SUCCESS: Runnymede’s Story

We wanted to share this story from Runnymede about how they went from starting cold to electing 3 Councillors in a ward – all on a shoestring budget!

“We won three seats in a historically Conservative area on just £146.10.

Having attended many a training session, the message was clear – pick a ward and win it!

This year we had all out elections in Runnymede, Surrey due to ward boundary changes. With a very small team of dedicated activists in the borough – a husband and wife team – it was clear we had our work cut out. We had been trying to recruit more active members, and were getting there gradually, so we eventually had 3 serious candidates to put up in May.

All three of us lived in one ward – Longcross, Lyne and Chertsey South – and it seemed opportune to capitalise on the all-out election. The ward is small but soon to be expanding, with 2,500 new homes to be built over the next 11 years.

Last year we attended the Surrey Lib Dem Conference and were made aware of potential cost-saving measures being discussed at County level. This made us ready when the proposals were put to consultation which included the closure of a local tip. A non-party political petition was set up and advertised immediately. Using local community groups on Facebook, we were able to spread the word and get over 8,500 local people to sign the petition, ultimately saving the tip from closure. Whilst the petition was not political, its founder, Sylvia Whyte, very much is. We were able to use the petition and its success to our advantage in the local elections.

I addition, we attended an ALDC Motivate Day. Here we were able to discuss what we wanted to achieve and bring together a plan to deliver it! This was definitely a helpful step on our way to success.

Ahead of the election period we wrote, with hand addressed envelopes, to two areas of the ward that we hadn’t campaigned in previously. We used the letter as a way of introducing ourselves, but under the guise of communicating with people about the boundary changes – something the Council had failed to properly do.

The campaign was fairly rudimentary – continued delivery of Focuses, canvassing and a call to action leaflet towards the end of the campaign period. Early canvassing allowed us to have two sweeps of the ward, allowing us to talk to people about the environment, our locality to the ward, and our record of action (Sylvia: the tip petitioner, Theresa: a local church campaigner and Don: chair of a local Resident’s Association). There was not a word uttered about Europe, or the dreaded B word!

We had a fantastic result on polling day, winning all 3 ward seats! We are the first Liberal Democrat Councillors to be elected in Runnymede in 20 years, and the first ever in this area! There was a 39% turnout in the ward, and the shares of the votes were 53%, 52% and 41%. The total election expenses during the campaign period amounted to £146.10.

We are proof that you don’t need a huge team, or a lot of money to make Liberal Democrat gains.”

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