How are you bearing up?

Two days on from the sheer awfulness of Friday morning, how are you bearing up?

I have not yet finished with the crying. I spent much of Friday in tears. I’d got home from the count at about 7:30 after nipping in to Scottish HQ at Clifton Terrace to await the results from Orkney and Shetland.

I then went home and wrote this, almost falling asleep many times as I did so. Then, after three hours’ sleep, spent the afternoon crying and talking to various people. Then Jo spoke and I cried some more. How on earth she managed to come up with something so well thought through after what she had been through is incredible.

Together, we have refused to simply be spectators, sitting on the sidelines while our country heads down a damaging path, of which Brexit is only the first step.

Our country is in the grip of populism, with nationalism resurgent in all its forms.

It is easy to despair. But I say let’s foster hope instead.

In Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, she quotes Vaclav Havel:

The kind of hope I often think about, I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world…. Hope in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

She then goes on to say:

Hope is not a door, but a sense that there might be a door at some point, some way out of the problems of the present moment even before that way is found or followed.

There will be a door, there will be a way out of this nationalist surge, and we have to work together to find it.

It’s a huge job to be done, the answer is that we step up, we organise, we join together. Though I won’t be your leader, I will be walking alongside you.

We will reflect, regroup and refresh. We must continue to grow our liberal movement, both attracting Lib Dem members, and by reaching out to work with those who share our values, wherever they are.

All of us who share an alternative vision for society have a responsibility to learn from this result, and find new answers.

Next week is the shortest day.

We will see more light in the future.

Join us for that journey.

Let’s explore the way together, with hope in our hearts.

That hope lies with people joining the fight for those liberal values, refusing to be bystanders. My son sat up at home on his own watching the results and texted me at the count with excerpts from the Conservative manifesto and what they might mean for him and for marginalised groups. He is not going to take the hellscape that is the Conservative bonfire of human rights lying down, that’s for sure. And neither am I.

Later on Friday evening, I found comfort in wine and Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK so I now have some chance of understanding what my colleagues are talking about. Blue hydrangeas aren’t about horticulture, apparently.

I’ve also found comfort in thinking about the joy and fun we’ve had on our campaign in Edinburgh West over the past few weeks. Friendships for life were forged in CJ’s Fun Palace.

When we first moved in to the former builders’ yard in Corstorphine a few weeks ago, I did wonder if it would suit us for a December election. There was a small two story office block with rudimentary washing facilities next to a massive storage space which once housed the cement and stuff. For a Summer election it would have been a space for clerical work but in the Winter, with just two power points, it was impossible to heat. However, we did have a sofa, and a dance floor, and a huge hole in the floor covered by a coffee table that I introduced as the place people would go if they displeased me… Nobody ever did, though.

I christened the big storage space the Fun Palace the first day we moved in and it stuck.And we managed to get everything done that we needed to do. When some bright spark suggested that we provide soup at CJ’s Birthday Action Weekend when we were a bit challenged in the cooking facilities department, I and others brought in our soup makers and used them to either make my carrot and ginger soup (half a bag of frozen sliced carrots, two sticks each of frozen garlic and ginger, some frozen onions, two veg stock pots and boiling water) or heat up Edinburgh West secretary Flora Sharp’s delicious carrot or her neighbour’s lovely pumpkin and bacon (which I never managed to taste).

I spent 70 hours plus a week welcoming people and sending them out in all weathers with leaflets or blue letter lists to write and stuff. I was constantly humbled with the efforts people were putting in. Last Tuesday, the weather was at its worst. Lashing rains and gales had blown down one of our big signs. I saw it lying in the road on my way in, and as I picked it up, a gust of wind blew it down the street. I followed, with traffic coming in both directions. It was all a bit “Oh my god, trampoline.” I managed to get the thing to safety, but it took some doing.

On that wet and windy day, a steady stream of people came for bundles to deliver. They were true heroes.

So were the people who couldn’t come out this campaign because they were struggling with illness who were writing blue envelopes at home, sometimes while undergoing gruelling treatment.

It was great to see so many new people. In the early days of the campaign, I was phoning round Edinburgh members to try to persuade them to come and help and several people came along for their first taste of campaigning – and kept coming back. Some people were enticed back in to this campaign after being out of active politics for a while. It was just wonderful to see people enjoying themselves.

It was a great atmosphere and every single day the clerical room was filled with laughter.

What happened in CJ’s fun palace will have been repeated in campaign offices across the country. Brilliant people putting huge amounts of time and effort and commitment to the cause we believed in. We got the result we wanted, but I haven’t yet been able to feel happy about it. Having said that, this photo of our Scottish MPs brought the first spontaneous smile in a couple of days.

We need to keep that team spirit going in the months and years ahead as we work out how best to deal with this monstrosity of a government.

But we also need to rest. The sun is shining so I’m about to take Hazel for a walk. When this post is published, I’ll be watching Frozen 2. Yes, it’s a weekend of high culture for me.

We all need to recover from the mental and physical exhaustion of the campaign in the ways that work for us. I’ve decided to make Christmas as easy as possible for me this year so am going to minimise the rushing about trying to get stuff done. It’s not the end of the world if I have to buy some cranberry sauce. Although it will be the end of the world to have shop bought bread sauce. I couldn’t do that to myself.

