either a local or national level I have found that the vast majority of them are open to new ideas, a new way and the sort of enhanced role I have described here. When they say they are not prepared to open 7 days a week it is not, in my opinion because of a luddite tendency but because they want to do the right thing in the right way within the resource package that is available to the, forcing them into 7 day opening will massively reduce the other things that they do. This will have a resulting bad impact on illness, both mental and physical and hospital pressures.

If Theresa May wants changes and wants to improve things for people and GPs she needs to listen to them; work with them and not practice gun boat diplomacy from the wrong end of a loud hailer.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s going on with the Police investigations into Liverpool Direct and One Connect Lancashire?

lpool-logo

For almost two years the functions of LDL have been subsumed into the oeprations of the Council

It is now three years since the Police opened up a major investigation into the running of Liverpool Direct Ltd and One Connect Lancashire. So Cllr Bill Winlow, the Leader of the Lib Dems on Lancashire County and I are asking Lancashire’s Police Commissioner to update the people of Lancashire and Liverpool on the current status of the case and when prosecutions might be expected.

We know that at one time last year there were 20 staff engaged on this investigation which was costing about £850,000 per year. We do need to know the complete costs for this and what progress is being made.

After three years we should be getting some idea of the progress being made on this case. We appreciate that it involves two of the largest councils in the Country and a major multi-national company but we believe that the facts must be brought both before the courts and the taxpayers of Lancashire and Liverpool as soon as possible

Cllr Bill Winlow can be contacted on 07977 504712

Cllr Richard Kemp can be contacted on 07885 626913

Below are the questions we are asking of the Police Commissioner for Lancashire

Extract from the letter to the Police Commissioner

Whilst we do not want to know any information which might prejudice any police action we would like to know:

  1. Is the investigation still ongoing?
  2. How many police and/or other staff are currently working on it?
  3. At is peak how many police/other staff were working on it?
  4. What the investigation has cost to date?
  5. If any matters have been passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions?
  6. Whether any further matters are intended to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions
  7. When it is anticipated that court cases might arise from this investigation?
Posted in Liverpool City Council | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vampire Kiss brings Militant back to life in Liverpool

LpoolTH

Liverpool Town Hall where next week we will be debating a call from our Labour Mayor to have a demomonstration in London

When I last did a blog some 10 days ago about the Mayor of Liverpool’s call for a lottery, following hard on the heels of a suggestion about a 10% council tax increase I warned that in Liverpool daft ideas come in threes. Boy was I right. Joe Anderson’s latest idea is to have a mass demonstration in London.

The resolution, appended in full below, calls for the Mayor to write to all political party leaders asking them to call a national demonstration in London in May about cuts to social care budgets and to ask fellow Council Leaders to support this. I understand that originally Mayor Anderson wanted to ask Jeremy Corbyn to lead it but this suggestion has been removed in favour of an approach to all Party Leaders. I am not at all sure that the Prime Minister will support a demonstration against her own government! It also calls on the Chief Executive to write to the Local Government Association to ask them to support a national campaign to provide fair funding for social care including a national lobby of parliament.

There is no doubt that there are huge problems in Liverpool and elsewhere caused by both cuts in the money available for social care and also the growth in the number of frail elderly. Successive governments for the past two decades have refused to recognize and act upon this clearly visible demographic time bomb. However, demonstrations which are led by Liverpool will only weaken the case for the money that we need. The Government is currently considering the reallocation of parts of the Better Care Fund to more deprived areas. This move is even being supported by the Tories at the LGA. I have had detailed meetings with Ministers about the needs of northern urban areas and it does seem to me that there is at least a little understanding of the acute problems we face. They are also aware that the increasing of council tax for the specific purpose of social care is not very effective in places like our own city where there is a low tax base.

It is noticeable that every council including places like Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham are facing similar pressures and are being dealt with by the Labour Leaders of those cities in a much more practical and joined up way. Not one of them is asking for national demonstrations but are using available channels such as the Local Government Association and the Core Cities Group to lobby for more funds and in their localities are effectively establishing new methodologies to maximize what can be done with the reduced resources. Manchester, in particular, is showing what can be done as it leads changes in the huge £4.5 billion Health and Social Care budget which is available to them in the Manchester City Region.

