I first voted at the 2010 General Election, by proxy, as a Service Voter working in Oxfordshire but registered in Plymouth. I had no concept then of tactical voting, or the shortcomings of our electoral system.
My own political identity was still an enigma to me; I was environmentally conscious, concerned for the rights of people and economically centrist. I felt progressive and reformist, rather than conservative and was so wary of the popular media that voting against their direction seemed a useful handrail (it still does). Still, I felt the country needed a change following 11 years of Labour. I voted for the Liberal Democrats.
I was elated when Nick Clegg's Lib Dems secured enough seats to join a Coalition Government, and believed the coalition with David Cameron, a self-described One Nation Conservative was the right... the fairest move. I had hoped the UK would secure a fairer voting system in the Alternative Vote, but the Conservatives and their media allies defeated it. Today, in June 2023, the coalition is generally frowned upon by Lib Dems and other opposition parties, though I believe it was entered into honestly, but naively. The Lib Dems ensured David Cameron's Conservatives were unable to exact the full extent of their austerity on the UK, leading David Cameron to state: 'I'd govern like a true Tory if it wasn't for the Lib Dems'. I think Lib Dems can take a measure of pride from that, and if you're looking for evidence of what Nick Clegg's Lib Dems achieved, look at what has occurred since they were no longer in government to hold the Conservative Party to account.
Perceiving a 2-way fight between Ed Miliband's Labour and David Cameron's Conservatives in 2015, and registered to vote in Plymouth Moor View, I voted for Labour. I was angry at the character assassination Ed Miliband suffered at the hands of the media - I thought he was a little aloof, but credible. An honest man. Instead we got David Cameron, and with him, his tragic referendum.
I can divide my life thus far based on various definitive events, and the result of the EU Referendum is one of them. I can accept that David Cameron announced the EU Referendum believing he could win it. What I will never accept, is that the Prime Minister of the UK made that gamble and lost it, for the sake of the Conservative Party securing votes, from UKIP and the right-wing. I knew early which way the wind was blowing. The Conservative media had been pushing its anti-EU narrative for well over a decade before the referendum and many more of my serving friends seemed to be in favour of leaving, than remaining. Some of my friendships became strained, as did relationships within my family. I perceive the entire saga to be an injustice, a reckless failure of judgement and a great con against the people of the UK. My people.
I became an activist and determined to join politics, for a fairer society and a sustainable planet.
After losing the Referendum, David Cameron at least did the honourable thing and resigned. Theresa May exhibited no such integrity, fresh from having culled 20,000 Police Officers as Home Secretary, she raced to take her colleague's office despite having also voted to Remain.
By the time of her comical General Election, Jeremy Corbyn was at the head of Labour. A scruffy-looking renegade offering genuine societal change. His manifesto grabbed me, despite some reservations as to his character. I was no Socialist, but the UK certainly needed more Socialism, to row back from the barely-regulated Capitalism it had suffered under the Conservatives. I joined Labour, citing my belief in the change of direction he offered, and was pushed further into his arms both by the furious slander of various newspaper headlines and the tiresome ramblings of Theresa May: 'Strong and Stable' and 'There's no magic money tree'. I backed Labour at the General Election and was enthused to see the Conservatives lose their majority government. Predictably, Theresa May casually plucked £1,000,000,000 from the Magic Money Tree to bring the DUP onside and secure a majority.
Jeremy Corbyn became an avatar for those of us who had neither voted for the Conservatives, nor to leave the EU. As leader of an emboldened Opposition, he had the platform to challenge Theresa May over Brexit and her calamitous efforts to secure a deal. He declined to do so, and I immediately left the Labour Party.
In the 18 months which followed I marched twice to Westminster to protest the Government and secure a confirmatory referendum - due diligence considering the weight of evidence we now had that Brexit would
not be what was promised.
