Paddy Ashdown and the bobble hat

I joined the Liberal Democrats not long after the national coalition with the Conservatives was formed.

In 2011 my local party asked me to stand as the candidate in the ward where I lived and I accepted their offer.

The ward in question had been safely won by Labour for decades and no other party had previously campaigned there.

I wasn’t surprised to finish a poor third come polling day.

That didn’t stop me, following that election I set up the Southcote Liberal Democrats with a Facebook page, Twitter account and courtesy of ALDC a website.

Quarterly FOCUS leaflets were produced and delivered across one of the four polling districts.

Delivered by yours truly to a thousand or so addresses.

This was backed up by targetting letters to residents and surveying.

I picked up casework and ran campaigns.

The incumbent Labour councillors were not amused, they hadn’t seen this kind of activity from a rival party before.

In the borough election the following year I barely fared any better.

There were times when I wondered why I was bothering.

Then I attended a Lib Dem Federal Conference where Paddy Ashdown was one of the speakers.

In his address to that conference Paddy talked about how many years before a bloke in a bobble hat knocked on his door and persuaded him to join the Liberal Party.

He then joked ‘of course then I went onto become a candidate, MP and then leader of the party.’

The way he said it made it sound it was easy when of course we all know achieving anything as a Lib Dem is very tough.

Paddy finished that speech by referring again to the bloke in the bobble hat to illustrate the point that knocking on as many doors as possible was so important.

Ending by saying that when out campaigning we should aim to keep up the door knocking for as long as possible because it could pay dividends in terms of finding new supporters.

Maybe even a future party leader.

I have heard literally hundred of speeches in thirty odd years in politics but that one inspired in a way few have done over that time.

Rest In Peace Paddy your passion and commitment to liberalism were infectious.

And when I reach for my own bobble hat to go out in the cold I will think of you and that speech that inspired me.

* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats

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  • My partner grew up in Southcote so I wish you all the best with your campaigning.

  • The conference speech of Paddy’s that David Warren refers is outstanding. Is a video clip of it still out there somewhere on the internet?

  • David Warren 24th Dec '18 - 6:48pm

    Thanks Tony.

    I left Southcote in March after 20 years there, now looking to campaigning for the party in my new home area.

  • David Warren 25th Dec '18 - 3:16pm

    If you find that video clip John let me know.

  • Roland Postle 26th Dec '18 - 12:40am

    2013 spring conference? 4mins in for bobble hat

    Personally I think this is one thing Lib Dems don’t do enough of, talking enthusiastically about liberal values in broad, even ideological terms as bobble hat guy appears to have done. Paddy was one who did it well too, of course. Policies matter enormously – they’re the whole point – but in a world cynical of politics and politicians communicating the *motive* for the policy is vital for building trust and drawing the distinction between LDs and other parties, and it’s surely much more likely to win over a supporter, campaigner, or even future leader, for life instead of just for the next election. I spent 20 years being an unenthused and unreliable LD voter (unreliable much like the 4.4million lost between 2010 and 2015 – to underline the point I’m making) before really ‘getting’ what Lib Dems stood for. From Paddy’s description I have the feeling one or two bobble hat guys knocking on my door could have helped me get it sooner.

    “I was fed up with all politicians” – Paddy Ashdown. That’s an unexpected quote isn’t it? Or perhaps it isn’t at all..

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