Archives for the month of: June, 2015

You may not think the future of Greece in the European Union is a big deal for the UK individuals, many of whom have never visited the country. It is. A lot rides on whether ANY country leaves the EU. In the case of Greece, it’s all about the money. They owe a fortune in debt, and almost every week there’s a further flurry of negotiations in an effort to sort that out. The problem is nothing really gets resolved so the crisis continues.

‘What’s that got to do with me’ I hear you ask. Well, a lot actually. If Greece leaves, then there is a precedent other countries can use to leave too – including the UK. And that’s not all. A ‘Grexit,’ as it has been called, increases the prospect of a ‘Brexit’ – the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU.
Until now, it has been presented as inconceivable that any existing member of the European Union could possibly walk away when it has entered of its own free will. Thus, one nation going would signal the potential exiting of others.

Again, you might challenge the significance for individuals in the UK. If we leave, there’s a huge implication in terms of our ability to travel around the EU, work there and sell our products there. There’s no possibility at all of the EU leaving our access to the rest of the union un-challenged. If nothing changed for us, then nothing would change for any other country which chose to cut its formal ties with the alliance of nations. As such, there would have to be a punishment for that decision – otherwise there would be no real motivation for anyone to stay in. And those are the stakes created by Greece.

So what will happen? Despite putting the squeeze on Athens, Germany – the most powerful country in the EU – will do all it can to find an accommodation for Greece to remain a member. This will mean some dodging and diving around debt repayments. But pro-EU advocates believe that cost is lower than a fragmented continent.

On the other hand, it’s obvious Greece is not keen on being told what to do by others. That’s a sentiment shared by millions in the UK too. So, we observe powerful forces awakening. In Greece, it’s a high energy stand-off and, as things are, there is no way of telling who is most likely to win out. The same is true in the United Kingdom. All we can say with confidence is that, if Greece goes it alone, the likelihood of the UK doing the same increases.

In what has to date been a lacklustre contest to be the next Liberal Democrat leader, in which a number of hard questions may yet need to be asked and answered, I am nonetheless voting for Tim Farron to take the party forwards once again and give the Liberal Democrats a fresh start.

My reasoning goes all the way back to late January 2006, when a newly-elected Tim came to Reading to give a speech. The context turned out to be a turbulent month which started with the ugly deposition of Charles Kennedy as leader and ended with the Mark Oaten scandal. A generally keen, mostly inexperienced, in several cases newly-recruited set of activists came to a cafe. I can’t recall if I had asked Tim to talk about liberal values and why they were relevant – but that is precisely what he did. Speaking without notes for almost an hour, he gave an inspirational, insightful tour de force of Liberal thought focusing on his heroes T. H. Green and Hobhouse in particular. He answered questions for as long as they came before retreating to Wagamama’s for a bite to eat.

Since then I have (unusually for me) tended to stray into Conference speeches when Tim is speaking. He ‘speaks human’ and while happy to engage on policy detail nonetheless trusts the party enough to avoid micromanaging. But most importantly for the pressing need to campaign the party out of the mess it is in, Tim will lead from the front and connect with people. He achieved the highest voter turnout in his Lake District seat in 2010; no mean achievement. That successful campaigners are backing Tim, from my good friends Greg Mulholland to Neil Fawcett, is no surprise.

As Greg Mulholland also pointed out rapidly after the election, our next leader has to be someone who didn’t break their pledge on tuition fees pledge – otherwise the Liberal Democrats will fight the 2020 election fighting the 2015 campaign on a toxic and misguided decision from 2010.

As I have previously written, the party needs to reassert its Liberal values and identity. Tim has already started the process with a summary of his values. He has also led from the front, challenging the Government on live issues such asOsborne’s misguided RBS sell-off and, better still, has taken up the necessary crusade against Britain’s morally repugnant arms trade.

Rightly, Tim has also been championing the party’s urgent need to be more diverse in our elected representatives. The contest for our London Mayoral candidate between Caroline Pidgeon and Duwayne Brooks does us much credit; it is clear that action will have to be taken to get away from the cadre of white, mostly middle-class men we now have in the House of Commons (no offence to any of them).

I don’t personally hold the damaging actions of a minority of Norman’s supporters against Norman personally. But it is evident that a group of them care more about damaging other candidates’ reputations than the future of the party. The allegations of last weekend are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the party, and I hope people on all sides will refrain from damaging their “other candidate” in a way that will make a hard rebuild even harder.

