I moved to Newhaven in 1986, having known from the age of about sixteen that the package of views and beliefs that I held marked me out as a liberal. During the 1987 General Election campaign, I finally got around to joining the Liberal Party, in the final year of its independent existence. However, for some reason I didn't vote in that election. Having been too young by a couple of months to vote in '83, the first election I actually voted in was for East Sussex County Council in 1989. That was the year that David Rogers, previously a councillor in Brighton, first took the Newhaven County division for the Liberal Democrats. He holds it to this day, and is one of our oldest friends - an older friend of Jim than of me, in fact; I first met Jim at David's birthday party. Who's that grumpy bugger, I thought.
Anyway, I quickly become quite an active party member - Newhaven branch and then Lewes constituency secretary, among other things (motto: The minutes of the meeting should reflect the lies that were actually told at the meeting, not the lies one subsequently wishes had been told (Norman Tebbit - obviously not all bad)). And in 1991, I stood as one of the slate of candidates for the then 16 (there are now 18) seats on Newhaven Town Council. We made a clean sweep that year, of 16 Town and 6 District seats to add to the County one. Newhaven was 100% Lib Dem, and has remained so ever since - seventeen years.
That might be about to change, though. A few weeks ago, polling cards landed on our door mat. I hadn't known there was going to be an election, but it turned out that one of the Town Councillors had been disqualified for non-attendance. This is what happens if you fail to turn up for more than six months - not a lot to ask, one might think. I ran into David on the train, and offered to do the odd leaflet delivery, for old times' sake, and I did, this morning. Then we went along and voted - including Baz, in his first ever election. There are only two candidates: the Liberal Democrat and a Conservative.
The thing is, we get the definite feeling that the Tory might snatch it. They have been out on such force, canvassing, leafleting, and with a big presence at the polling station. They're taking it very seriously. In the scheme of things, technically, it shouldn't matter. The Town Council is relatively unimportant; and it's only one seat out of eighteen. But it's a straw in the wind. The wind that is changing across the country. For the past seventeen years the Liberal Democrats here, where the only potentially serious opposition is Conservative, have benefited from Conservative unpopularity. If that unpopularity starts to fade, who knows what might happen?