My election candidacy

When my family decided to move to the UK (for me, back to the UK), once we had packed up the house, sold the house, found schools, got visas and done the one-million-and-one things that moving across the Atlantic entails, we were and stayed with an old friend of Sapna’s in Hawaii.

It was a way to destress before the big move, and so avoid getting sick, and to think about our futures. It was glorious. The kind of mental break I’d not had for a decade or more. The upshot for me, in a personal capacity, was that I was going to throw myself into a more political role – stand for elected things; get my hands dirty.

First thing I ended up doing – somewhat to my surprise – was to stand for election to Nominet – a company I have covered as a journalist for literally decades. And I won.

At the same time, I’d decided to poke a toe in the water of the bigger picture of Parliamentary party politics. I took a serious look at the three main parties and realized that I am entirely, categorically a Liberal Democrat.

So I joined the local party and went to their summer BBQ and somehow left that first meeting as the Data Officer of the local party. Fast forward a year and earlier this month, I stood for, and have now become their candidate for the general election, whenever it comes – probably in a year’s time.

I’m excited about the prospect but it is a massive uphill climb. Let’s see how I do.

December 2023

Quick update on my political candidacy.

Since I became the “prospective parliamentary candidate” for Putney for the Lib Dems, I have been focusing more than ever on these issues I see dragging the area down.

The High Street is a big one. It is a right state. I’ve been complaining about it for over a year now but suddenly realized that a big part of why I am putting myself forward politically is because I want to get things done.

So I’ve decided to do two things: set up a non-profit to figure out how to get shops open on the Hig Street and get it thriving again with local businesses, and do what I’ve also been mulling over for a really long time and set up a local news site.

Local journalism died with the internet, even more so than the national newspapers and its dearth is worrying. No one really knows what’s going on. We do one local news site which is doing its best and is the best source of info but it is very limited and not very interesting if I’m being honest. I think it’s time to bring out my decades as a reporter, sub, news editor, editor and production head and see what I can so.

And to that end, I went to see a lawyer a few months ago to get it set up right. It was a really useful meeting. Good advice. I outlined my plans and the fact I was a political candidate and we had a good discussion about how to keep the different roles separate. I was hoping to do a single company but was persuaded otherwise.

Anyway, in terms of the whole candidacy, I’ve already hit barrier after barrier. I thought it would be a bit like by ICANN public participation job and it was just a matter of communication, empowerment and building a plan that people can get behind. None of it. There are too few people, many of who are either over-engaged or under-engaged and they are all very personally bought into it.

I’m not sure that even with nearly a year until the election that it’s going to be possible to corral it all into the same direction. Frustrating.

March 2024

So I’m going to set up a charity. I’ve been talked into it tbh. I had planned to set up a non-profit but there are various benefits to a charity – people more likely to give money and so get stuff done, relief on business rates – and the plan, after talking to a range of High Street experts this month – is to take on a lease, pull local businesses in, and then – hopefully – give them a grant and help them take it over if they prove successful.

It also means that if I’m on the Board / a trustee that I can’t get paid for my work, which doesn’t delight me, but given that I’m an election candidate seems like a sensible idea, especially when a lot of the problems are because of political failures that I will no doubt be highlighting at the end of the year.

Anyway, now I have to learn about setting up a charity. And UK charity law. I have a big bundle of stuff from the lawyers to work through. Should be up and running, hopefully, in a few months.

Should also say that the reason I’ve decided to go this route is because of a massive positive response. Spoke with the NHS Confederation about setting up a “Health on the High Street” bureau, with the CEO of a children’s charity about getting into the old Marks and Spencer, with Power to Change about what they’ve been doing across the UK, the local business improvement district Positively Putney, and some policywonks and the ex head of a high street retail chain – and all of them like and back the idea.

So, full speed ahead.

May 2024

Good god. The prime minister has only gone and called a general election for 4 July.

I had literally just finished up a whole election plan and strategy for mid October. Now that’s all out the window.

Massive list of to-dos, including letting everyone I’m currently doing work for that it’s not going to happen, finishing up projects and getting out, rejigging my whole life for six weeks, getting back the (copious) paperwork for the Save the High Street charity – oh, and just to top things off, our landlady has just informed us she is ending our lease two months early so we need to find somewhere else to life at the end of July.

This is going to be one hell of a June.