Author Archives: Kevin Lang

Obituary: George Grubb: The epitome of all that is best about the party

It is often said, rightly, that the Liberal Democrats are like a family. We share good times and bad. We sometimes quarrel and we frequently spend more time around each other than is healthy. It also means that, when we lose one of us, we feel it as intensely as losing a close relative.

That’s certainly how I and other Liberal Democrats feel at the loss of George Grubb. The first ever Liberal Democrat Lord Provost (mayor) of Edinburgh, George was not only a friend and mentor, he was an inspiration to me and so many other Liberal Democrats in the City.

He was the very epitome of all that is best about the party. A radical liberal at heart, it was quite something to hear George rail against institutions (even the monarchy) in the softest and most polite of tones. He devoted his life to helping others, first as a church minister and then as a local councillor. However for me, George was more than a role model. He was a good friend, a confidant and guide, who not only married my wife and I but oversaw the funeral of my grandmother.

Politically, George first stood for the party in 1999 for the “unwinnable” ward of Queensferry in west Edinburgh in order to “get some experience”. He found himself elected with a majority of 300. In fact, George is one of those rare liberals who stood for office and never actually lost an election!

George also broke the infamous ‘Queensferry curse’, where no party had managed to hold the ward beyond a single term for more than 20 years. Not only was he re-elected, he was returned with a thumping majority four years later and well over 50% of the vote.

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Adventures of a Liberal Democrat at the Iowa caucuses – Part 3

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.10.23Monday 1 February

It’s a polling day of a different kind. Rather than 15 hours of voting, everything is crammed into just 2 hours.
Across the state, individual caucuses will be held in an astonishing 1,681 locations. There is one caucus for every precinct (polling district) with each one requiring a chair to oversee proceedings and a speaker for each of the candidates. It requires a phenomenal level of planning and organisation by both the Democrat and Republican state parties.

I get out during the day and visit the Iowa Historical Museum with its brilliant ‘first in the nation’ exhibition, including memorabilia dating back to the first caucuses in the early 1970s. Geoff, my guide, easily wins the prize for the most overexcited Iowan of my visit so far. He can of course be excused on this, his day of days. He reels off facts and joyously regales the tale of when his neighbour offered his house as a caucus site in 2008, only for it to be overrun with voters in that record breaking turnout year. “He put the Clintons in his front room, the Edwards in his kitchen and Obamas upstairs”, he said, “he was able to fit all the Dodds and Bidens in his bathroom!”

And so caucus hour arrives at 7pm. I’m covering Polk County’s 80th precinct caucus, held in the Wright Elementary School on the south side of Des Moines. It’s a precinct in which Obama beat Romney by over 30% in 2012 so there are lots of Democratic voters for the three campaigns to haggle over.

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Adventures of a Liberal Democrat at the Iowa Caucuses Part 2

Iowa caucuses C-Span busSunday 31 January

After a rather dramatic and delayed journey to the US,  I’m finally in Iowa. Most folk on my flight from Chicago are either news reporters covering the caucuses or members of the US Congress stumping for one of the candidates.

The buzzword is ‘turnout’. There’s hope the numbers turning up to tomorrow night could break all records. Folk seem most excited about the weather….or the lack of it. At this time of year, Iowans are normally wading through feet of snow. Not this year. It’s cold but not painfully so and there are no snow storms predicted. “It’s perfect caucusing weather” my car rental guy told me.

The latest polls suggest a tight race on the Democrat side with the respected Des Moines Register poll showing it too close to call. There’s some scepticism about whether all these young students who have gone nuts for Bernie Sanders will actually turn out. I remember hearing something similar in 2008 about the supporters of some guy called Obama…

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Adventures of a Liberal Democrat at the Iowa caucuses – Part 1

As if Scottish and UK politics aren’t enough, I’ve long had a curiosity, a voyeuristic fascination with politics and elections in America.

It’s not just that elections there really matter and have an impact well beyond the US domestic border. It’s also the energy and enthusiasm (no matter how superficial or manufactured) that I’ve found infectious. It’s why I, along with my best mate (and 2016 Holyrood candidate) Alex Cole-Hamilton, went to help Obama’s first campaign in 2008. We did our little bit to help the Democrats win Virginia for the first time in a presidential election since 1964.

I also learned a lot about campaigning, especially the impact of reaching out and meeting voters face to face along with the importance of continually making your volunteers feel valued and appreciated. That said, as a Liberal Democrat, it was somewhat unnerving to campaign in a place where door to door leaflet delivery was against the law and subject to pretty stiff fines.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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