rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This was inspired by a tweet from [personal profile] hollymath about singing at the next Glee Club, and whether there were "enough" LibDem Hamilton fans to include songs from it.  Despite having no idea yet about when I shall next get to Glee Club[1], I found myself pondering the question every time I listen to the cast recording[2].

Glee Club is a long-standing feature of LibDem (and previously Liberal) Party Conferences: late on the final evening people gather and sing for a good few hours, aided by the regularly-updated Liberator Songbook[3], and possibly also by alcohol.  I'd group the songs sung into three rough categories:
  1. Contemporary political songs from assorted points in history, sung pretty much straight (e.g. The Land, We Shall Overcome)
  2. Filks on well-known songs which comment on specific political events/arguments/personalities - there's usually at least one or two new ones of these each year, and the best keep on being included each year (e.g. The Lib/Lab Lie, Letterboxes, 12 Days of Merger/Coalition)
  3. Songs sung for the sheer joy of them (e.g. the various regional songs, anything performed by Pauline P)
The sung-through nature of Hamilton means most of the songs depend strongly on context, and/or have sung or spoken narration & dialogue embedded within.  This makes the cast recording delightfully complete, but does make it harder to pick out songs that work in isolation.  Some of my favourites are also so technically challenging I'd not want to try them in a Glee Club setting, e.g. Guns and Ships or Non-Stop.

Category-1 songs:
Cabinet Battle #1 is explicitly political, though for Glee Club you'd need a confident performer to lead each section, and I think you'd have stop it at "I'll show you where the shoe fits" for it to work as a one-off.

The Room Where It Happens is all about power and who takes decisions and how (there's a whole lot of resonances for coalition e.g. "no one really knows how the parties get to yes / the pieces that are sacrificed in every game of chess"); for Glee Club I'd start it at "Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room" and cut the opening dialogue between Burr and Hamilton.

Category-3 songs:
The Story of Tonight is a very feel-good little song about friendship and common cause, though not explicitly political

Hurricane in isolation is beautiful, and has a certain appeal to anyone who's written leaflet after leaflet attempting to persuade the public to vote for them.


You'll notice I've included nothing in category-2 - I think Hamilton is novel and excitingly political all by itself; maybe when it's old hat I'll be ready to think about filking some of it for political commentary, but that isn't this year.  Also, I really love My Shot but it's really a bit long and complicated for a group mostly new to it; I think Wait For It is beautiful but the central attitude of "I'd rather wait for things to be explained/improved than do anything active about it" doesn't feel very LibDem.

If I had to pick just one, then I'd pick The Room Where It Happens.   Though I confess I'd love to hear Pauline singing Burn.




[1] September is too far away for me to predict my state of recovery, but not so far away that I can handwave it as "surely I'll be done by then", as I have for e.g. Helsinki 2017.  Also, politics really is off my priority list while I focus on a) recovery b) family c) work d) study so it's hard to justify the time/expense of Conference even when I am recovered.

[2] Yes, that's still pretty-much daily, yes it's been nearly three months, when normally I get over this repeat-listening phase in a week or two

[3] When I helped my mother move house a few years ago, I unpacked her collection of Songbooks, and spent a happy hour or two reading through them.  I estimate it as at least 2/3 complete and has a lot of low numbers.  The selection of what songs are included each year is its own little commentary on the political context.  One day I want to write that up (or to read someone else doing so ...)



rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (libdem)
From the Federal Party constitution (full document in PDF available at that page):

10.5 Nominations must be of a Member of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons, who must be proposed by at least ten percent of other members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons and supported by 200 members in aggregate in not less than 20 Local Parties (including, for this purpose, the Specified Associated Organisations representing youth and students as provided by Article 13.8) and must indicate acceptance of nomination.

The 8 LibDem MPs are:
Tom Brake
Alistair Carmichael
Nick Clegg
Tim Farron
Norman Lamb
Greg Mulholland
John Pugh
Mark Williams

10% of other members is 0.7 of an MP. So a leadership candidate needs to persuade one other MP to propose him (they are all white men over 40) and then another 200 members from around the country to support him.


From the Leadership Election Regulations (in the same document as above):

2. The electorate for the purpose of the election shall be those members with current membership of the Liberal Democrats on the closing date for nominations, including those members whose subscriptions were due not more than three months before the closing date.

