The principle council by-elections on 3rd Nov 2016 were more about holding our existing seats rather than gaining new seats, sadly we weren’t 100% successful.
Since I have joined back in August 2015 I have seen many newbies run as candidates for local councils, parish councils and also eventually as potential parliamentary candidates should a snap General Election be called. None of these roles have ever appealed to me for a multitude of reasons. Aside from my exec roles, I started to look round to see what else I could do to help support my local party.
I took the decision to train to be an electoral agent over the summer, thinking I would have plenty of time to learn the role as the next round of by-elections in my area would be called in 2019. I could start my training at Autumn Conference and be very ready for 2019. I was very wrong! The resignation of UKIP’s Catriona Brown-Reckless from Medway Council meant that I was thrown into the deep end very quickly. Her resignation was announced right before Conference and it was decided that I was to be both agent and campaign manager for Isabelle Cherry, our candidate chosen to stand in the by-election. The ward was Strood South, an area where we had done very little work for over ten years. This meant that the objective of the campaign was clear: we knew we had little chance of winning but we could collect some data, start building in the area and try out some new methods of campaigning such as social media etc.
The essence of the campaign was planned and the signatures on the nomination form were organised before Conference. I had very little time to soak up the general atmosphere; I had a plan and I needed to stick to it! Training was quite intense but I learned loads (and in case anyone was wondering I still managed to enjoy Conference to the full and Hilton bar prices meant I did not have any hangovers to interfere with my training). I strongly recommend attending training courses at Conference; although I concentrated more on the compliance ones than campaigning ones.
Once back in Strood the campaign could start in earnest. We waited for our Focus to be delivered (carefully written up by other members of the team whilst I was away in Brighton and yes, evenings were spent in restaurants proof-reading literature). Action Days were planned and advertised. Bundles were weighed. Turf was cut (badly). We were ready to go!
The Action Days themselves were great fun. We had lots of support from all over Kent. The levels of support were overwhelming; never had I expected so many people to turn up! I am still so very grateful and cannot thank those that did help enough. The role of the campaign manager on these days is to plan, hold everything together and remain at the base to ensure everything runs smoothly. Providing food always helps, and as Issy is vegan I made sure all snacks were vegan-friendly. There was plenty of work to do outside of the action days too. Focus delivery; canvassing, it all needed to be done! Cutting turf became my new hobby; although on a personal level I still have so much more to learn when it comes to Connect (as anyone who knows me and also has Connect access will tell you; countless phone calls and messages and I still by and large don’t have a clue what I am doing). I also had to learn about social media campaigning. My Facebook and Twitter accounts were primarily for personal use and I had no idea with regards to advertising and how to raise our profile.
In addition to this, the campaign didn’t run as smoothly as hoped. Another by-election was called early on in the campaign which meant that resources would have to be spread more thinly. Isabelle was involved in a culinary incident which resulted in quite a nasty burn on her leg; whilst she tried to campaign through this it soon became apparent that medical treatment would be needed and she would need to take time out for a few days. I myself came down with the obligatory cough/cold combo I usually get when I am stressed. Time management really became an issue as both of us had then to enforce periods of rest whilst keeping the momentum of the campaign going. In hindsight, I fee we managed this as best we could; the last thing we wanted to do was to burn ourselves out before polling day.
Polling day itself was a whole new experience. Up early to get my vote in before all the fun started (yes I had to be reminded to vote). Knocking on doors, getting people out to vote, stopping only for a pub lunch. Making sure we got round all the polling stations to thank the staff for their help; after all, its a long and cold day for them too! There were sightings of Mark Reckless (cheeky really as his wife’s resignation triggered the by-election in the first place) but luckily he did not cross my path. All was going to plan.
Count night itself was interesting. I had never done a count before, aside from the EU referendum. We did some tallying and no; the results did not look good. The polling station staff confirmed that turnout was looking to be poor, which it was. However, this made the count nice and quick so there was some good news in any case! Our result is there for all to see.
So; what have I learned from my experience?
- Sometimes, you just can’t win, however hard you try. We all should set our to do our best in every seat we stand in. Sometimes though, the odds will be stacked too high against us. This was one of those times.
- Always have a plan.
