Five Reasons For Lib Dems to be Optimistic

The May 7th General election results were shattering but not unexpected. However here are five reasons why I am optimistic about our future.

1) There was no major surge in Tory support.
Although they won by a clear majority, the Tory national share of the vote only increased fractionally from 36.1% in 2010 to 36.9% in 2015 an increase of just 0.8%
In contrast the Lib Dem vote decreased by 15.2%. From 23.1% in 2010 to just 7.9% in 2015. So the loss of so many seats was due to our own vote going to, Labour, Green, UKIP and the Nationalists with very little going to the Tories.

2) UKIP, GREEN, Labour and Nationalist Support has peaked.
These parties all took a substantial share of the Lib Dem vote. They all received massive press and media coverage during the run up to the election. However I think their support has peaked. UKIP support actually peaked in 2014 and support has been drifting down since. They failed to make a breakthrough and are riven by infighting at the moment. Likewise for the Labour party, who will spend years looking inwards whilst trying to re align itself.

3) Lib Dems are now free from the Tories
Although the coalition provided stable government and achieved much, it was never directly endorsed by the voting public and joining with the Tories and breaking promises was seen as a betrayal to many voters. In many areas in the North and Scotland the Tories are seen as unrepresentative and toxic.

4) Over 12 000 New Members
This is a massive vote of confidence for the Lib Dem cause. I think many people thought the Lib Dems had been too harshly punished and they wanted to support its values. Many of these new members are young people who will provide a dynamic force to help rebuild our party. In Worcester our new members, will help us get our message across more effectively. This will to help us win Council seats and provide better representation throughout the City.
5) There must be an opposition.
I have confidence that the voting public will try to ensure there is an effective opposition. The Lib Dems have benefited from this in the past. But any party has to be united, professional, realistic and have clear and distinct policies. In many areas of the country the Lib Dems still provide this opposition. Hopefully with time and effort we can strengthen our voice and expand these areas and maybe one day replace Labour as the main opposition.

This article was written by Worcester Lib Dem Chairman Mike Mullins.

For more info on the Lib Dems both locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – Worcester Liberal Democrats

GE2015 : What Went Wrong

The 2015 election is certainly not one to remember for the Liberal Democrats. Losing many great MPs like David Laws and Vince Cable will certainly take a long time to recover from, but what exactly went wrong and why did we do much worse than forecast.

  1. Triumph of fear over hope.

There is no doubt that the Conservative tactics of pitting England against Scotland worked for them. The idea of a Labour-SNP coalition was too much for many centre ground floating voters who voted tactically for them. Instead of defending their record and talking about the real issues the Conservatives instead spent the campaign promoting English nationalism and spreading fear. This tactic did for many of our MPs in Tory-LD marginal in the southern regions of England. Whilst it has worked in the short term it will cause problems for David Cameron over the course of the next parliament as he governs a hugely divided country with little support north of the border.

  1. SNP Success

The unprecedented success of the SNP north of the border was too much for both ourselves and Labour. Swings of up to 39% (Portillo in 1997 was 17%) meant that virtually no one was able to survive the SNP tide. Huge credit has to go to Alistair Carmichael in Orkney and Shetland who managed to hold on to his seat. The Scots have inadvertently let David Cameron back in to Downing Street. The double whammy of a reduced opposition force of Lib Dem and Labour MPs and the aforementioned scare tactics employed by the Tories in England mean that the success of the SNP has directly led to a Conservative majority – ironically the thing they were trying to stop at all costs.

  1. Lack of campaign clarity

It certainly seemed at times that we were unsure of how to position themselves against Labour and the Conservatives. On one hand they were defending the record of the coalition government which alienated many of the left-leaning supporters who voted for us in 2010 and on the other we distanced ourselves from it which persuaded many centre-right voters to ditch them for the Conservatives. Whilst promoting the balanced and sensible approach is certainly a credible and sensible position to take, it left many not knowing what the party stands for other than limiting the excesses of the others.

In spite of the hammering we got last night we know that Liberalism and values of fairness and liberty will never die. It will take a long time to recover from this but there is no doubt that we will. Over the next parliament it will become apparent that much of the work done by Lib Dem MPs was sensible and worthwhile and a Tory government lurching off to the right will show the electorate that they made a mistake this time.

Why Vote Liberal Democrat!

The General Election in 2015 is the most unpredictable in a generation.

