My wife asked me this morning how I felt about the result of the referendum on the Alternative Vote.
I’m not sure how she was expecting me to be feeling. Other people have asked me if I’m disappointed, or sad or angry. I could be all of these things but how I actually feel about the campaign is proud.
I am disappointed about the result but I’m proud about the way we campaigned in Edinburgh. Everyone has put as much time and effort into the campaign as they could spare. I am really humbled and inspired by how much my companionaros have put in. So many of them have done so much. Much, much more than anyone had any right to ask or expect of them. That’s volunteers for you. They volunteer.
They certainly put in the hours. Hours of flyering on the streets of Edinburgh and the Lothians. Hours of phone calls. Hours of leafleting. Hours of writing letters and articles and blogs. They’ve also done all this work in a really positive way. We’ve tried to engage with voters. We’ve tried to be honest and positive and to keep our focus on what the people get out of a change to the system.
Standing for hours in the rain trying to persuade people to vote for a positive change is hard work.
Harder work is trying to campaign in the way that we have tried to do it. When we first started organising the Edinburgh group we sat down in the pub and talked about how we wanted to do things. We wanted to be able to discuss politics but without making partisan digs at each other. We wanted to treat each other with respect. We wanted to have fun. We wanted everyone to come away from the process having been enriched by it. I think we succeeded and I’m proud to have played my part in creating the group.
I’ve certainly been enriched by my experience of the campaign.
I’ve had the opportunity to talk with people from lots of different political parties and from none about what they believe and why they believe it. I’ve been forced to slow down and listen to what they have to say. So I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve learnt about other view points. I’ve learnt how to listen and to ask more open questions. I’ve learnt how to have my mind changed.
We were campaigning for a change in the electoral system not because we personally benefited from the different system but because we believe that if you change the system, you change the way we all do politics. If the system encourages consensus and broad appeal it means more co-operation, better synthesis of different views and needs, more network and relationship building and less aggressive adversarial hectoring bullying power hungry and desperately personal politics.
I wanted to be part of a new way of doing politics. I still do and I am. I wanted to help create a group that tried to campaign in the way we wanted all our politicians to campaign. I wanted our local campaign to be about Us and the People having a conversation, not Me. I think we achieved that. I think we’ve shown that there can be a different way of doing things. Even if only we noticed the difference we’ve still done things in a better way.
The point of the last year is that elections are for the people to decide. I can’t own the outcome but I can own my own process. I can’t pick the result. The only thing I can control is what I do. The only thing we can control is how we do what we do. The process of the campaign, in Edinburgh, has been right. I don’t mean that the operations have been perfect and smooth and brilliant. I mean how we’ve worked together and how we’ve engaged with our fellow citizens.
I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve done for the campaign. I’ve learnt a lot about other people and about myself and I’m proud of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it. We did our best and we did it in the best possible way.
I’m not disappointed. I’m proud.