Summary Let’s not forget that in Cambridgeshire, we have local council elections too! The candidates have been announced:
And….the lack of consistency across the election pages is farcical. As is the lack of online contact details. Looks like me & the Cambridge Twitteratti are going to have to sort this out by producing something ourselves. From a personal perspective, I’m interested mainly in Cambridge, plus a few of the South Cambridgeshire wards. For others of you, the other Cambridgeshire council elections may be of interest.
“So, who’s standing where?” The Conservatives, Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are standing a full slate of candidates across Cambridge. (See here). UKIP are standing in eight of the 14 wards up for election – focusing mainly in the residential areas of the city.
“What are the candidates like?” Having stood for election as Puffles last year, my take generally is to welcome anyone who stands for election wanting to make a positive contribution to their neighbourhood and area. I can understand the concept of a ‘paper candidate’ and why people might choose to agree to be one. However, in the age of the internet & social media, I think it should become less & less acceptable to not have some of the online basics if your name is on the ballot paper. Such as:
- Web page on your party’s website
- Some sort of social media contact – whether email (yes, that counts!), Facebook page or Twitter handle
- A short video clip introducing yourself
Things are slightly different at a local government level in general election year as turnout is inevitably higher. Thus people are more likely to vote on party brand rather than because they are familiar with the local candidates – especially if the candidate lives in a ward on the other side of town.
Students standing for election and campaigning actively There are a few of them looking at the addresses – a couple for the Conservatives and one for The Greens. The Liberal Democrats, Labour and The Greens all have active student societies, and have been heavily canvassing their target wards.
I had an interesting chat with Holly Higgins of Cambridge Universities Labour Club earlier about my documentary mentioned in my previous blogpost. (I’ve filmed her before – see here). Also anecdotal feedback from Millicent Scott, standing for the Lib Dems in Hammersmith, is that young women in particular want to see other women both out & about campaigning and standing as candidates. Hence my desire for the documentary is to focus on those activists that help break some of the negative stereotypes about who gets involved in local democracy. One of the reasons I wanted Holly to say a piece to camera earlier this year is because she’s far more likely to connect with people of her generation than me – someone carrying the scars of Whitehall!
The other thing I mentioned in a Twitter conversation is that ‘I know too much’ about public policy to be able to take the view of someone who doesn’t live, sleep & breathe politics 24/7. Take the recent leaders debate. The outcome didn’t surprise me. The attempts to spin who won didn’t surprise me either. The snap opinion polls were here today, gone tomorrow.
But what of those for whom the TV debate was the first time they had seen any of the party leaders talking reasonably extensively (in an age of soundbite TV) about a wide variety of issues? Or those tabloid newspaper readers who felt that Ed Miliband didn’t come across nearly as bad as they have been saying for the past four years? It’s ironic that politicians wax lyrical about connecting with ‘ordinary people’ and then allow their party managers and apparatchiks to do everything possible to shelter them from said people – see Marina Hyde in blistering form here. My take is that any senior politician worth their salt should not be afraid of such open and ‘unplanned’ exchanges. Note John Major in 1992 taking on far left protesters here, & how he remarked that ‘they were always there’ on his tour of the country. If John Major – who won in 1992 but got politically thumped in 1997 – could handle hecklers, why can’t today’s senior politicians? Or is it that they can but their party handlers are too nervous to let them try?
“Who’s been leafletting what?” As my ward is a safe Labour seat, I tend to get very little from the other parties – with the exception of the Liberal Democrats in this election. When it comes to campaigning, it’s as if there is this big sign on my door that says:
***Beware of the politically-aware dragon!!!***
‘The owners of this property will not be held responsible for the consequences of you being given a lecture on sustainable housing policy or local government finance should you disturb the creature that dwells within’
Cambridge, being the city that it is, has the high chance of someone being an expert in one policy area or another. Which is why it’s best not trying to argue the case unless you are on rock-solid ground. Otherwise things like this happen. More experienced canvassers & campaigners tend to take the community activist approach with door-to-door campaigning where they ask the residents what they think the key issues are. It may not be fun or glamorous to go door-to-door knocking on a cold November evening, but that approach can pay huge dividends come election time.
“What will become of the new party members after the election?”
My hope is that some of them will become first time candidates in 2015. Essentially Cambridge needs a bit of a refresh when it comes to candidates standing. I found this out last year when Puffles got a disproportionate amount of media coverage in the local elections. This was despite on paper being the least credible candidate who ultimately got the fewest votes in the city in 2014. Yet because I was accessible & available through social media, and was publishing things regularly online, I got featured.
I think there’s something to be said for Cambridge’s political parties & civic societies getting together to boost participation & make local democracy feel like a continuous activity rather than this one-off thing where party-political types knock on your door every spring to get you to tick a box for someone you don’t know/have never met. Hence my posters from 2014 encouraging people to contact the candidates & ask them questions.
“Why aren’t you standing?”
Because I have a very limited number of ****spoons**** – see here for an explanation.
I have enough spoons to film, edit & upload videos of the various election debates & events, or to run the bare bones of an election campaign. Not both. And there are lots and lots of debates taking place in Cambridge – I reckon over 30 will take place in this campaign. Hence my personal aim is to cover those on the big issues that matter in Cambridge:
- Transport (rail and cycling)
- The environment
It also means I get to appear on panel discussions where they need informed non-party types to discuss the election – as in the video below:
I think I’ll have videos covering five of the six key issues in Cambridge. There are other smaller interest hustings, ranging from specialist policy areas such as a given strand of healthcare, to extremely wide issues such as human rights. My take is that if filming such a debate allows at least one extra person (who’s not a regular follower of local politics) to see/hear the candidates in their own voices, then it’ll have been worth it.