How the West can be Won

In May, eight “Metro Mayors” will be elected across England. Whilst the precise details vary between authority areas, each mayor will inherit a city deal providing them with money and powers over infrastructure development in an area covering multiple local authorities.

Given the generally urban nature of most of the areas it is anticipated that Labour will win many of these. (Although given recent results in Sunderland and Rotherham such old certainties no longer feel quite so axiomatic.) In the “West of England” area, though, we anticipate the fight will be between us and the Tories.

The area covered by the new mayor will be Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset. The latter two authorities have a mixture of urban and rural areas, contrasting with the sprawling metropolis* that is Bristol. As things stand, the Tories control South Glos and BaNES whilst Labour is in power in Bristol. In parliamentary terms, the Tories hold six seats to Labour’s three in the region.

As we’ve seen with results in Witney, Richmond Park and Sleaford, though, the results in 2015 are looking increasingly anomalous, particularly against the backdrop of Brexit (and Labour’s response to it.) Looking further back then and the picture was different: in 2010, Labour held two seats at Westminster, whilst we held three and the Tories held four. At council level, the Lib Dems were the administration in Bristol in 2010, and have historically been strong in both South Glos and Bath, where we took control in 2011.

The Supplemental Vote system means that there are two key tasks: first, ensure people know that the contest is between us and Tories. For those in Bristol, it may be strange thinking in these terms, where the battle lines have historically been drawn differently. Second, gain sufficient second preference votes to overhaul the Conservative candidate.

There is, of course, no magic bullet in doing this but we have three key weapons: our candidate, our members, and our renewed energy.

Our candidate is Stephen Williams, whose credentials for the position are vastly superior to any of the other candidates. He is a former Councillor, Lib Dem group leader, MP and coalition Minister. He knows the city of Bristol inside out, as well as much of the rest of the area, and his experience of both local government and the workings of Whitehall will be invaluable.

Over the past two years, our membership in Bristol has more than doubled, just as it’s increased across the country. With these new members come fresh ideas, and a rejuvenating enthusiasm. The result of the General Election, Brexit and Trump have motivated new members to take action, and this has helped energise those of us who are longer in the tooth.

Online and offline, there is a real enthusiasm for action within the party. This is one of the main drivers for our success in council by election after council by election all across the country. Week after week, we demonstrate that we can take seats from all comers. The West of England Metro Mayor presents a high profile opportunity to underline that point.

We can give the Tories a bloody nose, challenge May’s pursuit of a hard and harmful Brexit, and remind them that despite the result in 2015 they cannot take the West Country for granted. We are up for the fight, and up for delivering a famous victory.

You can follow and support Stephen’s campaign via his Facebook page and you can follow him on Twitter. Members and supporters can also join an online virtual HQ. Finally, you can donate here.

*some poetic licence may have been employed here.

* Andrew Brown is a Liberal Democrat activist in Bristol, and Secretary of LGBT+ Lib Dems. He blogs here.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Lawrence Fullick 7th Feb '17 - 11:34am

    Although I am in the same party region this election will have no impact on me apart from the potential news story of a good result. People’s appreciation of such news is based on regional TV news; living in Bournemouth I get news from Southampton which tells me of an incomprehensible proposed group for the “Solent” area and unnecessary detail about a unitary authority for Ofordshire
    If there is a Mayor of the West of England will there also be an elected Mayor of Bristol in the way the Mayor of London has to contend for example with a Mayor of Newham? I am more preoccupied with the reorganision of Dorset into two unitary authorities.

  • I’m the first to admit that in actual elections Lib Dems are making good progress as part of climbing a mountain. Because of the media Westminster fixation we are deemed to be virtually non-existent in places where we are not campaigning. Hence a growing gap between polls and various real elections.

  • paul barker 7th Feb '17 - 4:28pm

    We should be aiming to win everywhere in May, we have already surprised ourselves with sucsess & May is a whole 3 Months away, in terms of todays Politics thats a lifetime.

  • Matt (Bristol) 7th Feb '17 - 4:36pm

    Geoff – the name ‘West of England’ is not terribly helpful, think of it as the new name for 3/4 of Avon County Council.

    It is therefore a position within the wider SouthWest region, not having jurisdiction over most of it.

    Yes, the situation will be analogous to that of London / Newham, as I understand it.

    No, it’s not great. AFAIK, all local LibDem parties opposed the arrangement. That shouldn’t stop LibDems standing for the position.

    I have been critical of Stephen and of the Coalition in the past. I voted for Stephen as a local member, and was happy to do so. It also needs to be said that Stephen has been active in the local cross-party anti-Brexit campaign.


  • Matt

    Perhaps the post should be entitled: “Mayor of Greater Bristol”. But it would go down like a lead balloon! Particularly where I was brought up in Keynsham.
    Good luck, Stephen Williams is a great choice.

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