Winter elections

The last time there was a General Election in December was in 1923. The BBC has a fascinating account of the event.

It was not a particularly cold winter, more dull and drizzly than crisp and blindingly white, although there were occasional snow and sleet flurries with December seeing a mean temperature of 3.9C.

Houses were decorated with festive bunting and heated by coal fires, shopping streets bustled with rattling trams and women wore ankle-length skirts and cloche hats.

The Representation of the People Act five years previously had given them the vote, although not all women – only those aged 30 or over who owned property worth at least £5, which accounted for about two thirds of the nation’s women (full voting rights would come in 1928).

Back in 2012, Mark Pack brilliantly developed a suggestion I had made to the LDV team and reported the Government’s proposal to move the day of local elections from May to February. There were howls of protest until someone noticed the date.  I particularly loved the final sentence:

As a planned cost saving measure, if the last Thursday in February falls on a leap day, the elections will be skipped and all incumbents automatically re-elected …

Winter elections are tough. I know, because I was elected to the local Council in a February by-election, when the main topic on the doorstep was gritting.

It can be really frustrating, with so little daylight time available during the working week, plus the wind and rain and, in some parts, snow.

However Sarah Olney was elected in the Parliamentary by-election on 1st December 2016. For that election I took the soft option of managing one of the campaign HQs in the evenings. We are all hoping that the season produces a similar result in Richmond Park this time round.

Over the last few weeks I have done my share of pounding the pavements, but I will once again be managing a committee room on Thursday. I have huge admiration and undying gratitude for those who will be out and about all day.

If the weather is too challenging for you on Thursday then why not offer to do some phone banking from home?

As a footnote, in Kingston & Surbiton we are hoping that this polling day will be uneventful.  On Referendum Day in 2016 polling officers arrived early in the morning at two polling stations (including my own one) to find them flooded. Then on the day of the Euro elections this year builders uncovered an unexploded WW2 bomb in the centre of Kingston, people were evacuated and again two polling stations were closed.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames where she is still very active with the local party.

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One Comment

  • I gained my council seat after pounding the streets every day except Christmas Day through the winter of 2009-10. I learned that the appropriate gear was thermal underwear, alpine trousers and industrial boots. During the present campaign I remembered that delivering leaflets from an A4 zipped transparent wallet works.

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