“Press print”: Reflections on the heartbreak of losing a unique job

I’m rubbish at predicting elections. Always have been. Too many variables for my simple brain. What I do know is that working in politics puts you at the mercy of electoral ups and downs that can be weighted heavily against you at the drop of a box count. Beyond that, I leave the number crunching to those with better minds than this tragic idealist. For me, my 17 years in politics has been about believing in liberal values, sharing in those values with oddballs just like me and making firm friendships.

Stunt sheep; overnight bulk buy balloons; a giant toothbrush; and driving many weary miles to meet in the market square to start good mornings at 5am sharp “so don’t be late, Fee!” are just a few of the daft memories that will forever warm my heart. “Your job’s weird”, my friends outside  politics would say as I tried to explain GOTV and the need for the stunt sheep.

But this year’s Scottish Parliament elections handed me my saddest, and currently all too raw, memory with the loss of the brilliant Jim Hume.

When I first started working for Jim I had no idea that the nine years to follow would be jam packed with so many fantastic grassroots campaigns. It was the start of a teamwork of three bonded through a common work ethic and love for the cause, first with Charlotte, then Craig and now the talented Eleana. There was no room for half heartedness. From the chief’s messy office would come the clarion call, “press print”, which still now is a source of much comic value as we would set about bulk buying a volume of envelopes that would make even the parliament posties wince at the franking prospect. When facilities management tell you the volume is a safety hazard, you know you’re doing something right. Mailmerge was on. Jim has been an insightful and tenacious local campaigner, and an outspoken champion for mental health. He’s also a really good bloke and the South of Scotland is easily much the poorer for his absence. If politics isn’t a meritocracy, as a wise fellow staffer and friend once sagely observed, then it’s certainly reflected in losing Jim and the  fearless Alison McInnes. Even after umpteen years I still can’t fathom elections or the psychology at the ballot box. Sometimes it’s just painfully bloody unfair. But that’s life, I guess. It’s just politics.

I worry for the future of our country as the SNP and Tories feed off each other. Perhaps now the one glimmer of hope is that without an SNP majority there will be scope for our new group to exert a liberal influence over an authoritarian nationalist regime whose MSPs consider dissent a four letter word. I hope so.

Personally, #SP16 marks the end of an era. My happy, exhausted years in politics are marked by treasured memories. Maybe that’s enough for this tragic idealist. But it comes with an agonisingly heavy heart because I’ll miss my weird job terribly and all the people who make it so special.

* Fiona Milne is a member in Kinross

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4 Comments

  • Thank you for posting this. Jim was a superb MSP. Whatever holds or gains we made on Thursday must be judged in that light. Seeing a great big slab of blue across the Borders gives me no pleasure at all.

  • I think of us who have worked the party can more than relate to your article! Good few years since I stopped working for the party, but just seeing the word ‘Mailmerge’ brought back both a feeling of terror and memories 🙂

    Thank for all your hard work over the years. My time for the party didn’t end in the hoped for electoral glory for wish I dreamed, but I will always look back with pride in my putting my values into action working for the the Liberal cause I will also hold dear – I hope you will feel the same in comign years!

    All the best for the next chapter 🙂

  • My dear Fee, first of all Charlotte sends her love. I was so very sad that Jim didn’t make it – although if anyone deserved to make it it was him. And you were a great support to him in what he did for everyone in south Scotland. So first heartfelt. thanks for everything.
    I’ll never forget how glad I was to see your two cheery faces just after I’d heard that organ number two was no good and I was so down in the dumps at the Royal – you lifted my spirits. And I was pretty impressed that you arrived on the back of Jim’s motor bike!! Since then we have made it through and Jim has been a real champion supporting Anne’s transplant organ bill. The moral of the story is that when things seem tough something good somehow appears – and it will for you and for Jim. Again thanks for everything and keep in touch. Love from David and Sue xx

  • Hey Fee. I’ve been thinking about you in the last few days, hoping you’re OK. You’re so right: elections are brutally unfair at times. MSPs’ staff are a huge part of the community of Parliament, and you’ve always been a great example of that. Euan and Jim were lucky to have you, and so was the party. I’m sure our paths will cross again in this tiny country, but until then take care. x

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