Saturday, December 03, 2016
There's still a long way to go
I didn't expect to stay up into the early hours of Friday morning to watch the Richmond by-election result live. I decided to watch a bit of the coverage at midnight to get an indication of how things were going and then go to bed. But then I saw Sky News interview Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael who wasn't giving too much away verbally but whose smile suggested we were doing well. I decided to stay up until 1am. By then, the indications were that we could win. I decided therefore to stay up for the final result. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was a fantastic result and it has been a great boost to the party in terms of profile and morale. We also won on a clear platform of being pro-Europe. In that sense, we have a result that is arguably different to previous Lib Dem by-election gains (it's a decade since we have had one). The key formula then was to hoover up protest votes in by-elections. (And before my legions of local Labour readers start sneering about that, let me just remind them that their own party employs exactly the same technique.) This time we are fighting on a clear, positive policy position. It may not be the policy supported by the majority of people and our message to hardline Brexiteers will be rejected by them, but the 48% who voted to remain now have a voice that will put the case for soft Brexit and continued cooperation with Europe.
One of the interesting suggestions from the Richmond result is that the Conservative Remain vote had collapsed. Without a strong Lib Dem presence on the political landscape, that vote has no home. Our job now is to rebuild that presence and win over the Soft Brexit voters from the Conservatives and Labour (who now seem to be totally at a loss on the Brexit issue). It is still a long road ahead of us, but the Richmond result has put a spring in our steps.
On Friday morning I went down to Whickham for a slap up celebratory breakfast at Wetherspoons. Walking along Whickham Front Street, I was stopped by 4 different people who wanted to chat to me. I got questioned about my Dad's recent operation, comments were made about my elder brother moving back to Whickham, I discovered a tv presenter friend had split up with his long time partner and, inevitably, I was quizzed about how the world of self-sufficiency is going. Alas, no one mentioned Richmond. As I said earlier, there is still a long road ahead of us.
(Photo: large, traditional breakfast from the Harry Clasper in Whickham.)