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?
- Our membership will continue to grow to reach 90,000 by the end of 2017
- We will gain at least one more seat in Parliament
- We will gain at least 125 seats in May and at least 25 in council by-elections through the year.
- We will become the third biggest grouping at the LGA.
- 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.
- 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.