Obviously it isn’t just a Yes/No question and if I decide in the positive then I become one, it is slightly more problematic than that but still it is a question that is reverberating around my mind a lot at the moment due to the fact I’ve been asked to run in May 2012.
I sit here in a cold office (otherwise known as my spare bedroom) thinking about what I want out of politics. In all honesty I still don’t know. When I got around to finally joining the Lib Dems it wasn’t because I saw myself getting into politics in a big way but as the months have passed and the meetings have increase my interest has peaked more and more. On the one hand I would love to sit on the inside and see how everything works but on the other blissful ignorance is often not a bad thing.
The situation here in Southend is that the Tories run the council with a majority of five. The Lib Dems lead the opposition ground but only by one from the independents who have risen spectacularly in recent years – certainly in the East. Labour have four councillors with Victoria locked up and one on the Kursaal estate. The Lib Dems are pretty much geographically in a line, Leigh and Prittlewell have all three Lib Dems, two in Blenheim Park and one each in St. Laurence and Westborough.
So the likelihood is in all honesty that come the day after the 2012 council elections that the Tories will still have a majority on the council. The only way they don’t if I’m being realistic is the independents rise up and take a couple of surprises and someone else does something major. Looking through the results of previous elections I can map out a plan that wrestles control of Southend from the Tory group but it won’t be easy but it is achievable.
Firstly the Lib Dems take St. Laurence from the Tories. Carole Roast held it last year and this year we’ll be attacking it. It is without a doubt the Lib Dems best hope for a gain and it is very realistic. Secondly the independents take St. Lukes and after the way they took out long-standing councillor Anna Waite last year then you’d expect them to take the ward. That leaves one more ward needed to swing towards another party to make this council a hung one.
This is most likely to come from either Kursaal or Milton as Labour are attacking both wards with a real chance to take one or both. Should they do this then that would be enough to change the balance of power at the Civic Centre. However though this all assumes the Tories make no gains and that is a huge assumption.
The Tories are attacking three wards where they can take the seat, one in Southchurch from the Indy’s and both Mary Betson and Graham Longley from the Lib Dems in Prittlewell and Blenheim Park respectively. Blenheim Park is the toughest hold out of the three with the Lib Dems having lost to the Tories there in 2011 but I do think things are a bit different this year. I think Mary holds on and even increases her majority in Prittlewell.
So where do I come in?
Well there are two options, firstly standing in a seat in the East. In the minutes of the last local meeting which I was unable to attend as I was doing Hospital Radio up at Southend University Hospital it was suggested that I might stand in West Shoebury. This ward has three Tory councillors and if I stood here and pulled off the upset it would probably rank as a bigger surprise than when I first bit into a fully chocolate Kit-Kat Chunky. Ah that was a moment I still remember 12 years on.
However there is also another option, standing out West in Westborough. This is a ward where two independents and one Lib Dem currently occupy the three seats. We won in 2010 in what I think most would agree was a surprise and in 2011 we fell back in fourth place. However we were fifth in 2008 so it can be a yo-yo seat. The turnover is high in Westborough as it is prime rental country as well. If I stood here then I could win although it again wouldn’t exactly be odds on down your local bookies. With either ward it wouldn’t be a priority so it would be very much a solo campaign as we are focusing on defending the two seats we have and attacking where we can win.
I should throw in here that I don’t think West Leigh is totally out of the question for a Lib Dem win in 2012. I see it as an outside shot but a good campaign and it should be considered a target.
So there are my options for should I want to stand. The likelihood of winning either seat is low but one is feasible and I suppose going into a ward where we are not expected of winning is a good place to go and stand on my policy of engaging with the constituents not just how great we are and how awful everyone else is (I hate that type of politics) but to go in there and try to get people to look deeper into the issues and not just vote the way they’ve always voted, vote because of what they read in the media or just not bother at all.
I’d love for every voter to take an hour or two out of their lives to read what every candidate is looking to do and vote on the strength of that I believe it can be done too. If I was to stand that would be my campaign. From a personal standpoint I hypothesise that if you stripped back all the conjecture around politics and just looked at the policies then the Lib Dems would do a lot better than they currently do. I truly do believe this. So that is how I’d go about things. Whether it would be successful I don’t know but only one way to find out.
There is however one thing that really holds me back. I know I’m just an unknown potential candidate in some ward in some town but still if you do or say something that isn’t the norm then it will come out. Look at Lib Dem candidate Holly Ann-Battye last year who took all sorts of expletive because she had posed for some photos with a ball gag in her mouth. I saw nothing wrong with it whatsoever but still the masses did. I am a very private person in a lot of ways and putting myself forward for public office could potentially take away that anonymousness (I know that isn’t a word but it really should be) of who I am and what I do.
If anything is holding me back it is that and that is truly sad. I know time is of the essence and I need to make this decision sooner rather than later but I still don’t know. I care about my privacy a lot and I don’t see why anyone in politics should have their private lives scrutinised. That is just how I feel. Everyone is entitled to a private life no matter how dull or adventurous or seedy it is. If it’s private then that is how it should be.
I’ll blog no doubt when a decision has finally been made.
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