Seventeen months ago, in a set of internal party elections whose outcome was not entirely unexpected, I lost my place on the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) and failed to be elected back onto the ALDE Party Council delegation, the latter despite a second bite of the cherry granted to me by the party's (relative) success in the December 2019 General Election.
I wasn't that far from success in either contest but, if you haven't won, you've lost. And, in fairness, looking at who had won, and indeed at some of those who had lost, I couldn't in all fairness have much complaint. I don't offer the electorate promises on policy that aren't actually salient - ALDE Party Council seldom discusses policy and is more like a rather large Finance and Administration Committee - and my reputation is as a bureaucrat rather than an internationalist (that'll teach me to care about structure and process, won't it?). And, the candidates who beat me could claim experience and knowledge that, in truth, I can't match.
Accordingly, I had reconciled myself to the outcome and was hardly pining for a return - life is too short, and there's a whole world out there for someone with a sense of intellectual curiosity and a desire to understand as far as possible.
A vacancy had arisen, following the resignation of one of the directly elected FIRC members, both from the committee and the Party, but I wasn't the runner-up, and you seldom see that many resignations, even in a three-year term. And so, Jonathan Fryer's untimely, and extremely unfortunate, demise created an unexpected vacancy on both FIRC and the ALDE Party Council delegation.
Having been consulted on how the vacancies should be filled, for reasons I don't entirely comprehend, I pointed the Committee to Jack Coulson, the Party's very capable Company Secretary, who handles such things in accordance with the Party's constitution, and left matters to take their course.
Internal by-elections are often quite hard to call, especially when you're effectively eliminating someone with a considerable number of first preferences. The way they split isn't easily predictable, especially if, in the original count, their preferences weren't transferred as part of the process. Looking at the original result, there were a number of candidates potentially in the frame, so I didn't get my hopes up. And, as already noted, I wasn't desperate to return.
The result was a bit of a surprise, in that I was now successful in both elections. There was, however, something unexpected, in that the Constitution says that, in the event of a recount, no previously elected candidate should lose their place, and, in the ALDE Party Council recount, exactly that had happened. And so, I appealed, knowing that, if my appeal was successful, I would lose my newly gained place.
I should be somewhat embarrassed by the fact that my appeal was unsuccessful - * long time bureaucrat in interpretation fail * - but sometimes you don't have all of the facts and it turned out that the interpretation of the constitutional validity of the initial declaration of the result of the 2019 election had not been widely known.
And so, I am back, at least until 31 December next year. I'm not planning to get comfortable, and I don't know if I'll even run for re-election - we'll see how it goes. But you can expect some coverage here about what I'm doing on the Committee and elsewhere, for there's little point in my representing those people who kindly voted for me, and indeed, those who didn't - I didn't take it personally, I promise - otherwise.
So, bureaucrat, parish councillor and international activist. It's an eclectic collection of roles, but each offers me the opportunity to contribute to making things better, even if only slightly. And, at the end of the day, if you're making things better, you are making a contribution towards the wider community, and isn't that something we should all aspire to?...