Want to vote in this one? Want to be part of the discussion of the party's future?

http://www.libdems.org.uk/join

You'll be welcome.

rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (speaking)
Yesterday I went to the Cambridge LibDems Special General Meeting where we discussed and then voted on whether our local party should call for a leadership election. 

Spoiler - the vote was lost 32 to 45 and Cambridge LibDems the local party are not calling for a leadership election. (Although a number of individual Cambridge LibDems have done so).  That's not really what I'm trying to talk about though, but more about my emotional reaction to this meeting.

Read more... )
Short version: I really care about a lot of people in the party, and even when we are talking about really hard stuff, spending time with them makes me happy.

That's what gets me out of the house leafletting or canvassing on a miserable day or making phone calls (and I hate making phone calls to strangers). Principles and organisations are necessary but a bit too cold, it's the warmth of people I need.
rmc28: Rachel speaking at a lectern with microphone and part of the slogan "Stronger Economy Fairer Society" in shot (libdem)
Nico & I were away from home from Friday afternoon to Wednesday night, attending LibDem conference in Glasgow.  I took yesterday off, with the intention of resting up a bit, and maybe actually blogging / emailing / otherwise following up all the ideas that Conference invariably leaves me with. 

Instead I had to go to the GP in the morning for a mildly embarrassing medical complaint (*) and to school in the afternoon for a conference with C's teacher.  I did at least rest a bit too, and create my new icon from a photo taken of me speaking on Saturday.

Today I worked my usual half-Friday.  Almost my whole department is moving offices over the weekend and the old office was organised chaos as last minute packing-up got done.  Along with a few others, I got my desk set up in the new building and confirmed I have phone and network there, and will be able to work on Monday. 

That was pretty much all I managed, apart from the last "helpdesk hug" in the old building (scrum was too unfriendly for the manager who'd read about Agile and set them up) and goodbye to one of my team who is off on maternity leave.  We were supposed to have food and "a few words" from the boss at noon.  The food didn't arrive until nearly 1, about the same time as Tony did with Nico.  Nico charmed a number of my colleagues, the boss said his stuff, we all ate as much as we could and I brought a doggy bag home.


(*) Nico has oral thrush and so I have nipple thrush, which is making breastfeeding almost impossibly painful.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[I wrote this for LibDemVoice, where it was published yesterday]

A baby in a sling makes an amazing Conference icebreaker. Over the five days I lost count of the number of people who stopped to admire my darling and ask questions, to the point where occasionally I gave the answers without being asked ("11 weeks", "Nicholas", "no, not after the Leader, after his father's uncle). During the day when I wasn't carrying him, I frequently got stopped and asked "where's your baby?".

"In the crèche," I would reply, and almost always got the response "There's a crèche?"

Yes, there is a crèche at conference, on site inside the secure area and just a few minutes walk from the auditorium. It runs from 8:30am to 6pm and the cost is subsidised by the party to ensure access for all parents. The staff are qualified professional childcare workers. They were wonderful, asking me about my son's routine and adapting to my preferred parenting approach. We managed breastfeeding-on-demand via text message most of the time, but I was also able to block out times when I needed to be completely uninterrupted, such as when I had a speaker's card in for a debate.

The crèche allowed me to fully participate in the business of conference: debates, votes, speeches, lunchtime fringes and at one point a campaign meeting. Without it, I could not have attended at all. With the crèche, I had the best of both worlds: regular cuddles with my son grounding me in between policy debates & ministerial Q&As.

My mother tells me that as a baby I was part of a protest at Liberal Party conference about the lack of crèche. The front row was filled with activists and their babies for the Leader's speech. The following conference had a crèche. It remains vital for keeping activists included and involved after they have children.

This week I return to work part-time, while my husband reduces his working hours to cover the days I am working. I realised during conference that if I had similar close good-quality childcare at work, I would happily be returning full-time, able to fit in my eight hours a day around three or four "baby breaks". Sadly there isn't any such childcare available, so part-time it is for now. 

I am glad and grateful that party conference has set such a high standard for keeping parents included.  Nico and I will be back in the spring.
rmc28: (babysitter)
I went to sleep on Wednesday night listening to rain drumming on my roof and hoping that it would have eased by the morning.  But I woke to my 5am alarm with the drumming still there.  By 6am I was out delivering Good Morning leaflets.  I discovered very quickly that my waterproof was merely showerproof and useless against the solidly heavy rain then falling.  It was windproof enough that I didn't get too cold, so long as I kept moving.