Mayor Anderson sits on two national bodies, the Cities Board of the LGA and the Core Cities Group which are supposed to be working on these issues with little apparent effect. I believe that he has not moved resolutions in these important bodies dominated by Labour Council Leaders like Sir Richard Leese from Manchester and Nick Forbes from Newcastle (also the LGA Labour Leader) because he knows that they will not support his calls.

The Local Government Association has already been lobbying central government and as I said above has had some success on an all-Party basis for moving resources to the North in the next three financial years. But the LGA has never ‘picketed Parliament’ which is the heart of Mayor Anderson’s proposal. Lobbying only works when people can meet quietly and out of the headlights. When people trust (but by no means like) each other and where movement can be achieved without victory being claimed. The ability of the LGA to work with the Government (any Government) would be seriously curtailed if it were to work in an overtly political, mass demonstration way.

This resolution from Liverpool, if anyone else were prepared to act on it, would re-awaken in the minds of public and private investors alike the reputation for militancy which Liverpool hand which both Labour and Liberal Democrat administrations have done so much to remove. It will not achieve anything except one thing. It will hold off from Labour Councillors, most of whom are decent people, the specter of Momentum or Militant as we used to call it in the 1980s. Don’t they love their demonstrations? We saw their success in getting 10s of thousands of people into mass demos and rallies during both of Corbyn’s election wins. But that does not equate to votes. Interestingly in Richmond Park the deposit losing Labour candidate got less votes than the number of Labour members in the Constituency. The Labour Party under Corbyn’s leadership has no chance of winning the next General Election. With no firm and consistent views on anything it cannot even provide a half-baked opposition never mind an effective one.

At the council next week we will seek to move an amendment which suggests some limited ways forward for the council to deal with the pressures accurately described in Anderson’s motion. We believe that the Council as a whole needs outside support to enable it to cope with the challenges it faces. We believe that it needs to accept that it will no longer be the pre-eminent council in the City Region  when a City Region Mayor is elected in May and will become just one out of 6 councils. We think there should be an external review of how the Council is run by a Peer review team of expert councillors and officials from similar authorities.

We will not seek to amend that section of the motion which once again looks backward to the first part of the decade. Only Labour People and a few of their supporters think that what happened pre May 2015 is relevant. Liberal Democrats will be concentrating our thoughts and actions on the problems that have arisen post June 2016 which is where most people’s concerns now lie.

The ways forward that have been suggested by Liverpool’s Labour Mayor will take us back to the 80s. They will be bad for Liverpool. The latest suggestion for big demos in London which will not be hugely supported by the rest of the Labour Party in local government will help neither us nor anyone else. It’s a vampire kiss from Joe Anderson to re-awaken Militant which will do far more harm than good.

Motion from Mayor Anderson to City Council on 18th January 2017

Council notes that it is the responsibility of local government to provide a social care service for both adults and children for residents of the city.  Social Care is a service for the most vulnerable people in our society, provided to help those who will otherwise struggle to interact fully with the world around them and to act as an enabler so they are able to overcome the challenge of any number of conditions, physically and mentally.

Council believes that the ability to provide care for those who need it is the symbolic reflection of our compassion as a society, and the hallmark of any great civilisation.

Council also notes the hard work of our staff to provide social care, especially against a backdrop of ever increasing workload.

Council especially notes the expectations by all citizens that care will be available to support them should they need it, but that as a function provided by local government, not a national service, Social Care is increasingly affected by changes to local government finance.

Council is reminded that since 2010 when the Coalition Government, and particularly Danny Alexander as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, introduced austerity Liverpool City Council has had a 58% real terms cut to our funding. In cash terms this means £524m down to £268m today.  As a result spending on Adult Social Care has gone from

2010:                          £220m

2016:                          £154m

2020 (projected):             £130m

Council notes there are also a significant level of demographic pressures on social care, increasing the costs, worth £44m.

Council is shocked by the Government’s response to this funding crisis in Social Care, and particularly the refusal to provide extra funds for social care and allow councils to raise Council Tax by an extra 1%, which in Liverpool would raise very little.

