Liberal Democrats for the heart of England

Many of us living in the Midlands often feel we’re a part of the country forgotten by Government.

Liberal Democrats in the Midlands, having had some tough general election results, may sometimes feel we’re a forgotten part of the party.

To try and address these issues a group of Midlands Lib Dem activists have come together to found Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England. With twin aims of raising issues for the Midlands that need championing within the party and to get more Lib Dems elected at local and Parliamentary level to champion the Midlands’ cause.

As a Leicestershire County Councillor I see first hand how we’re often a part of Britain forgotten by the Tory Government. Despite having all Tory MPs, Leicestershire is about the worst funded county in Britain. Residents see Council Tax regularly soar but services, such as Sure Start Children’s Centres, support for rural bus services, cut right back. Similarly a number of other Counties across the Midlands are among the worst funded in Britain.

Leicestershire also has among the worst funded schools in Britain. This has an effect in limiting opportunities. With social mobility in places like my area of Hinckley and Bosworth being among the lowest in Britain. If a young person grows up here in poverty sadly they’re very likely to stay there. Championing fairly funded education services to give everyone a fair start in life is a key cause for the group.

Equally our infrastructure is often given low priority. One example is the government’s failure to deliver electrification of the Midland Mainline rail service through Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. This was a policy pursued by Lib Dems during coalition but then paused and halted by the Tory only government

For our party in the Midlands recent years have been hard. Having the two biggest leave voting regions in Britain in the EU referendum, nearly 60% Leave vote in both East and West Midlands made the 2017 and 2019 elections tough ones for the party here.

The party has shown it can win local elections though. In 2019 Liberal Democrats held Oadby and Wigston Council with a massive majority. In Hinckley and Bosworth we gained the Council from the Tories with our biggest ever majority. Elsewhere across the Midlands we gained many councillors in places like Chesterfield, Malvern Hills and Stratford-Upon-Avon.

In the recent past we’ve elected Lib Dem MPs in the East Midlands. The excellent Paul Holmes represented Chesterfield between 2001-2010. Leicester South was Lib Dem between 2004-5. In the West Midlands we held numerous seats Hereford (1997-2010) Ludlow (2001-2005) Solihull (2005-2015) Birmingham Yardley (2005-2015).

So Midlands Lib Dems can win at local and parliamentary level and we can do so again. I’ve gone into more detail on this in a paper just published by the new group Liberal Base.

Our Northern colleagues have rightly pointed out how their part of the country is often overlooked and have set up the Liberal Northern Network.

Here in the Midlands we hope this group can help highlight issues of concerns to the Midlands, develop policy ideas for the Midlands and help get more Lib Dem’s elected in the Midlands.

If you’re a member and want to get involved in Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England please contact me at [email protected] or Mathew Hulbert at [email protected]

We plan to formally launch the group with a committee and organisation later this year.

* Michael Mullaney is Leicestershire County Councillor for Hinckley De Montfort and opposition Finance spokesman. Michael’s a Borough Councillor and Executive member for Housing and Community Safety on Liberal Democrat run Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council. Michael was Liberal Democrat PPC for Bosworth in 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2019 and Chair of East Midlands Liberal Democrats 2008-11.

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10 Comments

  • Could the Party have kept Jason Zadroszny on board if it had been more supportive when the bogus charges were brought against him?

  • R A Underhill 3rd May '20 - 3:22pm

    ?Any views on regional airports?

  • Councillor Mullaney, It wasn’t just the Tories who cut back on Sure Start Centres.

    In the interests of accuracy it must be said it began on the Lib Dem Watch in Coalition.
    In 2012, Junior Education Minister, Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather, was sacked by Clegg on Gove’s insistence for opposing cuts.

    On 7 September 2013, she announced she would not contest the 2015 general election, saying her decision was “to do with some aspects of government policy”, adding, she “no longer feels that Nick Clegg’s party fights sufficiently for social justice and liberal values on immigration”

    Sure Start was introduced by Gordon Brown and Tessa Jowell. By April 2010, there were 3,632 Sure Start centres in England. On 30 June 2015, there were 2,677 main centres and 705 much reduced sites remaining open providing children’s services. (Report to the House of Commons, 1917).

