The Bird is soaring!!
Now I know that this is a Scottish song about going off to a wedding which I will NOT be doing this weekend. It does, however, express the feelings of the thousands of Lib Dem delates who are now on their way to the Party Conference in Brighton which starts later today with an extended bout of drinking (sorry political dialogue and discussion)!!
Why are we so happy? Because things are going our way in so many ways the most important of which is the impressive numbers of local election gains we have made this year. We made 45 gains in May and since then have added 14 more with gains from all Parties except the Green Party which has had no elections to defend! Last night we gained a seat in NE Derbyshire which had been a ‘black hole’ in the best of times. Our vote there went from 0 to 38%. Our vote in Newcastle went up by 18%. Our vote in Shropshire did not increase. It is often difficult to get the vote up when you are on 60%+ anyway! For the second week in a row the big losers were Labour followed closely by UKIP which has all but disappeared in terms of real votes. The Green performance has been mediocre in the few seats they have bothered to fight.
The Labour and Tory votes are particularly interesting. In wards and areas where they are already strong their vote usually increases or at worst drifts down slightly. In marginal wards their vote appears to be plummeting and in Labour’s case appears to be in free fall. This was perhaps best seen in Mosborough (Sheffield) last week where 3 weeks after a huge Corbyn Rally Labour lost a seat badly to the Lib Dems. This brought about anguished blog articles and tweets from Labour MPs and activists with widely differing views about why this happened.
So the message is that in real elections where real people express real votes the Lib Dems are doing well. Every extra vote we get and especially every seat we get gives more confidence to our rapidly expanding membership. The confidence means we are fighting more seats and that means we sign more people up, win more seats etc., etc.
The Lib Dem army will be snatching a bit of a break for the next four days as we work together in Brighton to develop the policies and people who can take our Party even further up the slope of success.
We are a united Party. Tim Farron and our other 7 MPs are incredibly popular. Tim, in particular, has caught the spirit of the moment with his very strong expressions and policies for the relationships that the UK must forge post Brexit. There are two lessons here for other Parties. We not only like our Leader but we also like what he is saying. There are no personality splits amongst our membership and no schisms on principles or policies. We are all in the same Party because we have the same beliefs and the same desire to put them into practice.
That does not mean that we agree on everything. I have considerable reservations about the main policy motion and support document that is up for debate. It’s not that I oppose much that is in it but I do not believe that it goes far enough in the radical change that I believe is necessary for the way we are governed and the way in which our policies will reach to those who most need a new approach to things like benefit, poverty and employment.
But when I disagree I will do so with courtesy which I know will be reciprocated. Political argument and discussion should not mean political squabbling and bickering. By listening to others and being prepared to modify your views you jointly arrive at better, more practical and better thought through decisions than you can make yourself.
Liverpool will feature in a number of ways. We have been nominated in 3 out of 6 categories for awards given by our Councillors and campaigning body ALDC. Tim Farron will be launching a leadership booklet that he asked me to write which talks about the longevity of our electoral success in Liverpool and why the sun is shining for us once more in this City. The booklet features Sir Trevor Jones and Tim will reflect on Trevor’s role in the Party both in Liverpool and nationally.
There will be a strong Liverpool contingent present and many of them will speak in debates which we will post on our Liverpool Lib Dems Facebook page. Paul Childs will summate the debate on PReP and the need for the NHS to provide suitable drugs to prevent HIV infection. We will talk about Europe, Health, Devolution and so many things that need to ebb done. Our councillors, MPs and Lords will leave the conference refreshed and ready to do battle with the forces of darkness!
I have been a member of this party for 49 years (boy and boy I like to think!) but I can never recall a time of greater joy in our Party as we face the challenges ahead. A huge influx of bright and committed new members linked to the skills and experiences of us older hands provides a great base for recovery.
We haven’t made the headlines because of leadership elections; squabbles; spats or policy disagreements. We are beginning to achieve a success level that has come to the attention of the media because of our continued membership and vote increase. Let me say it one last time for ‘Jones the Vote, “I love those votes!!!”
Watch this space and our Facebook page for updates of what we are up to.