Browse Category: Political campaigning

Selectorate vs Electorate – Winning Elections 101

The Selectorate – The Real Reason that the Republicans lost.

Why did the Republicans lose? There are thousands of articles and thousands of commentators going into minute and US specific detail about why the Republicans lost the election. Republicans seem to have a list of reasons that include Governor Christie, Sandy, Hispanics and Romney. Many things impact on election results – often, however, the real reason for losing elections is closer to home. Focusing on the selectorate instead of the electorate is a generic issue that translates across the Atlantic. And one where the Conservatives have been at least 10 years ahead of the Republicans.

The difference between the Selectorate and the Electorate.

If the selectorate’s criteria does not match the electorate’s criteria – at least to some extent – the selectorate will select candidates that the electorate simply will not elect. Many people, including me, talk about the need for “conviction politicians” and that idealism needs a place in politics. But if your politics and your policies only appeal to a minority –  you are not going to win. Elections are about words and maths after all.

This was an issue that the Conservative Party understood and dealt with to some extent over 10 years ago. I was hired by the Conservative Party to coach candidates who could win with the electorate to help them get selected. 10 years later and my Getting Selected courses are still being run by the party – helping to equip people with potential to navigate the internal difficulties and hoops of Getting Selected and understanding how to Get Elected.

Romney lost and lost big among young people, African-Americans and Hispanics. This was a jolt and a reminder to the Republicans who care to listen that their party is out of sync with the future of their country.

If the Republicans do not listen, their economic agenda will lose its volume and risk losing its voice.





Getting Selected CCHQ criteria for Conservative candidates.

Getting Selected CCHQ criteria for wannabe candidates

Getting Selected is the second barrier for wannabe MPs. The first is the PAB or Parliamentary Assessment Board. The Conservative Party take this selection very seriously and have established key criteria. These are skills and attributes that need to be evidenced by wannabe candidates during the 5-6 stages of the PAB.

The PAB is now a 6-7 hour, one day, event. I preferred the old format of 2 days with a stay over. This  was very useful as it used to weed out (some of) the future bad headlines. It is always very educational to see people after they have had a drink or four!

However the PAB does still have bear traps for those who are unprepared. I know experienced campaigners who have failed the PAB – although I know that they are good people and decent campaigners.

Often those who fail the PAB complain that it was because they do not tick the right boxes – blaming their failure on some sort of positive discrimination. I am not so sure. Yes, there are criteria that CCHQ has set out, but they are not based on sexuality, colour or age. It is possible that these rebuffed candidates have not adequately and convincingly shown that they possess the skills and characteristics and attributes that CCHQ have set out.

So for the sake of those doing their PAB in October or November, I have set out the new and old criteria for wannabe candidates. The two lists are very similar and you have pretty much a whole day to show that you possess them.

The old criteria to be evidenced were:

  • Intellectual skill
  • Campaigning
  • Conviction
  • Communication
  • Relating to people
  • Resilience and Drive
  • Leadership and Motivation

Apparently the new criteria that must be evidenced are:

  • Energy and Commitment
  • Campaign leadership and motivation
  • Conviction
  • Manner and attitude
  • Depth and Intellect
  • Communication and ability to relate to people
  • Commitment to inclusion and diversity

If you would like to enquire about my Getting Selected or Getting Elected courses or would like to prepare for your PAB – please do give me a call. These courses are only open to those who can evidence that they have already been accepted for a PAB or are already on the candidates list.

Campaigning and winning elections – Elections are won by words and maths

Winning elections and winning campaigns combine words and maths successfully.

Winning elections is a big thing for me and my clients. In this context I write a fair bit about words – messaging, narratives, speeches and presentations. These are important things and key to winning elections. But words do not win elections on their own. They need to be combined with messengers, distributed by the media and members, financed by money and managed by professional campaigners. Some become distressed by the concept of professional campaigners. They get equally excited by the concept of professional politicians – but that is the subject of a separate blog coming soon.

So for a change – let me talk about the audience. The voters and the non-voters.

When we talk sensibly about winning elections and analysing the audience strategists and tacticians get very self-important and competitive. Sometimes they get downright evil on each other – just read (Team Obama) David Plouffe’s scathing observations about (Team Hilary) Mark Penn and you will get a taste of how heated and competitive it can be. Not surprising – politics is gladiatorial and all about winners and losers and reputations. I am no different. But all strategists and tacticians agree on two things. You need the right words and the right numbers.

Winning elections are about the right words and the right maths.

There are some jargon words in politics. Words that signify segments of the population that have to be “engaged”. These words are then supposed to guide campaigners on which words should be used to do the “engaging” – depending on the size and electoral importance of the segment of course. Because all good campaigners are taught to “target’ their audience.

