I worked locally and was encouraged by the campaigning literature of the councillors association of the Liberal Party. I began campaigning almost immediately, and delivered regular copies of FOCUS, the local ward organ of the Liberal Party, which I also edited. After just a few months, a by-election arose in my ward. It had been a very staunchly Conservative ward in the past, so I had no great expectations about winning the seat. But to my surprise, and to the credit of a vast army of willing helpers, I did, but only just.
I had been hampered from canvassing in 1987 as I had put my back out and could hardly walk in the house, never mind outside. I had relied heavily on my co- candidate, the unknown Chris Robins. Although my vote tally rose, compared to the bye-election the previous year, Mrs Thatcher had won the Falklands War. Despite telling the voters that Mrs T, wasn't standing for Dacorum Borough Council, I came third in the race to elect two councillors, just 42 votes behind the second placed Conservative.
Next, the general election of June 1988, where Nick Hollinghurst representing the SDP/Liberal Alliance did his best, but only just managed to take 2nd place to the Conservative, Robert Jones, within our West Hertfordshire constituency.
I became a founder member of the Social and Liberal Democrats in 1988. I had joined an Alliance and to me it made great sense to present the public with a united single centre party voice. The struggle to keep as many former SDP and Liberals members together under the same banner persisted in West Hertfordshire right up until the County Council elections in May 1989. My account of those elections is for the reader to interpret.
At the time of writing, in 1989, I was the membership officer and press secretary for the West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats, and acting press officer to the Dacorum Borough Council Group of seven Democrat councillors.
I then worked for BP as a computer operator, employed in Harlow, Essex, doing shift work. I was single, aged 32, and commuted by car, daily, to work from my home that was in Hemel Hempstead.
PrefaceBack in 1989 "PCs" "the web" "mobile phones" and "email" were all still waiting to be invented. Anyone seriously thinking about standing for an election should have a read at this. It is no easy ride. Sure, technology back then could help you run off letters directed at individuals, but if you don't know the circumstances of the individual you are going to be a loss as to what to write to them about.
If you have not got the combination of canvassers, worked hard in the area long before the election campaign begins, or managed to find sufficient helpers in the area you are intending to win, then you could find life hard.
If you do not plan ahead, or get any leaflets out before your canvassing starts, is it really fair to ask the voters if they will support you on polling day?
Worst of all, if you are at odds with another party, some of whose members used to be your colleagues, life will not be easy.
This is an account of what may come to be described as how not to win. Perhaps, more importantly, it is an account that marks the end of what was once a burgeoning growth of support for a party representing the centre of political thought.
Alan D. Winter, 1989.
"To Carol, Colin, Peter, Nick, Rosemarie, Edward, Arthur, Gordon, all our leaflet deliverers and polling day helpers. With a special thanks to Gordon and Pam for the use of their home on polling day."
Letters to begin with
Even though I was beaten in the 1987 polls, the Alliance had had its best ever result, overall, with ten councillors elected to Dacorum Borough Council.
Since its formation, the Social and Liberal Democrats in West Hertfordshire have been plagued by the decision of some members of the SDP to remain in that party. Significantly annoying was the fact of the ten Alliance councillors, seven had come from the SDP, but only four of them had actually joined the new Party.
Exchanges in the press, and other acrimony, therefore became the backdrop to the Hertfordshire County Council elections in 1989. After one such bout of irritating exchanges in the local press, I wrote directly to the SDP chairman, Robin Brumby, his three SDP Borough Councillors, and to Nick Hollinghurst, the acting chairman of the interim joint Liberal and Social Democratic Party. Here it is:
|30 June 1988 |
Dear Robin ,
I take note of your letter to the Herald.
Your response was nothing more than I had anticipated in view of the edited down version of my letter which appeared in the previous week's edition. I did, of course, give my letter to the Herald more "meat" than was actually printed. I cited Bill Evans as informing me that he had joined the new SDPtick party because "it was the David Owen fan club". That is a pretty damning remark to come from a senior member of your local organisation and one which you should seriously address if you sincerely wish to shake off the label "Owenite" which is being given to the SDPtick party by the national media.
[note: the SDP had posters with a tick on them at this time ]
Terry used to write frequent letters to the press and I am sure he will bear witness to that. The Herald is notorious for editing down letters.
As to the matter of "maturity" mentioned in the councillors letter to the Herald, I seek their views on the many subjects I have covered in my letters to the media recently. Surely they do not regard my opposition to poll tax and benefits cuts as "immature"??
And you can come off the "three tired old parties" bit. When I went to see you some pre-merger months ago, you presented nothing to me which indicated WHY the new SDPtick party would be any different to the SLDP. Of course our new party has more Liberal input in it than social democracy. There are people in it actively campaigning for Liberalism! Where are the campaigners for social democracy?? 40% of the old SDP have been whipped off by David Owen for his own mystifying reasons! So don't hold the over-balance of Liberalism against the SLDP. YOU are one of those who should be in it actively campaigning and impressing on the others the values of social democracy. But that input will come through. There are plenty around to argue it through.
David Owen knows what he wants. He wants to be in charge. It's his ball and no one else can play with it unless he stays captain. He has the image of a spoilt kid and this will dog your party until you find a leader to succeed him.
Finally, I joined an Alliance, and I have always strove for an Alliance. Last year, Bill Lear stood with me as a candidate in Central Ward. So far as I was aware he was always "Alliance" and I feel pretty disgusted that he should turn around and trot off to a new party just as the merger was nearing completion, taking with him a proportion of my network of leaflet deliverers.
If you are not with us, then you must be against us.
Hard work keeps people in positions of power, not the payment of leaflet deliverers to run around areas like Kensington. Bill has hopefully learned that. I polled higher than him and hopefully he has analysed the reasons why and has learned.
I sincerely hope that your local councillors will continue to work hard and succeed in retaining their councillorships at the next elections. But somehow I feel you'll be struggling. Time will tell. Time may heel the present rifts. But either way, our correspondence has got to be better than simply burying all our heads in the sand and never even trying to understand the prejudices which we all harbour.
Alan D. Winter
c.c. Cllr T. Boreham Cllr Mrs A. Kelly Cllr P. Brooks Cllr N. Hollinghurst
Neither Robin Brumby nor his followers bothered to reply to this letter. At the time I was not really involved with the new party, more an outsider looking in, but nevertheless the letter indicates my feelings of the time very well.
By the following February I was heavily involved with the new party. I had been appointed membership secretary and volunteered to take on the press officer role. Edward Willis, formerly of the SDP, was appointed chairman of West Hertfordshire constituency Party, and Simon Frost chairman of the branch to which Edward and I both belonged.
Meeting to discuss our tactics, we agreed to produce a newsletter intended to cover half of Hemel Hempstead. Because of my experience of producing FOCUS in the past it fell upon me to put it altogether. In the past I had chosen the issues, and had full editorial command. But because this new edition was intended for a wider area, the content and wording had to be virtually done by committee. The first attempt was not good enough for Edward. I showed my draft to him in advance of a meeting to decide upon it. For whatever reason he could not attend this decisive meeting and in his place, sent written draft of what he wanted to go into the production. By this means he avoided the need to discuss his text leaving the rest of us to assume we could not argue with it, especially as the leaflet had to be ready in a few days time.
As a consequence I felt that I had to re-do my draft plan for the leaflet to satisfy him. The County elections were just a few months away and this newsletter was the only effort being made so far. I wanted to try to impress upon him a sense of urgency which I felt was lacking:
|3rd February 1989|
Here is the re-done FOCUS. I have given a further copy to Simon. Please contact him as early as possible to ensure that we are all in agreement. Consultation costs time! I have a quote = £162 for 12,000 A4 80gsm (quick turnaround).
As I had to leave at 10pm [the reader should note that I was working shifts] I don't know if a schedule to the elections was discussed. If it wasn't I think it should be and urgently.
Starting from the elections itself and working back to today, we should plan the things that need doing in our target seat. We need to call on people to ask them what they need doing. We need to try to get something done about their problems. We need to report back to the people affected by the problem and the solution. We need to identify those who will be on holiday and therefore in need of postal votes to be able to vote for us. We must make contact with new voters as soon as possible to make them familiar with the voting pattern in the area and to make them aware that we have worked hard to achieve that voting pattern.
We need to find out who is going to help us, who is going to deliver leaflets, whether we will have a good morning leaflet on election day, or a good evening leaflet the night before. Or have we the strength to do both? How many different leaflets will we need for knocking up the voters, will we send leaflets aimed specifically at Tory and Labour voters? We need to identify real issues and campaign on them. How many leaflets can be prepared and printed well in advance to cut the burden down on our manpower towards the final days? (Bear in mind that I spent 9 hours producing a draft Focus and the final edition attached hereto). Do we need to step up the fundraising or will we have a whip round?
Letters from me to the local press had pointed out the poor performance of Labour compared to the Democrats. I wrote regularly on this subject, pointing out real election results rather than opinion poll results which always showed us in a better light. These letters had previously drawn response from Stephen Cox, a Labour parish councillor in nearby Chipperfield.
Our executive committee had expressed a wish for the SDP not to be given any publicity, and so, in the latest 'look how well we are doing' letter, I had grappled with their wishes. I was anxious not to provoke SDP members into writing back, thereby giving themselves publicity. At the same time, with County Council elections just around the corner, I wanted the general public to feel that we were the ones winning. In my imagination I believed that the SDP would cry "foul!" if I gave a set of figures excluding the SDP, so I resolved to give the SDP voting figures as well. It should not have been anything for their members to write home about. In any case, they had polled extremely low compared to the other parties.
Our executive committee had twice discussed, whether or not we should put up a candidate against Bill XXXXXX in Grovehill, the SDP's only Hertfordshire County Councillor. On each occasion emotions had run high, but each time the executive had decided in favour of standing against him.
Early in February, and, one presumes, hoping to have some bearing on their County Council election expectations, the SDP announced their prospective parliamentary candidate for the elections due the following year. A Mr John Martin. "SDP Enter the Fray" ran the local Herald newspaper on February 9th. The article by Chris Dean of the Herald continued, "The Dacorum SDP have put the political cat among the voting pigeons". He was right. They had. But Chris Dean, in his innocence, had perhaps set a political lion loose on the streets. name checks are like gold dust to candidates. The article mentioned Martin's name just twice. In the same item the reporter made mention of Democrat Nick Hollinghurst, who has twice fought the parliamentary seat, three times.
I chuckled to myself when I read it. Clearly, the SDP had been hoping to grab all the attention but had failed to do so. But there was to be a backlash. Nick was quoted in that article as saying the decision by the SDP was "most regrettable". That remark became the basis for further correspondence from SDP members obviously reacting to the publicity they probably perceived we were getting on what was really their story.
The SDP chairman, Robin Brumby, wrote in a letter to the newspaper, printed on February 23rd. Responding to Nick's remarks on 'most regrettable' he wrote:
"...sounds like a bad case of sour grapes...perhaps he wants nobody to stand but his own party...That we are first in the field is a mark of our eagerness to challenge the Tories locally."
Where would all this correspondence end up? It troubled me. In little over 2 months time we would be looking for success in the County Council elections. We would not get it if this bickering and publicly seen animosity continued. I contacted Nick. I pointed out to him that if he responded, that would only generate more letters and more publicity for the SDP. But he was determined to respond to the Brumby letter, at least in the capacity of a former parliamentary candidate. I recall that I finished my conversation with Nick saying, "Well, I wish you wouldn't.".
I was concerned. With these letters to-ing and fro-ing, and fresh in the knowledge that Nick Hollinghurst would write back after Brumby's attacking letter, I was becoming anxious. I wanted to try to be a peacemaker. On the 26th February I wrote to the officers of our local Party:
|To Officers of West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats |
26th February 1989
In the light of the public's continued confusion between who the SDP are and who the Democrats are, I now strongly believe that earlier decisions made by our local Party have to be reviewed in the short term.
Earlier we had all hoped, I am sure, that our Party would emerge as totally dominant over the Owenites. A very macho attitude at the time, but after almost one year down the road, sadly not a reality. The SDP, weak though they are, do have an abnormally high presence in this area, and I am sure that we would be forgiven by the rest of the Regional Party for deciding to allow the SDP some lee-way.
My decision to write to you was made before Paddy Ashdown spoke on BBC1's 'On The Record' today. He said the two centre parties should find a way so as not to let the electorate down. He ruled out pacts, just as David Owen ruled out deals. My change of heart was made independent of Mr Ashdown.
Our constitution states that one of our objectives is "to help all local people, without regard to party or any other factor, to secure their rights and to protect them against oppression." I am sure that you wouldn't want to let local people in North East down by fighting Bill Evans, and thereby letting in an oppressive Conservative. I am sure you, personally, would rather vote for Bill Evans than vote in the knowledge that a Tory would get in if we also had a candidate.
I hope that you will support me in asking that the Executive committee do reconsider its position on fighting Bill Evans. If elected he would more than likely be a better asset to Democrats than any Conservative ever could be. . Remember our constitution:
The Executive Committee of the Local Party shall seek to ensure that, so far as practicable, all seats within the Constituency on Principal Local Authorities are contested by members of the Party, unless the Executive Committee is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the Party in any case not to do so." [my underlining]
Sincerely yours, Alan Winter
I signed the letter as membership officer. I felt it necessary to write a slightly different letter to Nick Hollinghurst urging him to consider similar points to those made above.
Days later I went to County Hall to spectate at a rate setting meeting. I spoke with Bill Evans. He seemed reluctant to speak to me. I told him that I did not want my party to fight his seat, but that was going to be inevitable unless I could go back to some of our less fanatical members and tell them what arrangements we could come to. He showed knowledge about how individual members of our party felt towards the SDP and reeled off names of those not in favour of the SDP. Someone else was clearly passing knowledge onto him.
I was impressed with Labour leader, David Moss. He made a good speech, putting the case for a Labour budget. Martin Coleman made a good speech for the Democrats supporting the tempered Labour proposals. The Conservatives offered nothing as an alternative budget, and merely picked at minor points.
Outside I managed to grab a few words with David Moss. Was there any possibility of an arrangement with his party in Hemel Hempstead, I wondered? He deliberated. "With you and the SDP at odds it makes our chances better. We would field a candidate everywhere on principle, but," he offered with a mischievous gleam in his eye, "we might always forget to put certain papers in."
Edward rang me to say that I was not the only one asking for reconsideration of the election matter. He called an emergency meeting which is chronicled beyond this page. By the 3rd March I was writing a lobbying letter to ordinary members of the executive committee calling for a change of heart from them:
3rd March 1989
As you may be already aware a special executive meeting has been called on Friday March 11th at 97 Washington Avenue Hemel Hempstead at 8pm to enable us to reconsider our earlier decision to fight the sitting SDP county councillor Bill Evans. My purpose in writing to you is to ask you to vote against our party contesting Hemel Hempstead North East.
In the light of the public's continued confusion between who the SDP are and who the Democrats are, I now strongly believe the earlier decision made by our local Party has to be altered in the short term.
