Very few candidates find elections easy. Being a candidate is usually a lot of work – if you are taking the prospect of being elected seriously. The hard work often begins long before the election itself is called.
Some elections are not contested. When this happens, and you are the only candidate, or there are the same or a lower number of candidates including you standing for election than the number of seats available for the Ward or Division, you become ‘elected’ without having to actually run a campaign.
Non contested elections happen more regularly at Parish & Town level, where interest in becoming a Councillor varies, and there can be a number of seats representing a Parish Ward. However, they do happen at Borough and District level frequently too, and it is technically possible to be elected without contest as an Member of Parliament too.
It is wise to expect that an election will always be contested, and prepare on the basis that if you are going to win, then you will have to fight.
As a candidate, the amount of work necessary to win a seat will in many ways be based upon the number of electors there will be for your Ward or Division on the Electoral role, coupled with its physical size and location.
The number of electors are fewest for a Parish or Town Council Ward and increase as you go up the Tiers of Government. In real terms, if you want to meet everyone personally who you are likely to represent if elected, you will have most chance of this if you run for a Parish or Town Council Seat.
In the same vein, as you go up the Tiers of Government, the level of politics increases too, and that can have a big impact on the type of campaign you will need to run and how much effort you will need to make in communicating your messages to the people who you will be asking to elect you.
If you are asking yourself where it is easiest to get elected, you may be thinking about politics for the wrong reasons.
Being entrusted with a publicly elected office is a great responsibility. One which everyone standing for election should take very seriously.
If taking the time and making the effort to secure enough votes to win an election sounds like too much work for you, 4 or 5 years responsibility of fighting for what’s in the best interests of your electorate certainly will be.
If you’ve decided that you want to be a Councillor, but are not sure of where you could achieve most, help others in the way you would like, or potentially achieve the biggest impact, it would be worth considering the roles and responsibilities of the different Tiers of Government, and what work Parish & Town Councils, Borough & District Councils and County Councils do.
Many people think of all Councils being the same thing. In some cases, where there are Unitary Authorities they basically are. Otherwise, if you want to influence things in a particular way it is important to know where their responsibilities lie.
If you are already an activist, your decision may be much easier. For instance, if you feel your community needs far more dog and litter bins, you are most likely to influence this by becoming a member of your local Parish or Town Council – if one exists in your area. If you are fed up with building on the green belt or on flood plains, being elected to your local Borough or District Council – where Planning Decisions are made, will be your best step. If tackling potholes is your thing, it will be your County Council.
- DON’T tell people who are strangers what you are thinking about doing, or why you are asking the questions. You will draw unnecessary attention to yourself before you have even decided if you want to see the process through – and may even break Electoral Law by doing so.
- DO take the opportunity to speak to everyone you can. Everyone likes to feel their opinion is valued and you will soon become away of common themes and facts that deserve greater focus. What is more, every conversation is a step nearer to being comfortable talking to anyone in any situation – a prerequisite for a respected politician.
As you go up the Tiers of Government, the more that politics and a war of ideas will become apparent with almost everything you will do.
As Seats become part of much bigger authority areas, your vote can also feel very insignificant too and especially so if you are fighting against policy which is being promoted by a political group which has a majority control, but doesn’t even have a representative in the area you represent.
However, there are many positives – if you are prepared and willing to focus your energies on what you can do – which often revolves around directly helping the people you represent within your constituency, and also fight to make sure that issues you do not appear to win are nonetheless raised, debated and put down on public record.
With the Internet now available to almost everyone on their phone, and public records of almost every kind now being made transparently available wherever they are located, it is inevitable that we will create a footprint with everything we do publicly.
Whilst I will discuss communication, social media and media relations in pages of their own, it is important to understand fully just how far reaching any news of your public activities can be.
Whether right or wrong, good or bad; people you meet socially, prospective employers, admission committees, people you might want to date and many others besides will have easy access to any material that features your name and activities, which has found its way on to ‘the net’.
What will find its way on to ‘the net’? Well for the purposes of making a decision about whether to campaign and run for an Elected Office, it would be sensible to consider everything – YES EVERYTHING you do and say to anyone as having the potential to find its way into the public realm.
