A view from the doorstep: South Cambridgeshire edition.

I do love a tour. I also love free stuff. So, when my good friend Kirk Taylor promised me not only a whistle stop tour of the mayoral campaign for Rod Cantrill in Cambridgeshire plus the county council election campaign plus a much-coveted “Rod for Mayor” mug (as seen recently at the York Lib Dem Pint) I was very much in!

After a reasonable journey through the English countryside (via the M25 and M11) I arrived in a village called Sawston to meet Kirk. After a cup of coffee and a catch-up we wrestled what has to be the largest orange diamond in existence into the back of his Fiat 500 (no mean feat I can tell you) and off we went.

The biggest diamond in existence!

The biggest diamond in existence!

First stop was a bit of canvassing just up the road in Great Shelford. We were canvassing on behalf of Peter Fane and Brian “bar chart” Milnes as the other candidate in Sawston and Shelford, as well as Rod Cantrill as the mayoral candidate for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. We were knocking on the doors of postal voters and possible supporters, so the canvassing was very targeted. Finding people in was a challenge (but then it was the Bank Holiday weekend) however the response overall was good. I also was lucky enough to meet Peter as well as Alex, another member of the team. They carried on where we left off, proving that teamwork really does make the dream work.

The next stop was actually Waitrose for a spot of lunch! Then on to another village called Over for more lunch (well, a superb chocolate cake) and to catch up with Sarah Cheung-Johnson. She is a newbie who is standing in the county council by-elections for Longstanton and is one of the most inspiring candidates I have met in a long time. Inspired to join after the EU referendum last June; she is hard working, motivated and definitely one to watch for the future! Also, the large diamond we had shoehorned into the car was for her and it was good to pass it on.

Julian Huppert with Sarah Cheung-Johnson

Julian Huppert with Sarah Cheung-Johnson

The action day here (and they seemed to be happening all over Cambridgeshire that day) was a slick and organised operation. It was being hosted by another newbie called Anne. It is great to see so many new members getting stuck in and with such enthusiasm! We also bumped into former MP for Cambridge (and future MP with any luck) Dr Julian Huppert who was more than happy to pitch in and help with the campaign. The combination of new members and more experienced ones is great; it means that everyone learns something new and those of us who have been doing this for a while receive inspiration from the newbies who are always fired-up and ready to go!

After the obligatory campaign photos, we hit the village with Tom, a former councillor. Response here was a lot more positive; not only because people were in their homes which always helps, but those we were speaking to planned to vote for both Sarah and Rod! Local people here are unhappy with the way the Conservatives are running things and are certainly not happy with the prospect of a hard Brexit looming, therefore will not vote Conservative again on any level. Going out with someone who is well-known to local people is also a good boost; he was a face that everyone not only knew but were very happy to talk to. Tom is clearly still held in high regard which is heart-warming to see.

I left South Cambridgeshire filled with positivity and motivation. Everyone here wants to do well; they work well together as a team and are all in constant communication with each other. It is always great to visit a team that is organised, knows what they want to achieve and are willing to work across the division to achieve it. I was only sad not to catch up with John Berkeley-Grout who is another friend of mine working hard on the campaign team. I also did not get to meet the man himself; Rod Cantrill, however I suspect he was a bit busy elsewhere.

The man himself! Rod Cantrill.

The man himself! Rod Cantrill.

If you are at a loose end and fancy a day out in beautiful countryside twinned with some positive canvassing, then this would be a good place to be. From what I saw in Longstanton and Sawston we can easily win this one back from the Tories, but of course the team always need help. Especially as this was an area that only lost by 1% in the 2015 General Election, meaning that nothing should be taken for granted. Looking at recent polls in the local press, it would appear that Rod is the only alternative to the Conservatives in this area. I can promise a warm welcome, lots of positivity, beautiful countryside and maybe cake. I can’t promise a free mug though.

Alison Healey

My New Member Journey – Alison Healey

As a teenager/young adult I voted Tory; I hadn’t really given it much thought, it was just because my mother voted Tory and I was constantly exposed to Conservative dogma.

I toyed with the idea of voting for the SDP because even my mother respected and begrudgingly liked Shirley Williams and Roy Jenkins but I never got round to it and when the SDP and the Liberal party formed their alliance and Spitting Image did THOSE puppets (younger members should Google David Steel and David Owen) it didn’t really encourage me to give any credence to Centre politics.

But a new dawn came with the emergence of Paddy Ashdown and I began to question what it was I really wanted my political views to say about me.

I voted in every election since for the Lib Dems and that was enough for me to feel that I was properly engaged and that my political conscience was clear.

When Nick Clegg negotiated a coalition with the Tories in 2010 I was fully behind him – I still believe that it was morally the correct thing to do.  The Tories had, after all, won the race and it wouldn’t have sat well with me to have the winners nobbled by the 2nd and 3rd placed parties.

Some people I knew who had been impressed by Nick’s performance in the debates and voted Lib Dem, or who had always voted Lib Dem became disillusioned that Lib Dem manifesto promises weren’t being kept; but I would argue in defence and point out that WE hadn’t actually won and that our role was to keep Tory feet on the ground and to keep some of their more extreme ideas off the table – and in that we succeeded. For the first time I was beginning to realise that this all meant a lot more to me than just putting an X next to the candidate’s name.

And then came the morning of May 8th 2015. We had been punished so cruelly by some people who felt let down and didn’t recognise the good that had been done by Nick and his team; and abandoned by others who were scared of the possibility of a Conservative UKIP coalition or a Labour SNP one. Nick himself looked devastated. Vince Cable and Simon Hughes amongst so many others had been thrown out with the bath water.

I felt an urge to reach out and let the party know that I still believed, I still remember proudly telling my youngest daughter that I had taken the plunge and was thrilled when she told me that SHE had too, especially as neither my husband or I had ever wanted to impose our beliefs on our children but wanted them to find their own way – hell, we didn’t even impose them on each other, it’s just a happy coincidence that we both vote Lib Dem.

I haven’t done much since then, I’ve shared stuff on Facebook that I hope might encourage people join. No local party activists got in touch but I’ve recently learned that there was no local party – at some point I would like to ask my local councillor why he became independent AFTER being elected but that’s another story.  

But I’m thrilled to know that there will soon be a meeting for the new local party branch which I will be attending with my daughter and I am very open to getting involved as much as health issues will allow. I’m excited to be a part of the Lib Dem fight back and can’t wait to see where my journey goes.