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Liberal Democrats in the Midlands, Midlands in the Liberal Democrats

June 23, 2020 10:18 PM
By Ryan Priest

BalloonTwo weeks ago, I was pleased to be co-opted onto the executive of the Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England, a new group established to promote the "twin aims of raising issues for the Midlands that need championing within the party and to get more Lib Dems elected at local and Parliamentary level to champion the Midlands' cause."

For many in the Midlands, there is a sense that our communities have been left behind, that policy is made a world away in Westminster and that we rarely see any benefit. As a Liberal Democrat, it sometimes feels although our party works in much the same way. I would contest, however, that the functioning of our party has come to represent the geography of our membership and our representatives, where has the function of the Westminster system has long benefited the wealthy and/or more southern regions that it has the Midlands and the North.

There are few elected Liberal Democrats in the Midlands; in my home council of Dudley we haven't held a single seat in over a decade (a trend I intend to change next year!), and even at the peak of nationwide support, we held just two Westminster seats in the whole of the West Midlands (Solihull and Birmingham Yardley.

There are two issues that this lack of Liberal Democrat representation presents:

The first, that there are many seats across the Midlands that for too long have been taken for granted by the two old parties. In these area's voters get friendly smiles and comforting nods from their representatives come election time, but promises are broken and communities suffer afterwards. The Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England seek to address this issue because it is communities like these that need the Liberal Democrats most, that need community champions and proper representation.

The second, that our party's policy-making mechanism and campaign focus is affected by the lack of representation of Midlands-based members. I very proudly championed the Liberal Democrat cause in the last election, and have every intention of doing so again at the next, but it is abundantly clear that our party has image issue in communities like mine, many people believe we are completely out of touch with their needs and priorities.

The second issue outlined furthers the damage caused by the first. We cannot meaningfully move forwards in these left-behind communities if we do not listen.

I believe that the Liberal Democrats for the Heart of England can be a conduit for change in our region, that by working together to truly listen to our forgotten communities, we can make policy that will change people's lives for the better, and in doing elect Liberal Democrats councillors and MPs.

I encourage all Midlands based activists to get involved, you can sign up to our newsletter through our website here

Ryan Priest was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis in 2019