Let us call my party, Party A. There are two other parties in this equation, which I will call Party B and Party C. Having been ‘promoted’ relatively quickly from being a party member to a local councillor candidate, it was with a false sense of superiority that I thought I could move from third (where my party had placed in the last local election in 2017) and win an election where the voters would have had a total of four months, four leaflets and my Facebook and Twitter pages (which has a combined total of 300 people, most of whom are my friends) to get to know me.
But we live in funny times. Only the bravest of analyst would have predicted the result of the 2015 General Election, let alone Brexit or Trump. So obviously, I had a chance. The main problem was that I did not know how things worked. I know now.
On local election night – a long, sweaty night in a sports centre – as I watched my rival procure (a lot) more votes than me, I was visibly distressed. This was the moment a member of Party B decided it was a great idea to:
- Tell me that he thought our literature and message had been ‘very good’.
- Tell me that Party B had taken a lot from it (They had. Of my five key priorities, they had stolen almost word-for-word four of them).
- Tell me politics is a cruel game.
It was just want I wanted to hear at that moment.
I was selected as a parliamentary candidate on the understanding that I would stand as a local councillor in the interim. It was all good experience, and it would give members and my ‘team’ something to do. Having a team of people working for me was new and interesting, and they were all excellent, experienced campaigners. But they suggested things that, at first, confused me.
Politics is not this great equaliser where your message will win the day. The first thing they tell you is that being the best, most popular candidate does not win elections. It is won by those who can get the most people to vote. As I listened over the coming weeks and attended candidate training events put on by my party, I felt the same feeling as I had when I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People: so I get what I want by fooling people? I was struck by the idea that you cannot just ‘be yourself’; you have to change yourself to get the best result. And, most importantly, you have to manipulate. I also learned that there are differences at a national and local level. I am not sure why I am ‘allowed’ to smear my opponent at a General Election, but the unwritten rule at the local level is that it is not done.
Back to the Parties. Party A was widely trounced by Party B. Party C came in second, despite having put in little effort. Since the election, some of the general public have told me why I lost. This is always nice, and I do not, in any way, feel like strangling them as they are telling me. But dealing with the public can be difficult. I spent a good 30 minutes on the doorstep of someone who agreed with everything I said, liked my political solutions, and actively encouraged me to get more involved in the local area. But just as I was leaving, they said they would be voting for Party B – a party whose manifesto and values were the complete opposite of everything they had just said. This is something I need to remember: some people will vote one way even if the party leader just came and tore down their house.
For my sins, I believe too strongly that the world would be a better place if Party A ran things. Their values and their policy ideas would benefit all people. So I will continue on this horrible, rocky road, and learn with every step.