Judith Rogerson is the official parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Harrogate and Knaresborough
Judith Rogerson is the official parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Harrogate and Knaresborough

Judith Rogerson speaking about the general election, what went wrong and the covid-19 response

23 October 2020

Judith Rogerson is the official parliamentary spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Judith Rogerson said:

I am the spokesperson, particularly on national issues but in general if there are any topics of importance that come up about the area.

I was the candidate of the general election last year and but there are no candidates at the moment because there’s no election looming.

I take the lead in in speaking up for the party in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Video interview and write-up from our conversation.

What went wrong

Judith Rogerson said:

I think it was a whole host of issues that that came together, firstly i’d say we had a really great team here and that was why we were able to run a strong campaign, with a had huge numbers of volunteers who gave up loads of time and i’ll always be grateful for them for what they did

But it really was a whole host of things that came together.

The liberal democrats have published a report about looking back at what happened in the election because obviously we didn’t do as well as as we’d hoped we would across the country.

That report has been very honest and in some respects was quite brutal but it acknowledged that our messaging wasn’t as good as it could have been and the way that the campaign

Next time we’ll do things differently so that’s been taken on board and our new leader, Ed Davey, has acknowledged that

There’s a perception amongst a lot of people that the libdems don’t necessarily represent the things that people care about now it may be that we do but it’s if the issue is the messaging we need to sort that out.

Ed Davey has been doing what he’s called a listening tour and he’s been going around talking to people about their lives and what’s going on and he’s made it very clear this isn’t about 10-minute photo ops he’s been sitting down chatting to people about their businesses about their lives he’s put a really emphasis on caring and being carers because he has a lot of personal experience of that so knows how important that is.

We need to do things differently, but there are other issues as well obviously brexit was really one of the defining issues of of the election and we took a very pro-European stance and that was I think the right thing to do but there was a difficulty with that with our messaging and our policy on that we had for years said that the second referendum was was the right way forward and we didn’t back away from that we still stood by that but we obviously took the point that if we were elected as the government that that would be a mandate that the people had voted to revoke article 50.

The problem was that it took too much explaining and it gave an opportunity I think for our rivals to say they’re undemocratic they’re not listening to you

now when I went out and spoke to people and explained to them our logic behind our policy most people even some quite strong brexiteers said fair enough you know what you’re saying is we either have a vote the general election or we have a referendum but I think when you’ve got to talk to someone for five or ten minutes to explain a policyyou’ve lost them, so that was a problem.

The conservatives on the other hand had a very clear “get brexit done” message which was which is an attractive message, now we didn’t agree with them and it was clear that it didn’t get brexit done.

Brexit is very much still happening and disgracefully they’re trying to back away from that deal now but that was an attractive snappy message that appealed to a lot of people but I think really one of the biggest issues here and across the country in in places where the liberal democrats were the contenders against the conservatives was the fear of Corbyn

Earlier on in the campaign we were talking to a lot of people who naturally were conservative voters but they were really angry with what the conservatives were doing on brexit, on other issues they were frankly a little bit embarrassed by Boris Johnson as the potential prime minister and were swaying towards voting liberal democrat.

But as the campaign went on and it was effecting the conservatives actually, quite
effectively pushed this what’s the fear of what if Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister and so in the final days of the campaign people were saying really sorry I like you I like what the liberal democrats are saying but I can’t risk letting Jeremy Corbyn become the prime minister
and that was something that was outside of our control.

The two main parties were led by people who were both fundamentally unsuitable to be prime minister so it left people deciding where to put their cross on the ballot box in a really difficult position and unfortunately we suffered here and we suffered across the country because of that.


What do you see as the current main issues for the Harrogate district ?

Judith Rogerson said:

Well I mean covid obviously is dominating and has dominated for most of this year it’s impossible to escape the impact that’s having on on our lives.

I think Harrogate and Knaresborough is particularly hard hit by the impact on the hospitality the leisure industry because our industry our economy here is driven by the convention centre which obviously isn’t available to be used at the moment because it’s being used as the Nightingale Hospital.

I’ve spoken this week bnb owners who are really dreading what’s going to happen in the future because they have lost all their bookings largely as a result of the restrictions that are in place which mean it’s near impossible for people to plan ahead to know what’s going to happen and as a result of that they’re saying we’re having to effectively shut down our businesses because we can’t get the bookings – they’re really worried about the future

Lib dems have been pushing this is giving people the support they need it’s not their fault that they’re in this position it’s no one’s fault that covid has happened but what we can control is how we manage

and at the moment there just isn’t enough support for people in the hospitality and leisure industries to keep them going through this incredibly difficult time so there’s no escaping that that is a big issue for businesses.

In terms of other issues really the issues that were there a year ago when we were fighting the campaign haven’t gone away and I think that’s that’s part of the dreadful thing of we’ve been so distracted this year by the virus which obviously we’ve had to focus on but all those problems about mental health care, funding for schools all that sort of
thing is still there,

and in a way it’s going to be harder when we come out of covid because if there’s less money around to sort those problems out than there was a year ago we need to find really we’ve got to think of innovative ways to deal with those issues.

