It was a cold morning on Saturday the first of December as I made my way to the Liberal Democrats headquarters in Great George Street, London. Today was the count to establish all the MEP candidates for England – London were to choose eight of which I hoped to be one. I had enjoyed the campaign over the last six weeks and meeting London’s Liberal Democrats, but now it was over and time to see how the London members had voted. There was a distinct ‘exam results’ feeling – with that mixture of helplessness and apprehension that all former students are familiar with.
The count for all of England’s regions was to take place that day but fortunately London were first on. Most of my fellow candidates were there and, with those from other regions waiting, we all hovered in the kitchen and corridor. Topics for discussion included the recent Croydon North by-election, the Thames Christmas cruise, and the Middle East (The EU-Israeli agreement being the most common subject of my email in-box).
A slight delay in the announcement occurred due to a computer problem, which meant the candidates for the next count started arriving and the area got very crowded. It reminded me of the old joke about Liberal MPs in a taxi when I started thinking how many Liberal Democrat European candidates can you squeeze into a corridor?
Finally, the call went out for the London candidates, we entered the presentation room and sat along the long table like they do in The Apprentice. Who will be fired?
We were treated to a whole series of charts but it was the first list that decided it. The eight candidates were listed in front of us – and my name was not there. As the programme worked through the spreadsheets to explain how the eight were put into order, my heart continued to sink.
We Liberal Democrats are used to disappointment, and I get my fair share (as any regular reader of this blog can testify), but it is still not easy. I’ve worked in London since 1994 and know the city very well. However, I was aware from the start that I was not too well known, lacked a local party base, and hence the odds were against me. Of course I was not expecting to come near the top – but was hoping to get on the list as a marker to campaign towards and promote myself. Sadly, back to square one.
This was my first campaign of this type carried out over six weeks, I did enjoy it, and I’ve learnt quite a bit to take away. If I am still in London next time round, I intend to have another bash – and by 2017-2018 who knows what the political climate will be like?
The main consolation was meeting the eight people on the London list – a highly impressive group of people with a formidable list of achievements and experience. Despite being rivals, everyone was courteous and friendly and the campaign was held in a great spirit. The air of positivity and cheerfulness as we discussed European issues, as well as the various email exchanges and discussions with the members that I met, made a great comparison to the gloom and doom we get so much of from the Tories and UKIP.
I am glad we have such a strong Liberal Democrat team to present to Londoners and I hope they do well.