It had never crossed my mind before then, but when she said it, I had a think, and went actually, yeah. I reckon I could do that. For various reasons (wanting to complete my actuarial qualification, for one) I don't think now is the time, but there may come a point where I give it more serious consideration.
The reason I'm suddenly posting about it now is that last night I went along to a 'Question Time' session for all the candidates standing in our constituency; and I reckon I could've done better than at least one of the candidates (the UKIP guy) with no preparation; and about as well as most of the others with sufficient preparation. The only one I would have been nowhere near is our current MP, Peter Lilley, and since he's had decades of Parliamentary experience, that's not surprising.
The UKIP guy was sufficiently dreadful that I went from disdain to pity over the course of the evening. He was essentially a textbook case of someone who was uncomfortable with public speaking. He was, at least, audible, but he kept his eyes almost constantly fixed on the paper he held out in front of him; and held his other arm across his body as if he really wanted to fold his arms. His answers frequently meandered randomly, and trailed off so it wasn't clear whether he'd finished his answer or not, and once or twice he just said "erm, I don't know what UKIP's policy on that is" which I suppose gets full marks for honesty, but not many for inspiring confidence. Towards the end, I think he realised that he was never going to be competing with the main party candidates, and loosened up a little, which meant he got a better audience response, but still did nothing to win votes.
There was also an independent candidate who was something of a classic maverick. Very much at ease in front of an audience; his main strategy seemed to be to answer every question with a bit of his family history - his brother in the Far East, his dad's work in Kenya; his other brother's work as a doctor... His policies were a mishmash: the two I remember were 're-open St Albans A&E department' and 'ban alcopops'. He also answered the inevitable question on the Iraq War by singing a song about Bush & Blair to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. So - a fun person to listen to, but not someone who inspired much confidence in having well thought out policies.
The Liberal Democrat candidate was...okay. Outlined her parties policies faithfully; and was willing to speak about her own opinions on e.g abortion; but she lost points from me for two things in particular: being very smug about the Liberal Democrats opposition to the war in Iraq; and answering a question about what single policy she would most pursue in government with some meaningless burble about freedom (I don't mean things like ID cards or detention without trial, which would've been fine - I mean some motherhood-and-apple-pie stuff about everyone having the freedom to have fulfilling lives. Yeah, of course that would be a good thing, but what are you actually going to do about it?)
The Labour candidate gave a poor opening speech - way overpacked with statistics - but thereafter performed about as well as the Lib Dem candidate, and better on some subjects - pensions and the African AIDS crisis spring to mind. He didn't do too well justifying unpopular government policies, but of course the other candidates didn't have that task.
Peter Lilley, the conservative candidate and current MP, was a consummate politician. His answers were consistently clear and well structured; and he knew how to attack and defend, which none of the other candidates really attempted. He gave off an air of being the most intelligent and original thinker there; although having read his pamphlet on immigration (which he gave me after I asked for his views on the subject, following the meeting) I'm less convinced of this (either his grasp of economics is sketchy, or he's deliberately skating over those parts that don't support his position). He did, though, score major points from me for raising the issue of the current trade barriers preventing the developing world from trading on equal terms with the west; and I think if I were purely choosing an individual to represent my interests at a local level, I'd pick him.
It's an interesting piece of game theory, that one: if everyone voted for the most capable candidate regardless of party, then the overall quality of MPs, and the general quality of government would be higher - there would be less heavy distinctions on party lines because MPs would feel confident in voting in line with their own opinions - they wouldn't be wholly dependent on their party for keeping their seat. However, until that happens, people are forced to vote along party lines because otherwise they'll end up electing someone who might well agree that their party's policy isn't very good, but who will be forced/persuaded into voting for it anyway.
Which is as much as to say, I'm still undecided how to vote on May 5th.