Saturday, 15 June 2013
I sensed a hunger to win in the London Borough of Sutton
I am currently doing a fair number of training and briefing days for groups of candidates, campaign managers and volunteers. This morning I was "singing for my supper" (or singing for my blueberry muffin) in Sutton, at an event for their 2014 Local Government candidates.
I first got involved with the London Borough of Sutton when I was asked to support the Carshalton & Wallington Association during Boris Johnson's re-election campaign. We "adopted" Beddington North ward, and over six months I organised car loads of volunteers from West Kent and we canvassed the whole ward and delivered a few leaflets, too. I think it is fair to say that at that time moral was low. They had lost four consecutive General Elections, and having the London local election on the same day as the GE saw the Lib Dems regaining most of the seats the Conservatives had gained four years earlier.
After the Boris campaign I had little further contact, other than exchanging emails with Neil Garrett (Deputy Chair Political), and offering help and advice when asked. Today I returned to speak at a joint meeting of the Sutton & Cheam and Carshalton & Wallington Local Government Candidates. The event was organised by Neil from Carshalton & Wallington, Paul Scully, who is Sutton & Cheam's excellent Parliamentary Candidate and his new Campaign Manager, Ranulph Murray. And, my goodness, how things have changed.
My 45 minute session lasted almost two hours as activists and candidates made copious notes and peppered me with questions. I have never had so many intelligent, provoking, challenging questions, and it was a joy. There is little worse than an audience which looks blank and say nothing.
There were lots of younger people in the room too, most of whom were candidates. Another sign of an open and vibrant association.
It's very easy to spot a group who are going through the motions, there under duress as it's expected of them, and a group who are there to listen, learn, share ideas and swap best practice. This group was definitely the latter.
After my presentation I stayed on to hear Paul Scully talking about a new canvassing technique they have developed, which sounds great - so we will try it in West Kent, too. Proving that no matter how long you've been in the business, you never stop learning and developing.
I drove away from Sutton today inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of those I met. They have a mountain to climb - Sutton Council has 45 Lib Dems, 11 Conservatives and 1 Labour councillor. However, many of those Lib Dems have majorities of 100 in seats with electorates of 8,000. They will do well.