So what do we have? The core vote. The floating vote. Ethnic voters. Block votes. Ethnic minority voters. The gay vote. The youth vote. Silver surfers. Worcester woman. Mondeo man. The metrosexual south. The Northern vote. Thatcher’s children. Blair’s children. The squeezed middle. The London vote.

There are several problems with this. Mitt Romney found this out in a big way recently (it may cost him the Presidency) when a video was put online of him talking to a group of potential donors (donor segment) about it not being his job to look after 47% of the population (the opposition’s alleged “core vote” segment.)

Telling different segments different messages does not work any more (which I think is fantastic – read to the end to see why) for several reasons:-

  1. In reality people do not like people saying one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. Why should it be any different in politics?
  2. Targeting didn’t work that well before – it works even less now. This “targeting” kept campaigners busy and justified salaries and expenses but did it really work that well? It was, and is, seldom done well – generally it was done incredibly primitively and with considerable ignorance.
  3. People are willfully disobedient and have the cheek to jump out of the electoral box or target or tidy segment that campaign “experts” put them in.
  4. Some people have the cheek to belong to several segments. At the same time.
  5. Commentators and former strategists and “experts” turned commentator have made political tactics and strategies and targeting public knowledge and part of standard election commentary. So guess what guys – the secret is out.
  6. Because of this – people are now are that they are targets. People who are members of these segments seriously resent being referred to as  anything but individuals. They increasingly – and rightly – find these targeted messages patronising and they react badly when viewed as being the property of a particular political party. This applies to all “target demographics” – gays, blacks, asians, chinese, Londoners, Northerners, Southerners, pensioners, the ‘Youth”. Assume anyone is in a box or segment and let them even smell that you think that and there will be a backlash. (Make assumptions about me or my politics or my values because of my southern african accent and I will put you right promptly and with great clarity.)
  7. Politicians who play segments will get found out in this amazing 24 hour social media world. Social media will make you look like the serpent speaking with forked tongue if you say different things to different segments.
  8. Targets annoyingly read and consume media that they are not supposed to – like young black Londoners reading the Metro or the Evening Standard instead of The Voice – a stereotyping and targeting which many “professionals” would unfairly assume.
  9. Language that appeals to the “middle ground” seriously pisses off “core voters” who then accuse the politicians who have used such pragmatic or  tactical “targeting” language of selling out, being weak, of compromising or being unpure ideologically.

Successful politicians do not speak in boxes or to targets and campaigning stereotypes. They are real and authentic and consistent. They reach out – not to the centre ground but to the common ground. Reagan did that. Thatcher did that. Clinton did that. Obama did that. They use positive inclusive language that appeals to members of most or all segments – positive and aspirational “we” language that is interpreted and adopted individually by individuals in each segment.

Including people wins elections. Excluding people creates cliques and minorities. Including people breeds and creates alliances and bonds and common purpose. This does not mean that allies and coalitions agree on everything – but, by definition, allies have things in common that focus them and bind them together. Things that join while things that things that separate are parked.

In the NO2AV referendum, Conservatives and Labour activists, politicians, members and supporters worked together in a unique collaboration for a common cause. Those of my clients who had above average swings in 2010 spoke to those far beyond the Conservative clubs and association coffee mornings – using language common to all. 

So why do I think that this death of (bad) “targeting” fantastic? Surely I should love and welcome all the work and complications of having to target and craft messages and narratives for multiple targets and demographic segments and be paid well by greedy, scheming tactical, self-interested and motivated careerists who target to win?

Actually, I am like the average human being or voter. I like people who say the same thing to everyone – in simple, honest and inclusive words. People who are authentic and real and consistent. And optimistic. People who believe in ideals and values and people and the potential of the future. And who have a vision. And who get on with it and chase after it and don’t bother wasting time waiting for a perfect, ideologically pure utopia.

Those are the people I love working for, my dream clients.

Political Networking

Getting Selected – Conference season is work for Candidates

Political Networking

Getting Selected – Network & Be Authentic at Conference

With Party Conference season upon us, candidates and wannabe candidates are, or should be, getting their hair cut, polishing their shoes and choosing which fringe events to attend. What they do this year and over the next 12 months could change their lives for ever. They’re preparing to network for their political future.

Getting Selected – good networking

If you’re networking, you need to have a few things at the ready. You are always prepared to do this in your day job – but are you equipped to network politically too?

You need your personal or political elevator pitch or stories. Then you need your intelligent, research based questions in case you do end up being stuck next to the Chairman of your dream constituency. A decent website is essential – so they can remember who you are the next day and do some research on you. For them to remember this you also need your political business card.

Too often we forget that to be good at communication, half the battle is actually listening and asking good questions and preparation. The same is true in politics.

It is important to be and sound authentic and to listen and talk in the right ratio.

