Make yourself available

If you are taking your responsibilities to the community seriously, you will need to accept that people will contact you at times which suit them, rather than times that ideally suit you.

People see councillors, community representatives and politicians differently to themselves.

As such, they have very different expectations and it is important that you always keep this in mind.

Using e-mail as a standard communication medium can be a great help. But there are still many people who prefer to speak in person or by phone, and they will expect you to make yourself available at a time that will work for them.

The idea of making yourself available is more frightening than the reality will be.

The times when you will have to go out on dark nights, early on Sunday mornings or at times you might think your community work could get in the way of other things in your life will probably be few and far between. But when they come, it will be essential that you allow as little as possible to get in the way.

The upside is that if you don’t put unnecessary walls in the way of providing access to people who want to take you up on the offer of help, people will rarely be ungrateful for the work that you do, even if it is not necessarily apparent.

If you do receive messages or requests for visits which you cannot immediately respond to properly or are for some reason unable to arrange, you should always respond and briefly explain the delay and what you plan to do.

Always know your stuff and come clean when you don’t

We have sadly become all too familiar with politicians talking around questions when being interviewed, rather than giving a direct answer or any meaningful facts. Worse still, it is becoming increasingly popular to ‘double down’, backing up or repeating such responses and the opinions which surround them, simply because some people think by doing so will make any difficult questions go away.
 
They don’t. And being seen to be deliberately economic with the truth, or ‘spinning’ news in a way which suits a politicians or their party’s needs has played a key part in the developing mistrust of those in public life.
 
Whenever you speak, write or even publicly discuss issues – whether difficult to address or not, it is vital to have researched, understood and retained as many of the key facts that you can, and to have developed a viewpoint or interpretation which fits with the information you have received.
 
Facts and the genuine knowledge that you have are the anchors which give you credibility in the public eye.
 
Writing & producing literature
 
When writing about topics, you will normally have the luxury of time to validate information and facts before you send or publish whatever you have produced. It is a very good habit to use it and ensure that you have included as much factual data as you can to support your argument or conclusions.
 
Speaking, debate & Interviews
 
The upside of public speaking, debate and scheduled interviews is that you will normally be aware of what you will be asked to talk about, or what specific points or issues you may wish to raise.
 
As with writing or preparing documents that you will later publish, you should research your subject well, prepare key facts to support what you will say and be comfortable that you can communicate your interpretation without losing your way or talking your way around the houses.
 
The downside of public speaking, debate and interviews of any kind, is that is likely that you will be asked questions to which you have not prepared a response.
 
If you keep on top of your subject, and think about the implications of all new facts as you do, your preparedness will allow you to provide responses that demonstrate how well researched you are.
 
Sometimes, you will get asked a question of some kind for which it was in no way possible to prepare. When you do, don’t bluff, blag or be tempted to lie or shift the focus on to something or someone else.
 
The best thing you can do is come clean; be honest and tell the interviewer or person questioning you that you don’t have that information to hand, that you were unaware of the events/actions that they have raised, or that you are not in a position to comment at that stage.
 
Even a Prime Minister, with all the support that they have can and will be caught out by questions that they were not expecting. It is human to not have the answers to everything and the people who might vote for you will think of you as being much stronger for being consistently honest, rather than if you lie in an attempt to cover up feeling momentarily weak.
 
Suggestions:
 
  • Be as prepared as possible
  • Research your subjects as widely as you can
  • Use credible sources for information
  • When you write, use facts and validated information as anchors to build your arguments and conclusions upon. Use links to your sources as much as possible
  • When you are going to be interviewed or speak publicly and know what you might be talking about, research the subject and have your facts and interpretation ready
  • If you are asked a question in which the questioner provides news or information you were previously unaware of, do not respond to the information it as if it were a credible fact
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, come clean and be honest. Say you don’t know and never be tempted to lie – no matter how easy it might feel to do so
  • If you feel put on the spot, don’t point the finger, start blaming others or make it personal about someone else in an attempt to get yourself out of bother

Make critical thinking your second nature

Sadly, critical thinking – or the skill of breaking down information and identifying the relevant points facts within a message is not something which is often taught in a way which really helps people to become discerning in respect of what they read, hear or see.
 
