Friday, November 22, 2019

General Election 2019 - the view from a comfortable seat on the sidelines...

Regular readers of this blog will know that I live and do politics in mid-Suffolk. And those of you who know mid-Suffolk will know that the district is split between two Parliamentary constituencies, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds. Creeting St Peter is on the boundary between the two seats, having been in Central Suffolk until 2010, and in Bury St Edmunds thereafter. As part of the deal making over the “Remain Alliance”, local Liberal Democrats were stood down in Bury St Edmunds in favour of the Greens.

And this “not having a candidate to support” is strangely disconcerting. There is no local activity to get involved in, no camaraderie of getting things done. It does begin to feel as though the election is happening somewhere else, even though it’s all over the media. I have at least been out and about with Ros - to Cambridge and North Norfolk - and attended campaign launches in Central Suffolk and, this evening, in Ipswich.

We’re not alone, of course. When I started this blog, I was living in south London, and was Chair of Dulwich and West Norwood Liberal Democrats. They've been stood down in favour of the Greens too.

I don’t need to be persuaded that the deals done with the Greens and with Plaid Cymru were helpful in maximising our prospects in seats we really could win - that’s a pragmatic response to the injustice that “first past the post “ doles out to smaller parties - but it does leave our activists in such seats with a dilemma. Do we campaign for the party we have stood down in favour of, or campaign for ourselves in our areas of strength just to remind people we exist, or travel somewhere more promising to lend a hand? Or, do we simply sit this one out?

The Party would (and does) urge people like me to go somewhere else, as there is never enough resource in key seats. And some of us will do that, travelling across the county boundary to deliver leaflets or canvass or whatever, whilst others telephone canvass if they can. Others will give generously to support campaigns both national and local. But some will simply stay at home because politics isn’t their lives, or because they don’t have the same stake in helping people that they don’t really know, or that travelling for a couple of hours to deliver a few leaflets doesn’t feel like a good use of their time. 

Of course, what happens with all of those Liberal Democrat campaigns out there matters deeply. Having more Liberal Democrat MPs speaking up for tolerance, decency and internationalism (amongst other things) must be a good thing. And I know (and like) some of our candidates personally, which does give me an interest which is not entirely academic.

So, the campaign continues, albeit somewhere else, and our road trips will do too...

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