Southport MP John Pugh urges Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to create distinct brand of ‘northern Liberalism’

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Southport MP John Pugh urges Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to create distinct brand of ‘northern Liberalism’LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been urged this week to ensure there is a strong voice for the North West in the party’s election manifesto.

Southport Lib Dem MP John Pugh says that if his party is to win back lost ground in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester then there is a “genuine need” that activists from the region can have a “direct impact” on policy. Dr Pugh wants people to see a “distinctively northern brand of liberalism” that is “gritty and down to earth”.

Mr Clegg has insisted that he is “absolutely committed’” to governing in coalition through to 2015 but the Lib Dems and Tories would “of course” have different policies on tax and spending in their manifestos. A key priority, Dr Pugh says, must be ensuring that the UK economy post-recovery is not as skewed to the south as it was before the financial crash. For the remainder of the coalition, he wants the Government to focus on “the endeavour to rebalance the economy” and to “create more private sector jobs and jobs outside London”.

“I would like to see a significant voice for Merseyside and the North. he says, ” I’d like to see emphatic evidence of that, an appeal made to those parts we may have lost in the early stage of the coalition, where Liberal Democrats should be represented and deserve to be represented.”

Arguing that Conservative education secretary Michael Gove’s education reforms reflected the situation in London, he says: “Unless we have a robust voice for the North we are going to get overlooked. The Lib Dems must find a way of articulating that voice in the party. That’s the road to political recovery.”

Dr Pugh feels that Lib Dems in areas such as Merseyside tend to be more supportive of public services and local government and a “little more” socially conservative.  He wants the coalition to concentrate on economic recovery, arguing that voters want to see “practical solutions” rather than a push to “transform the world and create a new Jerusalem”.

A new “civility” is emerging in Westminster, says Dr Pugh, with politicians of different parties talking to one another. We can see this locally, with the new administration in Lancashire County Council being determined by Labour and the Liberal Democrats working together. Some parts of the Labour Party, says the Southport MP, have now learned it was “good to talk”. There is growing recognition of the usefulness of Tories and Lib Dems working in a “more consensual way”.

Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg has hinted strongly that he expects the “mansion tax” on homes over £2 million to feature in the Lib Dems’ next election manifesto. The Lib Dems will make clear very which policies in their manifesto are “holy grails” and which they could compromise on.

Looking ahead to a future coalition, Mr Pugh says: “I think it was a huge mistake for both coalition parties to be stampeded into an early agreement in 2010. As we get the hang of coalition politics I think people will become probably less tribal and certainly more goal-directed; they will want to know what the coalition can achieve.”

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