Q – I’m sure being at the centre of a parliamentary by-election is impossibly exciting, but also busy, exhausting and overwhelming, with huge highs and lows. What stands out the most for you from the campaign?
A – It really was! But incredibly exciting at the same time. I had seen Liberal Democrats gear up for a by-election before, but until you are at the centre of it you really can’t appreciate the extent of the support, the enthusiasm and sheer hard work we do as a team to have these great results at by-election. Seeing Lib Dems come together and campaign together – that is definitely what stands out for me.
Q – What was the biggest high and the biggest low?
The biggest high was the result! Labour may have won but they certainly didn’t look like it on the night.
The biggest high was the result! Labour may have won but they certainly didn’t look like it on the night. Taking the fight to Labour was what we were there to do and we certainly did that. We can see so clearly the impact of their complacency in Lewisham, it was important to me that people were shown that it isn’t just a choice between the two main parties. The result showed that people will not continue to vote for a party that fails to deliver when they are given a better option.
The low was definitely when the hustings were shut down.
It was clear early on that Labour and the Conservatives were not likely to attend. As the hustings got closer there was pressure to ‘no platform’ the event because Ann Marie Waters – a far right candidate – had been invited. In the end neither the Greens, nor Ann Marie Waters herself, turned up either.
The hustings was shut down because protesters outside were so aggressive and disruptive that the police could no longer guarantee public safety, and in the end we had to leave under a police escort. All of us were verbally abused as we walked in and many people were too scared to try and attend.
Between Brexit and the erosion of our political culture there has never been a more important time for the Liberal Democrats to be in politics.
I knew that our political culture had taken a turn for the worse, but seeing groups that talk so much about a ‘new style of politics’ aggressively shutting down the only public debate was a terrible indictment of where we are. There was an upside though, I know for me and others, the experience left us with a renewed sense of purpose. I was proud to be a Liberal Democrat that day and it made me even more determined to campaign harder and louder. Between Brexit and the erosion of our political culture there has never been a more important time for the Liberal Democrats to be in politics.
Q – You were previously the Parliamentary Candidate for Southend West, did that prepare you at all?
It really did. I’m grateful for the team in Southend for being so welcoming to me and enabling me to get stuck in like I did. Spending time in Southend West helped me realise how important the team is and how good that team spirit is really what carries you through. It also gave me important comparative experience of what it is like fighting the Tories.
Q – How did you balance being the candidate of a national parliamentary campaign with your life outside of politics?
There is no doubt that our political system needs radical change. Research is coming out now about how much it costs and the impact on our personal lives that running for public office can have. I am really fortunate that I’ve been able to structure my life to enable me to run for office and take the time to do so, but I’m aware that these barriers are still keeping lots of good people from taking part, and its important that we find ways to tackle this.
Q – It’s been 4 months since the end of the by-election – have you recovered yet?
I don’t think you ever recover!
Q – Would you like to stand for election again?
I think it is fair to say I have caught the campaigning bug!
Q – What would you say to someone who was considering standing as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate?
If you are thinking of being a candidate someday, don’t let that stop you getting stuck in today.
I would say go for it! But do so with your eyes open.
This party is fantastic for the support it can give you in being a candidate so if you are interested, do talk to people and make the most of the knowledge and encouragement around you.
That said, I think we forget that politics is a team sport – even if you are not keen on being a candidate or you do not want to be one yet, there are so many parts that go into our successful campaigns and we need more good people taking on those roles too. So if you are even thinking of being a candidate someday, don’t let that stop you getting stuck in today.