Dear friend,

I enjoyed meeting many of you at the social event last Friday and meeting more of you at your own homes in the towns and villages. I've now called on or spoken to over half of the members.

I have spoken to dozens of members over the last ten days or so and I've been really impressed by how enthusiastic they are to drive the Liberal Democrats forward in the borough and in the Parliamentary seat. Many have asked about my experience and professional background, many have asked about my ideas to win the Parliamentary seat. Key to that is involving all of you and motivating members and supporters in all parts of Oldham East, Shaw and Crompton and Saddleworth. Listening to ideas from every ward, each parish, every part of the constituency. It is also about getting new supporters and helpers and I have always done that in every election I have fought.

In Saddleworth we need to continue the squeeze on the Tory vote and we need to do that relentlessly in other parts of the constituency as well. I helped do this in Westmorland and Lonsdale and in other seats in the past as well. I don't believe in imitating the Conservatives on policies but there are policies where Conservative voters prefer what we are saying to Labour and we can win enough of them across to us to make a difference. At the same time while there are not the same big issues to woo Labour voters there are some who think of themselves on the progressive or radical side of politics who have stuck with Labour but with some effort are so fed up with New Labour will support us next time. I will appeal to these voters on the left and right. Furthermore my track record is on speaking up for areas and promoting investment in those areas – Phil Woolas has failed to do that.

Gordon Brown has a largely justified reputation for prudence and I believe he will wait rather than call an October election. If he does though I have the time to devote as candidate as I have no other political commitments. The Tories will be in disarray in this constituency even more than David Cameron is nationally and we can capitalise on that while catching Phil Woolas out as well – he will not expect us to be ready but I know members here are up to the challenge.

Many of you say correctly that we have tried all the textbook methods of campaigning and this hasn't won us the seat so we need to do things differently. You are right and I agree. We must use traditional methods of winning the campaign as well as using the best modern methods. I've learnt from elections around the country – helping where we've won and lost and when I've won myself. I know that we need to go back to basic communication with the public. Labour and Tories now put out leaflets as good as ours – often better – and everyone gets junkmail and junk phonecalls so our standard campaigning techniques don't have the same impact. We still need the visible effort all year round but there is no method more effective than writing to people directly about issues they care about and talking to them on their doorsteps. Many of our successful councillors have always done that, members tell me that is what their local councillors in the constituency do. It is how I ensured my ward in Liverpool was retained when I stepped down as the most well known councillor in the area. As Parliamentary candidate I will want to talk and write to as many people as possible. I will say more about this in due course.

Finally I must mention some of the highlights. The views and scenery are spectacular and the warm welcome from all encouraging. I am disappointed though that I have never once had a clear view over Manchester – is it pollution that means there is a constant haze over the city? Campaigns are never the best time for regular diet but I've enjoyed the pies in Waterhead and Uppermill, and the great pub food at the King's Arms, to add to the Roebuck which I know well from helping in the past. But my girlfriend has been trying to get me on a better diet and at least Frances is pleased that the extra exercise to track down some of the members is helping. A campaign in this constituency will certainly keep one fighting fit.

Best wishes,


PS If you want more detail about any of my experience do ask at any time. There are more details on my website: Do please pass on this email and the web address to members who might not have got it.