THE faded posters are down and stashed away (hopefully – if you spot a stray, a discreet phone call would be more helpful than an angry Facebook post), the sun is shining, a proper meal is in the oven with the first Jersey Royals from our newly manicured garden. The best part of a campaign is when it is over – don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. And what a long journey it has been. It started in rainy April getting people registered to vote, collecting nominations, and putting the final touches to manifestos – 33 pages, 500 words, 350 words, 150 words according to format.
Nomination night came and went and the door knocking began in earnest. Knocking on someone’s door seems such an impossibly intrusive thing to do. It was a pleasant surprise that most people were welcoming. A visitor from Mars, who only looked at the trolls on Facebook wouldn’t believe the different world that exists out there. ‘Thank you for coming,’ they invariably said, ‘and good luck.’
Some said they never voted for anyone who hadn’t called, though to get round over 8,000 doors at a time when people were in and not asleep would actually have been impossible. But knowing the importance of meeting as many people as possible drove me on. The scale of the task sent my blood pressure soaring.
As light relief from this were the numerous meetings where various interest groups tried to get the election hopefuls to sign up to their enterprises. I wonder if they will be able to hold the successful candidates to their pledges.
As a candidate, you become public property, with people emailing you for your views on everything from traffic management to assisted dying. It sometimes feels like a trap, and they will gleefully pounce on an aspect of your answer to tell you that they couldn’t possibly vote for you if you don’t like noisy motor bikes or don’t want more speed bumps.
The questionnaires are a different matter, some with questions so leading that you know there is only one possible answer, so these are best left alone. On the other hand you feel not answering will condemn you. And if you refer them to your manifesto, with carefully thought out policies that you have contributed and agreed to, somehow it means you haven’t got a mind of your own.
But back to the relentless door knocking. I never knew that there were so many dogs in Jersey. I conducted many a conversation over the sound of yapping, whilst the householder’s leg restrained the animal. There was one particularly lively specimen that made it from a first floor balcony to the front door to grab my fingers in the time it took me to push a card through.
After that, I didn’t venture to deliver anything to a house where there was frenzied barking. And by the way, if I was dictator for a day, functional door bells would be compulsory, and the sort of letter boxes that take the skin off your knuckles would be banned.
On a more sober note, there were too many people who were confused, were in too bad a place in their lives to think about voting, and who were lonely or infirm. There were people whose lives had been touched by mental health issues and those who had suffered injustices.
When I asked my Reform Jersey colleagues about their experiences, hoping for something that would make me laugh, the unsuccessful ones told me how sad they were that they had met so many people in need of help that they now couldn’t do anything about. I guess from the result, that the people who were happy and didn’t want change outnumbered those who did, most of whom were too dispirited to even try.
On voting day came the final trial, standing by the polling station with aching legs, wondering if any of our supporters would turn up. I saw several ex-teachers, all looking happy and relaxed and it struck me that there is no one who enjoys their retirement quite like an ex-teacher.
Why on earth was I considering taking on a full-time job for the next few years? And so I’m not too disappointed at not being elected. I’ll still work for Reform Jersey, the party that knows how to party, and I promise I won’t forget those whose injustices I said I’d tackle.
But thanks to all who gave me smiles, winks and thumbs up. My especial thanks go to the rather grand lady, who came up to me just before I left the polling station, and said: ‘You’ve overcome my prejudices. You persuaded me to read your manifesto, and I liked what it said.’ This is just one of the things that made it all worthwhile.