Time to stand and stare

With our autumn conference on the horizon and after that, in many ways, a new beginning for our party I feel it is a good time to pause and reflect on how we pace our work. Having become an active Liberal Democrat member since the 2015 general election I am very aware that, quite understandably, our work is about doing, delivering leaflets, campaigning on the doorstep, meeting people, the general public and party members, committee work, speeches, writing, media interviews, and all the additional activities of being a councillor or MP etc. Especially during the general election campaigns the pace of this work was frenetic. You could see that our key people were becoming increasingly drained and exhausted by this 7 day a week election routine. Fortunately they all had the stamina and fortitude to withstand this but I question whether this is the most effective way to go about things. Whatever our lifestyle we all need time for rest and recuperation. Each person has to find the way to do this that suits them best. For me some of the activities that have this effect are daily meditation practice, walking in the countryside with friends and relatives and swimming. When walking in the countryside I go without my iphone so I can fully engage in conversation with my companions and enjoy the peace and quiet and beauty of the countryside.

This refreshment is so well expressed in the famous poem by the Welsh poet W.H,Davies (1871-1940)

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

Of the three activities mentioned, that I use for rest and recuperation, daily meditation practice, because it develops insight, is the most effective in helping me sort out my priorities and find a constructive way forward with a project. In giving the mind, space, it is freed to be creative, often to think laterally, and come up with sometimes novel solutions to problems. If the mind is always distracted with business, doing, this creative process is inhibited.

I feel that during election campaigns our cause would benefit from have a day of rest each week. Lib Dems might worry that other parties might gain the upper hand on our day off but I wonder if this would actually happen. Many of us are aware that the electorate get leaflet and information fatigue during a campaign and they might well welcome a break perhaps they would actually read the leaflets and discuss the various issues raised. They might view our party more favourably having not bothering them for a day. But particularly importantly our workers would be likely to be re-energised and return to the campaign with renewed vim and vigour. Also the campaign strategists, having had some time for reflection, might well have a clearer vision of what is the best way forward for the campaign. Campaign managers might fear that momentum would be lost with this approach but with careful planning I imagine this problem could be avoided. It would be a pulsated strategy 6 days activity, rest, 6 days etc.

Perhaps we Liberal Democrats can dare to be different in this way.

After all as the American poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) said:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

* Jane Reed is a Liberal Democrat member and activist in York

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Evershed 6th Sep '17 - 12:38pm

    As a counter to W.H. Davies, I offer

    “In elections we do compete
    Delivering leaflets on the street.
    Make the campaign manager’s life complete,
    Don’t let grass grow beneath your feet.”

  • Dave Orbison 6th Sep '17 - 2:41pm

    I think it ends

    “But our Leadership sold students out,
    so now we’re unelectable, of that,
    there in no doubt.”

  • My mother, more years ago than I care to remember, used to quote…

    “When you’re up to your neck in hot water,
    Be like the kettle, and sing”…

    Perhaps we should all ‘lighten up’… We will have little effect ‘Brexit’ discussions, be they in Brussels or Westminster, so ‘wait and see’ should be our motto…Davis seems to be in his own world over exit terms, and Labour look like opposing May/Davis/Fox/Johnson, so in a few weeks we may be seeing a different scenario…

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Sep '17 - 6:55pm

    Hi, Jane, I was interested in your contribution because I also became fully active again after May 2015. But how different we are. I don’t think there is time to stand and stare, nor do I want to, because all this activity is exhilarating, being purposeful and fulfilling. We all have different ways to relax, of course, and no doubt our MPs and councillors need their breaks, but I hope we will see Tim Farron bounding back into action at Bournemouth, with one or two of his wonderful speeches and much involvement. What is that anyway about the party having a new beginning after the Federal Conference, which I am much looking forward to? The next 18 months are IMO vital to the party, because it is the only time we have to convince the country that Brexit can be stopped. Let’s have badges made, declaring, Brexit-exiters-R-Us!