We’ve all heard of ‘fake news’. So much of the information we receive is now being questioned that we can easily fall into the trap of discounting or ignoring sources which we do not already know or use – just because they are unfamiliar, whilst we can also place to much reliance upon the sources that we have always used.
 
A significant level of the content of all news we access is simply opinion. Whilst an ‘angle’ makes us feel happy when we are reading a source with which we unthinkingly identify with (The paper we have always read, or a political blog which echo’s the particular brand of politics we follow etc), it is easy, even for the most intelligent of us to overlook key facts, events and possibilities, when the noise of the writer or speakers opinion has drowned out the points which are not a key part of what they want us to hear.
 
Giving a genuine voice and true leadership to voters requires politicians and community representatives to have an open mind; to be able to analyse information and pick out the relevant details or salient points – often in real time, which could be a conversation or a debate, and then effectively translate it in terms of its impact(s) and consequence(s).
 
In the local and national news
 
The good thing about critical thinking, is it is a skill which can be learned and developed.
 
Focusing on points of information about actions taken and events that have alraedy happened, rather than what a commentator thinks about it OR what they are speculating will happen as a result of an action or event is a very good place to begin.
 
Equally, information about planned or scheduled events is helpful to know. Whereas what a commentator tells us they think is likely to happen during that event helps nobody.
 
If you only follow news from one or perhaps two different sources each day, it would be sensible to start following other sources too, and definitely ones which you might immediately feel uncomfortable about planning to read or follow.
 
If you follow the headlines from all the main newspapers and magazines on your Facebook feed, or on Twitter for instance (No you don’t need to subscribe to them all), you will soon start to become attuned to the real content of the news and start disregarding the noise that you have no need to follow.
 
Word of mouth, gossip and the things that ‘people you know’ tell you
 
As a potential candidate, thinking about running in a local council election, it’s is easy to ignore the national news and to think the rules for the local information that ‘finds its way to you’ are different.
 
It isn’t. They aren’t.
 
If anything, you would be wise adopt an even more robust approach to dealing with the information which finds its way to you by ‘word of mouth’ and gossip – which in this sense means anything that ANYBODY in your community tells you, that you would not otherwise have been aware of.
 
Inhabitants of the political world, whether they are politicians, activists, officers or community workers can be some of the worst gossips you could imagine. It is easy to become snared in the elephant trap of assumed truth, trusting a source which has told you something that they heard from someone else, who heard it from someone else, who themselves heard it from someone else who was actually there when something happened…
 
Suggestions:
 
  • TRUST NOTHING YOU CANNOT SUBSTANTIATE!!!
  • Run your own race. DO NOT unwittingly become the voice or mouthpiece for someone else’s campaign – whatever it might be, as their words can easily invalidate your own
  • Always listen carefully to everyone, whether you consider them to be friend or foe. Filter out their opinion from what they say or write and translate the validity of the messages that they are really providing.
  • Do not repeat, resend or retain gossip or speculation in any form UNLESS you need to do so for purposes such as making a legitimate complaint about someone else’s conduct or behaviour to an appropriate authority
  • If news you are given could be useful, check out the facts and confirm whether the information is true.
  • ALWAYS validate information you are going to bade or build an argument on.
  • If you have ‘validated’ information, keep a record of the source and if possible, a link to any articles, documents or copies of the information that you have found.
  • Quote these sources when you speak or write, but only repeat or reproduce the information exactly as it was published by the original source. NEVER CHANGE ANYTHING YOU USE FROM ANOTHER SOURCE – NO MATTER HOW TEMPTING OR EASY IT MAY SEEM
  • Follow as many different news sources as possible on Facebook and Twitter
  • Watch the news and make notes of what the news actually is
  • Watch current affairs programmes and focus on the facts which guests use to build their arguments vs the opinion they wrap around them

Ethics & Principles for Politics

Regrettably, we live at a time when many people think that Politicians always lie and that they don’t have any principles.

