Last week I was talking with a Labour councillor and Lib Dem employee of Chris Davies here in Liverpool. They asked me if I would go for it again at the next Euros. Answering honestly (one of the regular faults of Greens as opposed to other politicians), I said probably not. Given that I have spoken with our opponents about it, I should share some of those reasons with my Green colleagues.
In 2004 I was gobsmacked by our result at the Euros. We stood still in terms of vote share and despite the increasing prominence of the Green agenda, that had not transformed itself into Green votes. Here in the North West, the BNP overtook us, and as someone involved in anti-racist work at the most local level, it became very clear to me even then that there was now a very real danger that Nick Griffin could become an MEP in 2009.
I gave up full time work. In the five years that followed I sold my flat to enable me to do survive financially, often working for the Green Party full time both locally and nationally. We had some incredible successes. As Elections Co-ordinator from 2004 to 2007 we saw our number of councillors jump from 68 to 92, in Liverpool we won two successive elections in St Michaels to gain group status on the council. I spent a lot of time travelling across the North West, attending local party meetings, offering support during electoral campaigning (particularly in Halton and Manchester) and doing whatever I could to further the development of the Green Party. This was at a great deal of personal cost and opportunity cost.
Looking ahead for the next four and half years, there is simply no way I can match the preparatory work I did from 2004 to 2009. I can't financially afford to work less than full time and don't have another flat to sell. I am now blessed with a very active 11 month old son and an understanding wife who went through an absolutely hellish time during the campaign. Some days I left the house before 6am and didn't get home until after midnight, and prospect of doing that again, particularly when my son is older, does not hold much appeal at the moment.
In the strategy that I pushed heavily, I staked a lot on encouraging socialists and people on the left to back the Greens, and unfortunately I was not successful enough. Just days before the Euro Elections I wrote to a prominent candidate on the NO2EU list in the NW and asked (ok - pleaded) for him to break ranks and back us, because it was likely to be so close between us and the BNP. I was unable to persuade him to do so. If I had been successful I think we may have just succeeded and I'd be writing some quite different blog post right now.
It will always be a regret for me if I never become a Euro MP. It was a job I felt that I could do very well for the party. While I wouldn't completely rule out another run at it (four years is a long time), I'll continue to answer "probably not" if anyone asks.
It does beg the question who might lead the Green list next time here in the NW. I think whoever chooses to do it should be thinking about that prospect now. We have some excellent and talented people here in the North West, too many to mention here, but three people in particular do deserve a mention as potentially our first NW Euro MP.
Ruth Bergan effectively acted as my main back up in the campaign. As number 3 on the list, she covered hustings I couldn't make, did a huge amount of behind the scenes work and contributed hugely to our election effort. Her role in 2009 was very like the one I played in 2004 and I feel she definitely has the skills, knowledge and experience to lead the campaign and be our first Euro MP.
John Reardon is a former Carlisle Labour councillor. He was one of the good people that stayed in for as long as he could to fight to try and save the Labour Party. Since he joined the Greens he has helped transform the party in Carlisle. Expect to see Green councillors elected there within three years.
Finally, I'd include our newly elected Lancashire County Councillor Sam Riches, who has hit the ground running and is doing the essential outreach work that is needed in some areas of the North West.
For now, I'm getting on with local politics, and hopefully providing support to others as and when required. We've got a huge amount to do here in Liverpool, and I'm looking forward to doubling the number of Green councillors we have here next year and potentially holding the balance of power on the council. So enough blogging and back to some work on local leaflets!