    It’s grand to see Vince Cable pointing the way and being so vigorous as Leader. I think dancing is the best exercise there is for defying the years, and was pleased to read a feature about his dancing in a recent Saturday paper. Keep it up, Vince!

  • Mick Taylor 6th Sep '17 - 8:07pm

    @Dave Orbison. Interesting that the Lib Dems must suffer, who introduced a better repayment system for students whilst indeed failing to abolish fees, when Labour sold out students, not once but three times apparently can do no wrong.

  • Tony Greaves 6th Sep '17 - 9:56pm

    This is a sensible and interesting piece by Jane Reed. What a pity that some people choose to pour scorn on it. Everyone needs to relax and recover from time to time and as Jane says people it in different ways. It’s time we had more empathy with colleagues who need a rest and support them when they need to step back for a while, for whatever reasons, knowing that this is a much better way for them to help them to contribute again in the future than to scream at them for not delivering the next round of Focus or for missing a meeting or two.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Sep ’17 – 6:55pm………………… I hope we will see Tim Farron bounding back into action at Bournemouth, with one or two of his wonderful speeches and much involvement………..

    Rees-Mogg’s comments regarding his absolute opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion even in cases of rape…..
    This outburst doesn’t appear to have affected his standing in the ‘PM Stakes’…His, “I’m a Catholic, I take the teaching of the Catholic church seriously. Marriage is a sacrament and the view of what marriage is is taken by the church, not parliament.” goes far further than Fallon’s stance…

    Tim must read the thoughts of Rees=Mogg and wonder why he was hounded out of the leadership of a supposedly ‘liberal’ party…

  • paul barker 6th Sep '17 - 11:00pm

    Politics is a Marathon (interspersed with sprints), active Libdems need to pace themselves.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Sep '17 - 11:52pm

    Sorry to hear that people have been screaming at you for taking a doubtless well-earned rest, Tony Greaves! Have to conclude that from your comment, since nobody above is ‘pouring scorn’ on Jane’s thought-provoking piece.

  • Peter Watson 7th Sep '17 - 8:29am

    @Mick Taylor “the Lib Dems must suffer, who introduced a better repayment system for students whilst indeed failing to abolish fees…”
    “Better” is debatable: the repayment threshold was raised but everything else about the repayment (size of loan, interest rate, repayment period) was made worse.
    But that is missing the point. During the 2010 election campaign Lib Dems criticised Labour for what they did with fees, accused Labour and Conservatives of planning to increase fees after the election, had a policy to “scrap unfair tuition fees”, campaigned on a platform of a “new kind of politics” and “no more broken promises”, and Lib Dem candidates made highly-publicised personal promises “to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”.
    The Lib Dem woes have less to do with the technical details of tuition fees (which is a problem shared by all parties) and much more to do with a catastrophic loss of trust in the party which looked shockingly incompetent and dishonest on the issue. And that damage to the party’s reputation casts a long shadow over everything else the party does and says.

  • Jane puts her finger on an eternal truth which will be there when the last focus leaflet has long gone in the bin.

    Despite the all the aggravations, the failures and the perils of politics we (still) have a beautiful world which constantly takes the breath away.

    The sound of the curlew on the moors brings memories of childhood and grandparents. The red and gold sunsets (and occasional northern lights) over the Forth have the power to enthral. Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and any amount of Schubert take one to mysterious places. The radical power and humanity of Dickens and Burns. The click of the turnstiles, the crowd’s roar when my team scores (they do just now) brings memories of Dad’s sideways grin. A wee grandchild holding one’s hand touches the heart. To sing ‘Hail Smiling Morn’ fills one with joy. The smell of a rose, the sweetness of a fresh picked Victoria plum, the swallows chattering as they gather – all put the world’s problems into perspective.

    I give thanks for the skill of the surgeon, the possibility of growing old disgracefully and reserve the right to cast a sceptical eye on the follies of the political class. There is indeed such a thing as society. As my old friend Gordon recently observed on LDV quoting Donne…. ‘No man is an island entire of itself.’

