As one of thousands who joined the Liberal Democrats after that fateful day in May, I was wondering if I could make any difference in the rebuilding process. The Bristol Lib Dems were welcoming from the minute I joined. Not knowing anyone at my first meet-up was daunting but everyone went out of their way to make me feel part of the group. When I volunteered to arrange a pre-conference meet up it took an interesting turn. Tim Farron was going to be in town that day.
Helen Cuéllar was another new member with boundless energy and a positive attitude. The local party placed trust in the both of us to be responsible for this important function. With the clock ticking we met up for a drink after work to plan everything. We decided to make the day about the refugees and for all proceeds to go to Calais Refugee Solidarity Bristol.
The venue was located in the heart of Bristol Harbourside. We had the entire floor to ourselves, including our own bar and bartender. By the time we had everything set up, Tim Farron walked up the stairs. I first met Tim at a leadership hustings back in June where I was inspired by his vision. They said when you spoke to Winston Churchill you thought he was the most important person and when you spoke to David Lloyd George you thought you were the most important person. Tim is definitely in the same mould as Lloyd George in this regard. Becoming leader had not changed him, he chatted with us with a commanding courteousness while he sipped on his tea.
The venue had filled up with old, new and potential members all waiting for a chance to speak to Tim. The word was definitely out. A couple of times I was asked by someone if it was okay for them to be there, they were not members but wanted to hear Tim speak. In the backdrop of all this was a raffle with a generous assortment of prizes donated by the members and a busy bake sale that tested the Great British Bake Off skills of the party. Everyone was highly generous as we raised over £360 for the refugees.
When the time came, Tim made a speech that captivated the whole audience. He shared his strategy of being able to capture the centre-left ground with the Labour party in disarray after Corbyn’s victory. Afterwards, he mingled with the crowd, answering any question that was thrown at him.
I bumped into Dr Kay Barnard who had recently been nominated as the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate for Bristol. She came across as an intelligent and sincere woman who aims to tackle the real problems facing Bristol such as transport and youth unemployment. I believe she is the only candidate putting forward a referendum to get rid of the mayor position as well.
Towards the end of the afternoon, Tim had to be dragged away from a circle of eager listeners to keep him on schedule. With the Bristol harbour as the scenery, the BBC reporter asked Tim what the Liberal Democrats’ role would be going forward. Tim replied with conviction that “somebody has to take on the Tories in a way which is decent, progressive and credible. There is nobody providing that now and I am going to say that’ll be us.”
Helen and I said our goodbyes. The event did not just run smoothly, it was a great success. If two new members could organise this function at such short notice, imagine what 20,000 new Liberal Democrat grassroots activists could do if put to good use. As Tim Farron said in his first speech as leader, “we may not be able to change Britain from the top down…but we can change lives from the bottom up.”
The original article can be found on Lib Dem Voice here: http://www.libdemvoice.org/47502-47502.html