Elections 1989 postscript

Fed Up


To: David Vasmer

Coordinating Committee for England

Social and Liberal

4 Cowley Street


Dear David,

I wonder if you think before you submit your work to the Party newspaper?

In your 'Democrat News column you state "We can't have another 'name' debate - it would be suicide." Then you state, "But the Parliamentary Party can take a lead by calling themselves Liberal Democrat". What a contradiction!

Have you already forgotten that we are the Social and Liberal Democrats? That is the case. If we are to avoid a name debate the Parliamentary Party can take a lead by calling themselves Social and Liberal Democrats.

In West Hertfordshire maybe 30% of the members came from the Liberals and 55% from the SDP. We are Social and Liberal Democrats. Don't mess around with the name. As for a short name I even went as far as my own local press release to try to get the press to use "DEMOCRAT". To some extent this worked, but sadly "SLD" is creeping back into their reports. STOP CONFUSING REPORTERS, NATIONALLY AND LOCALLY. I AM ONE PRESS OFFICER SICK AND TIRED OF HAVING MY RELEASES POURED DOWN THE TOILET BY THE ANTICS OF NATIONAL FIGURES IN OUR PARTY. PLEASE LET THE BUGGERS AT THE TOP KNOW HOW BLOODY FED UP I AM.

Yours dutifully,

Alan D. Winter

Enc. one of my press releases from the County Campaign.


LATER STILL : I wrote to Cowley Street:

2nd June 1990

My Home address,
Hemel Hempstead,
2nd June 1990

Dear Sir,

Thank you for the latest bundle of ASLDC productions. Much appreciated.

Enthusiasm amongst West Herts Liberal Democrats is low, especially in Hemel Hempstead. I have tried to analyse my own low ebb, and put this down to various factors, below.

We have a chairman who doesn't chair. We have a secretary that doesn't secretary. We have a President who refuses to do more than chair our six week cycle meetings (he couldn't make the last one due to a Council meeting). I am the Press Officer and various bits and pieces to ASLDC in the recent past will show that I have been carrying on this function. I am also the Membership Officer, but have never wanted to do more than administer the records I get from Cowley Street. We have a lady who has done much fund raising, and canvassing for us and who wants us all to be determined to do more. But she has become almost totally cheesed off with the rest of us for not doing more. For the time being she has agreed to produce the minutes.

We had a member until last July who organised some social activities for us, but these were on the whole poorly attended. I later learnt that he had forked out of his own pocket, willingly, to pay off the deficit which arose. He grew cheesed off. He isn't officially a member any more yet he still comes to Executive meetings. I have sent him reminders about his membership expiring. He even stood as a bye-election candidate when his membership had expired. I fail to see why he should be allowed to continue to come to the meetings. The others know the position with him about his membership but they seem to shrug their shoulders in recognition of his past efforts.

Last year we had a bitter fight with the SDP in the County Elections. We put candidates up in all parts of the constituency. So did they. That bitterness took a lot out of me. And the others, I suspect. My diary of this should be a best seller if I put effort into getting it published.

Then came the Euro-elections. A public meeting was organised to let the public see our candidate. Advertisements were placed in local newspapers. A Focus went out in the ward adjacent to the meeting hall to advertise it. Who turned up? The candidate, the other guest speaker, and the man with the keys. Apparently they had a pleasant natter in the summer breeze outside the hall before they locked up and went home. What's the point?

Last year's chairman refused to accept a post in the new executive committee last Autumn. Our excellent Leader on the Borough Council last year, relinquished his role as leader "in order to take on new duties within the CBI in Europe". Earlier last year, he had remarked about leaving this party and going back to Labour. This year, his wife, and former Alliance councillor, resigned from our Party, and I was given to understand that she would probably re-join Labour. And to think, they once inspired me. What's the point?  

Our constituency had no local elections in May this year, but a town council bye-election was called in nearby Berkhamsted, which they won handsomely, defeating the Tories by a significant lurch away from the right. That lifted me temporarily.

Now the local SDP, after the announcement from OWEN about his Party folding have stated that they will continue. Their PPC is still officially, John Martin, David Owen's rival. We haven't yet got a PPC, and who would want to be one under the prevailing circumstances? What should we do at the announcement of a General Election? I imagine that I would be called upon to produce Press Releases, design leaflets etc. Why would I want to waste my time and efforts in this way? We won nothing out of the County Elections with the SDP contesting every seat we contested....

Sorry to go on. I have to get this out of my system. Maybe some good might come of this. The last executive it was mentioned by someone that we should try not to wash our dirty washing and sorrowful tales in a more public way. But I feel if we don't it might all end in total disaster. Disaster in the next local elections in May next year when we have to find nearly 60 candidates(!) out of a membership of 135. Disaster when we try to canvass; only a handful did any canvassing last year. Leaflet deliverers fell by the way-side after the Alliance ended. I lost many leaflet deliverers myself. And now members are ringing me up and saying "What's the use?"

"What's the use, indeed?".

I joined an Alliance because I wanted to play a small role in a larger team effort. After a year I was an elected Alliance Borough Councillor. I put out regular leaflets. I worked selflessly hard in the ward. After a year on the council, the whole council had to stand for re-election. I was tired. I didn't try perhaps as hard as I could have in the hustings. In a way, I felt I had put our so many leaflets, done so much work for local people that if they did not re-elect me, then they probably did not deserve me anyway. I was squeezed out.  

A year later I was made redundant, and found new work 30 miles away. I lost touch with the old ward even though I still live here in it. The leaflet team I had then has disappeared. Now I deliver some 2,000 of the 2,400 round myself. The others moved or else just given up. How to re-generate?

The figureheads are not there to inspire us locally. Our previous PPC was a source of inspiration to me. He had performed magnificently in the last General Election. And there was so much literature went out. Everyone had high hopes. In the end he only just scrapped into second place, some 15,000 votes behind Tory Robert Jones. His business suffered as a result of the time he put into politics. Now he restricts himself to his council committee meetings while he attempts to keep his business going. Hardly an inspiration for others to follow. Next time they'll (probably) be an SDP candidate for us to contend with as well.

So where is the Alliance I joined? Packed their bags and disappeared. So much bitterness. I wrote a diary of the elections last year. Now I have written an expanded version of some 87 pages A4 length of the County Elections in 1989 and my part in it. What a story that makes. Maybe you could suggest a publisher?   

The route to better times probably does lie in recruitment. Don't think we haven't discussed it on the Executive. We have. But no one, myself included, seems to have the inclination to do anything about it. No enthusiasm, you see. Just contempt. Contempt for the demise of the past. Maybe an outside team could come in and start the ball rolling again? Perhaps on a commission basis, signing up new members?

But what then? I have sent out 3 or 4 members newsletters in the last 2 years. Met with apathy. No feedback. Maybe its me. Maybe I should get out?