Tag Archives: southport

Cllr John Pugh writes: Cautionary tales from Southport

We’re happier people in Southport after our council by election which we won decisively in what used to be a rock solid Tory Ward and left Labour in a poor third place.

People might be surprised to know that whereas I owe my success to my small and dedicated team, I drew what inspiration I had from my limited reading not of J.S.Mill or Jo Grimond but from the Hindu classic ,the Bhagavad Gita.

Let me explain. We’ve had a rough time lately in Southport – pushed from first to third place on a rising tide of Corbynism in the General Election. a councillor suspended, two defecting to Labour and a fractious and demoralised mood growing. We had a substantial rally of the Corbyn cult on Southport beach with St Jeremy himself in attendance, a media losing interest in us, the party nationally tanking in the polls, a new Tory MP and many of us were just plain knackered after the gruelling, high-intensity campaigning of July’s General.

In such circumstances we were scarcely in a position to welcome a by-election in a ward polarised between a wealthy shoreside area and a deprived town centre. There was serious a possibility of us only being able to add to a narrative of decline. On the other hand we could conceivably change that narrative.

I had when stepping down this year intended to return to local politics but would have welcomed more propitious circumstances in which to do it. I was only too aware of the adage that ‘all political careers end in failure’ and a former MP not winning or worse in a council seat in his own constituency would be a pretty good way of proving it- especially as I knew both Labour and Conservatives needed to pull out all the stops in the contest.

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Exclusive: Former Lib Dem MP John Pugh to stand in Southport Council by-election

A snap by-election on Sefton MBC in Merseyside could see John Pugh, Lib Dem MP for Southport until he stood down in 2017, make a return as a councillor.  He previously served as one for 14 years until his election as MP in 2001.

If successful, John would be following in a expanding line of former Lib Dem MPs who have gained council seats in recent times, people such as Adrian Sanders, Tessa Munt, Mark Hunter and John Leech.

The by-election takes place on Thursday 2nd November in Dukes Ward (which covers Southport Town Centre and West Birkdale) following the resignation of a sitting Conservative councillor due to ill-health.  Dukes Ward is generally regarded as the most Conservative of Southport’s seven wards.

The resignation was only submitted last Thursday 21st September with the Tories “calling” the election the following day and they have been distributing a leaflet since last weekend.  However Southport Lib Dems have also been quick off the mark with a Focus leaflet going out from Sunday.

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How we lost Southport

Gut wrenching horrible was how it felt to be pushed into third place in a seat we have held for the last twenty years but by way of catharsis I would like to tell you good folks what I think happened.It would be good to have other tales of success and failure here.

The election took us as by surprise.Weeks before the Constituency Chair and I had decided that I would announce my retirement from Westminster after what we assumed would be good set of local election results. The snap election forced my hand. But we had ready a great alternative in Sue McGuire ,our council group leader with considerable profile in the town and a real record of action.

The campaign was much better and more high powered than any Southport campaign I have been previously associated with. Lots of help from outside (some incredible shifts put in), bigger canvassing teams, good literature, armies of stuffers, IT & Connect sophistication, bags of help from the national party and two leader’s visits. The pace was unrelenting; the output impressive. Neither the Labour nor the Tory candidate lived in Southport- a fact we sought to exploit. We lobbied at the school gates on education cuts and throughout the town on the dementia tax. Squeezes and switches galore. Other parties campaigns seemed modest in comparison.

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John Pugh writes….Time to be practical

There’s always been a tinge of otherworldly eccentricity about some liberals- the ability to hold a conversation about the merits of site-value rating while simultaneously clutching a bundle of ready-to -go Focuses- the blending of the theoretical with the practical.

Now is the time for the practical. Here in Southport we are fighting off the Tory hordes with our excellent candidate Sue McGuire – and we all know that as a party we need more women MPs.

We need more MPs period……and Southport has provided the party with one since 1987. It’s a winnable seat that has to be won and has never been won easily. Its one of only two held in the North West.

Every rational activist in the North West should be asking themselves “When am I going to go to Southport” and possibly “How often?”. Those troubled by the current ,relative lack of Lib Dem women MPs should be asking themselves what practical help can I give ?

The threat to our electoral prospects is never people actually being inactive but the super-optimism that sees Tory strongholds and Labour heartlands toppling like ninepins to a Lib Dem surge in one electoral cycle. The threat is not concentrating our firepower but exerting huge amounts of energy in pursuit of a good second place. 

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Sue McGuire selected to fight Southport

It’s just a week since John Pugh announced his decision to retire at the snap General Election. Last night, local Liberal Democrats selected Cllr Sue McGuire to fight the seat on 8th June.

From the Southport Visiter:

Sue McGuire represents Cambridge Ward in Southport, which covers parts of Churchtown and Marshside, and is a governor at Marshside Primary School.

She was first elected to Sefton Council in May 2010, and was chosen as leader of the party in June 2015.

Born and bred in Banks, Sue attended Tarleton High School.

She has worked extensively within the community to support and help residents on issues including local health services, council services and tenancy problems.

You can follow her on Twitter here.

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John Pugh to stand down as an MP

John Pugh has announced that he won’t be fighting the General Election in his Southport constituency.

From the BBC:

John Pugh, MP for Southport, said he planned to retire next month, but “did not bank on the prime minister’s opportunism” in calling an election.
He said he did not want to work through “the nightmare chaos of Brexit” in the next parliament.
The local constituency party will now choose a new candidate from an all-woman shortlist.

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John Pugh MP writes…Two lessons from Thursday

Southport councillors 2016In Southport last Thursday we did something no party has ever done before in Southport’s history- won all the council seats by healthy margins. Not everyone knows where Southport is but its on the northern tip of the Merseyside region on the Lancashire coast. On Thursday I was puzzled when contacted by the press department expressing worry about the defection of one of my councillors. It turned out it was a bloke in Stockport who had defected. Easy mistake to make if you are from London.

Southport is part of Sefton MBC which has big wards averaging 12,000. During the Coalition most of Merseyside fell like dominoes to Labour including the Sefton seats outside Southport leaving us (Southport) an isolated fortress. This year it was different with Richard Kemp and Kris Brown spearheading a heroic revival in Liverpool and gains made in Knowsley. The only sadness was that in some other areas of Merseyside where we had taken successive kickings in previous years the will to win and the belief that we could was not there. Hopefully that won’t be the case in 2018 or in the counties in 2017.

Conclusion number one therefore is that the atmosphere is changing but more self-belief is needed.

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