It has been a busy election season for me, and even though we've been going as a party for nearly 5 years the first time operating at more than one level at the same time. A typical week saw me talking to voters in the tower blocks of East Manchester, doing a press call for the North West Euro region and going down to London to help out with Lambeth leafleting.
Once again, I stood in the council elections for Manchester in the Ancoats and Clayton ward. Really untypically this is the 3rd time we have fought this ward within 9 months! The end of 2013 saw 2 by-elections as well as the regular election this May.
A lot of the issues we deal with play out on the big stage – net neutrality in the European Parliament, mass surveillance taking in the whole globe. But there is nothing like council politics to see why transparency and democratic engagement are vital.
I've had to deal with people up in arms that suddenly one of the few green areas left in the centre of Manchester was dug up without any involvement from residents. Plans for street cleaning privatisation and climate plan failures buried in committees. And the constant complaint from people that they are not being listened to, whether they are well paid techies in the centre of town, or residents facing multiple problems in the large social housing estates.
Campaigning locally is hard work- it involves tramping a lot of streets. But it is incredibly rewarding and it will form the basis for other success. We can see that our clearly best performing area for the Euros was Manchester. Thanks to everyone who helped out leafleting, let us in to flats, passed things on via social media.
I had so many conversations with people during the campaign. Perhaps I was most struck by the woman who told me she didn't vote as she didn't think she understood enough to do it. I'm really sad we've managed to make a society where people feel like that. And that is why other forces can win. I hope I gave her the confidence to find her own voice. Of course I wanted her to vote for us, but more importantly I hope she found, or will find, the confidence to take part.
When it came to the count, we held on to our vote share, even though we had feared being drowned in a larger turnout and the general UKIP hype.
Overall, in Manchester the result was the expected wipe out of the LibDems, we now have a council with 95 Labour and 1 independent Labour. This is clearly not good for democracy. And change has to come from somewhere, so it may as well be us.
This kind of result happened all over the country. It is going to take many more of us to take part to challenge it. I hope you will want to join me in that. Do think about standing for council and helping out on the campaign trail yourself.