Vince Cable launches Lib Dem Local Election campaign: Lib Dems show local government at its best

Today, Vince Cable launches the Liberal Democrats’ local election campaign.

He talks about the party’s prospects and the real difference Lib Dem councillors can make to people’s lives in schools and hospitals. He also compares and contrasts with both Labour and Conservative councils. Did you know that Labour Manchester had granted planning permission to not one single affordable house in the last two years? What was that thing about the many and the few again?

Here are the highlights of what he will say:

On the party

“There is a secret phenomenon in British politics.
“It is occurring in by-elections all over the country, week in, week out, to local authorities from Sunderland to Somerset.

“Against the Tories. Against Labour. In Leave areas. In Remain areas.

“Since the general election in 2017, the Liberal Democrats are up 15 seats, double Labour’s increase of 7, while the Conservatives are tanking – they have lost 18 seats.

“These real votes in real ballot boxes show Liberal Democrat support at double our national opinion poll rating.

“What we’re showing is that where Liberal Democrats come out fighting, Liberal Democrats can win.

“Because local residents trust Liberal Democrats to listen, work hard and get things done on their behalf.

“And in our areas of particular strength, where we control Councils and win mayoralties, we run reliable, responsive local services and deliver value for people’s Council Tax.”

On cuts to schools

“In my own home, in the Borough of Richmond, the biggest issue on doorsteps is cuts to schools funding.

“Around the country this is having a real impact damaging children’s futures.

“At the General Election the Liberal Democrats argued for extra investment of £7bn in school and college budgets to ensure that no school would lose funding, and so we could give more support to children from disadvantaged backgrounds through the pupil premium.

“It’s one of the many stark differences between the Coalition Government and the hard-right Conservative Governments which have followed.

“Where Liberal Democrats protected schools funding in real terms, our research now shows it falling in more than half of English local authorities.

“Teachers and teaching assistants are being laid off.

“And parents are being asked to make a financial contribution to their schools to keep them going.

“This has to stop.  Decent, free school education is key to ensuring each generation can do better than the last.  It is a bedrock of civilised society.

“These elections are a chance for parents and teachers to send a signal to the Government on schools.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to give schools the funding they need.”

On housing

“Crucial to sowing the seeds of a society that will work for today’s young people is addressing Britain’s housing crisis.

“Nowhere is the generational divide in our country felt more acutely than in this area.

“So support for the Liberal Democrats is support for new homes, support for curtailing the Right to Buy where there isn’t a guaranteed 100% replacement of stock sold off and support for tough measures on empty property, used by investors as modern-day pots of gold, when they should be available for families to live in.

“Where we gain power locally, we invest in new homes.  In Watford, we’re working in partnership with Watford Community Housing Trust to deliver new homes for affordable and social rent, and a new 50-bed extra care facility for older people.

“In South Lakeland, where Liberal Democrats are in control, we have lent £6m to housing associations to tackle the shortage of supply of homes to rent.

“And in that council we show that local authorities can stand up to developers, who try to play fast and loose with the percentage of affordable homes in a new-build scheme. South Lakeland insists on 35% affordable housing and recently won a legal case where a developer tried to reduce that proportion.

“In Liberal Democrat Eastleigh, where a developer tried to sit on land rather than get homes built, we acquired the site directly, then sold it back to the market at no cost to the council, allowing the housing to be built.”

“Liberal Democrats show what active local government can do at its best.  Building quality, affordable homes using the levers we have, and campaigning for more.

“Contrast that with Labour Manchester, where 15,000 homes have been granted planning permission in the past two years and not a single one is affordable.

“Contrast it too with Conservative Wandsworth, which has given permission for 4,239 homes on the site of Battersea Power Station, with only 9% of them as affordable units.”


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  • Is any of this enough to stop the Lib Dems from being devoured in May…probably not.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Apr '18 - 9:03am

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said on TV that reducing central support for local government is a policy that will continue. Presumably the Chancellor of the Exchequer agrees with her. The First Lord of the Treasury was interviewed in depth at the Liaison Committee but nobody asked her about this. A recording is on the Parliament Channel (201). Arguably this a move towards more democracy where ability to pay is high enough, but potholes in Kent have got much worse since the snow and repairs are grossly inadequate.
    Do we really need elected Police and Crime Commissioners? They do not cover operational issues. Laws are decided by MPs, either directly or in consultation with devolved bodies.

  • nigel hunter 4th Apr '18 - 9:48am

    Are we going the way of the US where ordinary commodities like pencils and paper are paid for by the pupils parents? Whilst feeding pupils is good the underlying problem should be addressed,support for the parents.

