Lib Dems make early start on 2016 election bid

Alex Cole-Hamilton, with wife Gill, says the party must reconnect with voters. Picture: contributed
Alex Cole-Hamilton, with wife Gill, says the party must reconnect with voters. Picture: contributed
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THE Liberal Democrats have launched a two-year campaign in a bid to win back what was their key Holyrood seat in the Capital.

Despite this year’s independence referendum and next year’s Westminster elections, Lib Dems in Edinburgh Western have already chosen their candidate in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and are promising a “relentless” drive to regain the seat from the SNP, who took it from them three years ago.

Former MSP Margaret Smith, who represented the constituency for 12 years, decided not to stand again.

In her place, charity worker Alex Cole-Hamilton – who has stood for both Holyrood and Westminster – has been selected to fight the seat.

He was chosen in a postal ballot of all party members in the constituency, which saw him win 71 per cent of the votes, with long-serving councillor Robert Aldridge the runner-up.

The SNP’s Colin Keir overturned a 5759 majority to win the seat from Ms Smith by 2689 votes as the Nationalists surged to victory in 2011.

But Mr Cole-Hamilton said the SNP had little history in the seat. “They were swept in as part of that tsunami.

“Our party recognises this is one of the best prospects of regaining our losses.

“The fact I’ve been selected two years out should show how seriously the party takes winning Western back. I intend to knock on tens of thousands of doors between now and 2016.”

The seat, which takes in Davidson’s Mains, Cramond, Corstorphine and South Queensferry, was a key battleground between the Tories and Lib Dems before devolution, but had been held at both Holyrood and Westminster by the Lib Dems since the late Donald Gorrie won it in 1997. Mr Cole-Hamilton, a father-of-three who lives in Blackhall, part of the constituency, was Mr Gorrie’s organiser for a year after leaving university.

He is running current Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart’s re-election campaign for next year’s Westminster election.

He acknowledged there had been a reaction against the party because of its UK coalition with the Tories, but claimed that was now subsiding.

He said: “While there was an anger and toxicity caused by the coalition, which led to our disastrous results last time, people no longer say ‘I’m never voting Lib Dem again’. We are making a difference in stopping the worst of the Tories’ excesses.

“We have a lot to do to reconnect with voters, but there is a proud heritage started by Donald Gorrie of being very visible on the doorstep.”

Mr Keir said: “If the Lib Dems want to campaign on issues like the bedroom tax, on which they have been helping the Tories, then bring them on.”