Here’s my official campaign email for the Party President campaign, sent out by HQ to party members this week. (If you didn’t receive it, it’s worth checking my troubleshooting guide here as it also means you might miss out on the voting email later this month.)
One of my worst moments in the Liberal Democrats happened just before polling day in the 2005 general election.
Things had been going great. With a wonderful team and great candidate in Lynne Featherstone, we’d pulled off one of the best results in the country in 2001, taking a Labour-held seat from no-hoper into second place.
But we’d started so far behind that even after that we now needed to do something no-one had done before without the help of a by-election (and we’d not had one of those). We needed to score one of the very best results two elections in a row. It was a monstrously ambitious plan.
But we’d built a huge team. We’d scooped up loads of council seats. We’d raised buckets of money. We’d built up one of the largest email lists in the country. We’d been working flat out for years. We had Lynne. And it looked like we could do it.
And then… I went to the first postal vote opening.
First vote out of the envelopes: Conservative. No problem, that’s the luck of the draw.
Second vote: Conservative. No problem, probably just a Conservative household who posted their ballots together.
Third vote: Conservative. Stay calm. Perhaps a big household?
Fourth vote: Conservative. WTF? All sorts of theories about what could be going spectacularly wrong rushed through my head. Perhaps we’d been so great at knocking Labour but in a seat the Conservatives used to hold that we’d teed up some sort of dramatic Tory win by mistake? Or we’d been blindsided by some hidden campaigning? Or… A remarkably large number of thoughts can go through your head in the time it takes for someone to unfold one piece of paper.
And then the first vote for Lynne. And another, and another.
So the story had a happy ending. Victory the following Thursday. Lynne elected to Parliament.
Or rather, that was the chapter ending.
Because by getting Lynne elected then, she got to be a Home Office minister later. And that meant same-sex marriage was legalised.
She was able to make it happen in the face of a Conservative Party that didn’t have any plans for it. (Something David Cameron tends to forget to mention!)
That’s why, however exhausting it is travelling around the country most weekends, out doing fundraisers, talks, training sessions and good-old canvassing and leafleting, I often remind myself of something else about those weekends. Chances are, somewhere around the country, several couples have had the chance to express their love the way they wish. To marry. Because we got our strategy and our campaigning right. Because we took that extra bit of political power – and made people’s lives better.
It’s why I’m so passionate about getting our strategy and organisation right.
I’ve seen wonderful would-be MPs and hard-working teams undone when we don’t. Years of effort, time sacrificed that could have been spent with families or on careers, that end up going nowhere.
Anyone who is willing to put themselves through even a fraction of that – whether for Parliament, local government, devolved government or the European Parliament, deserves the very best.
That why I’m running to be your President with a carefully thought out, clear plan, based on years of experience. A plan so that even more of us win in future, giving us even more power to do what Lynne did – to change the way we’re governed, to give us more liberty and more happiness.
I hope you’ll support this plan.