Libby Local, Episode 2: “The selection panel and Mad Max”

Last Wednesday I was up before the selection panel. Beforehand I was experiencing that curious mix of feelings that is at once confidence and nervousness. I had no idea how to dress. What does a typical Lib Dem wear? A bit of lippy and my poshest high heels? My usual casually crumped look, replete with a hat that Dr Seuss would be proud of? A business suit? Lipstick and high heels won.

The day began badly with an encounter with Maxwell Tarmac-Smyth – the “Mad Max” of Libbyshire politics. He’s second peg in the Tory oligarchy that runs Libbyshire. He’s the man in charge of cutting the council’s budget by millions and he is enjoying every minute of it.

Max overheard Mellissa and I talking about local politics in the Market Tavern. “I wouldn’t bother with that stuff”, he interjected with his trademark air of arrogance. “Just bring your problems to me and I will solve them.” The cheek of it! There was no time to respond. Muttering a sarcastic “thanks”, I dashed off to the community hall for the selection meeting.

I realised for the first time as I walked into the room how much I really wanted to be a Lib Dem. I wanted to belong, not stride out on my own. And I wanted to get people like Mad Max out of office.

I faced a panel of three. It was not difficult, though I was uncomfortable finding that I was way the smartest person at the meeting. After a while most of the questions they started to ask were met with: “Oh actually you’ve already answered that.” Well, I can talk a lot!

Then the question I was waiting for came: “What would you do if you didn’t agree with party policy?” I was frank about my struggle on whether to stand as an independent or a Lib Dem. I said that the most important thing for me was to represent my local area with honesty. Sometimes I might need to go against the party line if it is in the direct interest of the people I represent. The panel seemed to support that approach. I just hope it doesn’t cause trouble later.

The panel asked me where I’d like to stand. There are electoral divisions nearby where a Lib Dem could get elected with ease. I did wonder whether I should take that route as a novice. But I think the main problem with politics is that the politicians forget who they’re representing. To do that properly you’ve got to stand for your own area.

I said that I want to stand for Demsbury Central. It’s a hard division to win, the Tories took a whacking 75% of the vote last time. But it’s my home patch and I can fight best on that.

A while later, I was back in the Market Tavern boring Melissa with my tale of the meeting. We were careful to keep well away from Mad Max who was loudly telling people that he wanted to move the local museum out of its prime market site and offer the building to Ask Pizza.

My phone rang. I heard the now familiar calm voice of chairman James. “Well done Libby. You’re in for Demsbury Central.”

I was over the moon. And daunted. But all that could wait until the morning. “Melissa,” I asked with a celebratory grin. “Fancy another Pinot Grigio?”

I’m Libby. And now I’m officially a local Lib Dem. That’s worth celebrating!

* Libby Local is based on real events. Details have been changed to protect the innocent and disguise the guilty. Libby’s passion and determination, along with her angst and frustration, are set to be a regular feature of Lib Dem Voice as the May 2013 elections approach. You can catch up with all Libby Local's episodes to date by clicking here.

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21 Comments

  • Iain Roberts 4th Nov '12 - 2:18pm

    Congratulations! Sure you’ll be a great candidate.

  • Liberal Neil 4th Nov '12 - 2:50pm

    Brilliant news, well done, now for the campaign :-)

    BTW , like all aspiring councillors and campaigners, you really should join the Association of Lib Dem Councillors – ALDC – who offer a series of briefings, example artwork, best practice advice and training.

    And membership is half price for the first year. http://aldc.org/news/latest/2829/1/02/10/2012/Membership_-_Two_brilliant_deals

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Nov '12 - 11:24pm

    Libby Local

    He’s the man in charge of cutting the council’s budget by millions and he is enjoying every minute of it.

    OK, but how do you square that with the fact that there is a man who’s second in charge of cutting the National government’s budget and he seems to be enjoying every minute of it – and he’s a Liberal Democrat?

    Cllr Tarmac-Smyth is facing a tough time. All councils are having to make budget cuts, because most of their funding comes from national government and national government also very tightly controls what they can raise locally – and national government find making cuts in their funding to local government works well because half the time local government gets the blame for cuts which national government is forcing them to make.

    Cllr Tarmac-Smyth is looking for ways to raise money without making cuts, by looking at council assets and seeing whether they really can be afforded, or can they be sold to private business, thus creating jobs and raising funds so avoiding having to make more cuts. The real question here is that if you don’t like the cuts that are being made, and you don’t like what has to be done to raise money in other ways, what IS your alternative? How will you pay for Libbyshire schools? Or what further cuts will you make because the money that was going to come in from selling the museum site would no longer be there if you had your way?

    Perhaps you can see by the way you find it so unpleasant that Cllr Tarmac-Smyth seems to be enjoying doing what is necessary to balance the books why our party’s national campaigning strategy has been such a disaster. What you are saying about Cllr Tarmac-Smyth is EXACTLY what people are saying about Nick Clegg and other Liberal Democrats ministers – they seem to be enjoying being in power in a government which is making lots of cuts. Yet we have been urged by the party’s national campaigners since the coalition was formed to make out that we are very proud and happy to be “in government”, as if the very sight of Nick Clegg etc sitting there in government (and making cuts) will make people feel “Gosh, I want to vote LibDem when I see them doing that”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Nov '12 - 11:30pm

    Libby Local

    But I think the main problem with politics is that the politicians forget who they’re representing. To do that properly you’ve got to stand for your own area.

