I’ve always been interested by the type of person politics attracts. I’ve met quite a few over the years and the majority strike me as decent, positive people, determined to make a difference to the communities they serve.

So why on earth get involved in politics?!

Cynicism aside, I do feel there are many other routes to improving our society. Teaching, working for a charity, sport and grassroots sports coaching, volunteering, running your own business, working in customer service, hospitality, bringing up children, working in healthcare, making something, getting involved in arts and culture, driving a bus, delivering the mail, working with animals, being a roofer or a plumber – all of these and more seem more direct methods of improving society, with a better track record and far more rewarding for the people involved.

I might be influenced by the fact I’ve lived in Scotland all my life where, courtesy of devolution, the role of the Member of Parliament is somewhat diminished. But how many people have you ever heard, anywhere, praising their local MP for helping with something?

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen at all – MPs and their constituency office staff up and down the country do valuable and important work, much of it listening and then signposting to other sources of help – but if the mission is to improve society, I’m really not sure that’s what the job is about.

It seems to me that politics attracts people who hold certain values they either feel are under threat, or so good that those values ought to be imposed on the entire country.

We need politicians of course, which means we need people willing to stand as candidates. Our version of democracy wouldn’t function without them. But it fascinates me that many people seem to embrace politics for the very same reasons they reject religion.

If you’re a serving MP shaking your head at all this – I guess you’re about to find out just how much of a positive difference you’ve made. And if you’re standing as a candidate, hoping to gain a seat at Westminster, you’ll be devising your campaign hoping to articulate what makes you different and worthy of each vote.

Here are a few bits of advice which might help:
1) Try to talk up positive things about you and your own party rather than talking down your opponents.
2) Pick fights you can’t lose and stay focussed on that particular topic. We know that education, health and the cost of living are the big issues to voters but these are huge, complex problems and it’s ridiculous to think that you’ve got some magic wand to fix them all. Concentrate on one where you’ve got a genuine interest, ideas and energy to make a difference.
3) Give the media straight answers. Voters can’t stand slimy, evasive, self serving politicians. If you’re asked a straight question, give a straight answer. If the thought of this frightens you, get some media training.
4) Put voters ahead of the party. I think where it goes wrong for many aspiring politicians is they quickly realise that to make any sort of progress, they have to serve the party rather than the electorate. That must be soul destroying. Like a pop star stuck with a record deal they can’t stand. You need to make a choice and I’d urge you to stay true to your principles and what got you into this in the first place. That’s going to mean difficult conversations with powerful people but we can help you prepare for that.
5) Don’t like the media? Maybe you don’t need them. Your own digital channels can play a key role reaching voters in your constituency, and once you’re elected, they can keep people up to date with the good work you’re doing and make it easy for them to contact you. You’ll need a steady stream of good content and need to get comfortable on video. A podcast might be a good idea too.

Remember – July 4th is the date. You may require a postal vote, so make sure you register on time. While I think many of our politicians and prospective politicians are misguided, equally I think they’re deserving of our respect. We should be able to debate and exchange sometimes very different views, sometimes passionately, but remain friendly and respect each other at the end of it all. As I said in my introduction, I really don’t think it makes that much of a difference who gets in.

Categories: Politics