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A New Day has Dawned, Has it Not?

September 5, 2006 1:14 PM
By Tim Prater - Chair, Shepway Lib Dems in Update Members Newsletter - September 2006

Thank you Radio 1 - by playing "Things can only get Better" this morning, it decided what this months column was going to be about.

You may well remember that record as the optimistic soundtrack to the new Government in 1997. It seemed to sum up perfectly a new start, and a real break from the last years of the failing Tory Government. Even those of us campaigning hard for the Lib Dems across the country could look at our impressive array of new seats and MPs, and celebrate the new day dawning - with, it seemed, the rest of the country.

How times change, and we should be angry at the betrayal of that D:Ream.

On ID Cards, on Nuclear Power, on Iraq (and Lebanon, and before long, maybe Iran), on student tuition fees, on loans for peerage sleaze, and on many other issues, Labour should be ashamed of themselves. Increasingly, their members, supporters (and even many MPs) actually are.

In Derby South, dozens of Labour party members last month left the Party and joined the Lib Dems in protest at their Party's position on Lebanon. Labour are currently lower in the opinion polls than they have been for years. In the recent by-elections in Dunfermline, Blaenau Gwent and Bromley, Labour were beaten, beaten and humiliated into fourth please respectively.

The local elections next May will be the 10 year anniversary of that 1997 General Election. I suspect it will also prove to be one of the worst elections for Labour for some time.

Locally, Labour have just stated their intention to "contest every seat" in May 2007 - that would be 47 candidates. Given the current polls, finding 47 people who support Labour in Shepway may prove to be something of a challenge, let alone 47 people willing to stand for them.

Tactically, in Shepway a vote for Labour is a vote for the Tories, in that it will split the anti-Tory vote (slightly - Labour aren't that much of a campaigning force anymore, as the loss of every single one of their Councillors in Shepway proved).

But our message to ex-Labour voters is not just tactical - it's a principled one. The Blair and Brown Labour Party no longer represents them - but we do.

Let's tell them we would not waste public money by introducing ID Cards. Confirm we will act strongly to protect the environment. Honestly say we won't back new Nuclear Power - nor would we automatically back an ongoing and outdated nuclear deterrent without full consideration. Re-affirm that we are against student fees, and would seek to abolish them. And promise to fight for civil liberties, opposing giving the Government and police the right to detain people for months without charge.

Just as cities such as Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool and swathes of others have become Conservative-free zones, with not a single Conservative councillor, the same will increasingly happen to Labour. In Shepway, we've got a head start in that job. Now, let's keep it that way.