    Well, when I said we need to recruit people who can naturally campaign well because they are local and know how the people they want to represent think, Mark Pack accused me of being “very elitist and hostile to newcomers”.

  • Simon Titley 5th Nov '12 - 10:20am

    I’m with Matthew Huntbach. This whole “Libby Local” thing is utterly fatuous, an insult to people’s intelligence and a complete waste of cyberspace.

  • Good job you’re anonymous, tales of copious alcohol consumption, implying that your selection panel is thick and that a local Tory politician has mental health issues may not go down so well with voters! ;)

    (I kid. Good luck, Libby.)

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Nov '12 - 1:47pm

    Mark Pack

    As I have already said, my response to the “Libby Local” article was written on the basis that it was NOT written by a genuine new recruit to the party – I assumed from the name given that this was meant to be an “average Liberal Democrat” as viewed by whichever central campaigns office wonk wrote this stuff. I would not have responded as I did if I believed this was a genuine new (and very naive) member writing this stuff.

    There is quite a bit in this episode 2 which doesn’t ring true either.

    If this is simply meant to be an amusing piece of fiction, one person’s view, no more than that, then it would have been better to have given the character a name which avoids suggesting this is an attempt to present what an “average Liberal Democrat” is like. Which I have already said.

  • Come now, I do hope that this isn’t a new member that you’re putting off with your miserable cynicism, Matthew! This seems meant to be a lighthearted look at the experience of membership and standing for election – the sort of thing I’d have thought Lib Dems would encourage, not belittle. I know we’ve lost a few members but from your reaction the average Liberal Democrat is a humourless killjoy who hates their own party leadership, and I know from experience that that’s only half true! ;)

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Nov '12 - 2:43pm

    Z – I’m actually trying to put across how this might come across to members of the public who aren’t party supporters. The thing we need to remember is that they are FAR more cynical than I am. If we want to get messages across to the public we need to be aware of how they could be misinterpreted. You think I should be lighthearted? Well, I see the party I’ve given my life to going down the drain thanks to inept leadership and inept image making, so no I can’t be lighthearted about that.

    I don’t think anyone reading this (so with enough interest and knowledge in politics to have got to this site and carried ion with it) is going to be able to shut out of their mind the fact that we ARE in coalition with the Conservatives at national level, and that coalition is making cuts which many are finding unpleasant and resulting in economy measures which aren’t nice – closing the local museum and selling the site to help finance council spending might be a good example. So, when such a person reads this article, I suspect they won’t just think “hah, hah” in a lighthearted way, and forget the politics underneath. Rather I suspect it will come across as very hypocritical.

    The point I was making in the last paragraph of my message of 11.24 is actually key to the point I have been trying to make about our national image since the coalition was formed. Our image makers really do seem to have had the idea that we should look as if we are enjoying being in power. I’m not allowed to use the word that most fits how this comes across (it begins with “sm” and rhymes with “rug”), but Libby Local’s “He’s the man in charge of cutting the council’s budget by millions and he is enjoying every minute of it” really does capture what a lot of people are feeling about the Liberal Democrats right now.

    We are constantly told we have to look serious, give an impression that we understand the nature of political power, have moved away from the unrealistic “permanent opposition” way of thinking we were supposed to have had before the coalition. Well, OK, so doesn’t that mean making clear we know where the money comes from and that there isn’t an unlimited money tree a council can shake to get enough of it to spend on whatever it wants?

    Isn’t what “Libby” is doing here just what the party did (or was accused of doing) on tuition fees – making unrealistic promises it was unable to deliver on when it faced financial reality?

    I’m sorry, I just can’t accept that dubious political ideas and presentation that is not just poor but dangerous can be accepted without criticism just because it’s done in a way that’s meant to be “humorous”.

  • Situs McRame 5th Nov '12 - 5:03pm

    Amazing! Matthew Huntbach has written 6-7,000 words in response to around 1,000 from Libby Local. How extraordinary that one woman’s experiences, however humorously expressed, have caused so much angst for one man!

    There can be only one reason why this is so. Own up Matthew. You’re in love with Libby Local aren’t you?  :)

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Nov '12 - 1:35pm

    Situs McRame

    I am trying to explain, as best I can, how what is being done here, even if it had good intentions, is a sign of what is going wrong in our party. Perhaps you would prefer the party to be full of bland “follow my leader” types, who haven’t got much to say, and don’t have the sort of passion that makes them speak their mind when they see things where there’s another point of view that could be put.

  • I like this articles.

  • ….or “these” articles!

  • I think that this is quite realistic. Local Lib Dem candidates also think that cuts in services and budgets are nothing to do with them.

    I hope that Libby gets elected and then Episode 3 can show her campaigning against Lib Dem imposed cuts.

  • “Good job you’re anonymous, tales of copious alcohol consumption, implying that your selection panel is thick and that a local Tory politician has mental health issues may not go down so well with voters! ”

    I found it amusing on first read but now find it cringe-making, to be honest. Why does Libby portray herself as such an airhead? We want to see strong, well-informed women in public office!! And if this is the pseudonym of a real Lib Dem candidate , why doesn’t it say so at the bottom? It only says that it is based on real events which is a bit different to a humourous account of one person’s journey.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Nov '12 - 12:19pm

    Ted

    I think that this is quite realistic. Local Lib Dem candidates also think that cuts in services and budgets are nothing to do with them.

    That’s not one of the parts which doesn’t ring true.

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