Council also notes Government’s intention to remove the Revenue Support Grant by 2020 leaving Social Care funding reliant on money from the local taxpayer, and therefore at severe risk of being underfunded.

Council believes a national campaign is required to force the government to provide fair funding for adult social care.

Council therefore:

  • Asks the Mayor to write to all political leaders asking them to call a national demonstration in London in May and to ask fellow Council Leaders to support this;
  • Asks the Joint Trade Union Committee to support the campaign and ask their trades unions and the TUC to support;
  • Calls on the Chief Executive to write to the LGA to ask them to support a national campaign to provide fair funding for social care including a national lobby of parliament;
  • Resolves to launch a petition calling for fair funding for social care; and

Asks Councillors to campaign at ward level for fair funding for social care including collecting signatures for the petition, identifying and publicising the impact of the cuts on vulnerable people and organise transport and mobilizing support for the demonstration when it is called.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mental Health must have the same attention as Physical Health

samaritans

The Samaritans are one of the major organisations relying on volunteers to assist the suicidal and those just needing someone to talk to

Yesterday Erica and I received some bad news. The daughter of a friend of ours had tried to commit suicide. As I write this I do not know whether that bid has been successful as she is still having tests done in hospital and it’s a 50/50 chance. As you might imagine her parents are distraught. They are asking the same question that anyone would ask in these circumstances, “What did we do wrong?” The answer, of course, is likely to be nothing. Who knows why people get depressed, become mentally unwell and in extremis seek to take their own life?

One of the big causes of mental illness is certainly a change in circumstances, usually for the worse. Becoming unemployed; losing your home; losing a loved one all feature highly in the league table for creating depression. But there are other factors as well. Another set of causes come from substance dependency be that food, drink or drugs. Obesity is another major cause of unhappiness as are the stresses I have been thinking about this as I prepare some thoughts for a speech I am making about loneliness.

Loneliness is a killer. We all say that we want some time alone and that is easy for us to say and for us to achieve when you have a busy life. Erica and I have just had a marvellous Christmas where, apart from our children and grandchildren, we saw hardly anyone. We revelled in the peace and quiet and the ability just to be together and share time and activity. But what if we didn’t have each other? What if we didn’t have 3 children and four grandchildren around the corner? What if we didn’t have loads of friends and acquaintances ready when we re-entered the hurly-burly after the holiday season as over?

That is the sad reality of life for many people especially as they age. As you get older your friends start dying and you lose your mobility. Your world shrinks and you become dependent. Perhaps that not too bad if you are 80+ because you can over time adjust to it even though that is not the way it should be or needs to be. But what if you have no friends at the age of 25. You can have a busy and fulfilling job and still go home to loneliness and despair. You might be in a marriage but find that when the kids leave home you become lonely with your life partner.

For some reason we are afraid to talk about these issues. Is it because we can see mental illness and it is hard to measure it? You can of course measure the health effects of it. Is it because we don’t think it exists? It does. 20%+ of us will have mental health issues for at least part of our life. Is it because we think people who have a mental condition are skivers? It is certainly true that we lose millions of days of working time each year to these issues. Is it because we are scared of mentally ill people? Well certainly they have been demonised in the past with some people equating mental illness to a range of psychotic actions such as rape, violence and murder.

I suspect all those are true but I don’t think that they are the biggest reasons. I think that we are scared of talking about mental health issues because we are scared of becoming mentally ill. The brain is an incredible place. What’s stored there is us. If you are religious that surely is where you think your soul is contained. If you are not then you can see it is a repository of all your memories; experiences and knowledge. What is in it defines YOU in a way that no other party of the body can.

Key times for depression and suicide are after Christmas and after holidays. Being flung togetehr with people you find you don’t really like can be a real downer!

There is no doubt that mental health issues are given a second rate service in the NHS despite the best efforts of campaigners to change things. We often treat the effects of such illness rather than the condition itself because we can often see those effects physically. This must change.

We all need to put pressure on the NHS to fully recognise the needs short, medium and long-term of the mentally ill. Like many other conditions early diagnosis and support can lead to the elimination or amelioration of the condition. Many people with severe depression recover. Others need small amounts of help by medicines of even better social interaction and live healthy and active lives.

