As readers of The Star know, four weeks ago I announced that I would not be standing in the General Election, which is to be held on May 7 next year.
As I said at the time, this was the most difficult in a lifetime of difficult decisions, but I believe the right one for the people of Brightside and Hillsborough constituency, Sheffield and in the long run, myself.
The expressions of support I’ve received have been deeply humbling. Not because everyone has agreed with my stance or policies over the last near 45 years nor necessarily took to me as a person.
No, because even those who disagree, have been generous enough to acknowledge my commitment to our city and to the values which often transcend political allegiance.
A desire to see everyone, whatever their background, have an equal opportunity to flourish and succeed. What the Australians call ‘fair go’, what we might call ‘a fair chance’.
To understand that real democracy gives everyone, whatever their wealth and privilege, a genuine say, not just through the ballot box but in participating in bringing about change in the neighbourhood, the city and much wider.
I was particularly touched by those who posted messages via The Star, and who in many cases I have never met.
Residents like Angela Lane, Carol Brown (I’m not sure I’m a ‘fab bloke’ but I appreciated it nevertheless), Sue Pickin and Steve Tagg, who I wish well.
Also my thanks to community activists like Sylvana Mansell on the Stubbin Estate and Jean Gledhill, who has given much to the people of Wisewood.
The truth is that being in the glare of publicity, having not just your public pronouncements but your private life picked over, can be pretty wearing.
Politicians are like the population as a whole, good in parts.
To understand the challenges of making change, of dealing with an ever-changing world, where forces of power are often way outside the formal political arena, is not easy to explain.
Yes, we often fail even when we’ve tried like hell. In fact quite often people blame those nearest to them (as they do in their own family) even when they have gone the extra mile to try and help.
But the satisfaction of trying to make a difference, of seeing some things change for the better, is a reward in itself.
That is why I would encourage young and old alike not to give up on trying to make a difference.
This is even more important when times are hard, budgets have been slashed and pressures on families are enormous.
We need each other more at times of stress and that is why the history of Sheffield, built on mutuality and care for each other, sustains us through the bad as well as the good times.
From next May I will continue doing everything I can to help and support the people of Sheffield.