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.

Labour’s ‘Save Our Parks’ Lie

I recently found a video on YouTube produced by Worcester Labour entitled ‘Save Our Parks – Green Ribbon Campaign’. 

It opens with Worcester Labour PPC and Councillor Joy Squires saying how the future of our parks is ‘under threat’. Fellow councillors Adrian Gregson and Richard Udall go on to make alarming comments about the possibility of turnstiles at parks and the idea that they may not remain free to use.

This video was made in response to the Conservative lead council’s plans to outsource various council run services in order to reduce costs. Under the proposals the council would still maintain overall control of the parks; – contrary to what the video suggests which is that they would be handed over to a private company who would then be free to apply entrance charges for use of various aspects of the parks

Whilst Worcester Liberal Democrats do not necessarily support the outsourcing proposals in principle, if it is able to save the £500,000 of taxpayers money that is estimated, then surely it should be considered.

Labour’s scaremongering and use of the ‘p’ word is misleading and may give people completely unjust fears about the proposals which we don’t believe is right.

Liberal Democrats in Worcester will always seek to ensure that Worcester’s parks are in the best possible condition but will also try and find the best possible deal for council tax payers.

‘Labour’s contempt of the working classes’

Article by Michael Collins, published in the 21st November 2014 edition of the Independent – supplied by Worcester Lib Dem Chairman, Mike Mullins

What is striking about the Emily Thornberry affair is not that a Labour minister has “shown contempt for the working class”, as has been suggested, but that this should be a surprise.

This contempt wasn’t a clause in the party’s constitution, but increasingly it came close to being a policy within the past fifty years – finally becoming official in the 1990s when the Labour government embraced an open-door approach to immigration, fully aware that it would be opposed by the masses. And so – it didn’t tell them. It kept the news within its ranks in the hallowed halls of Westminster, and at north London dinner parties far from the postcodes where white vans are parked and the flag of St George flies. Well, it certainly smelt like contempt.

Part of the Labour party story – beyond the fleeting triumphs and the false dawns – has been that of championing an image of the working class, while showing contempt for the working class that fails to fit this image.  Way back, this was anyone who wanted to own their own home, run their own business, watch ITV, send their kids to grammar school, or live next door to people they felt they had something in common with. This changed over time, thankfully. The party realised that the multitude didn’t exist in some folksy, prelapsarian, mythical north somewhere in the 1930s.

The perennials of unemployment, housing lists and the north-south divide persisted, but essentially the outlook and the aspirations of the working class changed.  What didn’t was the party’s failure to address concerns among the multitude – immigration, multiculturalism, Europe –  that didn’t fit with the image in which it had cast the average bloke, whoever he was. (As a cub reporter the late Gilbert Harding charged into a pub and bellowed: “Where will I find the average man?” Only to discover that every example was the exception to the rule).

From the off, those early supporters of the Labour party, the Fabians Beatrice and Sidney Webb,  showed contempt for the leisure of the working class. Those steeped in the internationalism of the hard left, and the self-loathing of the soft-centre, never understood the patriotism of the British working class – something that was an extension of the neighbourhood, as surely as this was an extension of the street, and the street an extension of the home, for those that had little else to align themselves with. Along with  this came an insularity, localism, collectivism (that was celebrated), but equally, a negative reaction to outsiders arriving en masse and changing the cultural landscape (which was condemned).

Seeing the image tweeted by Labour’s now former shadow attorney general, it’s as though this concept of the working class is being held up to ridicule. The absence of an accompanying comment appears to underline this. Thornberry’s fatal faux pas has been compared with that of Gordon Brown’s almighty  slip-up, when he was heard to refer to Labour voter Gillian Duffy as a bigot for daring to raise the taboo of immigration. Chances are this might have a similar impact.

Emily Thornberry claims there was no malice aforethought in her eagerness to keep her Twitter followers updated on her day out. It was simply that she never comes across such sights on the Islington street in which she lives. But we all live in a culture where such cries of innocuousness and innocence are redundant. It’s a culture that the Labour party itself has created – a false triumph you could argue – and now it has come along and bitten one of its own on the rear. Before, and certainly beyond the era of the Macpherson Report and its thought crime of “unwitting prejudice”, we had to be seen to be offended, and often on the behalf of others; of being guilty until proven innocent; of giving interpretation precedence over intention. How ironic, that it should now be a character so much part of that culture who has been condemned and forced to apologise and resign – the very stereotype and caricature, no less: a multi-millionaire, Islington-living, Labour minister who married well, and created her riches in the nebulous but lucrative field of human rights law.

