THE BLOG

What It's Like To Lose Your Seat

09/06/2017 17:25
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After all the noise of the election, as we drove away from the count, there was a terrible silence. I felt shock, sadness and a flash of anger too at a result that did not feel deserved or just. Looking at my staff, as I stood on the podium, was gut wrenching, as they looked back, bewildered. This wasn't in our script. We were supposed to get a good majority, and then I was going back down to Westminster and into Government.

Telling your children is the worst thing. I guess that is true for anyone who is made redundant. My son, aged 10 then, thought I was joking when I told him I had lost my seat. He simply couldn't believe that not everyone wanted to vote for his Dad. It was slightly easier with my daughter, I said: "Daddy's lost his job but I will get a new one and everything will be fine and it might even be better". She cheerfully said 'ok then' and skipped away.

I put a post on Facebook and hundreds of people said very nice things about the job I had been doing, and this was comforting. Some were unkind though, the kind of people who would kick a dog when it's down. I was less resilient in those hours after the result than I am normally. So I turned my phone off, turned the telly off, and shut the world out.

The bible says that joy cometh in the morning, and so it did. For the first time, I took my son to his regular football training session. I stood watching him and I didn't think about elections or casework or opinion polls, and the sun shone. When he scored a goal, he looked over at me and I beamed back. Then I thought of how many times he had looked over to the touchline and his Dad wasn't there. Now things would be different, I would be around more.

Going down to Parliament to clear your office is tough. I went in the back way, keen to avoid the new MPs arriving excitedly at the start of their time in Parliament, as mine came to an end. I was luckier than some who lose their seats as job offers came quickly and I resumed my former career. It took some adjustment to have a 'normal' job again, as being in Parliament de-skills you to some extent. I hadn't done a powerpoint presentation for a long time, for example.

There is a psychological adjustment too. MPs moan about the relentless demands on their time, but when the phone stops ringing and the invites dry up, you miss it. And you have to cope with seeing your successor out and about doing 'your' job, attending a local event, or standing up in the House of Commons.

As the weeks past, I was able to focus on the positives. I thought of myself as a 'recovering politician'. I would smile as I arrived home early on a Monday evening, thinking about all the MPs hanging around in Parliament on a three line whip for a late vote. On weekends, I would think of all the MPs fulfilling their constituency commitments, as I had free time to do what other people do, like play in the garden with my kids and put the sport on the telly. Instead of my world being consumed by politics, I started reading and cooking and walking again. In London, I realised I had spent all my time inside the Parliamentary estate, so now I made a point of arranging meetings in different places and rediscovering our fantastic capital city.

The big test for the recovering politician comes when people ask if you are going to stand again. Some chose to go back, and do so triumphantly. Parliament has many 're-treads' who regain their former seat, or move to a safe seat. There are though many politicians who try again and it doesn't work out. The snap election this year forced that decision on me more quickly than I expected when I was asked if I would stand and I declined. I did my best to support the local campaign and play my part, but I knew I had made the best decision for me as life has moved on. I'm not sure if I will ever completely stop being a 'recovering politician', but I'm now out of rehab and life is sweet. When I bump into the MPs who lost last night, who I know will be devastated, I will tell them that it will all be ok, and it will.

Andy Sawford was the Labour MP for Corby from 2012-2015. He is now managing partner of Connect Communication

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