Lib Dems' hopes of 'sea change' in Harrogate constituency
With talk of a General Election growing, the Harrogate Advertiser talked to Harrogate's Lib Dem candidate Judith Rogerson in the first of a series of profiles on the town's big four political parties and their prospective candidates.
The Liberal Democrats’ candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough for the next general election claims there has been a sea change in voters’ attitudes in the area.
In the last General Election in 2017, the Liberal Democrats won 23.5 per cent of the vote in the Harrogate and Knaresborough seat while sitting MP Andrew Jones for the Conservatives won 55.5 per cent.
But Judith Rogerson, the Lib Dems’ Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the constituency believes voters’ attitudes have changed dramatically in the last two years and she says she has seen it on the doorstep in Harrogate.
The barrister who lives in Harrogate said what she described as a Lib Dem “surge” is the result not only of Brexit but local issues such as social and mental health care and the state of the railways.
The Lib Dem PPC, who lambasted Harrogate’s rail service as “not fit for the 21st century” at the Lib Dem’s autumn conference in Bournemouth, spoke to the Harrogate Advertiser in the first of our series speaking to the key politcal figures in the town.
Only one already well-aired subject was out of bounds - Brexit!
'SEA CHANGE' IN VOTERS
“The political situation across the country has completely changed over the past two years. There has been massive increase in the level of support for the Lib Dems.
“We’ve had a huge growth in Lib Dem membership with over 40,000 people across the country joining since May.
“This is something that has been reflected here locally where we have hundreds of new and enthusiastic new members.
“The message we are getting on the doorsteps here in Harrogate & Knaresborough is that life-long Conservative and Labour supporters will be giving their vote to the Liberal Democrats at the next election. The surge in support has been seen here: the Lib Dems won the county council by-election in Knaresborough last year with 55% of the vote and we came a close second in the Harrogate District in the European elections.
“We know that a General Election isn’t far off. We are confident that we will do very well across the country - including here in Harrogate & Knaresborough - with our positive message of stopping Brexit, investing in public services and focusing on tackling the climate emergency.”
How UCIs controversy threatens harmony between business and Harrogate councilSOCIAL AND MENTAL HEALTH CARE LOCALLY
“When we are knocking on doors there is a real sense of worry about local public services. One issue that is often mentioned is the strain being placed on school budgets and specifically the future of the Grove Academy in Harrogate.
“Lib Dem councillors on NYCC came up with a plan that would have delayed the cuts to the Grove Academy budget to allow them more time to restructure. Sadly these proposals were voted down by the Conservative led council.
“There’s also a lot of concern about how far vulnerable patients and their families will have to travel for treatment now that plans have been scrapped for a new mental health ward in Harrogate.
“It was confirmed earlier this year that the new mental health ward previously promised in Harrogate won’t be built and that there will be no extra beds available in York for patients from our area.
“They may now have to travel as far away as Darlington, Middlesbrough or Scarborough for treatment.
“As a barrister I’ve worked on many cases involving patients in need of mental health care. I know how desperate the situation can become for them and their families if they can’t get urgent access to the care they need. We know that The Harrogate & Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group faces a shortfall of millions of pounds.
“This needs to be remedied with significant investment from the Government as a matter of urgency, otherwise we won’t be able to maintain the high standard of healthcare services that patients deserve in our region.”
JUDITH’S LOCAL LINKS
“I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to work from home in Harrogate most of the week when I’m not in Court.
“I live not far from the finishing line in Harrogate so went out several times to watch the races during the UCI week.
“What happens here directly affects me and my family; from my Grandad to my pre-school niece. It’s really important to me that this is a great place to grow up and live in.”
STATE OF HARROGATE RAILWAYS
“One issue that is particularly close to my own heart is the poor state of our railways in the north. I travel a lot by train so know from bitter experience how damaging it is personally and professionally when we can’t rely on our local rail services.
“There’s no escaping the fact that we need to properly invest in infrastructure and seriously rethink how we run our railways.
“At our party conference a couple of weeks ago the Lib Dems voted in favour of an ambitious package of reforms to do just that.”
Judith Rogerson was selected as the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough in May 2018.
The constituency is home for her and most of her close relatives - she lives in the centre of Harrogate and four generations of her family live in Knaresborough.
She studied Law at Oxford University and for the last 16 years has practised as a barrister.
She specialises in healthcare law, representing the NHS, patients and medical practitioners. Her work takes her all over England & Wales but many of her cases are in Yorkshire and the north of England.
She also volunteers for a social mobility charity as a mentor to support young people from low-income backgrounds when they are applying for university.
Judith joined the Liberal Democrats immediately after the EU referendum and has campaigned with the Lib Dems and with North Yorkshire for Europe against Brexit.