Dan Starr on the Ashdon ward: Hard fought. Narrowly lost. Personal gain.

I contested the Ashdon ward in this week’s Uttlesford local elections. I lost by 42 votes. It was so close that it was doubly disappointing. But I’m smiling. Quite a lot actually.

After knocking on so many doors in the 4 ward villages I got to know many people – I walked up their paths. I stepped over their kids’ bikes. I got invited in. I got invited out. I smelled their simmering dinners. I got licked by their dogs. I saw homework and homeworking. I met fathers cooking, mothers working, and grandparents child-minding. At heart I’m a people-person. I loved it.

They wanted to know what we were about. They wanted to know why I even wanted to do it. They told me their stories – about their lives, concerns, and needs.

With each new story it became more personal for me – it genuinely became all about each individual resident, what they needed from me (and their Council) and what I could offer to do to help them. For the other party, Ashdon just seemed like a safe seat that they could parachute a leader into that they wanted elected. But that’s not our shtick. For us it’s personal.

Our party is about representing locals. Giving every resident a voice. Helping people to change things so that they can love where they live even more. People power. As I knocked on more doors it became clear that my campaign was about representing them 1-to-1.

The residents of the Ashdon ward will now need to keep an active watch on whether they have a new local councillor that is working for them, and only them. It is easy for a leader that is parachuted in to forget why they are really there – supporting people,  not their political party.

On Election Day, it was heart-warming to be sitting in the sun outside the polling station because I saw so many faces that I had spoken to on the doorstep. Thank you to the people of the Ashdon ward for letting me get to know you a little. Thank you for the support. Thank you for helping our fledgling party take its first flight.

We swept the board in Saffron Walden and Newport. And our manifesto was strong on the things villages need – superfast broadband, primary and secondary school places, affordable housing, sensitive and sustainable development, traffic and HGV management, community open spaces, and Parish Councils having more say in what happens to them.

So we have work to do in getting our message out to the villages – but by coming so close in a number of wards with a new party, we have clearly tapped into something so fundamental: Why can’t residents decide for themselves? Why do we need Westminster parties to tell us what is good for us?

I may not have won the seat, but I personally gained a lot from meeting the friendly people of Ashdon, Sewards End, Hadstock and Little Walden, and their stories will directly fuel our party’s next step.

I didn’t get to win, but 42 is clearly the meaning of life.

Dan Starr
10 May 2015

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