The other week, I watched the final of the Eurovision with words from Graham Norton “here’s to all the naysayers who said we would never do well again in this competition” as the UK came a very respectable second to Ukraine. I must say that the comeback felt like the #LibDemFightBack or our recent #LibDemSurge!
There’s something uniquely wonderful in how the doubters seem to downplay our impact on the political system, and yet it is this party that keeps winning despite the odds. This last year alone we have won two parliamentary by-elections and increased the number of councillors in the local elections more than any other party. We are the real opposition to the Tories, and they know it.
On a very personal note - it’s been a very successful Lib Dem year. Last May I was delighted to be elected with Caroline Pidgeon to the London Assembly, despite the challenges of Covid and extended year of campaigning during a pandemic. Campaigning during Ramadan is never easy either, but it was worth it. And a year later, I was campaigning again during the holy month supporting local London groups as well trying to get re-elected again as a local councillor in Merton, West Barnes. Which happily for me was another great result.
Merton Lib Dems saw an increase from 6 to 17 councillors, becoming the main opposition party to Labour. This was no small feat, and took some strong messaging and hard work on the ground. I was pleased to increase my vote share from 2018 and thrilled to be joined by John Oliver and Robert Page in the ward. But what is more exciting about the Merton success is that over half of the elected councillors are women. I know this will bring a positive direction for the group.
It’s great to see us hold Richmond, Kingston and Sutton councils and increases in Brent, Kensington and Chelsea and Ealing and winning back councillors on Bromley and Lambeth. I was particularly impressed by the win for Clare Bonham in Croydon – another borough where we now have a Lib Dem presence. But there was disappointment for others who did lose out too. Some dear friends who deserved to win, didn’t. Elections are always a bitter sweet experience.
But there’s so much to be proud of. Again and again the Lib Dems have been showing their strength as political opponents. The London Lib Dems in City Hall have been leading the way in calling for the Met to focus on community policing and improve transparency, which will help to begin rebuilding public confidence in the police across the capital and for TfL to be given a long term finance deal to ensure vital cuts in services are not made. I have been leading on air pollution in the Environment Committee and after our successful motion of wood burning stoves and our campaigning against the Silvertown tunnel I was humbled to see both Caroline and I being named as leading female London campaigners fighting against climate change in the Evening Standard.
Getting press coverage is something we have been keen to improve on so I was particularly pleased to see that our work on cladding has been recognised in many London papers. Most recently after I spoke at the last #EndOurCladdingScandal rally outside Parliament. It was great to be featured on the Daily Mail.
There have been many highlights this year but I think what I most proud of is the work I’ve been doing with Make Votes Matter. I was so honoured to speak at their last rally in Parliament square to highlight the need for electoral reform to increase diversity of participation and representation. My cheeky selfie with the crowd was quite the hit on Twitter and I hope we get even more publicity with the planned action day on the 11th June. I spoke on a panel about electoral reform on the 24th May with Femi Oluwole and other campaigners.
The new term in office in the London Assembly will be as the Chair of Economy. Unlike my predecessor, I hope to be hitting the headlines for less controversial matters than partygate. I’m keen that we highlight the hidden gems that keep our city thriving, like small businesses, high streets, street markets small theatres and small museums. I’d also like to investigate the contribution of refugees, disabled people and young people to London’s economy and how the Mayor can better support these groups.
I’m looking forward to this being another Lib Dem year. Another by-election, another win? More coverage of Lib Dems opposing the Tory disastrous government. And much more from Caroline and I in City Hall.
Let the #LibDemSurge continue.