First of all a word on the election: following a swell of support both locally and nationally the Liberal Democrats were disappointed not to see a greater turnout in favour of change and progression. Whilst in the Cotswolds we achieved the highest ever Lib Dem result, we failed in unseating the sitting MP Mr Clifton-Brown who was regrettably embroiled in the expenses scandal, yet remains unapologetic - going as far to claim “you’d all have done it too” in a shockingly arrogant response. This is a dangerous precedent to set for democracy and what we will tolerate in the Cotswolds, and sets us behind the changing tide of reform and transparency for a more open and honest politics.
Moving on to the new and unanticipated political landscape we find a power-share between the new Prime Minister and key Liberal Democrat figures including leader Nick Clegg and Vince Cable. This turn was largely unexpected to all, but has been welcomed as a departure from stale Labour politics and represents an opportunity for real change and progression.
Cotswolds Liberal Democrat Martin Harwood has summed up an atmosphere of cautious support, stating “”I didn’t join the party half a century ago to stay in the comfort zone of opposition. I joined to see Liberal policies being introduced.” and following the Queen’s speech we have certainly seen a heavily Liberal agenda, with many key measures introduced: such as scrapping ID cards and similar waste, tax cuts for all, a reform of the banking system and a clean-up of politics with electoral reform to be debated and voted on nationally.
Locally there is a mixed atmosphere: Leader of Cotwolds Lib Dems, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, has expressed a mood of cautious optimism. Whilst he and the local Lib Dems offer to openly and constructively work with the Conservatives on Costwolds District Council, they have been met with mixed responses: some of the more responsible Tory members recognize a need to work together constructively to achieve the best representation and decisions for Cotswolds constituents, yet a few select figures within Cotswolds Conservatives are attempting to stifle any attempt to locally reconstruct an atmosphere of coalition and progression, and refuse to put the local people first by getting in the way of co-operative politics.
We can only hope that Liberal Democrats and Conservatives will continue to work together constructively to bring about broadly Liberal measures and help people in Britain and in the Cotswolds to get on with their lives and prosper in work, business and personal life. Liberal Democrats will continue to offer a constructive contribution, and while we will continue to fight the Tories on key issues such as Human Rights, Student Top-Up Fees, Civil Liberties, Fair Tax Cuts we will embrace any offers for co-operation and progression.
The verdict on the national coalition, and whether Cotswolds District Council should make more of a place for diverse voices and Liberal Democrat representation remains up to you, and we will see this reflected in next year’s local elections.