My thoughts on the coalition

This blog post is intended for the 6,827,938 people who voted Liberal Democrat on 6th May. I know some are angry and upset over the coalition deal and for those I will try and explain why you should give us - and the coalition - time to prove it can work.

I can't deny I am a mixed bag of emotions right now. When I joined the party in 2000 it was with the hope of seeing Liberal Democrat values and policies put into practice. And ten years later, that's exactly what we've got. The knowledge of that, with the sight of Liberal Democrat politicians that I know and trust taking seats at the cabinet table, is a source of massive pride for me.

But, like many of you, I instinctively don't like and don't trust the Conservatives at a national level. But if Clegg, Cable and the negotiating team are willing to, then I will place my trust in them. For the time being.

Let us remember, the situation we were given was not of our making. We were given this situation by the electorate. Whilst the idea of a "rainbow coalition" was appealing, we all know the maths simply couldn't work. Even if we could have cobbled together a partnership, it would have been brought down in an instant by just a few rebels. The markets would have reacted, and the country would have suffered.

When you also bear in mind Labour were not seriously interested in anything other than going into opposition, we had just two realistic options. To let the Tories govern on their own or to try and put Liberal Democrat influence into Government.

The Liberal Democrat election campaign was centred around delivering real change around four clear priorities: fairer taxes, a fairer education system, prioritising the economy and building a sustainable future, and changing our political and electoral system. Nick Clegg was entirely open and honest every step of the way that any potential deal would have to prioritise those four policy areas.

That's exactly what we've got out of this coalition deal.

In fact it goes further than I had expected. We have the promise of a directly elected House of Lords using Proportional Representation, with a referendum on AV for the Commons. Far from perfect, but an immense step forward and far more than I would have expected from the Conservatives. We have our £10k income tax plans adopted in part. We have our "pupil premium" policy adopted. And it looks as if we have Vince Cable in position to sort out our failed banking system.

The alternative would have been a minority Tory government that did not deliver any of those things. I for one appreciate that. I suspect that in time the majority of Liberal Democrat voters, and indeed the British public, will also.

For those Lib Dem members and supporters frustrated that every piece of our policy hasn't been included, or quibbling about detail, I say this - GET REAL. When you consider the number of votes and seats we got compared to the Conservatives, Nick Clegg and the negotiating team have done an amazing job to get so much of our policy into this deal. Some long-standing policy hasn't made it and for that I am genuinely sad, but also realistic about the situation we find ourselves in.

We are now a party in government and tough choices will have to be made every single day. Today I have made the tough choice to back this deal that gives Liberal Democrats what we have always wanted - the chance to significantly influence government policy - whilst at the same time limiting the extremes that a Tory government would have delivered.

We fight for Proportional Representation, which would produce this kind of Government time after time. This is our one chance to prove coalition government can work. We must not be frightened, we must not bicker. We must take this incredible opportunity to show the country what Liberal Democrat policy can do.

Let's do this!


Sparkbrook By-Election: Runners and Riders

The list of candidates for the upcoming by-election in Sparkbrook has been released.

Along with the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Respect, the seat will also be contested by the Conservatives, the Greens and one independent candidate. The Liberal Democrat campaign will be led by our candidate Naeem Qureshi and our Parlimentary candidate for the new Birmingham Hall Green seat, Cllr Jerry Evans.

This by-election is due to the controversial financial tale of former Respect councillor Nahim Ullah Khan. That, together with the controversial timing of the by-election which falls around Ramadan, will make this by-election very interesting to watch as it unfolds.


Roger Harmer Selected for Birmingham Edgbaston

David Nikel and Cllr Roger Harmer

The Selly Oak and Edgbaston Liberal Democrats have selected Birmingham Councillor Roger Harmer to fight the Parliamentary seat of Birmingham Edgbaston at the next General Election.

Roger represents Acocks Green ward and has been a Councillor for 14 years.

Birmingham Edgbaston is made up of four wards, Edgbaston, Quinton, Bartley Green and Harborne, covering much of the south-west of the city stretching from the fringes of the city centre right out to the Worcestershire border. It shares a large border with the Ladywood constituency around the Rotton Park, Hagley Road, Five Ways and Attwood Green areas.

Gisela Stewart is the current Labour MP but all the pundits have Edgbaston down as a certain Conservative gain. Having said that, the last two general elections have seen the Liberal Democrat share of the vote go up, so there is progress that can be made.


Why The Tories Won’t Win Here

I nearly choked on my porridge this morning as I was reading the latest post from LadywoodBlue, in which he claims the Conservatives could take Ladywood at the next local election.

You can play with statistics and pie charts all you want, but the facts from the European elections were: The Labour AND TORY vote went down. The Liberal Democrat vote went up.

For the Tories to be losing votes at a time when they should be roaring ahead on the back of national swing, shows Ladywood will not easily be turned blue.

Meanwhile, as the Tories are playing with pie charts, the Lib Dems (and even the Greens) are out regularly on the streets of Ladywood knocking on doors and actually engaging with the public.

To be talking about potentially winning a seat in public before you've put one idea forward to the people of the ward is sheer arrogance. And if there's one thing the folk of Ladywood despise, it's arrogant Tories!


UKIP take Labour seat in the West Midlands

Another long night – thanks to Dudley! 29 out of 30 Council areas had declared before 11pm, but for whatever reason Dudley succumbed to delays and the results weren’t through until after 1pm. All that hanging around gave me the chance to catch up with lots of people, including several Greens that I know and a friend who was on the list for NO2EU!

Earlier in the night I’d been keeping watch on the count in Ladywood constituency. There was limited information to gain from this count but in Ladywood ward it was encouraging to see our vote increase and the Labour and Conservative votes drop.

As for the results, UKIP picked up a Labour seat, which I’d say was largely as expected. The BNP did not perform as well as I had feared, so congratulations must go to all the main parties opposing them and also to the Greens who (in Birmingham at least) fought a good campaign against the BNP.

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Labour hold Lozells & East Handsworth

Experiencing a by-election in a ward as culturally diverse as Lozells & East Handsworth was a real eye-opener. Some of the stories that were coming back to the committee room were interesting to say the least, but having spent most of the day there, I have no idea what was actually going on on the streets. Having been relatively quiet during the campaign, Labour ran a full polling day operation and obviously did very well getting their vote out.

On the plus side Sabirul was an excellent candidate, went down well on the doorstep and we increased our vote in real terms.

We welcomed our Director of Campaigns Hilary Stephenson to our committee room and I’m pleased to say she pretty much left us to it, and went out door knocking!

The Final result was:
Lab 3,018
Lib Dem 2,000
Con 1,622
Green 209
UKIP 208
Turnout 38%