The stereotypical white van man with his St George flag, must be absolutely relishing this as he prepares to give his vote to another party. Just like so many of his number in Rochester, Clacton, and Heywood and Middleton.

For more info on the Worcester Liberal Democrats, follow us on Twitter @worcesterlibs

GE2015: The Choice Could Not Be Clearer

The upcoming General Election is set to be one of the most closely fought in a generation. The UK’s two-party system has been blown out if the water and many parties, who for years could only dream of getting elected, are now relishing the prospect of having the balance of power in what is looking like an inevitable hung parliament. The choice you make will have a huge impact on the country. The following article should help you make your decision.

There are 6 parties who could realistically be in government, in one way or another, after the 2015 election. These are the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP and the SNP. You probably already know which one I will be voting for (Look at the web address!). This article is designed to help you, the voter, make an informed choice.

Conservatives – A party who seem to be hell-bent on making life worse for most people whilst maintaining the wealth of the rich. They claim to be making ‘difficult decisions’ which include, incidentally, changing the highest band of tax from 50% to 45% whilst cutting sure start centres and welfare payments for the most vulnerable. George Osborne recently set out what he would do if he were allowed to set his own budgets without a Lib Dem influence which includes a further £50 billion of ideological cuts which would see the state shrink to a size last seen in the 1930’s. A chunk of this would come out of local government, effecting local services such as buses and walk-in health centres.

Recent revelations also suggest a party in complete disarray with Home Secretary, Theresa May reportedly ignoring orders from Cameron after he fired two of her special advisers. It has resulted in a stand-off with May trying to gather support for a leadership challenge, should the Tories lose the election. Can we trust these people to govern us?

Labour – A party trying to distance themselves from the previous Labour regime, but oddly containing many of the same members – Miliband, Harman, Balls, Burnham, Alexander and Benn were all part of the Cabinet that lead the country into the deepest recession in living memory. Do you want to go back to those dark days? More worryingly, the party seems void of new, innovative ideas. On the economy, they have no credible plan to balance the books, only the current account. There is no doubt, that under Labour, borrowing would increase and the UK’s economic recovery put at risk.

They also claim to be the guardians of the NHS, saying that they are the only party that can be trusted with it. Seems very strange considering that the first privatised hospital was Hinchingbrooke in 2007, under the Labour government. They also gave sweeteners to private firms looking to invest in the NHS, something reversed as a result of Lib Dem policy in the current government.

UKIP – A party beautifully described as ‘angry men in suits’ this week by Nick Clegg. Everything seems to be the fault of Eastern European, congestion, housing shortages, unemployment (which is falling!) among other things. On top of this they do seem to attract a wide variety of ‘interesting’ candidates with antiquated views including Roger Helmer, an elected MEP who once supported gay conversion therapy and is against same-sex marriage, along with Kerry Smith, a PPC who was recorded using offensive language towards Asians and homosexuals. Whilst these views are not necessarily the views of the party, the prospect of being governed by people like this is a worrying one indeed.

Greens – A party that has taken over the far-left, abandoned by Labour in the late 1980’s. They make big promises which upon further inspection are unachievable, At council level, they pledge to install cavity wall insulation in ALL houses, without suggesting how to pay for it. They promise to make the ‘living wage’ legislation, against the advice of the independent Low Pay Commission, thus effecting employment numbers. Whilst in principle, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats have quite a lot in common, we recognize that the economy and reducing public expenditure is as vital as maintaining public services.

SNP – A one cause party in denial. Their dream of Scottish independence appeared to over for another generation, but Alex Salmond has other ideas. Even though Scotland voted against independence, he is willing to jeopardise the prospects of businesses again by pushing for greater autonomy, through Westminster, pushing Scotland further away from the UK. No does not mean no to this party and voters should be aware that every move they make is geared towards one thing; independence.

So this leaves only one party…..the Lib Dems. Whilst mistakes have been made, largely due to only having 1/6 of the power in the cabinet, many of the policies set out in the 2010 manifesto have been carried out. The pupil premium, free school meals, taking 26 million out of tax the list goes on. When a pledge was broken, Clegg offered an unreserved apology – when have you ever seen a politician do that! In addition, Lib Dems ensured that average monthly repayments for graduates fell! So if you want a government that works for a stronger economy and a fairer desire without the ideological austerity of the Conservatives or the irresponsibility of Labour then voting Lib Dem is the way to go.

For more news on the Worcester Lib Dems follow our Twitter page, @worcesterlibs