To Win Across the Country We Need To Speak About The Issues That Matter Locally

If I stand out and observe the view from my favourite spot in Scarborough , all I can see for miles is a sea of blue. That’s not just because Scarborough is right on the North Sea coast, but also because I live in a part of the world that at the last General Election, once again returned Conservative Members of Parliament in all but one of its eight constituencies.

It’s the same story at County Council level too, with the Conservatives holding 55 of the 72 seats available, and in Scarborough alone, the Conservatives hold more seats on the borough council than any other political party. Being a Liberal Democrat in North Yorkshire is tough; being a Liberal Democrat in Scarborough is even harder.

Something has to change. If we are to build a 650 Strategy and start winning across the country, then the Liberal Democrats need to stop only speaking to the South of the country, and attempt to engage with those areas that for too long, have been passed from Conservative pillar to Labour post, without so much as a whiff of an elected Lib Dem representative.

This shouldn’t be impossible. After all, let us not forget that the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency was held by a Liberal Democrat until 2010, and in York, we currently run the city council with the Conservatives. But Harrogate and Knaresborough and York have something in common: both voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum, so naturally these areas are open to one of our core values: being in favour of European political integration and cooperation.

But while we can win in Leave areas, we can’t do that unless we tailor our message locally. During his leadership, Tim Farron often said “pick a ward and win it”. I’d like to tell you, it is not that easy when you live in a town with fewer than 10 active members, and the people who live there are automatically switched off if we go in with nothing but a pro EU message.

In order to win, we need to meet people where they’re at. We need to address issues other than Brexit. One of the reasons I believe that Corbyn’s Labour did so unexpectedly well in 2017’s General Election, is because they focussed on issues closer to people’s hearts, issues that affect them on a daily basis: the NHS, schools, policing and the like. Much like trying to talk to someone about proportional representation, unless you’re clued-up and take an almost obsessive interest in politics, you probably don’t see Brexit as the enormous issue our party does. We need to do this nationally and at a local level. What resonates in Harringey won’t necessarily work in Scarborough, and vice versa.

We are a party of bold ideas. We are a party of revolutionary ideas. We are a party that cares about improving the lives of orinary people, no matter which part of the British Isles they hail from, not for the sake of winning votes at the next election, but because we are genuinely passionate about making people’s lives better.

If we are to one day challenge the Tories or Labour for the keys to Number 10, the Cabinet Office and Whitehall, then we need to rescue places like North Yorkshire from drowning in a sea of blue; and we do that by speaking the language of those people whose lives we want to improve.


By Clarke Roberts. Clarke is the Vice-Chair and Campaigns Officer of Scarborough & Whitby Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrat Expand aims to build a ‘650 seat strategy’ for the Liberal Democrats, with no ‘no go areas’ and a message for every voter. Be part of the campaign. Subscribe to our updates, donate, or join.

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