Saturday, 5 May 2012

That went well!

Well, that went well!

The local elections were an unmitigated disaster for the LibDems in Edinburgh, where I live!

I scribed most of my thoughts on a comment on the Better Nation website, so I thought I would lay them out on my own blog.

We all knew this was coming a year ago. Things were always going to get worse for us before they get better and fighting locals as the lead party what with the Trams, some big budget challenges and LibDem group’s ‘talent’ for self promotion was likely to lead to another pasting.

Well, we got that, but it was slightly worse than I expected. I had hoped for 7 and feared for 4 – we got 3!

Interestingly, I don’t think the liberal (small l) vote has disappeared. In large part, it has gone Green and to the National Party of Scotland.

Places like Meadows, Fountainbridge and Stockbridge have always had an inbuilt liberal block. People who are in touch with their inner tank-top and eat vegetables. Since we have blotted our copy book it has helped the Greens get 6 councillors and some big wins.

The Nats are the opposition to Labour – there to give scrutiny and an alternative way to do things. I think Labour need that. As such they carry the responsibility of representing many who are cautious about how a Labour administration will perform.

So in a non tribal sense I don’t despair for our city.

I’ve been a Liberal for a long time and I’ve met in both taxis and in large halls. I had always felt things to be ok because the ‘market’ demand for a centre party was there. A pragmatic party with a perfect mix of individualism and collectivism, strong on the environment and civil liberties and positive about Europe and the need for effective devolution within the UK (Federalism even).

I’m a bit more worried this time – in Scotland at least. I saw the Greens come through in the late 80s but they faded. Today they are much more coherent, rounded and a mature proposition. I think they have potentially more staying power as we look jaded and yesterday’s party.

There has always been a strong place for a non socialist alternative to the Conservative party – that is in a nutshell what the LibDems were in the 20th century. The Nats and the LibDems (Alliance in the 80s) have ebbed and flowed around this one over the last 40 years – over time and over different regions of Scotland.  Well currently the Nats have well and truly blocked us out of that one. It doesn’t help that we have blotted our left of centre copy-book with the coalition and everything that that involves during an era of global financial crisis.

The point is there isn’t really an opening there as the Nats are currently much more than just a nationalist party or the party of Independence.

So where does that leave us – in Edinburgh terms.

Well, I think we need to go back to our areas and form Focus action groups and get on with some of the things we do best – community action. We need to stay engaged and involved. I think in Edinburgh a core of activists and members will remain in the parts of the city where we have been strong.

For us in a lot of ways politics was re-booted 12 months ago. So we now put this behind us and move on.  This means we can start to hold the big groups on the council to account. Including the Nats and the Greens as they represent the interests of liberal minded voters (amongst others of course).

We can free of being in administration during a difficult period promote our ideas for the city and constructive criticisms of what goes on.

I actually believe the LIbDems have done a lot of good across Edinburgh in recent years. The LibDem councillors increased nursery places and care for older people and started building houses again. They also increased recycling, and importantly sorted out the financial mess the city faced after the previous administration. (Leaving aside the costs associated with the Tram project).

In the manifesto the group put together they developed a lot of detailed and valuable thinking of where the city should go next and what the priorities are.

The point is that stump politicking or internet trolling aside there is some good thinking there to continue to contribute albeit as a depleted group and to continue to think and develop ideas is a key thing we should continue to do proudly.

I don’t know what is to come in the years ahead. The Nats may decline if they loose the referendum in 2014. They may face pressures and fissures between those who see independence as building a new socialist Utopia in Scotland and those who see themselves as an effective disciplined centre left alternative to Labour. Who knows.

The point is we have re-booted the computer and the LibDems should get out there and campaign in this city.

1 comment:

  1. I think these types of losses were inevitable, and nothing to panic about. As part of the colation in power, it is natural the Lib Dems would be hit. However, I feel strongly this is more of a vote against the Tories then against the Lib Dems, so there is no need for panic. The Lib Dems have just been caught up in the downdraft.
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