Nick Burrows was a Conservative candidate for this year's European Parliament elections in Yorkshire and the Humber and was due to be monitoring the cancelled second round of the Presidential election in Afghanistan.
Having taken a part-time job in order to fight the European election campaign in June, I recently had the rude awakening of being told that although I could do as much work as I wanted, I would not be paid until April. I had become another of the Government’s savings measures.
As I contemplated the prospect of losing my home, the media was full of justification by MPs as to why they, their parents and adult children should live rent-free at taxpayers' expense. Amid this rather sad reflection of our own democracy, I leapt at the chance of monitoring the second round of the Presidential election in Afghanistan.
All commentators seem to agree that the first round of voting was plagued by wholesale fraud with the current President, Hamid Karzai, strongly implicated. Certainly the lives of 22 British servicemen had been lost trying to support Afghan democracy and the election monitoring team from the EU had been withdrawn on security grounds. A difficult situation was made worse with the murder of six UN election officials. Clearly someone did not want the second round of voting to take place.
I found myself flying to Dubai at short notice as part of a team of privately recruited election monitors. The team were to focus on the security of ballot boxes at warehouse sites, where much of the fraud in the first round is believed to have taken place. I had monitored several elections in the past but this was different.
The monitors were far from the retired civil servants I was used to. They were all veterans of long years of private security work in Iraq. We were all to be armed. No one had any doubt that this election would be a high risk operation. They knew the risks and were prepared to get on and get the job done.
Ironically, as we were about to leave Dubai for Afghanistan, the news of the withdrawal of the Presidential challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, from the leadership race and the nonsense of conducting a ballot for a single candidate, caused the election to be cancelled.
On the face of it, the fear of election fraud caused Abdullah to withdraw. A cynic might say that this team of election monitors was not going to be intimidated and the level of fraud that had taken place in the first round would not have been possible.
Ths week Hamid Karzai was declared President of Afghanistan for a further five years, despite having no democratic mandate and being implicated in massive election fraud.
I arrived back home to a country governed by a man who also has no democratic mandate from the people of the country and is prepared to wreck people’s lives on a whim.
I can’t help but reflect on the selfless commitment and sacrifice of the young men and women fighting to support democracy in Afghanistan. The irony is that their efforts are rewarded by scandal and the apparently relentless pursuit of self-interest on the part of their elected politicians. Such, it seems, is the current state of democracy.