Last night I headed over to Kingston Liberal Democrats to talk at their pasta and politics event about campaigning lessons from the 2010 general election.
My route there took me via the lovely Art Deco building that is Surbiton train station, as used for a cafe scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and, according to an Evening Standard survey last year, the second best train station for bicycle parking in all of London. And with that, you now know all of my exciting facts about Surbiton station.
I was glad to see that in traditional Liberal Democrat fashion the priorities were right: first drinks, then food, then raffle and only then the speaker.
Two people, one present and one sadly absent, were in my mind as I started speaking. There was Jo, one of the members present and a veteran of the Second World War. He served at Arnhem and his presence was a salutary reminder of how precious democracy is and how, for all the day to day excitement and debate, there is much that those who believe in democracy have in common, whatever our party.
Not there was Belinda – amazing, talented Belinda who lost her battle with cancer in January 2008. Her skills and her passion for life are sorely missed – and I’ve no doubt she would have been grilled me closely with the questions whilst also sharing much wise experience.
One issue which came up, as at previous similar events I’ve done, was how the party should approach the referendum on our voting system due for the spring. Getting a fairer voting system is extremely important, but the campaign should be much broader than simply a Liberal Democrat one.
Yes To Fairer Votes is doing just that, bringing together the many supporters of electoral reform from across the political spectrum. One of the members of the Yes coalition is Take Back Parliament, which has many active groups around the country already.
But to end on a lighter note, here is the lovely Monty Python sketch which features Surbiton and satirises a certain type of TV documentary that used to appear in particular on BBC2: