Whatever happened to the class of 2015? – third and final excerpt


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I suppose that it is very easy to get into the mindset that politics is everything in life. But it turns out that there is life outside of Westminster.

I read the other day that former Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, is training to become a gym instructor.

That started me thinking about what had happened to our vast number of MPs from before the election in 2015.

Stephen Gilbert, former MP for St Austell and Newquay, for example. Whatever happened to him after he posted a “Gone Surfing” post-it note on his Twitter account in 2015? Well, it turns out he’s a teacher.

I then thought I’d better find about some of the others and, before I knew it, I was launching a vast spreadsheet and had started a huge task.

Anyway, here is the third and final part of my researches, from P to W in alphabetical order (Part 1 is available here and part two is here). If you spot any omissions or errors, please let me know in the comments below:

John Pugh – John survived the Great Slaughter of 2015 and stood down from his Southport before the 2017 general election. In November 2017, he was elected to Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council as a councillor for Duke’s Ward. He is a trustee of Birkdale Library Group.

Alan Reid – After losing in 2015, Alan stood for the party in 2017 and 2019 in Argyll and Bute. He is a councillor on Argyll and Bute council and on a whole series of local boards of trustees, forums and panels.

Sir Robert Smith Bt. – Robert lost his West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine seat in 2015 after holding it for 18 years. In 2013 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Dan Rogerson – Dan is chair of the Wessex Water Partnership. He is a trustee of the charities Enable in Cornwall and St Piran’s Trust and is a school governor.

Bob Russell – Bob lost his Colchester seat in 2015 and was unsuccessful when he stood again in the 2017 election. The BBC reported in September 2015 that, after 18 years as Colchester MP, Sir Bob was offering guided tours of the constituency for £5 a time. He wants to put the money towards a statue of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star writer Jane Taylor, who lived in the town. Bob is High Steward of Colchester, which is a ceremonial role. As such, he leads an annual walk around the city’s Roman walls with proceeds going to charities. Bob continues to campaign for local causes. He recently spoke out against plans to build a thousand houses on an old army range.

Adrian Sanders – Shortly after losing the Torbay seat he held for 18 years, on 5 November 2015, Adrian was elected as the Liberal Democrat councillor for the Clifton-with-Maidenway ward of Paignton, taking almost 70 percent of the vote. He stood down from the council in May 2019. Adrian is Secretary General of the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network and is a consultant lobbyist. He volunteers as a Trustee of a medical charity and the Parliamentary Outreach Trust and is a Vice-President of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He describes himself as “a supporter of freedom, social justice, environmentalism, constitutional reform & a cure for Type 1 diabetes”. A rock music fan, Adrian has occasionally presented such music on local radio.

Andrew Stunell – Andrew is now one of our peers, as Baron Stunell of Hazel Grove. He is our spokesperson on Construction.

Ian Swales – Ian was MP for Redcar from 2010 until standing down in 2015. From 2015 until 2018, Ian was Chair of the Northeast of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), the body that represents companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, polymer, renewable energy and materials, steel and biotechnology process industries in North-East England. He still lives in Redcar and is a non-executive Director of Redcar racecourse as well as various charity involvements.

Jo Swinson – After being MP for East Dunbartonshire for ten years, Jo lost her seat in 2015, then regained it in 2017, only to lose it again in 2019. She was leader of the party from 22 July to 13 December 2019. As such, Jo was the first female leader of our party – and the youngest.

Sarah Teather – Sarah is Director of the UK Jesuit Refugee Service. On her Twitter profile, she describes herself as “Music lover, besotted aunt, amateur gardener. (Recovering) former Gov Minister &MP.”

John Thurso – John is Chairman of Visit Scotland. He is in the House of Lords as the Rt Hon Viscount Thurso. He has a very interesting history of the “You couldn’t make it up” variety. He is the grandson of Sir Archibald Sinclair, the first Viscount of Thurso, who was leader of the Liberal Party from 1935 to 1945 and also Secretary of State for Air during World War II. John was initially in the House of Lords as the third Viscount Thurso from 1995 until 1999 when his automatic right to sit as an hereditary peer was absolished. He was elected to the House of Commons in 2001 until his defeat in 2015. In 2016 he was elected back to the House of Lords as hereditary peer, where he remains. Indeed, he was unanimously elected by the electorate of three! He is the Lord Lieutenant of Caithness and is chair of two commercial companies.

David Ward – After five years, David lost his Bradford East seat in 2015. He then returned to local politics in 2016 as a Liberal Democrat councillor on the City of Bradford Metropolitan Council where he remains. David is a supporter of Amnesty International, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign against the Arms Trade and Bradford City Foundation.