Back at home I peeled off my no-longer-waterproof, and then changed my saturated clothes for dry ones.  Plan A was for me and Tony to vote together with Charles, before Tony took him off to school and I took up my telling shift at the local polling station.  However, Charles was uncooperative about being ready in time, so after breakfast I just went straight to the polling station, leaving Tony with the school run.

Telling is probably my favourite part of election campaigning, because it's the one time for cross-party co-operation.  Most local activists regardless of party are there because they care about their local community and it's usually possible to have friendly conversations in between asking voters nicely for their numbers.  We had a friendly person in charge of the polling station too, who at one point was explaining in detail how they make voting accessible to blind people.

The rain had stopped, thankfully, but it was still very cold sitting outside.  (The other thing I normally like about telling is the chance to sit outdoors in the nice May sunshine ... not so this year!) After my shift I voted and then went home to try to warm up.  Two hot drinks later, and a third set of clothes (more layers), I felt able to face my next telling shift, over in a different ward.  I packed a blanket  this time but was relieved to discover that the new polling station had a large porch area and the party political people were allowed to sit in it. 

Even so, after this shift I opted for a hot takeaway lunch and then needed some time in the warm at the committee room before I could face going outside again.  Eventually I went out for a round of knocking up, but in my own knocked-up condition needed to sit down three times on the way around.  So after that I alternated my time between telling and resting at the committee room until I ran out of steam about 8:30pm.  My last telling shift was shared with an amazing lovely lady, who had clearly lived in the area for years, greeted half the voters walking in by name and in between times told me anecdotes about her extended family and gave me lots of well-meant encouragement for my pregnancy.  (There was also the highlight of seeing [livejournal.com profile] angua on her way in to vote, and to catch up a bit on her way out.)

Back at home, Charles had been allowed to stay up to say goodnight to me, and then Tony & I vegged in front of Goldeneye for the rest of the evening.  I had forgotten how much I like the film, especially the tank sequence.  Things I hadn't noticed before were the rubbishness of the incidental music apart from the big theme tune, and the last line which sounds rather more sinister these days than it did in the late 1990s: "Why don't you two debrief each other in Guantanamo?"

As for the results, the LibDems had lost 3 of the 7 seats they were defending, and gained none. The Labour party gained the one Green seat being defended, and the other Green councillor (not up for re-election until 2014) announced his defection to Labour on the morning of polling day.  The LibDems retain control of Cambridge City Council for the next two years, with the Mayor's casting vote.  (For more details, see Phil Rodgers' excellent political/data visualisation blog posts on vote swings, vote shares and the new balance of power on the council.)

Overall, I did much better at pacing myself throughout the campaign than I managed last year, and I knew better than to even try to go to the count. This year was also immensely better than last in that I didn't have to authorise a cat being put to sleep 36 hours after close of polls.

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
BBC News are using a clip of the speech's best line in the hourly news bulletin, and it's been quoted in a number of newspapers.  So you may as well have the whole speech, as best as I can reconstruct it.

First, some procedural background for those who are interested (and don't already know this stuff):
How we chose what to debate, and how I got to speak )

So anyway, here's what I said, based on the notes I prepared for the speech, and my memory of giving it.  It was filmed (clearly, given the BBC clip) but I don't have access to a full video.  I didn't write it all out in advance, so I can't give you a neat text, and I definitely mangled my sentences in a couple of places.

Conference.  There are a number of ways you can approach deciding on a difficult topic, such as this NHS BIll.  You can consider the merits.  You can consider the politics.  And you can consider who you trust and what they are saying about it.

I have heard a lot of bad arguments against this Bill.  Whatever the BIll will do, and it is hard to tell, it will not destroy the NHS.  Such hyperbole is actively repelling, and 24 hours ago I would not have expected to be speaking against this motion.  But it is not clear what this Bill will do - and I have tried to read it and its amendments.

The arguments for the Bill seem to amount to "there's something good here, something good there, we're stopping something nasty over here, and there's another good thing in this area".  There's no coherent case for this Bill, and no evidence base to support it.

I've heard some bad arguments for the BIll: we've come too far to stop now.  We've already started work in anticipation of it passing.  These are terrible arguments.  We have to get away from a macho fear of U-turns.  To change your mind at the last minute, because it is the right thing to do, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

The politics of this bill are poisonous.  To be blunt, we are screwed if we pass it, and we are screwed if we don't.  Don't think we'll be rewarded for "killing the bill".  Labour will find hyperbole and vitriol to throw at us about something else.  And if we help get it dropped, it'll be much harder to get things we want through the Coalition, with a lot of unhappy Conservative backbenchers.  [this bit got mangled in delivery]

So, merit, politics, and trust.