What should an MP do ?

Judith Rogerson said:

You know one example is it’s as we’re sitting here this morning, hearing in the news about the vote yesterday in parliament for free meals for children and, conservative MPs including our MP he voted against giving free meals to children.

That’s that’s a devastating thing, there are children in absolute poverty in this country and they were there before covid and they will still be there after covid.
And there will probably w be more people who are who are struggling after covid because there will be lost jobs.

So the tier system I can understand that the government wanted to try and make things a bit clearer but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening for a start this week the government’s been negotiating with different areas about what tier three means so it seems that it means different things in different places.

In some places you can open gyms some places you can’t some places soft plays so that isn’t helping with the confusion but I think more fundamentally my concern is that, is it actually working, because places like Manchester have effectively been in tier two for months and their infection rates have gone up and up so if it hasn’t worked.

So why why is it going to work now and then, moving into tier three areas which are tier one are wondering are we going to be tier two tier 3.

So in principle it sounds like a good idea but is it actually practically working another big issue is again are people being given proper support because I know people have said well if you’re in tier 2 it’s actually worse because you get less support than if you’re in tier three.

So in principle you can open your business but if you’re not getting the customers you don’t get the same support you would if you were told to close and the 10 p.m curfew one that’s been something that’s been hugely controversial and certainly in parliament and the liberal democrats have been campaigning about this because we’ve been asking what’s the science behind it why is it helping to turn people out of pubs and restaurants at 10 o’clock and we’ve seen pictures you know in central London of people crowding onto the tube because they’ve all had to leave at the same time.

Now here in Harrogate that’s not quite the same issue but I’ve certainly been out you know I went out for dinner in there’s a couple of weeks ago 10 o’clock, everyone had to leave and we’re standing on the pavement outside waiting to go home or waiting for a taxi.

It’s impacting on businesses but is it actually making a difference in slowing down covid if the answer is no then that’s not doing the job it should be doing and I think it really does need to rethink if the science behind it.


What should an MP be doing ?

Judith Rogerson said:

I think the MPs job is to be vocal about these things and there are MPs around the country who are doing that but I’m not seeing that here what I would like to see is our MP speaking up for the local industry one thing that we’ve been campaigning about is an extension of furlough.

Furlough is something that is really going to affect people’s lives not just in hospitality in all businesses we’ve been campaigning about.

We haven’t seen the support that we would like from our MP for that now when we first started that campaign a couple of months ago now in response it was reported that our MP had said that we were being alarmist to raise concerns about unemployment.

We’re seeing unemployment coming back now, just this week Harrogate International Festivals have had to announce that they’re making a large proportion of their staff redundant – it’s not alarmist to raise concerns about people’s jobs and people’s livelihoods.

I think we would like to see more from our MP standing up for local people who you know we have the same issues across the country but very specific issues about leisure and hospitality here.

Someone who has been speaking up a lot and that a lot is Tim Farrow who’s the libdem MP in Westminster Lonsdale. He’s been really campaigning hard he’s not a conservative MP he’s not as close to the government but he’s getting that momentum going and raising thoseissues.

It would be fantastic if we saw our own MP doing the same thing.

What should happen going forward ?

Judith Rogerson said:

We would like to see the furlough scheme extended and because that has kept people going and you know i’ve had emails from people who’ve said i’m expecting to be made unemployment when furlough stops and then i’m really worried about how they are going to be able to pay my rent.

The lib dems campaign for the furlough to be extended into next year when it was started up the plan was to end it in October, we couldn’t have known what was going to happen.

But we now know where we are and what’s happening there’s also a lot of people who’ve fallen through the gaps there’s groups that called the excluded who for one reason or another don’t qualify for any support and we’d like to see a lot more done for them so those are people.

We want to see more from the government from from people like them well.

What do you think will happen from here ?

Judith Rogerson said:

I don’t think anyone can know but what we’ve got to be aiming tto get control of of the virus as best we can.

I think sadly the way that the government is handling this at the moment isn’t the right way to do it just what we’ve seen this week with the negotiations you know pitting councils against each other the way that Manchester was treated was really appalling.

Whatever you think of the respective individuals involved to effectively pull the plug and then for people people not to know you know, imagine being a person in Manchester who just doesn’t know what’s going to happen, is there going to be any support for me – that’s no way to run a government.

So I think we’ve really got to get on top of that the most important thing is track and trace because it’s not working at the moment the government needs to get a grip on that certainly the libdems had called for a two-week lockdown to allow us to do that over the ha term so there’s less disruption than the other eyes would be particularly to children who who are missing school .

But unless we get a grip on track and trace things aren’t going to things aren’t going to improve as quickly as we need them to so that really is I think the key.

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