I'm glad I failed to win my local election

Why on earth did 193 people vote for me when they knew absolutely nothing about me?
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The Independent Online

It was not meant to be. I realise that now, the morning after, as I pick up the pieces of my blighted political career. The only honourable course is to be a good loser, or at any rate to be seen to be a good loser. I shall therefore hurry round to the town hall, slap John Corbet-Singleton (Conservative) on the back for polling 25 per cent of the votes in my ward, commiserate with Adolph Bokasa (Labour) for getting even less votes than me, then slink of to the Builders Arms for a stiff drink.

It was not meant to be. I realise that now, the morning after, as I pick up the pieces of my blighted political career. The only honourable course is to be a good loser, or at any rate to be seen to be a good loser. I shall therefore hurry round to the town hall, slap John Corbet-Singleton (Conservative) on the back for polling 25 per cent of the votes in my ward, commiserate with Adolph Bokasa (Labour) for getting even less votes than me, then slink of to the Builders Arms for a stiff drink.

Did I ever tell you I was standing as a Lib Dem in the local council elections? Probably not. I only found out myself a couple of weeks ago. Throw another log on the fire and I'll tell you about it.

A month or so after I got a reminder about my Lib Dem membership being overdue, someone rang from their local office to ask if I would consider standing as a candidate. "To become a councillor you mean?'' I said stupidly. "Well, yes and no,'' they said. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is probably the safest Conservative council in the country – it's been Tory since the boroughs merged in 1965 – so while theoretically I could be elected, in reality I had as much chance as the proverbial snowball in hell.

"So why bother?'' I said. "Because,'' explain the Lib Dem spokesman, "if anyone did want to vote for Mr Kennedy's party they'd need a candidate to vote for.'' It was purely a formality. I was a paper candidate. All I had to do was fill in a few forms, persuade eight residents in my ward to sign my application and – er – renew my membership.

''It would serve you right,'' observed a cynical friend, "if you did get in and found yourself on a committee in charge of rubbish collection or road widening – that would soon take the lilt out of your step.''

Not necessarily. My step has been noticeable liltless of late largely because the rubbish collection and road widening arrangements in my area have all but ground to a halt. Indeed, reducing the width of the roads appears to be the council's chief preoccupation, making cycling (all my children use bikes) as dangerous a pursuit as tobacco farming in Zimbabwe.

As for the rubbish, since the pavements doubled in size so have the bin bags piled outside shops and restaurants. Eating al fresco in the Kings Road is delightful as long as you remember to bring a nose clip.

If I were a councillor in charge of social services I'd have cycle lanes on every road and rubbish collection twice a day. Alas I am not. I only got 193 votes or 3 per cent of the poll. Hang on, did I say "only''? Why on earth did 193 people (correction, 192 – I voted for myself) vote for someone called Susan Hilary Hutchison, my official married name, when they knew absolutely nothing about me or my policies. How many votes would I have got, I wonder, if I had actually trudged up and down the neighbourhood's streets knocking on people's doors with a yellow rose in my buttonhole.

Maybe next time I'll give it a whirl and Mr Corbet-Singleton a run for his money. And then again maybe not. It takes a special person to be a councillor, a committed, caring, conscientious person prepared to sacrifice friends, family and social life in the interests of the greater good, the wider road, the better bin collection.

A small, insistent bell has been ringing somewhere in the back of my head as I write this. Ah, now I remember. It was the first story I covered as a cub reporter on the London Evening Standard. It concerned the late Sir Malby Crofton, former mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who, it was alleged, when the bin men were on strike for more pay, had secretly arranged for his own dustbins to be emptied in the middle of the night.

Good for old Malby. What's the point of being mayor if you can't get your dustbins emptied? And what is the point, for that matter, of being saddled with a name like Malby if you don't end up as mayor?

On second thoughts I'm glad I only polled a 193 votes last Thursday. The only job worth having in local government is mayor. Being a councillor is no fun. I once had tea with the mayoress of Preston in Lancashire, who wore white gloves and didn't take them off when she ate scones. On either side of her front gate were cemented two 10-foot halberds with shiny blades.

"I'll give you a tip,'' said the Mayoress. "Just in case. If you wrap the blades of your halberds in clingfilm, you never need to polish them.''

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