- Delegate tasks to other members of the team. You can’t physically do everything alone and nor should you try. There are always people around you willing to help. They will also have a good variety of skills. It makes sense to put them to good use!
- Always say thank you.
- Make sure you have enough work for all your activists to do. I tended to underestimate what we could get done. Luckily, there was always more to do.
- Make time for yourself. It’s easy to get carried away, work extra hard and neglect your own needs. Make sure you take time out to do something you enjoy, or even just to relax.
I am proud of us. I’m proud of what we achieved. We did our best and that’s all you can ever do.
Some of you may have seen in various other locations that our leader, Tim Farron has recently had a reshuffle of his front bench and there aren’t too many surprises, although some have highlighted the exclusion of our man at arms, Greg Mulholland – however, many suspect he will form the siege weapons (back bench) for the Liberal Democrats.
Here is the full front bench line-up that was announced:
- Tim Farron MP – Liberal Democrat Leader
- Baroness Sal Brinton – Party President
- Alistair Carmichael – Shadow First Secretary of State
- Baroness Susan Kramer – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Tom Brake MP – Shadow Foreign Secretary, Shadow Leader of the House, Chief Whip
- Lord Brian Paddick – Shadow Home Secretary
- Nick Clegg MP – Shadow Brexit and International Trade Secretary
- Baroness Judith Jolly – Shadow Defence Secretary
- Norman Lamb MP – Shadow Health Secretary
- Lord Don Foster – Shadow Business and Industrial Strategy Secretary
- Baroness Lynne Featherstone – Shadow Energy Secretary
- John Pugh MP – Shadow Education Secretary
- Baroness Cathy Bakewell – Shadow Work and Pensions
- Baroness Lorely Burt – Shadow Equalities Secretary
- Lord Jonathan Marks – Shadow Justice Secretary
- Baroness Kath Pinnock – Shadow Communities Secretary
- Baroness Jenny Randerson – Shadow Transport Secretary
- Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter – Shadow Culture Secretary
- Lord Dick Newby – Leader of the House of Lords
- Lord Ben Stoneham – Lords Chief Whip
- Baroness Kate Parminter – Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Baroness Shas Sheehan – Shadow International Development Secretary
- Mark Williams MP – Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
- Willie Rennie MSP – Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
- Baroness Alison Suttie – Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary
- Caroline Pidgeon – Shadow Minister for London
- Catherine Bearder – EU/ALDE Liaison
- Baroness Sarah Ludford – Lords Shadow Brexit Minister
Others who attend the Shadow Cabinet are:
- Baroness Lindsay Northover – Shadow Lords Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
- Lord Jeremy Purvis – Shadow Lords Minister for International Trade
- Baroness Joan Walmsley – Shadow Lords Minister for Health
- Lord Mike Storey – Shadow Lords Minister for Education
- Lord Malcolm Bruce – Shadow Lords Minister for Scotland
- Baroness Chris Humphreys – Shadow Lords Minister for Wales
Other party spokespersons announced are:
- Lord John Shipley – Shadow Minister for Housing
- Lord Martin Thomas – Shadow Attorney General
- Lord Paul Tyler – Shadow Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform
- Lord William Wallace – Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
One thing we can say, our Shadow Cabinet is certainly not a running joke like the Tory front bench..
What are your thoughts to the new reshuffle?
The 20th October was a bumper night of Parlimentary By-Elections, Tier 1/2 council By-Elections, and parish/town council By-Elections. All the results are here.
All the details from a packed set of by-elections held on the 13th October 2016.
All the results from the By-Elections on the 6th October 2016, including a very late Scottish Gain for the Liberal Democrats.
The Bristol Liberal Democrats travelled to Witney last Saturday to help out on the by-election. It was my first and I was excited. As we arrived at the campaign headquarters, covered in Lib Dem diamonds and local maps, we were greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer. Our group was asked if we wanted to door canvass in the morning and we said, “bring it on”.
1) No Previous Experience is Required
Merche and Ciaran, two new members in our group, had never door canvassed before but neither felt daunted by the task with the amount of support they had around them. They started the day being shadowed by someone but at the end, both were canvassing solo.
