Tag Archives: by-elections

0-67% in Watton. Can we do it elsewhere?

The by-election in Watton-at-Stone in August saw Liberal Democrats take 67% of the vote in a ward we’d not contested in three decades. This is in East Herts District, where we lost our last councillors in 2015 and all the sitting councillors were elected as Tories. Can we do this elsewhere?

The local party benefited considerably from the help and expertise of Paul Zukowskij from HC3, and through him from other people in Hertfordshire, and also from Cambridgeshire (particularly from Mary Regnier Wilson who ran the committee room on polling day).

The stark contrast in my mind is with another recent by-election, in Petersfield ward in Cambridge, where what felt like an army of campaigners worked our socks off, but didn’t win. Significantly more effort went into Petersfield than Watton, but…

In the back of my mind is the memory of door-knocking in South Cambridgeshire in the 2017 County campaign and having people say “I would vote Liberal Democrat, but there’s no point around here because the Tories always win”. That’s the South Cambridgeshire where we took control of the District Council in May this year…

Also in the back of my mind is the memory of the 2017 General Election and knocking on doors in elsewhere in East Herts where people were glad to see a canvasser: comments included “the political parties don’t care about us” and “I’ve lived in this house for 20 years and you’re the first canvasser to knock on my door”. The only Tory leaflet I saw in that campaign in Hertford and Stortford constituency was their freepost.

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Manchester Gorton: Times reports on “serious challenge by the Liberal Democrats”

According to the Times today (£) the Liberal Democrats are putting up a serious challenge to Labour in the Manchester Gorton seat. We know that’s true, of course, because we are running a pretty vigorous campaign. Key people in the party are making it known that they are clearing their diaries and heading there as much as they possibly can. However, it’s good to hear serious journalists taking serious note of what they are being told:

With the vote less than three weeks away, party sources said that the Lib Dems were stronger than they had been in the Witney by-election, when Tim Farron’s party lost but achieved a 19.3 per cent swing from the Tories.

Losing would be a disaster for Labour and would rank as one of the great by-election shocks. The 31 per cent swing required for a Lib Dem victory would be the eighth largest since the war, according to Matt Singh, an election analyst.

The Guardian quotes a campaign briefing written by the Party’s Deputy Campaigns Director Dave McCobb:

But a briefing for senior Lib Dem officials and campaigners – written by deputy director of campaigns Dave McCobb – says the party’s messages on Brexit, including calls for a second referendum on the outcome of negotiations, are winning over voters in a seat where more than 60% voted remain in last June’s Brexit referendum.

McCobb says the Lib Dems are making up ground fast and are on 31%, with Labour on 51% – a level of support that is, he says, “running well ahead of where we were in the Witney byelection and approaching Richmond Park levels of support at this stage.”

But someone doesn’t seem to have noticed this:

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LibLink: Jackie Pearcey: Only the Lib Dems can stop a hard Brexit

Writing on the Times Red Box site (£), Manchester Gorton’s brilliant Lib Dem candidate Jackie Pearcey has said that only the Lib Dems can offer national opposition to a hard brexit and take on a Labour Party which takes people for granted.

She outlines some of the ways that they have done so in Gorton – in a city where they have all but one councillor:

Residents here are also tired of being ignored by the Labour-run council, which has become a de facto one-party state. This constituency is full of proud communities, passionate about improving their area. I was proud to serve as a councillor here for 21 years, fighting hard with local people to protect green spaces and improve services.

Years of neglect by the council have taken their toll. Many of the roads now have more craters than a lunar landscape. A deeply unpopular decision to reduce bin sizes has led to an epidemic of fly-tipping. Small business owners are struggling with soaring rents. These are the symptoms of a Labour party that takes voters for granted and is more interested in spending cash on glitzy developments in the city centre than investing in the neglected suburbs.

