Sian Berry launches attack on Lib Dems over austerity government
Highgate councillor accuses rivals of cutting welfare state - 'and no amounting of rebranding will change that'
09 June, 2019 — By Richard Osley
SIAN Berry had stinging comments for the Liberal Democrats in a speech at the Green Party’s Spring conference, blaming the party for an austerity coalition in government which she said had cost 130,000 lives.
The Highgate councillor and London Assembly member, who is the party’s national co-leader, was addressing members from the main stage in Scarborough earlier today (Saturday).
She said: “Everywhere we go we hear one thing repeated. People are sick and tired of business-as-usual politics. They’re sick of half-measures, of backroom deals. Of politicians who say one thing and do another. The old politics is not working, and all the old parties are responsible.”
Cllr Berry told the conference hall: “They have all given ground to the right, on freedom of movement, on Europe, on public spending. Labour and Conservatives yes, but let’s not forget that while the Lib Dems paint themselves as the defenders of liberal, internationalist values, they were all too happy to sign up to the austerity programme that has cost an estimated 130,000 lives.”
She added: “They waved through the bedroom tax. They hiked tuition fees. They cut our welfare state. And no amount of rebranding will change that.”
Up against a dominant Labour majority rule, the sole Green councillor in Camden has in recent years appeared to have had a good working relationship with the Lib Dems, particularly during a four year spell when Sir Vince Cable’s party also only had only one councillor in the chamber.
The Lib Dems now have three councillors, one of whom, Luisa Porritt, is also an MEP after their surging European election results last month.
The long-serving Lib Dem councillor Flick Rea later said of that moment: “One of the things that I always thought was that we shouldn’t have made it look like we were enjoying it so much. It should have been a bit more ‘dragged to the altar’ rather than leaping down the aisle with a bunch of flowers.”
Lib Dems in Camden, however, do feel they have gone through stages of renewal, partly because many of the most enthusiastic activists on the ground are members who signed up to the party after the 2016 EU referendum, attracted by the party’s desire to stop Brexit.
The party is now aiming to rebuild its base in council and London politics after its success at the polls, which saw the Lib Dems come first in nearly every ward in Camden – including Cllr Berry’s own ward of Highgate. Yesterday (Friday), former Islington councillor Marisha Ray was selected to stand in the Barnet and Camden constituency at next year’s London elections.