Are we monomaniacs?

My second column for the wonderful EN5 (and EN4) Barnet newsletters has been published, with a weird graphic representing (apparently) Monomania…

this is what it says:

Believe you me: seeking election will take over your life. I’ve stood many times before, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to win. It was a hobby. I just did the good bits: presenting at hustings, making speeches at demonstrations, and swanning about the streets with my chest out emblazoned with a large green rosette. It’s fun. Having that rosette makes you public property. People stare, sometimes they come up and talk, or -more exciting- they shout at you. It’s like being a celebrity. Try it as a taster for being famous.

But now I sense a hole my shape opening up on the council representing High Barnet, and the issues call to me. Local democracy, already bloodless and wretched, is now in mortal peril. Mass privatisation of public services – which Barnet is pioneering – takes what should be delivered by the people for the people and wraps it in a cloak of ‘commercial confidentiality’, and leaves the services to be run for shareholders and executives.The court has found Barnet council in breach of its obligations to consult us the voters.What’s left of our democracy? A tug on me that says, stop pissing about on the margins and get stuck into the game.

But it’s driving me crazy. Getting elected is non- stop. When I’m not updating my blogs, condensing subtle thoughts into 140 characters, leafleting, or making a nuisance of myself knocking on my constituents’ blameless doors, then I’m busy putting data into the canvassing software and following up on it. All the time I am painfully aware that I ought to be issuing press releases, planning the campaign, delegating, calling, co-ordinating, and worrying (about this column, for example). In the pub, I’m quiet a lot because my friends have taken it into their heads that there are things in the world other than High Barnet politics. Our friendships are still recovering from those friends’ reluctance to give up their day jobs to leaflet for me.

So when one recent Friday I was in a bookshop, my body staged a small rebellion. My right hand declared UDI and was reaching for the shelves seeking to establish bridgeheads on interesting- looking books. I had to slap it down and issue it with stern ultimata. After a cooling down period, I went into negotiation with my subconscious. That night I opened an unread novel (it’s among friends up there on my bedroom shelves, I admit shamefaced). Soon I was being warmed by the Mediterranean sun and marvelling at Classical heroes and Greek gods in the age of myth. I escaped! (It’s The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. A gift from a friend)

Along with my party colleagues, you may suspect that I have lost a few marbles, but (in between the rocking and intermittent shouting invective) I maintain that my visits to those other Olympian challenges have rather helped my sanity. Every time I retreat into the book’s legends I am delivered from the monomania that narrows my conversation down to the name order on ballot-papers, and the best time of day for canvassing (there isn’t one!). Now I am also able to debate the relatives merits of Odysseus and Agamemnon, and I can lift my eyes above the doorbell of the next front door, which is number 32, isn’t it?!

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