It’s taken me a few days to clear up the physical and emotional remnants of this political campaign. I’ve worked on campaigns before – both in the US and UK. But none like this. It was the first time where I’ve been one of the candidates. Why now? I think I explained part of this in a previous blog, the one where I compare British national politics and government to that of Italy. It’s time to tackle some world and national problems locally. I hate clichés, but it’s true ‘think globally, act locally.’
I told myself at the start that I was going to abide by three rules. Rule One – I wouldn’t let the campaign stress me out. I think I managed to achieve that. That’s not to say there weren’t times, especially in the final days, that I didn’t feel exhausted. Tiredness is one thing; stress is something else. What helped was the fact that I had other work to do – my academic slog – and I continued with my normal meditation and exercise routines. That brings me to Rule Two – I wouldn’t let my health suffer during the campaign. Many of you might cringe when reading this, but for the most part, I continued to eat heathy foods over these past six weeks, nibbling on fresh fruit and wholefood snack bars while my fellow candidates devoured biscuits and cakes (a Liberal Democrat staple). I only twice relinquished with a sliver of banana bread at an envelope-stuffing party and an oatmeal raisin biscuit at a team meeting. Rule Three – so that I wouldn’t be devastated if I lost, I focused on the campaign itself as the experience. It wasn’t going to be about winning or losing. This was about being a candidate and expanding knowledge of local issues in the event that I won. I managed to follow these rules with the support of my David and by keeping a campaign journal and a presence on Facebook as a candidate. David delivered leaflets, helped with canvassing, delivered leaflets, addressed over a thousand envelopes and delivered leaflets. Since my Facebook page speaks for itself, I’ll share with you one of the highlights from my journal:
Hello Neighbour – Knocking on people’s doors or ringing their doorbells is the easy part. The difficulty begins when they answer. I’ve seen friendly local residents in their bathrobes, pyjamas and curlers, and one woman who was only wearing a long t-shirt (when she stretched her arm, I could see Texas). A few people have spared me the domestic awkwardness by not coming to the door, opting instead to hang their heads out of a window. There should be a word for such conversations – fenesations?
There are those who say ‘not interested’ and slam the door before I could utter ‘hello.’ Where I do get a more welcoming response, as soon as the topic of elections comes up, I hear people grumble about Brexit and the mess that it has caused – and rightly that certain politicians are to blame. If I detect a fellow pro-European, we exchange facts and stats and commiserate together. If it’s a suspected Brexiter, I quickly deflect back to local issues. When I ask what we (the party) could do if elected, the answers soon become predictable – improve parking, reduce petty crime, plug up the potholes, create more cycle paths, increase services for our growing town (I resist calling Ely a ‘city’ when the only skyscraper is the cathedral).
With that the real work starts. Yeah, I did win. And so did many other Liberal Democrats, and that means change is possible. A new chapter in life begins.