Message from Beverley Nielsen, Chair, West Midlands Liberal Democrats

Since my last message, delivered as we entered the New Year, 2019, who would have thought that we would be where we find ourselves as a country almost halfway through the year.

Uncertainty over Brexit persists. Turns out Brexit did not mean Brexit. It meant stasis for the Conservatives. Perpetual disagreement with spanners in the works on all sides, including from their allies the DUP.

We have faced two potential dates for a cliff edge Brexit and we may still face yet another. The government has been unable to get its deal through parliament and business, large and small, has had to contend with almost three years of uncertainty.

The impact of the economy has been devastatingly clear. Investment has shrivelled, exports have declined, and for us in the Midlands Engine, automotive and aerospace producers are furious and all in business – whether of a Remain or Leave mind – want to know in what direction the country is headed. A wish resolutely denied by the government. 

The businesses I work with through my think tank, IDEA Institute at Birmingham City University, are clear about their direction of travel. They want the West Midlands to be the ‘Silicon Valley for Sustainable Transport and Built Environment’. With young activists including Greta Thunberg taking centre stage our businesses are keen to support this vision and see a circular economy actively promoted through government as a key element in driving the solution.

For me personally, it has been a time of great focus. A focus on promoting the Liberal Democrat message at every opportunity. I firmly believe in Remain as the best course for the future of our country, especially in light of the overwhelming majority of over 70% of young people who voted to Remain. They are about to see their right to the freedom to travel, live and work anywhere across 27 other countries in the EU taken away from them with no serious alternative in sight.

Having taken part in numerous debates prior to the Referendum I am clear that no one prior to the vote three years ago had given a moment’s serious consideration to be in the Customs Union or EFTA or the EEA. These options were simply not discussed in any meaningful detail. Similarly, the impact of leaving the EU was never considered in relation to Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

As a result, I have put myself forward as a candidate for the District Council Elections in Malvern Hills, where I am standing in Malvern Priory Ward. My fellow Lib Dem in Priory, Dee Tomlin, and I have been working in the ward for the past months, getting to know the residents, the key issues and proposing solutions wherever possible. I am looking forward together with all our 27 other great candidates to the election and to the vote next Thursday 2nd May. I do hope as many residents as possible will get out and back us for our local focus and for our consistent promotion of the benefits for all in our country on remaining in the EU, right down to district level.

I am proud to have been selected as Parliamentary candidate for West Worcestershire. Having been born in the area and chosen to return with my husband to raise our family here, this is our home. It is a part of me and every time I see the Malvern Hills and the Beacon I know I am heading in the right direction. We like so many others living here, love this place and want to see the very best for all our residents living and working here, now and into the future.

I put myself forward for the Euro elections and was proud to be included on the Lib Dem candidate slate as I have seen first-hand the benefits of EU membership for our country and our region.  In the post-industrial era, the UK government did not choose to invest in the West Midlands or Birmingham. In dealing with the challenges thrown up, our city leadership found that they could access investment from Europe and were able to regenerate our city and parts of the region that would otherwise have remained in states of severe deprivation. Brexit which has been seen as a protest vote by the so-called ‘left behind’ is a reflection on our government’s enduring focus on austerity and their ongoing inability to promote inclusive wealth creation. We need to be able to invest in our communities to provide the best quality education, homes, transport for all – across the West Midlands and in all areas of the country outside London.  We should not blame Brussels for a lack of democratic accountability but bring our focus much closer to home.

I intend to take all the lessons from standing in these elections back to our West Midlands Lib Dem Regional Executive so we can ensure that we are supporting fellow Liberal Democrats standing for election and representing our region as fully as possible in light of the learning and given our available resources.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.