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.