The election is now a week away. Some 3,973 candidates are awaiting the verdict of the voters. There are few certainties in this election, but one is this: all but 650 of these candidates will lose.
The majority will surely expect defeat – indeed, they cannot possibly expect any other outcome. But some of those who will be defeated will be sitting MPs, and not all will have anticipated losing their seats. Others to lose will be challengers who began their campaign with reasonable expectations of success, but who in the end have fallen short. Even for some who had little illusion that they were likely to win, the scale of their rejection by the voters may still come as a major disappointment.
Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have had the experience of applying and interviewing for a job but failing to get it. Many will also have experienced losing a job. The former is hardly enjoyable; the latter can be deeply painful. But for most of us these experiences will, at least, have occurred in relative privacy. Outside the realms of football management few people experience what defeated electoral candidates must often experience: large numbers of people actively cheering news of your demise.
Of course we must acknowledge that candidates enter politics voluntarily, and they generally have a pretty fair idea of what they might be letting themselves in for. And, after some years on a good professional salary and with decent severance payments, any sitting MPs losing their seats are unlikely to face destitution.
All this is true. But it’s also true that most people I have encountered in politics – even those whose views I profoundly disagree with – get involved in it because they care about the society they live in and wish to make it better. Most elected parliamentarians, at all levels, work hard for long hours – while not infrequently facing levels of criticism and even hostility that would qualify as unlawful harassment in most other working environments.
Whatever their individual character faults, all 3323 defeated candidates in the general election are human beings. And it cannot be easy having your downfall actively and publicly celebrated by others. Perhaps we should all bear this in mind.
Please be kind.