So what have the following years got in common? 2007, 2005, 1999, 1935 and 1937.  It might seem a bit unlikely, but they are the year of birth of five of our activists who came out, fed and watered activists, wrote envelopes, stuffed and folded and delivered in Sleaford and North Hykeham.

Yes, this is a snapshot insight into the most unlikely and optimistic by-election campaigns that Lincolnshire and, indeed I would venture, the East Midlands has ever seen.

Ross Pepper in the newspaperOn paper the odds and the basis for such optimism is very very low, but let’s go through a few elements.  We have two county councillors in the constituency and those seats successfully defended in 2017 should see us elect up to 7 councillors on North Kesteven District in 2019.  So that would be progress.  But it’s not enough.  So we are also working very hard in Sleaford Town.  That campaign, translated up in 2019, would elect a further 6 district councillors.  So that too would be progress.  But it’s not enough.  So we are working to activate our traditional Lincolnshire support base in some of the larger villages.  This is being done through contacting, motivating and empowering our members and critically our new members.

The means of doing this is very intensive, but the by-election is a great trigger and excuse so we are starting it all now.

Now sending in a team from London would be the traditional solution because that is where Party HQ is located, but because of Richmond Park, those staff members are not available.  So instead there is full-time staff team here lead by Ian Horner and myself: a Yorkshire man who knows the rural communities of the East Of England and a yellowbelly (myself) who has transferred himself from Spalding to Sleaford to help this campaign.

Now this is just a set of ambitions and we are working hard to realise them.  But I am delighted to say that this campaign also is headed up by a candidate who is leading from the front: Ross Pepper.  Ross was born in Lincolnshire and knows the local issues across the constituency very well.  He shops in the shops local people shop in, he walks and drives down the same roads as them, he sees the problems and opportunities other local people see.  And most of all he is genuine, fun and positive.

Now this all sounds quite good, but it gets better.  The membership of the Local Party has leapt since the referendum and is young and vibrant.  This is a constituency where, despite the urging of most of the key opinion formers, nearly 40% voted Remain in the recent referendum.  And further many of those who voted Leave feel let down and worried about what might happen next, as the Tory Government stumbles.

So the opportunities are huge and we are doing our very best.  Our ambition is to build on the stunning result in Witney, to surf the outcome of the Richmond Park by-election.  If we manage that, then who knows what we can do.

Our immediate plan to to light a beacon so big and so large in a Sleaford and North Hykeham on 8th December that the warm glow of liberal democracy will be felt across Lincolnshire and indeed across the East Midlands.

Map of Sleaford and North Hykeham Constituency

So if you haven’t already, go to Richmond Park and if you live in Lincolnshire then just jump in your car or or a train and come over and help.  For reference (and this is an article for Liberal Democrats, after all) we have a host of railway stations within the constituency: Sleaford, Ruskington, Rauceby, Metheringham, Hykeham and Swinderby.

See you soon if you live locally, and for the rest of you, see you on Friday 2nd December after Richmond Park.  And a huge and gushing thank-you to all those who have been and helped to date.

* Ed Fordham joined the Liberal Democrats in Spalding, Lincolnshire, in 1988 and is the campaign co-ordinator for Ross Pepper, the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Sleaford and North Hykeham Parliamentary By-election.