Tag Archives: 2021-the year in review

2021 – the year in review: December

The Party was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the North Shropshire by-election. And, with the gratefully received co-operation of the Conservatives – Non-local candidate? Check. Hapless campaign? Check. – the bookies were suggesting that we were marginal favourites to achieve the 26.4% swing required to snatch the seat. Our campaign team were taking no chances, with “private briefings” somehow reaching the media.

And the wheels were really falling off the Conservative wagon, with defections, endorsement by the Guardian and a visit from the Prime Minister in which he failed to remember his candidate’s name.

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2021 – the year in review: November

Normally, reports of the Commons Select Committee on Standards are approved without much drama but, in what turned out to be a catastrophic misjudgement, Conservative MPs were whipped on an amendment to a report which would, effectively, let Owen Paterson off the hook for breaching Parliamentary rules forbidding paid advocacy. He was as guilty as all hell in the eyes of many, despite his aggressive campaign to prove otherwise. Instructions had come from the very top, with suggestions that the Prime Minister was attempting to nobble the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

It worked, sort of, with the vote won. But, with thirteen Conservative MPs voting against, and nearly another one hundred either absent or abstaining, it looked pretty awful. As Andy Boddington put it, the Commons had lost its moral compass. Amidst widespread public and media outrage, Boris did what he so often has done, sacrificing a colleague to save his skin with a screeching, tyre shredding u-turn. Paterson almost immediately resigned his safe North Shropshire seat, creating an unexpected opportunity. Recent election results suggested that Labour might be the credible contender. Andy disagreed… vehemently.

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2021 – the year in review: October

As October opened, the petrol shortages were beginning to recede, but words like cabotage and haulage were reaching public consciousness. A patina of incompetence was beginning to stick to the Government – it turns out that listening to experts, making plans and carrying them out was a better way to run the country than just perpetually reacting to things as if they were a surprise. It also meant that a few people were reminded what those foreigners had been doing all that time.

The Wayne Couzens murder trial had resulted in a whole life sentence at the end of September, but the response of senior policing figures drew much criticism. Miranda Roberts explained some of the more alarming issues and offered some very useful advice, whilst Wendy Chamberlain offered a perspective that, perhaps, only a former police officer could have.

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2021 – the year in review: September

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Party conferences – I’m not a policy wonk nor am I a frequent speaker, no more than half a dozen times over more than thirty years – but I appreciate that, for many, there’s something about being surrounded by your fellow Liberal Democrats that inspires and encourages.

But if politics is about changing lives for the better, it wasn’t a bad conference. Abolishing conversion therapy may not impact directly on many, but for those it does affect, it is life changing. Building more houses, especially more affordable housing, …

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2021 – the year in review: August

As Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan, hopes that the Afghan Government could stand on its own two feet proved to be entirely illusionary, as did the Afghan Army. And whilst it could be reasonably said that no British Government could have dealt well with such a collapse, the failure of the Conservatives to honour their commitments was a reminder that their policy aim was almost solely to get to the next afternoon.

It started with the failure to evacuate those Afghans who had assisted our troops as interpreters, as Ed Davey noted. The challenge of how to evacuate U.K. nationals and their dependents proved difficult, as key players were either on holiday or blind to the issues. Our Foreign Affairs Editor, Tom Arms, wrote a masterful summary of the consequences of the Taliban victory, setting out the geopolitical issues. Perhaps he should have been our Foreign Secretary…

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2021 – the year in review: July

The month began with a lost deposit in the Batley and Spen by-election and an argument over whether or not our candidacy aided or hindered Labour’s narrow retention of the seat. For the record, I’m generally minded to prefer the arguments of the locals (including local councillor and past-President of ALDC, Baroness Kath Pinnock) over, for example, someone trying to apply data from Cambridgeshire. Competing hard for votes in predominantly Liberal Democrat/Conservative wards hardly seems likely to harm Labour turnout, but what do I know?

There were, however, successful by-election gains in Elmbridge, where a more than 24% swing …

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2021 – the year in review: June

The Chilterns were once covered in forest, if my geography lessons are remembered correctly, which meant that the recycled paper going through doors across Chesham and Amersham was now coming from elsewhere.

And, despite a huge lead in the polls, Conservative MPs were becoming a bit fractious, with a rebellion in the Commons over cuts to the overseas aid budget. The tensions between the new ‘Red Wall Tories’ and the traditionalists were beginning to emerge, and this theme became more and more a talking point as the year went on. William Wallace highlighted some of those tensions.

