Saturday, 8 May 2010
Redcar Lib Dem victory was the result of years of hard work
Gosh, I am exhausted! Had I not been so tired I would perhaps not be so bothered about the attempts by some sections of the local, regional and even national media to brush off the Lib Dem's spectacular victory in Redcar as a protest against the closure of Corus steelworks.
This victory was achieved as a result of years of hard work by a dedicated and united campaign team that has been largely ignored by the local media but not by the residents of Redcar constituency. The story of how we won Redcar deserves to be written sometime and perhaps it will be but here is a brief summary.
Lib Dems in Redcar have been making progress in local government for more than twenty years. In 2003 we began a four year stint as the largest group in a three party coalition, with the Conservatives and East Cleveland Independents, taking the Council from a two-star rating to four-star excellent. We felt we were doing well but clearly needed that extra something to make a real breakthrough at both local and Parliamentary level.
That came the day when, out of the blue, Ian and Pat Swales walked into a monthly meeting of Redcar Lib Dems. Ian was a founder member of the SDP but his high powered job at ICI Wilton had prevented him from being active in the party for many years. Ian had recently taken early retirement from ICI and wanted to become more active in the local community.
It was like we were waiting for him to turn up and very soon Ian was selected as our Parliamentary Candidate for the 2005 General Election. He had energy and enthusiasm and he reinvigorated those of us who had got bogged down in the running of Redcar & Cleveland Council. Ian transformed our organisation and we became much more focused on meeting aims and targets.
At the 2005 General Election we were a much better organised team than we had previously been and this resulted in us overtaking the Tories and moving into second place, albeit 12,116 votes behind Labour.
At the 2007 Council Election we held all 13 of our seats in the Redcar Constituency part of Redcar and Cleveland Council and received 35% of the vote, to Labour's 37% and the Tories 13% in the same area.
Ian Swales plan was to work hard, initially with the aim of reducing Labour's majority at the 2010 General Election to make Redcar a marginal seat. We were more than willing to look at what has worked in other areas and in particular we listened closely to people like Carl Minns and Dave McCobb over in Hull.
Then in the autumn of 2008 a series of Council by-elections in the constituency, over an 18 month period, led to three spectacular wins in previously ultra-safe Labour wards of Kirkleatham and Dormanstown, a near miss (88 votes) by my lad, Steven Abbott, in South Bank, one of Labour's safest wards and a huge victory in Lib Dem held Ormesby Ward.
Ian Swales hard work inspired a huge army of helpers and in spite of the local media reminding us that a 12,116 majority needed a 15% swing we actually achieved a 21% swing, with a majority of 5,214. This is probably the largest swing to the Lib Dems in the land this time.
Ian Swales (Lib Dem).. 18,955 - 45.1%
Vera Baird (Lab).......... 13,741 - 32.7%
Steve Mastin (Con)...... 5,790 - 13.8%
Martin Bulmer (UKIP)... 1,875 - 4.5%
Kevin Broughton (BNP) 1,475 - 3.5%
Hannah Walter (TUSC). 127 - 0.3%