A Labour win would let them off the hook, she says:

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John Leech writes: Come and help deliver a knockout blow to Labour and hard Brexit in Gorton

Having spent the last few weeks delivering leaflets and talking to residents in Manchester Gorton I wanted to share my thoughts on the by-election.

Manchester Gorton presents a huge opportunity for us as a party. The response that we are getting for our candidate, Jackie Pearcey, is really very impressive. I have been struck by the number of people who have told me on the doorstep how much better their local area was when they were represented by local Lib Dem Councillors like Jackie. This is a constituency that voted 65% remain, had 19 out of 21 Lib Dem Councillors just a few years ago and where we used to get a very substantial vote at the general election. This is a real chance to show that we can do to Labour in Manchester what we did to the Tories in Witney. We are the only party that is openly campaigning against Theresa May’s Hard Brexit agenda in this election. The Labour candidate even said he agreed with Corbyn to 3 line whip the vote to trigger article 50!

Quite simply the only barrier to us winning this seat right now is people not thinking we can win and not coming to help. When we won Manchester Withington in 2005 our biggest challenge was persuading people that the effort there was worthwhile. In Manchester Gorton it really is. This is our opportunity to deliver a knockout blow to Labour and show up their hypocrisy on Brexit. Getting a good result in Manchester Gorton improves the chances for all of us facing Labour in elections in the future.

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Game on in Gorton – By-election on 4th May

It was never going to be any other day, but the writ for the Manchester Gorton by-eleciton has now been moved and the poll will take place on 4th May.

Lib Dem candidate Jackie Pearcey had this to say on Twitter:

Tim Farron sent members an email asking them for money to boost Jackie’s campaign. He said:

We’ve already been hard at work for weeks, and we now have another 36 days to pull off something incredible.

In contrast, Labour has only just selected its candidate. George Galloway cancelled an event in Paisley last weekend due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Presumably that meant he was in the constituency over the weekend. I am sure we are all waiting to see Jackie take him on at hustings.

4th May is going to be a tad busy, shall we say. As well as the by-election, there is a council by-eelction in a ward in the constituency and the Greater Manchester mayoral election.

Want to get involved in the campaign?

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Farron: Galloway boosts Lib Dem chances of victory in Manchester Gorton

So the hard left maverick George Galloway chose the ultra right Westmonster website set up by UKIP donor Arron Banks to tell anyone who would listen that he’s be standing in the Manchester Gorton by-election.

Tim Farron reckons that makes a Lib Dem win more likely.

While George Galloway won’t pick up enough votes to win, he clearly will take a number of votes from Labour. That increases our chances of winning as the only party that can beat Labour in Manchester Gorton.

George Galloway is a divisive, hard left campaigner of the old school and an ardent supporter of Brexit.

There will be little support for his brand of politics in Manchester Gorton, which is a diverse and tolerant place and voted 62% to remain in the EU.

His decision to enter the race is yet another consequence of the chronic splits and weak leadership in the Labour party. People in Manchester want change, they deserve better than a failed politician and a failing Labour party.

Our candidate Jackie Pearcey said on Twitter:

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Manchester Gorton: We need YOU!

The Manchester Gorton by-election can change things for the whole party – and we need you to come and help to make that happen.

Look at what we achieved in Witney. We sent a message loud and clear that the Lib Dem fightback was on. We proved we could take a serious number of votes from the Conservatives, angry at their former party’s backing for a hard Brexit.

If we can do to Labour in Manchester what we did to the Tories in Witney or Richmond Park we will send shock waves through British politics.

We have an amazing story to tell in Manchester Gorton.  From our great candidate Jackie Pearcey who has a proud 20 year record as a local councillor, to our party’s positive message of hope for an open and tolerant Britain.

And that’s not to mention the failure of Labour in Manchester and nationally. Labour have sided – and voted – with UKIP on Brexit – letting down the 62% of people in Manchester Gorton constituency who voted Remain. And at a local level they take Manchester and its voters for granted.

But we need your help to get that message across.

