Liberal Democrat members in Hastings & Rye have helped, along with hundreds of campaigners from across the country, deliver a shock by-election victory in Richmond Park, sending a warning to the Tory Government about a hard Brexit.
‘I am very proud that local members have contributed to this incredible Liberal Democrat fightback. It was fantastic to see Progressives from different political parties working together to promote an open, tolerant and united vision of our country.’
‘When I saw what happened at the general election last year I felt I had to get involved.
‘I think a lot of people in [the Richmond Park] community had the same feeling after the referendum. [It] is full of people like me who felt something was going wrong, that the politics of anger and division were on the rise, that the liberal tolerant values we took for granted were under threat. We perceived the Ukip vision of Britain in the ascendancy, intolerant, backward-looking, divisive, just as we see it in America and across Europe.‘Well, today we have said no. We will defend the Britain we love. We will stand up for the open, tolerant, united Britain we believe in.’
Last week, the Daily Telegraph’s chief reporter Robert Mendick enjoyed sharing with the country the Home Secretary’s safe-sex poem from back in 2008, before she became MP for Hastings & Rye.
‘The Liberal Democrats want to keep the focus on Hastings girls’ life chances, rather than our MP’s love life.
‘We are not surprised by the findings of the Plan International UK report. It’s clear that that a Labour Borough has been ineffective at championing and protecting the rights of our girls, and this is evident by the fact that Hastings is comparatively worse than Rother across the indicators.
‘But Amber and her Tory chums are no less culpable. This Tory Brexit government is gender blind on welfare cuts, which disproportionately affect women particularly in places such as Hastings.
‘Nick Perry, our parliamentary spokesperson, has already called on Amber to declare her position on Grammar and secondary modern schools, as these will only serve to further restrict opportunity for girls in Hastings.
‘Gender equality should be an issue for all of us, and the Plan International UK report highlights that Hastings is a priority area for the South East, and within Sussex.’
‘It is great to have another woman Home Secretary. It’s just a shame it’s another Conservative one.‘Amber Rudd is showing that girls can aim high, but every girl deserves to be able to reach her full potential.
’We need to face the issues that girls in Hastings are facing head on.‘Our children deserve better, and this includes by the way, empowering our boys to recognise and speak up about the inequalities and expectations they see.‘As Xan and Nick have argued, girls in Hastings need to be prioritised. This issue must be addressed by local and national government, or Hastings risks being forever considered the poor relation in the South East.’
Local Liberal Democrats have been attending their Party’s Autumn Conference in Brighton this week in the wake of a number of local government by-election victories across the country.
The local Liberal Democrat Association has welcomed the nomination of a full slate of candidates for 5 May, predicting gains, and a foothold back in Hastings and St Leonards politics.
Speaking about the party’s vision for the Borough, Association Chair Nick Perry said,
‘We want Hastings & St Leonards to be a thriving hub for tourism, the arts and green and hi-tech industries. We want to invest imaginatively in our towns’ housing, commercial and transport infrastructure. And we want our most deprived communities to be actively included in, and benefit from, the towns’ regeneration.
’We are a group of campaigners who are not career politicians but care about our Borough and local communities. We want to work with local residents to respond to their vision for our neighbourhoods and the Borough. We want each person to be able to fulfil their potential, whatever their background’, he said.
The Liberal Democrats are different from the Conservatives because we will provide effective and independent-minded scrutiny of the Council. And different from Labour because we want to promote transparent local democracy, not token consultation and decision-making behind closed doors.
Dr James Walsh the Liberal Democrat candidate for Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner visited Hastings town centre on Monday to meet with businesses and clergy, and to take the temperature of town centre issues in the East of Sussex.
Given a tour by Castle Ward Liberal Democrat campaigner, Nick Perry, Dr Walsh heard about some of the new projects being set up by, among others, Holy Trinity Hastings, under the leadership of new vicar, Revd Simon Larkin.
Dr Walsh said, ‘I would like to see a return to a community policing model in Hastings town centre to support ongoing regeneration efforts and so that local residents’ and businesses’ concerns get picked up and dealt with in a timely way.’
Nick Perry said, ‘It was important for James to hear about the particular issues facing our town centre. I am confident that he can be a significant ally for Hastings. His background as a GP of forty years’ standing gives him exactly the credentials needed to join up services to tackle our most pressing social problems’.