I have a lot of trust in our parliamentarians, and a lot of appreciation for the work they have done on this Bill, especially Baroness Williams.  We all see the power in her brand, her name on this motion.  But Baroness Williams is not the only person in this party whom I trust on health: and a lot of the others are wearing LibDems Against The Bill badges.

In summary Conference: the merits are unclear; the politics are poisonous; the people I trust are divided.  I cannot support this BIll.  Please vote to remove the lines in the separate vote [I had failed to note the numbers] and if that does not pass, please reject this motion.  Thank you.


And then I went back to my seat and my usual post-speaking shakes were 'enhanced' by quietly bursting into tears for a bit.  Adrenaline reactions are strange.  I'd just about got myself back together when we voted on the removal of lines in support of the Bill, which was sufficiently close that it went to a manual count (usually votes are clearly carried one way or the other).  The lines were deleted by a vote of 314-270, and then the amended motion itself was clearly carried.
 
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
(Yes, it's 2 weeks late, but I half-wrote it on the way home and it seemed a shame to throw it away rather than finish it.)

I found myself sitting next to the Guardian's liveblogger for an hour or so in the morning. We didn't chat as he was head-down working all the time. From his blog he was feeling sensitive about all the conference digs at the Guardian, as if the Guardian had done nothing to alienate LibDems in the last 8 months.

Stephen Woolley from Operation Black Vote had a 15 minute speech officially on the AV referendum, but actually an impressive and inspiring speech on the need for diversity and inclusion throughout our politics, and winning the referendum as part of that.

The policy motion on Access to Justice had not one person speak against it. Looking over the whole weekend, none of the policy motions were controversial within the party: they were all issues where disagreement is coming externally, from our coalition partners, the Opposition, the tabloid media. This all led to a fluffy warm consensus and identity-affirming feeling but part of what LibDems do well is allowing discussion, disagreement and debate without catastrophe ensuing. I hope for a bit more of that in the Autumn Conference.

The grand finale was of course Nick's speech which you can watch and read should you so wish. As with the Rally at the start of the conference, he had a standing ovation just coming on stage. The Telegraph said he was getting a lukewarm response at Conference; that's not what it felt like to me.

I found plenty to applaud in the speech, though I probably enjoyed his Q&As on Saturday more. "Alarm Clock Britain" doused my enthusiasm each time it was used: I think it's like "hard-working families" without the narrow focus on families, and I swear the first time I heard it I thought it was a spoof. But he does keep using it (more on that from Caron's Musings after the Budget). And he made me cross with bashing Oxbridge admissions again after doing so during his Q&As, and I didn't really get back into the rhythm of the speech after that until the very end. Followed of course by another standing ovation.

And then it was all over and I met [livejournal.com profile] feanelwa for lunch and some welcome not-party-politics conversation. During lunch I got a text to say I'd won the LGBT LibDems raffle and arranged to collect my bottle of nice champagne before collecting my bag from the hotel and getting on the train home to my much-missed family.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I was wrong about today.

I was wrong about the protestors: they were not scary. Some were very politely lobbying at the site entrance about the NHS debate and the amendment put forward by Evan Harris and Shirley Williams. There were a few hundred at most of the noisy angry abuse-shouting protestors, who were probably outnumbered by shoppers and onlookers.

I was wrong about the NHS debate: it wasn't fierce, or rather it was fiercely united, in opposition to the reorganisation of the NHS into GP consortia and the market created thereby. (Evan's amendment passed.)

I was completely wrong to be worried about wearing my lanyard and badge off the site, as the security/police advised, and it took a 14-year-old to tell me so.

I've had a fascinating day observing debates and Q&As and fringe events and talking to lots of people, and being [personal profile] tajasel's bag carrier, and finally singing until I had no voice in Glee Club. I'm really glad I came; and I'm really glad I was wrong about today.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I do like Sheffield, but the large area of security hoarding around the main conference site spoils the friendly atmosphere somewhat. There are lots of police in evidence, standing around in pairs and threes.

3pm: A few protestors around entrance; mostly very polite people handing out leaflets about opposing Royal Mail privatisation. After realising I am in the wrong place, I get lost a bit before finally finding the consultative session on IT & IP policy in one of the hotels. Lots of useful and interesting points raised and questions asked.

5pm ish have a drink, check messages, get chatting with some other activists.

