Nadine Dorries MP: Take a sad song and make it better
Nadine Dorries MP - first elected last year to represent Mid Bedfordshire - reflects on last week's decision to establish a single Liverpool-wide Conservative Association.
On the hottest night since records began, in an airless upstairs room of a Liverpool Conservative club, Chris Grayling, Shadow Minister for Transport, and I faced the assembled members of five Liverpool Conservative associations. It was the end of the road, and everyone in the room, almost, knew it.
The end was relatively painless really. You simply couldn’t argue with the facts. Liverpool doesn’t have a single Conservative councillor or MP. Yet in the room with us, observing through silent eyes, hung a portrait of the assembled Liverpool City Council of 1955, every single one a Conservative.
There were eight Conservative Liverpool MPs at that time. One thing I don’t think Mrs Thatcher ever really understood was that to have one you need the other. Local and national politics are inextricably bound together in a subtle and complex way which demands respect. We forgot that in the late 80s and early 90s.
Note to Shadow Cabinet – never forget the mistakes of the past.
Some of the activists sat before us had ‘worked their patch’ for fifty or more years. Dedicated and loyal, we were asking them to vote to dissolve their own associations so that we, from the centre, could establish a new, single, city of Liverpool association.
If they chose not to agree they would be placed into supported status. There’s no easy way to say that to a group of hard working proud Liverpudlians; I know, I’m a native.
Chris addressed the audience and did the difficult stuff. He knew exactly what his objectives were and how to achieve them. What was needed was a speech worthy of Ghandi with a touch of Robespierre. He handled the situation with tact and skill. An iron hand in a velvet glove.
Whilst what Chris had said sank in, I took over and explained why I, one of their own, someone who had grown up 500 yds from where we were sitting, was the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, over 150 miles away.
They looked hurt, except for the three CF members, sat in the middle, periodically checking their mobile phones, of course to them it made perfect sense.
I simply couldn’t have stood for a Liverpool seat. I wanted to be an MP so badly it consumed me. I had waited until two successful careers, one in nursing and another in business were under my belt and raised my three daughters before I began to apply for seats. Not to become an MP was simply not an option – I had waited too long.
The Liverpool structure was, at its best, fractured and weak. Any funds raised they kindly sent out of the city to other associations to help with their elections, that, in itself, spoke volumes. The workforce were ageing and had more than done their bit. We, the parliamentary Conservative Party had messed up in the past and Liverpool had taken the backlash heavier than most.
The rapid dominance of the council by Liberal Democrats and the parliamentary seats by Labour had washed over the Liverpool associations like a political tsunami and left them overwhelmed in its wake.
And yet still they fielded local candidates, who did exactly what they have always done, who stood and worked and failed, time after time.
Loyal and committed to the end, putting the Party first as they have always done they gave up the struggle and voted to dissolve.
I think some of the Liverpool members will view this watershed as the appropriate time to hang up their hats and call it a day. However, we very much hope that some will stay, especially Danny Doherty from Wavertree, who is possibly, unknowingly, one of the reasons I am a Conservative and who I have known since I was in nappies.
As I left I felt both proud and guilty. Proud because the association members had behaved in true Liverpudlian style, with pragmatic dignity. Guilty, because I was excited to be rushing home to Mid Beds.
As I drove home and passed by the fantastic architecture of Liverpool I mused on the fact that so many must share my guilt from all walks of life. Wherever in the world you live, in whatever role or profession, you will always find a Scouser.
Many of us had deserted the best city in the land, and failed to invest in its future. Significant talent had left the city and scattered. Recently I read an interview with an FD of a major record label. I first recognized the name, and then the face. He had once been a scruffy snotty nosed kid in my class. The interview was about a number of UK production company acquisitions his company had just made. A major mover and shaker, a wealth creator, made in Liverpool, living in Los Angeles.
It was dark, and as I drove ghostly cranes loomed up around me. The city looked in parts like a war zone so much re-development was taking place. Paradise Street was undergoing a drastic face lift that Donald Trump would be proud of. People were everywhere, the city buzzed and was alive on a very hot Thursday night.
I dropped a gear and turned left down the dock road. Smart new apartments and waterside shops stood in place of the dock terminals where once, only a youth time ago, stevedores had unloaded molasses and coal.
Liverpool is now a city of culture. People are moving in, not out. Buildings are going up not down. The football team has just had its best year in twenty. Contractors’ hoardings are everywhere and scream private investment. Liverpool is happening.
I finished my dawdle down memory lane, picked up speed and headed out towards to the M56.
Maybe what had happened in the West Derby Club tonight was symbolic and in step with much of what was taking place in the rest of Liverpool. There were distinctive parallels one could draw between Liverpool and the Conservative Party.
I admit, there is no huge in your face Beatles explosion taking place; but this much is obvious, Liverpool’s fortune is rapidly changing, and as it happens, so is ours.
As I headed out through the suburbs I passed the new John Lennon Airport on my right. It stands as a self confident spectacular testament to modernity and the future of Liverpool – and incorporated within it - respectful deference to the past.
Above us only sky…