Like so many of us, I am fed a daily dose of “memories” when I log into Facebook. Mostly I ignore them and scroll down but today’s memory caught my eye; a newspaper cutting from this day in 2010.
Over the last few weeks, it has been showing me photos and moments from seven years ago – a time when I was using Facebook a lot and posting photos and status updates every day. I was running for Parliament, during the 2010 general election campaign.
I was the Conservative Party candidate in Halton just down the road from where I was born and grew up. I was selected 18 months before the election and therefore had a year and a half to get really involved in the campaign; meeting hundreds of people across the constituency and spending time with the many fantastic voluntary and community groups and others. I spent a night on patrol with the police in Widnes and Runcorn and took part in many in debates, interviews, phone-ins and public meetings. I was lucky that the seat sits on the mainline from London (just 1 hour 55 minutes away), in a part of the country with plenty of closely-fought marginal seats, so we had a steady stream of high profile national figures drop by on their way to more winnable battles, posing for a photo opportunity or saying a few words of support.
It was a brilliant experience and deeply humbling that despite the deep, multi-generational support the Labour Party has in the area, 8339 people gave me their vote, helping me achieve a 3% swing from Labour to the Conservatives – much bigger than the average swing in the region.
I was very proud of the positive campaign I ran and the relationships I built. The campaign was fought in the mouth of the expenses scandal, with my incumbent opponent himself having a few low-key brushes with expenses controversy. I was clear from the off, that I would not be making this a fight about his character or his integrity – he was – he is – a decent man. I fought on issues and on why I felt I would be a great representative for local people in parliament and why Britain needed change after 13 years of Labour governments.
It remains one of the most important and enjoyable experiences of my life. It was something I had planned for years – a major step in my ambition to become an MP and a life in politics. From the age of nine or ten I had this path mapped out, but now, that world and that ambition, is a million miles away.
Those seven years have been years of enormous change for me and my family – change that brought me new perspectives and helped rethink my ambitions – more about that in subsequent posts. I still care passionately about politics but the thought of standing for election again now would fill me not only with dread, but also a little nausea. It is not politics that has changed – although it has, in some ways quite profoundly – but me. The contempt in which politicians are held has deepened and darkened since 2010 and the personal abuse, personal risk and intrusion into personal life has become so bad that many have stepped off the political stage.
My decision was less about that, although it saddens me desperately, and more about my redefinition of success and happiness which does not include spending time away from my family (I even resent leaving home to go to a meeting now!) – especially the thought of spending days apart each week, moving between home and Westminster.
As Facebook reminds me, it is only seven years ago that I took a big step towards my then life’s goal of being an MP, but it might as well be a lifetime. It is a time I am proud of but have no desire to repeat. I was for turning and have turned my back on that political path. The only constituency I care about now is the consistency of one; my one Team Jones.