As a stalwart ballot paper scribbler, I am proud to say I have never missed an election.
Postal votes? Save the stamp! I will breezily skip down to the polling station for the sheer hell of it.
Well, that’s not quite true. There is one set of elections where my record is, well, a bit south of 100%.
An even more embarrassing admission, among friends, is that my democratic enthusiasm used to be snuffed out when the ballot papers for the Labour National Executive Committee elections wafted onto my doormat.
Eschewing my entitlement used to owe more to the dispiriting nature of the contest rather than a lack of interest on my part in the internal affairs of the party.
Let’s face it: historically, no-one had a clue who they were voting for. There was next to no information sent out about the candidates and the whole thing smacked of a power carve-up where leadership proxies battled against real (and often imagined) opponents.
The whole thing felt perfunctory. As an ordinary foot soldier I was asked to elect representatives I knew next to nothing about and who promptly disappeared into thin air. Until the next time they re-emerged asking for my vote.
In recent years, I have mended my ways, aided and abetted, it has to be said, by candidates who took the trouble to actually canvass for my vote. I now participate, not reluctantly out of shame or duty, but enthusiastically because there are so many worthy candidates – from right across the party – to vote for.
Which set me to thinking: what are the qualities we need in our constituency reps on the NEC? Here are a few suggestions:
Tribal. Ideally, Labour NEC hopefuls will have the word ‘Labour’ tattooed somewhere about their person. I don’t want a ‘big-tenter’ or a wishy-washy pluralist. NEC members should be Labour’s hardcore.
Grassroots. To really know the party, you need to be active at a local level. Running a branch or constituency is absolutely essential in understanding how the party really ticks. NEC members should come from the ranks of the poor bloody infantry.
Independence. NEC members need to know their own mind. They need to exercise common sense and never be afraid to tell le grande fromages what’s going on outside the Westminster bubble. The party leadership will not always get it right. They may even thank you for telling them so. The members certainly should.
Selflessness. Serving on the NEC should not be seen as a stepping stone to greater personal glory. This is grunt work. NEC members should have oily hands from tinkering with the party’s machinery in order to make it run better.
Available. The best NEC members are those who get around the party. Only by trekking from one constituency to the next will they ever hope to understand the mood of members.
Candidates, you have my sympathies. The least we owe you is to bother voting. My stubby pencil is poised…