Chesham & Amersham: a campaign we’ll be talking about for years

Every so often a by-election campaign comes along that will be remembered for generations. Orpington in the 60s, Edge Hill in the 70s, Hillhead in the 80s, Littleborough and Saddleworth in the 90s, Dunfermline in the 2000s, Eastleigh in the 2010s. Many of them came at critical moments for the party, maybe at times when we were a bit down in the dumps. And at those times the party comes together and runs a spirited and joyful campaign that everyone talks about for years afterwards.

Chesham and Amersham comes on top of, to be honest, unspectacular elections in Scotland, Wales and English Councils in May.  It would be a massive ask to win it. This is true blue territory, after all. A year and a half ago, we got less than half the Tory vote, finishing in second place. In 2017, just 4 years ago, we got 13%. We need the sorts of swings we were getting in the 90s to win.

But we’ve given it our best efforts. We’ve run a good old fashioned Liberal Democrat by-election campaign at full pelt in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve seen so many comments about how the warmth of the welcome was matched by the efficiency of despatch with leaflets or canvassing pack.

From as far apart as Edinburgh and Cornwall, activists flocked in their thousands to help Sarah Green’s campaign. It was clear that this was a campaign everybody wanted to be a part of. My tiny contribution was to help host the nightly maraphones, where people from Orkney to Cornwall made thousands of calls.


I was very touched that Simon Foster from Southampton dedicated 50% of his sterling contribution putting up stakeboards to me as I couldn’t get there. But the loveliest gesture was friends of Erlend Watson, our campaigning legend who has been a key and beloved presence at so many by-elections, taking his place in this campaign. Natasha Chapman and Olly Craven from Lincoln were Team Erlend. Erlend himself is recovering well from major surgery and we hope to see him back at a by-election or Conference before too long.

The positive feedback from voters was incredible. Phoning voters and asking them to put up stakeboards is far from my favourite sort of campaigning activity, yet I couldn’t believe how easy a sell it was.

The Tories have been doing all sorts of expectation management.

Sometimes you can do every single thing right in a campaign and not get the result you deserve. Sarah Green and her campaign team richly deserve a victory. Let’s hope that they get it. She’s been a fantastic candidate – impressing voters on the doorsteps and motivating her army of helpers. One activist, bitten by a dog the other day, was very surprised that she took time out of her day to phone them and make sure they were ok.

In an email to members tonight, Ed Davey expressed his pride in the campaign we ran:

In your thousands, you’ve chipped in to our fighting fund, shared Sarah’s messages online, made phone calls to members and voters, and come to campaign in person – THANK YOU.

Whatever the result tonight, we can all be extremely proud of our fantastic candidate, Sarah Green, and the campaign she has run.

Throughout this campaign, Sarah has defended our fundamental rights and freedoms. Our right to have our say as communities over local planning decisions. Our right to challenge government actions through the courts. Even our right to vote – all freedoms under attack from this power-grabbing Conservative government.

We can see from the local elections, where we made gains across many of our target areas and through this by-election, that the Tories’ so-called Blue Wall is under pressure from Liberal Democrats. Voters are tired of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, and are seeing that the Liberal Democrats can win and will fight for a fairer, greener more caring country.

Whatever happens tonight, this campaign has given the party back its mojo.

If you were a part of the campaign, what do you think you will still be talking about in years to come?

I’m not sure I’ll make it up to see the result live, but I know Andy Boddington gets up at the crack of dawn. One of us will bring you the result.

Before then, I’m about to cover the by-elections for ALDC – we have a good prospect for a gain in Somerset. Watch this space.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lib Dem win!!!!!

  • Simon Banks 18th Jun '21 - 7:58am

    On Tuesday, returning to the HQ from a challenging delivery round in pretty but strung-out villages, I grumbled about the maps but said “The natives are friendly.” Looks like I was right.

  • Michael Cole 18th Jun '21 - 12:05pm

    Simon Banks: “… I grumbled about the maps …” Yes, they could have been better. But I’m proud to have played a small part in this historic campaign.

  • Michael Cole 18th Jun '21 - 12:20pm

    It was great to hear the Conservative candidate whingeing that the Lib Dems had unfairly fought to win.

  • Caron,

    Why do you think those by-elections are the ones remembered?
    I thought Bermondsey in 1983 was one.
    Croydon North West in 1981 was the first win for the Alliance, while Warrington was important as being the first one the SDP fought.
    Eastbourne in 1990 was one – our first by-election victory after merger.
    Newbury in May 1993 was more important than Christchurch (1993) or Eastleigh (1994), but maybe not so well remembered because it was the same day as the County Council elections.
    Christchurch and Eastleigh much more memorable for me than Littleborough & Saddleworth (1995).
    What about Romsey (2000) our only by-election win in the 1997-2001 Parliament, if we ignore Winchester which was a huge win after winning by 2 votes in the general election?
    What about Brent East in 2003?
    What about Richmond Park in 2016?

    Chesham and Amersham will be added to the list. Well done everyone who helped.

  • A party which nationally supports planning reform and HS2 wins a by-election by opposing planning reform and HS2, but only in Chesham and Amersham.

    I take it if the Lib Dems form the next Government, HS2 will be formed in two parts: Euston to somewhere just east of Chalfont St Peter, and Wendover to Birmingham Curzon Street. In between Chalfont and Wendover, passengers must walk as the Lib Dems oppose HS2 there.

  • Simon Foster 22nd Jun '21 - 11:28am

    Caron – just spotted your comment in the article above – my absolute pleasure. In return, I’ve volunteered you to go stake boarding in the highlands for Molly should she ever require it (it’s nice up there apparently and you can walk the dog 🙂 ).

  • By-election victories are all very well. They make up for our lack of publicity at other times. Can we keep that level of exposure beyond them? It’s a long time to the next General Election. Our MPs are doing their best and we can always count on some good luck.

  • How best do we follow up our win in C&A, so that voters there are glad to have voted LD?

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