Broxtowe Liberal Democrats are much heartened by the party’s dramatic victory in this week’s by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire. In Westminster, the government’s slender majority [including the DUP] is now a single seat, reducing the likelihood of an early no-deal withdrawal from the EU. Jo Swinson, our newly-elected leader, now has additional support in the Commons in the shape of the leader of the Welsh Party, Jane Dodds, who overturned an 8000 Conservative majority to win by nearly 1500 votes.
Two particular features of the Welsh by-election - the situation of the sitting MP and the negotiation of electoral pacts – can be seen reflected in our situation here in Broxtowe, and will guide our strategy as we prepare for the possibility of an early General Election:
Their sitting MP had lost favour with the electorate over his expenses claims and had been ‘recalled’. Change was clearly in the Welsh air. Anna Soubry, who had been re-elected as Broxtowe’s Conservative MP in 2017, having fallen out with her party and resigning the whip in the face of a de-selection attempt, now leads a small group on Change UK independent MPs. Change is in Broxtowe’s air too.
In Brecon & Radnorshire the Welsh LibDems had entered into an electoral pact whereby neither the Greens nor Plaid Cymru put up a candidate against them. Anna Soubry herself campaigned with the Liberal Democrats in Brecon & Radnorshire. On the other hand the Conservatives and the Brexit Party refused to make a pact that would have won them the no-deal Brexit seats both this week in Wales and in the recent Peterborough by-election. In the recent Broxtowe Borough Council elections, a modest informal pact gave us some experience of working together with the Greens at election times.
We’re not yet saying that we are going to ‘prepare for government’, but Liberal Democrat constituency parties like ours will need to think non-tribally in our electoral efforts to keep the UK in Europe.