Thursday, 27 November 2008

Election Day - Victory

I'm still on cloud nine and have to say that the tension was worse than waiting for my University Finals results to plop onto the door mat!
We has a comfortable majority of almost 200 in the end, but so many times it was going one way and then the other.
A glass of bubbly and then collapse into bed - this has been a very, very long day and would not have been possible without the army of wonderful Lib Dem supporters who turned out to help. Details to follow next weeks of a thankyou party!
But the final word - for the moment - must go to the newest edition of the Whelan family. We have had a real thanksgiving today as my brother became a father for the first time and I FINALLY became an auntie! Congratulations and welcome to the world Niamh, from Auntie Fiona - or Cllr Whelan as your new cousins call me.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

2 days and counting

04:30 saw me tossing and turning, thinking of all the things I have to do over the next 48 hours. Adrenaline continues to buzz even in the wee small hours.

This is the first time that I’ve stood in a Local Government election and it has been a very steep learning curve – very quickly!

I’ve been blessed with an army of foot soldiers who’ve turned out to deliver what at times has seen like an army of election literature – often in truly foul weather. Thermals have been out in force over the weekend. But we have managed each and every delivery run. Most of us will be soaking tender knuckles come Friday from all the doors we’ve knocked on over the last month. Nick Clegg must be well on the way with The Million Doorstep Challenge.

So we’re on the final count down – the last sprint for the finish line. And it has been a fantastic journey with an amazing group of people. The next few days will be busy, but well worth every bit of effort everyone has put in.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Last week - Friday and Counting

I’ve been sadly remiss in keeping up to date with my blog recently as the days of knocking on doors and attending Parish Council Meetings have been long. However I had a sharp reminder of why I am standing for County Council today. Someone in unbelievable pain, off on long term sick leave, messed about by the benefits agency and without central heating for two months – despite it being the middle of winter and their main problem being lack of mobility.

A slap on the wrist for me for playing hookey for 5 hours when my election agent thought he had tamed me into knocking on doors all day! But …… no one has previously wanted to take responsibility or ownership for this person’s issues and I certainly wasn’t going to add to the list of those that listened sympathetically with one eye on the clock and then disappeared again. I’d like to thank this person for reminding me why I want to be a County Councillor. I want to sort out local issues and get people services that they feel unable to access.

Tomorrow – suitability chastised – I return to knocking on doors and following the schedule – or do I? My election agent thinks so – and will be attempting to keep me in check for the last week!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Day Twenty One – Yellow, black and blue all over.

Thank you to the wonderful people of Barton that the team and I met this morning. It’s not the best of times to knock on people’s doors (as the heat escapes and a keen candidate wants to know your inner most thoughts on life in the village), but residents were forth coming with their views and I was able to share my gardening secret with someone raking up leaves. For those of you in the same boat at this time of year, the average 10 – 13 year old (age, size and weight are important variables here) will be very glad to have extra pocket money in return for “bin jumping”. When else will parents let you jump up and down in the green bin! From personal experience I can assure you that you can more than double the quantity that normally fits into a green bin if it has been “jumped!” Before I get inundated with health and safety complaints I make them wash their hands afterwards!

Blue all over? I bought the Cambridge United tickets as promised and the yellow and blacks were a treat to watch. But I have to confess that we were all rather blue by half time and that hot chocolates were held more as a hot water bottle than a beverage.

Day Twenty - Things that go bump in the night!

It’s been bitterly cold out there on the doorstep over the last few days, and thermals have come in very handy this week. But, the very varying issues raised by local inhabitants have been really illuminating. I know of the problems faced in getting to and from local Dr’s Surgeries and the fantastic work done by local volunteer drivers, but was truly shocked to hear of elderly inhabitants having to spend up to £25 for a taxi to be able to do a weekly shop. With the No. 2 service under threat we really need to address the issue of transportation in our villages.

Having canvassed my own village of Caldecote over the last few days I think it’s fair to say that only shock absorber manufactures are happy with the delay in removing the speed thumps!

To set the record straight, the Caldecote Parish Council are currently unable to remove the speed thumps because they have no legal right to do so until the road is adopted. Local residents have been canvassed for their views and the Parish Council are keen to progress on changing the bumps to something more suitable. The road was unadopted whilst the speed thumps were installed and has not subsequently been readopted. This has a knock on effect because you can not adopt a road off an unadopted road and thus the roads on the new housing estates frustratingly remain unadopted. As the domino effect continues, it is harder to insist on enforcement of parking regulations on unadopted roads and so local residents park on pavements and those in prams and wheelchairs have to use the road to get around the obstacles in their way.