Earlier we had all hoped, I am sure, that our Party would emerge as totally dominant over the Owenites. A very macho attitude at the time, but after almost one year down road, sadly not a reality. The SDP, weak though they are, do have an abnormally high presence in this area, and I am sure that we would be forgiven by the rest of the Regional Party for deciding to allow the SDP some lee-way.
Paddy Ashdown spoke on BBC1's 'On The Record' last Sunday. He was talking about Parliamentary by-elections but he said the two centre parties should find a way so as not to let the electorate down. He ruled out pacts, just as David Owen ruled out deals. My change of heart was made independent of Mr Ashdown. I trust you would agree that Thatcher has to be stopped.
Our constitution states that one of our objectives is "to help all local people, without regard to party or any other factor, to secure their rights and to protect them against oppression." I am sure that you wouldn't want to let local people in North East down by fighting Bill Evans, and thereby letting in an oppressive Conservative.
With the pressure off the SDP in North East, they would be practically obligated not to fight North West, though of course there can be no guarantees. In fact, I spoke to Bill at this week's County Council meeting and he as much as said the SDP had already offered such a proposition. But he bravely did say to me that the SDP in the prevailing circumstances, were planning to fight ALL seats.
Peter Croft, County Councillor for Abbots Langley, is a member of West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats. He told me this week that he regretted our earlier decision to fight Bill Evans.
Labour agent, David Moss, actually told me this week that the Labour Party would "fight all seats on principle" and "as the SDP SLD were split they cannot deliver so it makes the prospects for us much better." So, let us try to remove the danger of improving Labour's chances and instead "get our act together". Even Mr Moss is thinking about not fielding candidates because he told me, whilst walking away, "But we might just forget to put certain papers in".
I hope that you will support me in asking that the Executive committee do not fight the SDP in Hemel Hempstead North East. If re-elected Bill Evans would more than likely continue to be a better asset to Democrats than any Conservative ever could be.
Remember our constitution: "9.2
The Executive Committee of the Local Party shall seek to ensure that, so far as practicable, all seats within the Constituency on Principal Local Authorities are contested by members of the Party, unless the Executive Committee is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the Party in any case not to do so." [my underlining]
Alan Winter Membership Officer
March 1989Saturday 11th March
I have decided that I should be keeping a diary. After all, my efforts over the next two months might be unfruitful and it would be a crying shame to see it totally wasted. The effort I refer to is of course the County Council elections (queue fanfare!). Right. So now, if you'll excuse me I'll go back a couple of days to fill you in.
Thursday 9th March
I work shifts in Harlow for the computer services department of BP. These shifts change on a weekly basis. This week my shift is from 7.15am until 2.30pm.
I arrived back in Hemel Hempstead determined to get the "mess" in my house cleared up. But things did not go quite according to plan. On the way I posted a letter through Gordon Gaddes's letterbox. He is the Democrat Group leader on the Borough Council. I was asking him to support the view that we in the Social and Liberal Democrats should not fight the sitting SDP County Councillor, Bill Evans in May. It is crucial that he attends on Friday to vote again on the issue.
The executive committee of West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats (what a mouthful!) has twice discussed this issue and in the second meeting I did vote along with the majority to fight him, but Richmond bye-election shows voters want us to be as one.
Gordon never wanted to fight him in the first place and has even threatened to go back to Labour if relationships with the SDP don't improve. So, I'm fairly sure he would support my changed view.
Next, on to see another of our Borough councillors, Geoff Lawrence. He was in, so rather than give him the letter we had a chat. It was an hour later that I actually got him onto the subject I wanted to lobby him about.
As I was leaving I noted that we found ourselves more or less on accord. Must get home to do my own housework, I thought.
Up to the shops at Bellgate. I bought the Heels Hempstead Gazette and made a side comment about the Borough Council to a shopper. Outside she kept talking at me for 10 minutes on the way cars block the pathway across the grass verge outside her home and could anything be done to prevent them? Why do these people pick hopeless subjects and throw them at me? Housework!
At home I noted the Gazette headlines declaring Tory candidates. They were predicting a "Clash of the Titans" in Hemel Hempstead North West, currently held by the Labour group leader in an area that has 2 Democrat and 3 SDP Borough councillors. The Tory candidate - Andrew Williams! Him a Titan? Ha! Ha! it is reported to me by fellow Democrats that as a Borough councillor he may have spoken once in the past two years, and on that occasion only to announce that he was no longer applying to be a taxi driver.
Meanwhile, in a local free newspaper, The Herald, responses to my 'Look how well the Democrats are doing in local elections' letters began to catch up with me.
The SDP’s Bill Evans had grasped the nettle of my letter and used it to further push for negotiation between our two parties. My letter had been nothing for the SDP to write home about. They had dived in recent election results, or should that be "died"? I was astounded that Bill should use my letter in the way he did.
He wrote "...I must sincerely thank Alan Winter for his honest admission, in reply to previous correspondence, that the SDP still actually exists..." He then continued to expound his belief that the "SLD" chairman and "SLD colleagues" were refusing to recognise that the SDP existed. I presumed he was trying to engineer some sort of split between Edward Willis, our chairman, and myself. I had to ring Edward to reassure him that I only mentioned the SDP in my letter to the press to show how poorly they were doing in local election results.
Another letter, this time from Democrat councillor Nick Hollinghurst, pointed out why he did think it was regrettable that the SDP had decided to announce their prospective candidate. He was appealing to "Robin Brumby", local SDP chairman, "and others to stay outside no longer and to come and join the merged party, The Democrats".
As part of a conscious effort on my part to get the public's mind off the bickering Democrat/SDP correspondence which had gone before, a letter of mine also appeared in tonight's Herald:
I should like to follow up M. Perton's recent letter on the subject of the traffic speed limit in St. Albans Road. This is the A414 dual carriageway between the roundabout near Maylands Avenue and The Plough (magic, or funny, call it what you will) roundabout.
I drive on this stretch on occasions and find that its 40mph limit is frustrating and liable to cause an accident. I religiously keep to the 40mph limit and sometimes this means that I drive in the second lane for a long distance whilst over-taking. Clearly this annoys the drivers behind me, including lorry drivers, because they invariably seem to want to hitch a lift off my back bumper. They drive too close.
The A414 across Hertfordshire is an excellent relief road for the M25, being mostly dual carriageway subject to 70mph speed limits with 40mph for a short urban stretch through Hertford. Hemel Hempstead's stretch of A414 is different to that in Hertford and in my view warrants the county council reviewing the current restrictions. Perhaps a conservation conscious limit of 50mph could be acceptable.
I wonder how other road users and pedestrians would react to my suggestion?
My letter was a clear issue concerning the Hertfordshire County Council and privately I hoped that it would generate a better class of debate than the political slanging ones which had gone on before.
I made a start in the bedroom. Cleared out wardrobe and dusted it. Everything piled on the floor/bed/drawers/chair. Just time for a quick kipper and out to canvass, as previously promised, in the cold dark night in Hemel Hempstead North West from 7pm till 8.45pm. Doorstep reactions were surprisingly favourable. The centre vote is there but I recognised that doubts existed in some people's minds.
"Could I please explain the difference between the SDP and the SLD?" typified the kind of comment from one or two doubters.
Dammit! Why should I explain? I haven't much idea about what the differences are anyway except THAT lot can't accept a democratic decision to merge and seem out to spoil our chances!
After this initial warm-up canvass, I spent until 10pm at Edward Willis's home. He is our local chairman and a Borough Councillor in the canvass area. Edward, Gordon, and I felt a need to pre-discuss the business of tomorrow night.
Before I could get into bed I had to move a certain amount of bric-a-brac accumulated over the years and presently cluttering up the bed covers. The bedroom is still not cleared up.
Friday 10th March
The charity, Comic Relief, was staging Red Nose Day Two today. Everywhere one looked on the roads there were cars and lorries with red plastic cones on the front of their radiator grilles.
I had a slack, if tiring, day at work. My 5.30am rise takes its toll on me. Once home I went to bed for a couple of hours before going to the special Executive meeting.
After a two hour debate attended by, I think, 14 of us, we emerged with the decision not to fight the SDP in their only County Council seat in the whole of Hertfordshire: Hemel Hempstead North East. But we made it a condition that they must agree not to oppose us in Hemel Hempstead North West. The chairman was to make the approach to the SDP, but I asked him if he felt this was right and would it not be better if more of us met with them? He said that he would be happy to do it alone.
10pm. Watched Comic Relief on tv until 1.15am. Normally I can't stand Lenny Henry but the relief from politics was needed and it was welcomed.
Saturday 11th March
An early start to the day would help me get on with that housework. In fact I spent from 8am to 2.30pm (with a small coffee break) cleaning the kitchen, the hallway and reorganising the hallway cupboard.
Whilst eating my dinner at 2.40pm, yesterdays Review arrived and I read that. It carried a notice about a regional Anti-Apartheid meeting at Dacorum Youth Wing. As a member of the Hemel Hempstead Branch I thought I'd better go. I've never been an active anti apartheid member, but it's a good way to show those in it that you care about their cause. It had started at 10am but I did manage to attend for the last hour and had a chat to two or three of the members. They were launching 'Boycott Apartheid 89'. I spent about £3.70 on admission, a car sticker and a few booklets. All I need now is time to read them.
There's a newish lady in the Close. I happened to see her as I was walking home and so I told her where I'd been. Of course, I already knew that she had just moved here from South Africa and doesn't agree with all this boycott business. About half an hour later she dropped a copy of 'Plain Truth' through my letter box. I read the article in it about South Africa. It put a different perspective on how things are in South Africa. Now, I thought, I really do feel democratic, getting more than one opinion on the issues.
Peter Gudgeon was later to be on the receiving end of the following memo from me, which I drafted out early evening:
It would be useful to me as Press Officer to have a profile of our candidates for the County Council elections. To this end I have drawn up a preliminary form which I would urge the strategy committee to agree upon and mail out to our candidates most urgently.
I am not a member of that committee so please would you bring the matter to their attention? Thank you.
In the event none of our prospective candidates managed to get a report back to me before I put out the press release announcing our candidates.
At 5.30pm Carol Richardson, ace Democrat fund-raiser, rang me.
"You will be able to help tomorrow, won't you, Alan? The car boot sale will be at Adeyfield School and I'll need you to transport some things up there. Can you be round about 8.15am? Oh, you are good."
She really is full of flattery and an excellent persuader. How can anyone turn her down? It's for the local party funds anyway.
6pm. I had a bath and got ready to go out. I needed a taxi, but it was some 25 minutes before I was successful at getting a driver to answer the taxi rank telephone. I collected Marie Ward, one of our local Borough councillors elected two years ago in the former Labour stronghold of Highfield, then we were off to Shendish House for the West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats first birthday party.
We were lead along corridors and up staircases. Where were they taking us? The dungeons, maybe? Could we be that unpopular? Perhaps the staff was in league with Robin Brumby and the local SDP, we joked, and were going to manacle us to the floor of a dingy dungeon! It was with relief that we were shown the room where the celebrations were going on.
Glancing around the room I noted several faces I knew and several more I did not know. It was a good turn out and we filled the provided room space cozily. A very large diamond shaped cake had been specially prepared for the occasion and even had the party logo iced on its top. We posed around the cake while amateur photographs were taken. I wished that I had known about the cake in advance. I could have got a local press photographer to call in. It might have made a good story for our local rags.
I showed a letter I'd received from "disgusted of Gadebridge" to Nick Hollinghurst. He is due to be contesting the County Council seat in that area (Hemel Hempstead North West). I asked if he wanted to reply to it.
He replied, "It's Edward's ward. Let him deal with it."
I sensed something was up, so I let the matter rest there.
Rosemarie, Nick's wife, organised the party and I have to say I was enjoying it. She began the party by having us try to guess the names of people in the media and in politics from pictures cut from magazines and newspapers. Later she had us trying to work out her Political Dingbats. There were a few semi-disgusted remarks from some corners of the room as we worked out that the solution to one particular clue was "Robin Brumby". I took along a couple of donated prizes - a pottery milkmaid money box, a plant pot, and a special Booby Prize. Nobody chose the Booby as the numbers were called out, until the final number.
"What's the Booby Prize?" they all wanted to know. Maybe they all thought it was the opportunity to stand for the County Council elections.
Actually, it was an ice-cube maker that makes cubes in the shape of large boobs. Well, I thought the name of the prize was a good one. But the eventual winner did not look too pleased.
Sunday 12th March
7.15am - Drafted a brief "we've had a birthday party" Press Release, looked it over. It was useless. I printed off a copy and posted it through the chairman’s door for his comments.
8.40am - Carol with Marie in her car, me in mine, and both full of an enormous amount of JUNK. Queuing to get inside Adeyfield School. "Sorry guv, we're full" the car park attendant told us.
8.50am - The three of us are at my house going through the local newspapers to see if there's anywhere else to go.
9.00am - We're unloading the JUNK at Bedmond School in Kings Langley.
12.30am - the Democrats are £81 richer.
At the sale we had a funny moment when Marie found a Sooty glove puppet. I put it on my hand and played hide and seek with Sooty behind my copy of Social and Liberal Democrat News. It had Carol and Marie both in stitches. Goodness knows what the people of that school think of us. Just imagine if I was doing this glove puppet act in the council chamber from the public gallery in full view of the Tories, I joked. Would they be able to control themselves from laughing? What would be the reaction of leading Tory councillors? Would 'Barmy' Benton, or even 'Bonkers' Buteux, ‘his own worst enemy’, become human? No doubt our upright Democrat chairman, Edward, would not be amused.
Must get on with that mess at home, I thought as I drove home, but after a tv dinner and a couple of glasses of mature red wine I was too sleepy for that. Well, at least not until I felt fitter again about 4pm. This time it was to concentrate on the living room and on the back room.
Edward rang. I was right. It was a useless press release. "I don't like these words you have attributed to me," he said, "Perhaps you could wait until Rosemary has the photographs developed?"
The party newspaper, Social and Liberal Democrat News, carried policy motions for the Bournemouth conference which I read through with a fair amount of indifference. Perhaps here was material for a press release? I rang Rosemarie about the photographs. She'll contact me when the photos are ready, she said. I asked her to ask husband, Nick, to think of suitable comments to attach to the policy resolutions of the Bournemouth Conference for our local Press. He never did ring back.
I spent the evening unwinding watching tv.
Monday 13th March
I was up early for a night shift day - 8.15am. Shopping/washing/ironing to do today. And another opportunity to get the house straight. I spent a couple more hours sorting out my home office mess. Papers to throw away, papers to sort into various piles. Good Lord, where does it all come from and how many trees are sacrificed for it? I finished up with a pile of folders labelled 'County Council Bumf', 'Euro Bumf', 'ASLDC Bumf', 'Leaflets for Lynda Bumf', 'ADW Candidate Bumf', not to forget 'Anti-Apartheid Bumf' which I had purchased on Saturday and still hoped to find some time to read.
A recent new member, Brian Jackson, had asked me for some "bumf" at Saturday's birthday party so I sorted out a ragbag of bits and pieces for him from my good pile and from my chucking out pile and labelled that 'Bumf for Brian'.
