Sunday, 16 January 2011

Over but not out...

It will feel strange not heading up to Oldham this week. How I will miss the steep hills, murky weather and extremely irritated constituents who were receiving at least three telephone canvassers, four door canvassers and an untold amount of literature a day.

Of course, By-elections are treated as a barometer of public political feeling and as a result immense money, time and effort gets ploughed in by all parties.

After reading the newspapers, watching Newsnight, listening to the radio and following national YouGov polls, you could be forgiven for thinking that the result was going to be a foregone conclusion: Labour romping home to victory.

Well this wasn't what happened. Yes, our candidate Elwyn Watkins came second, but we actually increased our vote share to 31.9%.

Bear in mind Oldham East and Saddleworth has been a Labour seat for the previous FOUR general elections, and was a Labour hold at the height of Clegg mania. According to the Labour party and its new leader Ed Miliband the Coalition are being reckless with people's livelihoods, cutting too fast and generally being nasty. Most of the election literature centred round the VAT tax bombshell, and tuition fees. (erm, Labour introduced tuition fees and Darling also had plans to raise the tax....) If this was indeed true, then Labour would and should have stormed to victory.

On the doorsteps it was apparent that many people understand why cuts have to be made and are quite aware that while Labour have quietly admitted that they would also have to have made cuts, they have not outlined any sort of credible plan. It was also clear that even at a late stage many people had genuinely not made up their mind about whether they would vote Labour or Lib Dem. This really doesn't bear out the argument that the Lib Dems are now seen as synonymous with the Conservatives, or that all those who voted for us in May now feel disillusioned and angry and are turning to Labour in their droves.

Electorally, Labour should be in the perfect position. Grim economic times and Government cuts make great fodder for media soundbites and big speeches. With no responsibility for balancing the budget and making tough decisions, its easy to criticise and level the charge of unfairness. However, the election result proves that there are many voters who can see through this, and that core Lib Dem support is holding up well and not flooding to Labour, as Miliband desperately hopes it will.

In the words of Tim Farron ... 'And let’s not forget, the last time a Government party made a by-election gain was in 1982 amid the chaos and fear of the Falklands War, so unless we had persuaded some far off country to invade British territory we were always going to be up against it!'

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Its the right way up!

I spotted that Mark Pack wrote an article on Lib Dem Voice regarding Conservative MP Nick Boles' book 'Which Way's Up?'

Its worth a read (and not only because it is very thin and can easily be read in a day!) Its fascinating because its essentially a Conservative MP setting out his arguments about why he believes the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives should form an electoral pact.

An electoral pact is not something I would want to see happen. I joined the Liberal Democrats because unlike the other main parties it has a strong democratic party structure, attracts and welcomes a diverse range of people and has principled and strong Parliamentarians. Its a party that believes in hard work and campaigning at a local and national level, with fairness really at the heart of the agenda.

But enough of this party political broadcast! What is important about this book, and what I think is important to stress when we Lib Dems are labelled as 'sell-outs' and 'unprincipled,' is that it emphasises that the Conservatives are NOT the party of the 1980's. In fact, Nick Boles identifies five key areas where policy overlaps: environment, importance of personal freedom, desire to give local communities more power, offering more opportunities to those born into poverty, and the need to kickstart the economy and revive investment and exports.

If these aren't progressive aims, then I don't know what is. Far from being a 'sell-out' this Coalition is going to give us an opportunity for many of our aims to be realised. Look no further than the Localism Bill to see that things are starting to happen. It would have been a sell-out if we had walked away from the negotiating table, or worse entered into an unstable 'rainbow' coalition with the Labour Party.

Yes, that progressive Labour party which let a housing bubble run unchecked and kept low earners languishing in the income tax bracket while spending money recklessly on quangos and needless bureaucracy. Not to mention a legally dubious invasion of Iraq.

The power and right of the individual is at the heart of this Government, and that is the central tenet of Liberalism. We definitely made the right call.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas from Southport Liberal Youth

Merry Christmas from all at Southport Liberal Youth.

Wishing you all a wonderful day!

