2018 has not been the best of years - and I don't just mean Brexit.
It ended sadly with the passing of our former leader Paddy Ashdown, who inspired me to become a Liberal Democrat and who gave so much support to both me and to Annette in her time as a cllr and MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole.
Life as a Poole Councillor has been fairly stressful, as we see the formation of the new councils and our ability as opposition councillors to have a meaningful impact on how local democracy looks in the new organisations. We are doing all we can to ensure that the views of local people are heard by the powers that be, and of course to work within our own communities to improve the lives of individual families and to support community issues.
Life at home as been just as tricky - my redundancy in the summer leading to the decision to go it alone and start my own business ... giving me the flexibility to campaign when I need to and work around my family. We have also seen family illness throughout 2018 which makes me more thankful than ever for the wonderful NHS, but I have also seen the toll long waits and targets have on those who don't fit neatly into a diagnostic box.
Sometimes it has been difficult to stay positive, to see a future where our schools are well funded, where ambulances arrive on time, where our children's opportunities are better than those we had and where the elderly and sick have dignity in their care.
It's not been all doom and gloom though - we all enjoyed the Royal Wedding (oh my goodness what a sermon!) and the World Cup (I always loved Gareth Southgate!) - and at home I have enjoyed Isaac's performances in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Peter Pan, as well as the girls athletic endeavours, especially Molly's epic bike ride from here to Pontypool in Wales.
We marked 100 years of Women getting the vote for the first time and I was thrilled to be reselected as your Parliamentary Candidate. I was privileged to be invited by Sir Graham Watson to join the inaugural Brighton Circle through which I will be working with the human rights organisation Friedrich Naumann Foundation to challenge populism in the UK whilst a team from Mid Dorset had the most uplifting day at the People's Vote March in October.
Who would have thought that this would be an occasion for suncream and leprechauns - and who can forget the sound of small children and pensioners chanting that famous phrase Bo**ox to Brexit together as we walked through the centre of the city.
But 2019 provides us enormous opportunities - to change the direction of the councils in Dorset and Poole, to stop Brexit and to the elect a group of community champions who I know will improve the lives of people throughout our area.
Most of the candidates for our target seats have now been approved and selected but there are still one or two to confirm, and we are still looking for people willing to act as paper candidates in parts of Poole, and to support our neighbours by acting as paper candidates in parts of the Stour Valley area.
The number of councillors in both the Urban and Rural Councils is being reduced by around 50% which means that there are many sitting Conservative councillors who have not been selected this time - leaving the field wide open for some fresh faces.
But to win, our candidates need to be local champions - Liberal Democrats as known as community campaigners, pavement politicians - their names and faces need to be recognised. We do this firstly through regular leaflets through every door, spending time listening to residents at their homes and in their own communities, and by our candidates being truly embedded in their community. People need to trust that, when elected, they will make hardworking, reliable councillors with the needs of their residents first and foremost in their priorities.
At the same time, we have work to do in our campaign to Stop Brexit - street stalls, social media, letter writing, whatever it takes. The likelihood of a Peoples Vote, or Article 50 being delayed or rescinded, is growing by the day and we need to be leading the way in helping people to understand that a vote to Remain is in the best interest of all of us - but in particular for the younger generations, who have not yet had the benefits we have grown up with.
This isn't just about opportunities to live and work abroad - after all for those who have little opportunity to own a home here, or limited education to secure a well paid job these advantages might seem unrealistic aspirations.
This is about the basics; food prices, sufficient workers for all the jobs in healthcare, agriculture, retail and hospitality which our ageing population simply cannot staff, security and safety, food standards and environmental protection - the Brexiteer's red tape is our consumer and worker's protection.
I, for one, don't want to go back to being the dirty man of Europe, or see lower quality products being made here so we can compete with cheap imports.
We already have the best deal, and we need to make the case far more passionately if we get a second chance that we should be Leading Europe not Leaving Europe.
The other possibility is another General Election - still less likely than a People's Vote but we must be ready. Its going to be an uphill struggle but I hope that the people of Mid Dorset are ready for a change, and that we can build a big enough team to convince the public that a Tory MP won't work for THEIR best interest and a vote for anyone else is just helping the Conservatives build their majority. We need hundreds more people to commit their time and thousands of extra votes to commit their vote early, so we can concentrate our energies on those who need a little nudge in the right direction.
Think about what you can do - here's a few ideas
- Deliver our leaflets in your street, or somewhere else if you prefer!
- Retweet my thoughts, or share my facebook posts to spread the message far and wide
- Join our survey teams so we can refine our message and campaign on the issues most important to our communities
- Agree to a board in your garden or front window to show your support
- Book 2nd May off work so you can be part of election day - it takes over a hundred people to cover every polling station
- Join the Lib Dems if you aren't already a member HERE
- Make a donation and kick off our 2019 Fighting Fund
You can update your volunteer profile on the website using this link
We are in the process of writing our 2019 Local Elections Manifesto, if you have ideas you would like to contribute or if there are particular issues in your community that we need to prioritise, get in touch today!