Later I took it round to his house. A security phone at his door saved him having to get up from his armchair to open the door for me. I could not decide whether that was either very flash or very lazy.
In the afternoon I managed to knock out a couple of press releases. One about the Democrats asking the branches to identify in-filling housing sites, and another on the Democrats writing to our MP about a public Safety Information Bill. The issues came up at a Democrat group meeting last week. In the event neither Release was deemed suitable to go out.
6.30pm - George Street school governors meeting. Mr Hetterley, the head, ceremoniously presented me with a pile of paperwork on school governor training.
"Not more bumf!" I inwardly protested. And then outwardly, "What's all this lot? Comic Relief was last Friday!"
We spent the next one and three quarter hours discussing what GEORGE STREET JMI schools policy was going to be on charging parents for trips and holidays inside and outside school hours. As I understand it, currently the school asks parents to contribute to the cost. Under the new regulations they had to have a stronger indication from parents that they were willing to fund their children's activities. In my own mind - and I was tiring - I could not see that there was any difference. It was just that in the past parents were told what the cost was. Those who did not bring the money usually went on the trip anyway, with funds being provided by the Parent Teacher Association or otherwise diverted from other sources I am not sure about. Now, apparently, if one parent did not pay then the trip could not go ahead.
We were supposed to sort out the curriculum, as well, tonight, but ran out of time. Then we spent twenty minutes deciding when the next meeting was to be. The governors were stating that certain dates were out for them. I was getting pretty fed up with the other governors.
One of the Tory Borough councillors, Korman, on the school board, ruffled my feathers by suggesting that he alone wanted to speak "for about an hour" on the curriculum, thereby indicating a potentially very long meeting at a later date. With County elections looming I wondered where would I find the time?
Looking wickedly at him, I said I wished I was retired, too. He asked me what I meant by that because he was retired and running two businesses, he said.
"I have far more important things to do than come to Governors meetings in April - there are elections on May 4th!" I exclaimed. Tact had obviously never occurred to me. I wish it had.
The chairman interjected and swiftly curtailed the argument. When I got home I thought it best to write a letter of apology to Korman.
Back home I rang Nick to try to clear up the PR on in-filling housing sites. I had written it in his name. Instead, he told me quite bluntly, "No. No press releases in my name." Silence.
"But you are our housing spokesman," I offered.
He wouldn't budge. Something was amiss. I rang Edward and explained. He told me he had had a letter from Nick offering his resignation from the Executive committee and stating that he wasn't going to fight Hemel Hempstead NorthWest in the County elections.
I was stunned. Nick had not said anything about not fighting in NorthWest at the Friday meeting, although he has all along wanted us to fight the SDP in NorthEast. Doubtless he was devastated by the decision taken on Friday.
I'm on night shift this week so had to be at work at 11pm. I was shattered...
Tuesday 14th March ...So when I was told I could leave at a quarter to 3am I was pretty grateful.
A quiet day really. I read some of the anti-apartheid literature. Quite interesting. I need an alternative viewpoint so I've written to SDP man Bill Lear who's in the diamond business and who worked alongside me in the last Borough Council elections:
As a member of the Anti Apartheid Movement I am very aware of Boycott 89, a campaign which aims to bring to people's attention the need to not buy South African products.
As you are aware, South Africa depends heavily on the export of primary products notably coal and gold. Also on the list of products we are encouraged to stop buying from that apartheid state are diamonds.
I would be interested to learn of your attitude towards apartheid goods, and as a democrat would welcome any information which you may be in a position to supply which gives an alternative viewpoint to the campaign.
Alan D. Winter
Downstairs in my home I noticed a couple of bulges in the hall wallpaper. Piercing one bulge with a sharp pin, and then depressing the centre of the bulge, I was surprised at the large quantity of pasty water that spurted out. Logic wasn't with me and I couldn't fathom out where it was coming from. Was there a burst pipe in the next door neighbour's garage? Or a leak somewhere in my loft causing the water to cascade down the wall? It even crossed my mind that the wallpaper paste may have somehow worn out and turned to liquid. But the other strips of wallpaper were not affected. Curious.
Last week the lodger's girlfriend moved out. She had decided that she could not live with him. All part of the service, I thought. Better to find out now rather than later when they were actually married. She turned up again today. I overheard bits and pieces of their conversation. I think she gave up a butchery job today and now has a new job. The lodger, himself, lost his IBM contract job in London and he's off for another interview tomorrow. Apparently he kept over sleeping. Perhaps I could open up as a marriage guidance office?
Wednesday 15th March
Watched tv, sorted out a flight for August 5th to Malaga. I had put off taking action on "disgusted of Gadebridge", which Nick had declined, and today decided to write back to her myself:
Dear # # ##### ,
Thank you very much for writing back after you received your copy of FOCUS.
I would like to stress on behalf of the Democrat Focus Team that we do listen to what residents have to say provided that they tell us in the first place. All too often people assume that councillors and politicians have magic wands and ears everywhere. That is not the case and that is why we put out leaflets telling people how to contact their local councillors.
Your note asks, "When are you going to stand up and shut Mr. Buteux up?" without mentioning what your specific grievance is. We have succeeded in getting rid of him as leader of the Borough Council. [The news of a new Conservative leader was published last week] Does that help you?
If you write a more specific note to me than the one which you have you have done I might be able to get some action on your behalf. For example, state which roads are choked, state which pavements are being parked on. Alternatively, write to' The Director of Technical Services, Civic Centre, Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead', about matters to do with the highways.
On housing the homeless, we would welcome your contribution in pointing out specific areas of the town that you wouldn't mind seeing houses built on.
I look forward to hearing from you again.
Alan D. Winter of the Democrat Focus Team
I wrote a further letter to our strategy committee:
|The executive's strategy committee has an important role to play in the electing of party candidate's to office. A strategy committee without a strategy is like a fish without water and I urge you to seriously look at the party's local strategy. The enclosed paperwork was published first in April 1987 for the Liberal Party. Whether you agree with the proposed strategy or not, the fact remains that the formula has catapulted members into winning situations. There is no reason why the formula cannot be applied to the Social and Liberal Democrats. I recommend it to you, but already it is too late to fully implement it in time for this years county council election. Yours faithfully,|
Alan D. Winter
Thursday 16th March
Before getting to bed this morning I drove around town delivering a strategy document from the Association of Social and Liberal Democrat Councillors (ASLDC) to the members of our strategy committee urging them to adopt their plans to win elections.
I found the leak. It was from the hot water tank situated on the floor above the sodden wallpaper. I had to strip back a small portion of the foam lagging to find it. It was just a tiny hole spurting a tiny leak. There was a large damp patch on the tank, and on the floorboards, not to mention the ruination of that strip of wallpaper. I put 'Leak Fix', a proprietary paste, on it. Hope it holds.
Lynda Roe had mailed me some details about former Liberal members. What I want to know is where have they all gone? I know that some have left the area, but that surely cannot excuse them all? I sorted out the missing members into lists for each of our four regions of the local Party and then wrote to the area representatives, asking them to chase them up.
I had rung the membership section at Cowley Street who informed me that all they mail out to new members is a membership card and no information. So, I resolved to conjure something of a local nature up. After a LOT OF WORK, I eventually produced a two page local and national information letter, and a five sided West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats Constitution. These two items could be added to a copy of the original "Policy Declaration" of the new party.
Friday 17th March
A chap came around with leaflets today about cleaning and dyeing carpets. I invited him in, gave him a sample and now look forward to him coming back with some suggestions.
Social and Liberal Democrats News came today. Early for a change! It is due out on Thursdays but often does not reach me until the following Monday or Tuesday. They carried an item on BP Oil UK's unleaded telephone advice line: information that I had sent them.
I wrote to Social and Liberal Democrats News to ask for other membership secretaries to send me information on what they send to their local members.
The 'Leak Fix' seems to be working a treat.
Saturday 18th March
I finished night shift early and went to bed at 6am, carefully placing my "Do not disturb" notice on the bedroom door. Only three and a half hours later I was awoken by my lodger who insisted there was an urgent phone call for me.
It was Edward. The strategy committee had met last night, taken on board some of the advice of the strategy document, and had agreed to not waste manpower by delivering leaflets absolutely everywhere as was their original plan. Thank goodness for that. The Owenites apparently hadn't swallowed the bait and didn't want to play ball with our suggestion of a pact over Hemel Hempstead North East and Hemel Hempstead NorthWest. Nick was still playing up and was not rushing back to take up the challenge of fighting in Hemel Hempstead NorthWest. Well, he is a Borough councillor in part of Hemel Hempstead North East, I reflected. They also wanted me to stand, not in Town, but in Hemel Hempstead East,
"Because there was a remote chance we could win it", Edward said.
I had campaigned hard for two years in a part of Town area, up to fourteen months ago, and was expecting to be asked to stand there again. The new idea was to promote our two candidates for the Borough by-elections, which would be in the Borough ward of Adeyfield East, which in turn was a part of the County seat, Hemel Hempstead East. It was hoped that some of that effort on the Borough seats would rub onto the County Council seat. Without thinking I agreed to this, and over an hour later fell asleep again.
When I got up it was light and bright. Thinking positively, I offered to help leaflet in Adeyfield East, but after three phone calls I established that it was taken care of for the time being. I asked Peter Gudgeon, our agent, if he could bring me some Leverstock Green leaflets to deliver next week. These would be for the second half of the Hemel Hempstead East county seat.
Later I drafted a membership survey form and wrote a letter to be distributed to area representatives about the possible membership package.
Sunday 19th March
Went to bed about 2am after watching a late night film. I was up again at 9.40am, having a quick breakfast, then round to Edward's to discuss a press release on the news from the Owenites. Owenites seems to be the in-word for the SDP, although I don't like the sound of it. Edward said he was to be the candidate in NorthWest as Nick wouldn't stand, but he said Nick was willing to help canvass. I know Edward was reluctant at having to stand, but I'm sure there was some pride in standing in his local area.
That afternoon I had the press release typed out and the first copy at the Express office about 1.30pm. I even phoned Tom Price, the editor, who was working at the Express office, to let him know that it was on their doormat. Maybe it will be used in tomorrow's Express?
|WEST HERTFORDSHIRE SOCIAL AND LIBERAL DEMOCRATS (formerly known as the West Hertfordshire Liberal Association and the Dacorum SDP Area Party that fell within the West Hertfordshire Parliamentary Constituency.) |
Release Date: 19th March 1989
Contact WHS&LD Press Officer: Alan D. Winter 0442 214175
Alternative: WHS&LD Chairman: Edward Willis 0442 42531
or 01-493-6632 Democrat Offer Rejected by Owenites
An offer by West Herts merged Liberals and Social Democrats to Dr Owen's local break away group has been rejected, it can be revealed today.
West Herts (Social and Liberal) Democrats will, after all, be fielding a full list of candidates in the coming County Council Elections. Its Executive Committee had met on March 10th and had decided NOT to fight in the Hemel Hempstead North East Division against the only Independent SDP County. . . Councillor in the whole of Hertfordshire.
A condition of that agreement was that they had to agree not to fight the Democrats in Hemel Hempstead North West. A letter has just been received from the Independent SDP clearly indicating their intention to fight both seats.
The Social and Liberal Democrats - formed last year after successive large majority votes both at the Liberal Party Assembly and on a one man one vote basis within the SDP - were not prepared to arbitrarily abandon the central political ground in this way anywhere - let alone in BOTH of these two Hemel Hempstead Divisions where they hold five of the eight (Alliance won) Borough Council seats. Those seats were won by the old Alliance to which Democrats are the undisputed and natural successors.
Democrat prospective candidates Edward Willis (NW) and Michael Blackman (NE) look forward to a great campaign and they will be encouraged by the results of local by-elections in the first two weeks of March. These show the Democrats gaining 41.4% of the total vote; Tories 34.6%; Labour 21.1%. There were no SDP candidates.
Democrat Press Officer, Alan Winter said,
"We are very disappointed that the breakaway Owenite faction have rejected our very generous offer. Now the public will reject them. Most Liberals and Social Democrats joined the new party after a democratic decision. Clearly the few still with Dr. Owen are determined to be merely spoilers. I suspect that many of their ordinary members see the need to combine with our newly formed party. They will realise the futility of trying to go it alone. I anticipate that many of them will join us over the next 12 months. They will leave Dr. Owen in the wilderness."
Another Owenite Joins The DemocratsSunday March 19th ... continued
Further copies were run off and I delivered them to the three press offices close to my home together with another press release about an SDP peer who recently defected to the Democrats:
| ANOTHER OWENITE JOINS THE DEMOCRATS |
Social and Liberal Democrats News dated 17th March 1989 reports yet another defection to the Social and Liberal Democrats.
Viscount Hanworth, a former Energy and Industry spokesman for the SDP in the House of Lords, has joined the Social and Liberal Democrats.
Among his reasons for leaving the SDP and joining the Democrats, Lord Hanworth believes "that the electorate will not tolerate another splitting of the vote and near-miss like Richmond, and the centre will lose credibility without a merger"
West Hertfordshire Democrats membership secretary, Alan Winter, this week said,
"I predict that, of what few of them there are in this area, a substantial number of Owenites will join the Democrats before very long. They will find it futile trying to go it alone." ENDS
Although I did not expect this last press release to be used by the local media, and it was not used , my thoughts were that it would help to educate the local reporters about what is going on in the rest of the country.
I also wrote the following letter to the Express/Gazette/Herald about how the Democrats were topping the polls in REAL elections whereas the opinion polls put us so much further behind:
I am upset by the way the media concentrates on opinion polls and not on real votes.
Since January, and including last week's results, the Social and Liberal Democrats have gained eight seats in council by-elections. The Tories have lost six and Labour have lost two in Principal Local Authority three-Party contests.
These results appear to contradict the opinion polls, so why does the media not report them? In the first two weeks of March the Social and Liberal Democrats polled 6,282 votes (41.4%); Tories gained 5,248 (34.5%) and Labour 3,199 (21.1%). And the SDP didn't even field one single candidate. This year the SNP standing only in Scotland polled more votes than the SDP.
Commentators Thrasher and Rawlings in 'Local Government Chronicle' have confirmed the Social and Liberal Democrats strength in council chambers around the country saying that "It is this dimension above all which gives Paddy Ashdown's party its superiority over David Owen's."
It is time the media sat up and took note.
Alan D. Winter
I managed to find time to talk to Brian Jackson who will be one of our Borough Council candidates in the May Borough Council by-election. He said, reflecting on himself, that he thought it sad that someone who had only joined the party two months ago could be appointed as an area chairman and be allowed to stand for the Borough. I know what he means.
I rang my brother Graham, in Bristol, and we talked of his plans to go on a world tour for 18 months starting in June. He wants to sell his house before then and for the family to store his worldly possessions. Looks like I'm in line for his CD player and collection! Most of the rest of the furniture will be stored in my other brother's, Michael’s garage in Thetford. A World Tour must be more fun than local politics, I thought.