5:30pm: Back to main site to meet [personal profile] pseudomonas, coincidentally walking alongside Norman Lamb. Several hundred protestors shouting unimaginative insults e.g. "Tory Scum". Police nearby in numbers but no kettling, and possible to walk past and onto site without harassment.

6:30pm: Rally hosted by Floella Benjamin. We accidentally ended up in the second row so fantastic view of everyone. Floella hamming up her lines occasionally. Tim Farron got a standing ovation. Nick got a standing ovation at the start and end. Nick made a point of mentioning the earthquake in Japan and the UK's offer of support before starting his speech.

8pm: no protestors (too cold?), 2 pairs of horseback police. Somewhat nerdy Liberal History Group fringe on House of Lords reforms past and present.

Then drinks in bars with assorted people mostly from Cambridge. 24-hour news coverage of tsunami on the tv screens leads to somewhat subdued conversation, with valiant attempts at diversion to talk about poo instead.

We walked past the Unison offices, where the union have contributed to the protest atmosphere with a big "Cleggzilla" poster, showing him trampling the city. Tactful day to make godzilla jokes.

Tomorrow will probably be rather scarier with thousands of protestors expected. I'm hoping for sensible policing and peaceful protesting. Inside, the fiercest debate tomorrow will probably be on the NHS motion. Paul Burstow has said he'll listen to members; we shall see ...
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Baby Rachel in the Liberal News

Mum sent this to me today, found while packing. By a neat coincidence, this week I have booked into the LibDem Spring Conference, my first party conference for about 20 years.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I've been selected for the LibDem working group on IT & IP policy, which is chaired by Julian Huppert. I'm really pleased, because this struck me as one area where both my professional experience and my personal politics can come together and I can make a strong contribution. It's also a commitment level I can meet without radical lifestyle changes (meetings about once a month, work in between can be done in evenings/weekends).

Sadly I'm going to miss the first gathering of the new working group at this weekend's party conference as I'm attending [livejournal.com profile] lnr's wedding in Cambridge. I've discovered one other fellow member so far and look forward to meeting the rest in due course.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Well, the LibDems and Conservatives have met, and today the LibDem MPs, Lords and federal executive are going to meet and discuss what was offered. The graphic here shows the numbers quite well, I think. To me it looks like the options for a stable government are:

1. Conservative minority government, with agreement from LibDems on a case-by-case basis Edit a "supply and confidence" agreement with the LibDems is apparently the term for what I was thinking of.

2. Formal Conservative/LibDem coalition, which would give a majority over all others combined of 38 - room for some dissension.

this got long )

Whatever happens over the weekend, the government that emerges is going to have to start doing something serious about the public finances as soon as possible, and they are going to upset people. Because we definitely have to cut spending and we almost certainly have to raise taxes. The Labour government outspent its income and made no provision for hard times. What I hope is that the LibDems can moderate the Conservative ideas of how to spread the pain fairly (no marriage tax breaks or inheritance tax cuts for millionaires, thank you), and that Labour supporters don't forget too quickly just who was responsible for running up the debt in the first place.

I wouldn't be surprised if we have another general election next year. I will be surprised and delighted if it is under a proportional electoral system.
rmc28: (glowy)
I slept from about 21:30 to 01:30, waking up to discover that in some constituencies people have been disenfranchised by poor organisation. Obviously as a LibDem I'm very disappointed that the recent poll results haven't translated into actual votes. The loss of Evan Harris in Oxford is particularly upsetting for anyone who favours science and evidence as a basis for policy-making, but I'm also sorry the party has lost Susan Kramer and Lembit Opik.

I was delighted to see Simon Wright win Norwich South for the LibDems, evicting Charles Clarke, and personally pleased that my friend Julian Huppert is now the LibDem MP for Cambridge. Although it's a bit weird to have a university contemporary in the House of Commons. I'm clearly getting old(er).

I'm a bit scared by the number of votes the BNP seem to be racking up across the country, but delighted to see Nick Griffin utterly fail to win in DagenhamBarking. Yes, I'm alright in their eyes, but the BNP threaten my best friend and his sister, my brother's partner and her family, several of my friends and colleagues, and countless others across the UK.

More positively, I was pleased to see Caroline Lucas win Brighton for the Green party - a historic first parliamentary seat for them.

Hopefully we'll know who's running the country by the end of the weekend. There are 20 seats still to start counting, and presumably some challenges in some seats where people were unable to vote. I'd love to see electoral reform as a result of this very strange night, but we shall see ...

