I am taking a day off from campaigning in Liverpool to clear up some business inLondon. As ever the work of local and national government grinds on more quietly whilst in election purdah but still remorselessly.
I will be meeting two Ministers today about problems relevant to local government where I have concerns that well meaning civil service direction could create real problems for people out in the community. I am hoping that Ministers will take control!
But the long trip down away from the hustle and bustle of campaigning has given me the opportunity to pause and reflect on what is happening out there in the campaign and what it means to me.
The election has actually been very pleasant in many ways. I always enjoy being out and about meeting people. News that I am a grandpa has obviously amused people. “Hello granddad” and “still delivering at your age then,” being just two of yesterday’s comments as I delivered 1,000 leaflets. That reminds me that people are interested in us as individuals. If there is one fact that people always remember about Erica is that she ran the marathon when she was 50 and “still had breath left to talk to the BBC on the finishing line!” Too often we behave as machine politicians and then wonder why people treat as such. Most politicians I know are basically good people who wish to serve their community. We sell ourselves short by the way we behave and the way we campaign.
In my own ward it is business as usual for us. We have completed two deliveries and have a third to go. The Tories have half delivered a really dreadful leaflet. Why they bother spending a fortune on junk is beyond me. Labour seems to have delivered a citywide leaflet to 2/3 of the ward and is now putting out a letter to the people they canvassed last year. The independent who has been known to put out 2 leaflets was washing his car yesterday and the Green who has now stood six times and whom I have never met will be doing nothing as usual as the Greens struggle to maintain their 1 ward in the city.
I have clearly lost a few votes from the last time there was just a local election on in 2008, but not a lot. People don’t like the cuts the government has made but most understand the reasons for them. If only you could cut something else not the things that I believe in seems to be the most common unspoken thought!
I’ve now been a councillor for 28 years and on Saturday will have been our national leader for 6 years. There is nothing that has changed my view in that time that I am in the right Party and that, by and large, my Party is both saying and doing the right things. Large chunks of government policy regarding the environment, civil liberties and localism are right. Many things like the linking of old age pensions to wages and the taking of 1.2 million low earners out of paying tax would not have happened if Nick Clegg and his colleagues had not been there. Labour had their chance to change the tax system but fluffed it preferring to dance with the bankers than help the low paid.
So I am sanguine about the future whatever decisions are made by my electorate on May 5. I want to be re-elected and believe I will be but there is a life outside politics which looks increasingly attractive. There are many ways to serve the community and to be of value to my city other than being a councillor.
I am certainly ready to hand over the leadership of the LGA group on 31st August. I have loved the work and feel that I have contributed to local government and not just Lib Dem local government but the 5.43 that I caught this morning is no longer very attractive to me.
So I stand where I stood 45 years ago when I joined this Party. Confident that I am in the right place with the right people. Confident that liberalism is what is needed to take this country forward to a fairer, greener more diverse and more local future. Confident that my Party will continue to survive the ups and downs of political life and be a strong political force for the future.
Perhaps I could be regarded as smug, arrogant or self deceiving after the last paragraph. But I am a conviction politician. I do and say the things that I believe in not what a focus group says I should say.
I’m looking forward to catching up with you all on May 6th. If you are up for election may you get what you deserve at the hands of our ultimate masters – the People!