I wanted to try to get more views on how people in the local party were feeling about the recent developments, so rang Gordon, our Democrat Borough Council group leader, to ask him. Did he have anything I could use for a press release? He was quite edgy, and ended up losing his cool and used words like,
"Bloody bastards like you don't realise what it's like having to get up at 5.30 for a plane. I'm chairman of this representing Britain for my organisation, international vice chairman of that, etc,.., and I'm also a councillor...."
He rang back after a few minutes to apologise for his bad language. Accepted. So, we are all stressed at times.
I rang Arthur King to see what he knew about our other by-election candidate, a lady who had also not been with us for long. "50ish, quite keen" I was told. I booked a ticket from Arthur to see a TV play being televised next Sunday.
Later, on TV, there was a moving film about the new Rachman's taking over properties. It makes you dammed angry to see what's happening with the law loaded in the landlord's favour.
Monday 20th March
I was late arriving for work this afternoon due to traffic delays. I later found out that a bus on the M1 had a suspect bomb on it and it had been halted at junction 8 - the Hemel Hempstead turn off. Later still, I found out that an Asian had gone for a pee, the driver got fed up with him not coming back, drove off and left him. Then the passengers had noticed a ticking sound from the Asian's bag. The bus stopped and a bomb disposal squad eventually blew up the bag!
The Express had nothing about our high drama press release of yesterday in it. I drove around town posting my proposed Membership package to six executive members for their comments around midnight.
Tuesday 21st March
Dawson from the Gazette rang me about 9.30am to ask about my Sunday press release which was apparently conflicting with an Owenite press release of the 16th. I told him that
" . . . we are the SDP AND the Liberal Party."
This whole episode was really rattling me. My own stand within the executive favouring co-operation was now being mixed up with my duty as a press officer to take a harder line against the Owenites. And the reporter's apparent ignorance, despite the very clear press statement, which had taken all of Sunday morning to thrash out, rattled me even more. Seething, I even rang Dawson back using other words at which I later wondered about the wisdom of. Then I suggested he rang Edward at work. I had the foresight to ring Edward myself, first, to warn him that the press was looking for the truth behind the story.
Since Dawson was so obviously confused I elected to produce another press release which stated that the West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats had replaced the SDP and the Liberals last year. I ran off copies of that, and delivered it on my way to work. At the minuscule Review office, in the Hemel Hempstead High Street, a perplexed reporter surrounded by paper work read out loud the title of my press release.
"Social AND Liberal Democrats", emphasising the word "AND".
"So, you've got an Alliance of the two parties, have you?" he asked me.
I gave him a determined look. "Yes we are the SDP and the Liberals combined into one new party."
His colleague sniggered at the apparent confusion.
"But I've got a notice here which says you'll be fighting each other in the County Council elections!" he protested.
Even more firmly I said, "The West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats will be fielding one candidate only in each County Council division within West Hertfordshire".
"This is so confusing," he replied, shaking his head.
I had to leave, I was going to be late for work.
"It's a hard life being a journalist," I offered smiling sympathetically, and left the pressroom.
Wednesday 22nd March
I received a reply from Bill 'Diamond' Lear. His reply on apartheid was quite general, but offered information on diamonds I didn't know about. South Africa is apparently only 5th in the world league, he found apartheid to be a moral evil, and respected the view of many that sanctions would only impoverish the blacks. His letter had stated that his letter was private, was not for publication, and that he was not writing on behalf of the SDP. I wrote back, referencing our constitution, asking how he could represent the Dacorum SDP anyway since the West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats surpassed them last year. I also sent him information from the World Gold Commission about why we should not buy South African gold.
Thursday 23rd March
Edward rang me this morning. He wanted a set of membership addresses so as to make an appeal for help. Fortunately I had already printed a set off onto envelopes so was able to take them to him by diverting to his house on the way to work. In the post were 5 photographs - 3 of Rosemarie with Paddy Ashdown, and 2 of me with Paddy Ashdown. There was a reminder that I owed Chiltern Region Social and Liberal Democrats £2.50 plus postage per photograph. The ones of me were not even in sharp focus. On top of that I had to post one of them immediately to a printer. It would form part of an A4 leaflet, together with a brief description of who I was, and part of the county manifesto.
The Gazette was out today and carried a report on ' Row Over Election Selections Splits The Centre '. Dawson says of me,
| "...There were even stronger words from Alan Winter the Democrats' press officer who said that the Democrats were the true SDP. Referring to their chairman Mr Robin Brumby he said, "I am sick and tired of him and want to bury him underground." Mr Brumby described relations between the two parties as 'chilly'..."|
The paper also carried my letter about how well the Democrats had fared (came first) in the number of votes cast during the first two weeks of March and how the SDP hadn't fielded a single candidate.
Peter Gudgeon rang me. He wanted to give me a bundle of leaflets to deliver in Adeyfield and asked for help in putting other leaflets together. He'll be over tomorrow.
Friday 24th March
You know how your mind works on a problem overnight and comes up with the problem solved in the morning? I must have gone to bed last night wondering about the wisdom of my remarks as quoted in the Gazette. This morning I was thinking of Mr Brumby. I was seething with anger. It would be easier with him out of the picture.
Bank Holiday today. A Focus correspondent wants to know our economic policy. I wrote to Alan Beith, MP, asking him to deal with it. Penny Hearn wanted to know if she should respond to Tory Jameson in the Gazette letters. I told her he was probably miffed that he couldn't have been positively critical about her FOCUS in Tring and that there would always be an opportunity to hit back.
In the porch I found Peter's leaflets. 480 of them! I was staggered. I rang Colin and Simon. They agreed to help me out on Sunday morning.
I spent a couple of hours writing and pasting up items for leaflets aimed at Adeyfield and then a couple of hours at Peter's showing him my art-work box and other materials that he could use. The thought went through my head that here, at last, was someone else whom I could encourage to produce leaflets. Peter's house seemed to consist of a clutter of Democrat 'bumf'. His extended dining room table had piles of election canvass cards on it, a side table had a computer and printer on it. His settee seemed to have not been used as such for several weeks. I had to move copies of old local newspapers, Democrat newspapers, party handbooks and other paraphernalia just to find somewhere to sit. These were good signs that our party agent for Hemel Hempstead was getting to grips with his role. Whether or not he was enjoying it or not is for him to say, but in my judgement he was probably too busy to ask himself that particular question.
I had meant to clean my car today, but at 9.15pm I settled for a £3.00 car wash.
Saturday 25th March
I went shopping for the first time in ages. Dixons had a sale of ex-demonstration items. I snapped up an Answer-phone for £49. On trial it had a choice of either an American male, or American female, pre-recorded message. It would do.
When I got back the lodger told me that he had too many debts and so moved out to go back to his parents.
Finally got around to finishing off tidying up my bedroom.
Sunday 26th March
Tonight I was to go on a trip with the Democrats to watch a tv play being filmed.
Colin, Simon, and I delivered the 460 leaflets in Leverstock Green. I couldn't help but notice the pot-holes, so this afternoon I wrote a press release "Pot Hole Crazy", using information supplied to me by Democrat county councillor Peter Croft. It put the blame on County Council Conservative cuts:
| POT HOLE CRAZY! |
"There's pot-holes a foot wide in Leverstock Green!," says Alan Winter Democrat campaigner.
Mr Alan Winter of the Democrats has written to the Borough Council's Works Department following complaints from residents in Brickmakers Lane in Leverstock Green.
Mr Winter said,
"The size of some of these car wheel crunchers has to be seen to believed. People are asking me, "What is the point of voting for Conservative councillors when nobody comes to mend the pot-holes?". All I can say to them is that I, a Democrat, am doing something. Cuts in the budget for roads by Conservatives in past years have caused a massive backlog of work that needs to be done. These pot-holes are a symptom of those Tory finance cuts. Even so, I shall write to the Works Department and try to get some action. I'm a fighter not a giver-upper!"
I also wrote to the Technical Services Department of the Borough Council:
Dear Sir or Madam,
There are a large number of pot-holes in Brickmakers Lane and surrounding streets. Please could you ask the local crew to have them filled in. Thankyou.
Alan D. Winter
for West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats
I had another stab at a press release on our first birthday party:
FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY
West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats last week celebrated their first birthday.
West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats chairman, Edward Willis, cut a diamond shaped cake which had been specially baked for the occasion.
The occasion marked the first anniversary of the amalgamation of Dacorum Area SDP that used to fall in the West Hertfordshire constituency, and West Hertfordshire Liberal Association.
West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats Press Officer, Alan Winter, admitted this week
"There are more ex-SDP members in the new party than there are ex-Liberals, but the main thing is, we are one big happy and rapidly growing family."
Chairman Edward Willis proposed a toast to the future of the newly merged party which was heartily welcomed. He said,
"There is a growing market for Social and Liberal Democrat policy, "So, let's get out there and sell ourselves!" ENDS.
There was a need to release the names of our candidates to the press, and I thought it might be useful to attribute pertinent comments to them. Without any responses from our candidates to my circular, I had to ring around to try to get these comments. Mostly people were out, so I had to remain my inventive self:
DEMOCRATS TO CONTROL COUNTY?
West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats are fielding a full slate of candidates for the coming County Council Elections. Together with other Democrats across Hertfordshire the Party is hoping to gain control on May 4th.
Hertfordshire County Council consists of 77 Members elected at four year intervals. The life of the next County Council will run from 1989-93
These are the Democrat candidates hoping to win County Council seats:
Eric Williams, a lecturer. He says "the Tring division covers a very wide area, but I am hopeful." [Con held]
Ian McCalla, retired from British Rail R&D department with a special interest in environmental health. He stood in part of that area in a Borough Council by-election last year and came a very healthy second behind the Conservative and well in front of the Labour candidate. He says "Villages are being damaged by high speed traffic. I want more speed restrictions and more enforcement of those speed limits." [Con held]
Hemel Hempstead North East:
Michael Blackman, a driving instructor, who is presently a Democrat Borough Councillor for part of that Division, representing Grove Hill. He says, "We are very strong in this area. We have three Social and Liberal Democrat Borough Councillors and we need to send our views to the County Council. I'm aiming to win!" [was Alliance held].
Hemel Hempstead North West:
Edward Willis, a company director. He is presently a Democrat Borough Councillor for part of that Division, representing Warners End. He says "The Alliance won Borough council seats here two years ago, and I want to remind voters that the Social and Liberal Democrats are the true inheritors of the Alliance. I want to win for the old Alliance and for the future of our new Alliance." [Lab held]
Hemel Hempstead Town:
Peter Gudgeon, who is secretary of the West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats. He says "The Conservative candidate is vulnerable here because of her recent stand over Collett school. The good campaigning record of Focus, the Democrats newsletter, will boost me well in front of Labour. I am hoping to win in a close battle with the Conservative candidate." [Con held]
Hemel Hempstead St. Paul's:
Rosemarie Hollinghurst, a chemist whose husband is Nick Hollinghurst. She says, " Labour are very weak in Hemel Hempstead. In this Division we already have two Democrat councillors. Labour won't get far this time. I wouldn't be surprised if I won". [Lab held]
Hemel Hempstead (South East):
Geoffrey Lawrence, a postmaster and presently a Democrat Borough councillor. He says "Labour are very weak in Hemel Hempstead. I believe I will win on the day." [Lab held]
Hemel Hempstead East :
Alan Winter, a computer technologist. He defeated the Conservatives in one of their safest areas in a Borough Council by-election in 1986. He says, "I have defeated Tories before and I am determined to beat them again." [Con held]
There will be two Borough council by-elections held on May 4th in Adeyfield East. The Social and Liberal Democrats aiming to win will be Brian Jackson and Bridget McGlynn. [Con held]
Chris Gray will be the Social and Liberal Democrat candidate in Tring Town Council by-election on May 4th. [Con held] ENDS
The clocks had gone forward an hour this morning for BST, but I had forgotten to amend the small clock affixed to my word processor. After finishing the first two press releases I delivered them to the press in Hemel Hempstead still thinking I had plenty of time before I had to go to catch the coach for the trip to watch the tv recording. Needless to say I missed the coach and spent the evening fed up watching tv.
Monday 27th March
Another Bank Holiday. I noticed a tap in the kitchen was dripping. I felt lazy today, but even so I made a few phone calls, finalised, and then distributed the press release on the announcement of the Democrat candidates. I had to have an early night because I was due in at work at 5am on Tuesday.
Tuesday 28th March
That early start meant I had to be up at 3.45am. Urghhh! I was back in bed at 2.50pm catching up.
Dave, one of the contractors at work, told me he'd got a pay rise just by letting the bosses at work know that he had been offered a job elsewhere. His pay goes up from £350 a week to £425. And mine works out at about half that. Perhaps I should be on the same sort of contract as him? I find it very irritating. The dripping tap had filled the washing bowl up.
Peter had left messages on my answer phone about canvassing tonight in Adeyfield. Later three of us, possibly others I didn't see, canvassed around one street. I enjoyed it. The response was cool, but I felt it warmed up as I spoke to them. Our support is there but they are beginning to question what benefits we would bring them, and to wonder if we really have got any capability of defeating Maggies lot. It will take a lot of talk and many leaflets to really convince them.
Edward was mentioned as "Ted" in two stories in the Express on front and back pages. I rang him and he said he didn't like being called "Ted."
Wednesday 29th March
I rang the Express to ask them not to call Edward "Ted" as he was a bit sensitive about it.
Can I be enthusiastic about going out canvassing tonight? Do I really want to win? Wouldn't my life be easier just concentrating on work, tv, and on making money?
I didn't go canvassing. I felt tired, I had a cold, I was miserable, the tap was still dripping and my efforts to repair it failed. In fact I went to Texas to get a washer for it and ended up bringing back the wrong size. The house is beginning to look like a tip once again. Piles of washing up to do. I did it, but the kitchen still looks a mess.
Thursday 30th March
My cold had gone.
When I arrived home from work there was 'hate' mail for me to go through. Bill 'Diamond' Lear had written back to me scribbling brief notes on top of my last letter to him, referring to me as 'Android', and writing "you and your colleagues are a bore". He had photocopied and enlarged my remarks as they had appeared in the Gazette of last week up to A4 size, highlighting the words 'bury him' and writing alongside of it "This is a very unfortunate remark!". Patronising so-and-so. He also sent me an enlarged copy of John Martin's letter published in the Herald last week. Martin is the SDP Prospective parliamentary candidate and he was in full flow of slagging off Nick Hollinghurst and our party. Angry, I scribbled my own notes on top of Martin's letter showing how wrong it was, intending to mail it back to "diamond-man".
"Disgusted of Gadebridge" had replied for the second time to our Focus with a 5-page diatribe detailing her problems. I wrote back to her and later handed the letter over to Edward at the executive meeting:
Dear Mrs ##### ,
Thank you very much for writing back.
You raise many points in your letter for which we are grateful and I have passed the contents of your letter to our Democrat councillors in your area. I would expect them to reply to your various points as appropriate.
In your letter you write that you have mentioned continuous noise problems and dangerous parking to our councillor, Cllr Terry Boreham. I must point out to you that Cllr Boreham is not a member of our Party.