Steve Webb – Steve lost his Thornbury & Yate/Northavon seat, which he held for 18 years, in 2015. He was knighted in 2017. Steve is director of policy at the financial services mutual Royal London. In that role, Steve provides excellent advice to pensioners andthose approaching pension age, for example, he has written an excellent guide called “Topping up your state pension – everything you ever wanted to know”.

Mark Williams – Mark has now returned to his previous profession of teaching. He won his Ceredigion seat in 2015 and completed 12 years as its MP on 2017 when he stood unsuccessfully for re-election. He also stood without success in 2019. Last month in a message to local residents he said “This is my home, where I and my brilliant wife and children live. Ceredigion has been so good to me and (I) intend to work on the community issues I care so much about.”. Mark is President of the South West Wales & Borth British Legions and a campaigner for global education, devolution & human rights.

Roger Williams – After 14 years as MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Roger lost his seat in 2015. He is a Councillor on Powys County Council and three community councils. He is the partner of his family farming business and Trustee and Tresurer of Brecon Mind, as well as being Vice President of Brecknockshire Young Farmers’ Club.

Stephen Williams – After holding the seat of Bristol West for ten years, Stephen was defeated in 2015 and then again in 2017. He stood unsuccessfully for Mayor of the West of England in 2017 and in the European Elections in 2019. He continues to be involved in politics and particularly Bristol & West of England, heritage and LGBT issues.

Jenny Willott – Jenny was MP for Cardiff Central until she lost her seat in 2015. She is director of Enterprise and Innovation at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. She is also a member of the board of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s board. Jenny is also chair of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Consumer Panel.

Simon Wright – Simon was MP for Norwich South from 2010 until he was defeated in 2015. He is now Chief Executive Officer of Nelson’s Journey, a charity which helps children affected by bereavement in Norfolk. He is a keen runner. Simon and wife Anna Thorpe have done more than 200 Parkruns between them. He told the BBC last month: “There is life after parliament so that doesn’t have to be what defines your future.” – An uplifting note on which to end this list!

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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12 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Jan '20 - 12:45pm

    It’s interesting to observe how much the Lib Dem pattern of seats fluctuates (with the obvious exception of Orkney & Shetland). Of the eight who survived the “Great Slaughter”, four were then lost in 2017, and another two in 2019, so that only Alisdair Carmichael and Tim Farron have held their seats throughout. And although four of those defeated in 2015 returned in 2017, only Ed Davey managed to hold on this time. It’s also noticeable that once a Lib Dem MP stands down, or decides not to re-contest a seat having lost it, the party’s vote usually collapses.

    In other words – the Lib Dems as a party have some success in getting a bunch of independents elected under their label, but apparently no real traction with the voting public, even in those seats where they hold on for a while through the efforts of an individual MP. Not everyone will find this surprising – and some Liberals will even find it a cause for pride – but I think it’s pretty stark, and maybe suggests that this party never had much of a future as anything but a protest vote vehicle.

  • Malcolm Todd wrote:

    “It’s also noticeable that once a Lib Dem MP stands down, or decides not to re-contest a seat having lost it, the party’s vote usually collapses.”

    Not always. Munira Wilson increased the vote share in Twickenham to the highest level ever achieved in that constituency by a Liberal Democrat or predecessor. She achieved a higher vote share than Vince Cable ever did. Yes, Munira Wilson was a local councillor, but so was Karen Ward in North Norfolk. So what is the difference between Twickenham and North Norfolk, apart from once being next to the sea and having more green fields than the other? I think it is a case of Twickenham having a much larger core vote. Mark Pack’s core vote strategy has been much sneered at, but it did save the party from oblivion last month.

  • Chris Bertram 7th Jan '20 - 4:27pm

    “And although four of those defeated in 2015 returned in 2017, only Ed Davey managed to hold on this time.” Not totally fair, since Sir Vince Cable decided to retire, and we did hold his Twickenham seat with a new candidate. We also regained Edinburgh West, Bath, Caithness & Sutherland, albeit with new MPs, and hold them still. So not quite as poor a record as you suggest.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 7th Jan '20 - 4:51pm

    @ Malcolm Todd “I think it’s pretty stark, and maybe suggests that this party never had much of a future as anything but a protest vote vehicle”

    The problem for the LibDems is the loss of the 15% core vote that it had from the late 1970s through to the early 2000s. That core vote was on the wane even before the 2005 election. There are a number of somewhat interconnected issues of which I touch on just a few:

    (i) The LibDems have become (in England) a party for public sector/third sector middle class white English voters with moderate incomes but a decent amount of capital. Whereas the traditional liberal policy was about taxing wealth rather than income, the current LibDem voter base has turned this on its head. This is one reason for the dire failure of the LibDems among immigrant communities where people have little or no family wealth/capital. In relative terms, the LibDem voter base is now much more heavily weighted to the wealthy and highly educated than the Tory voter base is.

