Lorely Burt: Liberal Democrats offer best of both worlds

Lorely Burt has given an interview to the Huffington Post. The lengthy report is dominated with discussion of the Liberal Democrats’ attitude towards women in the wake of her defeat by Malcolm Bruce in the Deputy Leadership election. She said that the party was desperately trying toe how that it was welcoming to women:

At the last general election we had women in 40% of our most winnable seats,” Burt explains. “We just didn’t win them.” Which is a bit of a problem. “At the next election there are eight Lib Dems who are standing down, of those six selections have been done, of those six, five are women and two are BME.

She added that our commitment to equality was clear:

Our beliefs, particularly in equality, which can see form just how strongly we fought for and supported equal marriage, it’s in our DNA. It just isn’t showing in a sufficiently overt way at the moment. I’m hopeful we will rectify that at the next election.

She was gracious about losing to Malcolm and didn’t rule out another run for Deputy Leader if she’s still there after the General Election:

“I think he is a very good man. He is obviously a very capable guy. He has lots and lots of experience”. But her description of him as a “safe pair of hands” feels less than favourable. A steady as we go approach does not appear to be one she feels is useful with the party struggling in the polls and with a general election looming.

Bruce’s tenure as deputy leader will be short lived, as he is one of the eight Lib Dems to announce he is quitting the Commons in 2015. Burt does not have to wait long to have another go. “We’ll see if I get another crack at it,” she says. “I’ll see. I’ll concentrate on trying to get reelected first.”

She acknowledged she had a tough job to retain her Solihull seat and joked about having the number 175 – her majority- tattooed on her head. She’s looking to disaffected Conservatives to support her:

I think a lot of conservatives find the general sort of, hardness, of the Conservative Party, the lack of concern for the most vulnerable, a little bit distasteful. The Lib Dems bring them the best of both worlds. We’ve got the economic responsibility, we understand about how the economy works, but we’ve also got that injection of fairness.”

The argument is the core of the Lib Dem message for the next election. That only they can deliver a strong economy alongside a fairer society.

She knows, too, that she needs to get Labour voters to back her too, for much the same reasons.

She laughed at the idea that she lost the deputy leadership because she was seen as the establishment candidate, but she does use a few establishment lines that don’t enjoy the unrestricted admiration of activists. The governing from the centre ground is there, as is the party of protest to party of power theme.

We are not perceived to be a party of protest anymore. We are seen as a responsible party of government, we should use the reputation, we’ve all got the scars on our backs form the experiences we have had, but we have come through it in a way that leaves us in a stronger more mature more responsible frame of mind.

She offers one of the most optimistic predictions of our prospects in the European election and had some interesting observations on UKIP.

Ukip splitting the right-of-centre vote would also help engineer a hung parliament a bit as well. “I would anticipate they will take more votes from the Conservatives than they will from the Lib Dems. So that’s a good thing,” Burt says. “They will hurt the Tory vote. And so that will help the Lib Dems and also Labour.”

And far from worrying about the impact of Nigel Farage’s anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric on the political debate, Burt welcomes it. “I also think they are quite helpful in polarising the argument as well,” she says. “I think they’ll enable parties like ourselves to reinforce our identity as pro-European.

You can read the whole interview here.

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  • Paul Pettinger 19th Feb '14 - 1:10pm

    “we understand about how the economy works” – who wants to be the one to break the bad news?

  • What bad news? The economy is growing rapidly, despite this month’s blip unemployment is heading downwards, inflation is also declining and the deficit has been cut. Give it a few more months and a tightening jobs market will see real pay rises.

    Sure we’ve been through tough times, but it would not have been better under Labour (which wasn’t possible anyway) and we’ve made sure the Tories haven’t cut too far, too fast, which really would have tipped the economy into the feared double dip.

    We’ve done a good job, even if without the Tories we could have done a better one. People just haven’t heard about any of the good things we’ve done.

  • Tony Greaves 19th Feb '14 - 3:22pm

    “we’ve made sure the Tories haven’t cut too far, too fast”



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