Islington is one of the most liberal places in the country. Cosmopolitan and confident, Islington was a natural home for the Liberal Democrats, but when voters moved on from Iraq, Labour moved back in. Labour hold 47 of 48 borough council seats (the other is a Green) and have held both parliamentary seats for longer than I’ve been alive.
I am relatively new to front line politics, but then so too are most of our members. Islington’s membership soared past 700 last week and from these newcomers, a majority of our executive have been elected into a Lib Dem role for the first time.
Our first action day of the year last Saturday was a spectacular success. 60 local members came out in the rain to help deliver four different wards across our two constituencies and for many, it was the first political thing they had ever done. An Islington veteran told me afterwards over a drink that she’d never seen anything like that level of enthusiasm, not even on general election day.
Our local residents are enthused as well and it was the first Lib Dem leaflet they had received for at least a year. Since we delivered our bundles, dozens of residents have emailed through our contact address asking how they can join the party, asking how they can help locally, and of course there are always, always pot holes to fix!
Brexit is driving members to us, which is unsurprising considering our borough voted overwhelmingly to remain. But we are also blessed with sitting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry as our local MPs. We can track their recent performances on Marr and Peston to spikes in our website numbers and then eventual membership signups.
I recorded a video on Saturday, highlighting that Islington has many thousands of EU nationals who were until recently, residing very happily in our corner of North London, but who feel utterly betrayed by Labour.
A new member who joined the day before our action day told me:
When Emily Thornberry said she wouldn’t ‘die in a ditch’ for freedom of movement’, I knew I had to do something.
We have a great opportunity in Islington to use the enthusiasm, and the anger, and put together a local election team in 2018 that returns many Lib Dem councillors. But more fundamentally, we have an incredible opportunity to show the rest of the country that voters are deserting the Labour project in a Labour heartland, in favour of the Lib Dems.
I want to spread the word that the Lib Dems are alive and kicking in Islington and ready for the fight. If you can lend us your expertise, if you can tell someone about us, or if you just want to come and help us beat team Corbyn and Thornberry, please get in touch.
We’re going to make Islington, Liberal again.
* Alain Desmier is Chairman of the Islington Lib Dems. You can contact him at [email protected]