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The rise and fall of the Lib Dem Empire

As David Alton celebrated 40 years in Liverpool politics, it was more of a wake at the Yuet Ben

Written by . Published on May 14th 2012.


The rise and fall of the Lib Dem Empire

Timeline: evening of Saturday, May 5, 2012.

Venue: Yuet Ben Chinese Restaurant, Upper Duke Street, Liverpool.

Occasion: dinner to celebrate the 40thanniversary of David Alton's election in 1972 to Liverpool City Council.

Guestlist: Sir Trevor and Lady Doreen Jones, Lord Mike Storey and MEP and one-time Liverpool housing chairman Chris Davies.

Topic of conversation: the collapse of the Lib Dem vote in the local elections just 48 hours earlier.

 

In what should have been a happy and historic celebration for Lord Alton in some ways became a bit of a wake. 

On that May 3 massacre, veteran councillor Eddie Clein and the Lib Dem Leader on the City Council, Paula Keaveney, were casualties. 

It was all a far cry from the 1960s when the Lib Dems – then known as the Liberals – were the new kids on the block, bidding for a chunk of the political action by challenging seats held by Labour and Conservative councillors. 

A young student of 21, David Alton, was chosen to stand in as a city councillor in Low Hill, an inner-city ward based around Edge Hill. Labour had held it for over half a century, so the chances of this young rookie winning seemed less than impossible. 

Against all expectations Alton was the victor. In this week's edition of the Catholic Universe, he describes his feelings at that historic win that would eventually propel him onto the world stage. 

“I was daunted to find myself entrusted with the care of a community where half of the homes were without inside sanitation. In streets, some of which were lit by gas, there was chronic poverty but incredible generosity. Faith, family and friendship were in the DNA.” 

He described how he was amazed and not a little humbled by the trust which people put in him, shocked by some of the situations with which they needed held. 

Alton recalled his 1972 election leaflet in which he quoted a local resident from Prospect Street: “Lloyd George said he would provide homes and a country fit for heroes. Nowadays the condition of our homes means you have to be a hero to live in them.” 

Making his maiden speech in the Town Hall, Alton was derided as a pavement politician, watching as half of the councillors walked out during his speech. 

And it was that concept of pavement politics, championed by Alton's mentor, Trevor “Jones the Vote” Jones, that gradually took the Lib Dems to power. 

Conversation during this potential 'Last Supper' – at least for a generation – is said to have included critical comments about Nick Clegg and his dalliance with the Coalition Government.

Sir Trevor told me this weekend the Lib Dems needed to get back to basics - its pavement politics strategy – to show people they are in touch and in tune with what they are looking for.

Nick-CleggNick Clegg

Will any of the Lib Dem diners at the Yuet Ben, or any of those Lib Dems dispatched at the ballot box, dare to stand up and tell Nick Clegg the price being paid is too high?

Probably not. They'll all hold hands and jump over the cliff's edge together.

Maybe a hint of that Yuet Ben gathering can be gleaned from the headline of David Alton's Universe article....Don't punish councillors for Coalition's arrogance.

He concluded: “Local government is a crucial part of the mediating structures of a nation. Authoritarian regimes will always attempt to subjugate it, which is why you should spare a thought for those councillors who will have paid a price for the follies of a Government which increasingly behaves as if ordinary people and their needs don't matter at all.”

Hope Nick gets to read that.

The Lib Dems have just 10 councillors on the city council, likely to become a single digit number when a local bye-election takes place soon in Allerton, with more onslaught likely in 2014 (unless there is a miracle). That could see just three Lib Dems, turning the clock back to the era when David Alton proved pavement politics was a winning formula.

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Leon KayMay 15th 2012.

Whilst the lib dems maybe hard working on a local level.They held hands with the tories and formed the condems,so you really can't trust em to do the right thing.Also do not forget when D.Alton was coming into politics there was a certain councillor named Heffron who championed the poor on housing but meanwhile rented slums in L8.
On a lighter note if the Euro goes tits up in Spain Italy and Portugal it could be WW3 Nick Clegg will be loving it just like Lloyd George when WW1 was kicking off, another bleeding heart Liberal.END

Bob BrownMay 15th 2012.