Only last Wednesday we walked into an empty shop on Stockport Road in Levenshulme for the first time to set up our new Lib Dem HQ. Within hours of getting the office keys, it was bustling with activity as we unloaded the party’s by-election kit – fresh from its triumphs in Witney and Richmond Park.

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++++Breaking: Jackie Pearcey will fight Manchester Gorton by-election for the Lib Dems

News from the land of Twitter:

Jackie is a fabulous candidate. She has 20 years’ experience as a Gorton councillor. She’s brilliant. I first met her in a queue at the Torquay conference in 1993 and I just love her plain-speaking manner and sense of humour. There couldn’t be a better person to fly the Lib Dem flag. She’s in the centre of the photo in between Mamchester mayoral candidate Jane Brophy and the one-man opposition to Labour Cllr John Leech. That man gives Labour in Manchester a million times more trouble than Corbyn’s Labour gives to Theresa May’s Brexit Government. 

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Winning in Stoke-on-Trent: The foundations that YOU laid

On Tuesday, Ian Horner and I as Agent and Campaign Co-ordinator respectively cleared the by-election HQ for Stoke-on-Trent Central.   Unlike many such events from former by-elections, this was no sad or weary wake.

As we loaded up the bags and boxes, sorted out what could caravan into the next election portal we laughed, smiled and exchanged anecdotes of a campaign well fought.

1. Over 60% of the constituency that voted had voted against the Stoke Labour Party nominee, Gareth Snell. This result ws no ringing endorsement.
2. UKIP – the party that was going to win this unfairly designated “capital of Brexit” – were beaten and their Leader sent packing to fight his own internal civil war with no mandate, no victory and a clear rejection.
3. The ramifications of Labour’s strategy of total compromise and to become the party of Brexit Plus has lead to them voting with the Government. Yes, on Brexit Labour supported the government – now arguably the suicide note of history just got shorter.
4. The Tories, with a young shiny candidate did well to consolidate their support, build in their local councillor base and to almost supplant UKIP for second.

So with these elements at play, what worked for the Liberal Democrats?

We ran a campaign that was bold, confident, almost audacious. I recall clearly the moment in Sleaford and North Hykeham when it emerged that Ross Pepper was the only remain anti-Brexit candidate. With Labour fleeing the field, it is now clear that that will be the norm now going forwards.

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Stoke and Copeland results show how far Lib Dems have come in two years

If the Stoke and Copeland by-elections had happened at any point in the last Parliament, the Liberal Democrats would have been squeezed until our pips squeaked. We’d certainly have lost our deposit as we did in both seats in the 2015 General Election in both seats.

The results showed how far we have come. Our vote more than doubled in both seats and we did well to avoid a squeeze into oblivion. In Copeland we pushed UKIP into fourth as that party’s voters clearly felt comfortable enough voting for Theresa May’s Brexit Britain Party.

In Stoke, you have to wonder how much …

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Tim Farron says thanks for by-election help

Tim Farron has thanked members and supporters  for their hard work in the Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland by-elections. In an email tonight, he said:

The polls are now closed for by-elections in both Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland.

Members from all over Britain have volunteered, donated and cheered on these two upstart campaigns and I’m so grateful for everything that you’ve done.

We can be proud of the campaigns that Rebecca Hanson in Copeland and Dr Zulfiqar Ali in Stoke-on-Trent have fought – right up to their work today getting our vote out in storm force wind and rain.

In the face of strong opposition, they have stood up for our values and fought for every single vote; we couldn’t have asked any more of them.

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P-0: Polling day for Stoke-on-Trent

And so it arrives… finally. Always too short, yet campaigns last forever. At the beginning they take ages, in the middle you wish it was over and at the end you want more time. The day after you are left with a sense of regret at the gap that re-opens in your diary.

So what precisely has happened and been going on?  Let’s go through the outputs.

