Interview: Harrogate Lib Dems say 'local issues haven't gone away because of Covid'

A lot has changed in the 12 months since Boris Johnson’s Tory party swept to a landslide victory in the General Election and Andrew Jones won for the fourth time in Harrogate.

Monday, 7th December 2020, 11:50 am
Updated Monday, 7th December 2020, 12:10 pm

The momentous events of a year which, at times, has felt like a decade have inevitably had an affect on the political landscape in the Harrogate district, too.

In the first of a series of interviews with leading figures from the main political parties in the Harrogate district, we have spoken to Judith Rogerson, the Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems, parliamentary spokesperson.

Judith Rogerson, the Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems, parliamentary spokesperson, says 'local issues haven't gone away because of Covid.'

Last December’s General Election saw her receive 35.6% of the vote compared to her Conservative rival’s 52.6%.

Despite that loss, Ms Rogerson believes events have moved more in the Lib Dems’ favour - and not only because of the Government’s current struggles with Covid.

She said: “We made a lot of progress from the previous election but there were a couple of factors outside our control which were a problem - people in general were fed up with the Brexit debate and just wanted it to end.

“We were clear we were against Brexit but we understood people’s feelings.

“But there was also the Corbyn fear factor.

“Locally people said to me they couldn’t risk allowing anything that would get Jeremy Corbyn into number ten.

“Neither of those two things will count next time.”

Standing on the platform at the count at last year’s General Election night inside Harrogate Convention Centre which now lies mothballed for potential use as a NHS Nightingale Hospital, shock was clearly written on her face.

Ms Rogerson, said it was mainly a reaction to the drip drip of news about the national picture but that the defeat, ableit with 12% of the vote more than her predecessor in 2017.

She added, the party had taken the result seriously and had reassessed its whole approach locally, as well as nationally.

Ms Rogerson said: “After the election we conducted a very honest and very thorough look at whatwe were doing led bd by Lib Dem leader Ed Vasey.

“It’s been a very unusual year because of Covid but I think there has been a change locally.

“It isn’t just that people are emailin g me about their annoyance about how the Government had been dealing with Covid.

“There are a lot of local issues from before Covid which haven’t been addressed.

“Issues like housing and transport and the problems facing our high street and hospitality sector which Covid has deepened.

“The success of the Long Lands Common shares campaign recently shows that people in Harrogate and Knaresborough do take climate change seriously.

“It’s something hugely important to us. The Lib Dems we want the talking to stop locally and action to begin.”

Local appears to be the new national to the Lib Dems.

The next general election may be nearly four years away but for Harrogate and Knaresborough Lib Dems it really begins with the next county elections - depending on current plans for devolution in the county.

Ms Rogerson said: “This is not only the wrong time for something as big as devolution and local government reorganisation, it’s not the right way forward at all.

“Creating a mega council for the whole of North Yorkshire is bad for local tax payers and bad for local consultation.

“But we will be campaigning hard at the next council elections.

“We want to get as many local councillors elected as possible to make a difference locally.

“The people getting involved with the Lib Dems here now are people who are already active in the community locally, people who live in the area know what is needed to make things better. I haven’t had the chance to get out and about chatting to people and asking them how they feel about things like I ike to do normally.

“Predictions are dangerous. Who knows where we are going to be by the time of the next General Election. It’s not safe to make any assumptions but I am hopeful the Lib Dems here will make more progress.” Coming soon:

Next up in this series of interviews, the Harrogate Advertiser speaks to Conservative MP Andrew Jones.

The gap between two main parties in Harrogate and Knaresborough

General Election of 2019

Harrogate and Knaresborough

Conservative Andrew Jones won with a 9,675 vote majority winning 29,962 votes (52.6%) against his nearest rival Judith Rogerson on 20,287 (35.6%) - up 12% on her predecessor’s performance in 2017.

Labour’s Mark Sewards took 5,480 votes and Kieron George of the Yorkshire Party 1,208.

General Election of 2017

Harrogate and Knaresborough

Conservative: 31,477 (55.5 per cent)

Lib Dems: 13,309 (23.5 per cent)

Labour: 11,395 (20.1 per cent)

Independent: 559 (1 per cent)

The next General Election

The next United Kingdom general election is scheduled to be held on Thursday 2 May 2024, in line with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act .

But this itself is not ‘fixed’.

Since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was passed, the House of Commons has twice decided that an earlier general election should be held: in 2017 and in 2019.

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