Some of today’s politicians have adopted the principle that if they tell people things are different, that they will simply be different.

They won’t.

As you are here reading How to get Elected, I am hopeful that you are one of a growing number of public minded individuals who want to put aside self-interest, and work towards the goal of creating something better for all, whether that should be working alone, or working with other like-minded people – no matter what background they might come from.

Having rules that you stick to – a personal code if you like, is essential to have in your toolkit, if you are determined to succeed as a local campaigner and good politician, working towards the goal of delivering something better for all.

Ultimately, we all have the ability to make choices and decisions which rise above any form of bias and focus on the best results for all – even when those around us argue that we are being impractical, or suggest that we simply don’t understand how everything works.

Doing what is right can be a very lonely place. But you can always sleep at night.

If you always stick to what you know to be right, remain open to changing your mind when you realise you are wrong, and treat others with respect and courtesy at all times – even when their behaviour has upset you in some way, you will never go far wrong.

Here are the few basic principles I believe all politicians could benefit from adopting, using and ‘living’ in politics. If we all did so, this Country would soon become a very different place!

People before Politics.

Every decision that Politicians make should be focused on the benefit to the majority of people; not the priorities of the few or of the Politicians themselves.

Practicality before Perfection.

We all like the idea of living in a perfect world, but perfection can only ever be an aim in an imperfect world and Politicians must make decisions based upon their practical impact; not just on what they would like to see.

Policies made in isolation lead to isolationist Policies.

Just as one policy may be used as an excuse not for enacting another, new policies should not be created without consideration of their real impact upon or collectively with others.

Politicians now need to review the whole System and not use the size of this task as an excuse for not doing so.

Politics is better when it isn’t Personal.

Politics should never be about personalities and when it is, it is a sure sign that those talking are thinking primarily about themselves.

Fear is no excuse in itself.

Any policy made only with emotion and feeling in mind does not consider the wider picture and the full implications.

Too many decisions have historically been made by Politicians because of a climate of fear.

Over-reaction and under-reaction can be destructive in equal measure and however emotive a subject can be, emotions are personal and do not reflect consideration for what is best for the majority in its strictest and most comprehensive sense.

One size never fits all.

We are all different and policies must recognise and embrace those differences in all ways, but without recourse to any form of discrimination whether that be positive or negative.

Decisions affecting us all similarly should be made by Central Government, whilst decisions based upon Locality should rest in the Locality with Local People and their Political Representatives.

Central Government has as much responsibility to reflect, consider and act upon the decisions made by Local Representatives as it does have the right to ask others to respect the decisions which are made universally for us all.

Lifestyle choices should be for those living that life.

The preferences and actions of individuals should never be questioned or put in doubt so long as they do not compromise the physical safety, security, lifestyle and freedom of choice of others. A crisis of conscience for one, is no excuse in itself to prevent the lifestyle choices of another and Government should never support it as such.

The Count

When you’ve got to the very end of the Election Campaign and Election Day itself, the only thing left when the Polling Stations close at 10pm, is the Count itself.

What usually happens next is usually a mad dash between the Polling Stations and the venue that has been selected to hold the Count.

Local Authority Election Counts can be delayed if the Election Day itself is shared with a National Election or Referendum. If this is the case, the Count will probably take place on the Friday after the Election.

The time of the Count  itself is always at the discretion of the Returning Officer who will be in charge at the Count itself.

The Count will begin as soon as possible at the allotted time, but can be delayed if Ballot Boxes have been delayed or if a complaint has been made regarding the conduct of the Election.

As a Candidate, you will automatically be invited to the Count and asked to identify anyone you wish to take with you, as access is normally by invitation only.

It is normal to take your spouse or partner, along with your agent and/or some close family members or people who have worked on your campaign.

Numbers of those able to attend will be limited. So don’t be disappointed if you are only able to take one or two key people with you.

