This is a personal post – I might write a political one in the future some time.
So, I lost my seat on Nottingham Council on Thursday night, and along with it all my income. Perhaps foolishly, my only job was being a full-time councillor, with extra bits of income from responsibilities and from working with the Fire Authority as well. All of that goes, and I’ve had my last pay-slip.
For about the last six months, I have been thinking that defeat was a distinct possibility at these elections – my ward colleague was more optimistic, and in all the arguments we’ve had over the years, it’s a shame that it’s on this one I was proven right.
So with my pessimism in mind, I had half a plan for defeat – I have savings that will sustain me for a while, so in the immediate weeks I plan a holiday. I have a few things that need sorting out – election expense returns loom large for example – then I will take the tent and the car and have a few weeks away. I don’t suppose it will be the epic 6-week tour of France I did in 2005, but I’m thinking maybe… Scotland?
But after the break is the more serious task of working out what my life is for. I had pretty much decided that if I had been re-elected this time it would have been my last. I’ve spent a quarter of my life on Nottingham City Council and that is about enough. I’ve also spent a decade in politics – working for Nick Clegg when he was MEP, then jobs with two MPs and the regional party, followed by a spell in Chesterfield and all that time as a councillor. And I’ve had enough now. I’m stepping down from frontline politics – and when I say that, unlike David Miliband, I don’t mean I want to be an MP.
For the first time in years, not only am I not an elected official, I don’t think I hold any elected office in the party either, unless maybe you count conference rep. Not that I shall be able to afford to go to party conferences for a while.
I must be one of very few people ever to have drifted into politics and enjoyed the water once I got there. It’s much more usual for there to be battles and ambition and struggle, while for me I drifted into Nick Clegg’s office and drifted into elected office as a councillor in 2003, half on the back of Labour’s unpopularity around the Iraq war. When I left school, I thought I wanted to be in arts admin or a writer, or something vague like that. Spending 10 years as a politician was not the plan!
But having done that, and now wanting a change, the world is my oyster. I could do almost anything, and I find myself looking around at the jobs other people have and thinking is that something I could bear to do for the rest of my life? Barman? Waiter? Window cleaner? Shill for some architect and use my planning knowledge?
Part of me wants meaningful work; part of me just wants to find a simple 9-5 that won’t encroach much on my evenings and weekends.
In all my non-political jobs, I have struggled to find work that is interesting enough or varied enough – I’m not good with routine. Being a councillor is a great thing for variety – yes there are some predictable annual events – budget, campaigning, the like. But no two days are really alike.