Campaign Diary May 3rd 2024

Welcome to my new campaign diary

I’ll be writing regularly about local, national and international politics as the general election draws near.
Warning: this diary may contain jokes!

I’ve been observing the London election count today at Kensington Olympia. By law I can’t give any hint about who’s doing well or badly

But I can tell you that the efficiency and friendliness are awe-inspiring.

We take clean elections for granted in this country. But I don’t. I have lived in countries where elections were shams, and where even spoiling your ballot was an act of defiance that could destroy your career and your family’s happiness.

I get a lump in my throat when I go to a calm, well-run polling station and witness the simplicity of a pencil cross on a paper ballot, honestly counted in front of independent observers.

It never crosses our minds that someone might be filching those cast for the “wrong” party or running off a few hundred extra ballot papers on a photocopier in the next room—something that my friend Joe Worrall (pictured) actually uncovered in his work as an international election monitor in Kazakhstan.

Long may that continue.

An essential part of elections is reminding voters to get to the polls on time. We political obsessives think about nothing else. But most voters have to fit the visit to the polling station into their busy days. They may procrastinate and then decide that the weather’s nasty and it’s getting late. And rationally, one vote is unlikely to make a difference. In almost all elections, voting is a symbolic act from an individual point of view. .

So that means sending out teams of activists. We were helping out with this at a by-election in Holland Park yesterday (result due tomorrow). The technical term for this is “knocking up”.

Unfortunately, this leafy bit of Kensington has rather a lot of American residents and when one of them asked me what I was doing I replied “I’m knocking up as many voters as possible”.

He looked at me with a degree of incredulity. In American English, “knock up” means “impregnate.”.


Campaign diary May 2 2024

Another early start today handing out polling day leaflets. Some people are amazingly rude, even to Sweeka (pictured here).

We’ve been doorknocking a lot in the areas around Pimlico tube in recent weeks so it’s good to connect with people we’ve met on the doorstep. People are cross about noise mess and safety. I was knocked off my bike by kids mucking around in the cycle lane — and it’s still going on, despite my complaints to the school and the police. 

One takeaway: Sadiq Khan is a big vote-winner— for us! The Conservatives have really mucked up with Susan Hall. They produced a dreadful shortlist in order to make sure that their favourite Dan Korski got the nomination. Then he was named in the groping scandal by my friend Daisy Goodwin, and they were left with the duds. 

My tips for leafleting 

  • People heading into the station probably live locally. Those exiting probably don’t
  • Stand some way away from the tube station so that you can walk and talk for a few seconds 
  • Smile broadly and call people “Sir” and “Madam”
  • If one person in a group takes a leaflet, everyone else will too.
  • Have “where do i vote ” bookmarked on your phone so you can advise people where to vote 

It’s fun. But at that time of the morning I’d rather be swimming — I am a year-round Serpentine swimmer. But we haven’t had proper snow this year.

Last night I was at a meeting in Peabody Avenue to discuss speeding and other dangerous behaviour. Impressive turnout from Peabody, Westminster Council and the Met. It’s good to see how different bits of our system can work together once there’s some political pressure. But lots of stupid excuses. We can’t have a 5MPH speed limit, apparently, because the government doesn’t allow it. 

Where’s there’s a will there’s a way. I’m determined to keep pushing on this. 

One of the locals was surprised to see me having a friendly chat with my Labour counterpart. “I thought you were enemies!”,

“My enemies are the Kremlin and the Chinese Communist Party”, I explained. “Rachel and Tim are my rivals”. Big difference! 

As Lib Dems we can’t afford to be tribal. I worked with Labour, Conservative and SNP lawmakers on national security for years before I started active politics. And I’ll keep doing that as your MP.