A week out …

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 2)

On 5 May, a candidate was chosen for what looked, on paper at least, like an uphill struggle at best – Chesham and Amersham was a historically safe Conservative seat where, even in our best years, 30% of the vote reflected the high-tide mark. The next day, Amersham Town Council went from having no Liberal Democrat councillors to being Liberal Democrat controlled. But it was a genuine long shot, right?

The notion of a Progressive Alliance became much talked about, and Peter Wrigley made a persuasive case for one. The problem, as is so often the case with such an idea, is that Labour’s idea of a big tent comes solely in red with roses around the door. Perhaps, as Stephen Barber considered, a realignment of British politics was on the cards. It did feel a bit optimistic, given that a thoroughly unlikeable Conservative administration seemed strangely popular.

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 1)

Conservatives 10% ahead in the polls, a set of English County elections in friendly territory for them, a disrupted campaign phase. It was going to end badly, right?

But it didn’t, as Liberal Democrat groups across the country demonstrated that, if you worked hard, had a clear strategy and took advantage of the resources available from ALDC, you could win seats from the Conservatives despite their air war advantage. Across the country, complacent Conservative administrations fell, and although the overall result was pretty much break even – a small net gain – it felt like a win. In fact, whilst the Conservatives were up more than 200 councillors overall, those gains were at the expense of Labour, whilst the night’s other big winners were the Greens, albeit from a low base. Which reminds me, Theakes promised to run round his kitchen naked if we made net gains – is there a record of this event?

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2021 – the year in review: April

‘Twas the month ‘fore elections
And all cross the land
Were Liberal candidates
With leaflet in hand

A neutral observer might have warned against much in the way of optimism five weeks before polling day. A by-election in Hartlepool was unlikely to offer much cheer either, although Andy Hagon took up the gauntlet for the cause. And, of course, COVID still stalked the land.

The Liberal Democrats took a stance against vaccine passports, which appeared to run counter to public opinion, but was at least consistent with the Party’s long held views on ID cards. The debate was just another reminder that modern-day Conservatives appear only to happy to argue against taking away the freedoms that benefit them whilst happily removing freedoms from everyone else. Their hypocrisy in that regard was to haunt them as the year went on.

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2021 – the year in review: March

A legend passed away unexpectedly. Heavens, he could be troublesome – cantankerous, occasionally outrageously rude, but if any one person represented the sheer bloody-mindedness of Liberal Democrat campaigners, it was Tony Greaves. A peerage did little to change him other than to allow him a platform to make life miserable for hapless Government ministers. We still miss him but, as Molly Nolan noted, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Another remote Federal Conference saw Ed Davey outline his vision for the country. Some of you weren’t impressed but then again, some of you aren’t actually Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, my colleague, Paul Walter offered an insight into the mechanics of intervening in a debate and mused about the lack of a conference bar. Take my advice, Paul, and find a local brewery that delivers…

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2021 – the year in review: February

It’s my personal view, albeit a controversial one, that Dawn French was the worst thing that ever happened to Parish Councils. That changed in February, when a meeting of an obscure Parish Council in Cheshire went viral. I noted that not all Parish Councils are like that, whilst Ruth Bright reminded us that all levels of government have their share of unpleasantness. Who would have thought that the County Officer of an Association of Local Councils would become a celebrity? But Jackie Weaver rode the wave of publicity and did more to publicise the sector than anyone could have dreamed of.

COVID restrictions were still an utter shambles, with leaflet delivery allowed, then not allowed. The Government in Westminster might have been useless and, quite possibly, corrupt, but Kirsty Williams was working hard right to the end, planning for Welsh education.

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2021 – the year in review: January

Welcome this mini-series, in which we’ll take a look back at the LDV year through our own personal prism. And where more obvious to start than at the beginning…

2020 had not been a particularly easy year, but you always want to start a new one with some enthusiasm, and Caron introduced us to something that was going to become pretty big as the year went on, the Maraphone. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the Government tried to ban leafleting a week later… We weren’t benefiting from local government by-elections either, as they’d been suspended due to Lockdown 2 – the sequel.

January also saw the culmination of Republican attempts to steal the 2020 Presidential election, one which was far closer than we had hoped it would be. But, despite what some would describe as a coup attempt on 6 January, democracy triumphed… just. Some of the lessons learned from the campaign as a whole were brought to us by John Surie, a member of Liberal Democrats Overseas.

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