The Liberal Democrat Party Conference took place in Brighton last week, with members upbeat about their party’s chances in forthcoming local elections.
SP Broadway’s James Williamson, a Liberal Democrat activist and former candidate, was there and reported a feeling of “remarkable optimism” amongst the delegates. Despite languishing in national polls for over a year the Party has enjoyed a string of local government by-election successes recently.
Over the past three months the Liberal Democrats have gained 16 council seats, some of them off the back of huge swings – 28% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat in Teignbridge (Devon), and 31% from Labour to Liberal Democrat in Mosbrough (Sheffield). The Liberals are hopeful that, with the Conservatives moving rightwards under Theresa May, and Labour engulfed in post-Brexit infighting, that these results indicate moderate voters are coming back to the Party, as the sole surviving occupants of the centre ground in British politics.
With a view to keeping up momentum, especially on local government issues, the Liberal Democrats used their Conference to announce a new housing policy. In a keynote speech Housing spokesperson Baroness Kramer argued that:
“Putting a roof over everyone’s head is not just a moral imperative, but an economic one. The Government must prioritise infrastructure spending- ensuring that future generations have the tools they need to compete.
‘We should start by putting up to an extra £45 billion directly into housebuilding over the next 5 years and give everyone the stability and homes they need.”
Despite the Conference optimism the Party still looks to be a long way away from being in a position to instigate such politics on a national scale – in the latest poll of Westminster voting intentions the Liberal Democrats are at 7%, below even the 8% the Party achieved in the 2015 General Election. Still, if the party’s local elections success continues, the Liberal Democrats could once again grow into a major force at a local government level – only ten years ago they represented nearly a quarter of all council seats. A Liberal Democrat councillor could be coming soon to a ward near you (and your project).