Lib Dem conference: Church tells congregations to vote Labour, claims ex-councillor

Manifesto writers warned that message from Liberal Democrats is not resonating among ethnic minorities

Friday, 22nd September 2017 — By Richard Osley


Nancy Jirira takes part in Bournemouth

A FORMER councillor has told Liberal Democrat members that she thinks the clergy urge congregations to vote Labour because her own party’s message is not getting through.

Nancy Jirira, who formerly represented the Fortune Green ward and is expected to stand again at next year’s council elections, was speaking in the main hall at the party’s annual conference on Monday afternoon as Lib Dem election strategists and manifesto writers took feedback from members.

Ms Jirira told the conference in Bournemouth that hard work by Lib Dems went unnoticed with minority ethnic groups in Camden unaware of the party’s policies, while the “church hierarchy” did not consider them.

The party took the brave decision to have a mini-inquest into the strengths and weaknesses of the message given to voters at the snap election in public on Monday afternoon; while there were rows of empty seats in the auditorium, all proceedings in the main hall are broadcast live on the BBC Parliament channel. Members reported complaints about the length of the manifesto, question marks on their actual position on Brexit, criticism of the party’s media strategy and how former leader Tim Farron’s views on homosexual sex had been a distraction.

Ms Jirira told the hall: “There is something about the message generally. It does not resonate with people from the ethnic minorities – it’s like they don’t exist. The church hierarchy negates Liberal Democrats and yet it’s justice and fairness that we are about.” She added: “Maybe, talk to Archbishop Welby, talk to the big people so that they actually do hear our voice as well and translate our voice. To them it’s about Labour and the Tories.”

James Gurling, chairman of the party’s federal campaign committee, replied from the stage that the failure to connect was “something we really need to put some thinking into”.

He added: “It is something that really does worry me – and should worry us all about communication with black and minority ethnic communities about our manifesto principles, wherever they are.”

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