A New Fair Deal for Oxfordshire

A couple months of ago, Oxfordshire changed. For the first time in 16 years, the Conservatives no longer had a majority on the County Council and instead, an alliance was formed between the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Labour Party to form an administration.  We named this the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance, and I was elected the Leader of the new council.

For many years, I have been asked by voters why the opposition parties can’t work together to effect change. In the Witney by-election of 2016, Robert Courts won 45% of the vote – why, I was asked then, did Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems not get together and offer an effective and united challenge, breaking the Conservative dominance of local politics?  Perhaps that might have worked, but at the time, that was not an option.  But now, maybe things have started to shift.

Although around the country the Conservatives generally did well in the local elections, in some places, we saw a quiet revolution happening, and the press have only just started to pick up on this.  The reason for their new interest was the brilliant Chesham and Amersham by-election result.  Yet the signs that the political landscape was changing were already there – here in Oxfordshire but also in Cambridgeshire and Durham, where we also have alliances with Lib Dem leaders.

Why does this matter?  Because the electorate have made it plain that while they no longer wanted the County Council to be run by the Conservatives, at the same time they did not endorse a single party to take over.  They wanted us to co-operate and work together, which is where the Fair Deal Alliance comes in.  This may well be the future shape of politics, both locally and nationally.  The way forward for the Liberal Democrats is to recognise this and to use the power we have been handed to demonstrate what a Liberal Democrat-led administration can achieve.

I am regularly asked whether I think the three political parties can work together given that for years we have been campaigning against each other, and the answer I give is “Yes!”.  It has become plain to me over the past few weeks that there is far more that unites us than divides us and we have all agreed on what our priorities will be. Absolutely top of the list is climate change and the environment.  We are committed to putting decarbonisation and climate resilience at the heart of our policies, as well as tackling inequalities and supporting everyone in the County to achieve their full potential. That means better education for people of all ages, better social care for adults and children, and better infrastructure, including buses, train services and cycle routes.

In four years’ time Oxfordshire’s voters will be able to judge whether we have been able to achieve this. Meanwhile we have an exciting time ahead of us – and we are all up for the challenge!

* Liz Leffman is a West Oxfordshire District Councillor, an Oxfordshire County Councillor, and fomer Chair of the English Party.

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9 Comments

  • Asad Mehmood 3rd Jul '21 - 11:47am

    Congratulations
    With best wishes for further

  • Steve Trevethan 3rd Jul '21 - 1:40pm

    So very well done!!!
    Congratulations and thanks!!!

  • Nigel Jones 3rd Jul '21 - 3:15pm

    A very welcome message from the LD leader of Oxfordshire. Working together but not with the rightwing Ukip type Tories is an attractive proposition and not far from our basic Lib-Dem approach that focusses on serving all individuals, but especially those in greatest need. It also ties in with us being localists as well as internationalists and the local element is very strong in the two new MPs for Amersham and Batley as well.
    So I wish Liz well and hope she does not come up against too much dogmatism from the other parties in the Alliance, but is also not too influenced by the Conservative element in Oxfordshire’s population that hates radical change for a less unequal society.

  • Nom de Plume 3rd Jul '21 - 8:27pm

    No. Not nationally. The Batley & Spen by-election should have made this clear. The Labour Party is at least two distinct parties. There is Labour of shires and cities, with which it may be possible to work with, and there is Labour which is prepared to vote for Galloway, and has nothing to do with the LibDems. As the Coalition experience showed, it is imperative that the LibDems maintain their own identity and are not used to detoxify otherwise toxic parties. Avoid political naivety.

    The same for the Greens, what works locally in Richmond or Oxfordshire will not necessarily work somewhere else.

  • Nonconformistradical 4th Jul '21 - 7:24am

    Agree with Nom de Plume. A countrywide ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work.

  • neil James sandison 4th Jul '21 - 2:27pm

    We should welcome collaboration where it can be achieved . We will struggle against the hard left and other internal factions of socialist labour . But of course PR in local government forces collaboration between parties and strengthens local democracy and enables it to thrive against further centralised power grabbing from Westminster .
    Most communities will work together for the betterment local environment .The real problem comes from ideologs who put party first before the people .

  • Peter Hirst 4th Jul '21 - 2:41pm

    While welcoming events in Oxfordshire and elsewhere the real test is whether we as a Party will be as enthusiastic about progressive alliances when we are not in control or even lose seats. A move to PR is so critical for the future of this country that we should be as prepared to make these sacrifices for the good of the country as we were in 2010.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Jul '21 - 4:58pm

    Delighted to read about your Fair Deal Alliance in Oxfordshire, Liz – congratulations. I have happy memories of Witney, both from living there for some years, and then much later lending a hand for a little time in your by-election, where the friendliness of you and your team made it an exceptionally enjoyable experience. It is really good to learn of your continued progress – very best wishes with your co-operative work.

    I hope it may be followed elsewhere in the shires, though nationally I think the only imperative is agreement on electoral reform between us and the Labour party.

  • “Yet the signs that the political landscape was changing were already there – here in Oxfordshire but also in Cambridgeshire and Durham, where we also have alliances with Lib Dem leaders”

    The alliance in Durham is particularly interesting, as a Lib Dem – Conservative – Others one with Labour (and one Green) in opposition, almost the exact opposite of the Oxfordshire arrangement.

    It’d be good – with all the talk of “progressive alliances” – for LDV to approach the Durham Lib Dems for an article on their “conservative alliance” too.

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