Alan D. Winter
of the Democrat Focus Team
Tonight's executive meeting shook me a bit. They want to put lots more canvassing resources into East, the seat I'm fighting, in preference to North West where Edward claims he doesn't think he can win. Gordon got things moving by organising canvassing for this Saturday and Sunday. How enthusiastic am I? In the face on the enthusiasm of the rest of the committee I decided to play along with them. Maybe a better frame of mind will "happen" on me soon? I don't know.
What with Robin Brumby writing a predictably angry letter to the Gazette, published today, in response to my message about "burying him" in last week's edition; and David Owen having his picture printed in today’s Herald alongside one of our! members, Mr Baldock, about a grievance on carers and the Health Service - the inspiration is certainly lacking in me. Rosemarie Hollinghurst was very critical of this Owen publicity which I had not seen until I got to this meeting. I will have to write to Cowley Street and try to get some counter-SDP help.
My press release on the candidates had a couple of minor errors so I had to write a "changes to candidates" press release before retiring to bed (the finalised version is as printed on the 26th).
Friday 31st March
I had little sleep overnight and took today off work. This gave me an opportunity to do more cleaning especially in the kitchen, which took several hours.
This afternoon I dropped off my amended press releases about the Hertfordshire County Council elections; had a haircut; went shopping; wrote and delivered a private memo to Bill Evans:
31st March 1989
Dear Bill ,
This is a private letter to you from me in a private capacity. It is not for publication.
I just want you to know that after I saw you at County Hall I went to a great deal of personal effort to bring about a special meeting which duly voted in favour of NOT putting a Democrat candidate up against you. One for one seemed a very good basis on which to elect two centre party candidates to the County.
I was therefore very angry and disappointed that the offer was rejected and that your opportunity to retake your seat on Hertfordshire County Council is now seriously jeopardised. I wish things could be different.
Alan D. Winter
When I went to push this letter through his door I noticed his house was up for sale. Curious one, that, I thought. A prospective county councillor planning to move.
I then delivered my memo to Diamond Man and visited Mr Baldock whereupon I discovered that Paddy Ashdown had written to him but in doing so had made no comment that the Herald could use. Instead Paddy had asked Archy Kirkwood to respond. I wrote to Democrat Whip's office asking for Paddy and Archy to write to Mr Baldock urgently:
| To The Democrat Whip's Office: |
URGENT PUBLICITY OPPORTUNITY
Mr Ben Baldock of 12 East Green, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, recently wrote to Paddy Ashdown about the financial starvation of the frail. On 10th March Paddy wrote to Mr Baldock (Paddy's reference ACN/PASS 10 March) passing no comment, but indicating that Archy Kirkwood would respond to his letter. To date Mr Baldock is still waiting for Archy's response.
Mr Baldock is a Social and Liberal Democrat member and I wish he had contacted me first. However, he wrote also to Kenneth Clarke, Neil Kinnock, Margaret Thatcher, Robin Cook and David Owen.
David Owen has responded and David Owen's comments were printed in the local paper. The SDP are fighting us hard here (they have already appointed John Martin as PPC) and I need every available tit-bit to hit back at the SDP. See attached newsclipping to see what David Owen wrote.
Mr Baldock has promised to pass any replies he gets straight on to the local paper. He has a caring group of about 10 people who campaign for carers assistance.
Please ask PADDY and ARCHY to write back to Mr Baldock most urgently. Give them copies of David Owens response to work around. Also send Mr Baldock photographs of ARCHY and PADDY which he can then pass to the newspaper. Many thanks.
Yours in democracy,
Next I wrote to Rosemarie to explain about the Baldock story and to send her a £3 cheque for our first birthday party.
The Review today published was my letter showing support for Boycott Apartheid 89.This pointed out that the British Government favoured sanctions in that they have had a "voluntary ban" on trips to South Africa for the past 18 months. This was the week that Mrs Thatcher was in South Africa decrying sanctions and saying she wanted peaceful negotiations to end apartheid.
The Review, reacting slowly to last weeks news, also printed its coverage of the disagreement between us and the "SDP" under the heading "SDP Reject Democrats Peace Plan". Unfortunately for me they carried a paragraph which stated,
"Alan Winter, West Herts Democrat spokesman, said his party would not attempt anymore talks with the SDP".
I certainly did not write such a thing in a press release and I did not say such a thing to them, I am sure. The sentence has a grave finality to it, the sentiments of which seem to rule out for all time any talks. I was troubled by it. The executive are clearly against anyone writing to the press to mention the SDP. We do not want to give them any more publicity than we have to. In any case I thought that a few of our members, notably the Hollinghursts and the Frosts of this world, might even wish it were true and be even more upset about me for publicly denying the paragraph. If I write to the newspaper and they publish any statement saying it wasn't true the SDP would score more publicity. If I left it there was the great possibility that Brumby would reply to it in a letter to the newspaper on the basis that he, especially, has already replied to every snippet in the press he could do to date to try to promote the SDP in a better light against us. The options kept going around in my mind. I could not concentrate on anything else. I resolved to telephone Brumby.
I was full of strong emotions when I rang but did my best to control what I was saying. I told him that the paragraph concerned was utter bunkum and that there was no truth in that paragraph. He proceeded to lecture me on my "bury him" statement printed last week. I interrupted him and told him that he had the right of reply and that indeed he had done so. I also reminded him that he had not replied to "several" of my letters (asking him to join us) yet. When he persisted on talking about the "bury him" statement I began to loose my cool, said nothing further, and put the phone down whilst he was still in full flow.
Robin Brumby off my mind, I spent the evening watching Zone Troopers/ Educating Rita/ and Midnight Cowboy on the tv... making sure that the answerphone was switched on and the ringing tone switched off.
Saturday 1st April
Amongst today’s post was a note from the Borough Council. The potholes, which I had complained about last Sunday, had now been filled in, the work being scheduled before I wrote to them. This meant another press release to follow the original one I wrote, just in case the local newspapers printed my original story and someone else wrote back to say that I was wrong and the potholes were not there. One has to plan for these eventualities. Life as a politician is never supposed to be easy.
To the fresh press release I added a few comments about Tory cuts on the Highways budget in years 1983-1985. I was satisfied with the result, but then promptly lost my own copy of the draft in the complex of my word processor (Amstrad PCW9512).
Ever busy on voluntary work for the party, I spent a couple of hours going through the Cowley Street membership lists updating my records and producing copies for our West Hertfordshire area coordinators.
This afternoon I enthusiastically canvassed for 2½ hours in Adeyfield East, knocking off about a quarter to seven when the temperature dropped suddenly.
I thought the response was encouraging, although there was always the need to answer those who were not certain about whether our party was David Owen's or Paddy Ashdown's. I cannot help thinking that come polling day, some of those that say they will back us, actually mean they will vote for the SDP.
When I called back at Gordon Gaddes's house with the returns on tonight's canvass, he told me were not doing too well. My feelings were that we should try to produce leaflets targeted at individual types of supporters. At least we should get a leaflet of some description out to follow the previous one which had, after all, just been "thrown together". But could sufficient canvassing be completed, we wondered?
Gordon, his wife Pamela, and I, talked about the need for Thatcherite Opposition to come together and of the growing willingness of Labour to accept proportional representation. My thoughts on this have been that there should be a "Democrat" banner under which liberals, social democrats, and democratic socialists (i.e. Labour) could all stand for selection to be the anti-Thatcher candidate. The trouble is you can never get sufficient people to think the same way at the same time.
I noted the frustration showing in Gordon's face. It perhaps showed more in Pamela's. Originally Labour Party members who switched to the SDP when it began life, and who then went along with the merged Social and Liberal Democrats, it would appear they are having further thoughts about re-joining Labour. At their time in life they want to use their political skills to the best advantage. They don't have a lifetime ahead of them to see an end to Thatcherism. Retirement for them is sooner rather than later. But in which direction do they go?
Intending to drive home for an evening meal I remembered that Penny Hearn, a Democrat town councillor, was holding a fund-raising party at her house in Tring. Hungry, I diverted to the party, hoping for food. It seemed hours before the cling-film wraps were off.
I discussed attitudes to the party with some of the others. Did they agree with my global "Democrat" banner? Similar thoughts were on other people's minds, but there are clearly going to be those like Simon Frost who will strenuously defend the right of our Party to remain aloof and independent of the others.
Sunday 2nd April
Penny's party lasted until about 2am. I'm not sure why I stayed so long, especially as I was simply drinking Coca Cola to avoid being caught drinking and driving. Perhaps I just didn't want to miss anything. In an early morning game of charades I found myself walking around the room on my knees holding the hand of Rosemarie, while she patted me on the head. Meanwhile, Peter Gudgeon was clasping the hand of Nick, who was also holding Rosemarie's hand. While this strange activity went on Rosemarie and Nick would clutch each other in passionate embraces. But it was a while before someone guessed "Sons and Lovers" was our charade.
Back home, I couldn't sleep too well and got up at 6a.m. to do the diary. I decided to write to Mr Bernard Walsh, editor of the Review, about that paragraph which is bugging me:
This letter is not intended for publication.
I would draw your attention to the Review's story of 31st March on page five where it is claimed,
"Alan Winter, West Herts Democrat spokesman, said his party would not attempt anymore talks with the SDP."
There is such an air of finality in the bluntness of the statement that it could be taken to mean 'for all time'.
I have not passed any Press Release to the Review which has stated this. And I cannot recall having actually said such a thing to the staff at The Review.
If the newspaper has a basis for making such a statement I would be grateful to know the reasoning behind it.
If the statement has, in fact, appeared in the newspaper without any grounds whatsoever as I suspect it has then a course of corrective action is required.
I did have to write to the Review correcting mis-information on another matter very recently, but this I regard as far more serious. Whereas there might be (and I do not admit here that there is) a grain of truth in the statement in the short term, my press releases have not actually stated what the printed statement does. That has never been the position of the executive committee of West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats nor, so far as I am aware, the collective position of members of the Democrat Group on Dacorum Borough Council, to whom I have recently been appointed as their Press Secretary.
The statement could easily be taken to mean 'for all time' especially by members of my party and the party to which Mr Robin Brumby is chairman. Having taken into consideration the strained situation between our party and theirs this statement might well serve to enrage opinion in both parties even further.
The statement also puts me in a difficult position with regard to my colleagues who view me with suspicion when they read statements such as this one which they have not authorised me to make.
If you agree that the statement has no basis in fact, I would be grateful if you would respond privately and quickly to admit that. I would like then for chairmen of both parties and the leader of the Democrat Group on the Borough Council to receive a copy of your letter which they can then use to dispel any enquiries which their members might have.
[I went on to give addresses for Gordon, Edward and Brumby]
Thank you for publishing items from me in a private capacity and in the office as Press Secretary. This is greatly appreciated (most of the time) and I hope to continue to supply you with newsworthy items, and indeed scoops, from time to time. Bernard, thank you for reading my letter. I do hope you will act soon. yours in democracy,
Alan D Winter
I was back in bed from 9am to 11am and then out canvassing with Carol in intermittent rain in Adeyfield for an hour around lunch time. I was in good heart and would have carried on a bit longer, only there were so many "outs" and "antis" that I didn't see much point of doing more.
We met a Mrs Savage in Ellingham Road. She and her husband engaged us in conversation, but it quickly became apparent to me that we were not going to convert them. Carol thought differently and persevered magnificently, patiently arguing through her case and determined to chip away at Mrs Savage's obvious Tory prejudices. We were invited to have coffee with the Savage's, but her name seemed too familiar to me as being a part of the opposition and I kept trying to guide Carol away. Later my suspicions were confirmed when it was confirmed that Wendy Savage was "editor" of Adeyfield's Tory "In-Touch" leaflet.
Nick and Rosemarie came over from Tring to canvass; Nick found someone keen to be a member and had to dash around to see me to get an application form. When he came back with the £3 for an unemployed subscription I wondered just how worthwhile this member might be. Ah well, you never know.
I was reading my 'Dictionary of Quotations' this afternoon. How I wish I could have chosen my words more carefully when Dawson rang me. Why couldn't I have said "The ballot is stronger than the bullet" like Abraham Lincoln? I wish I hadn't said "bury". I can't really backtrack and claim I was speaking metaphorically since I've already told certain people about my thoughts.
Monday 3rd April
The DOP's - that what I'll call them next time. Doctor Owen's Party.
Social and Liberal Democrats News carried all the usual letters about "call yourself Liberal Democrat, you'll get more votes" and "SLD sounds like SDP and the social democrats have taken over the Liberal Party"... who needs all this misery and gloom? I don't.
The Party paper carried reports that in March we scored more votes than any other party and the DOP's didn't even find a candidate to stand during March. By coincidence the local Express today carried my letter on the same subject. It was reported that the DOP's had around 80 ONLY at their Scottish conference. How come, then, they seem to carry on such a high profile here in Hemel Hempstead? It's all too disillusioning.
I had earlier said I was semi-interested in standing somewhere in the County, and hinted that I might be moving early this year to the other side of the County. Now they have decided to make the Borough Council seats in the by-elections top priority and if the canvassing goes well, they'll press on with the rest of that area and make winning my County Division top priority. I reflected on my prospects. We have done no year-round-campaigning there. I hardly know the area. And the Tories have five Borough councillors in it. It's a bit daunting to say the least. They might know me through reading various bits and pieces in the local press but I cannot see that helping to bring them out in droves for me. You can't win if you do not have the benefit of year-round-campaigning behind you. That has been drummed into me from the moment I joined the councillors and campaigners association. So, what are these idiots on our inexperienced strategy committee thinking about? I suppose the answer is that even though we have seven Borough councillors none of them have done any regular all-year-round campaigning anywhere, so Hemel Hempstead East is as good a place as anywhere else.
The evening canvass in Adeyfield: it was cold and I did not get around to many houses. My trouble seems to be that I spend too much time talking to those that answer the door. A few agreed to having posters up and another expressed interest in joining, so thing's did not seem too down. A chance last knock on one door before I quit for the night revealed the home of someone I have not seen since my college days. She is married now and has three children. I agreed to send her our Education details from our County Manifesto.
Tuesday 4th April
I had ordered games programs for my Amstrad PCW. Today they arrived and, casting aside my responsibilities to the county campaign, I spent several hours having a look at them. Incompetently, the mail order company had sent, and charged me for, two sets of games programs, so one set had to be posted back.
In my capacity of Democrat membership secretary, I had to drive around town dropping off various envelopes. To my annoyance, the young lady who expressed interest in joining yesterday was not there when I went to see her with forms this afternoon, but I was able to pass details on education to her neighbour having had them zipped off in a flash from my word processor. By 6pm through to 8pm we had a snow blizzard which put me off doing any canvassing tonight. The snow didn't stay but the forecast is for more snow and sleet tomorrow.
