Like all Liberal Democrats, I celebrated the stunning victory. Like most of the country, I was relieved by the following resignation of Margaret Thatcher. But my failure to help left a hint of bittersweetness.
Of the by-elections I have attended, the one I remember most is far from famous. The West Derbyshire by-election of 1986 was held on the same day we won the Ryedale by-election. A double-victory, one year before the 1987 General Election, would have been a massive boost to our credibility.
Like Eastleigh, it had all the right ingredients, an excellent candidate, a great campaign, a straight fight between us and the Tories, and Labour way behind.
But we didn’t do quite enough and the Tories beat us by 100. As a missed opportunity it was significant, but it wasn’t historic.
There’s still a final weekend to go before the Eastleigh by-election. There’s still a ton of work to do. If you can get down there, click here to find out how you can help, and if you can’t, if you’ve a phone and a computer, you can help over the phone. And as always, the party desperately needs donations to take on the Tories and their millionaire funded machine.
The Eastleigh campaign is exciting, friendly, inspiring. But so too was the West Derbyshire campaign. Let’s make sure that in Eastleigh we have the result that our excellent candidate, Mike Thornton, deserves.
* George Kendall is chair of the Social Democrat Group, which is being formed to celebrate and develop our social democrat heritage, and to reach out to social democrats beyond the party. He writes in a personal capacity.