To say that 2015 was an interesting year to be a Liberal Democrat would be an understatement.
January – March: IN GOVERNMENT
Liberal Democrats in the Coalition continued to deliver right up to the end of the last Parliament, including:
- Securing an increase to £10,600 free from income tax for everyone.
- Passing the modern slavery bill, to protect victims.
- Delivering voters the right to recall their MPs, and securing the power to suspend or expel members from the Lords
- Guaranteeing that Britain will continue to meet the international standard of giving 0.7% of GDP in aid to some of the most needy countries in the world.
Our time in Government cost the Party dear, but it was worth it for delivering bold liberal policies like the Pupil Premium, Apprenticeships, same sex marriage, and Norman Lamb's bringing mental health to the forefront of the debate, while also stopping the massive I.D. card database scheme and ending detention of children at the Yarlswood immigration centre.
April to May 7th – THE GENERAL ELECTION
Many of us from Tower Hamlets went to campaign for Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey & Wood Green or Simon Hughes in Bermondsey; our own Elaine Bagshaw was one of the leading lights of the Team 2015 team and Head of Candidate and Customer Support at HQ.
Sadly, we couldn’t save them.
It's fair to say the Liberal Democrats took a hammering on Election Night. We got 8% of the vote and 8 seats. Which would be fair enough if the Tories had got 30 instead of 300.
May 8th – SOMETHING AMAZING STARTS TO HAPPEN
Everyone in the Party was devastated.
And a lot of people in the country looked at the results and thought that it wasn't fair. That wasn't what we deserved. That wasn't what they thought they'd voted for.
They listened to Nick Clegg's fierce, dignified, resignation and they thought something they hadn't thought in five years. They agreed with Nick. They looked at the Liberal Democrats again and they thought: Britain does need a Liberal voice. Britain needs the Liberal Democrats.
And they started to join us.
May to June - #LibDemFightback BEGINS
Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats were immediately faced with by-elections for the Mayor and the council seat of Stepney Green. Our candidates, Elaine Bagshaw and Will Dyer, and other activists were out knocking on doors again on May 10th, just a couple of days after Nick's resignation.
And people were listening to us.
In the mayoral election, we were the only party to increase our number of votes and increase our share of the vote.
July to September – THE #LibDemFightBack TAKES FLIGHT
Membership of Tower Hamlets Lib Dems doubled over the summer.
We continued campaigning building on what we learned in the Mayoral by-election and collected petition signatures on London's housing crisis.
In September, Elaine was selected to fight to be the City & East Member of the London Assembly.
We went to Bournemouth to the Lib Dems' Autumn Conference. Elaine Bagshaw & Chris Walts delivered a fringe about our Tower Hamlets campaign. Building on that we have been working to share our ideas and knowledge across the Party, and helping other London Liberal Democrats in local by-elections. We also were Runners Up at the ALDC Awards for Digital Campaign of the Year.
Tim Farron is the first British politician to demand that the UK do more for the Refugee Crisis, visiting camps in Calais and the island of Lesbos to talk to refugees.
October to November – TAKING THE FIGHTBACK TO THE LABOUR ONE-PARTY STATE
At the end of October, a by-election was called for the Boleyn ward around the West Ham stadium in the middle of Newham. Led by the brilliant Sheree Miller, our incredible campaign to give local people a voice saw us win 9% of the vote and go from never knocking on a door to second place.
The still-growing number of supporters meant City & East could support the setup of a new Newham, Barking & Dagenham local Lib Dem party – which was inaugurated at a meeting in November, and becomes official from 1 January.
December and 2016 – THE FUTURE STARTS TODAY
In 2016 we face the first big test of the #LibDemFightback: the London elections. After that, the there’s the Tories' Europe referendum that we simply must win.
We’ll be campaigning in our target wards every week across City & East.
And we want to deliver more for our City & East members with monthly social and policy and campaigning events, including a reward scheme for the local parties.