We should pray for those feeling disappointed after the local elections

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Last week's local election results were a mixed bag, with the one overriding theme being a continued decline in Conservative fortunes. Roughly half of all the Conservative councillors seeking re-election last Thursday lost their seats. A proportion reminiscent of the fate of councillors in my own party, the Liberal Democrats 10 years ago as we faced deep unpopularity towards the end of our time in the coalition government. Back then, I saw many excellent councillors lose their seats because of voters choosing to punish them – and reward others – on account of national issues.

The most high-profile casualty of last week's elections was Andy Street, the Conservative elected mayor of the West Midlands. He was widely considered to have done a good job and to be a pleasant, effective and independent-minded person. And – albeit by the tiniest of margins – he still lost his job last week to the Labour candidate Richard Parker.

Many people – including Parker himself and opposition politicians from all parties – have expressed real sympathy and warmth towards Andy Street, who has said that he is personally devastated by the result.

There are hundreds of Andy Streets out there right now. Less famous people around the country, who have either lost their seats, or else stood for election with a realistic hope that they might win but were not successful.

To be a candidate is to make yourself really vulnerable, to expose yourself to scrutiny, maybe to ridicule and hostility, but certainly to the possibility that you will be rejected by your community. We should thank God for those who have put themselves forward and pray that He will give wisdom and humility to those who won, and comfort and strength to those who lost.

But it's not just the candidates who bear the wounds of defeat.

Maybe you have seen small bands of plucky volunteers, carrying leaflets, with hand-held devices or clipboards and wearing rosettes, walking around your local area and knocking on doors?

In this age of sophisticated software, there is still no better way to gather information about voters' intentions or to understand their situations, than on foot, door by door, person by person.

This is where the 'real stuff' of politics happens and those politicians and commentators who spend too much time in Westminster, or in the office or online ... will simply miss this and remain out of touch.

On the doorstep I hear about the difficulties of daily life for families and communities and I see how they are so often the result of problems on a national and international scale. Housing needs, experiences of health treatment and waiting times, the plight of small businesses, the impact of poverty ...

Knocking on someone's door doesn't necessarily mean that you will be welcomed! Rory Stewart describes his first session canvassing in the Cumbrian town of Penrith. He encountered a street full of people who declared themselves too busy to speak to him and in one case he literally had a door slammed in his face. Nothing brings you more down to earth than a couple of hours out on the doorsteps!

The privilege of being a local constituency MP is that you get to champion a place and advocate for and serve its people. It is a similar calling to being rooted in a local church. To love the place you are in, to stick with it through thick and thin, through gentrification or decline, through disasters and celebrations. It is living out that familiar instruction from Jeremiah to 'seek the welfare of the city you are in'.

And the canvassers and other volunteers for candidates who lost last week, will feel the devastation of defeat just as keenly as the candidates themselves. Yet, even in defeat, their calling to serve their community may not have changed. Defeat is not always God's way of telling you to give up and do something else. Maybe He is teaching you or refining you so that you may go on to greater things?

A friend of mine who lost his seat as an MP a few years ago explained that far worse even than the shock of defeat and the loss of his job, was the loss of his identity. Being the local MP was who he was. It was his status, it gave his life meaning. I know what he means. Yet I also know that my status does not give me my identity, nor does it sum up who I am, nor give my life meaning. A wondrous thing about being a follower of Jesus is that we know that no matter what the electorate thinks of us, the God of the universe thinks that we are worth dying for, we are loved and we are precious to Him.

For those who do not have their hope in Jesus, defeat will be all the more crushing. So we should pray for all those who now bear the burden of disappointment following last week's elections – but we should pray differently for those who know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and for those who so far do not.

Tim Farron has been the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale since 2005, and served as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015 to 2017. Tim is also the host of Premier's A Mucky Business' podcast, which unpacks the murky world of politics and encourages believers around the UK to engage prayerfully. He is the author of A Mucky Business: Why Christians should get involved in politics.