A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, April 02, 2010

20 tips for candidates

Iain Dale has a good post today - http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2010/04/twenty-pieces-of-advice-to-election.html - 20 tips for election candidates.

As I'm now going round the track for my 7th election as a candidate (3 including this one for borough council, 1 for a county council seat, 1 for a district council and 2 for parliament) and I think my 12th as an Agent, here are my 20 tips (with some crossover with Iain's):

  1. As Candidate you are not in charge - you are the "legal necessity"/the product being marketed - it's your Agent who has the final say on all aspects of the campaign. Trust their judgment.
  2. But you do need to show "leadership" by example. If you want to get people out campaigning for you the best way to do it is to shame them into it by the amount of work you do. The candidate should always be the person who has made the single biggest contribution to canvassing, not least because contact with the candidate massively increases propensity to turn out and vote.
  3. You need a proper written campaign plan so that you know what you are supposed to be doing on each day of the campaign. Get it agreed by your local party so that you have written authority and buy-in for everything you want to do, pay for and publish.
  4. You can't make up at the end of a campaign for time wasted at the start. Hit the ground running.
  5. If you find you don't enjoy campaigning then politics is not for you, because it's all about representing people so you have to like meeting them. Withdraw while it's early enough to do so and let someone else who finds it fun have a go.
  6. By running for public office you throw your entire life open to public and media scrutiny. Withdraw or don't run if you are fanatical about your privacy.
  7. Be true to your own beliefs. Don't just spout the party line, say what you believe - making clear which opinions are personal and not official party policy. People want politicians with views, not automatons who memorise the manifesto.
  8. Remember that for party activists and die-hard supporters you temporarily embody all their hopes and aspirations. Your behaviour needs to reflect the trust people have put in you. During the campaign and if you win there is no "off-duty" time - you are the candidate 24/7 and anything daft you do reflects on your candidature and party.
  9. The single metric of success that counts before polling day is the number of voters you speak to on the phone or doorstep. Prioritise canvassing over all other activity and during the short campaign if you are a parliamentary candidate try to do canvassing from 10am to 12 noon, 1pm to 5pm and 6pm to 8.30pm. Other tasks like press releases and emails should be done when it is too early or too late to talk to voters. Set a target number of canvassing contacts to make each hour and keep trying to hit it.
  10. If you are doing that work on the doorstep you need to be fit and have comfortable shoes and socks - 30 days of walking/standing for 8.5 hours a day is physically tough.
  11. Eat healthily and cut back on drinking during the campaign - you need a clear head and maximum energy. However, a single beer or glass of wine each night will help you unwind and get to sleep at a very stressful time.
  12. Have a weekend evening off every week during the campaign when you spend time with your family with no political TV and your mobile and email switched off.
  13. Don't get worked up about the national campaign. You can't affect it. Put your emotional energy into your own ward or constituency where you can make the difference.
  14. Say yes to all hustings. You won't get a single extra vote by public speaking but if you out debate your opponents your morale and your team's will soar and your opponents' morale will be damaged. The kind of people who go to hustings are opinion-formers in their communities.
  15. Try to be friendly to the other candidates (unless they are fascists). They are your opponents not your enemies and a bit of courtesy, respect and humanity should stop them campaigning against you in a personalised way.
  16. Nurture the local press - they need stories and pictures.
  17. You need a compelling local narrative for your campaign. If you can't tell the story of why people should vote for you and your party in one sentence, why should people consider voting for you? It needs to explain the positive difference electing you and your party will make to their lives.
  18. Save the best, punchiest message for a final leaflet that goes out in the last week - too late for the opposition to respond and at the point when ordinary voters finally realise there is an election on.
  19. Don't stop getting out the vote until 10pm on polling day. I was involved in a parliamentary campaign where we started winding down at 9pm and lost by just 45 votes - a number we could easily have pulled out in the final hour.
  20. The count is part of the campaign not a social event. People have lost elections because they weren't paying attention in closely contested counts and didn't spot errors by the counting staff.

11 Comments:

Anonymous jdc said...

"10.If you are doing that work on the doorstep you need to be fit and have comfortable shoes and socks - 30 days of walking/standing for 8.5 hours a day is physically tough."