But it is not just down to the NHS it is down to all of us. There are four things that we can all do:

  1. Be careful of our language. I recently described a group of people as total nutters. I can partly defend myself by saying that I would never use such a description to someone I thought did have mental issues. BUT the point is I don’t know who that is. I also don’t know what the affects my supposedly light hearted words have on other people to propel them into even more extreme versions of stigmatism of the mentally ill. Appropriate use of language is one of my New Year resolutions on day 3 I am doing okay!
  1. Look out for people in your community and try to offer them some comfort. Sometimes just spending a couple of minutes chatting to people on the way to the shops can have a great impact, especially if you are the only person they have spoken to that day. A little bit of kindness when it is just helping get that shopping in or checking whether a neighbour is able to get their medicine is just so important.
  1. Lobby MPs, Lords and others to get them to understand the need. Talk to people like Norman Lamb or our own local Labour MP Luciana Berger who are highly targeted on this issue but need our help.
  1. Help charities and other organisations which provide help. The Samaritans, for example, are a fine organisation that help bring many people back from the brink but they are under-resourced in terms of money and volunteers.

Of course none of this can prevent mental illness occurring and the fact that this can, in extremis, lead to suicide or potential suicide situations. My friends have a strong and supportive family in which their daughter always played a full part. You can see now how their family is reacting and pulling together to do everything that they can. Not for the girl, that is now in the lap of the gods, but for all those who sit and wait, and hope and are thinking about what they must do whichever way the coin lands.

Tonight I will be thinking about that young girl. Help me make sure that my own resolve to deal with these issues is a strong in six weeks’ time or 6 years’ time. Together we can help the mentally ill. Together we must help them.

If you want to help the Samaritans or donate to them they can be contacted at http://www.samaritans.org

 

Posted in Health Service Debate | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Lottery –Another Bonkers idea from the Mayor of Liverpool

national-lottery-logo

How could a Liverpool lottery begin to compete against the three national lotteries and the plethora of local ones?

Daft ideas in Liverpool seem to be like buses sometimes – they tend to come in threes. So far we have had two from the Mayor of Liverpool. One of these the idea of a referendum for 10% increase in council tax he has dropped. Why? Because just as the Lib Dems said when he raised the matter in council the people of Liverpool would not vote for such an increase. There have been 6 referenda on raising council tax to date and not one has been passed. Council tax is a very regressive tax – it hits poor people harder than rich people for a variety of reasons. The people of Liverpool were right to tell the Mayor in advance of him holding a referendum that they would not vote for it and the Mayor was right to listen.

However, he has now come with an idea that is almost as bad. He wants to have a Liverpool lottery. For the reasons I give below the Lib Dems will oppose this when the required report and recommendation is put to Cabinet. Raising money locally is not in itself a bad idea. Liverpool is a compassionate City where we do all pull together. I will suggest something when we oppose the Mayor’s recommendation that would be be a better way of attracting money into the City Council’s coffers.

But for now here are the 7 reasons that Liverpool should not try and raise money for services in this way:

