‘A bereavement – with no funeral’

By Dame Jane Roberts | 08 May 2019

Aside from my own experience of stepping down as a council leader, I have long been curious about how reluctant people are to think about the leaving of political office. So curious that I undertook research to investigate the issue. I interviewed former council leaders and MPs (and their partners) which culminated in a book, Losing Political Office, in 2017.

John Tizard (see article this week) is absolutely right to use the word ‘grief’ in relation to your main emotion when you leave. Former politicians often sheepishly shy away from acknowledging the intensity of their feeling about no longer being in political office. But at a human level, it can hurt. Often badly. And this may well be so even for those who have chosen to go, as well as, more obviously, those who have been defeated. With little acknowledgement of former councillors’ work, one defeated council leader likened the experience to ‘a bereavement – but with no funeral.’ Thoughtful councils organise an event to thank former councillors for their contribution, which is a useful rite of passage.

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