2021 – the year in review: May (part 2)

On 5 May, a candidate was chosen for what looked, on paper at least, like an uphill struggle at best – Chesham and Amersham was a historically safe Conservative seat where, even in our best years, 30% of the vote reflected the high-tide mark. The next day, Amersham Town Council went from having no Liberal Democrat councillors to being Liberal Democrat controlled. But it was a genuine long shot, right?

The notion of a Progressive Alliance became much talked about, and Peter Wrigley made a persuasive case for one. The problem, as is so often the case with such an idea, is that Labour’s idea of a big tent comes solely in red with roses around the door. Perhaps, as Stephen Barber considered, a realignment of British politics was on the cards. It did feel a bit optimistic, given that a thoroughly unlikeable Conservative administration seemed strangely popular.

What did offer hope though was the Conservative support for a range of policies which were likely to be unpopular with their own supporters – planning reform – or just plain nasty – the lack of support for the three million who didn’t benefit from income support schemes – to offer but two examples, as Ed Davey noted in his response to the Queen’s Speech. And talking of Conservative failure, Michal Siewniak reminded us that, for all the rhetoric of apology over the Windrush scandal, most of the victims were no closer to justice than they had been at the outset, asking if this implied what might happen to EU citizens seeking to remain in the U.K.

In the Chilterns, the campaign was heating up, with a visit from Jane Dodds, and there was a Sarahphone to follow. The game was afoot!

Labour had lost the Hartlepool by-election to the Conservatives – Hartlepool? Really? – and a by-election in Batley and Spen, brought about by Tracy Brabin’s election as Mayor of West Yorkshire, looked like another potential banana skin for Keir Starmer. We got off to a bit of a false start

Brexit was beginning to look a bit problematic. Getting a trade deal with Australia might have been portrayed as a success, but its impact on British farmers was not quite so positive, as Tim Farron noted. Having been sold by promising all things to all people, despite the contradictions inherent in such an approach, the signs of broken promises to come were beginning to appear.

It still wasn’t showing up in opinion polls though;

Conservatives 44%, Labour 30%, Liberal Democrats 8%, Greens 8%

By the end of the month, momentum was building fast in Chesham and Amersham, with activists flooding in from across the country. Never before had so many Liberal Democrats found themselves on the Metropolitan Line from Baker Street, but could it possibly be enough?

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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