After Brinsworth and Catcliffe we must all turn our attention to Stoke Central and Copeland

Thirteen days ago I broke off from a canvass conversation on a Brinsworth doorstep to take a call from Great George Street asking me to head to Copeland for the parliamentary by-election.

Last night’s victory for Liberal Democrat Dr Adam Carter in the Brinsworth and Catcliffe by-election is remarkable in many ways. The first Lib Dem elected in Rotherham since 2000. A 38.3% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. A crushing defeat for UKIP in a ward they had high hopes. A victory for hope and optimism amidst the pall of recent scandals that have blighted Rotherham.

Like many Sheffield Lib Dem activists, I have spent the last eight weeks travelling to help Adam Carter and his campaign manager Hannah Kitching with their campaign. It’s been inspiring working alongside many new Lib Dem members; some converts from other parties but others who have taken stock of what is happening in their communities, in their country, and across the world, and have decided they must make a stand before it is too late.

On the doorsteps of Brinsworth and Catcliffe there was interest in our message. Many of those voters had never been canvassed before in their lives. They were used to one or two tired leaflets from Labour and UKIP; the two parties who had decided that Rotherham voters faced a simple binary choice. Enter a dynamic charismatic community campaigner in the figure of Dr Adam Carter, backed by a large team of enthusiastic Lib Dem campaigners.

Last night those voters placed their trust in change through Adam and a Liberal Democrat message of working for every individual in the community and not taking anyone for granted. Since last July we have seen this pattern repeated in council by-election after council by-election up and down the length and breadth of the country. Good local candidates backed by enthusiastic and energetic campaigns have seen Liberal Democrats take seats from Labour, Conservatives, and UKIP.

Sarah Olney’s brilliant defeat of Zac Goldsmith showed that this can be replicated on the larger stage of parliamentary by-elections. In Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland we have two further opportunities to demonstrate that British politics is now very different after last June’s referendum. The Liberal Democrats can offer the light of hope amidst the darkness of scapegoating and intolerance. In Zulfiqar Ali and Rebecca Hanson we have two excellent local candidates with much to offer their respective constituencies.

Jo Grimond asked a previous generation of Liberals to march to the sound of gunfire. For the next three weeks the political gunfire will be heard amidst the terraces of Stoke and across the wild Cumbrian coast and fells of Copeland. It falls to this generation of Liberal Democrats to enter the maelstrom of post referendum politics and battle for an open, tolerant, and united Britain.

* Andy Sangar is a councillor in Sheffield and the Liberal Democrat agent for the Peterborough by-election

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This entry was posted in Campaign Corner.


  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Feb '17 - 1:14pm

    Very heartened by the council result last night; also heartened to see the emphasis on both the upcoming byelections, not just Stoke although I know it has significance for HQ as a ‘scalp’.

    Very best wishes to both teams.

  • Michael Cole 3rd Feb '17 - 1:28pm

    Great result.

    Very encouraging that you and LD campaigners throughout the country are engaging
    “… others who have taken stock of what is happening in their communities, in their country, and across the world, and have decided they must make a stand before it is too late.”

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Feb '17 - 6:27pm

    Jo Grimond: “commanders were taught that when in doubt, they should march their troops towards the sound of gunfire. I intend to march my troops towards the sound of gunfire.”

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Feb '17 - 11:45pm

    Dear Andrew, grand to have your piece as it is grand to have your experienced and likable command now in Copeland. But what do you mean, ‘Jo Grimond asked a previous generation of Liberals to march towards the sound of the gunfire’? Previous generation nothing, I was there and heard him, and I know of several Lib Dems of 70 years and rising who are regular activists and contributors to Liberal Democrat Voice. We aren’t a previous generation, we are of the current generation of Lib Dem activists!

    Yours in friendliness, see you at the Keswick HQ tomorrow when we muster to meet our excellent President, Sal Brinton. It was good to hear of your work in Rotherham and of the brilliant result there. More to come!

  • Pete Roberts 3rd Feb '17 - 11:55pm

    At last autumns Welsh Lib Dem conference two older members separately approached me as conference chair and said. “We joined the party with Jo Grimmond as leader and thought we ought to come to our first conference.” His legacy lives on and its not just newbies that are being inspired by our resurgence.

  • I have been in Stoke today, the ONLY thing that will stop us having fantastic results in Stoke & Copeland will be if activists do not believe we can do it. So, go to help, phonebank, donate or combination!! We can achieve some great results 🙂

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Feb '17 - 9:24pm

    Absolutely right, Peter Kemp, and it was good today in Copeland to distribute named-voter surveys in the bracing sea breezes of Seascale with one member so new to the Lib Dems and so much younger than the 80-year-old stalwart also with us that possibly he will never have heard of Jo Grimond. I left them to it to return to the meeting in Keswick enlivened by our indefatigable President Sal Brinton, and, of course, by our candidate Rebecca Hanson, who is rapidly totting up her own huge mileage as she meets activists in Millom one day, is back in Keswick the next.
    It was interesting to hear Sal suggest that, when the Brexit negotiations don’t produce the promised fruits, she could see Tory MPs alarmed by their constituents’ dismay turning against the Government’s Hard Brexit policy. Meantime the Liberal Lords are mustering, and we can look at that on line. Rebecca told us an encouraging story and sounded full of energy and determination; she is an excellent candidate who will be seen and heard all over the constituency in this lively campaign. Come and join us!

  • Richard Underhill 5th Feb '17 - 2:17pm

    Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) was on Peston-on-Sunday, 31-38 minutes in, before Rory Bremner and “Partly Politics”, repeated on ITV @ 22.15 on 5/2/2017.
    Peston asked her whether the Greens would be putting up a candidate in the Stoke by-election. She said Yes, it is a decision of the local Green party, although she might have given a different opinion. Peston asked again about standing down to help the Labour Party, but she replied in terms of “co-operation with other parties” and electoral reform.
    She also talked about resources (money and people).

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Feb '17 - 10:36pm

    Thanks for the note about Caroline Lucas and the Greens, Richard Underhill. I remember the good discussions about progressive alliances at Brighton, here in LDV, and in the book promoting them. The trouble is, of course, that progressive people don’t want to override the democratic rights of local supporters. Here in Copeland I suppose the Greens are hamstrung by their anti-nuclear choice, but are still standing. There have been Labour calls for us to stand down, but there’s no question of that when Rebecca Hanson is by far the best candidate and the Lib Dem case the most positive. What, let the enfeebled Labour Party succumb to the unprincipled Tories, with their leader casting the European alliance aside in favour of a deal with the USA under the maverick Trump? We will be taking votes from both of them and from fast-fading UKIP, because Rebecca is a principled local Lib Dem campaigner with the best answers on local education and health and other arising issues as well as the strength of Lib Dem policy. We need more of you to come and back her up now, so that we can make a powerful impact with more face-to-face meetings with local folk across the length and breadth of our lovely constituency in these next two weeks.

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