1. The Conservatives have selected a councillor from Stoke-on-Trent and he’s young, enthusiastic and done himself no discredit.  What we know is that, assuming he loses, he will duly be given a safe seat to be a Conservative MP.  It’s how the party structures work for the Tories.  But do not lose sight of the electoral roots of UKIP. A breakaway more extreme Tory Party.

2. The Green Party stood a local Stokie as their candidate – genuine and sincere, but unable to add to the dialogue in a City that needs a focus on renewables, resources and the environment. In advocating progressive politics, this election has not worked for them.

3. It is entirely possible that we will see, tonight, live, a Party Leader lose an election. In the myriad chaos of a General Election Nigel Farage was able to stand and lose. But tonight, Paul Nuttall will, I predict, be seen to commit political suicide. His ambition, his bravado and his arrogance deserves to rebound in way that I hope will crack UKIP asunder. Is this the first Party Leader, in a major league era (thus excluding Farage) to lose since Archibald Sinclair? And let us note, that Archibald Sinclair came third when he lost…

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P-1: Deep breath

Well after a few weeks, numerous days, endless hours and given my tiredness, countless minutes – polling day is about to commence. And yes, we have reached that point. ‘No more leaflets’ shout the notices on the doors. Some of the notices scream ‘NO MORE LEAFLETS’, some of the house don’t want UKIP leaflets specifically and some of the residents are quite articulate in their resistance. The most receptive and consistent in welcoming the avalanche of the leaflets have been the recycling boxes and bins.

What has been striking and fellow Liberal Democrats will appreciate this – has been the warmth of reception that we have had. Without a doubt the candidate who has emerged as kind, honest, respected and yes distinctive has been Dr Zulfiqar Ali.

I have worked with many many candidates and I can confidently say that you can be proud of the work, standing and respect of Dr Zulfiqar Ali. Zulfi has been beset by media and unlike virtually all of the other candidates he has not been on the run – he has been calm and accessible.

So we clear the office, bundle the good morning leaflets and prepare for a full-on count where no party really knows what will happen. Can I on behalf of the team here, and perhaps on your behalf, thank Dr Zulfiqar Ali, Liberal Democrat Candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central.

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P-2: Feeding the team that delivers on its stomach

I always found one aspect of military history interesting – yes, army logistics.  It’s all very well sending 200 people out but how do you feed them at breakfast, in the morning, at lunch and in the evening and then when they are randomly hungry?

So we have sought to run a HeadQuarters that is warm, friendly, welcoming and well stocked.  Now there have been a few local stalwarts who have been champion at ensuring our kitchen has been well stocked – croissants, biscuits (most variants), savoury biscuits, bread, oranges, bananas, apples (most variants), and yes we also have oatcakes, cheese, tomatoes and some bacon.  And how could we forget the ever ending supply of samosas.

And the atmosphere – well you have all been very willing, cheery and prepared to go out again and again.  It has been really noticeable how many of you who have travelled have a) arrived early, b) have stayed for a full day of work and c) stayed overnight and d) returned again and again.

Now I can say the team here have been bouncy and energetic and focused on making sure you left with a positive impression.  Now I realise that risks sounding flippant, but we have deliberately constructed the campaign in a way that places huge value on a quality and warm reception.  Under the attentive gaze of Simon Drage we try and make sure that you are fed watered and rested between and after your campaign activity.

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P-3: Could the Labour campaign be any more selfish and arrogant?

Go round Stoke-on-Trent at the moment and there are a number of noisy clusters of posterboard and cortex signs – but slightly curiously when you compare them to the electoral register, residents there you will find none.  Now what I am referring to is of course the age old power of the Trade Unions.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no union basher – when it comes to staff and workers right, on pensions, on health and safety and working conditions the history of the trade union movement has much to its credit.  But it’s modern and indeed recent historical context of the political engagement of the union movement is less honourable and, I believe, deeply corrosive.