For a start, that includes:
- Anything you say in public
- Anything you say to anyone about what you are doing, or what you have planned
- E-mails (Nothing should be considered private or personal – even if you state that its content is confidential)
- Articles in Newspapers and/or on Internet News Pages
- Public Records (Nomination Papers, Interests, Voting History, Attendance, Comments etc)
- Facebook Posts
- Any other form of social media
- Other things too
- Anything political can be divisive. Politics create barriers or walls in relationships that would otherwise be perfect (Take Brexit and the Remainers vs Leavers as an example).
We have no control over this because it is possible for each and every one of us to feel so passionate about our beliefs that we can feel automatically opposed to any alternative viewpoint.
It takes a lot of thought for anyone to see the opinions of others as an outward expression of the private person that person is. It’s challenging to understand and accept such expressions are not personal and are not really levelled against us personally in any way, and that we should also treat others and their views as being of no threat to us personally.
If you can be objective in politics, you will always know it is possible that you can win. But you have very limited influence on how others will perceive you.
Politics can be a very unfriendly place. If you have any information about you which is already out there on ‘the net’, which you would potentially find embarrassing, difficult to explain or might be seen by some as a way to hurt you for their own purposes, think carefully about whether you want to expose yourself to emotional pain in that way.
I know I am right!
I can do much better than the people there now!
I can provide a real voice for voters!
These are all views which will sound familiar to anyone who has run in a public election in the UK and may be very much along the lines or exactly how you are feeling about the prospect of becoming a politician right now.
Unfortunately, you are not alone. Just in the election you plan to fight, there may be many others. The others may be members of Political Parties with all kinds of support. Other candidates may have been elected many times before. They may even be considered publicly to be ‘successful’.
One of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of running for a publicly elected office is the competition that you will face. Even if you are 100% certain of the justification and righteous nature of your campaign, it doesn’t mean that anyone else will ‘get it’, and in fact to many you may be seen to simply be very wrong.
As in most things, perception is everything in politics and its how as a candidate you are perceived by the people you are asking to elect you, that will ultimately reflect their choice.
As a candidate, your importance to voters may be something that is simply not yours to influence. Only so much of getting elected is about the work you do, the words you say and the effort you make – even when you do much more than every other candidate.
Party Politics plays a regrettable, yet significant part of what will happen on any Election Day when you are a candidate and if the election you are fighting falls on the wrong day – for instance you are running for your local district council on the same day that there is a General Election, the results of the local election might well be dictated by the national poll – just the very same.
Yes, it’s wrong. No, it’s not fair. But it’s how politics works in the UK and one of the most important things you can do to help yourself emotionally before you make a start, is understand and accept that your success within the political world is played out very much like a game. If you don’t understand the rules or are willing to work with them, you would be very wise to decide not to play.
Even though everybody seems to hate politicians, politics can appear to be a very glamorous place. Also, its not unusual to like the idea of having some power, and when you want power that much, politics can really seem like the place you should to be.
As you are reading How to get Elected, I am hopeful that in terms of what I have just written, you would be one of a growing number who would be ticking ‘none of the above’.
That’s great. But the problem is that many of the people who aren’t in politics to serve the better interests of our communities actually are motivated in very shallow ways.
There are plenty of them – and that means this kind of mentality can create an unpleasant working environment for people like you.
As a good politician, you should never take things personally, but must also be aware that plenty of other politicians do.
That means you can feel victimised and might even feel threatened by others in what seems to be a very personal way, just because you are doing your best and doing what you do.
Making complaints to appropriate authorities is now encouraged. And if you feel threatened, you always should do so.
But it is also important to understand that even threats and bad behaviour of this kind come at different levels and can present itself in different ways. Some which are very subtle and not that easy to define.
Odd as it may seem, anger against in politics you can be quite innocent. It can be the result of your achievements having upset someone who in some way sees your success as being their loss. It never is, but you will usually struggle to get them to see it that way!
If you can see yourself managing to keep going when others seem to want to do everything possible to make you quit, whilst also keeping a smile on your face and continuing to do the best that it is possible for you to do, the rough and tough of politics might just be suitable for you.