Since the publication of a letter in your paper from Mr Colin Samme I have been asked by Stevenage Liberal Democrats to make it absolutely plain that I fought the general election last year on equal terms with the other candidates and in no way was I a paper candidate. All those who worked hard with me on street stalls, canvassing and leafleting would not have put in their time and effort if I had been a ‘paper candidate’: as a party which receives no funding from either unions (as Labour does) or big business (the Tories) all of our methods of promoting ourselves in Stevenage are limited only to the funds raised locally by our members and to the time which is freely given by members and supporters and not by any lack of conviction or desire to see a Liberal Democrat win the seat – which I was hoping to do.
Having made this first important point I wish to add that I was very pleased to see that Mr Samme (Comet letters, March 10 2011)shares my enthusiasm for a change to a fairer voting system – however I have a different reason for backing the yes campaign.
It is time that the two larger political parties in the UK stopped believing that they are the only parties with an entitlement to victory: this leads to their supporters mistakenly seeing the Liberal Democrats and other small parties as ‘spoilers’- I refer again to Mr Samme’s letter .
I have fought general elections five times: I fought Broxbourne which is a Tory constituency three times and I stood in Stevenage in 2005 and again in 2010. What I noticed in Stevenage was that the behaviour and attitude of members of the Labour Party was almost the same as that of the Conservative Party in Broxbourne in the 1990s. They considered themselves to be the rightful ‘owners’ of the Parliamentary seat and they showed something close to contempt for campaigners from any party that threatened to reduce their majority. One of the consequences of this belief that Stevenage somehow ‘belonged’ to Labour was the cynical mis-use of expenses by the former Labour MP – the exposure of which, a key Labour activist told me on election night when the count had barely begun, had lost them the seat.
The Alternative Voting system will ensure that no MP will consider his or her seat to be secure – instead at each election they will have to demonstrate that they have worked hard and earned their re-election.
Each time I stood in Stevenage I received over 7,000 votes – but under the first past the post system (or winner takes all) those 7,000 voters sadly did not see the representation they wanted. In 2010 no Liberal Democrat across the UK lost their deposit (unlike Labour and Tory) and there was less than two million difference in the total number of votes cast for Labour and Liberal Democrats – yet Labour ended up with 258 MPs and the Liberal Democrats with 57.
We have had governments time and again which have had large majorities in Parliament but which had been elected by a minority of voters under the first past the post system. This has been manifestly unfair – but thanks to the Liberal Democrats being in the Coalition Government, on May 5th we have the first ever chance to change the way we vote in Parliamentary elections for good. I urge your readers to vote Yes in the referendum on the Alternative Vote; I shall be regularly in Stevenage – as I have been since the general election –meeting voters and continuing to campaign vigorously for a Yes vote .
2010 Parliamentary Candidate
Stevenage Liberal Democrats