12 months ago on the 18th July 2019, I won a stunning by-election for the Daventry District Council ward of Brixworth. We worked hard to replace one of our Tory councillors who had been 'missing in action' for the best part of six months, securing eventually over 50% of the vote and a 33% swing from the Conservatives. We still have another Tory councillor who most locals will tell you is continually missing in action.
Much has happened during the past year privately, locally and of course nationally. The lesson learned during the year? Resilience! There are so many things that frustrate and so many issues to be concerned about and on so many levels. There are times when energy levels sap and one questions what difference an individual can make. This is the moment to dig deep. Change and influence only happen with exertion, energy, resilience and perhaps even a degree of bloody mindedness.
I hear often people say that they 'don't do politics'. The big news? We all do. It is in every decision that is made for our lives day to day and it is often at a local level where these things affect us more than ever. Investment decisions and actions (or not) in tackling the climate emergency, our refuse collections, local development initiatives, and so many other things are decided locally and have political choice associated with them. We now have a Shadow West Northamptonshire Council preparing the ground for when all of our existing councils - county and district - are abolished and replaced with one. It's being run by a small cabinet led by an unelected group and a self anointed leader. Hardly democracy.
At the heart of how I approach everything is community. I believe in localism, engaging people, consulting people and showing leadership on issues that sometimes have been left lagging behind. A key principle of the Liberal Democrat movement is the redistribution of the power of the State. In Northamptonshire, a government decision is providing us with a Unitary council. There are merits in such a system but one of the things at risk is the connection to our districts and local representation with a real opportunity to voice concerns and issues. Our parish councils will have an even greater role to play in the future under such a system and are often slow to make decisions and lack strategic foresight. Many parish councils struggle to get people to be councillors and to represent the area and make impactful decisions. If you are not entirely happy with what you are getting, stand. Don't wait for someone else to do it.
As a Liberal Democrat, I believe whole-heartedly in safeguarding a fair, free and open society in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. A tall order in today's society. But fight for it we must. At a national and local level many of these things we take for granted are under threat. Dig deep. If you believe in these issues too - join us in the fight. Small inputs go a long way to making large outcomes.
Cllr Jonathan Harris
Lib Dem Daventry District Councillor