Sunday, 17 May 2015

Meeting the New Lib Dems

On Friday we had a get-together for new Lib Dems in Sheffield (in an excellent pub with lots of real ale - of course). It was well attended, and I got a chance to speak to several people.

The similarity was in why they joined. With one exception, they said the same thing: they'd always (or usually) voted Lib Dem, and either just before or just after the election they'd felt the party and its values to be under threat, and had wanted to do something more.

Otherwise, their views were as diverse as the rest of the party. Right, left, middle of the road, interested in public services, civil liberties, or foreign policy - just like the rest of us. Don't let anyone tell you it's a lot of lefties joining now we're out of coalition - not a bit of it.

The best part - an overwhelming interest in getting involved. Admittedly, we're talking a self-selecting sample of people coming to a Lib Dem event on Friday night. But there was real enthusiasm about getting involved - coming to conference, delivering our thank-you focus, some street stalls, maybe even standing for council.

I was excited about the new members before - they gave us a boost when we were at our lowest, and I'm so grateful to them for that. But having met some of them, I think it's more exciting than that. They're excited about rebuilding the party - and they'll do it. Some of them will become the next generation of councillors, group leaders, party chairs and MPs.

I'm still crushed, and exhausted. I realised that on Friday night when I had to restrain myself from gushing at the new members when I told them how grateful I was. When I nearly cried right there in the pub because of it. The euphoria the new members initially excited has worn off - but having met them, I'm as hopeful as I've been recently about the future of the party.


  1. It's so heartwarming to hear this story of meeting the newbies who just got started doing something about the election result. I'm one of them so I thought I would say to you: your excitement is the biggest motivator we could wish for, in order to get us out there doing everything we can to rebuild this liberal voice in Britain. A few friends an I organised a meetup in London that became known, jokingly, as #LibDemPint. Meeting existing members at our first meetup and hearing their enthusiasm at the entry of 13,000 newbies into the party, was incredible. You're right: we're not a bunch of lefties coming back to the party. If anything, that's what we want to avoid, for that loses the liberal voice we are pining for already. No; we want this party to be great; to be clear about what it is, not what it isn't; to move the language of beyond left-right-centre. Let's begin this journey by reflecting our naive energy with your honest experience and build something remarkable together. The next few months are important. Then let's make conference something to inspire people. And this from a person who, until two weeks ago, fully expected to live my life without ever going to a political conference. Everything may just have changed!

  2. Thanks for welcoming me Laura. I appreciated it as well as the missionary zeal! I think the first meeting I attended about 10 weeks before the election was an eye-opener for someone with no previous campaign experience. I had expected hundreds of people to be there, surely, but there were in fact only a handful (mostly those semi-obliged to be there) and the less said about the morale levels the better. How could so few people hope to run a successful campaign? I knew I could make a real difference, supported by more experienced campaigners, and I found this much more stirring than I had expected. Personally, my minimum aim was to prevent Sheffield Hallam falling – partly for sentimental reasons because I grew up there, partly because I have seen first-hand how Labour like to go about running things, and partly because I had a feeling that if the Party couldn’t hold one of its strongest positions in the country, and successfully defend its leader, when very strongly challenged, it would make the mountain that much harder to climb for those left to pick up the pieces after the inevitable bloodbath.

    So, I am looking forward to attending my first substantive conference in September and meeting fellow newbies.