LibLink: Vince Cable: May’s local elections should be about housing, social care and the environment. Not Brexit

In an article for Politics Home, Vince Cable sets out what should be the priorities for this year’s local elections:

The first is housing. The dearth of affordable housing for purchase or rent is an issue almost everywhere, and is felt by young people in particular. The depletion of the stock of council housing through ‘right to buy’ and the lack of social house building because of central government restrictions has contributed to extreme problems, including homelessness, at the bottom of the housing ladder. Yet good councils have used the planning system and their borrowing powers to get housing, especially social housing, built and have made sure that there is a safety net of hostel accommodation for the homeless (as I have recently seen in York, Watford and Somerset with Lib Dem-led councils).

A second is social care. It is now generally recognised that many of the pressures with in the NHS are caused by the inability of cash-strapped local councils to provide adequate social services support – through domiciliary care or residential homes – resulting in ‘delayed discharge’ (it used to be called ‘bed blocking’) for many sick and elderly people. The failure of central government to confront the social care issue is resulting in mounting problems, and local government is bearing much of the burden.

Thirdly, there is the environment. Those who are motivated by the big environmental issues of the day – climate change, plastics recycling and air quality – realise that local communities and individuals can and do make a contribution in either direction.  Environmentally aware local councils are rightly declaring climate emergencies; there is a race to install electric charging points for zero emission vehicles; and recycling rates and methods are under scrutiny.

But the b-word will get in the way – which will also be good for us.

On this occasion Brexit will inevitably colour voting preferences. The Conservatives will suffer because they are seen to be badly led and divided over Brexit. And many Conservative activists, who are more radical and pro-Brexit in their motivation, will not be willing to stuff envelopes and deliver leaflets or man polling stations. Labour has a similar problem but most of these elections are not in the Labour heartlands of big cities like London and Birmingham, so they have less at stake.

For the Liberal Democrats, these elections are a good opportunity. We have generally been doing well in local by-elections. Our results last May were positive with 75 net gains. We have ground to be retrieved from disastrous elections in the Coalition years. And where we have control of local councils, they have a broadly favourable reputation. We stand to benefit from a swing from the Conservatives. So we have put a lot of effort in, and I have personally been going round to support council candidates from Yeovil to York, whenever I can escape the Westminster bubble and our Brexit-preoccupied Parliament.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Sue Sutherland 16th Apr '19 - 12:36pm

    Of course Vince is right but national politics often influences local elections in this way. The European elections should be the opportunity to discuss Brexit but May seems to be determined to get her version done and dusted in time to avoid the Euros all together. What a surprise! However, we need to be trying to avoid this outcome so the country can have the opportunity to talk about the EU again, not just whether we should leave.

  • John Marriott 16th Apr '19 - 1:34pm

    Vince might be right about housing and the environment; but he should be careful about social care. Where I live this is the responsibility of the County Council; not the District Council, which is the council up for election at the end of its four year cycle. Mind you, most voters have hardly any idea which Council does what. Time for Unitaries?

  • Richard Underhill 16th Apr '19 - 2:15pm

    Layla Moran said on BBC tv Politics Live that majority control of the Vale of the White Horse (District Council) is possible.
    Compare the budget for the NHS in England with the total budget for care for the elderly in England. (Omission by majority Labour government under Atlee starting at 5/7/1948)
    The previous Health Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) started on the process of amalgamation with his job title when appealing against his dismissal in a reshuffle. There is more to do.
    More winnable seats implies a need for more good candidates, for service, not just for electioneering.

  • Paul Barker 16th Apr '19 - 3:03pm

    We don’t get to decide what Local Elections are about, we can decide what to say but Voters dont have to listen. There is evidence to suggest we should do well on May 2nd & that, in turn, may help us in The Euros 3 Weeks later.
    Reports today suggest that Change will be standing on May 23rd & that both they & The Greens have turned down the idea of a single Remain List. If that’s true I think its a missed opportunity & very short-sighted. However I will continue to argue for a 3-Way Electoral pact between Us, change & The Greens; its unlikely there will be a General Election before The Autumn so we still have time to rethink.

  • Understand ALDC are tragetting about 100 seats in the locals, if we win half of those that would be doing well.

  • Change UK all over National news again today..Farage snaps his fingers and a line of journalists follow. The Lib Dems get almost zero air time…meagre returns in the Local Elections and the further draining of already zapped moral. What can the party do in any meaningful way?

