Sir Vince Cable, speaking on July 28 - in a room packed with West Midlands Lib Dems - in Birmingham City University’s Curzon Building (Birmingham Eastside), was warmly welcomed by the 150 members present.
Photo Credit: A. Adeyemo
He spoke of three reasons why he was feeling optimistic as newly appointed Leader of the Lib Dems.
Firstly, there was a ‘yawning gap’ in the centre ground of British politics – with the Conservative Party under the thumb of the ‘Brexit zealots’ and having forged the alliance with the DUP they had wiped out all the work of Cameron to ‘detoxify the Tories’.
The Labour Party on the other hand, undoubtedly resurgent, (‘we all underestimated them’), were under the control of the hard left and much further to the left than in the era of Michael Foot. Labour Party thinking today was, ‘closer to the Bolivarian Party in Venezuela’. And both parties were, together, committed to an extreme Brexit in an ‘Unholy Alliance’.
“The Labour Party under Corbyn succeeded in attracting large numbers of idealistic young people,” said Vince, “They seduced by the abolition of student debt which they have since abandoned. This is the third time the Labour Party have done a U-Turn and it is the most cynical and the most blatant. They are now firmly under the control of Momentum. This leaves open the middle ground providing an opportunity for us to re-emerge.”
The Second issue was the EU. People hadn’t bought the second referendum as it was still too early in the process. “It’s beginning to happen,” Vince stated, “and will cement our position on what’s right and rationale in the EU. It will happen gradually, it will happen in a manner of ‘slowly rolling in’.”
Living standards were already compressed because of the devalued pound with the consumer feeling this in weekly purchases and other ways. The splurge of consumer credit was unsustainable and investment had largely stalled.
“People will start getting angry and disillusioned. As Brexit starts getting momentum people will being to understand the sheer complexity of what we have embarked upon.”
This could be illustrated by the debate on Euratom. “We need to keep Britain at the forefront of nuclear isotopes, nuclear fusion but all this activity is ruled by the European Court of Justice. Given the government’s line on the sovereignty of our own parliament and not wanting to be subject to the ECJ, this is now crumbling with the whole edifice having to be rebuilt. But this is just about 1% of what is being realigned through Brexit”, said Vince.
Civil Aviation was another area. “The whole basis on which the aviation industry functions, the safety, air traffic, consumer protection, all this is determined by EU Treaties. All this has to be renegotiated within a new framework. It’s an almighty bloody mess! Philip Hammond was saying we know it’s going to be a mess. But by proposing a further two year period before any change he is simply postponing the car crash. The more people become aware of it the more they will become attracted to our approach. We need to stay in the Single Market, stay in the Customs Union, we need access to collaborative research and to maintain the environmental standards. If at the end of the process we lose those then the public have the right to a vote.”
The third reason concerned economic policy. “Whether we like them or not the leading Tory and Labour party members of the recent past had been economic literati. They understood why the economy needed to be well run. In recent months this has gone out of the window. The Tories had no numbers in their Manifesto – as one person gibed, ‘the only numbers in it were the page numbers’. The Labour Party did have numbers in their Manifesto but they didn’t add up. The IFS and the Economist had chosen the Lib Dems as the only people who understood why sensible economics mattered and continues to matter. We need to fund our public services; we need to have the private and public services working together.
Prime Minister in waiting
“I present myself today as an opposition Prime Minister…and given the opposition I think that is a very credible position. I am not here speaking for a ‘plucky 3rd Party’ that wants to gain a few seats. I didn’t come into Politics to be a moderate, sensible person able to deal in numbers and Balance Sheets operating at the margin. I came into politics to really make a difference. I have a soul as well as a brain.
“Most of you joined because you care about things. One of those things is rising inequality. We have inequality of the classes, between generations and between regions. We do not so much have an inequality of income but we have a real inequality of wealth. If we are serious about fairness then we must do this through tax. Inequality of generations is very significant. If you are a teenager today then you are likely to be poorer than your parents because house prices are out of control and you won’t be able to buy or to rent.
Points of differentiation
“This is an aspect of differentiation for our Party. So is education. Students rallied around Corbyn who captured their imagination. We made a big mistake in promising something we could not deliver. The truth is that although what we did was terrible politics it was sensible. Students don’t pay to go to university, they pay a form of graduate tax. Working classes are going to university but no one is listening. We do need to take a fresh look at how university students are funded. Not through pathetic populism but through a more genuine form of graduate tax and through maintenance payments abandoned by the Tories. We must also not forget about the 60% of young people going to Further Education. They matter – a great deal in fact with Brexit.
“This is your party – I’m just the Leader. I’d like to see the implementation of a Learning Account for young people to choose and decide how best to use it for themselves for their start in life. This would be a positive, visionary approach. It would fire the imagination.
Concluding thought: the alternative PM
“I’d like to finish with one thought. We are credible as a political force. This is why I emphasise my pitch as an alternative Prime Minister. We need to regain our place in local government and to start winning more Parliamentary seats again. We will only do this if you are mobilised. We need more focus on technical side, on social and conventional media, and on communications of every type, if we are to make the comeback that I believe is possible.”
Commenting on reports that London could lose it's EU clearing role, and the continuing rise in inflation, Lee Dargue, LibDem Parliamentary Spokesperson for Birmingham Ladywood, said:
"We see business beginning to relocate out of Britain to maintain EU in preparation for our exit. Now the Tory and Labour pursuit of Brexit-at-all-costs is beginning to hit the financial sector.
