After the Area Group meeting had disbanded, West Hampstead Lib Dem councillor Nancy Jirira approached me to make what were distinctly party-political points.
“The Labour party in Camden,” she said “needs to be managing more efficiently, rather than just focusing on ‘cuts cuts cuts'”. She accused Labour – now in control of Camden council – of a lack of imagination, and argued that the proposed cuts were “officer-led” decisions rather than being developed by political debate.
“There could be much more business process re-engineering,” she argued (that’s ‘doing things better’ to you and me), based on her experiences of working for a local PCT. She couldn’t tell me what proportion of the £80 million in cuts could be delivered through efficiency savings vs. cuts to services/programmes.
She also thought that Labour, as the opposition party nationally, should be holding the government to account, even though her own party is in government. In fact, she came come across as disillusioned and disappointed with Labour as a whole. Which is no doubt how many in her own party feel about the path that their own leadership has taken them down.
She also said that it was crazy that schoolchildren were going on demos, and seemed to be blaming Labour for that too. I pointed out that most of the anger about changes to education funding was being directed towards Lib Dems over the broken promise on tuition fees.
In what may be a representative position of Lib Dem councillors across the country* she was clearly extremely sympathetic to the protestors. “They can burn Nick Clegg’s effigy if they want,” she said, which is an odd thing to say about the leader of your own party.
Do other Camden Lib Dems hold similar (if less publicly expressed) views? Will all six West Hampstead and Fortune Green councillors run under the Lib Dem banner again? Might some with a strong personal reputation be better placed running as independents given that the Lib Dems could get hammered the next time we go to the voting booth?
*wild speculation – probably