  • Paul Barker 16th Apr '19 - 7:13pm

    @ Silvio
    You already know the results of The Local Elections, 2 Weeks before they happen ?

  • With no Brexit party candidates standing and the Tories and Labour so unpopular, I predict at least 200+ gains for the LibDems in the local elections – it’s hard to find any alternative. However, at the EU elections with the Brexit party or the TIG’s I think you will suffer. There’s still not much reason to vote for you except as the least worse party.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Apr '19 - 8:38pm

    A generation ago the Tories were divided about Europe, many of their voters stayed at home and we made substantial gains in local elections. Shall we remember Charles Kennedy MP talking about the Treaty of Maastricht? and the effect on close votes in the House of Commons? Probably Tory bore Bill Cash said something as well.
    The party election broadcast was at 18.55 today on BBC1. It is available on BBC Online.
    This reminds me of my favourite quiz question What Time is News at Ten Tonight?
    Answer 22.05.
    We should also think about fire risk, after Grenfell of course, but now after Paris.
    Cathedrals in France are owned by the state, fundraising for repair was difficult, for restoration excellent. How would we feel if Westminster Abbey was gutted by fire? or the Palace of Westminster which attracts so many tourists from around the world?
    Imagine a situation in which a leaking roof causes the Deputy Speaker to close the session and send everyone home. It happened recently. It should be taken as a warning.

  • We can all have a go at predicting the results. Sixteen years ago we received 30% of the vote, gained 193 seats, ending up with 2624. Eight years ago we received 15% of the vote, lost 748 seats, ending up with 1098 seats. Four years ago we received 11% of the vote, lost 411 seats, ending up with 658 seats. Last year we received 16% of the vote, gained 76 seats. I hope we will win more than 100 seats, but I don’t think we will gain 205 seats or more.

  • nigel hunter 16th Apr '19 - 11:45pm

    The local elections ARE about housing etc.The EU also funds local issues. Individual regions can point this out in focus leaflets . I hope Vince and the party can also include the EU funds local councils obtain in helping councils.

  • “Now why on earth should that happen, Michael ?”


    You know why it happened, 16 years ago we were led by Charles Kennedy and were a social liberal party; 8 years ago we suffered from being in government, and four years ago the local elections were held at the same time as the general election. At the general election we received only 7.9% of the vote. We suffer further because of what we did in government, we were led by Nick Clegg and were seen as a right wing party and during Nick Clegg’s leadership we lost about 27,500 members and so had fewer activists.

  • In the current political environment predicting local election seat gains is a real mugs game.

    Though all the figures put out above would be a pretty disappointing result

  • theakes 16th Apr ’19 – 3:40pm
    Understand ALDC are tragetting about 100 seats in the locals, if we win half of those that would be doing well.

    No, ALDC are raising funds to win 100 KEY wards – ie that give control of local councils etc. This doesn’t mean they are targetting an OVERALL gain of 100 seats. The expectation would be to win considerably more than that.

  • SILVIO 16th Apr ’19 – 6:12pm
    Change UK all over National news again today..Farage snaps his fingers and a line of journalists follow. The Lib Dems get almost zero air time…meagre returns in the Local Elections and the further draining of already zapped moral. What can the party do in any meaningful way?

    It’s true that Change UK are the media darlings of the moment. This is reflected in the two latest opinión polls that include them:

    You Gov 10-11th April TIG 3%, Lib Dems 11%
    Survation 3-8th Apriil TIG 1% Lib Dems 10%

    The Lib Dems often have difficulties attracting media attention. Imagine what might happen if they did get more coverage.

    And what might happen to Change UK, if they weren’t media darlings of the moment.

    When you talk about the Lib Dems’ “meagre” returns in the local elections, presumably you’re referring to last year?

  • @ David Raw

    a) it makes me feel that I wasted my time for fifty years

    No, you did not waste your time. The social liberal side of the Lib Dems is in the ascendancy.

    It’s true the Coaltion reduced the top rate from 50% to 45% – a Tory policy, but it also cut tax for many of the poorly off- a Lib Dem policy. And also put through much other positive legislation.