I am delighted at the positivity of Tim’s campaign. He has been travelling the UK to listen to people and understand how we as members all feel. As I have written before, the party needs a fresh start and to start to look forward once the leadership result is announced. It needs someone to speak truth to power in a way non-politicians understand. While I have a lot of time for Norman and in other circumstances would be better disposed to voting for him – and his skills complement Tim’s in many ways – in the position we are in it just has to be Tim.

There were two by elections at a county or district level held this week.The first was held in Cambridge in the ward of Romsey. This was a Lib Dem seat that was lost to Labour. The actual result was reasonable in the context of other election in the ward, however the party saw their representation at the county level reduced. In the other election in Market and West Deeping in Lincolnshire the party put up a candidate for the first time and they polled reasonably. The result indictated a continued strength for the party, although we may see council seats lost in boroughs or districts that have lost their LIb Dem MP. This will be something to watch for in coming weeks.

UKIP polled poorly in these elections, however the did top the poll and win one of four seats available in a town council election

Lib Dem Future Page related to this county
Labour Zoe Moghadas 829 [37.3%;+5.6%]

LD Nichola Martin 782 [35.2%:-12.7%]
Green 467 [21.0%; +15.1%]
Conservative 100 [4.5%;+0.1%]
UKIP 46 [2.1%;-3.0%]
Majority 47 2.1%
Turnout
Lab gain from LD

2011 result in the town council

Labour Zoe Moghadas 996 33.3 +11.4
Liberal Democrat Raj Shah 870 29.1 -9.0
Green Jamie Gibson 411 13.7 -2.7
Conservative Sam Barker 360 12.0 -2.1
TUSC Tom Woodcock 356 11.9 +2.4

This was a by election held in Romsey in Cambrdge, not related to the parliamentary constituency of Romsey in Hampshire. This election was in the Cambridge constituency which was formerly held for the Lib Dems. The Lib Dem councillor stood down but not in time for the by-election to be held with the General Election. The parliamentary seat was lost in May and now a council seat has flallen to Labour in a by election in that constituency. The Romsey Ward on the town council had been won by Labour’s Zoe Moghadas in 2011 by a wider margin than this victory so although this is nominally a Lib Dem loss it represents a move forward from 2011. Labour also won the seat on the town council. As a result this was a reasonable result for the party but not a strong one.

The county council was a minority Conservative administration with 14 Lib Dems and 7 Labour. This election shifts the balance towards Labour but does not directly affect the political control of the county. UKIP stood but lost ground from a low base.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_(UK_Parliament_constituency)

Lib Dem Future page on South Kesteven DC
Independent 612 [36.6%;+1.8%] Elected
Independent 609 Elected
Conservative 605 [36.2%;-3.3%] Elected

Independent 426
LD Adam Brookes 229 [13.7%:+13.7%]
UKIP 224 [13.4%;+13.4%]
UKIP 129
UKIP 113
Green 0 [0.0%; -25.6%]

Turnout 23.1%
Two Independent holds and a Con hold

This was an election from 7th May 2015 that was delayed.

2011 result

BAXTER Ashley John Green Party First Choice Candidate 622
BOOKER William Paul Henry Green Party Third Choice Candidate 302
BROUGHTON Robert John (Bob) Independent 847 ELECTED
COSHAM Paul Conservative Party Candidate 959 ELECTED
EXTON Michael Conservative Party Candidate 766
FRAYLICH Jessica Claire Independent 533
HOWARD Reginald Christopher(Reg) Independent 844 ELECTED
SCHOLFIELD John Alexander Green Party Second Choice Candidate 330

South Keveston is a district of Lincolnshire with a strong Conservative vote and no Lib Dem councillors. There is a strong independent tradition. In this ward two Independents were reelected. The Lib Dems stood, whereas they had not stood in 2011 and the result saw a reasonable vote. UKIP were faced with a similar challenge but were beaten by the party.  They have one councillor in this district and put up a condidate but the weak performances by UKIP which have been a feature of this parliament continued.

The vote made no difference to the political control of this district.

After a period of being too busy to blog and after the disastrous results of the election, I thought it was time to digest what the future holds for the Liberal Democrats after Cleggism. I wanted to start in prosaic fashion by looking at what’s left of the party, before looking at different aspects of the rebuilding job and indeed Cleggism itself.