  1. We should not encourage gambling. There are increasing problems of gambling addiction which like any other addiction can lead to mental and physical health problems. A lottery is not the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling that fixed priced betting terminals are but they are a part of an encouragement of gambling that is leading to problems.
  1. This is a national problem not just a Liverpool problem. For 25 years governments have not planned for an increase in life expectancy and ill health which all demographic trends have foretold. The result is that in many hospital trusts up to 30% of beds are taken by people who do not need medical help. The problem is that there are no the residential care places of domiciliary support that is needed. Hospitals are dangerous places where people can get ill by lying around. They are not the home that people want to live and they are very expensive.                                   What we need now is for all Parties and others to get together to look nationally at how we fund health and social care. The Labour Party have come up with an idea which Lib Dems too are looking at. The idea is that something like the Office of Budget Responsibility would independently review health and care needs and then make recommendations to government about the spending needed to deal with what is found. There are many other things that could be looked and Norman Lamb’s independent panel looking at funding will report in the late summer.
  2. The lottery will find itself in a crowded market with three ‘national’ lotteries now competing for business. All of these are heavily advertised and have big jackpots. They also need a huge amount of money to establish them. I do not see how a local lottery will compete with them.
  3. It won’t raise enough money even if it does well. Let’s have a quick look at the figures. The big lotteries at most give 40% of their ticket price to their good cause. If 50% of Liverpool adults bought a £1 ticket each week it would generate £68,000 for good causes or about £3.5 million per year. This is massively below the requirement of the increasing numbers of elderly. It is also a very ambitious target. It is a higher percentage of the population playing this game than play the National Lottery in the City.
  4. It may well detract from the fund raising activities of small and medium sized charities that exist to serve the social needs of our city. There is only so much that people will spend on this type of activity and there is no evidence that existing lotteries now expand the market rather than redistribute the market. Even when the National Lottery came on the scene it only really did well because it almost killed off the football pools.
  5. It will distract people from the fundamental arguments that need to be looked at. These problems will get worse year by year.  People think (or choose to think) that a lottery is a panacea for the funding problems caused by longevity it will reduce the need for and the quality of the debate on the fundamentals.
  6. Like the idea of a council tax increase that preceded it the lottery will be a tax on the poor, albeit it a voluntary one. All the evidence is that the vast majority of lottery tickets are bought by people on low incomes. Unless they move their preference from another operator (with bigger jackpots and bigger dreams) they will simply increase their own debt levels.

Lib Dems are not unsympathetic to the position that the Mayor finds himself. But Liverpool is in the same position as Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and most of the big cities of the North. BUT we have seen no signs of them establishing lotteries as anything other than a small activity or threatening 10% council tax increases.

It has been suggested to me several times that this is a way that the Mayor has of causing problems for the Liverpool City Regional mayoral Candidate. Far be it from me to try and work out the internal machinations of the increasingly dysfunctional Labour Party. What I do know is that neither of the suggestions made to date are runners. As I said to start with bad ideas come in threes. We await the next one from Joe Anderson with trepidation!

 

Posted in Liverpool | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Olde Kempe’s Almanack for 2017

earth

There is only one world. Internationalists like the Lib Dems understand that and want to work in partnership with others to preserve it and support all who live on it.

Supercharged by my newly found cosmic role as ‘Best Grandpa in the Univirs’ (see previous blog) I have decided to look into the future to see what 2017 has in store for the political parties of Olde England (and the Celtic bits as well!)

Looking back into 2016 and observing what many have failed to comment on it is clear that both the Tory and Labour Parties have been moderate losers. This is, of course good news for a governing party which expects to lose but bad news for a main opposition Party which expects to win!

The Labour Party has much to be concerned about. It is clear that the civil war between the Parliamentary Party and Corbynites continues unabated but behind the scenes. The resignation of the MP for Copeland must be seen as a part of that. Although ostensibly about the future of an individual and his family what happened is a scenario that is being played out in the minds of many a Labour MP and councillor but particularly MPs. How many years do they want to spend on a back bench, even if they hold their own seat is what they are thinking about at present. What will they do when they lose their seat?

Labour membership is still huge when compared to any other Party in the UYK or indeed Europe. But that membership is beginning to trickle away. The people leaving are the most experienced members. Some of them are going to retirement. They have just had enough. Some of them are coming to the Lib Dems and they are very welcome. I was speaking to a new Lib Dem member last week, an eminent name in the medical world, who told us how much she was enjoying being in pour Party after many years in Labour. She felt that she was part of a new family with a unity of purpose that she had not seen in her old Party. In Liverpool e have 5 members who a year ago were Labour members and they are already making a real contribution to our work.

In electoral terms Labour did not do too badly last year despite the obvious poor headlines when they failed. They made some gains in the local elections in May and have only lost a handful of seats in council by-elections since. Of course in the 3 parliamentary by-elections in the autumn/winter they did extremely badly. In Richmond Park they got their lowest vote in a parliamentary by-election in London since 1909. In Witney and Sleaford they were reduced to also rans. The pattern of their vote appears to be that where they are strong they continue to do well by getting out their core vote. Where they are not strong their vote is shrivelling away. It would appear that their ability to make gains as distinct to defences is minimal. An important consideration if this parliament goes to full term and is fought on new boundaries.

