Election Day – a Date with Humility


Many people think that the obvious way to look at candidates is by their political label.

Actually it’s much more complicated than that. There are basically 4 types:
• Candidates who want to win and will
• Candidates who want to win and won’t
• Candidates who know they won’t win but would really like to
• Candidates who were promised faithfully they would not get elected and would dread doing so!
In fact in many constituencies and wards the electoral contest is almost pre-ordained. There are still many safe seats in England which will not change hands this time and no-one expects them to.
I’ve been in the first three categories. I have stood for the council on 10 occasions and have been successful on 8 of them. I have stood for Parliament 4 times but on only one occasion really wanted to be an MP.
Why bother if you don’t want to win? Because you want to support your colleagues where they can win and build up a base in areas where you cannot. As a democrat I believe that everyone should have the chance to vote for a person and Party of their choice.
For the first two of these elections are a cathartic time. Personal hopes and ambitions come to the fore. Many candidates have sacrificed everything for years for this crack at being elected. Everything has become subsumed to the task. If you are defending your seat you could be on the dole on Friday. You will have withdrawal symptoms from the trappings of power. You may well feel humiliated. Win and you feel inordinately proud. Most candidates forget quickly that they have been put there by their Party and their teams. They believe that they alone were the winners.
In fact I believe that both winners and losers should face the result with humility and especially the winners.
The problem with winning is that some people get so seduced by the trappings of power that it goes to their head. Nice people can rapidly become unbearable as they bore with the ‘maiden speech;’ or tell you how powerful they have become. That is the biggest conceit at all. The fact is that politicians have NO power of their own. What an election does is allow you to borrow tiny bits of power from those people you have been allowed to represent.
Too many elected representatives forget this. We are the servants of the people and not the dictators to the people. We have chosen to give up our privacy and much of our lives to serve the community. We accept that there will be more needs than we can ever hope to sort out and that many people will despise us for what we cannot do rather than thank us for what we can do and have done. If we do not accept this then we should not stand in the first place.
But many people elected tomorrow will quickly acquire Town Hallitis or Parliamentitis. A situation where we become the voice of the establishment in the community and not the voice of the community in the establishment.
I hope that losers will accept their fate with equanimity. There are so many ways to serve the community and being a councillor or MP is just one of them. Should I lose my seat tomorrow I have so many things that I want to do and so many things other people want me to do for them that I would not miss much about the council.
If re-elected I hope that I will not lose touch with reality and will continue to be available; to communicate and above all to listen to those who elected me.
Only a fool would predict the winner tomorrow and I am not that daft so let me take the opportunity now to say thank you to:

• My Lib Dem team who have been there for me at every turn of events and have kept my feet on the ground.
• My opponents because all of them have invested something, however minimal, in putting their head above the parapet to be shot at!
• All the people of the Ward who have made me so welcome for the past 11 years and have wished me luck in their hundreds in the past few weeks.
• My lovely wife who has been a partner with me in this ward and our previous ward for 22 years as we jointly served our city and our community.
Win or lose I hope that the experience will have been useful to everyone concerned and that the people of the UK and Liverpool get the servants that they deserve and need.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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