Stephen Williams - working hard for Bristol West

A day in the life of your Prospective Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams, Wednesday 23 February 2005:

Written by Stephen Williams on Wed 9th Mar 2005

Stephen Williams - Parliamentary Spokesman for Bristol West

Stephen Williams

7am - listen to Today programme.

9am - check my e-mail over breakfast and catch up on a lot of replies.

10.30am - to Knightstone House, sheltered accommodation. It's the third "EPD " (elderly persons dwelling) that I've visited this week. The residents are all gathered in their lounge for their weekly coffee morning. I give them a brief talk and then answer questions for an hour and twenty minutes. We cover everything from ID cards to nuclear power. I need to get back to a lady on why Bristol doesn't provide digital hearing aids, but with the dreadful state of Bristol's social services I can't offer her much hope of getting something that would clearly improve her life enormously.

11.50am - quick pop home to pick up the pile of paper mail that the postman has delivered while I've been out. Every day I get lots of mail, much of it in response to the target letters many of you receive all over Bristol West. Jump in the car and drive off to our office in Fenton Court.

12.10pm - Fenton Court is busy with activity, with our printing press clattering away printing off the latest Ashley ward Focus. Other volunteers are entering canvass and survey data onto the computer and stuffing envelopes.

Stephen Williams with local shop owner Gillian Richards. (photography: Tim Pollard)

Local shop owner Gillian Richards supports Stephen Williams' campaign for a fairer deal for small shops

12.20pm Arrive at Gillian Richards' shop in North View, Henleaze. She runs a "dolls house" business and her shop is packed with amazing models of houses plus tiny bits of household paraphernalia. Now I thought dolls houses were for girls, but children account for only 5% of sales. Model houses are apparently a huge adult hobby...mainly for men! You learn something every day in this role. I chat to Gillian about the unfairness of uniform business rates and then we pose for a photo taken by Tim Pollard, our constituency organiser.

1.20pm home briefly, change into a smarter suit, gobble quickly some beans on toast and then run all the way to the Council House for a meeting of the planning committee.

2pm - the Council chamber is packed out. The public gallery is full and so the councillors' benches are also used. Since I left the council in 1999 I only turn up for council meetings when there is something really contentious on the agenda. Today councillors were considering the application to build 11 five-a-side football pitches and a pavilion on the Portway, at the entrance of the Avon Gorge. I have helped the residents group with ideas and tips on how to fight a planning application.

The first part of any council meeting is given over to statements from the public. First up is John Goulandris, the Tory councillor for Stoke Bishop and he begins by saying that he is pleased that both Valerie Davey MP and Stephen Williams are urging the committee to refuse the application. He must have been embarrassed by the omission of the Tory parliamentary candidate, who once again has been totally silent on a major local issue.

Stephen Williams inspects the site of the planning application in the Avon Gorge

There were then about 30 statements from other people, mainly Stoke Bishop residents but some from Clifton too. I was the last speaker, always a good position. I decide not to read out my statement and extemporise instead. I remind councillors that they are the guardians of our city's built and natural environment. Thirty four years ago councillors rejected an application to build a hotel in the Gorge and the area has remained unspoiled ever since. Today they can make their mark and protect the gorge for future generations. Anyway speaking to an audience is the part of my role that I love, and probably what I'm best at. At the end there's a big round of applause and the gentleman sat next to me claps me on the back!

The councillors then discussed the application and after a debate decided on a refusal. There was a huge cheer from the public, and I know for many of them it was a great relief after months of uncertainty. Outside many people are very complimentary. I probably made more impact in two hours this afternoon on the people of Stoke Bishop than months of leaflet and letter deliveries.

4.30pm - I walk back up Park Street feeling fairly elated. Pop into Borders to pick up a new book that I ordered on publication. Pick up the car from home and drive back to Fenton Court

5.15pm - at Fenton Court look at my new book "Politicos Guide to the General Election 2005". They did a similar guide in 2001, with profiles of all the marginal seats. Their write up on Bristol West is quite helpful. This time it says, "2001 candidate Stephen Williams tries again for the Lib Dems, and if they are making any gains from Labour this should be one of them." Valerie Davey is "a reluctant rebel who has squared loyalty and conscience by abstaining in several litmus test votes." It also says "tuition fees and war in Iraq have gone down badly among the liberal and educated middle class who dominate this constituency....anyone looking for a seat to embody the doubts of the intellectual centre left after two terms of New Labour, will find it here." Their conclusion after mentioning the Tory candidate is "The main fight, however, is between Lib Dem and Labour."

Work with Tim on finishing off our Focus leaflets for Westbury and Stoke Bishop - with this afternoons's planning victory being one of the stories. The leaflets also promote Trevor Blythe and Saleh Ahmed, who I hope will turn out to be excellent local candidates.

6.30pm - do two hours telephone canvassing of part of Redland. Results are encouraging, but there are still many undecided people out there who we could win over. Using the other phone is Sarah, a postgrad student. We are very lucky this year to have an excellent student group who have made a huge contribution to the campaign so far.

8.45pm - I drop Sarah home and call on someone in Waverley Road, Cotham who phoned yesterday after reading one of our leaflets. David is an IT consultant who used to vote Tory. We chat for two hours about the economy, drugs policy, crime and education. He joins the party and gives a big donation to Bristol West. He's willing to deliver and try canvassing. Jonathan is just the most recent example of lots of new people coming forward at the moment. Let's hope it means that people want to take part in a campaign that looks like ending in success.

10.50pm - all the shops are shut and I have no food at home (again!) so roll up at Miss Millies on Blackboy Hill. There is a huge queue so I make some phone calls while waiting.

11.15pm - finally home and sit down with my three pieces of chicken, corn on the cob and a bowl of instant mash (I hate chips) and watch the only bit of TV all day, an interesting documentary on "Vanity Fair" magazine.

12am check e-mail before going to bed at 1.20am!

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