UKIP leadership contenders gathering for a pre hustings chat!!
So the Party Conference season is over and I am not sure that we are much the wiser about the where the Parties sit in terms of both their own comfort zones and the policies which they espouse.
Let’s start with the obvious donkey – UKIP. After a fractious conference and a barely supported leadership election a Leader was elected who resigned 18 days later! Nationally their vote in local elections has gone into freefall although they might just gain a seat in unusual circumstances in one today. Locally they have ceased to exist in any real form and are simply no challengers. They only had one policy and they have achieved it. So what are they for? Their policies have now largely been subsumed by the Tory Party which gives another reason for their imminent obsolescence.
The Green Party may or may not have had a good Conference. We weren’t told anything by the press except that what’s her name the previous leader has been replaced by two half leaders! Thingummy-bob from somewhere is one half and Caroline Lucas their only MP is the other half! They too are suffering badly in council by-elections not even contesting more than half the seats coming up. Their vote is in decline and on their own figures their membership is down by 10,000 since December. Why they continue to exist when Momentum and Corbyn have stolen most of their half-baked economic policies is beyond me.
The Labour Conference was great fun for Lib Dems. It’s the only political conference that I have seen where there was more security in the hall than outside it! Corbyn stormed through in the leadership election but I suspect that this will solve nothing. 80% of Labour MPs think he is useless. Some of those might agree to serve in the Shadow Cabinet but only because they will seek to make the best of a bad job. There is no love lost for Corbyn in much of the established Party with a clear vote against him by the experienced members who served the Party and their communities before the mass joining of 2015.
The Boundary reviews will hasten the demise of many MPs who are already looking for a life after 2020. The first signs will be seen in the adoption or not of councillors for local elections. I already know of 2 Labour councillors in Liverpool who have decided to step down at the next set of elections in 2018 because they assume they will be deselected anyway by Momentum led constituency Parties, especially in Riverside.
Parliament resumes next week so you might have thought that Mr Corbyn would want to try and reassemble his shattered Shadow Cabinet in readiness. Instead the popular children’s book “Where’s Wally” was converted to a new political thriller, “Where’s the Wally!” Corbyn was eventually traced wearing sandals and socks on Hadrian’s Wall whilst the rest of the Partty slumbered on without him!
The Tory Party though clearly claims the crown for nastiness. About 10 years ago Theresa May stunned the Party by pointing out that it was seen as the Nasty Party by so many people. Now she leads a Party that is even nastier. She knows the destination of the UK under her leadership – its 1950! Grammar Schools which created an elite and sorted kids into sheep and goats at the age of 11; naming and shaming companies which employ foreign workers; a hard Brexit which will lose easy access by the UK to our major market of the 27 remaining EU Countries; abandonment of human rights. All these and more are part of the rubric for regression which May announced.
But in the real World the Tories are doing badly. They are the big losers in post Brexit by-elections and interestingly 80% of the Lib Dem gains since then have been in areas which voted Leave. Perhaps there is a coalescence of Remainers who realise that Leadership in this area is still possible for those who believe in the European ideal.
So let me turn to the Liberal Democrats. It’s important that we temper our optimism with realism. This year has been an excellent year for us. I cannot report on a leadership election because we haven’t had one! In England after gaining a notional 45 Seats (BBC figures) in May we have stormed through currently having 9 gains and no losses since June 23. BUT we lost the referendum. Lib Dems were the only Party united on this issue. We had no need to fall apart because of that unity. We still have only 8 MPs and at times despite the best efforts fot hsoe 8 struggle to hity the national headlines. BUT the newspapers are beginning to comment on two things. Firstly they are picking up those gains in local elections. Secondly they have noticed the huge rise in membership.
Our membership increase is unbelievable. It is now at the highest level this century. In Liverpool we have more members now than when we controlled the Council. Many of those are becoming activists and will challenge for council seats in the next 2 or 3 years. It is interesting how they have joined us. A huge wave after the General Election; a huge wave after the Referendum. A small wave after Corbyn was re-elected with 300 joining us, almost all Labour members or supporters within 3 hours of the Corbyn victory. A small wave during and after the Tory Conference. Of course there are also small numbers coming in on a daily basis.
I have never seen anything like this in the 50 years I have been a Party member. Not only do we have new members but the surge has brought us experienced and committed members who know what campaigning is all about and want to get on with it in partnership with their new colleagues.
All of which leads us to WITNEY following the desertion of their former MP one dodgy Dave Cameron. I cannot go because I will be travelling overseas next week but people from Liverpool are going. It was great to see a picture of a long queue of Lib Dems waiting to get into the HQ to pick up their work be it delivering or canvassing. In Liverpool we are enthusiastically telephone canvassing and will have our HQ open all day on 20th October to telephone knock up. Donations have also been sent!
The fed back I am getting is very positive for a good result. The people I have spoken already know the candidate although I was not speaking to people in her ward. She has a good reputation and is clearly thought of as a champion for the wider area. But I sense something else as well. A lot of Witney people want to give someone a good kicking. I have spoken to former Tory, Labour and UKIP voters who will be voting Lib Dem on 20th. For the past 6 years it’s been the Lib Dems who above all received the kicking in Parliamentary by-elections! Not this time.
A good result will help turn the tide in perception by the media and general public. Far more votes have already been cast in local by-elections than will be cast in Witney but with a Westminster centric media its Parliamentary by-elections that attract the national headlines. We will come out of the by-election well. Good news leads to more good news and I am very confident as we approach the elections for the English Counties next May.
The Liberal Democrats have turn the tide. We are nowhere near as strong as we were prior to 2010. But a Party that’s united and going upwards as we are; a Party that is attracting the attention of the pro-European and progressive thinkers as we are can go a long way!
Anyone seen how the Liberals in Canada did it there?! Yes I thought you had!