Tiverton shows that the toxicity of 2010-2015 is gone

The Liberal Democrats’ by-election candidate Richard Foord and his wife Kate are greeted by supporters as they arrive at the Lords Meadow Leisure Centre, in Crediton, He eft the count as the new Lib Dem MP for the area.

Well, what a night that was. No-one in their wildest dreams would have predicted a majority of that size for Richard Foord in Tiverton & Honiton. The biggest majority demolished in history. A strong MP was elected who will fight for the area and fight for all of us in demolishing the sleaze ridden Tory Government.

I spent two days there on in the by-election and it was clear that there was change in the air. I came across a group of four people my age having breakfast in their garden. I stopped to chat (it’s what we Scousers do!). All of them had been life-long Tories but the conversation went on, “you’ve got four votes here.”

This, however, would not be just a protest vote. They were people who wanted to see a new way of doing politics. It isn’t just Partygate although that is an exemplar for all the ills. It’s the arrogance, incompetence, mates rates schemes. All exemplified by the clown of the Parliamentary Conservatives Jacob Rees-Mogg. Tories complain that Labour want to take the UK back to the 1970s. That’s not enough for Rees-Mogg. He wants to take us back to the 1870s!

These people and many others that I talked to went further than this. They wanted two things:
Firstly, a strong local champion who saw the constituency as a place to do this, to create partnerships, to change lives and not someone who was there dreaming of future glory and honours. In that context Richard reminded me so much of another former soldier, Ald Frank Doran, who passed away yesterday.

Secondly, they wanted someone who talked about the real issues that people face every day. Real problems with farming, the cost of living, local hospitals, local transport, local schools. Richard Foord will be such a person. In that he will be like every other Lib Dem MP all of whom are based in their constituency on a regular basis, live in their constituency and go from there to Parliament as a representative and not a delegate.

It was interesting to note the way that the two Parties behaved so differently. I was one of more than 2,000 people who arrived from all over the Country to help our candidate get over the line. So came many more miles than I did. We paid for our accommodation and our transport. We did so with a huge heart and a strong belief that our Party is the one that is needed to change the way politics get done.

But look at the Tories. On Tuesday, the local Tory chair appealed to their members to turn up at 5 a.m. on polling day to mount a dawn raid, whatever that means! The I-news reporter turned up to see how many had responded to that call. The answer was – 0. Their HQ was locked up whilst ours had already had dozens of volunteers through and the leaflets were flying through doors throughout the constituency. They could not get their own members out never mind encourage voters.

All this was done after the Tory candidate had been concealed for most of the campaign. She then compounded that by hiding in a locked room at the count away from the press and did not wait as is traditional to hear the victor’s speech. It’s a pity that there was no fridge for to hide in so that she could really emulate her leader!

And what of Labour? Well, the pundits who consider these things seem to agree that people are not voting with Labour with any enthusiasm. They are voting against the Tory Party rather than for the Labour Party. That was most clear in Wakefield where a former Tory standing as an Independent took 7% of the vote. That was a very large part of the Labour’s majority given by someone else.

What then of the Progressive Alliance? I believe that it is totally unnecessary. Local people can choose for themselves who can best beat the Tories. I have never seen such a desire to temporarily or permanently give or lend their vote to another Party than the traditional recipient of their vote.

It is clear to me now that the negativity of the Coalition years is over. In fact, for four or five years the only people who have mentioned it are people who would never vote for us under any circumstances. That has now moved to ‘ordinary’ voters. What happened then is nowhere near as important as what should happen today.

I am going out now to deliver some leaflets in the Fazakerley by-election which will take place next week. The problem for us is that in places like Liverpool the Labour Party are the mirror image of the Tory Party nationally. Incompetent, corrupt, infighting, no policy that they can deliver, seeing their wards as a place from which to do things rather than saying it is a place in which to do other things.

I believe that in many places there are places where Labour and the Lib Dems can do things together. But particularly in Labour’s tribal heartlands in the North that would be a step too far.

So, let’s rejoice today, but I know that for most Lib Dems the thoughts are not for the last vote but for the next one. We campaign in our wards and constituencies day in and day out because there is a job to be done which transcends electoral considerations to making things work for our residents.

I have been proud to be a Liberal (Democrat) for 55 years now. This morning it’s easier than most days to put on my metaphorical rosette, reach for my delivery bag and get on with the job of delivering progress for the people of Liverpool.


About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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