We need to look after ourselves in the weeks ahead. We have to take the opportunity to recharge and build our health and energy levels back up again so we can do what we need to do to make sure this party plays a leading role in the defence of our civil liberties and this country’s place in the world.

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

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11 Comments

  • Caron, we simply got it wrong, the strategy was, with, hindsight flawed & unrealistic, as were the emails we got, and once the public realised we were not in contention in what 600 seats, that was that.
    We quickly need a new leader, not a prolonged campaign, it might be uncontested, and immediately a totally new HQ campaign team We then have 4 or 5 years, but as always keep our feet on the ground..

  • Richard Underhill 15th Dec '19 - 5:23pm

    Jo Swinson spoke with maturity and confidence.
    I wondered whether she would stand for the parliament in Edinburgh again.
    The Sunday Torygraph says on page 4 that “Zac Goldsmith (is) in line to keep ministerial job with a peerage” to remain in the cabinet and advise on the environment.
    I can, just about, see him as the minister giving evidence to a parliamentary committee chaired by Caroline Lucas.

  • Just want to say that LDV played a blinder in this campaign – and before it. Considering it is entirely run by volunteers and is completely independent of party HQ, it’s a fantastic resource and those of us who use it should appreciate it perhaps more than we do. So, well done and thanks to you and all of the team.

  • David Warren 15th Dec '19 - 6:31pm

    I didn’t play an active part because I have been going through CBT counselling for my PTSD and as a result had very little energy. I did a bit of online work for MIND as an election activist and am pleased to report that our local candidate Alison Bennett was very supportive.

    Here in West Sussex there are positives, Alison was brilliant and established a new strong team which put the party back in second place to the Tories. The same thing happened in nearby Horsham. This was achieved despite strong Labour campaigns. I very much hope that the teams that have been built stay in place to fight the 2021 County Council elections and beyond.

    Of course I am sad, Stephen Lloyd lost in Eastbourne and the other result that really upset me was Tom Brake’s. I met Tom back in 2016 and really thought he would be ok given all the hard work he has done.

    As regular LDV readers will know I am an amateur Liberal historian and things have been worst as I laid out in my article the Nadir of Liberalism. The situation now is so much better than it was then and the fightback can start soon because this government will be an illiberal one. The Liberal Democrats will be needed to oppose it.

  • I posted fairly regularly in the run up to the European Elections about how the parties extreme pro remain stance was a mistake and was at odds with how most of the public felt and risked turning the party into a single issue fringe party. This view was roundly rejected.

    The mistake has always been following a policy position (and making it essentially all the party talked about for years) which instantly alienated not just every leave voter but a lot of remain voters too. Until the party becomes a broader church and drops its obsession with rejecting the outcome of the referendum, it will remain a fringe party. It’s a sad place to be, but one which the party’s leadership has knowingly steered the ship towards. Swinson has much to answer for on that front, but is not alone.

  • “to make sure this party plays a leading role in the defence of our civil liberties”

    I’d be delighted if that were the case. But that would need ro reverse the trend since 2015 of downplaying that issue. From Vince not mentioning it in his leadership pitch, to being ‘forgotten’ in a paper agreed by the FPC and Parliamentary party to the minimal content in the manifesto – massively reduced from 2015. Where for example was protecting encryption of messages. Still party policy I was told but left out of the manifesto.

  • I agree in part with Stephen – Yes, there needs to be an inquiry, and I’m confident that our new President Mark Pack won’t brush it under the carpet, but I don’t like the idea of ‘accountability’ AKA blame being apportioned – we are where we are, we find out why things went wrong, and we move on. I’m also not sure about having a leadership election quickly, not least because of the cost hard on the heels of an election and the other party elections.

    That said, it will soon be the new year, Brexit will become less dominant, and we have an opportunity to review and recalibrate our policies for the new reality. Meantime, there are mince pies to be eaten, turkeys to be roasted, and Brussels sprouts to be left on the plate…..

  • The one statement that should be obligitory reading for all Lib Dem polticians ( and Ulster Unionists or anyone else ) is

    The Tories exist only to gain and hold power, they will throw you under a bus as soon as your usefulness ends.

    Or to paraphrase Carson

    “What a fools we were. We were only a puppet, and so was the DUP, and so was the UK, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.”

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '19 - 10:37am

    We have got back to second place with a lot of help from leaflets delivered by the Post Office. Our candidate Ben is the leader of our group on the borough council and knows that we did control the council once when the Tories were staying at home. We have had a large increase in our membership. At the start of the campaign Ben said that if we do not win this time he intends to stand again. He lives in the constituency.

    “Just a quick note to thank you for your support in the 2019 General Election campaign.
    Some people have participated on social media, some people have delivered leaflets, or produced literature and social media content, our councillors and officers have all supported the campaign in one capacity or another and, of course, our candidate, Ben, has put in long hours shaking hands and persuading people to vote Liberal Democrat.
    While the result was not quite what we hoped, we gained considerable vote share which will stand us in good stead in 2020 and beyond. Moreover, we have assured that our liberal voices will continue to be heard in Tunbridge Wells.
    Thank you for all of your support and good luck for the New Year!
    Kind regards,
    Gillian Douglass
    http://www.twlibdems.org.uk/
    @TWLibDems
    http://www.facebook.com/twlibdems

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '19 - 11:20am

    Newly elected MPs should be careful about what they say about our leadership now.

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