Southport Labour has accepted a challenge issued by the local Liberal Democrat Party’s new candidate to a debate in the town.
The Lib-Dem’s parliamentary candidate John Wright made an “Any time. Anywhere, On any issue” offer to Labour saying he has to “earn the right” to be the main challenger to the town’s Conservative MP.
His Labour opponents, however, highlighted that they have already earned that right through the ballot box after last year’s general election result which saw the Lib-Dems pushed firmly into third place and as such any debate must also include the town’s Tory MP who is their primary concern, not the Lib-Dems.
Labour point out that John Wright has no known record of activity in Southport previously and so has much work to do before he can even be considered a challenger to themselves but welcomed the fact that the Lib-Dems have now appointed a candidate from outside the town, which after years of attacking Labour and the Tories for doing just that comes as an interesting about-face and change of approach, they say.
Despite this, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Southport Liz Savage says she will happily meet the challenge but that a proviso must be met beforehand to ensure that respect is restored to local politics:
” We believe strongly in a local healthy democracy so are happy to have an independently organised hustings style event across a range of topics with all of the major parties and their candidates. We want to bring respect back into local politics so a condition is that the current lowbrow tactics by the local Lib-Dems must stop.
We realise that there can sometimes be a toing and froing of “X” is deluded with this policy or “Y” is foolish for this attitude during political exchanges but we feel the Lib-Dems have been sinking lower and lower for some time and in the last few weeks we have heard a series of increasingly reckless claims from them.
Two days ago they put out a bizarre and truly appalling allegation that Southport Labour were “in bed” with those who had committed a criminal act by hurling a rock through a car window in another part of the country in what they claim was a Brexit related incident, something that has absolutely no connection to us whatsoever except in the increasingly overheated imagination of the local Lib-Dem party.
In the last days of the election they also claimed that instead of just being part of the normal democratic process, for us to have a candidate standing in Kew was part of a ‘dirty tricks campaign to control Southport’. During that they described her as a “faceless” Corbyn candidate, despite the fact that Janis Blackburne is a respected local cub scouts leader and actually romped home with a 400 plus majority.
Similar scare tactics were used in Norwood by the Lib-Dems, where we returned an even bigger majority of over 650. It doesn’t appear to be doing them much good but we are concerned they will put residents off engagement with local politics through such behaviour.
Both Cllrs Blackburne in Kew and Mhairi Doyle in Norwood are determined to represent their wards while respecting residents. We feel this has been sadly lacking for some time from the Lib-Dems.
Much of the current animus from them locally stems from their electoral setbacks we think and also the reaction to their treatment of the Kew Park Campaigners. Instead of doing the decent thing and simply apologising for the attack they launched on the two young mums from the campaign at the Area Committee, the Lib-Dems dug themselves a deeper and deeper hole.
They want to try to blame us and the campaigners for their own misfortune by wrongly claiming they have been smeared, rather than looking at their own actions which were the root cause of their problems.
This week they complained that Labour were “opportunist” over the matter as if somehow we were supposed to simply stand back and let them get away with what we felt was a shocking display of contempt for local residents, as well as their subsequent shoddy treatment of the park campaign.
The Lib-Dems might not like it but we won’t stand idly by when we believe residents are being abused like that.
Nor was it just ourselves at the time but also an independent, formerly Tory, councillor who felt standards had badly fallen at the Area Committee; even the official young observers took them to task at the next and final meeting for the behaviour and attitudes on display there.
We have supported the park campaigners throughout and have long said we will help them if we can, so it would be remiss of us not to take this opportunity to call again for a full apology to finally be issued by the remaining Lib-Dem councillors to the campaigners for the treatment received at that Area Committee meeting and afterwards.
If the Lib-Dems do that and agree to retract their recent wild claims against us, so restoring some much-needed civility back into local politics, then we will be more than happy to meet them and the local MP for this debate. Out of respect, UKIP and the Greens should be invited too.”