My favourite moment was talking to a woman who said she had voted Conservative all her life but was fed up with David Cameron. I told her about Liz and she seemed genuinely interested. When I was she said that I had given her a lot to think about for when it comes to casting her vote.
Canvassing might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there are many other tasks that can be done. From delivering leaflets to stuffing envelopes there is something for everyone. The staff and volunteers are friendly and would not ask you do something you are not comfortable with. When I arrived at HQ, I heard a young activist say that it was his first time canvassing and managed to get two constituents to become Lib Dem members. What a champ.
For further information on the tasks are available, check out Alex Hegenbarth’s blog: http://libdemnewbies.org.uk/witney-election-get-involved/
2) Liz Leffman is a Candidate you can be Proud of
Liz is a district councillor in Charlbury where she is also a business owner. She has a proven track record of saving Charlbury’s Post Office and also a champion of protecting NHS services and fighting against the closure of Chipping Norton Hospital.
When we arrived at the HQ, Liz Leffman was already there talking to volunteers. She projected the energy of someone who was ready to beat the odds on the campaign trail. After Stephen Williams finished speaking to her I went to introduce myself. I found her to be amiable and magnanimous, qualities needed to serve a community.
Witney voted to remain in the European Union. Of all the candidates, Liz will be the one to stand up for the people of the constituency so that they get a say on what our future with the EU will be.
3) Witney is a Beautiful Place
What could be better a way of spending a weekend than visiting one of the Britain’s best kept secrets? When delivering leaflets in the afternoon, our map led us onto a new housing development. Everything felt fresh and new but further down the road we walked past a fence that opened up into the Oxfordshire countryside. Stunning hills rolled for as long as the eye could see and if it were not for the rain clouds, it would look even more majestic.
You might be sent to any of Witney’s quaint English villages and each has its own character and gems to discover. There are great train links to Oxford or you could try the Newbie’s group to arrange a car share. I promise that once you visit you will be planning another trip in the not too distant future. Hopefully before polling day!
4) Feels more like a Social than Work
From the car journey over, to helping yourself to cake and tea at the HQ, the by-election felt more like a Lib Dem social event than 20th century labour. See what I did there? It was great to go on a trip with my local Bristol members but also recognising many faces you were to bump into.
After our first session in the morning we stopped at a local café for some refreshments and before we went home we grabbed a snack at what Stephen described as “the poshest garden centre he had ever visited”. There we traded stories from the doorsteps and joked about how soaked we all got. Campaigning can at first appear daunting but with fellow Lib Dems around, you’ll be having a great time.
5) It is an Adventure
A month ago who would have thought I would be walking around a quiet corner of Oxfordshire. For the afternoon, our team was assigned the task of delivering leaflets across Burford. Graham and I were dropped off at the edge of town ready to cover our section, that is when the heavens opened up. The first task was to deliver leaflets to sparsely situated mansions, by walking down drives ways that went on forever. Only then did I realise that I had left my waterproof trousers in Ian’s car.
The rain eventually let up and it sped up the delivering process. Burford was a magnificent town and the campaign gave me the opportunity to visit a place that I never knew existed. Another exhilarating feeling is being part of a campaign that could be a historic one if we could take a former Prime Minister’s seat away from the Conservatives.
The odds for Liz Leffman and the Liberal Democrats keep falling every day to win a Tory safe seat. Maybe, just maybe, with enough volunteers and energy we can pull off the most momentous victory so far of the #libdemfightback.
I thought I would share my experiences from the Lib Dem Pint organised for the Friday night before conference.
I got there just after 7pm as I had agreed to help out. I was given a task: speak to new members, get the reason why they joined, write it down on a whiteboad and take a photo. Easy! (It was suggested I start with myself…alas this never happened…)
So off I went round the pub which was rapidly filing up. Speaking to people was great; some people I already knew of through the Facebook group and others I had never met in my life. The responses were really good and varied; they covered everything from the defense of liberal values, equal marriage, the EU, civil liberties…I could go on! Instead, I will just put the pictures up.
Not everyone here was a new member. We say this often in the Newbie group: being a newbie is a state of mind! If you are willing to look at fresh ideas with positivity and enthusiasm whilst making our new members at home then you are definitely welcome in the Newbie group! Also, if Steve Webb is reading this (I grant you its a long shot) then there is clearly a lot of love around for you!