"In Ladywood, we are really excited to have HSBC relocation it's customer banking operation from London, to the heart of the great city of Birmingham. Further financial woes could put future prospects at risk. "It's welcome news to hear France and Germany stand ready to support the UK should realise they need a change of heart.
"We also see inflation rising, again, as the pound stays low in value - meaning people are being pressed with further rises in costs for food and clothes. We must have financial security to stop this getting worse - and so it's vital all parties work together to stop this from happening"
Commenting on the alarming figures in nurses from EU countries registering to work in the UK, Liberal Democrat West Midlands Health Spokesperson, and Lee Dargue, said:
“Time and again we were told impacts to our local services would happen, over fears of Brexit, were scare-mongering. We see, again, that it wasn’t project fear – but project fact.
“I agree with those who say we shouldn’t just focus on EU applications for NHS staff – but I have never called for that. I have called for ensuring our NHS gets the staff and the funding it needs to not only operate but to answer the growing needs it has.
“So it is a shame that Labour remain wedded to the Tories for a Hard Brexit, and in doing so seeking to damage both the ability to properly staff and properly fund our NHS. Representing Ladywood, I know how damaging this could be to Birmingham City Hospital
“We can start to improve this situation, by having EU citizens living here having their status protected. This relies on the Tories changing their heartless opposition to this, and Labour actually being an official opposition to the government.”
Thank you and a huge well done to all our Lib Dem candidates in the West Midlands flying the flag for an open, tolerant, fair society and full access to the Single Market.
You worked and fought hard - from all of us on the Lib Dem West Midlands Executive our very sincere thanks.
We also owe a great deal of thanks to our activists, campaigners, canvassers and agents who supported our candidates through this busy time. The impact we have made would not be as great without the time, effort and money you graciously gave.
We are clearly in turbulent times and uncharted waters. We had some great gains but lost some good friends, notably in Nick Clegg....
And in the West Midlands we are so sorry we did not win back either Yardley or Solihull, despite all the hard work and dedication of many people. For every one of our candidates to lose was a hard blow, especially when we know what you put into contesting these seats.
However, as we know, much can happen in a week in politics... and who knows what the next few months will bring....We need to keep our chins up and keep fighting for our heartfelt beliefs and values.
Take care and we send all very best wishes. We look forward to keeping in touch and working to drive forward Lib Dem values in the West Midlands and beyond.
Yours very sincerely,
West Midlands Liberal Democrats
Speaking on the announcement, that the Liberal Democrats would ensure an extra £6bn per year for the NHS and Social Care, Health Spokesperson Lee Dargue commented:
“We hear empty words on Health and Care funding from Theresa May. The Conservatives are happy to drive us towards a Brexit cliff-edge to sound tough on EU negotiations, because they haven’t a clue how to proceed.The NHS and Social Care needs proper funding, abut you can’t have a hard Brexit and a strong economy.
“Labour are constantly spending the same money, on different policies, leading to the shambolic position where their own front-bench no longer knows where they are getting money from. You can’t trust Labour with NHS.
Speaking on the policy to spend an extra penny in the pound on NHS and Social Care, Lee said:
“It’s always asked of politicians to be honest and I’m proud that the Lib Dems are being honest, and on the most important of areas – to ensure mental health, social care and our treasured NHS gets the funding it deserves.
“Repeated polls show people are prepared to pay a little more to protect our vital health and care services, and we are focusing on areas including mental health, public health social care and our amazing GPs. Money alone won’t solve the problem, but money is needed to protect our services, and make improvements.”
Lee finished by adding: “Liberals invented the NHS, and only Liberal Democrats can protect it.”
Pulse, the GP publication, has investigated funding for Mental Health services in 2017/18 and found several areas in England are due to be hit, in total, by £35million of cuts. Walsall CCG is included.
Responding to this report, Lee Dargue, West Midlands LibDem spokesperson on Health, reacted angrily “The stigma against mental health is something Liberal Democrats proudly started to tackle in government. However, CCGs in Walsall are now having to cut their mental health service provision, due to Tory-led demands on cuts”.
Lee further added “Enough is enough. The scandalous lack of equal treatment between physical and mental health cannot go on any further. It’s clear that the Tories can’t be trusted on mental health funding, especially for young people where they aren’t even meeting their own funding requirements because of the crisis in NHS funding”1.
Lee finally said “And as for Jeremy Corbyn championing mental health – shouting so through a megaphone does nothing to help those in need. We need to have an effective opposition, as wekk as an honest debate about raising taxes to support the NHS and its services – the Liberal Democrats are the only party offering both.”
Today the Education Policy Institute (EPI) released their latest report on their review of Mental Health provision for Children and Young People1 . The report showed a poor performance across the whole of England, mainly due to a “postcode lottery” of funding and service provision.Read more
Our West Midlands Regional Spring Conference will be taking place on Saturday April 8th, at Linden House in Wolverhampton.
This promises to be yet another packed day full of interesting discussions, top speakers, first class training, active campaigning & of course cake!
View the following leaflet for more information, and the map for a detailed directions to the venue using public transport.
A multi-million pound state-of-the-art training centre in inner city Ladywood has been moth-balled while Birmingham’s Labour council has its eye “off the ball,” Liberal Democrats have revealed.Read more
Beverley Nielsen has been selected as the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Mayoral Candidate for the Liberal Democrats. You can find out more at Beverley's Website, and sign up for email notifications on her campaign.