Back in April 2019 I stood as a candidate for the Labour Party in Calverton. At 25, I was under the average age of a councillor.
For as long as I can remember there has been much discussion about youth apathy towards politics and political parties paying thousands for consultants to advise them on how to harness the youth vote. As somebody on the cusp of no longer being a ‘youth’, I thought now was a fitting time to write this article.
I want to address three points I learnt whilst campaigning. I hope it can help somebody who might be considering getting into local politics.
Firstly, expect the bullies! There were moments while I was on the campaign trail when I honestly felt intimidated. Being sworn at and called a ‘commie’, often together, were the two top picks from those hurling abuse. How do you deal with this? Simple. Just make sure you have a good grasp of your main campaign issues. Don’t go in saying who your representing, first go in telling them what you want to change. At the end of the day, you are trying to be an agent for their interests.
As a councillor candidate, this campaign was a local campaign. if you’re in an election you have policies and concerns you want to discuss, then invite people to discuss them with you. This brings me on to my second point…
Communication. Trust me, if you thought charity street fundraisers had a challenging time in getting members of the public to stop and talk to them – try wearing a brightly colour rosette displaying the name of a political party!
A wise person gave me the following advice for when starting a conversation: “Invite concern, present a solution (yourself, your policies and your party – in that order), and then discredit the alternative (but only if the alternative is deserving of discredit – never act dishonestly)”.
I share this method with you as it truly is a revolutionary way of holding people’s attention both in a political setting, but also as a general life negotiating tool. Tied to this is the fact that honesty is the best policy. Don’t tell them that voting for someone else will unlock the doors to hell. It’s unbelievable and contributes to the distrust people already have in politics.
Young people are at a huge advantage on the campaign trail as they can more easily engage with the very demographic politicians find it so hard to engage with – YOUNG PEOPLE! If you’re a young campaigner use this to your advantage.
Politics needs more young people involved to control the ever out-of-touch narrative of the current political discourse. With the appointment of Dominic Cummings as Boris Johnson’s Spin Doctor, the PM’s strategy will depend heavily on young people not voting, and converting a young liberal audience towards the idea of voting being a waste of time. I think Dominic openly exploited this with vote leave, and will do the same again.