Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Good luck to Mike, Theresa and Matthew!

As we approach the last day of the general election campaign, I feel for all the parliamentary candidates up and down the country, some of whom I know quite well.  They’ll be tired after a long campaign yet will need to dig deep for an energy boost to take them through an arduous 15 hour polling day, not to mention the count (which could mean a full 24 hours on their feet).  They’ll be wondering, many anxiously, what the voters verdict will be.  Some will be wishing it was all over, some wondering if they’ve spent enough time doing this or that. 

On polling day, a sense of control that comes from running a campaign; making decisions, planning the diary, sending resources here and there, debating whether to respond to something or not, it all melts away.  Apart from the simple but physically demanding task of encouraging all your supporters to vote, there are no decisions left to make: you simply have to wait for the collective decision of the people.

It’s a tiring and nerve-wracking time for candidates and, while I feel for them, I’m missing having my name on the ballot paper this time round.  That’s because, despite all the above, it’s an exciting time spent meeting hundreds if not thousands of people, promoting a message you believe in, fighting for an outcome you really want and doing so with amazing, dedicated people from all walks of life. 

Having decided not to stand in this election, I’m still enjoying the buzz of the campaign but it’s different not fighting it as a candidate.  My experience as a PPC in 2010 was a positive one. I obviously wasn’t elected, I stood knowing what the odds of a Conservative winning in Islwyn were.  But it was a good campaign, achieving a respectable 9% swing to the Conservatives and improving our position from last to second place (despite Plaid Cymru spending a lot more money and having more activists).  It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot, but what struck me was the enormous pressure I felt as a candidate to ‘do well’ even when the odds were so stacked against me.  Volunteers were spending their free time to help in any way they could and I couldn’t let them down.  If I felt like that as a candidate, and one who had a low chance of winning, how do successful candidates feel when their constituents have sent them to the commons?  As it happens, I know someone who was in that position. 

In 2010, I also spent a lot of time helping Mike Freer in Finchley and Golders Green, then one of the most, if not the most, marginal seats in the country.  Mike had worked extremely hard, not just on the campaign, but during his time as a local councillor and council leader.  He was my ward colleague for four years and I saw up close how committed he was to get things done for Finchley and the borough.   Nothing changed when he was elected to Parliament, endorsed with a majority larger than Labour had ever achieved. 

Mike hasn’t let down his constituents and certainly deserves his reputation for being a hard working constituency MP.  Most people will have seen his mobile surgery on weekend mornings and he’s invited whole streets to meet him at Westminster to discuss any topic and have a look around Parliament.  Mike’s not afraid of meeting the public.  He’s approachable and has been a sensible, principled voice for Finchley and Golders Green on countless issues. 
Mike, Cllr Cornelius, Cllr Old, my wife and I painting at Norwood on Mitzvah Day
Mike’s an excellent MP but he’s also a down to earth, decent person.  His humble start in life has kept his feet on the ground and is probably why he relates so well to people of all backgrounds.  He’s worked hard to be an MP and works even harder for the people of Finchley and Golders Green. He’s lived up to the expectations of those who voted for him and those who campaigned for him. That, when added to the fact he’s supported a successful coalition government which turned the country around, means he deserves to be re-elected and continue the good work.

Of the three Barnet MPs, I’ve worked much more closely with Mike given the Finchley connection.  But I’ll also be thinking of Theresa Villiers and Matthew Offord over the next 48 hours and will be doing much more than just wishing them success. They’ve all done a cracking job for their constituents and I look forward to seeing them serve another term.  As for all the other candidates, soon it’ll be over and they’ll have their lives back.