8 MPs. Just over 100 peers, soon to be augmented by a handful of ex-MPs (and the last we are likely to get for a while). The near-certainty of a huge reduction in staff numbers, which is horrible for them. Not to mention a huge further loss of the local councillor base – yes, the 2015 results somehow managed to be even worse than 2011.

That will lead immediately to an overwhelming need to raise funds. On the assumption that Nick Clegg’s recent role will appeal to some donors more than the general public, this might be his most practical contribution to the rebuild.

It also leads to the need to deal with some historical dysfunctions in the relationships among and between our two Parliamentary Parties, our headquarters and a wider party that at once loses central support and becomes more important. The role of our peers in particular becomes fascinating.

Perhaps the biggest problem as the party picks up the pieces is the loss of experience that comes as local ward organisations atomise. The decline of urban Toryism in the 1990s is a salutary lesson for those of us who relished it at the time; two decades later, and the Tory presence in the Oxford Town Halls as well as the Liverpools and Manchesters remains non-existent. In other places, though, the Tories did rebuild, and the lessons of how they managed that must be learned. It goes without saying that the huge energy created by our influx of new members must be harnessed immediately.

A by-election – a Warrington, perhaps, rather than an Orpington – will help. However, the party’s record in by-elections has declined over some time in ways largely unrelated to the electoral effects of Cleggism. Without wanting to pre-empt the review of the General Election campaign itself, some things are clear: the air war made the same mistakes they weren’t supposed to repeat after 2014, the ground campaigns were less advanced than those of other parties and not adapted to cope with the drop in numbers of campaigners. A root and branch review of the way field campaigns are thought is essential.

And in many ways there will be no better time than in 2016 to go back to basics that we know work; community politics, hard work locally and dedicated teams to rebuild our council base. Especially the former: the 13,000-plus new members are the community politicians that form the basis of the rebuilding. Providing the resources to support them is the basis of the Liberal fightback.

When comparing General Elections the comparison for the result is the previous General Election. With local elections the situation is more complex as there are many possible comparisons. In order to provide a clear comparison the results should be compared against the 2011 result unless it is an all in council where the elections take place every four years. In that case the most recent election is the best comparison. On this blog we will try to provide the 2011 result for comparison where possible.

This week there were two by elections. The first was in Christchurch DC in Dorset where there was no Lib Dem interest. This resulted in a clear win for the Conservatives in an area of strength for them. The second election was in Mole Valley where the Lib Dems won two seats. One of these was a gain from UKIP. The result appears to be a poor one for the Conservatives compared with their 2011 performance. Neither of these elections has an effect on the balance of power, however the results could spark concerns in UKIP and the Conservatives. UKIP continue their weak performance in local council by-elections which has been a feature of campaigns since the General Election and was seen in last week’s result in Wallington.

http://www.samite.co.uk/libdemviews/index.php?page=Mole+Valley+District+Council

LD Clare Malcomson 804 [50.2%; +24%]
LD Clayton Wellman 768
Conservative 492 [30.7%; +2.1%]
Conservative 458
UKIP 201 [12.5%; -19.5%]
UKIP 180
Green 105 [6.6%; +/- 0.0%]
Green 78
[Labour [0.0%; -6.9%]]

Turnout: 32.3%
LD gain from UKIP and LD hold
Percentage change since 2014

2011 Result
Nigel LIGHT Conservative 743
Mick LONGHURST Liberal Democrat 863 ELECTED
Laurence NASSKAU Labour 226
Holmwoods Ward
Turnout 42.9%
Betty SEALE UKIP 238

This was an election which should have taken place on 7th May and the results should be compared to 2011. This by-election resulted in a win for the Lib Dems and the party took one seat off UKIP. Mole Valley has a Conservative majority over all other parties so there is no effect on the overall state of the council, however this strengthens the Lib Dem council base in this area. It also strengthens the Lib Dems position as the second party in this district.

The comparison for this result should be 2011 although ALDC stats are showing the result against 2014. When we look at the result against 2014 the position can be seen as good for the Lib Dems but poor for the Conservatives which is masked in the data from 2014.

http://www.samite.co.uk/libdemviews/index.php?page=Christchurch+Borough+Council

Conservative 793 [63.4%; -11.5%]
Conservative 775
UKIP 315 [24.2%; +25.2%]
UKIP 288
Labour 143 [11.4%; -13.7%]
Labour 132
This is a deferred election for two seats from 7th May. There was no Lib Dem candidate in this Conservative area. There was one Lib Dem elected in recent years however they defected to the Conservative Party.