Campaigning during a global conflict

As I am writing this article, there are two months until the next local elections. Time has flown by. I started campaigning quite early, in October 2021 and so far, I really enjoyed the experience. Feedback? Quite positive!

It is not always easy to predict the final results of any elections, however I often wonder what the key ingredients of winning a campaign are? I do believe that making your face known to local residents is crucial. The human connection and authenticity are one of the elements to win a seat. During months of campaigning, I already have countless examples of people who said to me; “I can see your passion and commitment to the political process”. “Your dedication comes clearly across” or “I’ve read your introduction letter and you have my vote”. The second comment was made only a week ago. In my letter to residents, I simply tried to be myself. I told voters about my background, my journey, and involvement in a number of other projects and activities as well as reasons for standing. As I said before, being open, honest and simple resonate with people. I don’t like negative campaigning and therefore I ensured that my letter states my plans and ambitions for the area.

I must admit that the conversation has shifted hugely in the last week. Since October, I’ve heard a few people saying to me: “I have not decided who to vote for, however I will not vote for the Conservative Party”. A few people feel deflated and quite apprehensive to vote. Let’s not forget that the pandemic has exposed the UK government and a significant number of its failings. In many ways, the “Partygate saga” was a nail in the coffin. I also know that the whole situation, two years of COVID and now the war in Ukraine has a huge impact on people’s wellbeing.

However, the mood has changed so much in the last week. It is incredible to see that although Britain is far away from Ukraine, so many people are deeply affected by the Russian invasion on Ukraine. People are sad, angry and worried about peace and the future of Europe. There were a few moments where I found it quite hard to compose myself. Only on Friday, one of the last doors I knocked on was opened by a Latvian lady. She has been living in Britain for sixty years, however she is desperately worried for her country. She cried and sought consolation. That same day, I was involved in organising another vigil for Ukraine, this time in Stevenage. I spoke with a number of Ukrainians. Some stories are heart-breaking; one lady with no English came to visit her daughter and now she can’t go back. Can any of us imagine what she must be going through…?

Is there anything that I’ve learnt? “Carpe diem”, Latin expression of making the most of the present time. That’s so important. We must continue using every opportunity to make a difference, every. However, it is equally important to have time to switch off. In order to help others, we also, sometimes, need to look after ourselves.

The last lesson for me is the greatest one; peace and democracy are fragile; we need to cherish it and we have to, at all costs, protect it and never take it for granted. 

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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