Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

I'm through with politics
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The Independent Online

The Green Party forbids donations from big business (we should be so lucky), so runs its campaigns on a shoestring. This means the candidate has to do everything, as there is little money or manpower to spread the workload. Sometimes I ask my father for funding but he's put a sign on the door, "Do not ask for credit as refusal often offends", which I've taken as a no.

In other elections, I've had the luxury of an agent, but the indispensable Paul has emigrated to Sweden and now there is only me. Oh for Government funding - this would give all parties a level playing field.

To stand as a candidate in a council election you must collect 10 signatures from your ward. Simple if you belong to a party with, ahem, generous benefactors, as you will have paid staff who will do this hideous job for you. Plus, if you are a "peepull person" you might even enjoy knocking on the doors of complete strangers.

I am not exactly a misanthrope but would not describe myself as a peepull person. I once went to Switzerland to write a novel and didn't speak to anyone for three months - the Swiss aren't peepull people either and it was bliss. I don't answer my phone and have a message on my answering machine that says it doesn't take messages. So, standing on street corners accosting strangers crushes me with misery

But there is more agony. Once people have signed, dated and printed their names on my form, I take it to the council. There, a busybody will go through it with a fine-tooth comb. If there are any crossings out, someone has signed in blue not black, or they haven't signed their name exactly as it appears in the electoral register, the busybody will send you out with a flea in your ear and make you start all over again. How they relish this!

A form was once invalid as I had not included my postcode in an accompanying piece of paperwork. I offered to add it, but no, I was sent back out into the streets to get 10 completely different signatures all over again.

Luckily, my pal, former party chairman Hugo Charlton, the Alan B'stard of the Greens, was within calling distance. He gave the fellow a tongue-lashing and he accepted my form.

Anyway, I spent last Sunday explaining to the umpteenth person that no, signing the form didn't mean they had to vote for me, it was just a legal formality, but, dispiritingly, most people hadn't bothered to register.

After an hour in the rain, sobbing on doorsteps, only keeping it together at all because my squeeze was valiantly accompanying me on this wretched mission (he must be keen), I thought I can't be arsed, tore up the form and danced all the way home. Peter Mandelson said, one of those times he had come back or left, I can't remember which: "I'm not a quitter!" Well, I'm afraid I am, and it feels great.

Shirley Conran said: "Life is too short to stuff a mushroom." Well, Shirley, give me the mushrooms any day, life is too short to stand for public office.

NB Mrs Stephenson would like to point out that nominations haven't yet closed, and should you care to make a small donation to her fighting campaign (Credit Jules Bank, PO Box 818, The Cayman Islands), she may yet consider standing. However, this in no way guarantees any influence should she be elected to public office - though she may find herself looking more favourably on wind turbine applications - but this will cost quite a lot.

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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