So just what is a by-election for? At its most basic it is replace the predecessor through a short election process. But increasingly, and this apples to all parties, it is an exercise in organisational strength and is heavily swayed by the immediate past electoral history.

Who are the candidates is at risk of being a side show, a lesser question, than the need to get a replacement in post from the previous party. This comes through in many different ways, but risks suffocating the choice itself for the local electorate.

Politics has always had a conundrum - whose duty is it to talk to whom? My Maui and Dad are of the tradition that saw it as a duty to always vote, who read a newspaper each day and who stayed up to watch election night. As a child I grew up with that vibe.

By the time I was in sixth form I was reading the politics pages of the paper myself and attending election hustings. When the 1987 election loomed I was handing out leaflets in Spalding market place and going with my Mum to watch her cast her vote. When Becky Bryan spoke at a public meeting I realised that I was liberal and so I joined and the rest followed.

After a casual laid back semi-retirement from front line politics, I'm seeing if I can muster the energy to play again.  Let me explain.  For over 20 years politics drove me, amused me and dominated my time - it was a massive part of my life.

In 2010 it was finally declared after three recounts that I had managed to come third in the closest three-way election in mainland Britain.  The experience was amazing, exhilarating and in so many respects personally rewarding - but I was exhausted, disappointed and wanted a break.  Politics is all consuming and utterly unforgiving.  So I stepped back and have done little active street campaigning since then.

So as I strode through Witney at a gentle jogging pace around a nice cluster of chiltern cottages, I was aware of previous deliverers who had been out ahead me. This awareness took several forms: laden recycling bins, tutting or positive greetings from folks at home at yet another delivery, or my leaflet landing on top of another from another party.

But as I went door to door I was aware of a leaflet that had been pushed through far enough that I could not retrieve or liberate a copy and so I had to watch and wait until I met a friendly voter or found an accessible recycling bin.

(This article first appeared on Lib Dem Voice

After hours of counting on the morning on Friday 7th May 2010 it was announced for the world to see that Glenda Jackson was re-elected elected as the Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn.  Hidden beneath this was my own result where I lost by 842.  A close result, except that I was in third place – in 2010 the best placed third placed loser in Britain I’m told.

In most of the accounts of the 2010 General Election H&K as it was dubbed, is listed as the seat the LD’s hoped to win – Nick Clegg had launch his campaign there.  I was cited as a close friend (one paper even said I was his best man – I wasn’t!).