Liberalism in the deep south

If Berkshire where I spent most of my life is in the South then West Sussex where I now find myself could reasonably be called the Deep South. Here on the Downs we are only ten miles from the coast the closest I have ever been to the sea, something that I am very happy about. I have now settled into my new surroundings and completed my research on the political landscape already knowing that I found myself in a Tory heartland. We have Conservative MPs with big majorities and local authorities dominated by Tories. My own MP Nick Herbert happens to be one of the founders of the Countryside Alliance and currently sitting on a majority of nearly 24,000. So in this sea of blue it has been a relief to find that the flame of Liberalism is still burning.

In the Arundel and Horsham constituencies we have prospective parliamentary candidates in place Alison Bennett and Louise Potter. Both are young women with real energy and commitment to the cause, while also being firmly rooted in their communities. When the General Election comes the blue team better watch out because they are going to get a run for their money. First though we have all out Local Elections this year and the Lib Dem campaign in Horsham District got off to a great start with a hustings in the market town at the beginning of this month. Our council group leader David Skipp was pitted against spokespeople for the Conservative and Labour parties (the Greens were invited but failed to appear) in a well attended meeting.

David absolutely nailed it with a statesmanlike performance highlighting Liberal policies on affordable housing, planning policy, climate change, preserving green spaces and transport. This was in contrast to an a dire performance from the Tory group leader and a lively but predictable Corbynite Labour man backed up by some noisy supporters. I managed to get in a question drawing attention to the extremism in the two big parties which neither spokesperson answered, they did however agree with each other! The evening finished with us Liberals in high spirits and firm in the view that our party in this part of West Sussex is in good shape.

Here in the Deep South the future is bright and the Lib Dem fightback is well underway.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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  • Good to hear of activity in non-target áreas. Thanks for the article.

    Crawley has a mixed demographic profile that would maybe make it more promising at a parliamentary level than Horsham or Arundel. But very difficult to break through in a Tory-Lab marginal.

  • David Warren 14th Apr '19 - 2:36pm

    Thanks for that Chris.

    I am in Horsham for the district council but Arundel and Southdowns for parliamentary elections.

    The key to building up support here is the same as the same as everywhere else visibility and activity.

    In the villages around here there is no evidence of the Tories between elections and not that much now there is.

    If we can increase our levels of activity then the sky is the limit.

  • julian ingram 14th Apr '19 - 4:59pm

    Good Luck David,
    As someone who grew up in West Sussex, joined the party there, learnt how to be an agent and fight local elections with Peter Bartram & Peter Chegwyn and eventually a PPC in Shoreham [far too long ago].
    The Tory vote is an inertia vote. We took control of Adur district in the 70’s and almost got control of Worthing in the 80’s. Demographic change makes this easier now than then. Providing you keep the Labour vote down.

  • David Warren 14th Apr '19 - 7:08pm

    Thanks Julian

    After thirty years in a town where Labour dominated local politics it’s a refreshing change to be in an area where it is basically us vs the Tories.

    As I say in the article I feel the local elections will be good for us, following that we can turn our attention to the task of firmly establishing ourselves as the opposition to the incumbent Conservative MPs.

    Labour can’t win here!

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