Some anxious wannabe’s try and maximise their time at conference – thinking it’s a number game – how many business cards can I get today?  They jump anxiously from one target, um – I mean person obviously, to the next, nodding jerkily but not actually listening. This rubbish approach makes their current “networking partner” feel seriously un-special. Many glance furtively at your conference pass to see if you are important and worth their time. This may be sneaky – but it NEVER goes unnoticed! Just like looking over people’s shoulders at the next target. Bad, bad, bad. Plus – everyone knows everyone in the Conservative Party – be nice, be friendly and you may gain a supporting or deciding voice.

Being authentic, having those questions ready to help you dig and actually giving a damn is key to your networking success, whether that be at Conservative Party conference, or a business seminar.

Getting Selected – How To Become A Conservative MP – Part 1

Getting Selected as a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

Most members of the public have no idea of the work involved in becoming a parliamentary candidate. In the old days, a word in someone’s ear would result in a phone call being made to an association Chairman and things would sooner or later pretty much take their course. Those days are thankfully over.

Those who want to add the elusive, and often very temporary, initials “M.P” face more competition, more demanding selectorates and precious few new seats to apply for in 2015. With an estimated thousand plus on the candidates list, loads of new MPs who are not planning on going anywhere and the competition for seats that may actually make you an MP will be fierce.

But before that happens, you have to pass the PAB – or parliamentary assessment board. This used to be even tougher with an overnight two day version – but it is still pretty effective at identifying those who do not fulfill the very sensible list of 7 key criteria that have been set out by CCHQ. And excluding them.

Only after you have passed the PAB do you have a chance at applying for and being selected for a constituency.

Basically, you first need to apply to CCHQ – after which you will have an interview with someone from CCHQ. If you pass that, which you almost certainly will as they don’t want to alienate activists or donors yet, you will be invited to a PAB. If you pass the PAB you will be able to apply for some or any available seat – depending on whether you have a full or partial pass from CCHQ. It costs money to go on the PAB as they are self-financing.   Being on the list incurs an annual cost too.

There are indirect costs too as you will be expected to earn your right to stay on the list by being very visibly active in by-elections, local elections, referenda, PCC elections, MEP elections and anything else that comes along. Which is fair enough really – if you are an activist you would be campaigning for these anyway.

Then you need to work on your CV, your social media presence and wait for an email from CCHQ announcing the seats that are now asking for applications from people on the candidates list. Of course, there are other things you could be doing…

End of Part 1…

Political campaigning – politics must have a purpose

Political campaigning – politics must have a purpose

Campaigning and political campaigning can be fun. Some even call it a game. I have called it a game myself – it is gladiatorial, adrenalin-filled, all-consuming and demands focus and dedication and the occasional intervention of luck.

But it is a game with incredibly high stakes. Whether it is a campaign to end Human Trafficking or a campaign for solvent government or a party political campaign to decide how a country is run and how its resources are used.

Politics must have a purpose

This weekend I spent in Oxford with the European Young Conservatives. It was inspiring to meet so many young people who are intensely interested in the politics of their country and for whom the party political structures, titles and offices, selections, elections and electoral successes or setbacks are simply a method, a way, a route, a “How” – rather than a destination or a playground.

Of course the weekend was all about exchanging ideas on policies and best practice on campaigning and communication skills – but there was no-one there who was there just to help their political party get into power. They understood when I said that politics must have a goal, a reason, a purpose.

At one stage I held up this 100 trillion dollar Zimbabwean note to point out how bad politics can be financially for a country. To understand the analogy fully, you need to know that the Zimbabwe dollar used to be worth roughly the same as the Deutsch Mark.

These young activists and campaigners get it. For some of them, bad politics in their countries has meant much more and much worse things than just mega-inflation.

leadership and vision

Leadership and vision – Dubai media read my articles! :)

I wrote an article on leadership and vision which got picked up in the Middle East.

Following a recent trip to Dubai, I was so impressed, that I mentioned Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed in an article I wrote on leadership and vision for The Commentator. 

Well how surprised was I today. I was looking for a video I had uploaded to YouTube that seemed to have got lost temporarily and I did a YouTube search for myself. (That WAS why – honest!). Anyway, cynics and unbelievers, look what I found.

Dubai is well worth a visit – and if you can fly Emirates and go on the A380 it is even better! My article was about leadership and vision and listed 4 leaders who have changed countries rather than just tweaking or administering. Anyone who sees how far Dubai has come and in such a short period of time will surely agree with me.

Sheikh Mohammed, like the other leaders I listed, understood the concept of having a vision. That costs today could be justified if jam came tomorow. He has definitely delivered for his people and on his vision.

If all politicians campaigned with the leadership and vision shown by these four leaders and engaged in less political campaigning maybe we would have more people voting for political parties.

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