IN FULL: Gary Millar's defection statement to Labour from Liberal Democrats

By David Bartlett on Apr 25, 11 10:02 PM in Liberal Democrats

GaryMillar.jpgGary Millar tonight quit the Liberal Democrats for Labour saying the party was in a mess locally and nationally.

The Liverpool councillor, who co-owns Parr Street Studios and represents Old Swan said said he had been motivated by broken promises of the Lib-Dems in coalition and turmoil in the local party.

Below you can read his full defection statement which DSB has exclusively.

He will be handed a newly created post of assistant cabinet member for business working alongside council leader Joe Anderson - a sign of how well respected he is on both sides of the council chamber.

His defection will come as a hammer blow to the Lib-Dems still reeling after Warren Bradley resigned as group leader and was later suspended by the party last week over the nomination of his son Daniel to stand in next month's elections.

That Cllr Millar, a charismatic and non-tribal politician, was seen as a possible leadership contender will further compound the pain.

Here is his full defection statement:

"Twelve months ago I was happy to call myself a Lib Dem, today they make me question my integrity and reputation. Nationally, some policy choices are hurting low income families and call into question my own integrity (eg. tuition fees, police cuts). Closer to home, I believe that the once proud Liverpool group will get over its current turmoil but meanwhile its own integrity is being questioned. Unfortunately I can't stay a member of a group where any positives are being significantly overshadowed by continual negative perceptions.  Yes, nobody is perfect, but I do believe that civic pride, public trust and mutual respect should be top of our political agenda."
 
"In fact, in the past year I believe the integrity of grass roots Liberal Democrats has been adversely affected by some ill thought out decisions. Yes, I acknowledg that their influence in Government has achieved some positives, however this is outweighed by the broken promises and many are hoping and looking for politicians they can trust.  Trust is the key word and I believe the only word in the minds of our voters."
 
"Why have a I joined Labour? Well, I now believe that the Liberal Democrat Party is no longer the party I joined.  Plus, since taking control of the city last year I have been very impressed by some of Labour's successes - particularly with their stance on the business agenda and the apprenticeship scheme.  I have already applauded Labour's consensual approach to the budget process. I have to say I am very angry that the government has reduced the city's funding by £91 million in a one size fits all approach to reductions. With Liverpool having some of the most deprived areas in the country, why do we have a bigger reduction than the more affluent Tory towns and cities?  For example, the government needs to continually remind itself that Liverpool needs more businesses (an extra 7,000 just to hit the national average) and more long term jobs. Liverpool's allocation from the Regional Growth fund of £450million is welcome but only a drop in the ocean for a City which needs and deserves much more. We also need better health services and more health education. Furthermore, we need better schools and we need better housing.
 
"I am pleased to be joining the Labour team and will play a part in helping achieve the city's goals and objectives in supporting the business community and help them put in place strategies, plans and actions that attract investment and safeguard and create more long term businesses and jobs.  This is not about politics - it's about our residents and their future!"
‹"It will now be said by some in the Lib Dems that I have put my own interests before those of the party. To which I can genuinely say that I have instead put the residents of the city of Liverpool before the party or its politics. I cannot stay a member of a party that has broken some of its election promises and one where I have seen firsthand that puts its own members' reputation and integrity at risk. Sacrificing the offices of a few councillors for the bigger picture does not remove the fact that several good, hardworking and loyal people are being sacrificed."
 
"Therefore, my decision to join the Labour Group has been one of the most difficult I've had to make. Since the formation of the Coalition Government I have struggled enormously with some of their decisions. Nick Clegg himself said this weekend that "we can't defend the indefensible."  Personally, I take issue with the handling of tuition fees, the Health Bill, the cancelled Building Schools for the Future programme, proposed cuts in funding the police, the AV Referendum and the huge detrimental impact of local government cuts. I will be criticised for my decision, some will accuse me of naivety and/or opportunism. All I can say is that I am guilty of neither. Whether they believe me or not doesn't concern me.  It is neither a move for political embarrasment nor one for self advancement.  Politics should be about doing the right thing for our voters, and above all about reputation, trust and integrity."
 
 
1.    Tuition Fees. A newly found understanding of the financial fragility of the country does not wash with an electorate that witnessed the signing of pledges stating that tuition fees would be abolished.  On the doorstep and in my role as Trustee of a student union representing 25,000 students, I often hear the statement "You lied about tuition fees".  Of course, I can intellectualise and explain the reason for increasing the fees but I can't defend what appears to our voters to be blatant opportunism to get the student vote.‹‹Since the General Election, statements have been made stating that the Lib Dems had to rethink their stance on tuition fees. But surely with all their research, focus groups and experts they must have realised that the pledge was undeliverable. Is it not better to double check facts and figures and prove that you can deliver something before making a promise to do so? So okay, some will say that we were not previously privy to the extent of the financial deficit.  But that's missing the point. Surely it's about perception and public reaction to the basic fundamentals of trust and honesty.  It is obvious that the consequence of breaking a contract is far greater (and more destructive) than doing what some will say is the right thing to do.
 
2.    Health Bill.  My next problem is with the Health Bill and the likely failure of grass-roots Lib Dems attempts to alter what appears to be a Tory interns theoretical and ideological research paper pulled off the vanity press shelf. Unless we see Andrew Lansley having a major rethink following his pause, ponder and engage exercise then we will probably only see a few changes and a new health service that is based on postcodes and profits. If this happens it will demonstrate how much the parliamentarians are out of touch with their voters.
 
3.    Police.  Then there is the problem of policing. Before the election the Lib Dems called for more police. Now we are looking at 880 fewer police in Merseyside.  How can a Lib Dem face residents and say "trust us", when they are demonstrating that promises already made may yet again be worthless. Yet again I hear "Another broken promise from the Lib Dems."

Follow Gary Millar on Twitter HERE.

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David Bartlett

David Bartlett

City editor of the Post and Echo covering politics, regeneration, and urban affairs.
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