LibDems Keep their Chins Up

libdem logo07:20 Tuesday 3rd May 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Just a couple of days now, and voters across Peterborough heading to the polling booths as part of the local elections. And since the last election of course it’s been a very interesting time in the world of politics, to say the least. The Tories are still being criticised for their plan to address the deficit. Labour have yet to come up with new policies. And the LibDems have upset many of their supporters after compromising on some of their key issues. So what can we expect for this week’s results? Let’s get the Liberal Democrat view. Councillor Nick Sandford is with us. Nick, morning. Of course you ran quite a successful campaign really to be MP for Peterborough at the last election.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes, we increased our vote significantly. We polled just under 20%. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: But many of the people who voted for you might be thinking twice this time around?
NICK SANDFORD: I think what’s happened is we’ve gone into a coalition with the Conservatives. You know some of us weren’t very happy with that when it first happened.
PAUL STAINTON: You compromised your ideals.
NICK SANDFORD: Yeah. What people have got to realise is that when you go into .. what happened at the General Election was no single party got overall control, so in order to provide a stable government for the country, the Liberal Democrats went into a coalition with the Conservatives. What happens in a coalition is that you get some of your things implemented. There’s a massive amount of Liberal Democrat policies actually going through. But you have to compromise on certain things. I think the majority of people out there listening to this programme are quite used to the fact that in all things that you do you can’t get your own way all the time. You have to compromise.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And of course many people say, if people vote Yes to Av in the future, we’ll have more of this. More compromises.
NICK SANDFORD: That’s one of the misleading facts that are put out by the anti-AV campaign.
NICK SANDFORD: You know, I’m in favour of a proportional representation system. What we’ve got ..
PAUL STAINTON: Which is what you really wanted, the Liberal Democrats.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. What we’ve got proposing on Thursday is Alternative Vote. That is not a proportional system. I need to make this absolutely clear. Having Alternative Vote will not lead to more hung Parliaments. What it will mean is that each MP in each constituency will have to get a majority of the support.
PAUL STAINTON: But even this was a compromise, wasn’t it? This is not what you wanted.
NICK SANDFORD: Absolutely. It’s a classic example. We would have gone for a fully proportional system, but all that the Conservatives would give us is a chance to have a vote on this particular system. But it’s absolutely crucial that anybody who is unhappy with the MP’s expenses system, who is unhappy with the fact that three quarters of MPs have safe seats, they need to go out on Thursday and support this change.
PAUL STAINTON: Nick Clegg’s now become a liability for the LibDems though, hasn’t he, because of the coalition? I mean you don’t want him going around. Would you welcome him to Peterborough. to canvass on the doorstep?
NICK SANDFORD: We’d very much welcome Mr Clegg. You saw during the General Election campaign when he was out there debating with the other two party leaders, he came across as really impressive. What’s happened since the General Election, because of the economic situation that the country faces itself with, the LibDem and Conservatives in power have had to make some fairly unpopular choices, that we’ve had to make actual compromises.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. What are people saying on the doorsteps? Are they moaning that you’re not doing what they voted for, that you’re not getting your policies across? Are they saying they’re going to vote for you? Because there are some polls around that claim your support’s going to fall off a cliff.
NICK SANDFORD: Before the last General Election there were polls saying that LibDems were going to be completely obliterated. It didn’t happen. We had the most successful General Election that we’ve had. Don’t forget these are the elections for local authorities, elections for who your local councillor is. We’ve got, in the Werrington South ward for instance, we’ve got David Hedges, who’s a really popular campaigner.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, we know David well.
NICK SANDFORD: Peoiple are going out to support him, but they’re also going out to support the sort of things that the LibDems advocate, in terms of local council elections, keeping in touch with people, responding to what people’s views are.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you think that people can divorce the two, though? Can they put the national picture to one side and vote on local issues for local people? Is that what you’re hoping here, that Labour just doesn’t get a landslide across the city?
NICK SANDFORD: Well Labour’s not going to get a landslide across the city. because even if Labour were to win every single seat that they’re contesting, the Conservatives would still be in control of Peterborough City Council. What people have got to realise, and it goes back to this first past the post system that we have, it keeps the Conservative Party in power. For two thirds of the years in the twentieth century, the Conservatives were actually in control, yet on only two occasions did they get the support of more than half of the people. I think, to go back to your question, increasingly people in local council elections are realising that they don’t have to vote for the same party that they vote for in the Parliamentary ones.
PAUL STAINTON: Got many women standing as local councillors? Because Women’s Hour did the story last week saying that LibDems have the lowest amount of female councillors.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. We would like to have more women standing. What we have got this time is we’ve got round about a third of our candidates are actually from the ethnic minorities, so that’s something we would like to have. We would really like more people to come forward, but unfortunately, because of the way Peterborough City Council operates, because people hear about all the wasteful expenditure, people don’t really feel that becoming a councillor will have a major impact. And we have real .. like all the political parties .. we have difficulty getting people to come forward as our candidates.
PAUL STAINTON: Very quickly, what do you hope for?
NICK SANDFORD: Well we’re certainly hoping in the Werrington South ward, we’ve got very good chances of taking a seat from the Conservatives. We’ve also got active campaigns in the Ravensthorpe ward, Bretton ward, and across large areas of the city. But as I say, because of the corrupt and undemocratic political system that we have, and the Conservatives will remain in power, that people on Thursday also have a chance to change that.
PAUL STAINTON: Nick, thank you for that. Nick Sandford, who stood as Liberal Democrat MP in Peterborough. And later on, after 9 this morning on the Andy Harper Show, Andy Burrows chairs the third and final local election debate for 2011, focussing on candidates from Peterborough. And it will include City Council Leader Marco Cereste.