Thursday was a bad set of elections for the Lib Dems. In Blaydon constituency, where I stood at the General Election last year, the trend of Labour gains against the Lib Dems accelerated. I was particularly sad to see Brenda Osborne in Winlaton and Derek Anderson in Crawcrook lose their seats. Brenda has worked tirelessly for her community and gives people hell when they are not doing their job and helping people. Derek has worked tirelessly with a residents group (the DSD estate) to generate a real community spirit. In addition, SOnya Hawkins in Whickham East and Dunston Hill was a great candidate who would have been a great councillor. All lost to Labour candidates with little pedigree. In Whickham East, Sonya lost to a Labour councillor who defected from the Lib Dems when she saw the way the tide was turning, which is hardly an honourable way to behave.
In Newcastle we lost some great councillors, such as Karen Robinson in North Heaton and Philip Lower in Blakelaw. All were positive influences on local politics. It was a bad night for anyone who is a Lib Dem. We had taken many these seats over the last 13 years under a Labour government. But we kept some seats like Whickham North, which were just as marginal. When you are unpopular nationally, you have to redouble your efforts to keep in touch with the electorate. In Bedford, we kept the elected mayor seat, even though we came third in the local elections on the same day. We increased our seats in Eastbourne and did well in the Redcar constituency.
The thing is, I joined the Lib Dems when we were on 4% in the polls and we were being called a dead parrot by the Tories. I joined because I believe in Liberalism. I don't believe in left vs right or working class against middle class. I want the state to get off our backs and to help everyone achieve what they are capable of. The AV referendum confirmed for me that I could never be in either of the two conservative parties, that hate radical reform. Labour is happy to rack up votes in its northern heartlands and lose the argument in the south. The Tories don't believe in change. There is still a massive need for a thoughtful, moderate political party that believes in giving people the power to change their lives. If there wasn't a Lib Dem party then we'd have to invent it. If we want to increase our appeal, the answer isn't to engage in recriminations but to get out there and make a difference to peoples lives and then to let them know what we did.