Wednesday 5th April
A letter arrived from Bernard Walsh apologising for The Review's earlier errors about "no more talks". I am on nights this week and as per usual for night shift, I felt lethargic. It was pouring it down today so I stopped in and played with those games on my PCW. I still cannot get graphics printed on my Canon printer and wrote to the management company of the 'Stop Press' software package to see if they could help. I do wish I could produce decent Desk Top Publishing leaflets using it. I discovered that one of the games discs that came yesterday was duff and needs to be returned, thereby adding to my frustration as I sent a good copy of the cassette back this morning.
What else? Oh yes, I smashed a wing mirror driving out of the garage; the indicator internal light for the car failed; and I broke the zip on my warm jacket. And when I got to work there was quite a backlog of work needing tackling.
Thursday 6th April
The Gazette carried a response from Stephen Cox who lives in Chipperfield. He is persistent because every time I have expressed how well we are doing in the polls he keeps writing back stating that there are more Labour MP's than Social and Liberal Democrats MPs. He was responding to my "look how well the Democrats are doing in local elections" letter published two weeks ago. He writes that I'm misleading the public and that power is controlled by Labour and Conservative in this country. Funny that - my voting figures, which put us at 44% in March, came out of 'Democrats News'. I was pointing out facts, trouble is he can't accept them.
Peter, my agent, sent me, too late to release to the press, his sheet which stated the main issues in the area he was standing in. I had to laugh. He wrote:
"Enforced castration of people who have kids and don't look after them. All kids to be licensed (like dogs used to be); improvement in education so that the little buggers understand some elementary physics: i.e. like what happens when their boot kicks a ball, or my boot kicks their head etc.
Repeal of the criminal law act, regarding murdering of other people's kids. Note: some parents might like to get rid of their own, this could be a big vote winner."
That evening, we were due to be having our regular branch meeting, but Carol had apparently cancelled it as her son, with a mental disablement, was ill. That withstanding, I spent a couple of hours at Carol's talking with her about life in and out of the Party, past and present.
I told her how I had given Dr Owen a drink when he came to Hemel Hempstead to give a speech in the last General Election. The poor man was obviously very parched after his speech and no-one had thought to provide the speakers with even a glass of water. I fetched one from the school canteen and then took it to him as he sat in the wings of the school stage. He always was a good speaker.
Then I told her how he had later referred to me as "an ignorant bugger"! It happened when Owen was being entertained at a reception of SDP party faithful at Bill Lear's house after that 1987 speech. I knew from knowledge of Liberal Party conferences that he was being referred to as Doctor Death. Over-excitedly I had blundered into the party saying, "All right. Where's this Doctor Death?".
Bill Lear swung round, cheeks glowing, "Who's this ignorant bugger? Winter?".
There was an air of jest, rather than anger, and Dr Owen repeated the call, "Yes. Who's that ignorant bugger?".
The poor man was ravenous, I told Carol. Lacking a decent meal, on top of the forgetful bunch who had failed to provide him with a glass of water, he was clutching glutinously at handfuls of peanuts and such like, and they soon disappeared. Goodness only knows why Dr Owen even allows Diamond Man to stay in the SDP, if he can't even get a decent meal from him.
Then I hit on a slight improvement on the DOPs - DOPy's ! Just imagine the letters I could write to the press...
"Dear Sir, According to that DOPy spokesman, Robin Brumby..." !
Later still, at work...
Friday 7th April
...I heard about the TWEARLIES. These are pensioners who get on buses 20 minutes before they are due to leave the depot. When the driver tells them they aren't due to go out for 20 minutes, they say, "Oh, sorry, am I tw'early?".
Saturday 8th April
I went out canvassing for 2½ hours. Things still seem to be encouraging, but with four parties, who can tell? Labour's vote is very weak. So many people tell me the same thing, "I've been Labour, but I can't see them doing anything. And that Kinnock fellow, he's no good" or words to that effect. It doesn't take too many words to get these people to agree to support us. I only hope that our vote isn't confused with the DOPy's.
I learnt that Charles Baker was going to be up against me from DOPy. I can't place him, though the name is familiar. In the evening I wrote a letter to elderly people living in one Close and...
Sunday 9th April
... printed three dozen copies of them off this morning. And I prepared a leaflet, "Leverstock Green Village Focus" basing it on some of the things in our manifesto and adding my personal touches to them. Quite a productive morning until, at 11am, I drove round for Bridgette, one of our bye-election candidates, as arranged yesterday, to go out canvassing. She wasn't in. Neither was she on the telephone.
On my own I found most people not in, probably due to the good weather. Not encouraged, and feeling a bit tired I had a lunch time drink at the Bell Gate. By coincidence the latest Tory leaflet was floating about outside the pub. Although their leaflet was not intended for the area I was fighting, I reasoned that they would probably run a similar story there.
They were claiming "that a Labour/SLD victory would cost each of us an extra £150 per year". This gave me food for thought. I revised my lead story on my Leverstock Green leaflet and put more emphasis on the Tory record of cuts on the Highway budget, pointing out that traffic in Hertfordshire had gone up over 20% in the last five years and that it was only right to increase the Highways budget in line with that growth. My original unpoliticised headline was to be " Traffic Chaos In Village ", but after seeing the Central Ward "In Touch" my new headline was a rather more biting " Tory Cuts No Good For Leverstock Green ".
Monday 10th April
After promising Edward I would do "a couple of hours" leafleting for his campaign in North West this morning, I got up late and started completing the "Village Focus". I needed some Letraset for my new headline. All my artwork toolkit was with Peter, and he was at work, so I fell back on the Roe's.
Colin came over with his delightful young daughters. One of them remarked that they thought my garden was very nice. This surprised me since I have been putting off mowing the lawn for probably the last eight months. She meant it, too. There was no hint of a joke in what she said. Kids!
The new headline was completed, and Colin took the artwork away to have made into printing plates. But there was no time left to deliver any leaflets for Edward before I had to leave for the evening shift.
Tuesday 11th April
The phone rang. Hemel Hempstead Gazette reporter, Claire Beaumont, said she wanted to speak to someone about the split in our Party. I said there was no split, we are all one Party. She said that for instance we were fielding two candidates against each other in Kings Langley and this was the first time we had done this. I told her that I wasn't a Kings Langley spokesman but I assured her that we were only putting up one candidate in each division. I asked her if she knew that Conservative, Labour, Social and Liberal Democrat, and Social Democrat, were all separate parties? In reply to that she said I did not understand what she was talking about and hung up.
Half an hour later Dawson, from the same newspaper, rang up. He explained that he wanted to run "a sort of political gossip column" of things that go on during the election, and had I got anything for him?
"It would be difficult with the rain coming down to do canvassing," he suggested.
"No, nothing stops us, in fact I'm going out now." It was pouring down.
" How will you fare in Hemel Hempstead North East in what was strong Alliance territory?" he asked. I told him that the SDP's presence could help us win because they would probably draw voters from the Conservative supporters that we would not be able to get ourselves.
And the rain did come down. And lo, this humble diarist did not do what he had told the humble news chronicler he was going to do. Tut, tut.
Wednesday 12th April
I did help deliver Edward's leaflets this morning for about an hour.
The family's Round Robin came today. It is one way that my brothers and parents keep in touch since we are all scattered. Graham in Bristol; Michael in Thetford; Mum and Dad in Hethersett, near Norwich; and, of course, myself in Hemel Hempstead. Graham had written his contribution on 3rd March. It always seems to take a long while for news to spread around. Graham was full of his news about the itinerary of his two year world tour starting in June. He and a friend are going to start off in Kenya, then fly to Delhi to meet up with friends from Hemel Hempstead who are flying out there in July. Before he goes he is hoping to sell his house and move furniture out. He is against letting the house out while he is gone because he is worried about getting the rental income in. If he let the whole house out he doubts that that would be enough to pay his mortgage.
I wish him luck. I've often thought about letting my whole house out while I get alternative temporary accommodation in Harlow, where I work, but where to store the excess furniture?
There was an advert in Monday's Express for a Senior Data Processing controller at BT in Hemel Hempstead. Sounds just like the job I'm doing now, so I've asked for an application form.
Thursday 13th April
The Gazette today reported in full on all County Council candidates. Printing one representative picture from each party, they chose to print mine "Alan Winter, Democrat". That should be a small boost to the efforts.
Tonight's Herald carried more coverage about our friend Mr Baldock. This time it was on an acknowledgement from Mrs Thatcher. I wrote to the Herald:
Your newspaper has three times reported on Herald reader, Mr Baldock, who has written to the leaders of the major political parties apparently for their personalised viewpoints on caring for sick relatives.
Whilst reporting that Mrs Thatcher had sent an acknowledgement of Mr Baldock letter in April, the Herald failed to mention that in fact Paddy Ashdown, the Democrat leader, was the first of the political figures to acknowledge Mr Baldock's letter on March 10th.
Senior political figures are very busy, but nevertheless I have written on behalf of this association to spur Mr Ashdown to a fuller response. If one is not forthcoming, Mr Baldock can rest assured that, broadly speaking, the Social and Liberal Democrats are very much aware of the difficulties faced by people who care for sick relatives and have several policy proposals to put forward for implementation to help them. Further information on request.
Alan D Winter. Press Officer
West Hertfordshire Social and Liberal Democrats
Friday 14th April
I was hooked on the AmstradPCW's games, notably SNAKE, in which,at slowly gathering speed, a snake gobbles down as many bunny rabbits as he can without biting himself or touching the electrified fencing.
Saturday 15th April
After shopping and a late lunch Colin came around with the "Tory Cuts" leaflet he had printed. All ready and waiting to go out whenever they were needed.
I did get ready to out canvassing later, but then the nerves set in. Unwillingness to go set in. The fear of the unknown. Time sped by. 8.pm came and went, soon it was not worth me going out if I wanted to. I rang Peter. He said he had prepared leaflets for Adeyfield. He had had problems chasing up the Borough by-election candidates for their contributions but it was ready now, and he didn't need the help which I had offered to give him with the art work.
Sunday 16th April
With the moral support from Carol I was out canvassing in Adeyfield between 11am and 1pm.
As I parked up, Carol reminded me that Lord Sutch had offered an alliance with Dr. Owen provided that the SDP accept the word "loony" somewhere in the title. I could not stop laughing.
The first few doors were not promising. A few favourable, a few not-so-favourable, and even more who had not got a clue.
Our leaflets for that area have not been delivered. They tell us, "When we get your leaflets we'll have a look and decide then,". It's so annoying that the leaflets STILL are not out.
I was kicking my heels this afternoon, after the canvassing. The leaflets for Leverstock Green area were downstairs in my kitchen. It had originally been my intention that they go out as the second leaflet, but the first lot, the ones with my out-of-sharp-focus photograph, had still not arrived. They were hopefully being typeset and printed in orange and black in Watford. I made a few phone calls. No one could help me deliver today, so I went out alone for 2½ hours and made a start using those leaflets that I had.
I managed to see Sheila Watkin. She was the West Hertfordshire Liberal Treasurer at one time, while her husband, Howard, had been the chairman. He had left about three years ago apparently in a huff, and after a stormy meeting, but not before being an excellent agent for me in my Borough Council by-election victory in 1986.
Today Howard was organising his stamp collection.
He made a distinct effort not to get involved with my 'political' conversation. I learnt that he had written to Michael Meadowcroft on the announcement of the formation of a new Liberal Party, but that had been as far as that had got. Sheila was a promising prospective councillor before she came out of activity, following Howard’s departure. She was in the new party now but her very young children prohibited her from being very active. That apart, she agreed to help out with a couple of hundred leaflets in Leverstock Green, near her home.
I contacted another member who has often volunteered her help, and managed to persuade her to help out with delivering. This lady was concerned that there were no leaflets for her to deliver in her own area. She was unaware that we simply did not have the manpower resources, let alone the finance.
Monday 17th April
I am on early shift this week, so that means rising at about 5.40am. After work I got straight on with delivering between 4 and 5.30pm, with Colin’s assistance, in Leverstock Green. The lady I had contacted last night had pushed a note through my door, crying off delivering leaflets because of an unavoidable doctor’s appointment.
7 p.m. - Carol and I were out canvassing until 9 p.m. One lady wanted to know about our Education proposals. Back at home the PCW came in handy. The education manifesto was still on it, so I simply rattled it off.
The Express, one of Hemel Hempstead’s free newspapers, comes out today. Tom Price who frequently indulges in his own commentary page - "Price’s Patch" about local goings-on, edits that. Today Tom was complaining about all the press releases he was suddenly getting from people who you never hear from the rest of the time, just because an Election Day is nearing. I wrote him a brief press release asking "Will Alan Winter's socks hold out until 4th May?". This goes back to the Borough Elections in 1987 when he asked me what my plans would be now that I had failed to retake my Borough Council seat? I said at the time that I would be buying a new pair of socks. That had stumped him and he had reported that conversation in his column. Maybe he could use this comment again, in his next column? name check's are like gold dust to a candidate at this time during an election.
Another item in his column was about snow falling in April in Hemel Hempstead in years gone by. So I also posted him one of my wintery postcard scenes of Gadebridge Park, in the town. On the back of that I wrote, " Win With Winter. I wish the election expenses allowed me to put this postcard through everyone's door."
Tuesday 18th April
At about 6.10am this morning the lady who queried our education policy last night had a letter from me through her door with a reply. That should impress her for speed.
My car was put in for a service at 7.00am in Harlow, collected at 2.30pm. £40 bill. BP, my employers, announced another 8p a gallon price rise (no pay rise to help pay for it!).
By 3.30pm I was delivering again in Leverstock Green, and from 4.10pm until 5.40pm, with Colin. Later, I should have gone canvassing, but did not. Let me explain.
A door to door salesman turned up about 6pm. We've had lots of warnings to contact the police about them. I managed to ring the police while keeping the salesman at the door. Then another salesman got involved. I must have kept the pair of them talking outside for 10 minutes, but the police still did not arrive.
Should I go canvassing? I know I should, really. The will just wasn’t with me. I need that moral support that pushes. An hour and a half later the police turned up, offering the excuse that they were only informed that I had rung them ten minutes ago. I popped down to the Democrat Borough Council Group meeting at the Dacorum Council offices between 8pm and 10pm. Nick wanted information to help him offer support for Shelter, which Dacorum's Tory housing chairman is opposed to giving.
Wednesday 19th April
More delivery, this time alone, between 3.30pm and 6.00pm. A nice lady gave me a cup of orange in her "Tory house" - her words not mine.
There was a full Borough Council meeting tonight. I took the details Nick wanted about Shelter to the Council offices at 7.15pm and left quickly to go canvassing. I had phoned up Adrian Saunders at ASLDC for the Shelter information during the day.
That evening, going up to Arthur's for the canvass cards, I began again to feel reluctant about canvassing. I took the cards. Arthur informed me that Carol had been looking for me, and having failed to locate me, had decided to go out leafleting instead. She must have called for me while I was at the meeting. I told Arthur that I was too tired to do more delivering. I took half a dozen canvass cards, but driving to one of the canvass streets I simply caved in and went home to watch 'Dallas' on tv. I do need that moral support to go canvassing.
I have very grave doubts about our ability to win this election. Naturally I want to come in at least second. There again, there are no rewards for coming second. There was a note from Carol asking me where I had been when I got home. I felt badly. Much later, after Dallas, Carol came round with the remaining leaflets. I did not want her to feel let down, so I told her I had been canvassing. A lie, I know, but I was tired, and thinking about her own spirit.
