At university, I was chatting to a good friend about competitiveness, I can’t remember the context. Well I said, I’m not competitive at all. She almost fell off her chair laughing. I was truly perplexed, as I really didn’t see myself as one to compete.
Years later I heard an interview with a woman on the radio. “For years,” she said, “I thought I was not competitive. Because actually I am so competitive that if I think I cannot win I simply do not bother to compete.”
Ah, yes I thought; that’s me.
So that perhaps explains why as a Lib Dem voter, I had never felt compelled to join the party and get involved before. I have lived in a variety of Labour strongholds in the north of England. And while I always voted Lib Dem when I could, there seemed no point in doing more.
Until June 24th 2016. Suddenly, for the first time, I felt compelled to join the party I had supported quietly for so long. They were the only ones shouting up for the 48% of us who voted to remain and the only ones promising to actually do something.
Even over this last week, as the PM confirmed the triggering of article 50, I look on social media and see wailing and teeth gnashing and misery and flag waving. Protests and petitions might make us feel better. But this is politics. Brutal politics. And the only real action is at the ballot box.
That’s why as a new Lib Dem member, I haven’t just joined to pay my membership fee. I’ve joined to win. I love to win. Ward by ward, seat by seat, just as we have been urged to do by Tim Farron.
Brinsworth and Catcliffe Rotherham, is deep Labour territory. The ward of Orgreave, no less. No LD councillor for decades. This is as Labour as a place can be.
On paper: Unwinnable.
In reality: 66% on a 32% turnout. 2000 votes. Smashed it.
We had a smart candidate in Dr Adam Carter and a strong, positive and ambitious campaign team. Who all truly wanted to win. We campaigned smartly and innovatively. This was my first ever campaign, let alone my first time as Campaign Manager, so I was not weighed down with the baggage of what we usually or always or should do. This was a brand new area with no blueprint to follow. But I knew I had a team around me with a history of winning and I trusted them – we started from scratch, and did it our way, and it worked.
The #libdemfightback goes on. Last Thursday I was in Gorton, Manchester, helping Jackie Pearcey’s campaign to become our next MP. A swing like the one we saw in Witney would see her elected on May 4th. And on Saturday I headed to Watford, an area with a long history of a strong Lib Dem presence, but where they are now targeting a county division they have never won before. And here in South Yorkshire – last week the deputy leader of Sheffield Council resigned. Southey ward in Sheffield is not one where we have a history of winning. But nor was Brinsworth and Catcliffe.
This is why I am inspired and motivated by LibDem Expand’s 650 seat strategy: A message for every voter. No no-go areas. With confidence, flexibility, innovation and confidence we know we can win in places we have never won before. Let’s keep doing that.
Hannah Kitching lives in South Yorkshire with her husband and two little girls. She joined the Liberal Democrats in June 2016 in the aftermath of the EU referendum result. In early 2017 she was Campaign Manager for the remarkable Brinsworth and Catcliffe by-election won by fellow newbie Adam Carter.