Julie Pörksen writes: Winning a ward the size of Luxembourg

July 31, 2014 12:36 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Kate Cairns was elected in a landslide victory in the Berwick constituency ward of Longhoughton last week, called after the passing of a much respected longstanding independent councillor. From a standing start - we didn't field a candidate in the county council elections last year - we took almost 50% of the vote, with the Tories coming a poor second with less than half our vote, an independent and UKIP followed the Tories and Labour were nearly wiped out with 3%.

So how did we do it?

We had a cracking candidate - Kate Cairns will be well known to many in the world of cycle safety as the founder of 'See Me Save Me', set up after her sister Eilidh was killed by a lorry while cycling in London. She had the conviction to take her campaign to Europe where Fiona Hall managed to get new legislation passed on HGV cab visibility. Kate grew up and lives in the ward, is also a parish councillor, school governor at her children's school and is a sustainability consultant. From a Liberal family, Kate's mother Heather Cairns is formidable county councillor for nearby Alnwick - she even persuaded someone to get out of the bath to vote.

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We talked straight - Northumberland is a very straight-talking place and we talked a lot and listened more. Conversations on the doorstep were welcomed by many and covered every subject under the sun. With a ward the size of Luxembourg which takes about an hour to cross (by car) everywhere is different. So we were asked about dualling the A1, forces housing (RAF Boulmer is in the ward), fishing, farming, the Labour Council charging for post-16 transport, wind-farms, jobs, the bedroom tax..... And we were happy to respond - because as Lib Dems we have something to say. We have campaigns - my seven month long fight with Labour to retain the previous Lib Dem policy of free post-16 transport. We have action - Kate and Fiona changing the law to make HGV cabs have greater visibility. We have policies - I wrote the Lib Dem bedroom tax policy motion on behalf of Berwick Lib Dems in response to the unfairness experienced by Northumbrians we met on the doorstep in 2013.

We worked hard - and then we worked harder on election day. Thanks are due to everyone involved for an amazing effort on the doorstep, on the telephone and with the organisation. Many obstacles were overcome: distance, sunstroke, connect maps, no mobile phone reception, perhaps worst of all having to resist temptation and walk right past some of Northumberland's best castles, beaches, restaurants and pubs. On election day our amazing team kept going til the end, an hour before close of polls when the Tories were still on the doorsteps of Longhoughton we regrouped and made a huge last effort. I was surprised to be thanked for giving information about post-16 transport at 9.45pm on election day over the phone - she then went to vote.

Which reminds me of someone I met on the doorstep last week who said "I have never voted because no one has ever asked me to." So I asked her to vote.

As we say round here "Shy bairns get nowt".

If you want to be part of our winning team either remotely or by coming to the Berwick constituency please get in touch - julie@berwicklibdems.org.uk