One of the most common issues which people raise with me is the lack of faith in today’s politicians. My neighbours in Romsey and Southampton North want someone who seems to be on their side, who gets their concerns and tries to do something about them, and who doesn’t blether on without actually saying much. It’s hugely flattering when they feel I offer that – it’s precisely why I’m standing. By far the best bit of the role is supporting people to fix problems – whether it’s campaigning to keep a youth club open, or helping a disabled resident with wheelchair access, or speaking up about local planning concerns. It’s such a privilege to get involved with those issues, especially in the area I’m lucky to call home.
There’s a challenging side of the role, though, which also stems from that lack of faith. Abuse of power and position by other politicians has made it – rightly – tough for us all to gain people’s respect. I think the way to do that is simply by working hard and meeting as many people as possible – to hear their concerns, and to show that I act upon them. Here, we’ve got ten fantastic borough councillors across the constituency, and many parish councillors as well, beavering away to get the changes and decisions people want. Getting to know them better, and seeing how much time and effort they put in – often on top of demanding day jobs – has been a highlight of the experience for me.
Speaking of the experience, one of the great things that I’ve found about standing for election is that no two days are the same. Last Friday, for example, was largely desk-based: lots of casework had come in which needed careful attention, and there was an overflowing inbox to grapple with. But on Saturday, I was out canvassing and delivering our latest newsletter across one of our key wards as well as having interesting discussions on the doorstep. Over coming days, there’s everything from church services to fundraising dinners to campaign planning meetings to – as you’d hope – lots and lots more door-knocking. It’s a great role for people who like variety!
I’m fortunate that my own paid work has flexible hours and timetables. It’s become clear to me just how little our political system is geared up for those who aren’t rich, retired or able to operate very flexible schedules. Locally, for example, council meetings happen at times which effectively preclude anyone with a young family from attending. This seems so wrong to me – politicians’ calls for a ‘more diverse Parliament’ are nothing more than posturing unless they’re willing to make the system support that.
‘Politics is people’ can sound meaningless, but for me it’s true. I am immensely proud and grateful to be standing as a PPC at this stage of my life and in such a prestigious seat – but I’ve always liked that West Wing line (or was it President Truman?!) about “decisions being made by those who show up”. We’re lucky to live in a country where we have the right to get angry about issues, to make ourselves heard, and to get stuck in with fixing things. That’s the best part of being a PPC and it more than compensates for the rainy canvassing days!