  • IMO. we should take more refugees, but maybe we should also prioritise for clear cases of attempted genocide and religious persecution. The case for economic migrants sometimes seems short term as it ignores technological advances which has/will render a lot of work obsolete and flies in the face of what survey after survey tells us about the attitude of electorate. The reality is that there is not much support for a more open fluid model in Britain and is thus not a vote winner.

  • For some reason my last comment went on the wrong thread, would you please remove it.

  • Glenn
    I think the problem with your post is twofold, while it obviously contains truths, in terms of:
    1 Technologies are changing, and will bring change in their wake.
    2 Attitudes to open models of movement (which after all over the broad sweep of history have been the norm, but unfortunately frequently accompanied by what would now be regarded as unacceptable violence, and sometimes with the title “invasion”) are among some people negative – this, of course, amplified by the megaphone of the right wing press.

    However, these are, IMO, short termist arguments. All the big decisions are going to be taken internationally as things go forward. Unless we move away from people centred democracy, that needs to have people speaking on our behalf elected to do just that.

    Looking at events in the Atlantic right now, I suspect that during this Autumn, much political discussion will have shifted to climate change / environmental issues. There are ONLY two ways of dealing with these massive cross-border issues which will dominate our lives:
    1 A series of intensifying “small” conflicts worldwide as people scrabble for water and other resources or one major hugely destructive war, which will, in any case, kill off a large part of humanity along with massive physical destruction of the natural and built environments. The small conflicts are already happening, of course.

    2 Intensified political (yes, political) activity across the world, which will be accompanied by (whether we use the word “managed”) migration, and an acceptance by populations everywhere that ways of life have to change.

    The way I have presented it in a binary format gives only one sensible answer, but of course it is liable to be more complicated than that. The changes we will have to go through are massive, “costly”, and require attitude change on an unheard of scale, certainly since the Industrial Revolution. In that sense, I think, we as politicians, along with “experts”, need to be a part of the attitude change process. We should not be lagging behind waiting for the Daily Mail etc to catch up! We need to exit Brexit now!

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 7th Sep '17 - 11:00am

    Katharine, Surely you must sometimes wish to just stand and stare? Especially as you live in the beautiful Lake District, with so many wonderful things to stare at!
    After all, the whole point of politics really is to ensure the best possible quality of life for all citizens of this amazing world, and a good quality of life surely involves taking time to “stand and stare” at all the wonderful things this world has to offer! To “consider the lilies, that neither toil nor spin”…

  • Sue Sutherland 7th Sep '17 - 12:37pm

    When I was very active, canvassing for yearly elections, I used to value the peaceful time between ringing the doorbell and someone answering, admiring the plants in their gardens. Of course this is less rewarding in the rain.

  • Peter Watson is right there really was (and is) a ‘catastrophic’ loss of trust in the Party due to (many of) our MP’s behaviour over tuition fees.
    When I was first active in politics in the 1970’s most people would never vote Liberal because they thought we couldn’t win anywhere and could only get about 10 to 15% in any opinion poll or General Election.
    What are we getting now ?!

  • If there was going to be a way out of this for the Party it would have been found and implemented by now, surely. I shall watch the Conference with great interest. If there isn’t anything startlingly inspiring….I’m walking !

  • Tim. 13
    It is literally on the wrong article, I opened a couple of pages up at the same time and posted it on the wrong one. This is why I asked for it to be removed.

  • Neil Sandison 8th Sep '17 - 11:09am

    Every elected member knows what a frenetic life style you can soon develop as an activist ,standing back and occasionally taking time to draw breath and appreciate what we are so lucky to have in Great Britain like our wild and open spaces our local parks and woodlands or a stroll along our rivers and canals .A couple of hours out of the turmoil of humankind helps your personal well being ,assists your decision making and makes you a more tolerant person to deal with.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Sep '17 - 12:59pm

    A fine piece from Jane .

    A terrible piece from Dave Orbison.

    The finest piece I have seen from Lord Greaves on here !

    I have taken a back seat from here busy , elsewhere,and battered , here !

    I am refreshed but not by the return to such negativity from the likes of Dave but encouraged by the positive comments of the Lord, Greaves I mean !

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