Being a PPC is hard work – we are volunteers and unpaid, but expected to do a huge amount of work building our teams, supporting local elections, sending out press releases, attending local events, answering letters and emails, the list goes on.
However, I willingly signed up to the never-ending work. Why? In my case it was my anger at poor mental health provision coupled with my fury at the inequality in society. Those two issues pushed me over the edge from being an armchair activist to getting out and knocking on doors, trying to make a difference.
I didn’t like door-knocking the first time – I thought I was intruding on people’s privacy by interrupting whatever they happened to be doing. But I quickly found out that most people like being asked their opinion and listened to. What they don’t like about politics is the shouting of Westminster and the perceived lack of understanding about how the real world works. Someone knocking on their door, listening to stories about their world, the real world, means a huge amount to them.
As a PPC, we can raise awareness of issues. It is a position of influence, being a voice for the voiceless. We can speak up at public events and make a point, we can argue a different view at hustings, we can put out press releases showing Lib Dems would do things differently, and we can write articles in local newsletters and Focus leaflets. Putting our views and the party’s views out there makes a difference. It shifts the conversation and reframes issues.
Anyone considering being a PPC needs to understand what motivates them and what they want to accomplish in their area. Being grounded in what you are in it for helps when the workload seems overwhelming and people are pulling you in all sorts of directions.
From my view, we need PPCs from a range of backgrounds, truly representing the breadth of the population. It is not just getting gender balance right, it is making sure we have diverse voices from all walks of life in the Parliamentary party, representing a range of viewpoints and lived experience.
Hopefully, I’ll be one of the first (not sure) classical musicians elected.
* Kirsten Johnson is the PPC for North Devon and Day Editor of Lib Dem Voice.