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.