    The overall picture was mixed and the Lib Dems were out-manouvered on various occasions. I admit I left the Lib Dems for a couple of years in 2012-2014, because of my dislike for the Coalition. But I prefer a balaned view that accepts the good that was done too. And accepts the economic and political constraints of the time. Ignoring all that is also to be a “denialist”, in your words.

    I don’t understand your remarks about that powers that be acknowledging the truth and doing something about it. Who are the powers that be? The EU? HMRC? Teresa May?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Apr '19 - 1:05pm

    David Raw, re Michael BG

    Let me ask you this, you regularly say the same thing, from a position of caring but an attitude of complaining.

    I don’t criticise that here at all though do not relate to it so far because to me , a critic of far left and modern right, I have no alternative but this party.

    TIG, have altered that. I was an early advocate of this party, ours now, re branding, not a superficial thing, but a real acknowledging of need to say, that was then, this is now. I favoured a name change, to The Alliance Party, subtitle, Of Liberal Democrats For Great Britain, to align with our parties in NI and EU. I saw this party, with the name so obvious and logo, in real difficulty , even, Lib Dems, sounds crass and old hat now. Nobody listening meant I shut up abut it as all anyone cared about was , liberalism, what it is who believes it, orange book, social liberals, all the same in their desire to slag each other off.

    TIG emerged. I, unlike most here, suggested immediate understanding of a new dawn. Me and Paul Barker the only ones that positively inclined, he though keen on the Greens, me, not much keen on them.

    I reckoned that TIG should keep the name, we join with them, both with a new over all name.

    We could be Change UK, The Independent Group And Liberal Democrats.

    They seem to want us to join them. Our leader and party have failed to connect with real understanding of what could be the real alternative.

    They and this party are now in competition. Is it time for a merger immediately, if your view is so lacking belief in this party I reckon it is tainted, which so far was not my view.

  • Peter Watson 17th Apr '19 - 2:13pm

    @Lorenzo Cherin “The Alliance Party, subtitle, Of Liberal Democrats For Great Britain”
    Reminds me of the Liberal – SDP merger 30 or so years ago. I favoured a name like “The Alliance Party of Liberals and Social Democrats” that could trade as the “The Alliance” which had good brand recognition, but instead we became “salads”.

  • chris moore 17th Apr '19 - 3:13pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,

    I’m also in favour of co-operaton with the Independent Group/ Change.

    But I think there should be more realism about their propects and less exaggeration about the plight of the Lib Dems.

    The fact is, despite all the media attention to Change UK, they are not sweeping all before them. Please see my post above about their latest poll ratings!!

    Nor do they have policies – except to Remain; nor have they ever elected an MP or councillor. I find their MPs personable on the whole – and in a few cases courageous -,but none of them seem to me to be front-rank politicians. Nor do they have councillors. They have never run anything.

    It would be bizarre and an elementary error for an established party with quite promsing prospects to fold into a new brand with no history and scant organisation.

    We can take hope from the attrition to the two big parties. But let’s keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away by hype about TIG:

  • chris moore 17th Apr '19 - 3:17pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin

    Lorenzo,a final thought, you talk about an immediate merger. But there’s nothing currently to merge with. 11MPs and a party name – and a poorone, in my view; that’s it.

    Cautious co-operation may be of benefit. But let’s be realistic.

  • @ Chris Moore

    Unlike you I stayed a member of the party during the Coalition years. I was even prepared to stand for the party in the local elections in 2015. I don’t accept that there were any real economic constraints, just politicians afraid to carry out Keynesian policies when Keynesian policies were required. I have posted my views on the coalition government in another thread recently.

    @ David Raw

    I would like fresh leadership, someone not in the Coalition government (and someone who hasn’t hit their partner). I don’t recall the Labour Party or the Conservative Party saying look what we achieved in government x number of years ago. After 1979 the Labour Party moved on. After 1997 the Conservative Party moved on. We need to move on from the Coalition government and not keep saying what a good job we did in government. We already have some policies to reserve what we did in government. It would be great to have an economic policy which moves us away from a balanced budget even for current expenditure which has the whiff of supporting austerity attached to it.

    @ Lorenzo Cherin

    In a recent post I did suggest that we should be working with TIG on joint lists for the EU Parliament elections, but I think that ship has sailed.

    It is my understanding that TIG does not want any formal electoral arrangement with us, let alone merge with us. From what TIG members have said, I am not sure they support STV for the House of Commons, and I am not sure they are all either liberals or social democrats.

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