No prizes for guessing which subject dominates this week’s letter from Nick Clegg to party supporters: the forthcoming Eastleigh by-election. Nick reflects on his own experiences campaigning in by-elections of yore – “exhilarating, exhausting and exciting in equal measure” – and urges all party activists to help in whatever way we can in the next three weeks. A major feature of the campaign in Eastleigh and across the country will be the Lib Dems’ push for Fairer Taxes, and it’s great to see Nick’s message including web-links to enable readers to take action for themselves on this key message. Here’s his letter in full…
Do you remember the Eastleigh by-election of 1994? I expect some of you were there nearly twenty years ago, to see our own David Chidgey returned to Parliament as the area’s first ever Liberal Democrat MP. But some of you may have started supporting the party more recently than that. You may never have been to Hampshire or even been to a by-election.
So let me give you the unvarnished truth from my experiences: the Winchester by-election in 1997 where Mark Oaten turned a majority of 2 into a majority of thousands. The Brent by-election in 2004 where Sarah Teather defied all the odds to win one of Labour’s safest seats. And the Bromley by-election in 2006 where we came within a whisker of unseating the Conservatives in one of their heartlands.
By-elections are exhilarating, exhausting and exciting in equal measure. When you turn that hard work into victory, nothing beats the feeling. But if you don’t win, you can spend weeks wondering if you could have worked just a little bit harder. The only way to protect yourself from that regret is to work as hard as you possibly can to reach the voters and get out our message.
Tomorrow [ie, Saturday] is a national Action Day for campaigning on tax justice: lower taxes on working people. Higher taxes on mansions.
So I want you to join me and thousands of other Liberal Democrats in getting out on doorsteps, delivering leaflets or simply getting on the phone to voters in your area. It doesn’t matter if you’re a by-election veteran or if you’ve never campaigned before. Whether you last delivered a leaflet yesterday or twenty years ago: now is the time to get active.
Why? Because two big things are coming up.
The first: the by-election in Eastleigh on the 28th of this month – less than three weeks away. I was shocked and saddened when I heard Chris Huhne was pleading guilty and stepping down.
Our priority now is to get behind Eastleigh’s brilliant campaign team, led by council leader Keith House, and get another Liberal Democrat returned to Parliament.
The second: in April ordinary workers will see the biggest ever rise in the personal allowance, making them £600 a year better off. We’re within touching distance of our target of ensuring everyone can earn £10,000 before they start to pay any tax.
Tomorrow is your chance to get the message out to the voters about the changes we’ve made and to get the campaign going for the last step up to £10,000.
And our message right now is all about tax.
The message we need to get out – on every doorstep this weekend and to every voter in Eastleigh over the next 20 days – is simple. If you want fairer taxes where people at the top pay their fair share and ordinary working families pay less, there’s only one party for you: the Liberal Democrats.
Think of it this way: Liberal Democrats put payslips before palaces. Find out what your local party are up to tomorrow and how you can help.
And if you want to help in Eastleigh today, tomorrow, or any day in the next three weeks there’ll be a warm welcome at campaign HQ. But you don’t have to travel to help. You can make some phone calls from home. Or you can donate money to the campaign.
Whatever you do make your message about tax fairness: Taxes on mansions. Tax cuts for millions.
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* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.