A few minutes after Carol had left Rosemarie turned up. Rosemarie had a few members' records amendments for me to tell Cowley Street about. She had been working her socks off delivering three hours in Wigginton, she said, and she was tired too. Well, I did the amendments, wrote in the diary about some of the events of the last week, and then...well I'm going to get a shower and go to bed. It's late and I'm very tired.
Thursday 20th April - 2 weeks to go
Thursday 20th April
My postcard of Monday paid off. Dick Dawson, writing his "election gossip column" in the Gazette, says,
Democrat candidate for Hemel Hempstead East, Alan Winter, has sent us a postcard showing a wintery scene in Hemel Hempstead with the slogan 'Win With Winter'. Looking at the figures for the last election when the seat was held for the Tories with a slender 127 majority and the Alliance came second it would appear that Mr Winter has a good chance of winning."
Brilliant! This was a major coup which I had to exploit. It was too good to pass by. The paragraph was later used in three separate leaflets to try to boost our flagging canvass returns.
More leafleting, this time alone, in Leverstock Green for two hours. After a shower and tea, I was back out canvassing in Adeyfield by seven, without any moral support.
One gentleman told me he wasn't going to vote for anyone because we were all the same and took no notice of small businessmen. I replied that, I was there to listen and now was his opportunity to let me know. He went on awhile about the rates he pays and how he gets nothing for them, not even a lamp post outside his business premises. I kept nodding and prompting him to carry on. Finally, he told me he would give me a try and perhaps he would vote after all. And all because I just listened.
Other people were concerned about the amount of in-filling going on, and about not being consulted over plans for their road. All useful information, but at this stage in the game it was too late for us to take positive action to help these people. If only we had been here months ago.
Later, at home, I prepared a few notes for a tactical voting leaflet for intending Labour voters. That was not used in the end, mainly because inadequate canvassing had failed to identify much of the Labour vote.
Friday 21st April
I overslept and arrived an hour late for work. Later, more delivering for two hours with Colin; shower and tea. These showers between delivery and canvassing are an essential refreshing tool. They are a great morale booster. I resolved to take more in the middle of the day.
Paddy Doyle, defending his Labour County Council seat in Highfield, had written to the Gazette. Back in November he had tried to take all the credit for a forth-coming crossing in Queensway close to my home. I had responded to that at the time with "don't believe it until you see it" and "anyway, The Central Ward Focus Team have also been pushing for a crossing as well.", type letter to the newspaper.
Now, once again, he was trying to claim all the credit and managing to poke fun at me in the process because now the public could see it. By way of response, I wrote back to the Gazette:
I am delighted to see that a new crossing is being installed in Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. This crossing is the result of successful lobbying by members of the public, parents of local school children, school governors, and representatives of various political parties.
Perhaps the Labour County Councillor anxious to remind us of this crossing in the Gazette Letters (Apr 21) will apologize for appearing to take all the credit so near to his re-election efforts.
I do however sympathise with the councillor. If the Social and Liberal Democrats had not supported Labour over some essential budgetary maters in the past two years, crossings like this potential life-saver would almost certainly not have been entertained by the Conservatives at County Hall."
In retrospect I can report that this letter was published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette a week later, giving the Labour councillor no chance to respond in just seven days before the election. Incidentally, he did get back in.
This evening I did two more hours canvassing with Carol followed by more “Demochat” with Gordon, Arthur, Peter and Nick about our next moves. I insisted that I carry on overseeing delivery in Leverstock Green leaving Peter to oversee delivery in Adeyfield.
The Dopy's had put leaflets out in Northend Farm area today - the same day as us. It is part of Bill Evan's area. A leaflet for Diamond Man had also been put out in the Town area, through my letter box. David Owen was asking, “If you believe that Britain needs an independent fourth political party... I hope you will support your local SDP candidate...” Well, I wonder which fourth party he's talking about? Taking the country as a whole, there are more Green Party candidates than Dopy's! Maybe they just want to come fourth. Maybe they will.
We decided to have another leaflet to go out after my second leaflet.
Saturday 22nd April
Before nine this morning, I had delivered a membership list to Gordon, and picked up a few canvass cards from Arthur with the aim of trying to produce personalized letters to individual elderly persons. But the rest of the morning had to be devoted to domestic chores.
I was contemplating the leaflet from the Dopy's. At first, I wrote a letter which I had intended to put into the Herald about Dr Owen's comments. I was pointing out that the Green Party had more candidates than the Dopy's. Somehow, when it was printed out, the letter looked like a really cheap swipe at them even though its contents were honest.
I rang Diamond Man up and congratulated them on their policies which seemed to be the same as ours, and then asked him to join our Party. He could not trust our Party, he said, because they'd asked us to negotiate on seats three times and each time we had not replied. Well, I do not know about all these attempts. I'm sure the executive committee were not fully informed about all of them. Anyhow, there is nothing that can be done now. My doorbell chimed and Bill insisted that he did not want to speak further with me.
It was Arthur at the door. I showed him the letter I had written. I had more or less decided not to send it out. The argument might be used after the elections in the battle of the letters columns which I imagine will follow these election contests. Arthur agreed.
I rang Bill back. For ages there was no response. Finally, Bill's wife, editor of a national women's magazine, answered the telephone saying,
“We let the telephone ring because we didn't want to answer it.”
Now there is a contradiction. “We. ” I told her I wanted to speak to Bill. She replied that he was busy at the bottom of the garden now and he would ring back if I would leave my name and number. “Mr Smith,” I said, adding my number.
With my mind fixed on winding him up, ore out of fun rather than out of malice,Iwrote over his election leaflet. Remembering the time he had written a note to me, I circled the Doctor's comments and added,
“Bill, this is an unfortunate remark! There are 590 Green Party candidates and only 284 your lot. Perhaps he should have written 'If you believe Britain needs a 5th political party ... ' ”
On the way to pushing the leaflet through Bill's door, I spoke to the Labour MP, Robin Corbett. He lives opposite Bill and was vacuuming his car out. Back in 1979 loony lefties were accused of being responsible for his deselection as the Labour candidate for West Herts. Amidst much Labour Party bitterness, which spilled out into the local newspapers, Mr Corbett managed to become selected for a Midlands seat. Coach loads of Labour Party workers deserted the Hemel Hempstead area to help Robin to victory that year.
I said to him “If there was one man who could unite the opposition against Jones, it's you.”
He shrugged his shoulders and looked wistful.
“They should have thought about that in '79, but I do know that things have changed since then, ” he commented.
You could almost tell from his expression that he probably would rather be the serving MP here. I've always considered his politics to be fairly moderate.
Later, I went out delivering again in Leverstock Green. This was the second leaflet - "WIN WITH WINTER" orange/ black - just starting to go out. This had the added bonus of Paddy Ashdown being pictured alongside me. That is, provided the public know who Paddy Ashdown is. I visited Sheila Watkin and she offered to get her leaflet allocation delivered by next Thursday. I chatted to those I saw in their gardens. There wee no unpleasant remarks, more favourable, plenty wishing me luck.
I had a rest in the evening. I was tired.
Sunday 23rd April
I was up early for a Sunday morning and out d delivering between 8.45 and 10.30. By 11.15 team-mate Carol and I were canvassing. One sincere lady in 'The Flags' told me her extreme concern about the pavement outside her home. I had already heard a similar complaint from one of her neighbours. Obviously this was a "big" issue around here. She agreed to have her photograph taken with me. Carol gladly offered to press the trigger of my camera while I posed with the lady and the uneven surface. I'm hoping to get a leaflet with photographs out by next weekend.
Dad had apparently popped in to see me this morning on his way from Norfolk to Wembley. There was a note in the porch to say he had called. Elections have no considerations for families.
Yet more delivering this afternoon for a two and a half hour stretch. Out of curiosity I drove over to St Albans to look for signs of election activity over there. There were quite a lot of bus stops, that is posters on sticks, for "Biddle", one of the Democrat candidates. I have not got any out for me. And where are my helpers? Where have they all disappeared to? All the effort is supposed to be going into winning my target seat for heaven's sake.
Late that night Mum rang me from their home near Norwich to say Dad had got home, just in case I was waiting up for him. No, I wasn't.
Monday 24th April
Night shift this week, starting tonight at 11pm. Colin and I had arranged to go out leafleting at 10am. But, as I had made another appointment with Brian to take on location photographs for the next leaflet, I had to ring to let Colin know. It was just as well I did, because Colin reported that a drunk had pranged his car while it was parked on Saturday night and he had to sort that out this morning.
I bought a black and white film - Ilford FP4 - which uses C41 colour processing system. This film can be processed speedily by commercial colour printers.
It was raining, but I still took some photographs of road junctions and school children crossing the road, etc. I could not get hold of Brian. He had had a breakdown on one of his firms vans and so had to attend to that. I did more leafleting for a couple of hours in Leverstock Green before lunch. Brian didn't ring me back and the rain seemed not to stop all afternoon. I took a few more pictures to finish off the roll, then left it with Boots the chemist for fast turn around. There was no time to spare to get photographs of Brian as well.
The evening canvass was lost as Carol and I agreed it was too wet to go out, but she did promise more canvassing help on Tuesday. I had hoped to see Peter tonight to go over the final leaflets, but it turned out that he was out for this evening.
That left me having to ring Carol again and call Tuesday evening off as it would be the latest available opportunity to get the photo leaflet done with Peter. Carol said it was okay, as Edward had rung in the meantime and asked if she would go around his area and put up posters. So few doing so much.
Tuesday 25th April
I collected the photos from Boots about 10am. It had been a struggle trying not to fall asleep as, counting in my night shift, I had been up for over 26 hours. That evening Peter and I spent about 2 hours putting the leaflet together. It always surprises me how the time flies. We used my ideas and Peter was happy to produce a few boxes and a small amount of text on his desk top publishing system. (His works!)
There were to be three plates. The common side for Adeyfield and Leverstock Green leaflets would be a residents survey to be handed in at the polling station to the Social and Liberal Democrats or posted to me; the other sides utilised the local photographs which I had taken earlier.
The Adeyfield leaflet had the names of the two Borough Council candidates, Brian Jackson and Bridgette McGlynn, whilst Leverstock Green just had my name.
Wednesday 26th April
1am. At work I was looking through one of the newspapers. There was an item about Astra Holdings plc. Their shares were said to look very cheap at 144p. It made me feel a bit sick, I can tell you. I bought 1500 of their shares at 69p before October '87 crash. I sold the whole lot earlier this year when the shares looked very stagnant. I only managed to get 26.5p each, so the whole episode cost me about £700. Today I could have been profiting by over £1000.
I had an early finish from work, popped the artwork through Colin's door for the leaflets, and was up again by 12.30pm. After hand delivering personalised letters to Southernwood Close in Adeyfield, courtesy of my word processor, I spent two hours delivering the second leaflet in Leverstock Green. There would be just one more chunk to go after this.
The evening canvass was delayed, partly due to neither Carol or I knowing who had the canvass cards now - Gordon, who was prone to flit in and out of the country on business, or Arthur. Originally Gordon was to have had the cards, but an illness in their immediate family meant that no one would be at their house for considerable periods. In the event Arthur had them. The road we did, Masons Road, Adeyfield, still had not had one leaflet from us. And there is just about only one week to go. It was cold and, Labour had been down the street before us. To say the lack of leaflets in this area was disheartening was probably far from the truth.
When I had finished canvassing my side of the street I went to look for Carol. She was supposed to be doing the other side, but I couldn't find her anywhere. I even went back for my car and drove up and down the road looking for her. Had she done a bunk ? Unlikely. Had she been kidnapped by the opposition? Perhaps she had been offered a slap up meal? A few glasses of home made wine? A tour around a garden? Well, needless to say, Carol eventually reappeared about half way down the street convinced of another convert to the Democrat cause. The point about canvassing at this stage is just to identify our supporters. A nice effort by Carol, but it meant that any other doors went without a knock.
Carol agreed with me about my thoughts on the lack of leaflets and at ten to nine I got a handful of left over leaflets from Leverstock Green - "Tory cuts no Good for Leverstock Green" (last weeks) - and posted them though most of the doors in the street.
Thursday 27th April
More delivering. What a mess my house is in.
Tonight's evening canvass, with Carol, was near the street we visited last night. I introduced her to David Jones, who happened to be in the same street as us, delivering Labour leaflets for his Borough Council campaign. David was a Borough Councillor before and in my opinion it is a pity he is still not there. If anyone could take the Conservatives to task on the presentation of fiscal matters in the Council chamber, David could. Whether he was correct or not is for others to decide. He said to us that the centre vote was very soft but that our intervention was mucking up his own chances of being elected.
“Well,” said Carol, “Have the Labour Party adopted proportional representation?
“No,” admitted Jones.
“Well, there you are then, ” chipped back Carol, and then we went on our merry way canvassing.
Friday 28th April
More delivering. Messy house!
In Bedmond Road I met several residents who had plenty to complain about. Pot holes, speeding vehicles, heavy lorries... etc. I was later to write to the Borough Council on their behalf. The response I got from the Council was redirected back to the residents by me by way of a 50-only edition leaflet. But all this action was after the election. Had this been done weeks ago, it might have done my campaign some good.
Saturday 29th April
This afternoon I went to watch Colin printing various leaflets including my photograph Focus. After about an hour, his wife rang asking that he drop everything and collect one of their elderly in-laws from Watford General Hospital. Colin did not mind, but it was rather important that the leaflets were printed. So, I kindly volunteered to do the errand to Watford for him.
The last of the WIN WITH WINTER orange leaflets had to be delivered in the Adeyfield area by me between 8pm and 9pm. Peter said he had been out for 7 hours delivering today, and Rosemary had helped, too. Nobody else, I wondered? Target ward?
In the next few days, I had to make sure that two leaflets went out in Leverstock Green. One of these was to be the photo-Focus, and the other an eve-of-poll leaflet. Josie Johnson offered to do a couple of hundred. A long term supporter, SW, would be busy this week with kids to look after, but she promised that in a few years time she could be back in the active mode. Later still, and in order to try to pull out more deliverers, I wrote and hand delivered several notes to known deliverers from the past, costing me a couple of hours in itself. Among them, I wrote to Simon Frost, my own branch chairman whom I had not seen much of lately, and FK, a lady supporter, who had offered to help in response to a questionnaire from Edward.
Sunday 30th April
Delivery of the photo/ survey leaflet started today in Leverstock Green. I was single-handed in the afternoon, while Colin helped me in the morning. None of those I had written to so far had offered positive help.
I had an idea for an eve-of-poll “Tomorrow is Polling Day” leaflet, and hatched that from materials retrieved from Peter Gudgeon's. Ultimate thanks for this leaflet should also go to Peter Chegwyn who does some freelance work for the Association of Social and Liberal Democrat Councillors. While I was at Peter's I expressed concern at the proposed eve-of-poll leaflet for Adeyfield, but he told me that Gordon had rung him from Greece, had indicated that he was pleased with it, and had asked for sufficient leaflets for the whole of the Adeyfield ward. I was not amused. There was way too much print on it for my liking.
