What Next for the Liberal Democrats?

Liverpool Group

The Liverpool City Council Lib Dem team Cllrs Makinson, Kemp, Juarez and Kelly invite you to come and join us

This is the third in my “What Next” series following the European Referendum and it is by far the most optimistic because it is about the Liberal Democrats.

As I look back 14 months to the humiliating defeat in the General Election I am struck by how quickly the Party became optimistic again. I suspect that there were three main reasons for this:

  1. We were relieved of the burden of defending the coalition. That is not to say that most of us did not support what the coalition did for many of its policies but it was impossible to say what the Lib Dems in Government had prevented. Now we know that. Day after day we see the Tory Party, ‘blue in tooth and claw’, doing things that Nick & Co prevented them from doing.

 

  1. We had an election for a new leader which was entirely civilised between two very good people either of whom would have been acceptable to the vast, vast majority of members.

 

  1. Perhaps most importantly of all locally we had an influx of 60 new members most of which have stayed with us and are beginning to make increasingly important contributions to our Party.

 

Here in Liverpool we buckled down to the serious job of winning again. In 2014 we held not a single seat in Liverpool and the scoffers predicted and hoped for our early demise. In 2015 despite a huge influx of Labour members we comfortably held my Church Ward seat. We set out a clear strategy and on May 5th this year exceeded our expectations. We trebled the mayoral vote; held Church Ward, gained Allerton & Hunts Cross, gained Woolton Ward and have put ourselves in a position where we can win 6/7 seats next time.

In some ways the situation today feels remarkably like the situation on May 6/7/8/9/10 last year. We did badly in a referendum which was dear to our hearts. We have internationalism in our DNA and Europe means a lot to us. We awoke from our despondency to find that once again the defeat which meant so much to us meant so much to many others as well. The influx of new members is not as great as last year (yet) but we have already had 14 new members join us. I have yet to meet any of them but I am arranging to do so. This helps us by giving us money, resources, capacity, skills and workers. Nationally we have had 6,300 new members (at 11.00 this morning so I may be out of date!!).

So the political score at present seems to be:

Labour:                        Leader but no Cabinet and squabbling

Conservative:              Cabinet but no Leader and squabbling

Lib Dem:                      Small but perfectly formed, 6,300+ new members and united.

I know where I am pleased to be at the moment.

Nick Clegg is being praised for his spot on assessment of where the UK would be given a Brexit vote. Even his ultimate Mystic Meg powers would, however, be strained by what is happening now. We just do not know who will be leading two of the three main UK wide Parties in 4 months’ time. One thing we do know about them, however, is that they are not calm and unified Parties like ours. Whilst they fight each other internally we are getting on with the job of doing what we feel to be best for our Country and our City.

Nationally Tim Farron has laid down a clear call to join us on the basis that we will at the next General Election, whenever it is called, campaign for a return to the EU. Many more will agree with that proposition than did last Thursday. People really thought that there would be no repercussion from an Out vote. When we told them that stock markets, investment and our currency would suffer they said we were rumour mongers. Already Belfast has been told that a major new development will not go ahead. The £ is down to its lowest level for more than 30 years against the $ and the stock markets, especially the FTSE 250 which is the best guide to UK big business have plunged. Some are saying that these losses have not been too bad. But let us not forget that they come on top of 7 months of losses as speculation about Brexit and the referendum increased.

This is not about funny money owned by bankers. This is about our holiday money; our pensions and our jobs. We were right to campaign to join the EEC 60 years and we are right to campaign to go back in to the EU now.

Locally the Mayor of Liverpool and I have agreed to work together to deal with the immediate consequences of BREXIT in the Liverpool City Region.  In the short term up to £1 billion of programmes, projects and investments has been put at risk. Some, perhaps most, of that will come through in the end but in the meantime things that need to happen will not happen. In the longer term we have agreed that we need to make the Liverpool City Region work. Lib Dems in Liverpool supported the deal not because we thought it would be a particularly good one but because we thought that it would provide a base for other activities.

Now we need to agree and do those things as a matter of urgency. We need to protect this City Region with its 1.7 million people and all its intellectual, business and people assets against the downturn which will inevitably occur to our economy. In the longer term we will need to talk about the potential for inward investment and show why Liverpool is a good place for tourism, industry and commerce. We cannot rely on London to do this for us. For the next 3 or 4 years they will be dealing with the details of Brexit and renegotiating trade deals. A Boris Johnston Government will be even worse for our City Region than a Cameron one. Remember how Johnson was sent up to Liverpool 14 years ago to apologise for comments he has made. The man is a buffoon who thinks Watford is the far North. We can expect nothing from him.

So back to the Lib Dems. Nationally standing by our principles and fighting for them and locally doing the same. The reinvigorated City Council Lib Dem group is working hard within the community and will be putting forward a number of issues inside the system which will challenge what the council does and the way that it does it.

Locally and nationally I am proud of our Party. Through thick and thin (with a lot more thin than thick!) we have stuck to our principles and continued to fight for our communities. That is why I am inviting you to join us and help us with our work. We are the only Party that is growing; is confident; is united and knows what this Country needs. We are the 48%! Come and join us at www.libdems.org.uk.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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