Steffan Aquarone writes:
I confess to knowing very little about anything – in particular political campaigning. But one thing I can talk about at length is how we did it in a small rural patch of North Norfolk (six shops, four pubs, two petrol stations and zero towns), going from fourth position last time to first in May 2017 with a majority of 420.
It was the first time I’d fought a campaign from start to finish, and it was quite a ride. So much so that Freya, my sister and campaign manager, and I decided to write a book about it called Fourth to First.
Regularly topping the top 40 within Amazon’s “Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Government & Politics > Political Structure & Processes > Elections & Referendums” category (what other category would readers of this blog even look at?!) – it was hardly a money-spinning undertaking. Instead, here are ten reasons why we did it:
- To get information out of the heads of experienced campaigners and into the hands of everyone. I don’t know if our party’s reluctance to talk about tactics is because people are afraid that the Tories will steal our ideas if we share them… I certainly don’t know many Tories who would be willing to go to the lengths we went to and if there are, well, good on them: at least their communities will get hard working local representatives. We wanted to produce something that told the true, warts-and-all account of how to win a campaign so our fellow candidates and potential candidates had something to go by.
- We’ve got to do something about the recruitment problem in my party, which is a function of politics in general. It’s not just that not enough capable, different people are coming forward to stand – it’s that not enough capable people of any variety are choosing to go into politics. I believe we’ll only change this when we can make politics a more attractive career path for talented, ambitious people who care about the society they live in. Telling the story of how we did it is our contribution to making trudging around in the snow delivering bits of your fingers through letterboxes sound more attractive.
- Half the truths we take for granted are bogus. Like the frequency of literature mattering more than whether people find the content useful, interesting or entertaining. Or that you shouldn’t talk about your values on the doorstep. We wanted to work out what was right, root out the rubbish, and share the results.
- We wanted to show that political campaigning can be tremendous fun. Putting yourself out there is nerve-racking, but it reveals a beautiful diversity about our species. No other job lets you step briefly inside people lives in such a wide-ranging way; it’s both humbling and deeply fascinating.
- A lot of our success is simply about how we got out and spoke to voters. Listening to people is the best way to understand why they do things like vote Brexit, and it will make you a better politician and a better liberal. Most of the people I’ve met who voted to leave are competent, rational people who didn’t believe the bogus bus any more than we did.
- To share the list of things you need in order to succeed – at the top of which is having someone like Freya. Freya has the fortitude of an ox and a near-fanatical belligerence that gets things done. There are more people like her out there. And you might not even need to work quite as hard as we did.
- To put people off. I implore you not to stand as a half-hearted gesture, because it means your politics will be half-hearted. There are lots of people who really believe in our cause, and lots more of them would vote for us if we actually started behaving like we intended to win, and that means focusing our efforts where we will (even if not on the first go).
- To debunk the myth of “where we work we win”, which is gold-plated nonsense. Working hard is not enough. Besides, a statement whose opposite is self-evidently true has little value. We wanted to know how much of what sort of work we needed to do in order to win, because I wasn’t going to stand unless I thought we could. This book will save you some of the hassle.
- Showing that it can be done. We went from fourth to first and I hope that, in sharing our experiences of this campaign, you will find you can do it too.
- Local politics matters and can change people’s lives. Radical change at national level might seem like a long way off, but even just campaigning can radically change individuals’ lives for the better. What some of us might see as trivial things can have a transformative effect on people’s happiness. And action and activism rub off and leave legacy – even if you don’t do it first time round.
Fourth to First is written by Steffan Aquarone and Freya Aquarone and is available from Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2AMOpej It is available also in pdf and epub here: https://www.therealpress.co.uk/product/fourth-to-first-how-to-win-a-local-election-in-six-months-ebook/
Read Mark Pack’s review here: “a must read guide on how to win a council election”.