The #libdemfightback continues in Hinckley and Bosworth

I would echo my good friend Caron Lindsay in her congratulations to Sheree Miller for gaining 9% and coming second in a by election in Newham in London, in a Ward where we did not stand at all last time around. Likewise Tim Farron’s congratulations to Jane Brophy and her team for their campaign in Oldham. If we do not contest such elections hard then we cannot build for the future.

In the same vein the efforts of Hinckley and Bosworth Liberal Democrats deserve recognition. In September their candidate Shani Smith gained a by election contest from Labour in the Barwell area. Thursday 3rd December saw another by election in the adjacent Ward in Barwell. This time their candidate Terry Kirby almost doubled our vote share taking us from fourth place in May to 36% of the vote in a close second place and missing beating the Conservatives by just 25 votes.

Spearheading both campaigns alongside the candidates was Michael Mullaney who as Parliamentary Candidate moved the Liberal Democrats from third to second place in the 2010 General Election. In May 2015 Michael gained one of the better Liberal Democrat results in the UK, moving the Constituency from 100th most winnable to 44th most winnable.

It is long term commitment, community campaigning and fighting every election intensively that is the route to success however difficult the current electoral situation is. Tim Farron, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie respectively have to craft our national message and restore our national standing, which is not going to happen overnight. However without the efforts of people like Michael Mullaney, Shani Smith, Terry Kirby, Sheree Miller and Jane Brophy there will be no on the ground credibility and campaign organisation to turn national efforts into local wins.

That lesson is as true for Parliamentary elections as for Council elections. In 1983 26% of the national vote only returned 23 MPs. We had not developed enough centres of local electoral strength, reputation and professionalism to capitalise on what remains our highest share of the vote since the 1920s. Yet by 1997, 2001 and 2005 a national vote share of 17%, 19% and 22% resulted in three successive record numbers of MP’s being elected culminating in 62 in 2005. Very few if any were ‘surprise wins’ being primarily based instead upon targeted support for strong local candidates with a proven track record.

To take advantage of future upturns in our national standing we need good candidates working now for the long term. We also need the national party to restructure its efforts in order to concentrate on post 2010/2015 reality. They need to focus on rebuilding grassroots campaign capacity and professionalism wherever there are the local organisations and candidates willing to put in the on the ground effort.

* Paul Holmes is the former MP for Chesterfield and currently leads a 17 strong Council Group.

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