The Hanley branch of the Unite Offices is currently a forest of Labour and Snell Boards, the Communications Workers Union is almost a barricade of Labour monster boards, specific houses around the city have posters clearly supplied by Usdaw – in short, those workers who fund the union, in turn are funding the price of Tristram Hunt’s resignation and resulting by-election.  (And yes, I know about the political level but that levy has not authorised the main high street building locations that are resplendent with posters).

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P-4: David Vigar comes to Stoke-on-Trent

When I was growing up in Lincolnshire one of the great ‘urban myths’ in the school ground was that Jimi Hendrix played Spalding. Only recently did it emerge that in fact this was no myth, but a hard solid evidential truth. On Spring Bank Holiday Monday May 29th 1967 he played at the Buld Auction Sheds. Now it is a matter of some legend as to whether people were there or not.

In fact, given the truths emerging in Stoke-on-Trent I am wondering if Paul Nuttall saw Jimi Hendrix in Spalding back then – I better check his website… (joke)

So why is this important? Well in the folklore of Liberal Democrat by-election campaigns I am going to put my neck on the line. In the way that Leeds Central, West Derbyshire and perhaps cruelly given the geography Newcastle Under Lyme were important.

Leeds Central was lost in 1999 by 2,293 votes and felt painfully close
West Derbyshire was lost in 1986 by just 100 votes
And Newcastle-Under-Lyme in 1988 by a mere 799.

Now in all of these instances the Local Party and in fact the entire Liberal Democrat Party has had to go through a process of mourning and claim that they had the badge of honour – “I was at X election.. we nearly won…” and their eyes sink regretfully. Now please help us make sure that Stoke-on-Trent Central is not on that list of regrets.

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P-5: The oatcake crisis at Stoke-on-Trent Central HQ

Problems often arise with a campaign – and today was one of those days when problems came in threes.

1. We ran out of delivery and residents and deliverers complained that we were doing some houses for the second and third time.
2. We ran out of canvassing that we had prepared and printed and ready and now have a data backlog
3. We ran out of bacon, cheese and tomoatoe to go with the oatcakes… yes really.
Given we need to be ready for the rest of the day and tomorrow and the final weekend I can’t talk for long and need to crack on.  The campaign HQ is at The Wheatsheaf Hotel, Sheaf Street, Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 4LW and is open from 10 am – 9 pm daily.  You know where to come… I will leave it there.
Ed
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P-6 Why Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham matter to Stoke-on-Trent.

In the world of politics “one more heave” has all the images of failure. It conjures up the notion that if you keep trying you succeed eventually thus creating the cycle of failure, by always trying again.

So in that sense, I have changed my own personal politics over time to ensure that every election is specific and that I get something out of it regardless of the result. Indeed, when I mentor candidates I often tell them “that you learn much more when you lose than if you win”. This has the added advantage for me as a Liberal Democrat of being involved in a range of elections and constantly learning.

But if you were in politics solely to win votes, then look elsewhere and outside the liberal family. I realise now, reflecting on nearly 30 years of political activism that many of the things I have achieved have been significant but have not come through a ballot box victory. Many of the ideas I have espoused have been taken up by others, sometimes of other political traditions, and implemented albeit differently. In this respect, I have regarded my politics as fruitful and I reflect positively. So I didn’t ever regard it as one more heave. I regard it as a long term commitment to the values I treasure and hold dear.

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P-7: The final week: Etruria railway station is a joke

I’m departing Derby and calling at Peartree, Tutbury and Hatton, Uttoxeter, Blythe Bridge, Longton, Stoke on Trent Longport, Kidsgrove, Alsager, Crewe… no more will I call at Etruria Station on the slow train… (to recall Flanders and Swann).

Ah the nostalgia of going back to a place you know and love is that everything has changed and nothing is different. But as I sit on my train to Stoke-on-Trent (the train signal board cited above doesn’t have hyphens!) I reflect that Etruria railway station has closed since I was there.