The Lib Dems opposed austerity and deep cuts during the 2010 election campaign then embraced it wholeheartedly and sold out when offered the chance of poitical power in coalition with the Tories. They deserve nothing better than rejection by the electorate whom they betrayed at the ballot box.

efcmark777May 15th 2012.

The only surprising thing about the collapse of the LibDems is that it has taken this long since they betrayed their own supporters and allowed the Conservatives to steal control of our country. Truly the LibDems are the most despicable politicians ever to enter government and that takes some doing. They are without any principles bar one, namely that they will do ANYTHING to hold onto power and their ministerial cars. They cheat their own regardless of the cost. They care nothing for people who have supported them throughout a lifetime and they stand by, crushed but determined to hang onto a place at the cabinet table. David Alton knows this to be true and his dignity cannot hide his shame. He has the integrity but few of his colleagues share his vision. The LibDems deserve what is hopefully coming, the utter destruction of their party as the Conservatives target everyone but the get rich casino bankers, kept in power by those without principle or dignity. Ps those dry ribs at the Yuet Ben are simply to die for. Cheers, Mark

Cliff Edge-HillMay 15th 2012.

In Alton's day the Libs championed regeneration by refurbishing older properties and keeping communities together. That's why they were popular.

By Storey's day the Lib-Dems were sucking up to the property developers and were bulldozing everything in the face of popular protest (e.g. Edge Lane) and even presided over the wanton destruction of listed historic buildings in the city centre.

Lord StreetMay 16th 2012.

"They're tearing the heart out of our our city" was Trevor Jones' battle cry. He became the champion of people sick of seeing their neighbourhoods and houses wastefully demolished.

Whereas Storey not only tore the heart out of the city with vain enthusiasm, he presided over the destruction of the finest music library in the country outside London - in the name of Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008!

London RoadMay 16th 2012.

Why has nobody held this man Storey up in the stocks and pelted him with rotten fruit?

MandarinMay 16th 2012.

Because his Council moved Christians stall out of the centre?

London RoadMay 16th 2012.

Yes and now a bunch of "businessmen" have turfed them off their pitch to open their shitty sports bar

Sefton ParkerMay 16th 2012.

His own party kicked him upstairs to be Lord Mayor and now he's in The House of Lords. If only the blameless, hard-working millions who are good at their jobs received such treatment!

Charlotte StreetMay 16th 2012.

The European Union paid for Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008 so what did Storey do?
First he appointed a useless Australian with no local knowledge or interest and when she failed and threw in the towel in return for a fat pay-off, Storey replaced her with an American!

Storey rejected nearly half-a-billion people in the European Union most of whom could have done a better job (particularly the Liverpudlian ones) and assertively appointed non-European adventurers with neither local knowledge nor cultural awareness.

I wonder if Lord Storey spends his weekends with the equally anti-European Lord Tebbit?

Darth FormbyMay 16th 2012.

Lib Dems, come, it is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man!

London RoadMay 16th 2012.

Cue Marilyn Fielding and some arse slapping

Darth FormbyMay 16th 2012.

I didn't know she was into that sort of thing!

London RoadMay 16th 2012.

Hahahahahahahahaha!

Quivering rosy cheeksMay 23rd 2012.

Is this on YouTube?

Helen A. HandcartMay 24th 2012.

The spread of the so-called 'sports bar' sums up Storey's legacy to the city.

Tony BrokeMay 24th 2012.

Wasn't Liverpool declared Britain's worst-run local authority under Storey by the Audit Commission?

I think we've all got this work thing wrong. Instead of routinely doing a good job and getting little thanks or even redundancy for our trouble, we ought to commit huge cock-ups and we'll be rewarded with fame, fortune and high office!

Follow Lord Storey's example! It certainly worked for him!

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