Age & Eligibility to become a Candidate

The basic formal requirements to become an official candidate and run for a local councils are as follows.
To be eligible, you must be:
• A British or a citizen of the Commonwealth or European Union
• At least 18 years old
• Registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election
Eligibility is often considered to be the only real factor preventing you from running as an independent candidate.
The political parties have their own selection processes and you can read more about those here.
Whether or not you are ready to take on the responsibility of being a councillor is a question that only you can really answer.
It is just as likely that a candidate of 18 years of age could be a brilliant community representative within a multi-seat Parish or Town Council Ward, whilst another aged 38 could be the poorest choice possible for a single-seat County Division.
If you are unsure about your choice, it might be useful to seek the unbiased opinion of others.
You might also think about the life skills and experience that you will bring to the role.
Being a good councillor is not just about being passionate about issues and public speaking alone. It is about being able to put yourself in the position of others, relate that experience within the bigger setting, and then communicate arguments and where possible, solutions too which will really make a difference to the people you will be representing.
Having experience from as many different areas of life, where you have interacted with as many different kinds of people as possible will help you greatly to do this.
Being able to have a conversation with someone experiencing a housing problem one minute and then walking into a meeting with the Council’s Chief Executive Officer to discuss something completely different the next is a real possibility.
You have to have both the confidence and flexibility to be who you need to be when you need to be it.

How much work will it take to get Elected?

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.

Where is it easiest to get Elected?

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.

Which Local Authority should I run for?

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.

Running as an Independent or ‘open’ Candidate

How to get Elected was created with people in mind who want to run as Independent or what we should perhaps start calling ‘Open’ Candidates.
Some people will make a very clear argument of the benefits of joining a political party before becoming a candidate. Being ‘independent’ and appearing to be alone can immediately sound like a very lonely place. When you look at how democratic decisions are made by a majority of votes, seeming to be a councilor on your own can also look like it will be a very isolated place where you have the power to influence very little – especially when a large political group may appear to be in control.
I say ‘appear to be in control’, because looks are often very deceiving indeed, and it has regrettably become the case that in most of our Councils and even in our Parliament too, the power sits with the people or person at the top of a hierarchy, and junior councilors belonging to a political party have perhaps even less influence than an Independent, and as such is very much restricted in what they can really do.
The unspoken truth is that whilst political parties were at some point created in order to ‘get things done’, they have long since passed their point of being able to achieve real good, and they are in fact some of the least democratic organisations that now exist.
It’s all good if the people or persons at the top know what they are doing. But the parties themselves now exist to secure their own futures and that means they don’t have room for anyone becoming a politician representing them who has a genuine, public centered desire and motivation to get things done. Those that do get through candidate selection and get elected, will soon have a very difficult time if they do not ‘toe the line’.
This isn’t to say that Councils and publicly elected bodies don’t do anything. It’s just what they do and what they appear to achieve will rarely be all that it seems.
As an Independent Councillor, you can represent the best interests of the people who elected you without any requirement to defer to some bigger plan or idea that may not actually be in the best interests of the people you represent at all. 
In fact, such requirements may not even be in the best interests of all the people living in the area which is under the Council’s control when it is controlled by a political group – no matter how many wards or divisions that there might be.
Being Independent gives you the opportunity to work with others to achieve results which will be beneficial for all, whilst allowing you to stay true to your responsibilities to the people who elected you. And on a rare occasion when an issue is very specific to the area that you represent, and you have nothing stopping you from going the right way for your residents – even if every other councillor votes another way. 
Being a member of a political party will mean you cannot do this at the times when it will really count.
In principle, the idea of political parties has its benefit in bringing like-minded politicians together, in order to get things done. 
But this process is not restricted to political parties alone. Ultimately, if you have your priorities right and are ready to remain true to what you are aiming to do, you can group up or vote with anyone, at the times when they are looking at solutions to problems and developing policy in the same way that you do too.
With us all now being in times of great uncertainty, Independently minded politicians who are not tied to the ideologies and political philosophies of the Political Parties that exist today, may well be the solution to all the problems that we have.
However, for Independents to achieve the results that we already need and for them to deliver the change that will almost certainly be required to come, Independents will need to be open to working proactively and grouped alongside others in order to succeed. Open to the differences in experiences and therefore the ideas that we all have. Open to putting whats right for others before what is right just for them. Open to a new way of working together with others which delivers on aspirations and facilitates the development of a new way of government working which is open, transparent and delivers the kind of life experience for all that we all would want to see.
We have to start somewhere, and being elected to all our Councils as Independents will soon encourage and help many others to consider their options and to then decide to join with others, work with others and create a new beginning in UK Politics too.

