Friday 18 June 2021

Chesham and Amersham by election shows that people desperately want change

 Last night we saw a truly outstanding by election result for the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham

I don't believe that anyone outside of the Lib Dems really saw this coming. Many Lib Dem activists from the Borough of Barnet helped out and put in some hard lifting in the constituency.  The activists Whatsapp groups were buzzing for the last two weeks, there was a real sense that there could be an upset, tempered by a natural reluctance to build hopes up too high, just to end up deflated and dejected.

Early this morning it became clear that what had been said on the doorsteps was true. The people of Chesham and Amersham were sick of being taken for granted by the Government. Perhaps the biggest issues in the constituency were related to planning and development. The governments plans to reform planning have rightly alarmed many. The feeling is that these will simply make it even easier for developers to ride roughshod over local people. Of course HS2 was a major issue in the constituency. One of the reasons I did not help out in the constituency, is that I am a strong supporter of the project. I believe the UK needs a modern and reliable transport system, which HS2 will play a big part in. I do however 100% acknowledge that the project has been mismanaged from start to finish and far more efforts should have been made to mitigate the damage on ancient woodlands and residents. As someone who has a motorway and mainline railway at the bottom of my garden, I am fully aware of the problems such things cause. But by the same token, I love the fact that there is a Thameslink service at the end of the road, that will deliver me to Central London in 16 minutes. I think the issue for areas like Chesham and Amersham is that they have all of the downside and no upside, as there will be no new fast train to Euston. When we start putting such large projects together, we do need to take more account of local communities. We need to ensure people feel that their input counts. 

This lack of respect for local communities is not just something affecting Chesham and Amersham. Here in Barnet, we've seen huge developments where the local community have been rode roughshod over. You only have to look at the impact of the Barratts development at the NIMR to see this. All sorts of conditions were put on Barratts, such as washing the wheels of vehicles to stop the spreading of dust, but this has been ignored. Barnet Council do not even bother responding anymore when these concerns are raised.

It is getting worse. Earlier this week, we detailed how our comments to the proposed development strategy for Edgware were completely dismissed and ignored. There was not even a nod to the points we raised. The Conservative adminstration in Barnet believe they are untouchable and unaccountable. They believe that they only need to pin on a blue rosette on election day and they will win. 

The truth is that they thought this in Chesham and Amersham. The pollsters never even bothered with their usual predictions. They expected the Conservatives to have a handsome majority. But hard work on the ground proved that you can make a difference.

The reason the Lib Dems won was because people wanted to be heard and they realised the Lib Dems offered the best hope of sending the government a message. In Barnet, the Labour Party has failed to listen to voters since 1998. They have run dull campaigns that have not engaged with local people. They have been quite happy to sit in safe seats, claiming their £10K allowances, whilst the Borough falls apart. They have not fought ridiculous outsourcing projects such as One Barnet. They have not done the work in the marginal seats, where you have to do the donkey work. Of course they have delivered rain forests worth of leaflets, but most of these go straight in the bin. In Mill Hill in 2014, the Lib Dems averaged 550 votes, as they didn't really bother to campaign. In 2018, we made an effort and more than doubled our vote to 1,200. Sadly we didn't have the number of activists to get around the whole ward effectively. We got to about 25% of households. I firmly believe that if we start now and we get your help, we can knock on all of the doors, several times. I believe that we can win in Mill Hill and we can win in other wards neglected by the Conservatives and Labour. 

All we need is for you to take a chance, offer to help and join us. When lockdown is done, I will be arranging a social evening at The Three Hammers pub for anyone who wants to try and make a change in Mill Hill. If you want to join us, please join the Lib Dems and watch this space. Chesham and Amersham shows that we don't need to accept the status quo and we don't need to believe the pollsters.


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