I have to go to work in a couple of hours and it's already past my usual wakeup time. A nap might be sensible if I can manage it, but I'm not sure I can drag myself away - BBC coverage is already overrunning the usual morning breakfast tv.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Party duty done: good-morning leaflets delivered at 6:30am (with Charles on my back, and Tony doing his own set).

Civic duty done: voted on the way to work.

Now I'm left with employee duty (get some work done) and parental duty this evening. Charles is too young/unpredictable to help get the vote out, though he has loved helping me deliver leaflets over the last few weeks.

Very sadly I have to work tomorrow, so I'm not sure how late I will stay up tonight. I may even nap for a couple of hours once Charles is asleep and set an alarm to wake me up in time to see Leeds Central & Leeds West declared, and I want to be awake for the result in Cambridge. This is the most interested I've been in a general election since my first (1997), but I don't think I can quite pull the allnighter to 6am that I did then.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

Take the Who Should You Vote For? England quiz

Green54
Liberal Democrat54
UK Independence13
Conservative-4
Labour-24

You expected: LIB

Your recommendation: Green/Liberal Democrat

Click here for more details about these results

Quite a few of the questions were of a form where I had to neither agree nor disagree because the options given were ALL WRONG (ahem) which I think I blame on the manifestos from which the questions were taken. I'm mildly surprised at just how Green I've come up, though when I last looked, their policies had rather improved, at least in science areas. It won't change my vote in Cambridge, where I really want Julian Huppert to win, but if I were living in Brighton it might ...

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)

Help rmc28 and get your own badge!
(The Livejournal Electioniser was made by robhu)


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Cambridge's excellent MP, David Howarth, is not standing again at the next General Election, and so the local LibDems have been selecting the new PPC[1] A shortlist of 6 candidates have been wooing the local membership, finishing in last night's hustings where we elected Julian Huppert.

[1] Prospective Parliamentary Candidate ... not an actual Parliamentary Candidate until the election is called.

It's been an interesting experience. Both Tony and I are paid-up members who have had no breaks in membership in the last year, and therefore had votes in the hustings. Over the last few weeks we've been thoroughly and energetically campaigned to. We received personal visits from 4 of the 6 candidates, including repeat visits from two particularly energetic candidates who came back to make sure they had spoken to both of us. These 4 were also the 4 that I either knew or had heard of before the campaign started. We received hand-delivered leaflets from the other two candidates.

By the time of the hustings, we'd talked over the candidates between us, and one evening in the pub turned into an impromptu political discussion when we had a critical mass of party members in the geek crowd. As far as electronic communication goes, I'm afraid that I didn't do more than skim the emails from candidates and file them with every intent of reading them thoroughly later and visiting each candidate's website. (Tony didn't get emails at all, due to not having actually given his address to the party.)

Unlike most elections in which both of us have previously voted, here we were trying to choose between 6 people with whom we broadly agreed. I was impressed with all the candidates I met, and definitely had a sense of trying to draw out fairly fine differences. Personally, I didn't necessarily want the candidate I liked or agreed with most, but the one who would be most likely to win over enough other people in Cambridge to be elected MP. Going into the hustings, I knew who my "top 3" were, but I hadn't settled on the order.

The hustings themselves were fairly formal. Membership cards checked on the door, candidates held in a room to the side, each getting 10 minutes to speak and 5 to answer questions. Then a gap to allow people to move around, collect their ballot papers (membership cards again) and so on, followed by half an hour of answering written questions in a panel-format. The venue was heaving - the enthusiasm of party members had obviously been underestimated - but the speeches and questions were not boring. By the end of it, my top 3 hadn't changed, but the order had crystallised.

Voting is by STV, so I put my numbers 1-6 on the ballot paper and got it to the ballot box. We decided to wait and hear the result, taking in a bit of pep talk from David and from the local party campaign officer while the votes were counted.

I am sure Julian will forgive me for saying that he was my 2nd choice, because it allows me to point out that under STV I don't feel that "my" candidate lost. It was hard to choose between my top 3, and in particular between my final top 2, and it was hard for good reasons rather than "who do I dislike least". Overall the PPC campaign has been a positive and energising experience, and both Tony and I are planning to be more involved and active than we have up until now, especially in the coming election campaign. We want to continue having a good LibDem MP (with emphasis on good as well as on party), and Julian will be that if he is elected.

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Rachel Coleman

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