THE BLOG

Losing Isn't Everything

12/05/2015 23:16 BST | Updated 12/05/2016 10:59 BST

For a large majority of our fellow citizens, last week's election is already a distant memory. The tiny minority of the politically committed are beginning to come to terms with the outcome and, after a brief moment of introspection, the media juggernaut has returned to what it does most, if not best, namely speculating about the future.

But for a small number, the world has not moved on. They are still trapped in the wreckage of events which for them really were life-changing. They are the XMPs and, though this may not be a popular sentiment, my heart goes out to them, whatever their party allegiance.

They have lost their seats and with them their livelihoods and, in all likelihood, their career. Welcome, you may say, to the real world in which every day people lose their jobs, often with devastating consequences for themselves and their families.

I don't want to claim that the politician's fate is worse. But it is special. For a start, it's very public. It feels like humiliation and disgrace though in reality it's neither. Friends don't know what to say to you. Your party doesn't know what to do with you. The constituents you served and the organisations which represent them have no choice but to turn elsewhere. You are very quickly yesterday's news for almost everyone but yourself.

Particularly if you've represented a marginal constituency, defeat has always been a possibility, perhaps an inevitability. Scarcely a day has gone by since you first won your seat that you haven't feared losing it. But you have no contingency plan because when you're fighting an election you can no more admit to yourself than to your supporters or your electorate that you might lose.

So defeat comes as a great shock. Nothing prepares you for it. Now, as a new week begins and your former colleagues gather in Westminster without you, that shock gives way to a numbing realisation: there's no way back - at least not for five years, if ever.

You realise that you have not only lost your seat, your job and your status but also, because being an MP has for so long consumed your every waking moment, your sense of identity. You've been obliterated. It feels like bereavement and it's all the worse because you're grieving for yourself.

For at least five, perhaps ten or twenty years, you've been propelled by the adrenalin of politics and the urgency of life at Westminster. You were at the heart of events; you felt important; you had influence; you had purpose and energy. Now all that's gone, turned off like a tap. For a few days, you'll receive messages of regret and sympathy, including perhaps a couple from journalists who used to be interested in your views. Then they stop too.

But though you'll torture yourself, you shouldn't. Losing your seat is not your fault. You have not let your party down. There was nothing you could have done to avoid defeat. People are not laughing at you - at least not the ones you care about. Far from being the only one, you're in good company. You chose a career which, as Enoch Powell predicted, was bound to end in failure, not just for you but for those who came before and, in due course, for those who are now celebrating the triumph you once celebrated. But failure is no disgrace. Indeed, its inevitability and its indifference to justice somehow makes it heroic.

All these feelings of rejection, guilt and abandonment will pass. Over time you will come to feel a proper pride in the work you did and the contribution you made. For most, the yearning to get back into the Commons, leavened by the recognition that once you have fallen off the merry-go-round it's difficult to get back on, will give way to a detached amusement at the vanity of political life, including your own. Yet you will feel privileged to have played a part, albeit less significant than you may have liked, in a centuries-old continuum of democracy and service.

So even today, you should feel that your recent defeat was as honourable as your far-off victory and that whatever good you have done, whether or not it is fully recognised, cannot be undone. You made your small difference and that, after all, is what you always said was your ambition.