Contrary to my elder son’s belief – I am not yet proficient at flying a broomstick – but will be out freezing along with other parents as I supervise those going “treating” tonight (no tricks allowed!).

Day Nineteen - Try before you buy

How often do you actually get to try a politician out before you sign on the dotted line for the next 4 years?

It’s been a thought provoking exercise as I’ve been canvassing locally this week. And people really seem to be signing up for it. Having a by-election at a cost of approximately £15,000 which could have been much better used elsewhere, approximately 6 months before you have to have another County Council Election, gives the local electorate six months to try me out and see if I turn up to represent their views and needs effectively at Shire Hall.

And trust me the views are coming in fast. You get to see the truly awful state of our local pavements whilst out canvassing, as you trip over manhole covers that are no longer flush with the road surface or pavement. I’m fit and steady on my feet but sadly that’s not the case for all the residents in our villages.

Day Eighteen – Winter is coming!

A bit of a damp squib today as the residents of Hardwick saw three very wet Lib Dem campaigners park up in a lay-by and get into one car to wait for the hail stones to stop falling. The prospect of campaigning in summer months definitely appeals for next time!

Once we’d thawed out and dried off a bit we got to meet the people who live on and use Cambridge Road in Hardwick. It would be fair to say that a significant percentage of people we spoke to are thoroughly cheesed off with the traffic situation and believe it will never be sorted out. Luckily they are not the majority and there is a determined spirit to see changes made. I can assure the Hardwick Parish Council that they left me in absolutely no doubt – whatsoever! – about the strength of local feeling in relation to this traffic chaos spot. It’s high on my list of priorities should the people of Hardwick Ward elect me on 27th.

There have also been issues relating to anti-social behaviour in public open spaces in Hardwick and I’d urge anyone with anything to say on the issue to come along to the next Neighbourhood Policing Panel which will be held in Hardwick on November 19th. It’s vitally important to be heard and everyone has a chance to air their views.

Day Fifteen - lull before the storm

A quiet (and wet) day to get some paperwork sorted and envelopes labelled whilst things are a bit quieter, and a chance to watch a movie with the family. Despite much teasing, having watched “Run, fat boy run” I shall not be attempting the London Marathon next year. I’ve learned never to say never to anything but my marathon days are someway off – if ever!

Day Fourteen – the paperwork cometh

The morning saw another trip to St Neots to collect leaflets and labels (you’d be amazed how quick you can get at labelling with a bit of practice, and I’m getting lots), and the afternoon brought a trip to Teversham to help deliver leaflets for Frances Amrani who is standing in the by-election on November 20th. It also saw the purchase of a “wider ranging” map than my city centre one as I’m fast becoming acquainted with all our local streets. The plus side is I’m feeling the benefit of all the fresh air and exercise and there is no better way to learn what’s really going on in a local community than pounding the pavements.

Day Thirteen - L Plates off!

The short answer to “do people know what the Lib Dems do in Europe?” is no. Lots of work has been done on the Constitution which to be fair is neither riveting nor short bed time reading, and in relation to Human Rights Issues and Waste Management. People are well aware of some of the more extreme issues that have been highlighted in the press over the years but sadly the achievements don’t seem to attract the same column inches.

Today was my first official solo flight as a canvasser in Comberton, and as I officially removed my L Plates and Stabilisers, people were very forthcoming with their views. Speeding along Barton Road, large lorries and a lack of police presence seem to top most people’s list of complaints. I hope to canvass the village further over the coming weeks and hearing more of your views first hand.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Day Twelve

We’re almost two weeks into our campaign now and the election has formally been called. My Blog up until now has given a small insight into the more day to day things that we all deal with, but not a lot about what I stand for and why I want to represent the people of the Hardwick Ward as their County Councillor and what I have to offer them in return for their votes. No, I am not a Russian oligarch before you get too excited – drive and determination are on offer here.

A few things happened yesterday to crystallise my thoughts regarding this. One was the inevitable realisation that the media are going to continue to be more interested in Sarah Palin’s lipstick and new wardrobe than her policies. The second was a question to our MEP Andrew Duff at the Executive Meeting last night – do the electorate know what the Liberal Democrats achieve in Europe? More on that one tomorrow.

What I have to offer is a passion for my local community and the determination to see it represented properly at Shire Hall. My profile tells you that I am a Parish Councillor, a School Governor and have recently finished my legal studies. It does not convey the Advocacy I have practiced in relation to children with Special Educational Needs and my drive to see children given the best education available locally. We are blessed with some wonderful schools in this area – but that is no use to the family who is told the schools are oversubscribed and no places are available locally.

