Electioneering is a serious business but like all important matters there is always time for humour and fun. With the British weather the way it was this April and May all election candidates and activists had to learn a lot of humour to survive the regular drenchings from seasonal showers over the three weeks.
I am not sure that there was one night during the campaign that I went home with dry shoes. I am sure the dry cleaners in Westminster, as elsewhere, saw a massive increase in their business as there was little chance of protection against the sudden rain squalls. Balancing an umbrella in one arm whilst trying to keep a pile of leaflets safe from the rain in the other and putting a leaflet through a low letterbox is something that only Gene Kelly may have been able to do with grace and a smile.
At the end of three weeks most active participants in a British General Election would agree to a certain amount of exhaustion (I cannot imagine how American politicians keep going for months but then the active helpers in the US always seem incredibly young). For me election night went on through till ten o’clock the following morning as I was called in to handle interviews on radio and television early news programmes. It is amazing what make-up can do on television because I was certain my face had been drained of colour having been awake for nearly 30 hours.
My effort though pales beside our new Conservative MP for Putney, Justine Greening, whose life for the 72 hours after her victory was a blizzard of press and broadcasting interviews, which she could only have survived on adrenalin. But watching her regularly on television over those three days I could see she certainly survived it brilliantly.
A few days after the election, like most successful candidates, the bright memories for me are the many people I met and worked with as well as the vagaries of surviving this year’s Spring weather. The harsher memories are those after the election – of friends and colleagues who did not quite win their seats despite a massive amount of effort on their behalf and getting so close.
I lost Enfield North in 1997 which had been a Conservative-held seat for almost twenty years so I had great hopes then of succeeding in North London as their MP for many years to come. My heavy defeat in May 1997 received little attention and was immediately forgotten as the announcement of my result came in the same hall as Michael Portillo’s more memorable loss in the next door seat of Enfield Southgate. I have therefore had the experience of making a speech of thanks against a background of deep disappointment, exalted opponents and a sense of shock for victor and vanquished alike. It has made me, I hope, a lot more understanding of the defeats of colleagues and indeed the losing candidates that I faced here in Cities of London & Westminster. Thankfully there were no such surprises here.
As Shadow Minister for London before the campaign started I had thoroughly enjoyed getting out in the Capital and helping many of the Conservative candidates on their home territory. It was a great pleasure to see new MPs joining our ranks from Croydon Central, Enfield Southgate, Hornchurch, Ilford North, Putney and Wimbledon with whom I had spent time during the actual campaign.
Welcoming them to the Houses of Parliament was indeed a pleasurable experience and I am sure that is also true for returning members in other parties. The intense effort by all individuals involved in the recent election has, I am sure, already started to fade from the memory but I also know that many are already setting out their plans for the next one! Some people might consider all those involved with politics mad ? you might agree, but I couldn’t possibly comment.