My candidate days are over for the foreseeable, but I can't walk for more than about half an hour any more, despite being otherwise physically fit. You must, given the way things have been, have given some thought to this. What does a candidate do then? Phone canvassing seems a bit least-worst, to me, it's not the same as personal contact.

10:03 pm, April 02, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Yes having just spent many months in a wheelchair this is something I've had to deal with. For my council re-election I've been phone canvassing and actually spoken to more residents of my ward than I was able to on the doorstep in 2002 and 2006. In the last few weeks I've just started walking outdoors short distances with a stick so I may try a bit of doorstep work with a car nearby to retreat to when tired. If I was running for Parliament while unable to walk long distances I'd probably do a mix of phoning and what the late Ted Heath did - you sit in the back of a car or a wheelchair and your team knock on doors and bring people out to speak to you. Street stalls can be done sitting down too!

10:38 pm, April 02, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re your point no 19 - ah yes! Bristol NW in 1992, I remember it well :-(

12:32 am, April 03, 2010

 
Blogger ourexam said...

I passed the ST0-052 and JN0-033 Exam, I want to tell everyone the news.

ST0-052:http://www.ourexam.com/ST0-052.html

JN0-303:http://www.ourexam.com/JN0-303.html

9:11 am, April 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Mr Brown said...

Well you can save your time in Hackney because Labour would get in if you put up a Cabbage for election. Why not head over to a marginal borough and do some real work where it is needed

10:26 am, April 03, 2010

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I wish I shared your confidence. Actually we have nine defensive wards which are highly marginal and being worked extremely hard by a mix of opposition parties - enough to turn the council hung if we lost them. We have to work very hard for the results we get in Hackney. The council was hung only nine years ago.

But please be assured we are also sending help to marginal constituencies.

10:43 am, April 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Eat healthily and cut back on drinking during the campaign - you need a clear head and maximum energy. However, a single beer or glass of wine each night will help you unwind and get to sleep at a very stressful time."

Good advice but crikey! If only certain notable Hackney Labour councillors (including a Cabinet member) would listen to your advice - both when campaigning and, more importantly, when carrying out their duties as councillors.

9:51 pm, April 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see that both Hackney Tory prospective parliamentary candidates Darren Caplan (Hackney North & Stoke Newington), Simon Nayyar (Hackney South & Shoreditch)are fellow bottom feeders (i.e. parasites "working" in the field of public relations & communications).

10:47 pm, April 03, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shamelessly lifted from the Don't Panic website:

"Hackney South and Shoreditch Conservative candidate Simon Nayyar is campaigning on a ‘save our local shops' ticket. Meanwhile, the company for which he is head lobbyist, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, represents Asda, owned by US giant Walmart - aka the company that killed off local shops in America.

Darren Caplan is standing in neighbouring Hackney North and Stoke Newington and, like Nayyar, he is spearheading a "support local businesses" campaign, "so those out of work have more opportunities to find new jobs." Also in common with Nayyar, he heads up lobbying for the PR firm Brands2Life, whose clients include Tesco, the friend of local business!

The bottom line is that MPs' expenses is so 2009. 2010 is going to be all about lobbying."

5:01 pm, April 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shamelessly lifted from the Don't Panic website:

"Hackney South and Shoreditch Conservative candidate Simon Nayyar is campaigning on a ‘save our local shops' ticket. Meanwhile, the company for which he is head lobbyist, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, represents Asda, owned by US giant Walmart - aka the company that killed off local shops in America.

Darren Caplan is standing in neighbouring Hackney North and Stoke Newington and, like Nayyar, he is spearheading a "support local businesses" campaign, "so those out of work have more opportunities to find new jobs." Also in common with Nayyar, he heads up lobbying for the PR firm Brands2Life, whose clients include Tesco, the friend of local business!

The bottom line is that MPs' expenses is so 2009. 2010 is going to be all about lobbying."

5:02 pm, April 04, 2010

 
Anonymous Julian Ware-Lane said...

Campaigning eight hours a day for a whole month is not feasible if you have a full-time job. My campaigning will have to fit around the demands of my job and family.

My two principal oponents work in politics - and thus they will have the luxury of 24/7 campaigning.

10:26 am, April 06, 2010

 

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