It is fairly likely that there will be a hung parliament, with no party having an overall majority, but past that it is impossible to say what the result will be. Many of the potential combinations or coalitions would create uncertainty and threaten all the hard work done over the course of the last parliament to rectify the damage done to the economy during the financial crisis of the late noughties. A Conservative-UKIP government promises a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, leading to uncertainty, particularly among business and instability whilst a Labour-SNP coalition would lead to an increased nationalist agenda and the politics of division and blame, increasing tension between England and Scotland. Only the Liberal Democrats in government, limiting the extremes of both left and right, can provide Britain with the stability it needs to create a stronger economy and a fairer society for all.

It is also important to recognise the vital contribution made by Liberal Democrats in government. Many of our achievements have been overlooked by the media, but will certainly provide long-term benefits to the country. Some of the most important changes made by Liberal Democrats have come in education. We have ensured that all pupils in Key Stage 1 (Reception-Year 3) receive a hot and healthy school meal, free of charge, saving parents an average of £437 per year. The £2.5bn pupil premium scheme,

Nick Cleggdesigned to reduce attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds, has been implemented despite strong opposition from then education secretary, Michael Gove. This will ensure that all children, regardless of their financial or ethnic background will have an equal start in life. We have also restructured the tuition fees system, which has already started to have an effect. In 2014, more people than ever applied to attend university, including more from disadvantaged backgrounds and more from ethnic minorities. This shows that the change, lambasted by the media and political opponents alike, has not had the drastic effects on university applications as they predicted. Despite the rise in overall fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year, the poorest 30% of graduates actually pay back less than they did under the old system. This is because the threshold at which you start repaying has risen from £15,000pa to £21,000. This means that all graduates pay back less per month than before (see table), and the lowest earning 30% of graduates actually pay back less overall as the dStudent_finance_tableebt is wiped after 30 years.

Healthcare, in particular mental health has also been a priority for the Liberal Democrats in government. Putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health is one of the key barriers in overcoming the long held stigma attached to such conditions. That is why Liberal Democrats have changed the NHS constitution to reflect this, putting us on a pathway to better understanding and funding of mental health issues. This has already begun to take place; with a 160% increase to £66 million in funding for dementia research and a £440 million investment to ensure psychological therapies are available to all, including children and adolescents. Liberal Democrats have also made progress in improving social care standards, something which is vital in ensuring the elderly and the most vulnerable in our society are looked after humanely and compassionately. This is why we have embarked on a professionalistaion of the industry. As of March 2015, all care workers must have a certificate proving that they are qualified within 12 weeks of starting work. This will ensure that atrocities such as those at the Rose Villa care home in Bristol in 2011, where patients with mental illnesses were physically abused, never happen again.

The Liberal Democrats have also done a lot of work to counter the politics of fear spread by the likes of UKIP over Britain’s position on Europe and on immigration. When times are tough for many people, due to extensive Tory cuts which punish those at the bottom with policies such as the so-called ‘Bedroom tax’ whilst giving a tax cut to rich (top rate of tax down from 50% to 45%), it is human nature to try and find a simple solution to a complex problem. UKIP and Nigel Farage have exploited peoples fears for electoral gain, saying that everything; from lack of school places and affordable housing to traffic congestion is a result of eastern Europeans settling in Britain. There is also a portrayal in the media of Poles and Romanians as benefit cheats and as people who do not pay their way. Both of these are untrue as statistics show that immigrants actually pay more into the tax pot than they take out and immigrants are also less likely to claim benefits than people who were born in this country. During every ‘wave’ of immigration experienced in the UK, from the Indians and Pakistanis of the 1950s and 60s to the present day, doom-mongerers have proclaimed that Britain will be irreversibly affected for the worse. On each and every occasion they have been proved wrong; immigration has culturally and economically enriched this country and will continue to do so. Liberal Democrats are proud of our pro-European, pro-immigration stUnknown-1ance and will continue to support hard working people, wherever they are from.

So there is the Liberal Democrat perspective on three key election areas; education, health and immigration. For information on other areas such as the economy, environment and welfare among others visit the website www.libdems.org.uk.

For more on the Worcester Lib Dems follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and like our Facebook page – it’s Worcester Liberal Democrats

5 Key Questions: Federica Smith to the Worcester News

Here, the Lib Dem PPC for Worcester Federica Smith answers 5 key questions put to her by readers of the Worcester News:

How do we solve the city’s congestion problems?

I am surprised that, with the population of the city and with it being served by two motorway junctions and various main roads (including bus lanes) running through it, the city currently has no large-scale park and ride scheme in operation.

In order to change people’s habit and lifestyle, public transport needs to be accessible, including in financial terms, and operate seven days a week for long hours with commuters being able to park out of town.

Congestion is also apparent during the school run, so improved and subsidised transport to schools could also assist in alleviating the problem.