I drive, ride a bike or use the local bus services depending on what is most suitable for my particular journey. I’m lucky to have that choice – but many people don’t. Our transport links are vital and buses that have their service cut or simply don’t stick to their timetable are no use to people waiting for them to arrive. And for cycle paths to work the obvious thing is to extend their range and join them up – a journey needs to be completed safely but so many times a cycle path used ends abruptly.

Local housing is no good if there nothing affordable for the children and grandchildren of current residents to live in and they have to move away. So – if elected – I will be there to represent the views and wishes of the people of the Hardwick on the issues that are important to them. I want to know your views – please email me, call me, or stop me if you see me out canvassing and let me know what those issues are that are important to you.

In short I stand for democratic representation of the people of Hardwick Ward in return for the cast of their vote.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Day Eleven – Sore feet!

After a sterling effort by a truly inspiring number of helpers we managed to deliver just under 4,000 leaflets in 24 hours. I have a feeling that several of us will be sitting with our feet soaking this evening and mental note to self to wear walking boots next time I go out! The only scars I bear are on my knuckles – we live in an area of well insulated letter boxes and anyone who has ever done a leaflet drop will know what an assault course for the hands they can be!

My heartfelt thanks to everyone for helping to deliver, and to my Mum, Beth, for manning the phone and supplying soup, rolls, teas and coffees every time we needed a quick pit stop.

A few "quieter" days now so I’m hoping to help out at Teversham where Frances Amrani is standing as a District Councillor in the Teversham by-election on November 20th. We’re both benefiting from standing at a time when it’s “relatively” quiet on the election front and help has come from everywhere. We're very appreciative, and I'm discovering that leaflet drops certainly get you fit quick.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Day Ten - Rubbish thought!

Looking at the people following my Blog has introduced me to a really eye opening Blog: thank you to Amanda Taylor for bringing my attention to it.

As my children will confirm I have driven them mad from an early age with my determination to recycle as much as I can. Until the recent collection of plastic bottles with our green bin and box every fortnight I have also exposed them (and any one else within earshot) to my rant about Supermarkets not taking back plastic milk bottles. Having lived on the continent for many years, where recycling is a natural part of life, I’m glad to see that we are improving in Cambridgeshire but we still have a long way to go. My very patient boyfriend will testify to my habit of fishing things out of the bin after he has thrown them away!

If you have time please take a quick peak at the Cambridge Zero Waste Challenge. Most of us will not be able to achieve as much as they have – but any improvement helps. I too rip the plastic window out of envelopes – I’ll try a bit harder after what I’ve read!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Day Nine - realisation dawns!!

Daily events seem to have overtaken me a bit in the last few days and I finally have a few minutes to sit down and catch up with my blog. The excitement of the forthcoming election hasn’t worn off – but the realisation of all that we need to accomplish over the next few weeks has definitely dawned! I can not stress enough how grateful I am to all the kind people who are offering their help. It's going to make all the difference.

Today I’ve been out looking at the state of pavements in the Ward (how people are expected to navigate with wheelchairs or pushchairs in some areas totally defies me), and seeing where we can hope to make a difference. I’ve also spent the day signing letters to all of the local parish councillors in the ward and our local supporters. I feel very passionately about changes that we can and should make – small differences that will have a huge impact on the quality of peoples’ lives such as the choice regarding speed limits through our villages.

Tomorrow my mother, Beth, arrives to restore a sense of domesticity to our house for a few weeks whilst I have meetings and start to knock on doors and introduce myself to people throughout the ward. I’m keen to hear what you want from your local County Councillor – if elected I am representing you so your views are extremely important to me. Please don’t forget that I can be contacted by email at .

An early night tonight – the last I think for many weeks so I shall make the most of it!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Day Six – We’re Off!

The election has been called for November 27th – and we’re off!

I'm winding down work commitments now for the next few weeks and spent an enlightening evening at the Law Faculty in town at a Question Time with Nick Clegg. He had some very interesting comments on the economy and plans for the future and the need to not abandon our commitment to the environment.

It all starts here today – and whilst I’m in the midst of everything I mustn’t forget to cast my own vote in the Lib Dem President election. I’m not sure where to pitch it yet – still making my mind up.

This weekend I’ll be donning flat shoes for lots of walking and door knocking!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Dave Five

Apologies for the missed Day 4 Blog – work led on to a School Governor’s meeting which led on to a campaign strategy meeting and by the time I knew where I was it was the whole day over.

Things are really starting to move now and I can’t wait for the weekend to be out and feel like I’m really doing something useful and that the faith everyone is placing in me is justified.

