When Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg came to the North East last week he commented about there being no evidence of Conservative support and the clear battle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats which will undoubtedly take place on May 1st. I spoke with Nick during the leadership contest at the end of last year and it was clear that his vision included a strong emphasis on the North and North East of England where he saw the Lib Dems as the only choice after years of Labour neglect.
Comments from Nick Clegg last week:
Mr Clegg said: “I understand why William Hague and David Cameron talk about them making inroads here, but there is no evidence of substance behind those claims.
“They do not have the people on the ground, nor the record of achievement and service to people that we have in a place like Newcastle.
“Across the North of England, from Hull to Liverpool, from Sheffield to Northumberland, there is a pattern established of two party politics between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
“We are going to have to fight very hard for each vote against a party that has been entrenched in this part for generations, but if you want to move beyond the tired politics of Labour, we are the party to support.”
The Lib Dem candidates will compete for the unitary Durham council on issues including the environment, education and antisocial behaviour.
One of Mr Clegg’s big issues is fuel poverty.
He said: “There’s a lot of poor people being fleeced by the electricity companies. It is more than just those on prepayment meters, and there is no move by the Government to compel the companies to install smart meters so people can regulate their energy use by the second – which is also good for the environment.”
He said the Government granting fuel companies emission licences was like giving them a £9bn subsidy, and said: “If you are going to use taxpayers’ money to give them a windfall of £9bn, at least make sure that is recycled into lower tariffs.”
The Lib Dems say they are the only party with a costed programme that will reverse the Post Office closures.
They would float the delivery division of Royal Mail so that it became a John Lewis style partnership, and use the £2bn raised to subsidise rural post offices.
Mr Clegg said: “Post offices should not be regarded just as a business. They are hubs for the local community. They are crucially important for elderly people who want human contact and want help filling in forms.
“We have seen this trend of communities losing their soul – the pub closes, the shop closes, the village hall closes, the playing fields are sold.
For some, this closure will be the death knell of their community spirit.”