    Housing. This ‘necessity’ for builders to be able to earn 20% on developments, along with other hurdles should be campaigned on.

    Brando. The real Brando had better lines to speak than you. Have you got anything constructive to say to help to improve the structure of the country for the peoples benefit?

  • Actually tomorrow may produce reasonable to good results for us in all 4 seats. Far be it for me to sound at all optimistic!

  • Nigel Hunter…I and many others thought we were being constructive when we voted Lib Dems in 2010 in the belief that we were voting for’no more broken promises’. What happened next was a relentless and cruel attack on the weakest in society. Also what happened next was the Lib Dems have been all but wiped out. The denial within the party about the real distress it caused voters like me in having to accept we played our part in making the Coalition happen is a disappointment. I can’t ignore it and will keep asking for an honest apology.

  • nigel hunter 4th Apr '18 - 10:25am

    Brando.The party could do with you. You have fire in your belly, if not already, join us. campaign for a better party a better country.

  • Alex Macfie 4th Apr '18 - 12:25pm

    BRANDO: What you are asking for would play right into the hands of our opponents, whose narrative would be “You can’t trust the Lib Dems in government; look, they’ve even admit it themselves?” The two big parties have done much worse in government and never apologised. The only time it might be appropriate for a party to disown part of its legacy or history would be if it were something that was completely outside our moral framework. The German Green Party’s one-time support for legalising paedophilia (officially ended around 1990, I think) is the only example I can think of where it is genuinely appropriate.

  • John Marriott 4th Apr '18 - 8:33pm

    Most pundits use the results in local elections as a guide to what might happen in a General Election if it had taken place at the same time. There may be some correlation, but, given the turnout at best may be around half of that at General Elections, it may not be that good a yardstick.

    If the Lib Dem vote is up and the party’s espousal of a second referendum on the Brexit deal can be proved to have been a factor, then their stance may have some merit. If they largely bomb, then will it not be time to change the tune?

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '18 - 7:00am

    @John Marriott

    If these elections do not show that the Party has turned a corner – I would suggest it will be time for some real soul searching – and not only on its policy on Brexit.

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '18 - 7:22am

    @BRANDO: “The denial within the party about the real distress it caused voters like me in having to accept we played our part in making the Coalition happen is a disappointment. I can’t ignore it and will keep asking for an honest apology.”

    I left the Party about 5 years ago because I found it too embarrassing to face family and friends [and myself] admitting that I was still a Lib/Dem member. However, I returned because the state of UK politics today needs the Party to be firing on all cylinders.

    I would suggest that the old proverb “Least said soonest mended” applies to the mistakes of the past.

  • @ John Roffey ” UK politics today needs the Party to be firing on all cylinders.”

    Unfortunately, John, the last time it fired on all cylinders we ended up with a cracked cylinder block. I’m still waiting for a reassertion of traditional Liberal values..

    And you’d think today of all days, LDV could have started with a recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the loss of Dr Martin Luther King instead of a re-tread of a story from three years ago……

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '18 - 8:47am

    @ David Raw:

    Are these traditional Liberal values in your view David?

    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

  • Nick Cotter 5th Apr '18 - 9:02am

    John Roffey – I like you left the party when the coalition was at its worst.
    I rejoined within a day or two of Clegg resigning as the party leader, I am at heart a Liberal, neither of the other parties are of any Interest to me at all, albeit in any event I could never ever ever vote for the Tories ………….

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '18 - 9:45am

    @Nick Cotter

    I don’t know what you think Nick – but having returned – I get the impression that many who did stay members have become punch-drunk with the Party’s continuing failure to improve its popularity. This I think is hindering a harsh realistic view being taken of what is causing this. There must be more than 7 or 8% of voters who are not attracted to the two main parties – given that they are so far to the left or right.

    The rewards for unearthing exactly what is wrong – and putting them right – should be very high at the present time.

  • @ John Roffey “Are these traditional Liberal values in your view, David?”

    Yes indeed , John. The trouble is that certain people when in government seemed to have lost their reading specs.

  • Katerina Porter 5th Apr '18 - 11:04am

    At the time I thought the coalition was necessary but what happened made me withdraw.
    Now the country is faced with alternatives for government where Liberal Democracy is badly needed. We can certainly talk specifically of what we achieved but also publicly accept our part in what was so seriously wrong and we should be bold about it. What is needed is a study of the terrible damage which austerity has done to the whole structure of society and might take decades to repair. We might also remember that we are the Social and Liberal Democratic party, that what was in effect Social Democracy in the post war Western world, and before the war Roosevelt’s New Deal, were mixed economies and welfare states which transformed life for the majority. The oil crisis of the seventies and robber baron unions led to a change in ideology and Reaganomics and Thatcherism lead to seriously increasing inequality. High tax will be necessary and raising tax on income has become a no-no but Scandinavian and other countries accept because they get so much in exchange. What would shock us now was for twenty years after the war accepted – a 90% marginal rate of tax in America . We can surely be bold about creeping up a bit on our own and it is a tax simple and easy to adjust up- and down, as well as having any alternatives.

