THE political arena can be a platform for many things. For change, for dispute, for revolution – for Salford Liberal Democrat Jake Overend, it’s standing by your values.
When asked why he joined the Liberal Democrats, Jake replied “I joined the Lib Dems when I was still at uni, just after the general election in 2015. I did it partly out of a sense of political duty – after the disastrous election I felt it was important to make a stand for Liberal values, and partly because I felt like I owed the party a huge debt.”
For the previous five years, the Liberal Democrats had formed a coalition with the Conservative Party after the 2010 General Election. For many Lib Dem members, Jake included – this news was hard to take.
“The 2010 coalition government was difficult for me to swallow as a teenager – I was one of the first set of students to start paying the new raised tuition fees and austerity has had a big impact on my friends and family.”
It wasn’t all wasted stint in government however – in 2013, thanks massively in part to the influence of Lib Dem support, gay marriage was legalised across the UK. “It’s only because of the LDs being in power that I’ll be able to get married to my partner when the time comes.
“That was arguably the first thing in politics that ever affected me directly in a undoubtedly positive way.”
On a daily basis, Jake represents his local Lib Dem ward in Salford as a ‘Membership Development Officer’ – a role in which he introduces new members into the party to make them feel included. He will also be standing as a candidate in an up-coming Salford council by-election.
Whilst still with a low supporter base in the Salford area, the local party members regularly juggle commitments between each other when working on campaigns. The party are currently canvassing for an upcoming Langworthy council-by-election – a common Labour stronghold.
As shown below, the share of councilors in the Greater Manchester is highly disproportionate across political parties.
“I’m under no illusion that gaining political power in a Labour-heavy area under what is quite a difficult time for the Liberal Democrats is going to be difficult.” Jake says.
“Saying that, I’m not standing for local council without the intention of winning it – if we can make our message heard in the wards we are targeting, I believe we can get elected and start working to make people’s lives better.”
Whilst the Lib Dems don’t hold any council seats in the Salford area – Jake and other local party members have been hard at work making a difference for the community. Fellow member Stef Lorenz set up the ‘Alleygators’ team, a project which bands together local residents and LD members to help clear gated alleyways in Salford, as well as working with small businesses in Salford to keep the streets clear of rubbish.
By demonstrating to the local community their ability to act on the most important issues now, Jake hopes that voters will be able to see the tangible difference being made by the local party – and elect the party into local government.
As for the future, Jake, along with many other Lib Dems will be looking to rebuild the party after they suffered a bruising defeat at the 2015 General Election, where the Liberal Democrat total seats in Parliament dropped from 54 to a crushing 8.
The long-term plan for the party is to build on the 6 seats they gained at the 2017 GE under leader Tim Farron – and for Jake, to showcase to the electorate how they can have a positive effect in government.
“On a personal level, like many people, I simply want to feel like I’m making a difference to the lives of others. To me, being part of the Liberal Democrats is the best way to do that.” Jake says.
Whilst Jake and the Salford Lib Dems work tirelessly to make a change in the Salford area – it is ultimately what can be done at a national level which will make the most profound change. Local and national politics are both disparate in nature, so a change in the national party scene could see an upsurge of voters across the country.
“In general, with a surge in national support follows a surge in local support, so I’d like to see the national party continue its work in winning over voters the way we always have – by focusing on common-sense, practical solutions to issues such as education reform, social liberty and making the lives of working class people better.”