Friday, May 02, 2003

Councilor Peter Billenness

Last night, my father achieved one of his long-time ambitions when he was elected to the Edenbridge Town Council.

It is a very minor elected position. To be a parish councilor from the ward of Edenbridge South and West is to be an unpaid legislator at the lowest level of British local government. One of the more contentious issues tackled by the Council in the past few years has been the placement of additional street lights.

My father ran in a seven-person multi-member ward. Running as the sole Liberal Democrat, he placed sixth with only 19 votes between him and the eighth placed candidate. He won just under 400 votes. Conservative candidates won four of the seats while Labour picked up the other two. Three Conservatives were defeated.

My Dad told me today that it was 51 years since he first ran for election. He estimates this was his 20th attempt to win a seat. In past decades, he has run for seats in local councils, Parliament (both House of Commons and House of Lords), and the European Parliament. He came within a few thousand votes of winning the parliamentary seat of East Grinstead in February 1974. Yesterday was his first success.

I am proud of my father. He has never considered running for any party other than the Liberal Party even though he would have stood a much better chance as a Conservative or Labour candidate. He has always stubbornly stood for his principles and he has never given up. I trust that there is a good deal of him in me.

He joins my mother on the Edenbridge Town Council where she has served one term. Her re-election campaign - and my father's campaign for a higher seat on the Sevenoaks District Council - have been delayed after a Conservative candidate in both races inconsiderately died.

In America, elections are not delayed when candidates die; in fact American voters have elected several dead representatives. However, it is different in Britain so my parents will face the voters again on June 19th.


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