Tonight we have a Lib Dem Question Time with Nick Clegg and hopefully a chance for another photograph. Hence leaping out of bed earlier than usual to ensure freshly ironed shirts and “tamed” hair! Watch this space this evening!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Day Three

People think that running for County Council is hard work and a huge responsibility. Whilst not under estimating the amount of time and responsibility it will be, I have just smiled through very gritted teeth at the person who has managed to loose a school fleece, a school jumper, football socks, almost the entire contents of his pencil case, his lunch box, his mobile phone recharger (at least it’s not the phone this time),his wallet, house keys, school pass bus and now insists that the body warmer he brought home after 2 years in his locker is too small to fit either him or his sibling ….. and all this since term started less than 2 months ago ……. and that none of this is his fault……. I shall relish the tranquillity of heated council debates!

More wonderful emails from you all – and I now have a mobile phone dedicated to election business. My concession to not wanting to turn into a faceless grey suit is to have a shockingly pink one! I’ll have to find an equally “uniquely Fiona” ring tone to go with it.

More news tomorrow as our Campaign finally takes off – I shall enjoy my last night of peace as I write yet another cheque to replace lost items.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Day Two

I’d already planned to attend the East of England Regional Conference yesterday, what I hadn’t expected was to have so many people squint at my name badge and declare “Ah, you’re Fiona!”. My decision not to wear the usual weekend attire of Jeans was probably a wise one as I had my photograph taken with our MPs, MEP and others. The wonderful Simon Hughes was particularly gallant when one of my heels sunk into the grass whilst we were having our photo taken and I was stuck fast! Watch this space and future episodes of our Focus to see who I’m meeting at the moment. It changes so quickly even I don’t know what’s coming next, but I’m really looking forward to meeting Nick Clegg at our Question Time session on Thursday evening.

Today is a quieter day. I’ve picked up copies of our recent Focus to deliver locally and answered more kind emails offering support and encouragement. I’m quickly realising the wonderful generosity of people in the party – I’ve been inundated with offers of help (all gratefully received and I will be taking you all up on them!) and can’t wait for the campaign to formally get rolling once the election is officially called. Our campaign really kicks off on Tuesday evening so I’m spending the day getting the house organised and the freezer full – whilst remembering that someone has to load and unload the washing machine and generally getting my “coalition of the unwilling” aka children to learn that whilst magic may work in the world of Harry Potter, us poor mortals and muggles need to actually do it ourselves.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Day One: We have a by-election!

Sitting in a totally silent household as everyone else sleeps, I finally have some peace and quiet to look back, catch my breath and reflect on the amazing 24 hours that have just passed.

A normal Friday until I switched on my mobile to check for messages at about 11:00 and discovered a frantic one from my agent, Martin Land, asking me to call him back “immediately” in the tone of voice my mother uses when you know better than to ignore it! A quick call later and I discover to my shock (surprise, amazement and delight once the shock wore off) that our current County Councillor had tendered his resignation and a by-election was going to be called. It’s one thing to agree to stand for a position when you know that elections are 8 months away and a very different thing when you suddenly realise that they are about 5 weeks away!

My decision to change from full to part-time work last week could not have come at a better time and a few phone calls later to my equally surprised and excited parents and close friends, I had wall to wall support organised at home to allow me to give my all to the wonderful opportunity I was being offered – standing as a County Council candidate for the Liberal Democrat party.

Coming home from work I discovered 10 messages on my answer phone and 33 e-mails in my Inbox and realised that we had hit the campaign trail running. I’m overwhelmed by the messages of support and offers of help flooding in from people I’ve never even met. I’m very grateful to each and every one of you and hope to meet everyone over the coming weeks as the campaign heats up so that I can thank you all in person.

I have two sons and we had a quick family meeting this evening so that they would understand what the next month or so would bring (the sort that goes along the lines of me delivering some momentous news and asking if everyone understands that it will mean making some changes and them nodding and asking what time dinner is at). The great thing with a teenage son is that you know your place in his order of priorities!

So here I sit typing, as everyone else sleeps and I can finally get my thoughts together. Always a fan of putting things in my pocket diary I have dusted off my faithful personal organiser and I’m ready, organised and chomping at the bit. It’s funny how big and small things vie with each other in your mind whilst jotting down what needs to be done. Later on this morning we have our East of England Regional Conference at Huntingdon. Planning my week ahead as the local party election machinery swings into action I’ve cleared my diary but as a Governor of our local Primary school I have a meeting early on Tuesday evening and then later on another meeting with the local party to plan my campaign. In between I mustn’t forget to organise tickets for Cambridge United as I’ve promised to take my sons to see them play on Saturday 1st November and at the back of my mind is the all important form I have to submit by November 7th that secures my younger son a place at Secondary School.

We’ve survived Day One and as a whole family can’t wait for the thrilling roller coaster ride that the next few weeks are going to be. I feel very honoured to be selected and hope to be able to serve the Hardwick Ward very soon.