‘Much tougher to walk away than expected’

Former deputy Michelle Le Clerc, who did not stand in last year’s election, tells Zoe Fitch that her caring nature has made it more difficult to step away from politics than she expected

TAKING a step back from politics was no mean feat for former deputy Michelle Le Clerc, who said really caring about the community and social policies was why she stood in the first place.

She won a seat in the Assembly in the 2012 election and spent the last four years of her time as a deputy as president of Employment & Social Security.

She made the decision last term not to stand again, partly to re-charge her batteries, but also because she had some reservations about an island-wide election.

‘I thought my term would end in June [2020] but with the pandemic pushing the election back until October – and the travel restrictions – some of the nice things I’d planned to do in the first summer of my semi-retirement have gone out the window,’ Ms Le Clerc told the Guernsey Press.

‘And that’s fine, I feel like I was able to go out on a reasonable high and I’m proud of what we were able to achieve on ESS, but it’s not quite what I expected.’

During her time as a deputy, Ms Le Clerc continued to work 10 hours a week for a local finance firm on its social responsibility policies and has continued with that.

Former deputy Michelle Le Clerc said she always tried to wear bright colours or jackets during States sittings, not only to add a bit of colour to the room but also to make sure she stood out when standing to give her speeches. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29334471)

‘When I chose not to stand it wasn’t like I wouldn’t have any employment, it was important for me to still have some routine and continue volunteering and offering my help with causes that really matter to me.’

It was her interest in social issues that prompted her to stand as a deputy. Having fostered teenagers for 10 years, she was proud of ESS’s push for anti-discrimination legislation, free contraception for under-21s and domestic abuse support.

After eight years in the States she said she was exhausted. As a president of a committee running from meeting to meeting, she noticed that her physical health could be improved and she has now found a love for running on coast roads and is taking part in the Couch to 5k running programme.

Another major factor was her emotional involvement in the work she was doing.

‘I thought it would be easier to walk away, however those first few months were really difficult emotionally.

‘As a deputy, particularly as a president, you are always in the know and kept in the loop. When I left there were some really important things still happening, like Brexit, Covid, the revive and thrive strategy, so to go literally overnight from having so much information to having to rely on the media for information was really difficult.

‘It was more about the knowledge and information loss than ever about the status,’ she said.

A screen shot of from Zoe Fitch's online interview with former deputy Michelle Le Clerc about her time as a politician and what it was like choosing to step away from the States.

Ms Le Clerc had sat previously on Home Affairs and Health as well and said the personal accounts and stories of islanders struggling were really tough.

‘When you care, and I really did care so passionately, you get emotionally drawn into the stories and you’re not immune to the cases you deal with. That can take a toll on your own emotions.

‘You can’t just do the job when you care as much as I do, you take on emotional responsibility for those people that reach out to you for help or support.’

During the first lockdown, she heard numerous heart-breaking stories where people found they were not eligible for financial assistance and were at near breaking point.

‘People needing income support realised that it’s not as generous as people sometimes think it is, and that was tough.’

Michelle Le Clerc at Les Cotils presenting proposals on the anti-discrimination legislation. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29334474)

While she said she will miss the camaraderie of the Assembly, Ms Le Clerc makes sure to keep in contact with those she was close to in the States and said for her the door to standing for deputy again is not closed fully.

Taking a step back from social media activity for a while, she was conscious not to be seen as a ‘bitter ex-deputy’ and is taking the time to gather her thoughts on where her knowledge, interest and experience can be best used to serve the community through the third sector.

Looking at the new line-up of politicians, Ms Le Clerc said she was surprised that some deputies did not get re-elected and was equally surprised at some who did. But she said ESS could not be in better hands than those of her former colleague Deputy Peter Roffey.

‘There were a lot of promises from new candidates in their manifestos, perhaps you could say there is some naivety about what can be achieved. But I wish them the best and hope they have islanders’ best interests at heart.’

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