Hastings & Rye Liberal Democrats hold their main fundraiser lunch at the Royal Victoria Hotel, St Leonards, this year. The guest speaker will be former Government minister the Rt Hon Sir Simon Hughes.
Simon Hughes last visited the town in March 1986 – three years after his Bermondsey by-election win – and in May that year the Liberals went on to become the largest group on Hastings Borough Council.
The local Association lost its last serving councillor in 2012 and is determined to have a voice in Hastings politics once again.
Association Chair, Nick Perry, said,
“It will be wonderful to welcome Simon Hughes back to Hastings after 30 years. Sadly many of the issues which he raised speaking to the Observer 30 years ago are still not resolved despite millions and millions of pounds of regeneration money having been spent on the town centre. Liberal Democrats want to regain a foothold on the Council so that we can help make local politics more transparent, accountable and efficient.”
The fundraiser lunch will take place on Sunday 28 February. If you are interested in attending contact Pam Brown OBE on 01424 424693.
On Wednesday evening in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrats played a key role in defeating the Government, giving 16 and 17 year olds across the country a voice in the EU referendum.
Following the victory, Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:
“This is a victory for democracy, we will give over a million people a voice on their future.
“In Scotland 16 and 17 year olds proved that they have they not only have the knowledge but also the enthusiasm to have a say on their own future. Taking that away now would do them an injustice.
“The Government must now listen and act, Cameron cannot turn his back on 1.5 million young adults.”
Nick Perry for the local Liberal Democrat Association said, “I am delighted that young people in Hastings & Rye are going to have their say on such a crucial issue for our country’s future. I hope our MP will join me in making public her support for this.”
Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrats Political Reform Spokesperson, said:
“We cannot deny interested and engaged young adults such an important vote. This is a say in their future, and with Cameron ruling out future referendums, they won’t get a voice for a long time coming.
“Today I am proud that we have taken a small step to improve our democracy following a campaign that the Liberal Democrats have led for decades.”
On the morning of the launch Nick Perry on behalf of the Hastings & Rye Association said,
‘The Liberal Democrats are the only party wholeheartedly committed to fighting to remain in the EU. We believe in an open, modern and inclusive Britain that stands tall in the world, and doesn’t hide from it.
‘We also believe that our constituency depends on Britain having a central role in Europe for its future prosperity.
‘By voting to remain in the EU we can secure Britain’s position as a world power and build on our role as a beacon of hope, freedom, tolerance and prosperity.
‘It is not the time to turn our backs on Europe, and leave us isolated, side-lined and alone.
‘If Amber Rudd and the Conservatives can’t or won’t make the case for the EU – and Labour are ambivalent – the Liberal Democrats will.’
I am sure that all progressives in Hastings would have been pleased to read in your paper the first column from Peter Chowney, the new Leader of the Council.
He is an approachable, thoughtful and in my experience of him, significantly less tribal politician than some of his colleagues.
I believe he means it when he says that he will work with others who have a ‘similarly positive outlook’.
It was interesting to read about his programme of reform at the Town Hall (there will be more to say about this), and also to note his reference to the European Union (and the funding opportunities it might provide in the future). These are straitened times, and we are now seeing what an unfettered Conservative Government looks like…
I submitted a Freedom of Information question to the Council at the end of June to find out just what level of funding had been derived from the EU over the past ten years. Surprisingly, for a town with significant regeneration challenges, only (just over) £6m. From my work alongside South East MEP Catherine Bearder, I know that there are more opportunities out there for a Council that seeks to co-operate more closely with Europe.
To that end, I wonder if now is the time (ahead of the Referendum likely next year, or at the latest the year after) for all those of us living in Hastings, St Leonard’s and our Rother regions, who are proud Europeans, to put party allegiance aside and come together in a ‘Hastings for Europe’ campaign?
The Liberal Democrats along with other parties want to see 16 and 17 year olds able to have a vote in the Euro Referendum, just as young people were empowered to vote in the Scottish referendum on independence.
Businesses across the constituency know just how important European markets are to the regeneration of the town.
And now we have a Council declared in its openness to the benefits of Europe.
Let’s grasp the nettle. Cllr Chowney, I hope we can work together?