Sarah, Lauren and James

Candidates in the Oldham Byelection

Nominations closed yesterday for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, due to be held on 13th January.
  • Debbie Abrahams (Labour)
  • Derek Adams (British National Party)
  • Kashif Ali (Conservative)
  • Peter Allen (Green Party)
  • David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis Party)
  • The Flying Brick (Monster Raving Loony Party)
  • Loz Kaye (Pirate Party of the United Kingdom)
  • Stephen Morris (English Democrats)
  • Paul Nuttall (UK Independence Party)
  • Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrats)
Is anybody else noticing the Labour National Executive Council may have picked their candidate purely on the basis she would top the ballot paper?

To find out how to help the Liberal Democrats win in Oldham please see the post below.

Monday, 20 December 2010

We need to win before Christmas in Oldham

You can help Elwyn Watkins and the local Liberal Democrats to get a better deal for Oldham East & Saddleworth by helping elect another Lib Dem MP in the Oldham byelection. The office is open every day and even a few hours would be appreciated.

To get involved, come along to the HQ any day between 9am and 8pm or contact the campaign HQ by calling 01457 810993 or emailing

The HQ is at Tanner Business Centre, Waterside Mill, Chew Valley Road, Greenfield, OL3 7NH, or find it on the map below.

The nearest train station is Greenfield. There is plenty of parking if you're coming by car.

By car (from the Manchester Ring Road): Leave the M60 at Junction 23 (Ashton). Take the A635 (Wakefield) all the way to the entrance to Tanner Business Centre (just off Holmfirth Road after a mini-roundabout at Clarence Hotel/Pub). You should be able to see a Lib Dem diamond from the roundabout.

By car (from the M62): Leave the M62 at Junction 22 and turn left onto the A672. At the Junctions Inn crossroads, turn left onto the A640 and then immediately right onto the A6052. Carry on over the A62 and follow the A6052 until the roundabout with the A670. Take the second exit onto the A670 towards Uppermill. Branch left onto the A6051 and then turn left onto the A669 (Chew Valley Road). Follow the road to the end to reach a mini-roundabout at Clarence Hotel/Pub. Turn left at the roundabout and Tanner Business Centre is immediately on the right. You should be able to see a Lib Dem diamond from the roundabout.

If you can't make it to the HQ in person, you can still support Elwyn's campaign by making a donation to the Lib Dems using this special link. Thank you.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Social Welfare Reform

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat Minster of State for Health announced last month that the Government will be changing the way social care is to be distributed.

In his radical plans, a much needed change for the better, there will be a stronger focus on a local level of provision-including early support and prevention and this will work towards the long term aim of allowing people to maintain their independence.

It has been revealed by the BBC in recent days that 1/8 young people are carers, often looking after relatives and parents, and these changes to the system will help them in a way the current system failed.

The new plans have been focused on three issues: personalisation, protection and productivity.

On personalisation, the Liberal Democrats (party policy since 2004) believe that services someone requires should be tailored to their needs, and that they and/or their carers shall be the be the best judge of what their requirements shall be. Therefore, we are introducing a wider roll-out of personal budgets. Currently, about 13% of those in need receive them, however by 2013 we hope that up to a million people who need them will have them. The Department of Health have liaised with local authorities who believe this is possible and in the next year up to £800million will be directed into social care, reablement and prevention.

On the issue of protection, by allowing people to manage their own budget the Department of Health is taking on greater risks, however, sensible safeguards will be put in place to reduce the scope for abuse of the system.

The Government also made a commitment to spend £400,000,000 on provide respite care for carers through direct payments (as in our manifesto), which will provide much needed breaks for the unsung heroes in our society.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Southport Liberal Youth disappointed by rise in fees

Liberal Youth are deeply disappointed at the result of today’s vote on raising the tuition fee cap.

Commenting, North West Chair of Liberal Youth, Sarah Harding said:

Liberal Youth and Liberal Democrat policy remains the abolition of fees. I am saddened that we have been unable to implement this, such is the nature of coalition politics. We must now see the white paper as soon as possible to help influence the new system under which loans shall be paid back.”

Despite this disappointment, Liberal Youth recognise the influence of Liberal Democrats in improving the proposals, and will continue to campaign on this front.