  • Michael Mullaney 3rd May '20 - 6:41pm

    R A Underhill thanks for raising the issue of regional airports no fixed position on this by the group but if it’s an issue you are interested in perhaps you’d like to write a piece for the group after the launch. Hi David the mass Sure Start cutbacks here in Leicestershire didn’t take place until 2018 well into the Tory only period of government. Lib Dem’s on the County Council led the opposition to the closure plans and presented budget alternatives that would have kept them open. Whilst we succeeded in keeping Barwell and a number of others opened sadly many were closed by the Tory County Council. Our position in Leicestershire is that we have the worst funded county council by government in the country -despite having all Tory MPs- that is leading to these cutbacks here as well as big Council Tax rises

  • Nigel Jones 3rd May '20 - 10:49pm

    Agree government often misses at least some parts of the Midlands; the usually talk only about Birmingham. North Staffordshire, recently part of the Red Tory area is nevertheless forgotten compared to the Red Tory areas in the North of England.
    Agree also about our party; I assume you are in contact with the chair of the West Midlands Lib-Dems; he has made it clear as a fairly newish member of the party, that although the party believes in devolution of power and resources, it needs to do far more within the party to set an example to the nation.
    Personally, I think it is high time we got rid of the layer of organisation called the English party.

  • Steve Comer 4th May '20 - 9:14am

    This initiative, and the similar one in the north does sound positive in terms of gathering together the key activists in a region and maximising support for elections at all levels.

    However it does beg a question for me. Should that not be the role of the existing regional party structures? And what about the role of the English Party come to that?

    As I say good that the key player are organising, but is it only necessary because the party’s existing structures are cumbersome, bureaucratic, useless or all three?

  • John Marriott 4th May '20 - 9:52am

    With the honourable exception of Paul Holmes in Chesterfield and a very brief ‘reign’ in Leicester South, the East Midlands have been largely a parliamentary no go area for the Lib Dems. Messrs Zadroszyn and Mullaney promised a breakthrough a few years back, based largely on their success at County and District levels. In the case of the former, things went rather pear shaped, although I gather that he is still active as an independent, albeit with a location as a suffix.

    As I did for thirty years, when, after once dipping my toe into the GE maelstrom in 1997 and seeing the writing on the wall in true blue Lincolnshire, Mr Mullaney appears to be getting his jolly’s in the lower leagues, where hard work and not the colour of the rosette you are wearing counts a bit more in people’s estimation.

    I grew up in Leicestershire, in the City of Leicester, or, to be precise, in the satellite village of Evington. I remember Liberal Ivor Glenton’s breakthrough in my locality in the early 1960s. Let’s not forget the success that Roger Blackmore and his Lib Dem team had on the City Council in the early noughties, nor, of course, the continued and thoroughly deserved success on the Oadby and Wigston, and, in the case of Mr Mullaney, on Hinckley and Bosworth councils. It’s that final step up that keeps eluding the party, although Roger’s noble efforts in Gainsborough as PCC 40 years ago left a Lib Dem legacy that survives to this day at Town and District Level and currently provides the County Council with its only Lib Dem member.

    It wasn’t always like this. In the early days of the Labour Party a deal was struck with the Liberal Party not to oppose each other in what was then the Borough of Leicester by sharing the two parliamentary seats to keep the Tories out. My paternal grandfather was an early socialist and supported Ramsey MacDonald. I even have a handwritten letter from Lossiemouth from the great man thanking my grandfather for organising a meeting at the Harvey Lane Chapel around 1904. The letter contains a telling phrase when MacDonald writes about it being “a difficult winter for many of our northern towns” (his geography must have been a bit iffy is he was referring here to his own constituency). Oh, Ramsey Mac, what went wrong?

    Perhaps another ‘deal’ might be the only way forward in the County, if not the City, if the Lib Dems are ever to stand a realistic chance of getting another MP; but don’t hold your breath!

  • Michael Mullaney 4th May '20 - 8:47pm

    Thanks Nigel agree with you about the Red Tory areas in the Midlands being ignored by government. Have been in contact with the West Midlands Chair am hoping the group can promote the policies and issues that really concern all of the Midlands, whilst being independent of the existing party structures

    Steve basically we want to be a group that can champion the Midlands case within the party and the party’s case within the Midlands. We hope that by being seperate to existing party structures we can be a forum for new ideas on how to promote the case for the Midlands.

    John as Gramsci put it “pessimism of the intellect optimism of the will”. It’s a challenge to win parliamentary respresentation in the Midlands again there is no denying that but we have to keep trying.

  • Michael Mullaney 7th May '20 - 12:21am

    Hi John thanks for your comments was using the boundaries for the Midlands regions that are usually used for European parliament elections and for the party’s internal structures (which don’t include Gloucs/Oxfordshire). Certainly the party is making progress in Stratford hopefully they can gain the Council in 2023. In terms of 2024 a lot will depend on how much progress the party is making in Council elections in the next four years and how much the Lib Dem vote rises both nationally (and through polling analysis more specifically in the Midlands) by 2024

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