THE BLOG

Spare A Thought For The Candidates

12/05/2017 10:44 BST | Updated 12/05/2017 10:45 BST

This may be a snap election, but it is already dragging on - and we still have four weeks to go.

Politicians may be all smiles on the outside but privately they are counting down the days for when it's all over and they can return to their cosy Westminster world once again.

They may all declare how wonderful it is to fight elections and to meet the people - but they are lying. I should know; I fought seven campaigns.

By this stage in the campaign, energy levels are at their lowest. The initial adrenaline rush in week one is long gone and the finishing line is still too far away. Like a marathon runner, you hit a wall and simply can't face another canvassing session.

Typically a candidate's day will be split between door knocking, coffee mornings at old people's homes, a pub lunch with party members, leafleting commuters.

Not to mention the laborious public meetings with about 20 people attending, who have already made up their minds.

It tests your humour as you play bingo to win a tin of pear slices, whilst matron at the care home explains you're not the doctor doing outpatient calls.

It tests your nerve as you're chased around the road by kids spraying you with water pistols shouting "vote Labour."

And it certainly tests your tactfulness when you catch people rushing down the stairs half naked to answer the door.

Dogs barking, doors slamming, babies woken, canvas cards soaking and feet aching - this is your life now.

Once I was kindly given a campaign driver, a rarity on the campaign trail, who would help make sure I stayed awake and never went above the speed limit. Then on day one, my driver picked me up and promptly ran over our pet dog.

For me, food was always the big test as I get grumpy without it. Empty Twix wrappers fill my pockets and late night junk food becomes the norm. In one election, our office became infested with rats thanks to the pile of half eaten pizzas and KFC.

People work incredibly long hours as they stuff envelopes with letters, leaflet road after road or design campaign newsletters into the early hours. The team of volunteers become quite close, as working together for 18 hour days across five weeks acts as a great bonding experience.

Humour is key to survival, as you share horror stories that would probably force most candidates to resign if they ever got broadcast. A black humour sets in, but so do the nerves.

As a sitting MP, it's not just a game - this is your job. Your future depends on how 70,000 people will vote, but if you're lucky you will get to see at most 2,000 of them during the campaign. It's a sobering thought.

Everybody wants a word with you as you try to remember names and faces, promising to find them a house or road hump or school.

It's relentless, but you just keep going on and on thinking about the final day. Standing at the count and awaiting the verdict as ballot boxes are emptied and you see little black crosses against your name. Bit by bit, the crosses become bundles and the bundles become rows of votes.

If you're lucky, your row is the biggest one and all the effort was worthwhile.

I won 7 out of 8 elections and it's a certainly great feeling to win. But it was the memory of the one I lost that kept me going on a cold wet Tuesday night.

So next time you slam the door on the candidate or curse the TV, perhaps spare a thought. They are only human after all.