25 years since the 35% swing to the Lib Dems in the Christchurch parliamentary by-election

July 29, 2018 5:19 PM
By Chris Rennard

It is 25 years today since Diana Maddock's sensational victory in the Christchurch parliamentary by-election in which we overturned a 23,015 Conservative majority to win by 16,427. Labour lost their deposit as we reduced their share of the vote to 2.7%.

We had a plethora of campaign issues to use against the Conservatives at the time including their plans to add VAT to domestic fuel bills, privatisation of the railways and Forestry Commission and ideas of introducing hotel charges for stays in NHS hospitals.

The campaign began soon after David Rendel's victory in Newbury which put us back on the stage nationally after a very quiet year following the 1992 General Election.

Our successes in both by-elections meant that we finished the summer on 28% in the national polls (level pegging with the Conservatives, with Labour then on 40%).

Willie Rennie was the agent and the two HQs were run by Pat Wainwright and Candy Piercy. Our Press Officer was Vicky Young and the literature team included David Loxton and Paul Rainger. I was the Campaign Director.

The swing to us of 35% was a record for us against the Conservatives and of course we were delighted to picture Diana and Paddy celebrating it.

Diana Maddock is now my 'noble friend' sharing an office in the House of Lords and Robert Hayward became a Conservative Peer in 2015 and we have friendly discussions there.

The story of this and other many other political campaigns is of course included in my political memoir 'Winning Here' available on order from bookshops, from the publishers Biteback or from Amazon UK which features many reviews of the book.

Amazon are now offering a 40% discount on the book: http://amzn.to/2GZ0eSB Paddy Ashdown with Diana Maddock - the 35% swing