In July 2019 I joined a group of Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats on a journey to Brecon and Radnorshire, where they were fighting a By-Election. I had come to see the Lib Dems as the only major party still fighting against Brexit, so had offered to pitch in. It was on that journey, that I learned just how closely the Lib Dems and I were aligned, not just on Brexit, but on almost every political opinion I put to my fellow campaigners. I also learned how much I loved meeting people on their doorsteps, speaking with them, learning from them. It was (and is) a vastly different experience from the confrontation one experiences online. After years of campaigning, I had lost some friends and struggled to maintain some family relationships over Brexit, but as the Lib Dems secured Brecon and Radnorshire, I was certain of the righteousness of the cause and had renewed hope of success.
It didn't take long for Boris Johnson to betray Theresa May from within her own cabinet. He had always been (and remains) dangerously charismatic, yet his character flaws had always been in plain sight for those who cared to look - evidenced by various sackings and difficult interviews throughout his public life. At the 2019 General Election, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson campaigned with a divisive 'Revoke Article 50' policy and the Conservatives with their media collaborators had the electorate terrified of Jeremy Corbyn. I had campaigned for the Lib Dems in Tewkesbury ahead of the election but had received a mixed reception on the doorsteps, though it had not prepared me for what seems now to have been inevitable. The fact that the Lib Dems had now moved into 2nd place in Tewkesbury was scant consolation, knowing that the national
self-harm, division and disrepute of
Brexit would wreak havoc on my country for years to come.
In October 2021 Gloucester Liberal Democrats nominated Sarah Sawyer as their candidate for the Longlevens By-Election, for Gloucester City Council. Reenergised and sensing an opportunity to strike back at the Conservatives, I made contact with Sarah and spent several weekends canvassing and leafleting, reassuring people on their doorsteps that there were still good people in politics, and befriending the Gloucester campaign team. Sarah later secured one of the safest Conservative seats in Gloucestershire, and it was clear that a Liberal Democrat renaissance was on in Gloucestershire.
In November 2021, Owen Paterson was forced to resign his North Shropshire Parliamentary Seat, after he was found to be lobbying MPs on behalf of a company which paid him. Boris Johnson's government had tried to change the rules to allow him to stay, but had failed. I elected to drive a car of Gloucestershire volunteers to North Shropshire in December, and we spent the day leafleting before retiring to HQ for an evening of envelope filling. We returned to Gloucestershire late that night, and Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan won the seat days later.
In January 2022 a sitting Conservative Councillor was dismissed following several months of absence, in Chipping Campden, North Cotswolds. In February, I canvassed for Lib Dem candidate Danny Loveridge, on behalf of Tewkesbury Lib Dems. Days later, Danny narrowly missed out on the seat, to his Conservative neighbour.
In April 2022 I spent a day campaigning for Graham Beale in Warden Hill and Max Wilkinson in Oakley, both in Cheltenham. Both candidates held their seats in May 2022.
After the resignation of Neil Parish MP, Liberal Democrats from across the country descended on Tiverton and Honiton for the resultant by-election. Tewkesbury and Gloucester Lib Dems were very well represented throughout the campaign, and I drove a vehicle of volunteers (and my daughter!) to Devonshire in June. After a day of canvassing it was clearer than ever that the country had seen enough of the Conservative Government, but also that a significant demographic were apathetic following years of lies. Lib Dem Richard Foord won the seat days later.
In October 2023, Tewkesbury Liberal Democrats began to gear up for an ambitious election campaign, to further improve on the excellent result in 2019. I played a significant role alongside the Exec in planning and executing the campaign across the borough. I scheduled and coordinated Campaign Days in every ward we could stand a candidate, and produced calling cards featuring our manifesto pledges. In May 2023, Tewkesbury Lib Dems won 16 seats, which made us larger than the Conservatives, Greens and Labour combined on Tewkesbury Borough Council. We also narrowly missed out on several others, offering us a platform for the future. My good friend Cllr Ian Yates, after decades of service to his community, was made Mayor of Tewkesbury Borough.
As of November 2023, the Conservatives have yet to call the General Election, but it's coming. Tewkesbury Liberal Democrats aren't waiting though. Our General Election Campaign is already well underway.
When the time comes, the Liberal Democrats are ready to deliver genuine change to Tewkesbury Constituents.
Only the Lib Dems can defeat the Conservatives here.
We intend to do just that.