I’ve been a member of the Liberal Democrats since 1995 and became an active member almost straightaway. I joined partly as a reaction against growing up under a right-wing Conservative government with a Conservative MP but with a very left-wing local Labour council – both of which I disliked. But also because some of my core beliefs are that everyone should have the opportunity to make of their life what they want and that they should have the power to be able to make that happen. I also believe in standing up against the vested interests that stop people from having control over their own future and that of their communities.
You can read a lot of my opinions on politics by reading my blog postings. I also write quite a bit about what’s happening inside the Liberal Democrats, which is probably only of real interest to party activists. I also have a separate website that is specifically aimed at people who live in Nether Edge ward at www.andershanson.org.uk. But here is a summary of what I have done as a party activist:
STANDING FOR ELECTION
- I was elected as a Sheffield City Councillor for Nether Edge Ward in 2010, taking over from the retiring Lib Dem councillor Pat White.
- I stood for parliament in Derby South in 2001, against former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, increasing the Liberal Democrat vote by 5% and turning it into a Lib Dem ‘moving forward’ seat.
- I spent three years as a Derby City Councillor. In 2000 I gained Kingsway Ward from Labour winning from third place on a 16% swing. In 2002, following boundary changes, I was re-elected in Mickleover Ward with the biggest majority in the city. I stood down in 2003 when I moved from Derby due to a career change.
- I am currently Senior Political Officer at the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors based at their office in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. I am responsible for a small team that promotes best practice in the party in both local campaigning and being effective councillors. We also run training on both of these areas across the country.
- From 2005 to 2009, I was responsible for Liberal Democrat campaigns across Sheffield Hallam constituency, the seat of the Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg. I organised the local election campaigns in the constituency in 2006, 2007 and 2008 with most councillors being returned with majorities of more than 1,000 and beating the last Conservative councillors in the city in Dore & Totley.
- I ran the 2005 General Election campaign in Eastleigh that ensured Chris Huhne, now Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, was elected to take over from David Chidgey. Despite the seat’s small majority and one of the highest spending Conservative campaigns, Chris Huhne won with the smallest swing away from the Lib Dems in any seat where there was a change in candidate. I also spent the previous two years retaining the Lib Dem’s large majority on the borough council.
- In 2003 I organised the Welsh Assembly campaign for the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Mid & West Wales electoral region. This campaign aimed to gain one of the regional list seats (despite a swing to the Lib Dems we lost by just 1,500 votes across the six constituencies), to improve the vote share in Ceredigion (which we did by 16%) and to hold our two constituency seats of Montgomeryshire and Brecon & Radnorshire (which we did). I also supported the party across all of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd Nant Conwy.
- My first involvement with party campaigning was in both Stoke-on-Trent and Hereford. As a student I went and helped in Hereford at weekends in the run up to the 1997 General Election helping to elect Paul Keetch as the first MP there in 70 years. At the 1997 General Election I acted as agent to Peter Barnett, the Lib Dem candidate in Stoke-on-Trent South.
- I have spent a lot of time helping out Liberal Democrats all over the country, ranging from two weeks I spent on the 1997 Silhill council by-election in Solihull to being full-time in the 2003 Brent East, 2007 Sedgefield and the 2008 Crewe & Nantwich parliamentary by-elections.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT YOUTH AND STUDENTS (LDYS) – now Liberal Youth
- When I first joined the Liberal Democrats I helped organise the new Liberal Democrat student society at Staffordshire University. I also then took on some duties in West Midlands Liberal Democrat Youth and Students. Through LDYS I first got involved in campaigning by going to help in Hereford and Congleton at weekends and through delivering the first ever Liberal Democrat leaflets in Stoke-on-Trent.
- As a result of going to LDYS Conferences I was persuaded to stand for LDYS Youth Development Officer, and then shortly after I was elected as Vice-Chair. Being LDYS Vice-Chair is probably the single biggest thing that made me a more confident person, gave me a huge group of friends across the country and made me hooked on politics for life. During that year (1998-1999) the biggest events were the resignation of Paddy Ashdown and replacement by Charles Kennedy, huge campaigns against student tuition fees and huge rows over Paddy Ashdown changing the remit of the party’s cabinet committee with Labour.
OTHER LIBERAL DEMOCRAT STUFF
- I have been a member of the party’s English Council (basically the English Party’s conference only with fewer members and less democratic) and English Council Executive on and off for years. I first got involved as it was a way of contributing to what the party did nationally after my time in LDYS. The English Council Executive is not the party’s most popular body, being variously criticised for either being pointless or being too bolshy, but I have enjoyed being involved. It has done a lot of work to improve the party’s candidate’s office and approval process, funded and supported membership development work and done much of the dull but necessary party administration.
- I worked as a part of the federal conference registration team for a number of years. This was during the time when the conference office managed to turn around completely the reputation of queues at registration. Now there are hardly ever any queues, and so although most of the work was done by Dan and Emma, I like to think I played a small part.