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Fighting Labour In Chesterfield by Paul Holmes

May 9, 2019 10:35 AM
By Paul Holmes

Lib Dem Councillors May 2019

In 2015 Chesterfield Lib Dems returned only 9 Cllrs, our lowest number since the 1980's. On Thursday we elected 17, missed one more by one vote (after 3 recounts) and another by 53 votes.

The historian in me points at past precedent. In 1995 we elected 10 Cllrs, in 1999 it was 19 and in 2003 it was 37. There was also the minor side issue of electing the MP in 2001. So, we are now looking forward to the 2023 Council elections with considerable anticipation -and have already started the planning!

Our excellent gains of seats and Council control across England are a source of great joy. At a personal level I am particularly pleased at the Hinckley and Bosworth result where my old friends Stuart Bray and Michael Mullaney masterminded and drove another fantastic campaign as they always do. Then there is Southport where my friend and former Parliamentary colleague John Pugh and his colleagues did well.

However, my greatest delight is in those areas where we made progress against Labour. For half a century we have won most of our Cllrs and MP's from the Conservatives in generally more affluent areas. Winning against Labour has always been much harder and less usual. When we won the Chesterfield Parliamentary seat in 2001 it was, I think, only the second time since WW2 that we had won a seat direct from Labour (without a prior by election success) in a General Election.

So, the less glamorous progress against Labour on Thursday was what I especially noticed -in Liverpool, Sheffield, Derby, Barnsley, Sunderland and Bassetlaw for example. I have asked the Association Liberal Democrat Cllrs and as far as they could tell me Chesterfield, with 7 gains from Labour and 1 from UKIP, had the highest number of gains from Labour in England. A source of particular satisfaction to me.

I grew up in a Council flat on a very large Council estate. I want to be part of a Party that has a message that resonates in such areas -as it very much did under for example Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. Back in 1983, the 26-year-old me would never have joined a Party that deliberately marketed itself as a Party of the 'professional, urban, educated, middle class.' Yet that is what some 'Core Vote' enthusiasts want us to do today. I want us to get back to being able to win and run big urban areas like Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool as well as the smaller former Labour fiefdoms such as Chesterfield.

Editorial note - Paul Holmes was formerly a Cllr for 12 years in Chesterfield and was the MP for 9 years. Much to his surprise he was persuaded to come 'out of retirement' and return to elected politics last Thursday.