The Tories are riding high in the opinion polls. In fact the height is not only unprecedented for a governing Party but also leads to a huge gap between them and Labour. BUT in real elections they are not doing so well. The Tory vote in the 3 Parliamentary elections) was poor. Let’s not pretend that Goldsmith was not the Tory candidate in Richmond Park. Their vote drifted down in Sleaford one of the most solid Brexit constituencies in the Country but was down sharply in the other two. This is a pattern which has been observed in local elections as well. They are the heaviest loser in gross terms of numbers of seats at both the May elections and the by-elections held since. They have lost so many seats since May that it is likely that if the numbers at the LGA were re-calculated now Labour might take the chair of the organisation where the Parties are on a knife edge. Their splits are not as manifest as the Labour ones but they do exist.

The Greens are a shadow of their former selves. Their Party has fought few of the by-elections at any level since May and we have also taken some of their activist base. Thys includes the person who was their agent at the General Election in Copeland.

The biggest winners of the year have also turned out to be the biggest losers! After getting their way in the Referendum UKIP has fallen apart organisationally and electorally. In percentage terms they are by far the biggest losers in elections since May. In May they did gain some seats but nowhere near as many as in the previous years of the 4 year local election cycle. If May 2016 was repeated in May 2017 they will lose seats. But there is one proviso here. They have already lost a lot of those 2013 seats through direct electoral losses and defections. In Cornwall, for example, the UKIP group of 6 elected in 2013 is now just 1! In fact of their 5 losses they didn’t even try and defend 2 of them. The metropolitan elite talk up UKIP which would probably cease to exist without the oxygen given to it by the BBC. In Sleaford they told us on the Monday of election week they would win but instead lost vote share. In places like Liverpool they have ceased to exist. No money; owing money to the European Parliament and no backers their increasingly elderly membership is slowly but surely dying off.

So what of Tiny Tim and his Farronites. Here things look good but they are by no means plain sailing. In 2016 we gained about 70 seats overall in principal councils in the May and subsequent by-elections. Of course we gained a parliamentary seat and did well in the other two autumn elections. Our membership is higher than it has ever been. In Liverpool we now have more members than we did when we controlled the Council. Slowly nationally and locally we are getting some of those members into action and training them to take seats and be councillors and MPs of the future. In Liverpool we trebled the number forwards we have councillors in and trebled the Mayoral vote from 2012. There is no doubt that we will take more seats when the council is up with a third of the councillors in 2018.

But we are starting from a very low base. 8 MPs and 1,800 councillors was what we sank to in 2015. Rebuilding does not come from ‘flash in the pan’ moments like a parliamentary by-election success but from patient rebuilding street by street, community by community, ward by ward and constituency by constituency. Yet there is a magnificent opportunity in British politics today to short cut some fot hat patience. The biggest fault line in our political system is not between left and right – if indeed it ever has been – but between exiters and remainers. This is not a judgement just on Europe but a judgement on those who see the world and its politics one way and their opponents.

Internationalism is a strand of political thought which has always been a divider but never the most important divider that it is today. To me internationalism is a basic part of my political DNA. For those with such an outlook see things differently than the little Englanders.

We are confident about our Country’s place in the World but recognise the need for partnerships. We want to shape the world through those partnerships be they at EU, Commonwealth or UN levels. We believe in compassionate politics and that this Country, still a relatively wealthy one should play its part in the World. This creates a distinctive viewpoint on defence; foreign policy and overseas aid. But it also creates view on domestic policy as well. If you believe in the ‘world’ you believe in dealing with climate change. If you look to the future you want to provide everyone with a decent home and a decent job in a decent environment.

So what do I foresee for our Party in detail?

  1. Our membership will continue to grow to reach 90,000 by the end of 2017
  2. We will gain at least one more seat in Parliament
  3. We will gain at least 125 seats in May and at least 25 in council by-elections through the year.
  4. We will become the third biggest grouping at the LGA.
  5. We will define our policies in a much more radical way to deal with issues of inequality; housing and the environment to drive home the problems being created by May here and Trump in America.
  6. We will continue to be a united party working together around a host of principles which are dear to us and dear to almost half the population of the UK.

Our glory days are not yet with us but our ghastly days are well behind us. Happy 2017 to Lib Dems and progressives in the UK and the rest of the world.

 

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment