As president of the Liberal Democrats, Lady (Sal) Brinton, 60, daughter of a Conservative MP, the late Tim Brinton, is in charge of overhauling the party’s convoluted, bureaucratic structure. In Bournemouth, she must also rally the troops, a small army of 62,000 that has nevertheless grown from around 45,000 since that near wipeout four months ago.
Lady Brinton says that the “obvious frustration” of having so few MPs has been tempered by “astonishing” council by-election results this summer, which have included gains in Wrexham, Sussex, and Powys in mid-Wales…
About half of those new members are aged 35 and under. No more than one in five are former party activists who left because they were so angry with the Lib Dems for propping up the Conservatives during the coalition years.
“That’s a new generation,” says Lady Brinton, who spies an opportunity to gain votes from Labour and its Eurosceptic new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ahead of the referendum on British membership of the European Union. “They’re coming through and changing the profile of the party.
“And the vast majority of them [new members], around 80 per cent, are passionate pro-Europeans, and that was one of the key reasons that they have joined the party.”
Sal also talks about what it is like being a wheelchair user in Parliament:
Lady Brinton suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which is so acute that she cannot even shake hands –her own are wrapped in bandages. She has been in a wheelchair for four years, a speedy little number that is fast enough to leave aides languishing in her wake.
The Palace of Westminster, says Lady Brinton, does not cater for the disabled. She speaks of another wheelchair-using peer who tipped over in a lift that stopped at an angle, and a Conservative peer who refuses to make room for the disabled in the House of Lords chamber.
More ridiculously, there is only room for three wheelchairs at any one time in the Lords, which is already the world’s most packed legislature except for China.