Now in most by-elections, there comes a point when you campaign, know that you might win, that it is going well. Back in February 1998 (literally 19 years ago this week) we were canvassing in Etruria, Garner Street I think, and a resident came out, pledged their support to us and said “Etruria Railway Station is a joke”.  The student activist who was canvassing (a very young Russell Eagling) came bouncing back to the campaign to announce were going to win for those very words “Etruria Railway Station is a joke” was the headline on our recent leaflet in that area.

Since then Etruria Railway Station has had a special place in our election story banter, and it has become synonymous with the notion that when the voters quote your leaflets back at you – then you know you are cutting through.

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Come to Copeland

We have had a busy few days here in the Copeland by-election campaign. Across this enormous constituency that stretches from Keswick in the north-east, across fells and lakes to the port of Whitehaven, and then down the coast past St Bees and Sellafield, all the way down to Millom in the South, and then back up across Eskdale and Wasdale including the majesty of Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, the Lib Dem fightback has been in action.

Our excellent candidate Rebecca Hanson has grabbed the moment; demonstrating to local, regional and national media her deep knowledge of key local issues. The threat that the Tories’ hard Brexit brings to a range of industries; nuclear, hospitality, and farming.  The problems of the NHS, not just the winter crisis experienced across the country, but also the so called ‘success regime’ – NHS reorganisation in West Cumbria – which could force women in labour to travel for more than 90 minutes to get to a maternity unit. As a former teacher and teacher-trainer Rebecca understands the life opportunities provided by good education in all schools. She has been campaigning alongside parents at Whitehaven school for more than a year, demanding action from the Government to replace the failing academy sponsor at Whitehaven Academy.

This seat has been Labour for the past 82 years. Yet on the streets we hear again and again repeated criticism of public services and the actions and inactions of Copeland District Council. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are no longer the natural choice of these disaffected voters. They are yearning for a credible new choice. UKIP are doing little here, their efforts diverted to Stoke to support Paul Nuttall’s attempts to come a poor third… Which leaves Theresa May’s hard Brexit Tories – this shouldn’t be their seat. Across the villages and farms of Copeland and Allerdale Lib Dem volunteers have gone out into areas which haven’t seen a Focus for a decade or more, and engaged local voters reminding them of the damaging effects of a hard Brexit, and that a Conservative victory would not be good for this constituency and the public services upon which local people depend.

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Breaking: Stoke on Trent Lib Dems challenge Labour to condemn “offensive and illegal texts”

In response to media reports of text messages being sent warning Muslims to vote Labour in the Stoke-on Trent Central by-election, Stoke-on-Trent Central Lib Dems have issued the following statement:

Stoke-on-Trent Central Liberal Democrats call on the Labour Party nationally and locally
1. To condemn the campaign of misinformation and intimidation currently underway in their name in Stoke-on-Trent.
2. To apologise for their members and activists who have been involved in stirring up community tensions and to suspend all those involved in the text scandal and have them removed from the Labour Party campaign with immediate effect.
3. For Gareth Snell to make

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P-8: The city of Stoke doesn’t change, but its voters might

Some things in politics never change and always make you giggle. The other morning I was out delivering some addressed envelopes and I found the house number I was looking for and dropped the letter through the door. As the envelope dropped through the door I twitched. As I got back to the gate there was the street sign telling me I had got the end of the previous street mixed up with the start of the next, yet the number on my envelope had matched.
This morning I laughed I delivered the same round before breakfast.  I realised that this little dilemma had foxed me back over twenty years ago when I was first active in Shelton politics.  Where The Parkway ended and Ridgeway Road started had always tripped me up.  So to the residents of 89 of both The Parkway and Ridgeway Road a request “can you swap letters you got from the Lib Dems as I mis-delivered them the other day?”
But thinking of things in Stoke-on-Trent that don’t change – two others come to mind.  Fred Hughes – former political animal, local historian and all round good egg.  I have been reading his musings in the Sentinel and was delighted to bump into him at one of the election night hustings.  Largely unchanged I was cheered by his warmth, charm, smile and friendship. It had been along time since I last saw him and it was lovely to catch up albeit briefly.
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Farron campaigns in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent

Tim Farron has been campaigning for our by-election candidates, Rebecca Hanson in Copeland and Dr Zulfiqar Ali in Stoke-on Trent Central.

