Thoughts from Guildford

The results of the GE have not been easy to digest. As one of the many target seat candidates who almost made it, the results hold a double dose of sadness. Sadness that in Guildford we came so close yet didn’t succeed this time and also for our nation that it’s ended up with a government so unrepresentative of the values that I still believe it holds at its core – fairness, openness, welcoming of diversity and a desire for integrity in its politicians.

Locally and nationally we will review the election campaign in due course, but I want to share two of my take-aways from this election.

Never underestimate the passion and resilience of Lib Dem campaigners!

In recent years Guildford have struggled to build a team. Yes, we took the leadership of Guildford Borough Council in May but when the election was called my campaign manager and I questioned how we could deliver the scale of campaign needed. Our action days have been poorly attended, our delivery network had shrunk significantly, and the team of active campaigners had shrunk to 10 maybe 15. We couldn’t envisage what happened once the election was announced.

Despite the weather and timing, within hours there was a steady stream of local members contacting us to say they wanted to help. We delivered the first whole constituency delivery in a matter of days! From there it snowballed. People who’d never door knocked before said they wanted to give it a try. By the end of the campaign we had knocked on more doors that we had in the past couple of years put together. We went from doorstep teams of 3 or 4 to a minimum of 12 people.

On polling day itself – a day that could not have been worse for weather – I was blown away. Members and supporters from across the political spectrum, region and beyond came to help. A small army descended on Guildford in the name of liberal, progressive values and I am supremely grateful. The result we achieved belongs to every single one of them and we have the foundations of a Lib Dem movement in Guildford.

Never Lose Hope

The result wasn’t what we’d hoped for but on the Friday two things happened to remind me we should never lose hope.

Firstly, I learnt the result of the local schools’ mock elections – in every single one the Liberal Democrats had won! Our message of building a brighter future really resonates with young people. We must hold onto that and keep fighting for our and their future.

Secondly, I received so many messages of support from local people. One stood out particularly and I want to share it with you because its’ sentiments apply to every single person who has been part of this campaign – please take it to heart and keep fighting:

“Thank you so much for all you have done in the last few weeks. You have given hope to many.”

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Malim 22nd Dec '19 - 6:08pm

    The tory vote was divided but not diminished . Cons plus Milton put on 300 votes: Labour tactical voting in part shed 6000. LD fresh voters 3,500

  • This isn’t a criticism of anything that happened in/for Guildford as I don’t have that information.

    But this does sound like a a scenario where the ‘stars aligned’ in a seat to make somewhere winnable that didn’t necessarily have the organisation to (as the phrase goes) get it over the line.

    I was the agent for a seat in a similar situation in 2010 – what’s frustrating is how many of the lessons from that campaign might have helped here and in other seats. But no-one has ever come to my door to talk about how we won there and how that might be useful lessons for the future.

  • Hywel, I see you posting similar messages here quite regularly, saying that you have essential campaign experience but nobody ever asks you to help. I’m aware of your record and it is a very good one and I do think you should certainly be part of the national campaign effort if you want to be, which you clearly do. But my obvious question is: have you ever pro-actively offered your expertise, rather than waiting for people to come to you? If you have, and have been rejected, that’s not good. But we have a new acting leader, a new president elect and a new CEO. Maybe contacting them might prove a more fruitful strategy than just lamenting on LDV that no-one ever asks you.
    Remember I’m on your side here – I want you (and perhaps others who have essential campaign experience from the days when we used to win things) to be brought back into our campaigns in whatever way suits you. I’m just saying – I hope gently – that maybe there’s a mountain/Mohammed situation here.

  • Yes several times, directly and to the people I thought would be interested. A frequent point in post election reviews has been how acquired knowledge just disappears once polling day has rolled around.

    Slightly but not directly related I’ve also offered to help with those places that suddenly find them having to set up an MPs office after winning (when everyone else in the party suddenly disappears! – the support from the party do that amounted to absolutely nothing). The silence that came back was a little underwhelming.

    And this is symptomatic on wider issues. I stopped working full time for the party in 2004 – then came back between 2009 and 2012-14 (ish). Over that time I think I got asked to help with any training about 3 times. And would then turn up to events to hear from Campaigns Dept staff how exhausted they were from all the training sessions they had to run.

  • David Evershed 23rd Dec '19 - 5:03pm


    Mark Pack is the Lib Dem expert on how to get elected.

    Now he is President why not get in touch with him and offer your ideas?

  • David Evershed – To be fair, I don’t think Mark Pack himself would claim he is “the LD expert on how to get elected.” But as the new President elect he is in a position to reach out to people like Hywel who were involved in campaigns in the 1990s and 2000s when frankly we used to win much more. So I hope he does so. If we want to start winning again, it seems to me commonsense to start talking again to those who know what winning looks like.

  • I have known Mark for more years that I’d care to remember and urged him to run for President a few years before he actually did.

    In all honesty I’m a little outdated and don’t have that much recent/current knowledge. But there will be a whole generation of people who’ve just learnt some valuable lessons (both positive and not positive!) and that needs capturing for use in the future.

    That is way way more important than endless discussions about the extent to which the Revoke policy affected our prospects this time or how if only the party adopted policy X it would sweep all before it

  • Kate Harris 23rd Dec '19 - 8:26pm

    I urge you all to google IDOX and also watch their YouTube promotion video. Lord Ashcroft did an analysis of voting after the GE and mentioned at the bottom of the thread that in his sample 38% of the votes were postal votes. Who, I want to know, managed the postal votes? Was it IDOX, for whom, until Spring 2018, Peter Lilley was a director. Others have noticed this. So many ‘almost’ wins, especially here in Guildford and in Esher and Walton. And then Mr Raab and Laura Kunnesberg (apologies if misspelled) inadvertently commented on postal votes…. Why is no-one concerned about all this? I raised IDOX issues before the election, no one was/is worried it seems.

  • Kate – postal votes are managed by the returning officer in each area – just like the votes cast on the day.
    As for Laura Kuenssberg, she was certainly unwise to say what she said about PVs but I don’t think it was corrupt or illegal as such. Ditto with Raab. The fact is that candidates and agents are allowed to witness the opening of the local postal votes – I’ve done it myself as an agent in the past, and even though they are opened face-down you can usually see through the papers and get an idea of how it has gone, and of course we then discuss it with each other. This happens in every constituency across the country. Now, you’re not supposed to tell anyone what you saw and you’re certainly not supposed to broadcast it on national TV, but this is not the first time that has happened, and I don’t think it is evidence of any kind of corruption.
    However, you do draw attention to an important point in that 38% is a very significant number, and I think it is likely to remain that high in future, or even grow. Therefore we do need to be sure that we are targeting the postal voters effectively.

  • Kate Harris 23rd Dec '19 - 9:00pm

    Re my post about IDOX above. Here’s a link to their video. I understand that allegedly there have been problems in Glasgow. I expect Nicola Sturgeon would know about any such problems.

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