    (ii) The LibDems have little or no understanding of what life is like for the 20% of the country who are minimum wage workers. I’m shocked that at no point in the discussion on this site regarding LibDem performance in the election has it been noted that the LibDem offer regarding minimum wage increases was less than both the Tories and Labour and amounted to no more than consideration of regionalisation of the level of the minimum wage. The LibDem ignorance of what it means to be poor in this country is evidenced by many of the stances taken that are now not to be spoken off, e.g. Ed Davey’s opposition in the early 2000s to government proposals for restrictions on gambling machines, which he described as a “silly bit of nanny state politics. Well, after 15 years of FOBTs I think we can all judge for ourselves whether Ed Davey was correct.

    (iii) The LibDems are almost completely dominated by “worthies” and placesitters, again, almost completely white English in ethnic terms and exclusively so in cultural terms. There are 8 times as many LibDems in the House of Lords as in the House of Commons! In fact the percentage of members of the House of Lords that are LibDems is higher than the percentage of votes the LibDems obtained at the 2019 election. Look at the posts on this site about what ex-LibDem MPs are doing now – only a tiny percentage of them in private sector jobs that don’t amount to political lobbying.

  • Paul Holmes 7th Jan '20 - 5:16pm

    Malcolm also ignores Richmond Park where, bar a brief interlude, we have held the seat for a quarter of a century, with 3 different MP’s.

    He also ignores the fact that since 2010 ‘we’ have gone out of our way to dump most of our pre 2010 supporters and replace them (unsuccessfully). First with Nick Clegg’s ‘Liberal Conservatives’ who would we were told flock to us once we proved to have ‘tough’ economic credentials. Second with Mark Pack’s ‘Core Vote’ of progressive, educated, urban, professionals. Inevitably those deliberate actions have severely undermined many of our previous strong areas. Indeed Mark Pack even wrote a paper all about ‘pivoting’ resources away from areas where we had ‘merely won’ in the past and towards areas where we ‘should’ do well because ‘Core Voters’ were concentrated there.

  • Paul Holmes 7th Jan '20 - 9:15pm

    ‘Sesenco’ You could equally make the case that the hard line Core Vote/Revoke policy lost us seats a month ago.

    What’s the difference between N Norfolk and Twickenham you ask? Well one of them, like Eastbourne or St Ives, is a Leave voting constituency where our Revoke stance made it impossible to win. So straight away that’s 2 MP’s lost and one near miss in 2017 where we fell further behind in 2019.

  • Paul Holmes:

    Two points:

    (1)

    Remain and Leave are not in themselves ideological positions. They are symptoms of underlying ideological preferences. Remainers are more likely to have liberal attitudes, while Leavers are more likely to have authoritarian attitudes. For example, there is polling evidence that indicates that Remainers are much less likely to support capital punishment than Leavers. The core vote strategy, as I understand it, is about first of all persuading people with liberal attitudes to vote for us, and then building outwards from there. That means we start in South-West London and such like places and spread outwards. Your strategy seems to be to support whatever the latest opinion poll tells us is popular, or whatever people are saying to you in the supermarket, then try to outbid the hard right on it.

    (2)

    Politicians have a duty to lead. Leave is popular because, firstly, a malign press succeeded in persuading people that the EU is an anti-British conspiracy and, secondly, Remainers did far too little to counter that misapprehension out of fear of said malign press. And to the malign press we can now add our public service broadcaster, which is basically a mouthpiece for Johnson/Cummings. Charles Kennedy called that approach “Do not acknowledge”. And he was right. Ultimately, we paid the price for it.

    Democracy is dependent on three things: accurate information, free speech and public scrutiny. (1) is already missing or at least in very short supply. (3) has deteriorated under both May and Johnson, and it is going to get much, much worse. (2) has already been undermined by useful idiots who call themselves “progressives”, but the hard right will soon take over and start toughening up official secrecy, copyright, defamation laws, etc. In addition, those other pillars of a liberal democracy, the rule of law and human rights, are about to be thrown out of the window.

    A liberal party that will not stand up for liberal values has no reason to exist.

  • I also think Malcolm Todd is wrong. Sadly we were in a national situation where compared to 97 our main opponents were up 50% and we were down 50%.