His day started in Keswick where he and Rebecca met a Flood Action Group:

From  the Times and Star reports:

The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP believes that Mrs Hanson is an “astonishingly good” candidate for Copeland.

He said: “Her track record for campaigning on health service issues is known across the constituency and is known for being utterly authentic.

“This is not someone who is jumping on the bandwagon.

“What you get in Rebecca is someone who fights the corner of all the Copeland communities and makes clear that they may be beautiful places but they are also tough places where there is real need.

“We are also the only party fighting against a hard Brexit and the move out of the single market that wasn’t on the ballot paper.

“The majority of British people wanted to be in the single market so to do that without consulting them is just wrong.”

Mrs Hanson expects the campaign to ramp up over the weekend ahead of the by-election next Thursday.

She said: “I’ve loved every single second of it so far.

“I love building democracy, communicating with people and coming to people who are feeling disillusioned at politics and democracy because when I talk to people all that melts away.

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P-10: Legacy campaigning in a by-election

So the final straight approaches and we are looking at our campaign and putting in place the finishing touches and allowing space for some extra elements. We have been often asked by visiting helpers what can they do to make a real difference. So here today for the first time I think i have the answer, which is not as obvious as I expected.

I am a huge believer in having what I call legacy campaigning: that regardless of the electoral outcome that you achieve some positives, some learning, training and apply that to the future.  I spend a lot of time urging new members to attend by-elections, seeing them as training porgrammes, and suggesting that people go with clear objectives of what they can do, might learn and will leave with.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to do some telephone canvassing on my own it is all too easy to get distracted, to put it off or to make just one or two calls and then do something else. So in place of that setting up a Phone Bank appears to be the solution to my lack of application.

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P-11. It’s Sunday Politics Midlands show live from Staffordshire University

Sunday morning at Staffordshire University on the Leek Road Campus and we getting ready for Sunday Politics Midlands who are hosting a live debate between the five leading candidates in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.  I’m here with Zulfiqar having a coffee before it all commences.

Sitting here in the coffee bar with the other candidates is always slightly curious – I’m trying to think of a witty line about watching the Labour candidate Gareth Snell having make-up applied… but I think I’ll leave that there

So what will Zulfi have to say? I’m pleased to say he’s standing on a strong ticket, he’s calm, he’s genuine and sincere. As a Cardiologist he gives you confidence that he’s in control and in command.

It’s so good having a candidate in whom you have confidence and don’t need to over-worry.  As a classic candidate he can get distracted by the needs of residents (this is good), he tries to do too much in too little time (this is good), and best of all he knows lots of people and gets stopped in the street (this is very good).

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Labour leaflet: It’s a lie to say Labour opposes Brexit

This is a Labour leaflet being delivered in Stoke. Here they are, trying to out-UKIP UKIP.

“Every major party except the Lib Dems are supporting Brexit here in Stoke”

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Campaigning in Copeland

In Copeland we’re energetically getting on with promoting our excellent candidate, Rebecca Hanson in the by-election which takes place on 23 February. Willing helpers are flocking to this huge constituency. There is immense Facebook support, but the pleasures of reaching out to the towns and villages between the fells and the sea are considerable, so we invite many more of you to come to share them with us in the next, crucial, ten days.

Yesterday morning Roger Putnam, Vice-Chair of our Copeland and Workington Executive, and I managed to beat the rain, leafletting in Seascale in the south-west of the constituency under only a slight drizzle. This was our third visit to Seascale, delivering the Health Facilities survey, a second  leaflet, and now the tabloid glossy proclaiming, Rebecca Hanson and the Liberal Democrats. Fighting to protect local jobs from hard Brexit, improve local schools and safeguard our NHS.

