Addicted to politics

I confess. I’m a politics addict …

We are all addicted to something. From my early teens, I have had the politics bug hook, line and sinker. In a strongly Labour voting family, I decided that I would take a different path. My father was appalled. I was summoned to a large family gathering and accused of betraying my class, whatever that meant. I have never understood why you are supposed to vote the same way as your parents.

I caught the politics bug aged about 12. By the age of 15, I had joined Putney Conservatives and was delivering leaflets and attending regular political meetings. My Saturday job was in Barry the Barbers and I loved nothing more that discussing politics (arguing!) with all the customers. Many years later, when I was standing for Wandsworth Council, I knocked on a door and a somewhat bemused voter said: “Aren’t you the guy who used to wash my hair?” What helped greatly was my mum being the receptionist at the local GP practice and having a supportive parish priest who used his sermons to very good effect. God bless them all!

Three years spent at the LSE only strengthened my increasingly right-wing views. The more Karl Marx I read the stronger my conviction that he was wrong. It was now time to put my beliefs into practice. In 1982, I was elected at the tender age of 22 and enjoyed eight years wreaking havoc on Wandsworth Council. When I stood down after two terms aged 30, I told the local paper that I was making way for a younger man!

What is it about politics which is so totally addictive? Firstly, there is something very special about being able to serve your local community. I represented a ward in Putney where I was brought up, lived with my parents and went to primary school. Secondly, the opportunity to change the world (hopefully for the better) cannot be underestimated. There are many thousands of working class people who were able to buy their council homes thanks to my policies. Thirdly, political parties are like huge extended families. For many years, my friendship circle was almost exclusively fellow Putney Tories. Many are still some of my closest friends. Lastly, politics gives you the chance to realise your dreams and personal goals. It doesn't get much better.

Democracy needs people who are prepared to give up their precious time and even suffer financially in order to serve their communities. The benefits are huge. Political friendships are like no other and they often do not respect party labels. It is a cliché but many of my best friends were once my political opponents. What binds us so strongly is that special buzz that politics generates.

Over the next five weeks, people like me who are addicted to politics will be in a seventh heaven. I know we aren’t like ‘normal’ folk but I really don’t care! This is an addiction like no other and I would have it no other way.

Written by Peter Bingle, founder of agency Terrapin Communications