    Bath is a another seat we lost and regained. But we are still doing well in a number of seats St Ives, Winchester, Guildford etc. etc. And IF and it’s quite a big if, we do better nationally ( and the Tories worse) then we may well regain these seats. At a guess quite a lot of seats we held and where our incumbent stood down between 2001-2010, we held.

    There is a well observed effect that for all parties, of a reduction in vote for that party for new candidates when an incumbent stands down.

    And that all being said, to get above 40% needed normally to win in one seat for a party getting around 15% nationally and very uniformly distributed needs adding together many factors in an individual seat – tactical votes, good organisation, building credibility, a well known and hard working candidate who is often a councillor etc etc.

  • nvelope2003 8th Jan '20 - 11:39am

    One very obvious reason why the Liberal Democrats have not succeeded is their blind refusal to accept that they could possibly be wrong about anything. Anyone who presents a contrary view is either at worst totally ignored or, slightly less bad, accused of not knowing what they are talking about. I am sorry to say that there no longer seems to be much point in supporting such a party and the potential support among the voters, except over the issue of remaining in the EU, is melting away. As someone who has supported it since my teens I find it very sad.
    There seems to be a group of people at the top who have well paid positions which they are determined to cling on to, but are out of their depth. A sort of self perpetuating oligarchy of incompetence.

  • Paul Holmes 8th Jan '20 - 1:14pm

    ‘Sesenco’. Dear anon -I count 3 things you completely invent, which I never said, starting with ‘Remain’ where I specifically talked of the disastrous Revoke policy.

    You also buy in to the utter nonsense that all Leave voters are illiberal, when in fact a great many were quite happy to vote Lib Dem in the past but disagree with us on this one issue. It is perfectly feasible to want to leave the EU without being authoritarian or racist or stupid or any other of the illiberal insults some people are so happy to throw around. [Please note I voted ‘Remain in 1975 and campaigned for and voted for Remain in 2016, so please do not invent false statements or views to hurl insults at].

    The simple lesson of FPTP elections in a Two Party dominated system is that you do not win by pandering to a niche Core Vote. Corbynite Labour have just rediscovered that truth just as Bennite Labour did back in 1983. The Lib Dems in recent years seem entirely unwilling to accept that reality and so far have rushed lemming like down the road to electoral oblivion.

  • Paul Holmes:

    I have never once said that ALL Leave voters are illiberal. I wrote in my post that Leave voters are more likely to have authoritarian attitudes than Remain voters, which is a fact disputed by no-one, as far as I am aware. What I wrote is not the same as claiming that all Leave voters are illiberal or racist or whatever, which I have never said and am never likely to say.

    No political party can prosper without a core vote. In the USA, the Republican core vote is comprised of the non-metropolitan white working-class, the non-metropolitan white middle-class, Evangelical Christians, Cuban Hispanics and the ultra-rich. The Democrat core vote is comprised of ethnic minorities (excepting Cuban Hispanics), a large part of the metropolitan white working-class and a large part of the metropolitan white middle-class. The Democrats routinely win over 95% of the vote in Harlem and South Bronx, while the Republicans win over 80% of the vote in Eastern Kentucky. The Tories and Labour have their core votes. Last month, the Tories made big inroads into the non-metropolitan white working-class, which is why the Tories won and Labour lost. The Liberal Democrats, for the very first time, succeeded in building an ideological core vote that has to be nurtured and strengthened. We still have a core vote in the West Country for different reasons that is recovering and needs to be nurtured and strengthened, too.

    I use a pseudonym because I am a public servant. I do not want work colleagues and partner organisations commenting on my political views. My mugshot is real.

  • Paul Holmes 8th Jan '20 - 3:37pm

    In what sense did we ‘for the first time build a core vote’ in 2019?

    We won 10 seats which we had held before in the terrible non Core Vote days. We gained one new seat, which had already been a Target Seat a couple of times before in previous terrible non Core Vote days.

    You could argue that we were driven back into an ‘affluent shadow’ of our former areas of strength (all 11 held seats are in the top 20% of constituencies by affluence) but hardly that we ‘built’ something new. We have been totally wiped out in former long standing ‘Core’ areas such as Devon, Cornwall and Wales. We are down from 11 to 4 MP’s in Scotland. We are down to just 1 MP in the whole of the Midlands/North of England. Hardly a sign of anything ‘new’ being built.

    A ‘true’ Core Vote Liberal Party, in a FPTP system, will always be on the edge of extinction/irrelevance. Just as the old Liberal Party was in all the many decades it hovered around 6-10 MP’s.

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