Tuesday, 17 May 2011

What I Hope to do as the AULD Campaigns Officer...

My first year at University is almost over and what a great year it has been. If any part of student life has occupied my time the most, it has been my membership of the Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrats. 

I feel very honoured to take up a greater role in the society. Unfortunately, the position of Campaigns Officer was uncontested. It would have been great to have more competition for the role, but nonetheless I so look forward to the next year in my new found role.

The Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrats are a phenomenal group of people. Their devotion to the society and the local campaigns is truly admirable. 

I am very exited for the next year! Not only because I will be working with a great group of people, but because I look forward to bringing new and exiting campaigns to the societies attention. 

Those who know me, know that three issues I feel very passionately about are Homelessness, Homophobia and Mental Health.

I feel our society has the capability to challenge and reconcile some of the issues concerning Homelessness in Aberystwyth and Ceredigion. I find it unimaginable to be living on the street in a hopeless cycle of depression and loneliness. Our society is a group of compassionate and determined people. I am sure if we channel our talents to combating such an issue as Homelessness, we can demonstrate what a caring group of people Welsh Liberal Democrats are. 

Michael Chappell, my good friend and the society's new Social Secretary is admirably passionate about the issue of Homophobia. Like Michael, I feel our society has a duty to challenge Homophobic bullying. To me it does not make sense to determine someones character simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. One of my siblings is gay and he was consistently strong in the face of Homophobic bullying. However, many people are not as strong as my brother Tom and I look forward to our society establishing how they will do their part to prevent Homophobic bullying in the future.

Mental Health

There is a lot of division concerning the issue of Mental Health. Many people are less sympathetic on such issues. However, the stigma that surrounds mental health is something that needs addressing. Liberal Democrats have a long history of defending those with Mental Health issues and I hope that our society will help to continue this tradition.

The Aberystwyth University Lib Dems are a welcoming, caring and amazing society to be a part of. I hope in the next year our brilliant executive will work hard for Liberal Democrat causes and to improve life in Ceredigion.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Count - 2011 Campaign to Elect Elizabeth Evans to the Welsh Assembly

As I woke up this morning I was overcome with a feeling of pointlessness. The past two/three months I have spent with an incredible group of people. These friends of mine have consistently shown their abilities and determination to Liberal Democrats in Wales. Some moments of the campaign will stick with me for a long time, but all the work and effort came down to one evening, the evening of the count.

Throughout Polling Day I had been calling and encouraging Lib Dem members to go out and vote. Although there was a great feeling of tension in the Liberal Democrat Office, it never quite hit me that today was the day that could potentially determine the future of Ceredigion politics for the next five years. 

We were loading into Jon Aylwin's car and driven to the count (which is a scary experience in itself). As we arrived the infamous county councillor Paul James was making his presence known in the car park. We entered the hall and I made my naivety evident by running through the middle of the room (something that you're apparently not meant to do).

The boxes came in and it was clear we had done very well. Elizabeth Evans sweeped such polling station as Aberaeron, Penparacau, Park Avenue and perhaps most controversial of all, Llanbadarn Fawr. Throughout the election Llanbadarn was thought to be a homeland for Plaid but Evans retained it and the picture on Plaid Cymru's face made the efforts of Liz and her team all the worth while.

Some disappointment as Plaid took places like Penrhyncoch, Llandysul and Lampeter. However, perhaps the most profound words of the evening came from Mark Williams MP; "We've held our own." Mark couldn't have been more right. In the places we lost, our efforts evidently paid off as Lib Dems were never far off the mark - much to their irritation as the Plaid candidate's agent sharply whispered to one of their county councillors, "Stop looking angry! It makes things look bad!"

As the night went on, it was clear that Elin Jones would retain her seat. However, what became most clear is that the team of Liberal Democrat activists in Ceredigion had smashed the curve of Lib Dems losing their seats in Wales and throughout the UK.

Hannah (one of our most loyal activists) at about 2am informed me that we'd lost by a margin of about 2000 votes. However, to me and our activists this did not feel like a loss. Cutting Plaid Cymru's majority at a time of disaster for many Liberal Democrats felt like a phenomenal achievement. 

The final boxes came in and we kept on tallying.

At roughly 4am the candidates were assembled on the stage. The number 1800 was whispered in my ear. 

The returning officer announced the results for the Labour candidate, his ambitious grin was lost and he suddenly appeared rather disappointed. 2,522, ultimately fourth place.

Then the most important result of all, "Elizabeth Evans, Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru, Welsh Liberal Democrats, 10,243. A phenomenal gasp and cheer consumed the room and our brilliant Liz smiled. The result in Ceredigion showed that the county's Liberal Democrat  traditions were strong in the face of national discontent towards the party. 

Liberal Democrats in Ceredigion have told Plaid Cymru and other parties that we are still a great force in Wales. Perhaps most importantly, in the face of some of the most malicious campaigning I have ever witnessed, Elizabeth Evans and her team kept their dignity, did not hit back and proved to Plaid Cymru and their team that lowering the tone of politics only reduces the reputability of their party.

The campaign is now over. The amazing efforts of the Evans team have shown that Liberal Democrats work extremely hard and will continue to do so for Ceredigion. I am so proud that our team made so much headway in the Assembly elections and I am almost sure that 2016 could be the year that Ceredigion elects it's first ever Liberal Democrat Assembly Member.

Da Iawn Liz!