FOR many people, politics is broken. Politicians shout past each other and engage in factional disputes and power struggles. Indeed, by these measures, we haven't had a functioning government in Britain for some time. But in another sense, politics does work.
I spend a lot of time listening to people across the constituency, from town, to village, to isolated houses surrounded by fields. Almost without fail, people treat me with the utmost courtesy, often inviting me into their homes for a cup of tea, and sharing with me some of their deepest worries: perhaps their own financial situation, or concerns about the climate, or the sort of country that their children and grandchildren will grow up in.
It is a deep and enduring privilege, and by far the favourite part of my job. And I think that this is the way that politics does work: on a person- to-person level. Politics in Britain is a never- ending series of conversations as we seek to understand each other and to solve the common problems that we face.
And so it surprises me, as I knock on people's doors, and partake in their kind hospitality, that they say they have never had a parliamentarian call round. Not in forty years, said a lovely older woman, as she poured me tea in her front room in Goudhurst.
Maybe this explains the mismatch between local and national. Perhaps if our politicians spent more time listening to people, they might get a sense of the frustration, or even anger, that ordinary people feel towards invisible politicians who sit on the fence, or meekly follow their party's whip when issues of integrity or about the future of our country arise.
I started my career as a British army officer and served in Afghanistan to help them rebuild their country after the horrors of civil war. I spoke the local language - Pushtu - fluently. My job was to talk to all sides, and to bring coalitions together to take meaningful action. What that experience made clear to me was how vital the government and institutions that I grew up with are for society. Without them, society corrodes.
I left the army and worked in conflict zones around the world, and as a senior leader in an international charity that worked to bring people and communities together. I wrote books about my experiences.
Among the thousands of people I have met, interviewed or worked with since leaving the army, an idea began to form in my head that many British politicians are no longer capable of solving the problems that we face.
Part of this is the scale of the challenges in 2022.
But a large part of it is that our political class lacks people with real world experience. Many, if not most, have only ever 'done' politics. They aren't selected for talent, rather for loyalty to a party system.
We simply have to get more people with real world experience into politics. And so, I am aiming to serve my constituency and country by running for Parliament.
I look forward to meeting you in the coming weeks and months and listening to your worries, and also your ideas, about our future. For more information, please go to mike-martin.co.uk
Mike Martin is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Tunbridge Wells Constituency. He is former army officer with service in Afghanistan, a former senior leader in a charity, and an author on conflict and defence.