We need to move from the shires and suburbs into the deprived areas of the UK

No matter how successful we have been in the many General Elections that I have been involved in since my first in 1970 there has always been someone who, after the elections, says, ….”but!” So, it might as well be me! In fact, let me correct my own first sentence. For the first time since 1970 I have not been involved in the General Election at all. Convention in Liverpool is that for the year that you are in office the Lord Mayor plays no part in politics so that they can act as the only member of the council able to speak in Purdah periods but also, as with the Speaker, can be neutral throughout the year.

For most of my political life I have been involved in the school of hard politics, which is Liverpool, but it could be any other rough, tough, urban core city or borough. Although I represent a reasonably affluent area now, the fabulous Penny Lane Ward, for much of my time on the council I represented difficult inner-city areas. My lament through the whole of this period has been that the Liberals and then Liberal Democrats have been a party of the suburbs and shires. A quick look at the map of where Lib Dems took seats on Thursday will see that this has not changed at all.

I do understand the need for targeting and believe that this policy was absolutely necessary to ensure that we came back from the political wilderness to enable the Party as a whole to be relevant to the law-making processes of the nation as a whole. But we have now achieved that and my plea to Ed Davey and our other leaders is that now is the time to be bold and push for real representation in our major cities.

Now I know that we are not entirely unrepresented in urban areas at local level. We control Hull and have significant and growing numbers of councillors in places like Sheffield, Newcastle and a growing re-energised presence in my own city of Liverpool. But over the whole of my 50 years in Liverpool we have had to do everything ourselves and fight a poorly funded urban guerilla warfare against Labour’s well-funded mighty machines.

I am proud of what we have achieved in those cities but strongly believe that we can and should do more within the nation’s poorest areas. I do know that there are large areas of rural poverty, and we now represent them. I have spent much of the last year assisting our controlling council groups in Devon and Somerset. But they are not where you will find the greatest aggregation of despair and poverty. 60% of Liverpool and similar cities are defined as being poor in a range of areas from child poverty to poor housing, and poor health.

Our manifesto included policies which would have helped those people but not enough. We can only really help them when we have our street fighters in place providing more practical and moral support to areas which feel largely neglected. So, I want to challenge our victorious leader to do three things:

  1. Appoint in both Houses of Parliament a Spokesperson for Urban Affairs to work with our hard-pressed councillors in cities and towns and visit them, support them encourage them and learn from them when they return to Parliament.
  2. Work with regional parties to select one tough seat in every major conurbation In the UK where the Party will focus its efforts.
  3. Use some of the money that will come in from an increased numbers of donors to support those nitty, gritty urban campaigns.

We will only be a truly national party when we represent people in all areas and from all walks of life. We will now have a greater resource than at any time in my political career to begin to achieve this.

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE is Lord Mayor of Liverpool for 2024-2025.

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6 Comments

  • Christine Headley 6th Jul '24 - 4:42pm

    Not just in urban areas, either. We need to go further (but I haven’t yet worked out how). We need to look hard at the issues most affecting those who currently think Reform is the answer to their problems, and set about actually resolving them. Unfortunately, the local parties in those areas are likely to be small and short of money, and their few members, let alone active ones, are unlikely to live in the deprived wards. I reckon it would take about three parliaments (i.e. 15 years) to work through, by which time the voters will also feel let down by Reform and thus be even angrier. The sooner we start work the better.

  • David Le Grice 7th Jul '24 - 2:55am

    A great shame this important post was so quickly buried under all the posts about our new MPs.
    One tragedy of this election campaign is that we didn’t take up the opportunity to try to gain any second places in labour areas this campaign, or indeed campaign enough to retain our existing second places, many of which have now gone to the green party, including our former seat in Manchester and most of central London.

    In the case of Liverpool we actually hold a third of the wards in each of the Wavertree and Garston constituencies which contain both halves of a seat we actually held pre 1997, yet we came 4th in both presumably as a consequence of activists campaigning in Cheadle instead (and possibly getting distracted by a local by-election in a less favourable constituency).

    We now urgently need to make sure the green party doesn’t grow any further in any of these seats otherwise they’ll suffer the same fate as our former seat in Bristol which has now become a Green stronghold!

  • Andy Chandler 7th Jul '24 - 3:27am

    I completely agree with you. I feel there is now going to be such a political discourse and disjointed communication because we concentrated so much of our vote in the rural heartlands. What we said on national level verses what these Blue wall libdems will say at parliament.

    I am concerned that we have now boxed ourselves in by putting all our attention the Tory shires that are we going to start getting “cold feet” on our progressive platforms that and regeneration in those deprived areas or urban cities.

    And as someone who lives in Stoke, we once enjoyed having 7 councillors, helped supported minority council administrations and got 25% of the vote at GE. Now, no councillors and we didn’t get our deposits and we got NO support from neighbouring places or W Midlands region.

  • David Franks 7th Jul '24 - 12:04pm

    Richard is absolutely right. The results of the election prove that what we found in Luton was repeated all across the UK. Labour did not WIN the election, the Tories lost it. There is no evidence of massive support for Labour, just an overwhelming desire to get rid of the Tories. We may heave a huge sigh of relief that the most damaging government of my long life has been removed but must now look to take the fight to large towns and inner city areas where Labour wins, not because they are successful or popular but just because that’s the way it has always been.

  • Agree with everything Richard has said. We need to analyse why in some areas which have been highlighted in other posts why our local election vote does not transfer at a general election. My old constituency of Harborough has a large majority of lib dem councillors yet we polled less than 10% of the vote and are going backwards.

    All our major cities in my time have had lib dem parliamentary representation our aim must be to make sure they do again

  • Cllr Richard Kemp 8th Jul '24 - 11:16am

    Thanks for these comments. I think that our Leader in Liverpool, Cllr Carl Cashman, is intending to bring together urban council group leaders in the first instance to see what can be done. If you want to help contact him at [email protected]

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