Seek the unbiased opinion of others on whether you should run

OK, so this sounds like stating the obvious. But is it really?
To be elected successfully, your preparation begins the moment you start thinking about what you have to do – and what you are going to do once you are elected, if and when you get there.
In the first instance, you need to decide if your approach and the ideas that you have – your ‘platform’ are going to resonate with enough people to give you a fighting chance of success when election day arrives – and this is right now, before you even think about starting any kind of campaign.
For many of us, the first thing we do with an idea like running in an election, is immediately go and seek the advice of friends, family and our loved ones. Yes, we always need the encouragement of those close by, but they have a habit of being biased – not always for the best. Their opinion can easily set you on an unfruitful pathway to a lot of avoidable heartache and hard work, or alternatively turn you away from doing something which would ultimately be very positive for everyone else. More often than not, people who are close to us will tell us what they think we want to hear – and in politics, that really doesn’t help anyone.
If you’ve identified issues upon which you can base a fight, talk to people who could vote for you and who are outside of your normal social group and ask them what they think. Don’t grandstand and roll out impromptu speeches to anyone who will listen – that will just annoy them and make you look little more than a fool. Ask questions; see how people feel. Discover why their experiences have made them think a particular way. Find out what the different experience of their choice would look and feel like.
It will not take many conversations with different people to tell you whether you might be going the right way. What is more, you are likely to gain even further insight into the perspectives of others that could well support and develop your own thoughts and arguments.
  • 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.

Being a Councillor can be very frustrating

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.

The downside of having a public profile

When we are young, it is not uncommon to imagine what it would be like to be famous, and to be recognised wherever we go.
Some of us make it a life aim. Some find it arrives as a consequence of the job or jobs that we choose to do. 
What we don’t realise when we covet the idea of being publicly known, is that it can have as many negative consequences for us as positive ones, and possibly a whole lot more. 
Whilst you may not be thinking about trying to be our Prime Minister, it is important to be aware that as soon as you begin campaigning to get yourself elected, you will become known publicly by people you don’t already know – and almost certainly by people who don’t agree with some or perhaps everything that you have to say. 
Politics solicits very different reactions from people in a way which can make someone you thought you knew very well seem very different indeed. You really could lose friends over getting involved in politics, simply because different political viewpoints usually thrive on building stereotypes on those of others. 
We don’t have to look far to see this today, and you will almost certainly know some people who voted leave and others who voted remain in the European Referendum in June 2016 which has resulted in ‘Brexit’. 
No matter how careful you are in what you say, write or discuss publicly with others, there will always be some who will automatically view you as being an enemy, from the moment you go public and tell people that you want to be a politician. 
Some will never see you as a normal person again, and will only ever see you in the light of any public office that you attain, or the campaign you have run as you try to get there. 
It is wrong, but if you are going to go forward and seek election with your eyes wide open, you must accept that people will automatically judge you and be ready to judge you on the basis of everything you do. 
You do not get the choice over what people can judge you for either and once you step into this spotlight, it is essential that you consider everything you do to be fair game and information that can be used for some political purpose by another. 
You are always on duty, the moment you step into the public eye.

It’s not about ‘You’

Many of the key failures of politics today can be attributed to the egos of politicians.
If you’ve already talked to other people about the perception of those in political office, it’s almost certain that you will have heard someone say that having a big ego is part of what being a politician is about.
Put simply, it isn’t. It just looks that way because that’s how politics has got where its gone.
Yes, you need to be confident. Yes you need to have guts. Yes you have to be prepared to say things that other people may not be very happy to hear. But if you are going to represent people openly, honestly and with a motivation which is all about what’s best for them, all of these abilities will find you out and help you on your way.
There is a distinct difference between someone drawing attention to themselves as they make an argument on behalf of others, and someone who is grandstanding purely for the benefit they perceive they will receive for themselves.
Oddly enough, when you do things for the right reasons, the detail rarely gets overlooked. This is an integral part of becoming a good constituency councillor and is a skill that will quickly define you amongst your peers as someone who is looking to get the right results. If you are true to your electors, you will make allies in places you would not normally expect, and when it comes to really making a difference, they could provide the support that you really need.
Yes, big egos do get people elected and regrettably to very high office too. But their personal gain is very much the electorate’s loss. Shallow politicians will only ever deliver shallow policies, no matter how good they try to sound or how good they might look.
If you are and can be true to the best interests of the people who elect you, no matter what adversity or distracting opportunity should come your way, you will always be successful as a politician, even if the results of your battles don’t always appear to go your way.
Remember, its not about you. Getting elected is all about whats best for the people who elected you.

Success is never guaranteed

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.

Is Politics really for me?

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.