Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A new suite arrives & Heading for Cornwall for half term

Well, just one year, three months and a week after being flooded our new suite has arrived.

This was the last big thing we were waiting for to get our house back in order.

There is only a bit of 'snagging' left to sort out now.

Anyway to celebrate we're off to Cornwall at the weekend for half term.

We are staying near Bodmin (which I think must be in my former colleague Dan Rogerson's constituency?) and we're hoping that the weather won't be too bad.

Anyone got any ideas for good family things to do - our youngsters are 10 and 6.

(Yes - we already know about the Eden Project!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

$150 million in September

Exciting news for the ground-breaking Obama campaign that they have raised more than $150 million during September.

Even more impressively they received donations from more than 632,000 new donors and nowhave more than 3.1 million donors altogether who have given an average of $86.

This is very impressive on several fronts:

It once again demonstrates that Obama is creating genuine mass enthusiasm across the US.

It shows that it is possible to outraise the GOP's big donors and special interests by getting a large number of small donations.

And finally it means that Obama is going to be able to continue to out advertise and out organise McCain from now on in.

Are there lessons here for the Lib Dems? Yes - although we shouldn't pretend that it will be easy or that everything that works in the US will work here.

But it does reinforce what we already knew (and what a few of our seats alreay do) - money is out there if you can identify the right people to ask, put a convincing case that their donation will make a difference and demonstarte that you are spending money effectively.

One of the Local Parties I work for has a regular income (ie from Standing Orders) of nearly £3K per month now - enough to cover all the regular costs. 100% of anything else we raise from events, appeals etc. pays for extra campaigning.

All it has taken to achieve that - and there is still a lot of untapped potential - is to ask the right people in the right way and to build up over time.

Obama really is a fantastic speaker (and a personal link)

Surfing various American websites I realised that an Obama rally was about to be shown live which I am now watching.

He is speaking to a massive crowd in Kansas City, Missouri, and, after a relaxed start about the local sports teams, he is now in full flow on health care and the economy.

He has just been talking about health and his mother. I hadn't picked up that she had died of Ovarian Cancer at the age of 53, a year before my own Mum died of the same illness at the same age.

I am struck by the conviction with which Obama speaks, and the ease with which he mixes his personal story, real life examples, policy, philosophy and political rhetoric.

He has just built to a crescendo and finished and crowd has gone wild - rock start style.

He really is a fantastic speaker and is clearly attracting massive crowds, even in places the Democrats wouldn't have dreamt of winning just a year ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thank You South Central

I spent today at South Central Conference in the excellent Town Council run Oakwood Centre in the middle of Woodley.

The Conference was buzzing and was the usual mix of debates, speeches, training, fringe and exhibition.

As ever it was full of familiar faces as well as some new ones.

The turnout was high - presumably because Nick Clegg was going to speak at the end of the afternoon. When he spoke many of us had to watch his speech on the screen in the cafe as the auditorium was full.

I was there to do two briefing sessions on plans for the European Campaign as well as to do ten minutes promoting Nick Clegg's Million Door Challenge in the main hall.

I was somewhat taken aback when, having done my presentation I was asked to 'hang on a minute' and was presented with a very amusing 'Focus on Fawcett' (featuring a set of those embarrasing photos that usually turn up on your wedding day) and a rather nifty HMV voucher along with some kind words from Regional Chair Steve Sollit about my work for the Region for the past ten years.

I was a little stunned and gabbled out a few words of thanks which I hope made some sense to the audience.

It has been a great ten years working in the region (which used to be Hampshire and Chilterns) and working with so many activists, many of whom I now consider friends, and it was with some sadness that I decided to drop back to a more local and less stressful role.

But I am very appreciative for the gifts, and for all the kind words I received from so many people today.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Watford voters tell the Tories what they think of them

Voters in Watford's Tudor ward have today made it very clear what they think of Watford Conseravtives' 'it was nothing to do with us guv' stance on the Ian Oakley affair.

Excellent Lib Dem candidate Darren Walford held the seat with 50% of the votes cast while the Tory share plummeted by more than 12%.

The icing on the cake was that the BNP trailed in fifth place.

Given that the Lib Dems hold the vast majority of seats on the council, along with the Mayoralty, an increase in their share of the vote in a by-election held in difficult circumstances is a terrific result for the party.

And despite the fact that the by-election took place just days after former Tory candidate Ian Oakley was sentenced for his nasty and anti-democratic campaign of intimidation, the local Tories were still cuaght out telling outright lies on their leaflets and had to issue an apology and retraction yesterday.

