Tag Archives: by-elections

The David Rendel Award – helping young people to get involved in by-election campaigns

David RendelDavid Rendel was MP for Newbury from 1993 to 2005, winning the seat in a famous by-election with the largest majority ever attained by a Liberal Democrat. A campaigner of renowned energy, he was greatly admired both locally and nationally. At the time of his death in 2016, he still inspired huge loyalty within and beyond the Newbury and West Berkshire (NWB) Local Party and area. One of David’s key strengths was his ability to inspire other people, particularly young people, to become actively involved in politics.

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LDVideo: Liz Leffman: Come and help my campaign to save Oxfordshire’s NHS & bus services

I spent Monday and Tuesday in Witney helping Liz Leffman’s campaign. If it is at all possible for you to go there between now and the by-election  on 20th October, please do so. You will be worked hard – 10,000 steps a day before lunch, I found – but it is so rewarding. We are already out-campaigning both Conservative and Labour parties on the ground and there will be no let up in our activity. We really need to keep ahead of them both.

Liz is an amazing candidate. She combines a passion for the area, an anger against the neglect of the NHS and the scrapping of local bus services and what that means for people’s lives with such authority, serenity and real warmth. It is very early in the campaign for this to be happening, but people stopped us in the street and said they were voting for her – outside her own council ward. In her own council ward, she is hugely popular. She got pretty much two thirds of the vote there in May.

I spent yesterday canvassing in the village of Eynsham with Liz and her team. I was surprised by the warmth of the reception we got on the doorstep. I do feel for the poor people who had come back from a two week holiday and found themselves in the thick of a by-election at full pelt.

The campaign has a really good feel about it so I would strongly urge you to go and help. If you can’t get there physically make phone calls. I don’t like telephone canvassing either. Actually, it’s the thought I don’t like, but once I get started, I’m fine.

It’s worth remembering, too, that the County Council elections are next year and a good result in the by-election could also leave a legacy of a stronger local government base in future years.

Whatever you are able to do you can sign up here and someone from the campaign will be in touch.

Events prevent me from telling you more of my adventures in Witney right now, but they will be coming over the next few days.

However, I’ll leave you with this just now. I sat down with Liz and recorded an interview with her yesterday morning – and she also recorded this video about her campaign priorities and inviting you to go and help. Yes, that’s you she’s talking to.

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Why I am going to Witney and I want you to go too

It’s not just that I am having withdrawal symptoms from a wonderful four days at Conference that makes me want to rush down to Witney to spend time with more Liberal Democrats.

That may be part of it, but why would I want to risk the guilt-inducing wrath of my dog by leaving her again so soon?

On Monday, I’m travelling 350 miles for a whirlwind 24 hours of leaflet delivery or whatever else needs doing  to help the wonderful Liz Leffman’s campaign. I’m doing so for several reasons;

A good result for the Liberal Democrats is important for party and country

A major theme of Conference is that we’re not going to stand by and see our country ruined while there’s something we can do about it. We are going to stand up and make the case for the closest possible relationship with the EU and for our country to be that generous-hearted, internationalist, collaborative force for good in the world.

This by-election is our chance to show that we are making progress as a party, that we can get public opinion on our side.

The party is taking this very seriously. They are even playing the cute dog card very early on. Seriously, a picture of a local activists’ dog was used to lure us there yesterday.

We are going to be fighting a good campaign and the sooner we do stuff the better.

For Liz

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We must fight Witney hard

Invitations have gone out to approved parliamentary candidates to stand in the Witney constituency by-election, caused by David Cameron’s sudden resignation from Parliament. It’s important the selection goes ahead quickly and the very best person is appointed as this is a contest we should fight with maximum resources, energy and determination. There is no time to lose as rumour has it that the by-election may be called for 20 October.

Although the Liberal Democrat vote fell back sharply in 2015 (as in so much of the rest of the country), the party’s candidates (respectively Dawn Barnes and Liz Leffman) came second in both 2010 and 2005. Yes, a distant second, but just consider the extraordinary circumstances in which this by-election is being held. Cameron unintentionally landed Britain in its current Brexit mess and the terrible trio that Theresa May has put in charge of “delivering Brexit” haven’t a clue what it means in practice, how it will be done or when. The Conservatives like to say they are competent, but this is incompetence on a colossal scale.

As for Labour, next week Jeremy Corbyn will almost certainly be re-elected leader of the party, despite the fact that he does not enjoy the confidence of the vast majority of his MPs and Labour is riven by internecine warfare. Not exactly in a position to make a big leap forward in Witney. Indeed, if the recent Sheffield council by-election is anything to go by, quite the opposite.

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Make calls and make a difference

ALDC Phonebank
I am a brand new member to the Liberal Democrats, having joined after the disappointing Referendum result in June.

I was definitely impassioned by the Referendum result and wanted to get involved with the party right away.  I thought the ALDC by-election phone bank seemed a good place to start.

Using the phone bank is really easy. It takes ten minutes of training to get started. If you’ve used a phone and a computer before, you’ll be an expert in no time.

Making the phone calls is a really positive experience. We ring around wards throughout the UK and gauge support in that area for the Lib Dems in upcoming council by-elections.
 

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Time to end this defection madness

 

Yesterday, for the second time in the space of six months, one of my local Liberal Democrat councillors resigned the party whip. Two different geographical areas. Two entirely different sets of circumstances. But two similarly devastating impacts on the blood, sweat and tears of hard working local activists.

The first occasion was in Rochdale this summer. After our previous council leader Andy Kelly lost his Milnrow & Newhey seat by a meagre 15 votes a year earlier local activists worked around the clock to help deliver a stunning victory this May with a 700 plus majority in a general election year and in so doing return the party to ‘group status’ on the council. Or so we thought. Less than a month later our other long standing councillor, Peter Rush, crossed the floor to join Labour and we were back to square one.

Fast forward six months and you find me living in Edinburgh. Last night I learnt that our Almond Ward councillor, Alastair Shields, has resigned the party whip after losing out in his recent re-selection contest to local activist Kevin Lang. Cllr. Shields will now sit as an independent until May 2017. As a result the Lib Dem presence on Edinburgh City Council is reduced from three to two.

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Are by-elections the best use of activists’ time?

Over the course of November I lost count of the exhortations I received to contribute, either financially or through my time, to the Oldham campaign. But is our current approach to by-elections the best for our party, and, if not, what wider lessons can we draw? This article is written to provoke, to challenge, and to inspire debate; equally, it is not written to insult or degrade the hard work or enthusiasm of activists or candidates with which this party is blessed.

Activists are encouraged to get involved in a by-election for a number of reasons: (i) the excellent qualities of the local candidate; (ii) the opportunity to increase our representation at Westminster; (iii) there is value in 2nd/3rd/… place; (iv) to learn about effective methods of campaigning; (v) to spread our national message; and (vi) it’s fun/sociable/exciting! But we have to realise that we are a seriously resource constrained political party. Resources are financial and people-time: activists, party staff, and political figures (e.g. MPs). I would argue that these are all more seriously limited than at any time since I joined the party in 2005, with the possible exception of activists. Even here, many will have full time commitments, a family, other volunteering work etc. 

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