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After Brinsworth and Catcliffe we must all turn our attention to Stoke Central and Copeland

February 3, 2017 2:45 PM
By Andrew Sangar in Liberal Democrat Voice

Thirteen days ago I broke off from a canvass conversation on a Brinsworth doorstep to take a call from Great George Street asking me to head to Copeland for the parliamentary by-election.

Adam Carter

Adam Carter

Last night's victory for Liberal Democrat Dr Adam Carter in the Brinsworth and Catcliffe by-election is remarkable in many ways. The first Lib Dem elected in Rotherham since 2000. A 38.3% swing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. A crushing defeat for UKIP in a ward they had high hopes. A victory for hope and optimism amidst the pall of recent scandals that have blighted Rotherham.

Like many Sheffield Lib Dem activists, I have spent the last eight weeks travelling to help Adam Carter and his campaign manager Hannah Kitching with their campaign. It's been inspiring working alongside many new Lib Dem members; some converts from other parties but others who have taken stock of what is happening in their communities, in their country, and across the world, and have decided they must make a stand before it is too late.

On the doorsteps of Brinsworth and Catcliffe there was interest in our message. Many of those voters had never been canvassed before in their lives. They were used to one or two tired leaflets from Labour and UKIP; the two parties who had decided that Rotherham voters faced a simple binary choice. Enter a dynamic charismatic community campaigner in the figure of Dr Adam Carter, backed by a large team of enthusiastic Lib Dem campaigners.

On Thursday night those voters placed their trust in change through Adam and a Liberal Democrat message of working for every individual in the community and not taking anyone for granted. Since last July we have seen this pattern repeated in council by-election after council by-election up and down the length and breadth of the country. Good local candidates backed by enthusiastic and energetic campaigns have seen Liberal Democrats take seats from Labour, Conservatives, and UKIP.

Zulfiqar Ali

Zulfiqar Ali

Rebecca Hanson Copeland

Rebecca Hanson

Sarah Olney's brilliant defeat of Zac Goldsmith showed that this can be replicated on the larger stage of parliamentary by-elections. In Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland we have two further opportunities to demonstrate that British politics is now very different after last June's referendum. The Liberal Democrats can offer the light of hope amidst the darkness of scapegoating and intolerance. In Zulfiqar Ali and Rebecca Hanson we have two excellent local candidates with much to offer their respective constituencies.

Jo Grimond asked a previous generation of Liberals to march to the sound of gunfire. For the next three weeks the political gunfire will be heard amidst the terraces of Stoke and across the wild Cumbrian coast and fells of Copeland. It falls to this generation of Liberal Democrats to enter the maelstrom of post referendum politics and battle for an open, tolerant, and united Britain.

* Andy Sangar is a councillor in Sheffield and the Liberal Democrat agent for the Copeland by-election