This week the Liberal Democrats elected Sir Ed Davey as their leader. In this post former Liberal Democrat Cllr Emma Hunneyball reflects on the leadership contest and its place in the wider context of her decision to leave the party.
As a member of the public I’ve long felt frustrated that when standing in the polling booth there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the ballot paper who represents me: my values, my family, the things that matter to me. I don’t want to choose between red or blue: I want something different. I joined the Liberal Democrats in May 2019 as the party that most represented my values: buoyed by outstanding results in the 2019 local elections it felt like the place to be to work towards a progressive, more inclusive future.
At a local level the Lib Dems are amazing: I got involved with energetic, enthusiastic, hard-working people across the West Midlands and learned so much about what it means to be a committed Councillor and community activist.
But I had increasing misgivings about the national picture, which were compounded by the disappointing performance in the 2019 General Election. The party seemed to be too focused on the South, and reluctant to embrace true progressive alliances to ensure smaller parties make the most of limited resources and get more progressive people elected to councils.
The recent leadership election felt to me like a chance to reset the party after a series of disappointments. It was an opportunity to break away from the past and make a bold statement about who the party wanted to be and what it could achieve.
I came out early in support of Wera Hobhouse. Her campaign represented absolutely everything I felt about what the party could do differently in terms of progressive alliances and bold new thinking. However it quickly became apparent that the party was not ready to embrace her approach and she dropped out of the race, just as I reached a crossroads of my own.
I left the Liberal Democrats in early June 2020, in favour of joining Chase Community Independents Group. While I was keen to support Layla Moran’s leadership bid: a young, modern woman with a compelling, credible voice on education and the environment, it felt inevitable that she would be unsuccessful. The Lib Dems didn’t look likely to elect a leader who would drive real change and they were unlikely to transfer their focus and resources from the South of England to areas like the Midlands. I decided I wanted to focus on a group where every ounce of effort we put in would go back into supporting the local community, and into challenging to get progressive candidates elected.
This week the results of the leadership election proclaimed Ed Davey the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, cementing that my decision to leave had been the right thing for me. While Ed Davey is a fantastic MP I do not feel he is going to take the Lib Dems in the fresh new direction the party sorely needs. His election leaves the albatross of the coalition firmly around the party’s neck; he hasn’t been able to build a solid media presence despite almost 8 months as acting leader; and he hasn’t reached out to reassure Lib Dem members that the views of the regions, and young members, will be the driving force behind policy moving forward.
I felt a familiar pang of frustration as the news of Ed Davey’s win came through, but I also felt a renewed sense of commitment to the aims, objectives and values of Chase Community Independents Group. Freed from the slow pace of change, stagnant thinking and historic problems of a national party, I’m part of the decision-making team that drives CCIG policy, reaches directly out to the community we serve and challenges local elected officials to do better. And that’s what I got into politics to do in the first place.
Are you a member of a national party, feeling frustrated that national politics are not working for you and your community? Talk to us about how being involved in Chase Community Independents Group can help deliver a bold and compelling vision for Cannock Chase.
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