Monday, 9 May 2011

What happens now?

I decided I would leave it a couple of days after the results to write this post thinking that in that time my opinions may have changed. They haven't.

First a bit about the local elections in Leeds although I am sure what I am about to say will have been felt by Lib Dem councillors and activists all over the country. Especially in the North of England and Scotland. On Thursday night, when we were getting an idea of the scale of what was happening, I was gutted. I have never felt that sick about the results of an election in my life and hope I never do again. We knew we were facing an uphill battle but we were hoping that the hard work and popularity of our local councillors would win through. Sadly this was not to be.

The Lib Dems and the people of Leeds lost some truly amazing public servants this week.

Terry Grayshon (MBI, Morley South), an excellent Councillor for the Morley Borough Independents, was heavily involved in Leeds Pride and was a great moderate voice for the Leeds LGBT community in the council chamber.

Brenda Lancaster (Lib Dem, Moortown), would have been Lord Mayor of Leeds 2011-12 had she retained her seat. She was a hugely popular figure within the Lib Dems and locally in Moortown. She worked tirelessly for her community for years, often just getting on with it and rarely seeking thanks or praise for her efforts. Her selection as Lord Mayor Designate was thoroughly deserved and was fitting recognition for her years of work. It is such a shame that she will no longer get to do that.

Steve Smith (Lib Dem, Rothwell) has been a great friend during his time on the council and has represented Rothwell, Carlton, Oulton and Woodlesford superbly at council level as well as doing a sterling job as an Exec Board member. He was often a voice of moderation within the Lib Dem group and I hope he will continue to be from outside the group. Also I should say sorry to him for my phone call towards the end of polling day!

Finally James Monaghan (Lib Dem, Headingley). I have a huge amount of respect for James. He was one of the first politicians I ever met and he was the first one I ever voted for when he stood for Headingley in 2007. I campaigned for him when he was selected for the Lib Dem Yorks and Humber Euro list in 2008 and again in 2009 in the Euro elections. I was over the moon when he got onto the council exec board and he did a really great job in tough circumstances, standing up for Leeds in a way the Labour Party never have. When James stood in Morley in the 2010 general election I was his agent. We ran the biggest campaign in our history in that ward, managing to get at least some literature to every single voter. Our vote rose by 6.7%. James was (almost!) a model candidate from start to finish, and took a lot of the pressure of me (I was working for the party full time whilst also trying to do my degree during the election) by dealing with the huge national media interest in the seat thanks to Ed Balls. James also played a huge part in the fantastic victory in Leeds North West and supported our candidates across the city.

The reaction of local residents to our team in Headingley was great but many were saying that they just couldn't bring themselves to vote for the Lib Dems. Privately the Labour candidate was telling Journalists that he thought we had done great things for the area. Unfortunately in this election that just wasn't enough. Devastated doesn't even describe what I felt like when it became obvious that we had lost Headingley.

Also gutted for Kate Arbuckle who was standing for the Lib Dems in Horsforth and David Hollingsworth in Burmantofts and Richmond Hill who both lost through no fault of their own. Our vote share actually rose in Burmantofts.

So what happens next? It is clear that things can not continue as they have been. If they do then the Lib Dems will be almost non-existent in the North and Midlands at the next general election. I think it is also clear that Clegg's call for 'a louder Lib Dem voice' in government, although admirable, simply doesn't go far enough. People on the doorstep like us locally but they, rightly or wrongly, blame Clegg personally for the mess we are now in. Their anger will not go away if we shout a little about how we have slowed down the NHS reforms.

I admire Clegg personally but the time has come for him to step aside. We will not be able to start again as a party until we have a new figurehead. After the fees debate and this overwhelming defeat in the elections we also need to take a long hard look at our exit strategy from the coalition. We cannot sustain these losses for four more years and we cannot lose many hundreds of good people because of the actions of a few in London.

Writing this with a mixture of sadness and disappointment. Feel absolutely gutted at the moment but I, and many others involved in local elections, feel deeply let down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The question is what are you going to do about it?

You (i.e. the Lib Dems) can stop this government by pulling out and forcing them to govern as a minority. Then you can veto anything you are against. Now you have lost the AV vote what reason is there to stay in?

Of course, the Tories could call an election but will they given how much better Labour are doing in the polls than last year and that this would be fought on the old boundaries?

But instead your MP Greg has given Clegg his full-throated support. This means you will lose another 5+ councillors in Leeds again next year.