I’ve just been out delivering the first of our EU leaflets in Church Ward after joining a canvassing team in Woolton yesterday. I have been struck by two things whilst I have been out. Firstly, the pleasure that people have had at the election of Barbara Mace in Woolton and myself in Church Ward. It was like going to a family ‘do’ with people shaking hands and wishing us well. Secondly, the clear fact that no other pro Remain Party will be able to mobilise a Pro-EU campaign anywhere near as effectively as we can.
The gain of 704 council seats on Thursday of which 53 were in the North West was a tremendous boost to our Party. We now have approximately 2,600 councillors and this is the highest proportion of Lib Dem councillors in England for 9 years. It has given us:
A strengthened public presence in both the short and long-terms. The TV and newspaper headlines on Friday and Saturday were about us and for all the right reasons. Some of the journalists claimed it was just a protest vote that we always get. I’ve no problem with that statement. There is one hell of a lot going wrong to protest about. But the statement just isn’t true. One of the reasons that people voted for us was because we have a very clear Remain position. As one Church Ward resident put it just before voting for me, “I don’t really agree with your position on BREXIT but at least I know what it is!”. Pro Remain Parties gained more than 900 seats and pro Brexit Parties lost more than 1,300. That is not a coincidence.
Every Lib Dem Councillor has a greater opportunity to attract attention in the media within their community and their council chamber. The media will continually have to seek our view on major issues given our enhanced position.
An enhanced capacity for fighting elections. More than two thirds of our Party and more than half the councillors elected on Thursday were not Party members prior to the General Election in 2015. Since that time new members have learnt the ropes of fighting elections and have become skilled campaigners. In our case we have a number of people who can use the excellent technology that we have far more effectively than me. They have brought a range of new skills into the Party and have not only enthused themselves but enthused old hacks like me who kept on going through the grim years of the Coalition Government.
These skills are absolutely vital. Winning as a third party does not depend on what happens in Westminster or what happens on the telly. It depends on effective action and the gaining of name recognition on the ground. We work harder because we want to and we work harder because we have to.
More financial resources. Almost every Lib Dem Councillor contributes part of their earnings towards the production of the Focus leaflets which are our main source of communication with the people that we represent. The new councillors are likely to contribute about £500,000 a year to ward funds which is a huge boost for a Party such as ours.
As I look at the political landscape now, I see that both Labour and Tory Parties are, at their highest level and in their policy pronouncements clearly pro-Brexit. Despite the fact that Brexit will badly hit our public services and the wages and jobs of the poorest in our community Corbyn insists on leaving the EDU so that he can build a socialist utopia in the UK. Those were the dreams of Mao Tse Tung in China and Stalin in Russia and look at how those worked out.
There is nothing in the EU which would prevent the Labour Party from renationalising railways if it wanted or increase the minimum wage or provide more money for the NHS and education. In fact, the converse is true. According to the Bank of England we’ve already lost £56 billion in national income because of Brexit and that can only get worse.
It is absolutely clear that although there are some people in both of these Parties who believe in both a second vote and Remain that the Parties as a whole are committed to leaving the EU.
So, who is in favour of Remaining and having a ‘People’s Vote’, apart from the Lib Dems of course? Crucially, which Party is the most likely to get MEPs elected in the North West of England.
This second questions should be one for close consideration by those who want to strike a blow for Remain.
Plaid Cymru and the SNP are clearly established Parties in their own parts of the UK and have a track record of winning but not in England!
The Green Party have never won an EU place in the North West and on the basis of last Thursday’s elections seem unlikely to this time. They advanced only marginally in the Region and seem unlikely to be able to get a decent campaign going given the fact that it will cost at least £50,000 to get a leaflet out to every house through the Election Freepost system.
Change UK seem unlikely to make much of an impact. They badly bungled their launch as a Party and we have yet to see what their manifesto is. Being for the EU is good but we don’t know what sort of EU and what sort of other policies flow into and out of that. They clearly lack any infrastructure to enable them to fight an election of this scale or indeed at any scale. I’ve no doubt that some rich London based donors will provide the cash to enable them to use a mailing house to get the Freepost but that is not enough. Small Parties need foot soldiers who know what they are doing.
Just as an aside I still hold out a hand of friendship to them but this is becoming harder to maintain since they rejected the suggestions from Vince that we should work together on these elections and had a policy (which has totally failed) of shafting the Lib Dems by attracting our Councillors, Parliamentary candidates and donors.
Some people will say that it doesn’t matter because people are elected to the EU parliament under a proportional representation system. This is only partly true. It is a very unsubtle system under which it would be possible for the Greens; Change UK and the Lib Dems each to get 7% or so of the vote and not end up with an MEP between them in the North West.
So, my conclusion, which you might think is biased, is that in this specific election there is only one effective way to cast a pro-EU vote and that is for the Liberal Democrats. That’s what we will be on the streets encouraging people to do and we are extremely hopeful that people will listen and lend us their vote on May 23rd no matter how they might cast their vote in other elections.