THE BATTLE for Wokingham parliamentary constituency hotted up on Saturday with a visit from Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, showing that the party is serious in its intentions in capturing the seat.
She joined with the party’s candidate, Dr Phillip Lee, to meet with youngsters who were taking part in activities organised by Shinfield Rangers football club and Shinfield Tennis Club.
And she even took part in a tennis coaching session as part of the visit.
The party is highlighting its healthier living policies.
“It’s lovely to get out in the fresh air to kick a ball or hit some tennis balls,” Swinson told The Wokingham Paper. “Of course, there’s an important message, which is that being active is good for our health, for young people in particular.
“We’re trying to make sure that we can get kids more active. It’s good for physical health, it’s good for people’s mental health. The more fantastic clubs like [Shinfield Tennis Club] that are supported, the better for all of our communities.”
The Lib Dem leader also took time to praise MPs and activists like Dr Lee for switching to the party, tackling some of the criticisms that the former Bracknell MP has received for crossing the floor.
“I feel so proud that so many people of such great talent from other parties have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats,” she said.
“We’ve had high profile defections of people from both the Conservatives and the Labour Party. The talent that it has brought to the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party has been brilliant.
“Looking around that table in the Shadow Cabinet and seeing people who’ve been ministers, people who’ve been in the cabinet, people who have been real, real stars in other parties now being in the Liberal Democrats. That gives me a great hope for the future because there’s a fantastic team of Liberal Democrat candidates, and they have been warmly welcomed into the fold.”
She added that the party now has nearly 130,000 members.
“That includes lots of people who have previously been in other parties and realised that the Labour and Conservative parties have gone off to the extremes and the Liberal Democrats are the party that is standing up for remaining in the EU, and for genuinely building a brighter future so that the government can focus on making people’s lives better.”
This position of remain is something she feels is attractive. Wokingham has become one of the party’s target seats and that is partly because the borough, like neighbouring West Berkshire where part of the Wokingham constituency sits, voted to remain in the European referendum and also in the recent EU elections held in June.
“What’s really exciting about this election is as well as liberal democrats making progress in areas that we’ve previously held in the past or have been areas where there’s been very strong Liberal Democrat results at local government [level], we’re also finding that there’s lots of places in the country that have previously been Conservative strongholds where now the Liberal Democrats are on the verge of winning.”
She added: “People are dismayed by Boris Johnson’s plans for a hard Brexit which would potentially lead us to crash out without a deal at the end of next year, and he hasn’t ruled that out. In fact, Dominic Raab was on the Today programme a few days ago and refused to rule it out. So people are worried about what that would mean for medicine shortages, for food on the shelves, for jobs and for our economy.
“So many people are reconsidering long held political allegiances and voting Liberal Democrat for the first time, just as people did in the European elections, where, of course, we beat both the Conservatives and the Labour Party.”
Dr Lee was appreciative of Ms Swinson’s visit, which follows 24 hours after a visit from former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable.
“I think the local campaign that we’ve run has been really, really successful. We’ve knocked on 12,000 doors in a couple of weeks. We’ve met thousands of people – we’re in the race here.
“I think Jo [Swinson] turning up today is evidence of that. It’s a real boost for the campaign for the activists locally.”
Raymond Barclay, the chairman of Shinfield Rangers said he valued the attention.
“It’s nice to be honoured and be noticed as a club,” he said. “We’ve got someone important coming along … we’re just a small village club and we’re usually ignored and bypassed, so it’s nice to someone like Jo Swinson come along.”
He also said that clubs needed more investment.
“I think that politicians don’t really understand the importance of sport,” he said. “This isn’t just about a healthy active life, there’s a whole social-psychological aspect to most sports, but particularly sports like football where teams are involved.”