It was lovely to see everyone; new members and old. Some had come down on their own and new no-one; they were instantly made to feel welcome. I can confirm a good night was had by all.
See you all in York!
Last night was another very successful night for Liberal Democrat candidates up and down the country.
Normally I would start with congratulating those Lib Dem teams that have gained a seat, however, gains would mean nothing if we weren’t able to hold on to what we already had. So congratulations go to Karen Ward and team for successfully defending the Glaven Valley seat in North Norfolk. Not only did she hold the seat, she managed to increase vote share and overall majority taking over 55% of the vote. Very well done!
Glaven Valley (North Norfolk) result:
LDEM: 55.3% (+8.4)
CON: 36.2% (+3.8)
UKIP: 4.1% (-6.8)
LAB: 3.0% (-2.8)
GRN: 1.4% (-2.5)
Cynics might say I state with the hold as we have no gains, but they would be wrong!
Congratulations to Adrian England and team in Adeyfield West who went from a very tight second to a massive win! Doubling the Lib Dem vote share to take the seat with a fraction under half the vote with a very healthy majority.
Adeyfield West (Dacorum) result:
LDEM: 49.5% (+24.4)
CON: 22.2% (-4.6)
LAB: 15.8% (-8.7)
UKIP: 10.9% (-12.7)
GRN: 1.6% (+1.6)
Congratulations are also in order for Dilys Neill and the Stow team who took the Cotswold seat for the Conservatives, turning round a 2 horse race to win with a vote share increase of 21%.
Stow (Cotswold) result:
LDEM: 64.9% (+21.0)
CON: 35.1% (-21.0)
All this leaves the Lib Dems with an increase to 18 net Gains in the Tier 1 and 2 elections far and away above anyone else.
Well done to all those standing in yesterday’s elections particularly those in Allestree who went up to 2nd more than doubling their previous vote share to take nearly 29% of the vote, and Finedon who took 7% when no candidate stood last time.
Allestree (Derby) result:
CON: 54.6% (-6.1)
LDEM: 28.7% (+17.2)
LAB: 11.1% (-5.8)
GRN: 3.1% (+3.1)
UKIP: 2.5% (-8.5)
Finedon (Wellingborough) result:
CON: 62.3% (+15.5)
LAB: 19.3% (-7.7)
UKIP: 11.3% (-14.9)
LDEM: 7.1% (+7.1)
At the lower lever, congratulations to Mark Clark who held the seat for the Lib Dems on the Hythe & Dibden Parish Council winning 62% of the vote.
Mark had this to say : “I would like to thank the good people of the Furzedown Ward in electing me as their Parish Councillor this evening. From my background of business I really look forward to getting to grips with some of the key issues that came up during the election, and ensuring that the Council continues to address people’s concerns and worries. Hythe & Dibden is a fantastic place to live and work. My aim is to keep it that way.”
In the remaining 3 by-elections things weren’t quite so good with us remaining in 4th place in Tyldesley, and not putting forward a candidate in Cherry Willingham (despite getting a good share previously) or in Brynmwar.
Tyldesley (Blackpool) result:
LAB: 48.3% (+10.0)
CON: 26.8% (-2.4)
UKIP: 21.5% (-0.5)
LDEM: 3.3% (-2.3)
Cherry Willingham (West Lindsey) result:
CON: 51.1% (+12.2)
LAB: 26.5% (+0.6)
UKIP: 22.4% (+22.4)
Brynmawr (Blaenau Gwent) result:
IND: 80.1% (+80.1)
LAB: 19.9% (-0.4)
Ind GAIN from Ind.
Full details of last nights By-Election results can be found on the ALDC’s By-Election Results page and details of that is coming next on our Forthcoming Elections page. Hat Tip to Britain Elects for their results too.
Well done to all who stood last night regardless of the result. It is really important that we stand candidates in all by-elections in order to build the habit of voting Liberal Democrat. If there is no candidate of ours on the ballot paper we are depriving someone of their ability to vote for us. If you are interested in standing as a candidate please get in touch with your Local Party or ALDC.