Reopening of the Perdiswell Park and Ride scheme would look to alleviate the commuter and visitor-caused congestion, though other initiatives need to be implemented, including better cycle routes and cycle storage facilities to allow a sustainable alternative.

What is your biggest concern for Worcester?

The biggest concern that I see for Worcester is the large- scale developments planned without the necessary infrastructure to support them.

By implementing mass housing development without holistically looking at the whole picture and the impact that this has on services (traffic, schools, healthcare services, etc), this development will have a detrimental impact on the current residents.

While housing will increase the population and look to grow the local economy, and while bearing in mind that there are areas for commercial development within the plan, one must be wary that the city does not become sedentary and just a commuter development for other cities, e.g. Bristol, Birmingham.

The city should be proud of its heritage and what its individual selling point is.

It should attract business to the area so that jobs are created in the city, and it should develop the high street so that it has a unique selling point with a mixture of national retail and independent shops.

All this would allow the city to thrive.

Is the answer to Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s challenges an upgrade of A&E?

The staff at A&E are doing the best job that they can do in a building that was never designed to see the number of patients that are currently using the facilities.

An upgrade of A&E is only part of the answer, but would help to alleviate the strains that are currently being faced.

However, this needs to go hand in hand with other healthcare initiatives around the city and surrounding region.

Investments in GP surgeries, so more unsocial hours are covered so that individuals can see their GP for minor ailments, and minor injuries facilities in locations throughout the city would both assist in helping to tackle the challenges.

Is it worth campaigning over Worcester’s Northern Link Road?

The development of the Northern Link Road is estimated to cost more than £100 million and it has to be considered whether the cost of implementing such a scheme would alleviate the problems of congestion and would it be the best use of such a large sum of money.

For this reason, I support the current emphasis on improving the southern bypass first.

A Northern Link Road would impact many people’s lives, cutting through large swathes of land, altering the countryside surrounding the city and having an impact on the environment.

All of this would, of course, need to be weighed up against what it is ultimately trying to achieve.

Is there – and should there be – an alternative to the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP)?

Any development plan will have contentious issues in it for the residents directly affected.

However, a plan needs to be in place so developers are not completely left to their own control and not allowed to build just anywhere, and so that the growth of the city is managed from a bird’s eye view, with infrastructure put in place to support it.

Article taken from Worcester News

For more info on the Liberal Democrats locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on Facebook – the page is Worcester Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Disability Manifesto

Below is an article taken from the BBC News website about the launch of new funds helping carers, some of the hardest working people in our society. 

The Liberal Democrats will launch a disability manifesto on Thursday pledging a £150m support package for carers.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will promise a raft of benefits for carers including a £250 holiday bonus.

One in eight adults across England and Wales provide unpaid care for family or friends, official figures show.

Mr Clegg said more must be done to reward the “unsung heroes of British society”.

Other measures to be announced at the launch in Brecon, Powys, include increasing from £110 per week to £150 the amount people can earn without losing their carer’s allowance.

Under the plan, the NHS will have a legal duty to identify carers and a new “carer’s passport” will offer privileges such as free hospital parking, gym sessions and cinema tickets.

The party would also consult with businesses to offer five days’ paid “care leave” a year.

The annual holiday bonus would start at £125 in 2017/18 and would be paid for by a levy on tobacco firms’ profits. It would rise to £250 by 2020 in line with economic growth.

The money is aimed at easing costs for people looking after family members needing weekly support of 35 hours or more.

The Lib Dems expect the measures to benefit more than a million people, costing the government £150m a year in 2017-18, rising to £300m a year by 2020.

Mr Clegg said: “More needs to be done to help carers get the support they deserve.”

He added: “Our new £150 million Carer’s Package will ensure society pays back the service that carers give to their loved ones and the community”.

For more on the Worcester Liberal Democrats follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on Facebook – the page is Worcester Liberal Democrats.

