Jeremy Brier

Congratulations you losers. You're free!


May 08, 2015 13:21

I've heard it said that not many people are sorry to say goodbye to Luton. But the night I drove away, at around 4am five years ago, there was a lump in my throat. I was leaving the count of the 2010 General Election where I had been roundly defeated in my first attempt to be elected to Parliament, following three years of street-pounding, door-knocking and after-dinner-speaking in Luton North.

It wasn't exactly a shock. Luton is a safe Labour area: a dot of red amid the blue swathes of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. As one well-meaning local asked me: "you couldn't get selected for one of those places?"

Well, I couldn't. Because as a first-time candidate, you often have to fight what we politicos refer to as "an unwinnable". As it has been said many times, you can put a blue rosette on the village sheep in some parts of the country and everyone will still vote for it. Come to think of it, voters might think the village sheep gives better value for money.

But the seat is only unwinnable in everyone else's eyes. You, the candidate, will have to cling to all vestiges of hope to keep yourself going through the campaign. That constituent who said he might switch to vote for me? He could be indicative of thousands! Four new members this week? It's an avalanche of new support! Every moment in the long, gruelling, sleep-deprived years must be construed by the candidate such that he thinks he might be "The Election Story". The victorious underdog. Hope springs eternal.

And then comes the count. Before you even arrive, the votes for your opposite number are piling up from corners of the constituency you hadn't even known existed. First past the post is cruel: you can instantly see from the piles of votes how you're doing.

Jewish mothers have a habit of putting things with admirable succinctness and accuracy - and, sure enough, after less than two minutes at the count mine said: "yup, you've lost". And she wasn't wrong. So spare a thought this morning not just for the victors, but for the hundreds of ex-MPs and candidates driving home from leisure centres and assembly halls where the counting has stopped and the tears have started. No longer running for office, no longer chasing a dream. Reality dawns.

There are no second prizes in politics. You might, if you're lucky, get a signed letter of thanks from the party chairman. If you're really lucky (and I was) you might get invited for a thank-you orange juice with the party leader some months later. But the truth is that you're no longer in the "Bubble". The invitations to glamorous networking receptions from lobbyists stop coming; your inbox is empty; the phone doesn't ring and no one ever checks your website. You have no more power - and more to the point, there's no chance that you will have power any time soon.

Then, slowly but surely, you might just start to realise something: real life is liberating. Suddenly, you can voice opinions on matters without worrying that you are being recorded by a journalist.

As the then Chief Whip told all candidates, it doesn't matter who you are, if you're caught doing something wrong the press will call you a "Top Tory". It's the quickest way to get promoted.

Suddenly, Sunday mornings became about playing with the kids, rather than knocking on doors of people who didn't exactly invite you to disturb their weekend. Now, when people at parties start questions with: "yeah but how can you justify…" it's perfectly acceptable to respond: "I can't - and what's more I don't want to! Cheerio!"

There is an instant transition from public servant, and fair game, to a private citizen accountable to no one. Now, where I take my holidays or school my children is my business. The articles I write do not need to be "on message". So, to anyone nursing post-election blues, don't despair. Life goes on. And anyway, there might be another general election just around the corner.

May 08, 2015 13:21

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