Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mike Beckett Interview - Candidate from Rotherham

Rotherham was a fascinating by-election for students of UK politics - a good example of a Labour safe seat that has been so for decades. Denis McShane had to resign over expenses, a national scandal. One might assume that people would vote against his party, the Labour party in protest. But this didn't happen, at least not enough to have the seat change hands. 

Mike Beckett - Lib Dem candidate in Rotherham, follower of this blog and in my opinion, a good egg, answers a few questions I put to him about being a candidate in this election

Mike married his wife Abigail in 2001, and they live plus dog & cat in Yorkshire. He's got a degree in  Politics and Economics from the University of London. 

Previously, Mike has worked in the NHS and in a variety of voluntary and community sector organisations, most recently he was doing Legal Aid casework, then worked as a Manager of a Citizens Advice Bureau. Having experience as a councillor (unremunerated), Mike also serves as a deacon at his church. 

From 2008 to 2011 was Director of a local Mind charity, he is passionate about making things better for all our community, and mentions he has a "strong track record of helping ensure people get a fairer deal"

He describes how he became interested in the Lib Dems because 

"I was first attracted to the party when they actually made a difference in our local area,  improving it.  For me Labour and Conservatives seem to be mirror images of each other putting party before people and being out of balance, where for me people come first and a fair balance is essential for society......  [and the] Liberal Democrats constitution  is I suppose what turned me from being a supporter to a member."

He goes on to detail the campaign in Rotherham:

"We delivered a good campaign plan. I even lost a little weight delivering, canvassing walking from door to door. We worked with the media as best as we could and directed resources on increasing voter contacts. With a team of about 100 volunteers we worked hard for every single vote we received. I remain thankful for all of those voters and supporters from Rotherham who offered us their support."

I also asked how he felt about the campaign and he details again how hard work was done  :

"We worked hard in the campaign for the fortnight Labour allowed us in this snap election. Having a local independent claiming campaigning as a liberal as well as a former LibDem candidate high on a wave from the PCC elections didn't help. Neither did UKIP having a free party political broadcast in every news bulletin and paper in the last week of the campaign due to the UKIP fostering story."

I'd say this was a fair analysis of how other factors impacted this campaign. I was interested to know how Mike himself actually felt about the campaign, in line with my thoughts on Emotions in Politics and how we suppress our own feelings for the benefit of the party or the political process.  I'm not sure if he didn't want to share that or didn't feel it appropriate so I left that question. 

I asked if there is anything politicans can do to improve the relationship with voters: 

"It is a shame that politics these days is too often just about the short soundbite and not thorough policy debate.  
If politicians are accountable then they should show it by paying more attention to the voters who live locally by being out and about in the community and not staying in the comfort zone of those who ideologically support them. I know this is what local communities often respect about Lib Dem Councillors / MPs who represent them. Too often politicians are too focused on their supporters rather than everyone they are supposed to represent."

This is potentially a good point and could do with further development - what, apart from voting reform which apparently the UK doesn't want, can politicians do to reach out beyond their natural supporters? 

I next asked if there was anything political parties can do to look after candidates and activists better.

Mike thought that "most people willing to be political candidates are adults and know what they are doing although I guess both courageousness and/or foolishness may be factors for some people."

And finally finishing on a core point  

" I think the heart of any party are it's candidates and activists. Investing time and care in your team is essential for a longer term success, I would suggest. "

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