Two days ago we received the results of the EU referendum and unfortunately for us Liberal Democrats at York, the result did not go our way. Many of our current members, myself included, were involved in campaigning to remain within the European Union. Our members, as well as the members of the non-partisan York Stronger In, went above and beyond campaigning for what they believed often leafleting and canvassing in all weather, and as we know in York rain is often around the corner.
This hard work paid off for the campaign in York, with the city voting to remain by nearly 60 per cent. Nationally, it was sadly a very different picture.
As Lib Dems, we have been the most pro-European party for the past thirty years. We have tirelessly campaigned, lobbied and sort to shape Britain’s relationship within the EU. Our MEPs, historically, have been the most dedicated members of the European Parliament working with fellow liberal parties across Europe to create a tolerant, prosperous and diverse union. This party’s hard work has helped shape Europe despite us sadly departing the Union.
However, what comes next for the Liberal Democrats? As Lib Dems we can and will still campaign, petition and press the current government for a settlement with the EU that not only helps Britain but also helps Europe. Our MPs and Peers will no doubt hold the government to account, questioning their negotiation and providing input in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Although the country may have voted to leave, that does not mean we need to turn our backs on Europe.
Despite this campaign not going the way we hoped, we have many positives to take from the campaign. We have seen locally this party is full of fantastic campaigners and our message is getting out there to the wider public, especially in York. Since the leave vote was announced, over a thousand people have joined the party with more likely to follow. Indeed, The Daily Mirror, traditionally a stalwart Labour tabloid has published an article calling on disaffected voters, saddened by the vote to join the Lib Dems.
What is clear following the result is that the Liberal Democrats are the only united party at the moment. The Tories are in a grip of a civil war and have a Prime Minister who is resigning in October. Labour with their lacklustre support for the In campaign are now seeing MPs rounding on a weakened Corbyn. Indeed, Labour MPs planning a vote of no confidence against Corbyn meaning not one but two party leaders may not last the summer.
Conversely, we are attracting support. Following the shock of 2015, we have to rebuild our party nationally. At York, we will do what we have always done, get out there and campaign, talk to voters and convince them to support our values.