by Alan Dean on 5 July, 2015
Two whole months will have passed in two days’ time since the general and local elections. I have been told it’s time I restarted my blog, so here goes.
What may turn out to me a more significant vote than those on May 7th takes place today in Greece. Will the Greek people reject a financial bailout plan (that appears no longer to be on the table) or vote “yes” to some sort of financial accommodation with its European neighbours and the IMF? The eventual outcome may affect the prosperity of all Europeans including the British, who try so often to remain aloof from The Continent.
The same aloofness and, some would say, meanness of spirit, is on display over the UK’s reaction to the thousands of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East arriving on the shores of Greece and Italy or impeding train and road transport at Channel crossings. We cannot remain aloof. We have to engage constructively in what are difficult and tragic circumstances from which we cannot claim immunity. I was please to read that Lib Dem prospective leader, Tim Farron, is calling for the UK to admit 60,000 refugees as part of an EU-wide humanitarian initiative.
What we are seeing across Europe is reduced collaboration as societies and nations divide between those who think it is their right to hang on to and even increase the wealth they previously had and those who are marginalised on minimum wages, selfish employment practices and increasingly unaffordable housing that the haves will no longer subsidize. Even the poorest now have to pay our highly regressive council tax or pay more to rent bedrooms the state thinks their don’t deserve, despite their having no alternative home on offer.
Since I last posted on this blog the Lib Dems were thrashed in May’s general election. We now have to rebuild the party. Recent council by-election results suggest it is already happening. The party deserved a kicking for misleading the public over tuition fees.The public’s forgiveness may be slow in returning in a big way, though it may be helped once people see what a Tory government unmoderated by the Lib Dems is really like. Yet we won’t climb the heights by simply saying we are nicer than the Tories and more responsible than Labour. The Lib Dems must stand for what is both right for a liberal society and deliverable from limited coffers. On balance, I think Norman Lamb will be the better leader towards that destination, whilst Tim Farron will be great at getting the message across to the public who have stopped listening to the national Lib Dems.
We were shafted in the general election by our coalition partners; but that is no surprise. The Conservatives cared more about their party and its re-election than they did about the unity of the United Kingdom. Their scare tactics about the Scottish Nationalists aimed at frightening English voters may well lead to the disintegration of the UK. I know English people who don’t care; just as they don’t care if Europe disintegrates – provided it doesn’t result in a return to 1914 or 1939! We can be very short sighted and strong on amnesia!
Meanwhile, close to home, I retained my Stansted council seat on May 7th with an all-time high vote and majority over my Tory rivals. The Lib Dem group on Uttlesford stands at six members, retaining 15% of the council’s seats, though down one on the pre-election total of seven to reflect the reduction in the number of seats from 44 to 39. I remain leader of the group. Geoffrey Sell, who regained his Stansted seat, and Janice Loughlin, who retained her Stort Valley seat, are my deputies.
Two months on, the district council has shown early signs of being more inclusive and open to other opinions that those of the former Conservative elite. After an absence of eight years, regular meetings of political group leaders have been reinstated. We now have two opposition groups comprising a significant 40% of the council. The Residents for Uttlesford group has more members than the Liberal Democrat group at nine members. I am back chairing the scrutiny committee after a break four years. We met in June to begin preparing a programme of work which is likely to focus more on how Uttlesford works and delivers services and less on the role and service delivery of external agencies such as the NHS than was the case during the term of the last council. Committee members from all parties seem engaged and up for the challenge.