The week after the eight years before

by Stephen Tall on May 9, 2008

So this is what it feels like to be a normal person again… After eight years, I am no more; I have ceased to be; I am an ex-councillor.

Chatting to two fellow councillors last week, I could sense a faint trace of pity in their looks, as if, by standing down, I was tossing away the holy grail. They asked why I was leaving, and consoled me that I could always (try and) get back on the Council soon enough.

Then conversation turned to the commitment involved: the incessant evening meetings, the weekends catching up with casework, the tensions it causes at home. My turn to give them a pitying look: “And you asked me why I’m quitting…?

I keep on waiting for an epiphany, a moment when I suddenly realise my life is my own again, and not shared with 4,000 residents. It hasn’t happened yet, and I doubt it will. Life has a habit of adjusting itself remarkably quickly to our changing rhythms.

Besides, last Saturday morning saw me cycling to the Town Hall to chair the Oxford Lib Dem group’s annual meeting, at which – I’m genuinely delighted to say – my former ward colleague, and fellow blogger, David Rundle was unanimously elected leader. He will now be the leader of the opposition to Labour’s minority administration, a task he will relish and for which he’s custom-made.

David’s already commented on the Oxford results here, and there’s little to add. For some bizarre reason, the local paper keeps referring to the party’s “miserable” election-night performance, despite the Lib Dems gaining a seat – pretty impressive for a group which has been in minority control for two years, and has had to grapple with a City Council only slowly recovering from Labour’s appalling quarter of a century running it down.

Yet there’s no denying Labour did better: they gained four seats, including one from us, bucking the dire national trend for their party. They will reap the benefits of a Council which is now on the mend and on the up. Fingers crossed they don’t screw it up… again.

For us, the results were more frustrating than anything else. The Tories trail a long way behind the Lib Dems in Oxford East – but they did just enough this time around to split the anti-Labour vote, and hand a lifeline to the Labour party. The message here is clear: vote blue, get Brown. The challenge for the Lib Dems is to make sure the public – determined to get rid of Labour at the next general election – understand the message, too.

Well, I guess I have a little more spare time now to lend a hand with that.