At least it is clear that a good chunk of their (former) voters have some sense of decency even if the local Tory Party continues to refuse to apologise or look into what happened.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is the credit crunch over?

Good News!

Just received a very reassuring email from the Halifax which tells me 'Your Halifax Credit Card is always there when you need it'.

So that's okay then, panic over.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cameron = hypocrite, Watford Tories = shameful

As Sara reports, more evidence that David Cameron is a hypocrite.

Several of my good friends in Watford, and many others besides, have been subjected to a nasty campaign of hate and intimidation for the past three and a half years.

Their crime?

Showing their support for or standing for the Lib Dems.

This campaign was not just a bit of argy-bargy, it was serious, planned and sustained criminal damage, defamation and intimidation.

It was a deliberate attempt on the part of a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate to win election by means of intimidation and hate rather than by democratic means.

The court has rightly passed a serious sentence.

You might think, in the circumstances, that David Cameron might want to find out how this had come about and what the Tory Party could do to stop it happening again?

But no, not a peep from the man.

You might think that the local Tories might release some statement of apology, or tell us how Oakley got away with it for so long?

But no, not a single word of regret or explanation.

Watford Lib Dems have not only put up with the intimidation, but carried on working hard for the local community through it all.

They are an example to us.

You can help them though.

They are fighting a key local by-election this Thursday.

Please contact their office on 01923 238552 or the local party Chairman, Stephen Giles-Medhurst on 01923 893661 if you can help in any way.

Let's prove that democratic campaigning is the way to win, not criminal damage and intimidation, and send a clear message to cameron & co that their hypocrisy has been noted.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"They're like, 'Who's Springsteen?' "

Being a bit of a fan of The Boss I much enjoyed reading this account of the first of three rallies he is holding for Obama.

I tend to agree with Daniel Pearlman (quoted towards the end of the article) that Thunder Road is just about the best song ever. (Well that, Atlantic City, Born to Run and The River)

But I really was amused at the idea that some youngsters were bribed to attend a Springsteen gig on the promise that they might get to see Obama!

Given that it's unlikey that we'll see the great man doing a benefit gig for the Lib Dems in the near future, here's something to console you:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A fantastic speech

I saw this on a diary on Daily Kos and thought it a very powerful speech.

It says a lot about US politics that such a speech has to be made. But he makes it exceptionally well.

Why I'm 4 Ros

One of the quite reasonable limitations on federal party staff is that we are not allowed to publicly endorse candidates in internal party elections.

This can be frustrating. I had a firm preference in each of the leadership elections that took place during the ten years I worked for the Campaigns Department but had to be careful not to say anything publicly about it.

But now I'm free, and just as the party's Presidential election has kicked off.

I am firmly of the view that Ros Scott is the best person to be our new President.

Here's why:

1 Ros has set out a very clear view of how she sees the role of President and I think she has got it broadly right. Under our constitution the President should play an important role: representing the views and mood of the party to the leadership, chairing the Federal Executive and getting out and about supporting and enthusing the troops. I think Ros understands this and will be better able to fulfil all aspects of the role and balance them well.

2 Ros has very broad experience at many levels in the party and outside it. In particular she is a genuine listener and has a good understanding of our local government base. I beleive it is more important than ever that this and other parts of the party are represented effectively.

3 Ros has put more thought and effort into preparing for the campaign and working out her ideas.

4 Ros is not an MP. On its own this wouldn't necessarily swing my vote, but along with the other factors it is important. I believe we will be better served by someone outside the commons parliamentary party having the role than someone inside. Groupthink is a very powerful force and my preference is to have a President who is less likely to affected by the groupthink that sometimes affects the thinking of our parliamentary party and the leadership.

Those are my main reasons for supporting Ros.

And Lembit?

Well I have a lot of time for Lembit. I've known him since my first NUS Conference (many years ago!) where he was sitting as an Independent member of the NUS NEC. He was already popular and an excellent and enjoyable speaker.

He has worked solidly hard for the party since he joined it 20 years ago and is one of the few MPs who has taken membership activity seriously in that time.

He also understands the need for the party to connect with ordinary people.


I do not subscribe to the view that all publicity is good publicity and think there is a significant risk that if Lembit were to become President there might be a lot of publicity generated but it would be about him and his personal life and would not do anything to promote the party's values or policies.

I also think that the most important role of the new President will be as a refelctor of the views of members to the leadership. In my experience Lembit would be less good than Ros in this crucial role.

Finally Lembit does have many strengths and is a positive force for the party, but we will get those benefits whether or not he is President.

So I'm 4 Ros, but won't be hugely upset if Lembit wins.