Throughout the election campaign I always had it in mind that we could be doing it all again very soon. The polls pointed to a hung parliament with the Conservatives taking the most seats and I thought, if that were the result, that David Cameron would form a minority government, write a Queens’ speech and then call another election for October.
It was my intention to run again in this second election – if selected by my local party. In a way I was looking forward to another campaign, mostly because we wouldn’t be burdened by the council elections taking place at the same time – and hence we would be free to campaign around other areas of the constituency that we didn’t get to – especially on the Isle of Sheppey.
I had all sorts of thoughts for things we could do differently – more canvassing, more telephone canvassing, an earlier Freepost leaflet (if possible), more on-line work, different high street stalls. The main drawback would be that, after fighting a general election, we don’t have any cash – a problem that the other two major parties would not have, of course.
To our surprise, though, we have a Con-Lib Dem coalition government which must have a good chance of surviving for a full five year term. So there are two questions. Where now for the Sittingbourne and Sheppey Liberal Democrats? And where now for Keith Nevols?
The answer to the first is that we have two aims – one to build the local party up, the other to work towards the 2011 Council elections.
I am getting back to people who contacted me during the campaign with the intention of enrolling more members and supporters. We lost two members who disagreed with the coalition but on the other hand have recruited many more and, as I type, continuing to do so. I am now the membership secretary so I can concentrate on this and involving our members and supporters – as well as organising drives to add to our numbers.
The 2011 Swale council elections are ‘all-outs.’ Instead of elected in ‘thirds’ as in previous years, every one of the Council’s 47 seats is up for election – and then there will be no more for four years.
Now of course we won’t be able to contest all 47 – we could only do 13 this year – so it will be a case of working out a strategy, selecting target wards, and finding good candidates. That is our immediate aim. Hopefully if the first objective of building up the party continues to be met, then so can the second objective of putting more Liberal Democrats into Swale’s council chamber.
Where now for me? It is clear that Sittingbourne and Sheppey are unlikely to have a Liberal Democrat MP for a while. The seat will be Conservative for some time. And there has been no Liberal MP in Kent since 1929. Even a strong campaign like Peter Carroll’s, of Gurkha fame, in Maidstone and the Weald still fell some way short.
So for parliamentary ambitions I will have to look elsewhere. And it will be a couple of years or so before local parties start looking for candidates so it will be a case of keeping an ear to the ground.
It is an end to the general election story of 2010 and back to the local story for the months ahead. In Sittingbourne and Sheppey, the fight for liberal democratic values goes on.