It’s a peculiar type of insanity that sets in to a person who decides to seek office as a Liberal Democrat. By comparison, seeking office for Labour is easy – just get yourself selected in a safe seat. Getting elected as a Tory is next easiest. Rule 1 still applies, but all recent evidence suggests that going to a posh school, and preferably Oxbridge is still a distinct plus. But getting elected is a whole different kettle of fish if you are a Liberal Democrat.
There are distinct pluses to being a Lib Dem: being honest with the electorate and not being called upon to defend the indefensible spring to mind. But the mountain you must scale in a world where there are no safe seats, and the electoral system is stacked against you can seem daunting. Everything has to be done on a shoestring budget. The money to print your leaflets and letters all has to be raised locally, and long suffering volunteers do all of the hard work.
Knowing this, it is all the more remarkable that we now have more MP’s than ever. There are success stories all over the country where dedicated people have worked hard for years and finally achieved the goal of having a Lib Dem MP in their constituency. One of those constituencies is Hornsey and Wood Green, and my wife and I had the great fortune of being entertained to lunch at the Palace of Westminster by their MP, Lynne Featherstone.
We were met at Portcullis House by a researcher who whisked us into the Commons just as the division bell sounded and Lynne had to disappear to vote. Presently, she came back and took us for lunch in the dining room where ‘strangers’ were allowed. She was a wonderful host and gave us well over two hours of her time (which felt more like half an hour). She was happy to share anecdotes and experiences of how she and her team had achieved the seemingly impossible. When she decided to take on the challenge, Lib Dems were in third place and to local membership was small. As a single parent, she had to juggle work, child care and campaigning. It was an inspiring story, and one that resulted in success that was clearly deserved.
During coffee, she had to rush off for another division, but still came back to spend more time with us. We were grateful that she sacrificed so much of her time to encourage us in our endeavours for Wycombe. We left Westmister emboldened and inspired and determined to write our own success story.