  • John Roffey 5th Apr '18 - 11:42am

    VC’s launch of the Party’s Local Elections Campaign has not exactly taken the media by storm – it seems that only the BBC and the Express have mentioned it so far.

    This does not bode well for a revival of the Party fortunes at these elections. If this proves to be the case surely a serious review of the Party’s strategy will be seen as necessary. Meanwhile Party members will have to kick their heels waiting for at least 5 months for change in direction – is a week still regarded as a long time in politics?

  • David Evans 5th Apr '18 - 12:25pm

    As many people know, I stayed and worked tirelessly to get people in the party to realise the immense damage that was being done to our party by our leaders in coalition. The huge losses in elections every year and the 20,000 members who left in that period was ample evidence, of how bad things had got.

    Unfortunately, the party machine in all its forms was totally focused on the protection of the existing order at all costs and ultimately it cost us nearly 50 years of hard work and progress. From speaking to lots of people, it was easy to find huge disquiet with how things were going, but members were unsure as to how to do anything about it. Many feared making things worse, and that coupled with the hope that what they were being told by the party was true and things would improve, meant that kicking the can along the road was the inevitable consequence.

    Ultimately, even after the EU election disaster in 2014, when it became clear to anyone who would look at the facts, people like LIb Dems for Change were decried and derided by those in the party machine and nothing happened. Ultimately it was the absence of any senior MP or other figure prepared to put his or her head above the parapet even one inch, that meant that opportunity was missed, and key votes in local parties for a leadership challenge were subsequently lost which meant the decline just became entrenched.

    I’m afraid that so many now seem to have so much of their own self worth invested in believing that coalition was great (because the consequences that have come from it have been so dire), that any attempt to discuss what went wrong, is still going wrong and will continue to go wrong is met with a few standard defence mechanisms – “We did the right thing”, “We sacrificed ourselves to save the country”, “History will look kindly …”, “What about Equal marriage, the pupil premium etc” or the ultimate get out of jail card – “You are so gloomy, we have to move on”. But never a where to.

    Hence we have a “NEW strategy”, with its “NEW core vote” and a NEW set of options for a graduate tax to replace Tuition Fees, but none of them address the problem of Why have people stopped voting for us?

    Perhaps if there had been more of us prepared to fight and fight really hard for our party’s future back in the black days of coalition, we would have created enough waves for some senior figures to get the courage to do something, but that is a question for the historians.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Apr '18 - 1:09pm

    Many important comments here.

    I agree with those who call, not for more apologia, but more soul searching, if the results are lousy.

    I think the point from David about MLK anniversary a very poignant aside. We need priorities, and that attitude should be front and back.

    I think Vince does not have the exact personality to do well in this context , sound bites, impact, warmth as well as gravitas, as far as media appearances, all his good qualities are didactic, or coverage is about controversy as well, not so good, thus we need to rethink.

    Jo Swinson is a fine communicator with substance, but never gets coverage for anything other than gender.

    We should be up in ups about every little thing we are in tune with humanity on.

    Why was a seventy eight year old man arrested on “suspicion of murder” for stabbing a burglar who attacked him in his own home, rather than, taken in for questioning?!

    Why ?

  • John Marriott 5th Apr '18 - 3:49pm

    This is supposed to be about LOCAL elections, not that many people seem to be interested in cracked pavements etc any more – including the majority of LDV contributors, it would seem! The Lib Dems, and, before them, the Liberal Party, used to pride themselves on being the ‘Party of Local Government’ and that’s how I fought my many ‘campaigns’ between 1987 and 2013 – and not just at election time.

    It’s not rocket science, boys and girls, as I am sure, some of us old timers are boringly in the habit of telling you. People will give you their vote locally if you stick at it, regardless of the rosette you may be wearing (unless, perhaps, it had a swastika or something similar on it). Now, when it comes to the General Election, that’s a different argument. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

    The Lib Dems built themselves up from a base in local government. Today, I would argue that, with a few praiseworthy exceptions, that base is a fraction of its former self. You need to walk before you can run so, why not start here. There’s no reason why it can’t work again – and faster than some of you may think. If you prefer ‘big issues’ to cracked pavements etc., how about tackling the root causes of Local Government’s decline in England in particular? Here are a few for starters:

    * The need to claw back powers from Westminster
    * The need to reform Local Government Finance (and please not just LVT)
    * The need to have a uniform system of structure to bring local government into line with that in the other nations of the UK ( replace the remaining County and District Councils with Unitary Authorities and beef up Town and Parish Councils by offering them enhanced powers or considering in some cases amalgamations.)

