A few years back at a location in South London, a smartly attired young woman made her way through those gathered at a private party and homed in on her target. “Tim Fenton!” she exclaimed, briefly embracing me, to my initial surprise. Daisy Cooper wanted a word. And when she wanted a word, you had her full attention. You were important. You mattered. And you would not be forgotten. You were her friend, as she was yours.
Daisy Cooper MP
Even then, she was campaigning, with her eye on the supposedly safe Tory seat of St Albans. The Lib Dems had come third in 2015? That just motivated her a little bit more. We talked again after the 2017 result; this time she came second to Anne Main. Disappointed? Yes. Downhearted? Not a bit of it. So it was no surprise when she turfed out the Tory last week. The Lib Dems had a bad night. Except for Ms Cooper.
Fast forward to the day after the poll, with the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble observing that, as Jo Swinson had lost her seat to the SNP, the Lib Dems would need a new leader. So they decided to make mischief with a characteristically uninformed “runners and riders” post. More or less every Lib Dem MP was considered, and in every case their particular attributes were pored over, with adverse comment duly passed.
Except for one. Here’s what they said about the new MP for St Albans: “Daisy Cooper … Another rare Lib Dem gain from last night. After a lot of googling it looks like she previously campaigned with the ‘Save the St Albans Pubs’ campaign for two-and-a-half years. Appropriate as leading the Lib Dems will lead you to drink”. Laugh? I thought I’d never start. But The Great Guido knows exactly who she is.
Ms Cooper had spent two years, alongside the tenacious and unflappable Evan Harris, as joint executive director of the Hacked Off campaign. She advocated for reform of press regulation, and spoke up for the victims of press abuse, with eloquence and indeed persistence, to the clear irritation of the press establishment who would rather she had not. The Fawkes rabble is part of that establishment. That’s why they know who she is.
As the Hertfordshire Mercury confirmed, “Daisy Cooper took home 28,867 votes and 50.1 per cent of the vote share - a huge win for the party. She had also increased her vote share by a huge 17.7 per cent from 2017. The Tories' Anne Main was unable to retain her seat and came home with 22,574 votes and 39.2 per cent - a 3.9 per cent loss in her vote share from 2017”. How did she do it? Campaigning. Campaigning. And more campaigning.
Now have come suggestions that she may make a pitch for the Lib Dem leadership. Don’t bet against her taking on that task and succeeding. And don’t dismiss her just because she’s a Lib Dem. Some who support Labour - and I count myself among their number - wish she was part of that party. Her party needs someone, like Jo Grimond in the 50s and 60s, to pick it up and make it nationally electable again. She might just be that person.
Do not underestimate Daisy Cooper. I never have done, and nor should anyone else.
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