A lone Tory was out at the same time, delivering an eight-page A4 breezily entitled Cumbria View, of uncertain purpose. As with the Labour Party here, it feels as if the Conservatives are relying on past loyalties for their votes. Well, we aim to bring the focus firmly into the present. For a start, Rebecca seems to be winning the leaflet contest; the house porches blossomed with orange leaflets, the freepost delivery having just arrived as well.

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P-12: Thanks to all those helping in Stoke who are not yet Liberal Democrats

So the weekend is always busy – but right now it’s like a gathering of the clans. People coming in from across the country to help the Liberal Democrat candidate Dr Zulfiqar Ali. Now I have done a lot of campaigns and by-elections and seen a fair range of Liberal Democrats. But today has surprised and impressed me…

People are turning up to help Dr Zulfiqar Ali who have never been involved in Party politics – when asked they are desperate to stop the rise of UKIP, against the rise of the far right, against hatred and against fear. These are predominantly young people, they are angry at the way their country is going and they want want a new direction that is positive and inclusive and welcoming.

In addition we have regular hardened party activists who know and understand what is at stake in this election. They know that the harder you work, the better your vote will be. Now the politics of Stoke-on-Trent is unlike many other cities – people have backed opposition groups in the hope of change and been disappointed. In addition they have seen Labour parachute in candidate after Labour candidate to be their MPs. Now this is not a plea for pure localism – Stoke has a proud history of welcoming people from different communities – but occasionally it would be good to have someone who has made Stoke their home before they were elected.

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P-13: Time for another delivery, we think

If the plan was going to work, then it was going to happen sooner rather than later… and sure enough today the first deliverer came back. “I have just had a mouthful from a resident complaining about the number of leaflets from the Liberal Democrats.”

We have we think reached the tipping point of recognition from the electorate.  Dr Zulfiqar Ali is a former City councillor here in Hanley, Etruria and Shelton, he knows the city well and lives in it, and he has a strong and positive recognition amongst voters here.

Now our literature and canvassing campaign has broken through the sea of apathy with politics to gain traction with the voters of of the City.  What we now need is as many of you as possible to take to the telephone and get out on the doorstep and help us deluvery the outstanding result that no one expects. The voters recognise the campaign, recognise Zulfiqar, now we need to secure them to vote for him.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

P-14: Stoke-on-Trent Central will count the votes in two weeks’ time

Two weeks today the staff at Stoke-on-Trent City Council will be preparing to gather in the ballot boxes and count the votes that have been cast for each of the candidates. The simple truth is no-one knows what the result is, nor where the candidates will come, nor the number of votes cast. All we can do is assess what has gone before, run the campaign we want to run and seek to get out our supporters out on the day and ask them to vote for Dr Zulfiqar Ali.

Lots of people sit behind their keyboard and make bold  assertions as to what will and won’t happen – and to an extent that is what I am doing now. But I am at least doing that whilst being in Stoke-on-Trent, having lived in Stoke-on-Trent and yes having been elected as a City Councillor in Stoke-on-Trent.

So to those of you making predictions – perhaps you might bolster the information and sources available to you by coming up to Stoke-on-Trent, delivering some leaflets, talking to some voters, seeing the streets and the shops and assessing the situation on the ground. If you did that then you will see the unswept streets, the dumped rubbish in the alley sways, the derelict sites and the closed up shops. Now it’s not all gloom for you will also see the new larger terraces houses that have, in places, replaced the old tight workers’ cottage. You will see the new bus station, the football ground, the semi-pedestrianised Piccadilly and more. But in many respects these are trophy projects and much of the real change and investment in Stoke-on-Trent has come from the educational investment provided by Staffordshire and Keele universities, by Stoke-on-Trent College and more.

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