During the Coalition years it was taken for granted by the Liberal Democrats that it was not worth our putting up a serious fight in parliamentary by-elections. Better to concentrate of our resources on seats already held by the party (or being fought by candidates who had written complimentary biographies of the party's leader).
That view, thank goodness, no longer holds sway. At Oldham West and Royton the Liberal Democrats are running their first major by-election campaign since Eastleigh, says Richard Kemp:
When I went there I spent precisely 3 minutes in the HQ. I hadn’t gone there to chat I had gone there to work. The excellent staff turned us round quickly with 3 bundles of leaflets and some hillsides to climb to deliver them in! But in even in that brief period I met 6 people I know well – some of whom I have known for decades.
Even as Kris and I trudged out we were hugely aware that we were part of a national party coming together to deliver a result. We saw another delivery team on an adjacent patch. We got up the nose of 4 Labour deliverers who thought they had a divine right to rule.
We knew that inside the HQ other people were hitting the telephone canvass lines. That yet further people were preparing the next leaflet; send out telephone canvassing instruction, preparing for the next day. We knew we were contributing to and playing our part in an event which is important for our Lib Dem family.Meanwhile, Caron Lindsay points to two further reasons for going to Oldham, beyond feeling this Lib Dem buzz: you will come across ideas that will help your local campaign and you will be dragged from your comfort zone.
It is possible to overdo the 'Lib Dem family' schtick: we are a political party and political parties exist to win and exercise power.
But Towards Gunfire is right to say:
Whilst we are unlikely to win the Oldham West and Royton by-election, we must fight it as though it were a target constituency and make sure that we put in the financial and human resource that this approach implies.
How we perform in this by-election matters more than people think.
We must take this early opportunity to demonstrate our ability to bounce back from a crushing general election result and remind the electorate that we still exist. It's an opportunity to experiment with our new 'core' campaign messages and take on board any learning that arises from that.So listen to the ALDC when it tells you how to get involved:
Jane Brophy, ALDC member and Councillor in Trafford, is the candidate for the Lib Dems and is an absolutely fantastic campaigner.
If you are interested in seeing the buzz for yourself, please come to Oldham.
Our campaign HQ is at 51 Union Street, Oldham OL1 1HH and is less than 2 minutes walk from the nearby tram stop.
Alternatively you can make calls from home. Just drop the campaign a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and the team will be sure to get you fully briefed and raring to go.