    I admit that, in their raw form (no pun intended, David) these ideas aren’t necessarily going to be top of the pops on the doorstep; but surely some of our more ingenious brethren will be able to find ways of making them more sexy. Banging on about Brexit, or beating yourselves up about the Coalition isn’t going to butter many parsnips (where have I heard that before?).

  • Sadly we cant stop beating ourselves about the coalition years. Charlie Kennedy was right to oppose our participation. He was right and the rest of us were wrong. It might have been OK had we gone in with a leader with competent political judgement.
    But there is some consolation. According to Laws’ account Vince was a nuisance throughout but judged unsackable.

  • David Evans,

    you end your comment above saying “that is a question for the historians.” Speaking of which we still don’t have agreement among historians on the last Liberal government. They have long debated whether Lloyd George treacherously plotted to grab the premiership, or whether his frustrations over the war caused him to seize his chance. Either way, the consequences for the Liberals were disastrous. Asquith was left with a ‘permanent sense of affront’ at his usurpation, but he remained leader of the Liberal party, and many resigned with him from the government. Although Lloyd George was Prime Minister, supported by a group of younger Liberal MPs, he was reliant on the support of the Conservatives – a strange position for the man behind the ‘People’s Budget’.

    Before the end of the war the split grew deeper. Following the German spring offensive in 1918, Lloyd George was accused by General Sir Frederick Maurice of denying British generals the troops they asked for on the Western Front. Lloyd George strongly denied this politically-explosive accusation, even if there was some truth in it (he did not always approve of his generals’ tactics and may have limited troop numbers as an attempt to influence them). Asquith proposed a vote of censure against Lloyd George in the Commons, and despite Lloyd George’s barnstorming speech and – probably massaged – troop figures denying the claims, 98 Liberals voted with Asquith. Although Lloyd George won the vote convincingly, this division proved decisive at the general election held after the armistice.

    Without the full backing of the Liberal party, Lloyd George declared he would fight the 1918 election on behalf of the governing coalition. Government-approved candidates were given a ‘coupon’ of approval, and very few of those Liberals who voted against him in the Maurice debate received this approval. Standing against the coalition were the Asquith Liberals and the Labour party – the latter going it alone for the first time in their electoral history. The result was decisive. The government won by a landslide, in a coalition of 380 Conservatives and 133 Lloyd George Liberals. Asquith’s Liberals were out-performed by the Labour party, and Asquith himself lost his seat.

  • I noticed that this was on the BBC News which talked of our “well-kept secret”! I didn’t really get any idea what difference a Liberal Democrat council would make. Perhaps the party should have encouraged our Local Parties to write manifestos and send copies to Head Office so Vince could talk about the majority priorities of our council groups if we were in control. (I wonder what the top three would be?)

    @ David Evans

    I supported the idea of going into government in 2010. I hadn’t realised what our tuition fee pledge was; I hadn’t recognised that we were going to follow the Conservative Party’s economic policies; and I hadn’t realised that Nick Clegg and co. were not going to take any advice from our councillors who had years of experience of joint administrations. I supported the campaign to have a leadership election in 2014.

    There were some achievements while in government but the one which effected the most people the Conservatives claimed credit for. This shouldn’t be a great surprise as we had no recent tradition of being a tax cutting party. With hindsight it might have been better to protect benefit levels rather than wanting income tax cuts and we should never have supported a VAT increase. So there is little point in pointing out our achievements because people don’t recognise them as ours.

    We need to have the right policies and state we should have had them when in coalition and apologise for not having them then, and we have changed from a party which believed in the economic orthodoxy to one that now knows the economic orthodoxy will not achieve our aims and so we will put the direct economic well-being of everyone especially the worse off at the centre of all our policies.

  • Oh well, we weren’t devoured. Actually that was pretty obvious to an unbiased observer, or indeed, many biased ones.

    This stuff from Vince strikes me as quite good. While it doesn’t go the extra mile and establish a clear theme in Liberal Democrat local government activity (empowerment is the most plausible one), it does show an understanding of what our representatives in local government are about, unlike Nick Clegg’s cringe-making local election campaign based on dodgy research on Labour and Tory waste and “loony” projects (some of which were sensible and we’d supported them).

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