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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Liam Thorp

Veteran Liverpool Liberal Democrat leader Richard Kemp to stand down as group chief

The long-serving leader of Liverpool's Liberal Democrat group Richard Kemp has announced he will step down from his position as head of the local party.

Cllr Kemp, who was comfortably re-elected to the council last week, has served as the leader of the group for 11 years but will not be putting his name forward to continue in the position at tomorrow's group AGM.

He was first elected to the city council in 1975 and held cabinet positions during the Liberal Democrats time in power in the 1990s and 2000s. For the past 11 years he has led the party and in recent years has been the council's main opposition leader.

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Having dropped down to just two council seats in 2015 - held by Cllr Kemp and his wife Erica - he has overseen incremental gains in elections since. But there is a feeling among many that the group should have advanced more in recent years amid a swirl of Labour scandals.

Last week's election results, which saw Cllr Kemp lead the group to 15 seats out of 85 can only be described as a disappointment after he had spoken of aims to win as many as 25 to 30. The veteran councillor had already spoken of standing down as leader and has now confirmed this.

Writing to Lib Dem members in the city, he said: "You will no doubt recall that I wrote to you in January telling you that I would be standing down as Group Leader after the May elections. I have now informed the Council Group that I intend to carry out that suggestion and will not be submitting my name to the Annual Group Meeting tomorrow.

"The past 11 years of being the Group Leader have been the most gruelling of my political area. My sole aim when I took the leadership was to stabilise the party and keep it in existence with the chamber. We had gone down from sixty seats to just ten when I became Leader. That became three when in 2014 we took no seat at all in the city. Outside the chamber we were heavily in debt and had only a handful of active members.

"The three became two in 2015 when Barbara Mace retired from the Group and the joke was that you had to be called Kemp, have a CBE, and represent Church Ward. But 2015 marked the start of the turn around when despite there being one hundred Labour bods in Church Ward to try and wipe out the Party, we held on with an 850-vote majority and boy did we celebrate.

He added: "Our increase since then has been steady but incremental and we have played our part in exposing the many problems within the Council of corrupt practices and corrupt processes. We did this in the face of incompetent and hostile officers and incompetent and hostile politicians. Bullying in the Council was rampant and was largely direct at the Lib Dems."

Cllr Kemp said he now believes the group needs to change its approach from being an 'anti-Labour party to being the proactive Liberal Democrat Party." He added: "We must define in a much better way than we have done what our vision of the future is. What should Liverpool look, feel like and do in the medium and long-term. How should our services be delivered cost effectively in the short-term."

He assured his colleagues that the end of his time as leader will not 'alter one jot' his desire to help the group and party move forward. He added: "It has been a privilege to be the Leader and I pledge my full support for whoever become the Leader tomorrow."

He thanked all those who had supported him during his time as leader, especially his wife, former Lord Mayor of Liverpool Erica for 'standing beside me through thick and thin.'

Attention will now turn to who will replace Cllr Kemp as the new leader of the Liberal Democrats and Liverpool's main opposition leader on the council.

The Echo understands that those standing to replace Cllr Kemp as group leader include Cllr Mirna Juarez, Liz Makinson and Carl Cashman who was elected in Liverpool last week after previously leading the Knowsley Lib Dems.

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