There are no rules that say Candidates must attend the Count. So if you feel you would rather not go, nobody will chase you.

Once the Count begins, not all Wards and Divisions will be counted at the same time and you may have to wait for your own Count to begin – so take refreshments or have money available to buy some, as these will normally be provided. (Check with your Democratic Services Department if you are unsure)

When your Count is underway, you and your representatives will be allowed to watch the counting take place. It is a really good idea to take this opportunity as you will soon begin to get an idea of how the election has gone for you.

When the Count has been completed, the Returning Officer will speak to the Candidates quietly first, to confirm the results.

If the Count is very close, you can request a recount.

Recounts are worth requesting if there are literally only a few votes between winning a seat and not being elected. A small margin of error is always possible, and I have seen an Independent win a seat against a Party Candidate on a recount, when the initial count had suggested a result that went the other way!

When the results are either clear, or have been accepted by all the Candidates, the Returning Officer will then formally announce the Result of the Election to the Hall.

The good thing about being told quietly first, is that if the result has been a disappointment, you will have a few moments to gather yourself before everyone else is told.

Regrettably, Counts can feel pretty raucous at times, especially if the Political Party Members are in a competitive mood.

The thing to remember is that it is all noise and even Candidates who are seeking election for the 3rd or perhaps 4th time will be feeling very nervous up and until the Results are finally in.

 

Election Day

Election Day itself is likely to be the busiest day of your Election Campaign.

Why? – because you do need to remind people to vote!!!

If you have enough money left within your Election Expenses Budget, the first thing you can do – preferably before people have left for work, is deliver an additional ‘get out the vote’ leaflet or note, just to remind people that its Election Day and you are hoping for their support.

During the day itself, you should visit all the Polling Stations that are serving the Ward or Division where you are seeking election.

The staff running the Polling Stations have often committed themselves to the full fifteen hour day and perhaps more, so politely introducing yourself and perhaps thanking them too will be a great way to show your support.

If you have been told by older or infirm Voters within the Ward or Division that they are going to Vote for you, there is nothing wrong with offering them a lift and helping them to the door of the Polling Station and back. This is something you need to be minded of whilst you are canvassing for planning ahead.

If you have enough support, you can appoint ‘tellers’ to ask and monitor how many of the people who said they would Vote for you have actually attended, as they leave the Polling Station. (You/They can cross off the names of Voters supporting you against the notes you have made on a copy of the Electoral Roll)

This is a long and boring task and requires people who have a lot of patience, as Voters are under no obligation to tell anyone how they voted, and tellers will as such often find themselves rebuffed.

The benefit of appointing teller is that as the evening of Election Day arrives, you can target your missing voters and literally ‘knock them up’ to remind them to get out and vote.

Believe me, it certainly works and I have witnessed candidates knocking on doors as late as 9pm to gather perhaps no more than 15 votes in that last stage of the day, then going on to secure their seat by only 10!

When the Polling Stations have closed, there should be enough time to get freshened up and have a quick bite to eat before the Count will be ready to begin.

My best advice is that you use it well, because an overnight Count can make your Election Day a very long one indeed!

The Opening of Postal Votes

An increasing number of voters now take the opportunity to vote by post.

Postal Votes have to be in before Election Day, and a special session will be called for the Opening of Postal Votes for Each Ward and Division.

Your local Democratic or Electoral Services Department will be able to tell you when the Postal Votes will be opened for your area.

You will be allowed to attend perhaps with one other person, but will normally be expected to confirm who will be attending prior to the session itself.

Attendance is not required, and your time is likely to be better used working on your Election Campaign, talking to potential voters and knocking on doors.

The Agents for the Political Parties usually attend the Opening of Postal Votes on behalf of candidates, just to check that procedures are followed and everything appears normal.

The process is usually governed very tightly in order to prevent observers from gaining an idea of how the Postal Votes have been allocated.

What you should remember is that with Postal Votes being cast earlier in the Election, the Result can look very different to that which is received at the Count itself.