FK, the only one who had ventured to respond to my handwritten note, rang me in the evening to say that she was gong to be busy and therefore would be unable to help with delivery on Monday.
“Please could you help on Polling Day,” I enquired.
She asked me what there was to do on Thursday because in the past her offer to help had not been fully utilised.
“In fact last time I took the whole day off work, and there was nothing much for me to do,” she pointed out.
Those were the days! Three years ago, when I won a bye-election in my own ward, the Alliance was probably at its peak. People were falling over themselves to assist. Even two years ago we were pretty well endowed with people from both parties, not to mention an army of well-wishers.
Two years ago we managed an 85% canvass of Hemel Hempstead Central Ward thanks largely to the tremendous efforts of Peter Bell working from his home in Piccotts End. Now, with Diamond Man disappearing, or rather not joining us, and with the national scene of disunity in the centre ground discouraging the well-wishers, we are substantially reduced. Several of the helpers, including Peter Bell, have moved away and simply not been replaced as the enthusiasm has waned. FK was probably still on the same plane as our previous elections. I tried to explain to her about the manpower problem. The word manpower proved objectionable to her. This minor point irritated me, so I tried to invent a new word "person-power" which somehow never seemed to have the same meaning that manpower had. I moved on with my explanation. FK wanted to know what there was to do, did she?
I started to reel off the things that could be done if we had the person-power, things such as early morning leafleting, telling, knocking-up, taking people to the polling stations, checking off telling slips. She got a bit shirty.
“Some of us work on Thursdays. We have not all got the time to put into it like you. We're not that into it...” she commented along these lines.
Well, she did ask.
1st May 1989 - Final week
Monday, 1st May
With today being a Bank Holiday it means a good opportunity not to rest, but to get on with the election campaign. With a little help from my friends, Colin and Carol, this morning, another large chunk of the photo / survey leaflets for Leverstock Green were delivered. With another effort this afternoon I finally, I got it finished off altogether by 6pm. I wanted to do more delivering this evening but I was unable to locate Peter so turned in. I simply did not feel like canvassing.
At home my instinct for writing awoke once more. I used the basis of the final leaflet for Adeyfield to write to the Herald. It was published after the election:
Your readers were recently subjected to a very carefully worded claim from the Labour Party over Poll Tax in connection with a debate in Dacorum Borough Council.
So that the Democrat Group then, and in particular the Social and Liberal Democrats now, are not misrepresented, the motion before the Borough Council on 14th October 1987 was as below. The motion was moved by Democrat leader, Councillor Gordon Gaddes and seconded by Councillor Michael Blackman. The Labour councillors did NOT support this resolution, nor by the Conservative councillors who voted against it.
"This council recognises the need to reform the present rating system, but views with concern proposals of the Government to introduce the Community Charge as a replacement. This Council therefore urges the Government and the Opposition parties to find a rates system replacement which is more closely related to people's ability to pay".
Your readers must therefore ask why the Labour Group did not support this motion.
Alan D. Winter
Press Officer, Democrat Group, Dacorum Borough Council
Star Trek III 'The Search for Spock' was on TV tonight, and although I had seen it once before, I needed a break from all the hard work, today. I'm quite keen on watching science fiction films.
Tuesday 2nd May
Polling Day is only a couple of days away now. This week would be the busiest yet, I knew. Long ago I had booked the week off work, including the Friday afterwards for recuperation.
In the event I had some domestic business to attend to which took up most of the morning.
I had to sort out several things with the building society today. They were making two payments to my mortgage account instead of one. And there was some shopping required. Bachelors should engage someone to do the shopping during the elections, I observed.
I discovered from Peter that two patches of Adeyfield still needed a final leaflet delivering, and I spent the rest of the hot day doing that.
An elderly lady I met in her garden seemed very distressed about the projected Poll Tax. According to a personalised letter she had received from Robert Jones, our Tory MP, it would be £500 under Labour / SLD and £150 cheaper under the Tories. I went home and returned to her later with a Poll Tax leaflet produced by another Social and Liberal Democrat Association (I'm sorry I cannot remember which one) and obtained through ASLDC.
I read her the relevant parts of this leaflet. It indicated that Poll Tax would be between £200 and £250. The poor woman looked even more confused. I was fairly annoyed about Jones's letter. If he has done plenty of similar ones then he has used a technique of frightening elderly people which certainly helps the Tory cause, but it is a bit underhand. She told me that she had been a Conservative voter in the past but until this hand delivered letter had arrived she had been thinking of changing.
Perhaps we should have exploited that technique more ourselves? The letter she showed me had House of Commons address in blue ink, the letter itself was printed, and was personally topped and tailed with the MP's signature. It was not official House of Commons paper, which I believe MP's are forbidden to use, but nevertheless was a specially printed official looking type of paper.
Jones certainly knows how to campaign, I give him credit for that. The lady told me that she did not know where she and her husband would find one lot of £350 never mind two lots of £500. On reflection it really was a nasty trick to play on elderly people when some of them were due for rebates in any case.
Colin, ace printer man himself, came around about 7pm with the printed "Tomorrow is polling day leaflets" and "6pm newsflash" leaflet which showed how well we were doing at 6pm on May 4th!
Tonight there was to be a meeting of Leverstock Green residents association at their village hall. I had made a mental note to be there a couple of weeks ago when I saw it advertised. In fact, wherever I had parked my car for the last couple of weeks in Leverstock Green I had displayed a "Residents Meeting" notice for the association in the front of my poster covered car. There is nothing quite like getting in with the locals.
I popped along to the meeting arriving late and sat listening at the back of the hall. I had my rosette on, and suit, and all the while kept wondering if I should cough loudly or make a noisy movement to go and sit near the front of the meeting. Anything so I would be seen. Instead I waited patiently for about half an hour when the meeting was wound up and then shook a few hands. Charles Baker, the Dopy candidate standing against me, was there as well. He was later arriving than I was, and he didn't have a rosette, but he did have some sarcasm. Snidely, he remarked to me,
"It's strange to see you in this part of the world, Alan." I ignored him. Then he disappeared into the Gents while I carried on introducing myself to the residents.
Hazel Bazedone, one of the three Tory Borough councillors, for Leverstock Green and the current Dacorum Borough Mayor was there. As the crowd subsided I walked over to her to make a few remarks. I asked her, referring to our last Focus, if she had any complaints about Council services?
"You haven't got a box to tick for 'excellent'" she replied nervously, if not in good humour. Then she added, "You are crafty. You don't say which Council. You should educate people as to what services are looked after by which Council. "
I told her it was not my job to educate people, and bid farewell to her. Well, she did give me a drink in the Mayor's parlour after a recent Borough council meeting. A rare honour indeed for a member of the public. I was never offered a drink there when I was actually an elected member of the Borough Council.
Before getting to my bed, Edward rang me. He was frantically trying to organise a few more tellers for my ward and his ward, too, if he could. After making a couple of suggestions to him and making my own phone calls I could only promise him one definite. Kindly, he offered his services, and his wife's, for an hour delivery tomorrow. The eve of poll leaflet was next. I was anxious to get to bed so as to ensure a good night sleep.
Wednesday 3rd May
I could not sleep well and was up before 6am. At 7.30am I was on the phone to Carol to see if she could help me with leaflets this morning. Apparently her husband thinks I'm mad, ringing at that time.
At 7.40am I handed a bundle over to Edward. He answered the door in his bedclothes! By 8.15am I had already started delivering. It would have been earlier only it took me ages to get up the dual carriageway in the rush hour. By 10.30am Edward and his wife had finished their patch. And by 11am Carol had joined me for an hour. By 1pm the leaflets were running out and I needed a rest.
I rang Colin just after 2pm and asked him for a reprint. We had only had 1200 run off for Leverstock Green before because we were not sure how many we would be able to deliver. He was great and got down to it as soon as he could. By 4.15pm Colin and I were delivering again in North End.
Colin had to call it a day at 5.30pm "to go to brownies", he told me. He qualified that by stating that he had to take his daughter there.
Struggling on until about 6pm., I had another short rest and managed to inform Edward where I was. He came out like a duty bound soldier to deliver again from 7pm onwards. Shattered, I went home about 7.45pm. We had delivered to most of Leverstock Green my final A5 leaflet, "Three Things to Remember" / "Only A Winter can beat the Tories". Now let's hope it comes true.
In the meantime, I retrospectively learnt that Rosemarie and Peter delivered a last minute leaflet like crazy in Adeyfield. I had reservations about that leaflet; it had too many words for my liking. Based on Labour's record in the council chamber on one side, and on the record of Social and Liberal Democrats winning seats from Tories on the other, it sounded like a party coming third desperate to find a few more supporters. Instead, it should have been short and punchy and "We're winning". But it was all that there was. In fact Gordon had rung Peter from Greece and given approval for it, so it always seemed that I had no choice in the matter.
Thursday 4th May
Polling Day. I was due to be telling at the polling station based at the Roman Catholic Church in Leverstock Green between 8am and 11am. Telling was slow while I was there. It was another scorching hot day like yesterday. The signposts for the polling station were misleading and to begin with some people had trouble finding it. The Conservative and myself had rosettes on until about 9.30am. Then a relief teller for Labour turned up. He had words with the presiding officer, and we were asked to remove them. I think it was all right to wear them under the rules, because we were in the lobby to the polling hall and not actually inside the polling room. But there was no point in arguing so we duly took them off.
Gordon's house was being used as a committee room. This aspect of the campaign was quite good. It seemed to work efficiently and was capably manned by Edward's son and one of his friends. Gordon arrived home about mid-day. He'd been away on a business trip for a few days, but quickly got down to the task of calculating figures and generally taking charge.
He reported that we had only managed a 55% canvass of our only target ward, Adeyfield East. Throughout it had been hoped that we would get a full canvass of this area and then be in a position to canvass Leverstock Green.
At one point he calculated only 22% of the vote cast was in our favour. Haleswood Road canvass sheets were missing. Carol and I canvassed that street last week. They could not be found but Gordon got hold of the records from the previous canvass and sent me out to knock on the doors of past supporters. He believed we had some good support there and that getting them out would be a great boost to the flagging response so far. When I got there I remembered that many of them had promised to vote for us when I called round to them last week. So, there's our support: past and present sticking by us. If only we can get them to the polling station.
During the scorching afternoon I was engaged in conversation with David Jones, doing his own telling for Labour, and Colin and Lynda Roe. David was disgruntled that his co-Labour candidate was not around. I asked if they wanted an ice cream but they protested that where they were in the shade it was too cold for that.
The MP, drove up. I remarked to him that I was pleased to note that he was copying our style of leaflet.
He replied, "Well, it all depends on who's copying who, doesn't it?" Before I could respond he was off again in his battered looking Vauxhall Cavalier.
After a day of driving around knocking up in the Adeyfield area I was finally asked to call on elderly ladies in Rice Close, just a stones throw from the polling station. When I eventually found one who was willing to be driven to the polling station, I asked this lady to get ready and then went to find others who might be in. A few minutes later I had found someone else and assumed that I was now taking two ladies to the polls. But when I went back for the first one, there were three people there! I ended up taking four in, two of whom were probably not voting for us. They gave me a few nods and winks and said they were not saying whom they were voting for, it was their secret. I just kept saying to them "My name is Alan Winter. I've experience as a councillor." As they got out to go into the polling station I even offered them leaflets with the three Democrats names on, but they said they would not need those.
The count for the County election was being held at the Pavilion in Hemel Hempstead. Once again there were no refreshments for those of us watching the counters. I was glad I had remembered to bring my own supply. Colin was unaccustomed to the count and he jokingly offered me quite a lot of money for my liquid relief.
Friday 6th May
The results were saddening. In the Hertfordshire County Council Hemel Hempstead East seat last time, the Alliance were 127 behind the Tory, and Labour about 50 behind the Alliance. This time it went Tory 2113; Labour 1352; ME (Dem) 643; SDP 319. And in the Borough by-election our candidates finished 5th and 6th, with Conservatives winning both the seats.
Labour supporters were asking themselves what had happened to their vote. They believed it had only gone from Labour to the Tories the last time around because of intervention by an Alliance candidate. A couple of socialists came over to talk in general terms to me. I looked at them. I know a good number of them and sense a common sadness with them as it with us.
I sat apart, writing down the results as they were declared, on forms I had previously drawn up and had photo-copied. Even the local press and radio had copies of my election results sheets to write down the scores on as they were announced. Both Labour and Conservative County Councillors were holding their seats in Hemel Hempstead by a majority roughly equal to the loss of support for the Alliance. Bill Evans, as expected, lost his seat in NorthEast. The Tory candidate there scraped home, closely followed by Labour. I am confident that Dopy or we would have won that seat had we reached agreement. It is too late, now.
A number of Democrats sat glumly around a table at the count after all the results had been declared. They beckoned me to join them. Apparently Robin Brumby had been shaking with rage at one point in the proceedings muttering something about "Alan Winter wanted to bury me underground." The others told me he went home "pleased" with the results.
Poor deluded man, I thought. I was numb. I went home soon afterwards.
I managed to phone the results through to ASLDC at about 2.10am. The results from the rest of the country coming through the tv weren't too brilliant, either. This election certainly marks the end of the Alliance.
I went to bed about 2.30am. The house was a wreck. I learnt that Hertfordshire had gone to the Tories largely at the collapse of the Democrat vote. Democrat seats in the county went down from 19 to 5.
To get away from it all for a few days was what was needed. By lunchtime I was on my way to Bristol.
Postscript (Nick Hollinghurst Comments)
I showed a draft copy of "my diary" to Nick Hollinghurst, twice a parliamentary candidate for the SDP/Liberal Alliance in West Hertfordshire. He made the following comments and mailed me back as follows ...
Tuesday 23rd May 1989
Decided to take a break from playing up. Rosie and I went to see Paddy Ashdown in Aylesbury. Paddy spoke brilliantly - he even made Europe sound exciting. Came home to find a large envelope on the doormat addressed in the Winter's handwriting. God, not more Winter-bumf! This time it was worse. It seemed to be the Warhol diaries. You know the one, "If you're in it - you're in it!" And I was in it - and in it. On closer inspection it was the Winter diary, not Warhol's. I am in marginally less trouble. Certainly less than Gordon. Struggle ensued with Rosie to read it. Resolved by dividing it up and passing the pages (in order) from her to me. Much chortling and hilarity. Rosie seems to have come out of it a hero. So devastated by this I decided to play up again. Will definitely call Edward "Ted" next time I see him. Went to bed exhausted by laughing. House a mess. Had a nightmare about an Android burying a DOPy robin in a diamond mine. Rosie said it was not half as bad as the three I had in one night when I decided not to stand in North East.
...Wednesday 24th May 1989
Got up at 5.30am to type this out. Then flew off to Chair an international tile company - and I'm a Councillor.......
Your diary much appreciated! Thanks for cheering us up!
Regards, Nick and Rosie
Alan D Winter