During the general election campaign we will be running a series of diary pieces from party president Ros Scott. To kick off here’s her campaign diary of this month so far:
I’m fed up with waiting for Gordon Brown to call the election, so I’ve started without him.
Maundy Thursday saw me up bright and early to catch the 8.35 train to Sheffield for my first official visit of the campaign. I met up with Paul Scriven, leader of the City Council, and our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in Sheffield Central. Paul is both a highly effective council leader and a first rate campaigner, and I’m confident that he will join Nick Clegg as Sheffield’s second Liberal Democrat MP.
As well as a brief visit to the campaign HQ, we toured the Kroto Innovation Centre at the University of Sheffield, named after Sir Harry Kroto, a Nobel Prize-winning alumnus. We were obliged to dress up for our look around the ‘clean room’ where gallium-based crystals were being grown for nano-technology research in universities across the country. A conversation with a representative of Siemens revealed that their main European centre for research into wind turbines is based on the campus. Our commitment to developing former shipbuilding facilities as sites for wind turbine production would draw on this expertise.
Off then to Ashfield in Nottinghamshire to meet our young PPC and councillor, Jason Zadrozny, and his team, who have been winning council seats from Labour steadily over the last four years. It’s an area where Labour neglect is apparent and they have been badly let down by their outgoing MP, Geoff Hoon. A cup of tea with activists in the HQ, followed by a whistlestop tour of a vast proposed housing development on a greenfield site. Jason tells me that there are many empty properties in the area which could be quite easily be brought back into use and he’s delighted that we have made a manifesto commitment to investment in existing housing stock.
I spent the evening canvassing with a team in Leeds North West, where Greg Mulholland is defending the seat he snatched from Labour in 2001. Greg has a reputation as an effective and hardworking MP, so we have a good story to tell on the doorstep.
An unusual view from the window of my hotel in Leeds – a medieval tilting yard, part of the Royal Armouries located on the waterfront.
To Leeds station for the train to Bradford, where I spend a convivial hour or so with the team in Bradford East, where we expect great things from candidate David Ward and his campaign team, led by the redoubtable Jeanette Sunderland.
On to Harrogate, via Leeds station (again), where I am met by Claire Kelley, who hopes to retain the seat won by Phil Willis. A quick lunch with the activists at the HQ, and then out to do some delivery in Saltergate ward.
The next stop is Hull, via Leeds station (yet again). We are greeted by Denis Healy, a wonderfully energetic candidate, local to his fingertips. A very successful canvassing session with his enthusiastic supporters is followed by a visit to one of two mosques in the city. We learn a great deal about the importance of the mosque as a community focus as well as a place of worship. The Muslim community in Hull is a diverse one, with worshippers originating from across the Islamic world.
As we are staying overnight, in a hotel by the marina, we treat ourselves to a fine Italian meal with Denis and some of his colleagues.
An early start, as we head out of Hull towards our next stop, Darlington (avoiding Leeds!), where we are met by our candidate in Redcar and Cleveland for a flying visit. Ian Swales is heading a very successful campaign team, who have won a series of council by-elections from an increasing dispirited Labour Party.
As he drives, he shows us some of the industrial areas where once dominant employers like ICI and British Steel have disappeared, broken up or closed down. The loss of jobs at Corus is a particularly savage blow in these difficult times and Ian talks to us of the problems faced by families in the area.
After our time in Redcar, we head northwards on the train to Edinburgh, and then on to Dunfermline. Willie Rennie is defending the seat he won in a stunning by-election victory over Labour in 2007, and we are met by members of the Local Party, going on to leaflet in Abbeyview, in south Dunfermline.
We are in Glasgow on a rather grey morning, but our candidate in Glasgow North, Katy Gordon, is as bright and cheerful as ever. Katy needs just a 6% swing to gain this former Labour stronghold. She is a well known local campaigner, against Post Office closures and also the Labour council’s primary school programme of closures. She was joined on her campaign against the closure of Wyndford School by former local councillor, one Vince Cable. From somewhere, she has found the energy to take part in the Great Scottish Run, to raise money for the women’s centre in the city. She will make a fantastic MP for the people of Glasgow North.