Over the past few days my Twitter timeline has been inundated with photos of hard-working people, many of them young, from both my political parties who are fighting in todays Council and Assembly elections. I say both because I am a member of not only the Liberal Democrats but also the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.
All these people have spent months if not years working hard to get elected today. They do so, in most cases, with no certainty of being elected. A success today will not lead to a posh job or a lucrative public position. If people want that they don’t join the Lib Dems or Alliance. They want to get elected because they want to make a real difference to the lives of the people where they are standing.
That need is felt everywhere but perhaps more so in Northern Ireland than anywhere else. Alliance is by far the biggest secular party in NI. That is so important in an area where your religion dominated your politics and strife was caused by religious hatred spreading back over the centuries. They have been a major force for good in the region as they have advocated tolerance a liberal approach and being part of a UK which is part of Europe so that old national boundaries have a reduced importance.
They are firm believers in the Good Friday Agreement which has, until Brexit ruined it, been a major cause of a new kinder politics in NI and the basis of strong cooperation between the two countries on the island of Ireland.
Whether you are a Lib Dem or Alliance candidate you believe in a bottom-up approach to politics. We all go out to work in our area and see our ward or constituency as a place in which to do things rather than a place from which to launch a wider political career. I personally pick up the things that I need to talk about in the Town Hall for the hundreds of conversations that I have each month with people that I represent or bump into in my city.
That all enriches what my colleagues and I have to say and we listen amazed to elected representatives who make bold assertions about what people want with no basis of fact or reality.
That does not mean that I have no political beliefs. I am not a one man focus group just listening to what people say and doing what they want. But I move my political beliefs into practice based on what I know is needed and what I know people will support rather than blindly enforcing an ideology.
Perhaps it is best that we have no safe seats. I see too many people from other Parties who lay dormant for 3.5 years only to burst into frantic animation 6 months before they are ‘doomed’ to meet their electors. Even if our political beliefs did not suggest community action our need for re-election requires constant attention to the needs of our constituents.
The number of young people is particularly encouraging. Having entered elected life as a councillor at the tender age of 22, I value the energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas that young people can bring. I hope that the way that I and my colleagues behave can be reflective of society in which people not only tolerate but welcome a diversity of views and opinions and conduct a debate in a respectful and learning manner.
It’s a bit strange for me today. We should have been having elections in Liverpool, but they were cancelled by the Government and a new system foisted on us by the Boundary Commission. I haven’t sat the elections out having been to help in three council areas where we are very helpful of having better results than last year when the Tories were on a high. Later today Erica and I will be hitting the phones in support of candidates in marginal wards where our help might just help those candidates past the winning line.
My thanks for standing go to all candidates in today’s elections even those whose ideology I detest. They at least have the commitment to go out and stand for election and put their beliefs before the people of their area. So different from the twitterati and couch potatoes who think that 100 tweets equal a vote or that an angry rant on a radio programme makes a difference.
Above all though my heart and hopes go out for all our liberal candidates wherever they are in what pat of the UK they are standing. As I reach the stage where I am readying myself to pass the baton on to younger liberals, I almost have a tear in my eye as I look at their enthusiasm, passion and commitment to our cause and their area.
Good luck to all the liberals standing today. Let’s hope that you get the results that you deserve and that your area needs.