Yesterday I launched my campaign for re-election to the Liverpool City council with a leaflet that is fundamentally different to any that I have helped deliver in any of the 45 local election campaigns in May that I have now helped with.
The first thing is something I have never chosen to do before. I chose to lead on two important issues of national politics. “Surely this is a local election and you should talk about local things”, some might say and broadly I would agree with them. Most of the other three sides are about my vision for my community and my city. But sometimes as we all know national issues are important. (Yes there is about ‘Yes to AV’ as well!)
The second thing I have never been able to do before. I am proud to be able to boast about the many good things that a Government with a strong Lib Dem input is doing despite the appalling financial situation we are left with (the worst since WWII). My two key issues are taking 1.2 million people out of paying tax at all by this time next year and ensuring that never again do old age pensioners fall behind wage earners in the disgraceful way that they have for the past 25 years.
Financially this government has done its best to ensure that the position of the poorest is enhanced though these very difficult times. They truly understand what prudent means but are prepared to spend what little is available to help those who need it most. I do not believe that these two major financial, advances would have taken place without strong Lib Dem Ministers with a strong Lib Dem sense of purpose.
But it is not only in the fields of finance that the government are doing the right things but in many other areas.
I am especially proud of the civil liberties work that they have done. Rolling back the power of the state to interfere in people’s lives. Abolishing intrusive data bases and the ID cards are totemic to Lib Dems in allowing the freedom of the individual to prevail in a society where “none shall be enslaved by ignorance, poverty or conformity”.
The state is being rolled back by three Bills which will become law by the summer; Police Reform; Localism and Health. I do not agree with everything in these Bills. Inevitably there has had to be compromise between two coalition partners as well as the compromise inherent in every Party but I do support the main thrust of them. The centralised state will be pushed back. More decisions will be made locally by people who are accountable to local citizens and not to Whitehall warriors.
I could go on but I want to go out to do some more delivering!
But I do have some thoughts on the Party at the moment. Those thoughts gather round the fact that we have been too cautious in promoting our Party. Rightly we have had to deal with the financial mess and this has made the headlines which have shaped political thinking. For councillors in particular this has not been easy and I still think we have been dealt a poor hand by Pickles and Shapps. But we need to be far more aggressive in promoting two big ideas:
- The type of success stories that I have mentioned above. Too few people know that pensioner’s standards of living will be protected for the first time since Thatcher abolished the earnings link. We need to be getting out there with all the good news stories that will affect people’s lives for good.
- We need again and again to nail the deceptions and distortions of The Labour Party. They twist and turn like a worm on the end of a fisherman’s hook. We are dealing with the financial mess that they have left us with. There is a total of £11 billion difference between their spending plans announced in November 2009 for the current tax year and that which the government is running with. Not such a big difference on a total budget of £750 billion. But you wouldn’t think that by listening to ‘Nelson’ Milliband would you?
So be brave, be strong, campaign your socks off as you do every year and I’ll see you back in the Town Hall on May 6th.