Politicians and their Families


I had a great time spending 48 hours with Erica and no politics. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did!!

There has been a lot of press attention in the last few days about the fact that 3 leading Liberal Democrats have had the temerity to put their families before their political ambitions and not stand for the leadership of the Party. I happened to believe that they have made the right decision for them. As I have put in a previous blog I would have liked any one of the three of them to be the Leader. They are fine leaders already; good liberals and with an excellent intellectual grasp of the issues that our society faces and the oratorical skills to deliver forcefully liberal views on those issues.

I have been reflecting on the relationship between politicians and our nearest and dearest since I saw a lovely selfie of Norman Lamb and his wife Mary having some time off in Cromer a lovely seaside town. At the same I saw it I was having a great time with Erica in Scarborough another lovely seaside town. We, like most ‘hard core’ politicians, had just concluded a gruelling 10 weeks of intense political campaigning for the local and the national elections.

Few people outside politics realise just how demanding a political life can be if you do it properly. I have spent 20% of this year with my life revolving around door knocking, delivering, press releases and public meetings. This is something that is possibly fun if you are only in your first few elections. When you have been doing it for a long time, in my case 50 years, it becomes more a grind than an adventure.

And after that we spend a month catching up with the real world. We have to have all the meetings and do all the work which piled up whilst we were doing other things. And then, if you are a councillor or an MP the meetings start. In less than 3 weeks I have done 3 planning committees, 2 select committees, the Health and Wellbeing Board, given three speeches on behalf of the LGA in 3 different parts of the Country; been out with our taxi licensing staff for 4 hours overnight made two trips to London and represented councillors at our national policy committee the FPC.

I am not telling you all this to show off or because I am seeking martyr status but because I feel that so few people appreciate the amount of work that we put in for very meagre financial returns. Of course I have had much pleasure in the work that I have done; made many friends and have done some things which will last for the people of Liverpool and of which I am very proud. But there has been a cost to all that and it is a cost that has largely been met by my family even though my wife was also a  councillor for 23 years and still makes a big contribution to our local community and our Party.

Ed has young children one of whom is quite severely handicapped. Jo has a young son (and Duncan) to look after. Norman has a lovely wife and his own well publicised family challenges. They took the decision that they were already spending far too many hours on public business and not enough time with their family. To become a Party leader is also a 24/7/365 experience. You thought you were on holiday – well tough a major incident has just occurred and YOU MUST COMMENT/DEAL WITH IT!!!!! You can never be weak or indecisive or make ill-considered remarks because in this era of rolling news the press, your opponents and sometimes you own Party are on you like a shot.

That is why I admire Jeremy Corbyn and his refusal to give up his allotment despite much amusement at him having one. I respect politicians who have another string to their bow; who can find a way of relaxing and clearing their mind; who have strong family values in practice as well as rhetoric. They are just the type of people who I would like to see as Leader even if they cannot do it now for whatever reason.

There are those in our own Party who have suggested that there is some sort of hidden agenda here. That the London Decision makers have already decided who is to be the Leader now and in the future and are moving their chess pieces around the Board. This is absolute rubbish. The fact that we may be crowning not electing our next Lib Dem Leader is not an ideal way forward but it is founded on sensible and reasonable decisions made by fine people for the right reasons.

It does mean that we will have to argue out the future direction and methodologies of our Party based on principles and policies and not personalities. That might be no bad thing!

And if people who are Party members cannot see that what chance do we have with members of the public? Most members of the public think we are all trying to climb the greasy pole to the top. That being the Leader is our goal in life; that there are substantial rewards for being in public life which manifest themselves in bloated salaries or blatant back-handers. This is just not the case.

Some people are overpaid and would never get another job for the money they get as an elected member. Some people are lazy. Some are not as reasoned or articulate as we might like. But most members of all Parties put themselves into the grinding machine because they want to help their community; their city and their Country. Having been around a long time I can tell you that there are few politicians who I have loathed (and some of them were in my own Party) and many I have admired for trying to make a difference.

Scoff if you want but if all you do is scoff from the side-lines and whinge on local radio programmes frankly I have no time for you. Evil flourishes when good men stand aside. If the current political people are not doing well then you have a crack at it. You don’t need any money to stand and little to campaign. Door knocking costs nothing. Meeting people in their community costs nothing. I know of no politician with super powers of are anything other than ordinary mortals.

So please don’t see conspiracies where none exist. Try to understand and even love your politicians. If we are that bad do something about by becoming one yourself.


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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