Q and A with Federica Smith, Liberal Democrat PPC for Worcester

Here is the second of our Q and A’s with our local and national candidates for the upcoming 2015 elections. Here Federica Smith tells us a bit about herself and why she is a Liberal Democrat

Federica

1. When and why did you become a Lib Dem?
I have been an activist in the party for over 15 years, firstly assisting my mum with delivery and telling and then I undertook my work experience with Jackie Ballard (MP for Taunton at the time). Since then I have continued to help the party through all manner of differing roles and joined officially whilst at University.  In looking at why i became a Lib Dem, its something i have always felt that I am, I share the common values of the party in looking to want to help all people in society and make the country a better place. It is just something that I am rather than what I have become and feels a natural part of me.
2. Which Lib Dem policy is most important to you?
I genuinely believe in all of our policies however if i were to pick one, i would say that it is our early years funding policy that is most important to me. Even before I had children, i have always valued the education that our state schools provide and the role that a good education has for being successful and given each child the opportunity to reach their own individual potential. However it is our early years funding that goes that further step by looking to help our children achieve what is required ready for when they start primary school, it is looking to provide every child regardless of their background, the same opportunity though given funding to the most disadvantaged children, where research has shown, have fallen behind by the time they start school. This in a generation will look to further Britain’s success by more of our children reaching their own potential and giving them a positive start to their learning experience.
3. What do you like about the Worcester constituency?
In the several visits that i have had to the constituency since being selected, I am impressed by the political engagement of the residents and organisations within the city along with the interest that the media play. This ensures that more residents have the chance to interact with the candidates and form opinions on the individuals that would like to represent them.
The city itself is beautiful and I am enjoying learning about its rich history. It has many attributes to celebrate with a dynamic and prosperous shopping facilities in the centre with a lovely mix of chains and independent stores (Something i enjoy doing in my spare time), great leisure and sports facilities and lovely countryside nearby and green spaces to relax in
It feels very much like where i grew up with a slightly bigger and more economically successful centre yet still warm and inviting with great character.
4. What will you do if you are elected?
If I were elected, i would firstly want to meet more of the residents of the city as my priority is being an approachable MP that listens but also takes action.
I would look to attend as many events as I can, supporting residents, organisations, schools and businesses within the city as well as looking to represent you in parliament, ensuring that the voice of the city is heard in London.
For more info on the Liberal Democrats locally and nationally follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on facebook – the page is Worcester Liberal Democrats

Q and A with Mel Allcott – City Council Candidate for Claines Ward

The deadline for election nomination passed last Thursday and Claines resident Melanie Allcott was confirmed as the Liberal Democrat candidate for the ward.

Below is a Q and A about why she got involved with her local Liberal Democrat party and why wants to make a difference in her area.

1. When and why did you become a Lib Dem?  
A supporter of the Liberal Democrat Party for some time I became a member in 2010.  I joined to participate in a fair, sensible and well balanced party, offering a real alternative to the extremes of the right and left.  Unable to trust the Labour Party with the economy or the Conservative party with Health or Education, I knew the Liberal Democrat Party was the right for me.
2. Which Lib Dem policy is most important to you?
The most important policy to me is A Stronger Economy in a Fairer Society.  A sustainable and balanced economy is key to the success of the United Kingdom; we need to create job opportunities for all, within both the Public and Private sector.  The 2010 Liberal Democrat policy of increasing the Personal Tax allowance, has been a real success, delivering an actual tax cut, for millions.  The Liberal Democrat manifesto plans to further build on this, increasing the allowance from £10,600 to £12,500, by the end of the next parliament.
3. What do you like about the Claines Ward?
Claines is a delightful ward to live in.  Both urban and rural, it has a unique feel, benefitting from a range of public and private facilities and important green spaces.  There is a real sense of community here. Residents are kind, thoughtful and always prepared to help each other out.  I love the way I can look out of my front window and see either someone I know walk by, a car drive by or a couple of horses and their riders trot by!
4. What will you do if you are elected?
I want to keep Claines the delightful unique, pleasant and safe area that it is, for current and future generations.
I will work hard to preserve both the Green Belt and the green open spaces.  The Green Belt to the North of Worcester is in place, to maintain the rural environment around the edge of city, preventing urban sprawl with other nearby towns and cities.  Green spaces include areas such as The Lodge on Northwick Road.
I will object to speculative development where existing infrastructure and services are not in place, to meet the increased demand.  It is important that development follows a structured, realistic plan, to meet the needs of new and existing residents.  The South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) is the relevant planning document to Claines Ward, covering all areas of Worcester City Council, Wychavon District Council and Malvern Hill District Council.
Thinking about sport and recreation, I will support both the provision of a new swimming pool plus a move back home, for Worcester City Football Club.  Gheluvelt Park has been much improved over the years and is a real asset to the area, enjoyed by many, I will support the continued good upkeep plus further enhancements to the park.
In terms of employment and infrastructure I will support local apprenticeships and employment opportunities within the area, also looking to improve and maintain the condition of footpaths and roads as necessary.
A genuine, local resident, I will be on hand, to help residents as required.
If you would like more information on our candidates and the Liberal Democrats both locally and nationally, you can follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs and on Facebook – the page is entitled ‘Worcester Liberal Democrats.