On Saturday I attended the first meeting of the Liberal Democrats’ new Federal Board and it’s clear that the mood, morale, and results for the Liberal Democrats are shifting in our favour.
It’s easy to look at the face of UK politics and draw the conclusion that the Liberal Democrats are an irrelevance. However, when you look closer, particularly at the internal reviews of the party and the subsequent changes from them, the opportunity for a precipitous and boundless Liberal Democrat recovery is absolutely there – and we have recognised, and are capitalising on, that opportunity.
Tim Gordon, CEO of the Liberal Democrats, gave a briefing on the state of the party and opened with a question – what do you see in this picture?
It’s easy to look at this picture and draw the worst conclusions from it. However, this is a perfect illustration of what we had to face after the 2015 General Election; Labour hurtling off to left, the Tories steaming to the right and the Liberal Democrats left in the centre, with a blank canvass ahead of them and the need to redefine our position in UK politics.
Amid immeasurable disappointment on the decision to depart from the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have an opportunity to capitalise on our innate ideology and commitment to being an internationalist party.
The successes during 2016 are clear testimony to the party’s pro-EU stance, our undeterred volunteers and the evident commitment of the staff. It’s also clear that the party’s stance is attracting people who have never voted, people who voted Leave and now regret it, and people who recognise the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to hard work.
In 2016, the Lib Dems have outperformed the parties that campaigned for and support Brexit in council by-elections in Leave voting areas. We have increased our vote in the Witney by-election by 23%, increased membership to over 80,000 and won the Richmond Park by-election.
Those were all challenges that helped build the foundations of us being in the best possible position to fight the 2020 General Election. However, the next challenge is already upon us: the Liberal Democrats will be fighting Stoke-on-Trent Central.
Stoke-on-Trent will be a challenge. The people there voted 69% to Leave the EU, and historically it’s a seat we’ve never held. It will test our activists and staff to their limits. But don’t be alarmed or put off by that prospect, as just a few nights ago we won a council seat from the Labour Party with over a 40% swing.
It’s clear the tide is changing for the Liberal Democrats. The work has happened behind the scenes within the party, and it’s clear the work we do externally is effective. The call to action for Stoke-on-Trent Central is out and it’s now down to us. Find out how you can help here.
I send out regular updates after each Federal Board meeting. You can sign up to them here.