Dear Fellow Lib Dems, Well, it has been quite a year, hasn't it?
The vote for Brexit was a real watershed moment in British political life, and it was swiftly followed by the resignation of David Cameron and his replacement by the unelected Theresa May who, for all her fine words about helping the 'Just About Managing,' has continued down the well-worn Tory path of favouring the rich and privileged. JAM tomorrow indeed. And then there was Donald Trump.
At the same time, just to underline the grim nature of 2016, both Councillor Barrie Cooper and myself have been going through the mill somewhat in our personal lives: in his case with a severely ill wife, in mine with a son who was severely injured in a car crash. Both are now progressing well, thankfully, but such experiences do serve to put everything, including politics, into perspective. They also serve to underline what a fantastic national asset we have in the NHS: let the Tories mess with it at their peril!
To be positive, all is far from doom and gloom for the Lib Dems as we look to 2017. Twenty-three council by-election wins since the referendum (and still counting) have been supplemented by that astonishing success in Richmond Park and that 'near thing' in Witney. The public appetite of the public for a unashamedly pro-EU party, which believes in holding the government to parliamentary account over Article 50 and over the final deal, is clear. The support for an internationalist, open, tolerant and democratic party which isn't afraid (unlike the Labour party) to stand up for what it believes in, is also absolutely clear.
We have our own Dorset County Council elections to fight in May, the last such before the inevitable arrival of the unitary authority in 2019. We have our chance to put a marker down in our key target seats in the main towns of Blandford, Gillingham and Shaftesbury - and to that end we have already selected three good candidates: Barrie Cooper in Blandford; Barry von Clemens in Gillingham and Derek Beer in Shaftesbury. They all have a wealth of local government experience to offer. Other people have put themselves forward for some of the other wards: please let me know if you too would be interested in standing, even as a 'paper' candidate. Or please let me (or the candidates) know if you are happy to deliver, phone or fold leaflets....every little really does help!
My annual letter would not be complete without reference to the 'doyen' of the NDLD and of North Dorset and Gillingham politics for so many years, David Milsted. He and his wife Annie are leaving us in March for the sunnier (?) climes of Orkney. Scotland 's gain is very much our loss, and he will be much missed by us all for his wisdom, experience and coruscating wit!
Thank you, David, for all you have done for the NDLD. A very Happy New Year to all: may it be a much better one than 2016!
Parliamentary Spokesperson, NDLD