Browse Category: Winning Elections

winning elections

Winning Elections – What to do about UKIP?

Depending on who you listen to, UKIP are either a temporary blip to be laughed at, or ignored, or constitute a permanent threat. Andy Coulson gave CCHQ some anti-UKIP advice yesterday in GQ, rebutted here by UKIP’s Michael HeaverTim Montgomerie is as wise as any Conservative and he thinks UKIP are here to stay. Stephen Tall thinks that the new unbalance of power means that, if the Conservative Party wants to stay in power, we have to form an alliance with UKIP or the Lib Dems.

I agree with Tim that UKIP are a long term fixture of UK politics. I also think that the Liberal Democrats are as tough as weeds. They may be doing badly in today’s polls – but they will do much better than the polls say. Lib Dem MPs seldom lose elections.

UKIP members are evangelical about their party in a way that most mainstream party activists aren’t any more and they campaign and recruit enthusiastically. They have positioned themselves contentedly and well against the “political class” and are happier when under attack than when ignored. The more abuse they get – the more convinced  they become that they are right and the more their energy levels rise. UKIP will do well in May 2014 (duh) which means that they will have lots of new paid staff who will be keen to invest their free weekends in campaigning for their party and looking to be part of the campaign that gives them their first MP. Plus they will have the benefit of hundreds of gallons of PR ink in the media – everyone likes the cheeky-chappy underdog.

Winning elections in the UK just got a whole lot harder. Most campaigners and strategists only have experience fighting two party politics.

Now we have to raise our game:

  1. The two party, plus a protest vote party, contests are over. We need new thinking and new approaches to win 3-way or 4-way elections contests. Just slagging off the “other” party is not good enough. We need to convince people to vote for us as much or more than we need them to vote against someone else. I worked, briefly, with a candidate who told me to my face that the campaign message should be that locally the Lib Dem council was rubbish and the Conservatives would be better and that nationally the Labour Government was rubbish and the Conservatives would be better. End of messaging – nothing positive at all to say. It didn’t work very well for that candidate – it will work even less in the future.
  2. Social media means that our  messages have to become more consistent, more believable, more positive and more real. More honest. In 2015, you will be caught out if you say in one part of your constituency “Vote for me/Party C if you don’t like Party A,  because Party B is a wasted vote ” and in the other part of your constituency you say “Vote for me/Party C if you don’t like Party B – because Party A is a wasted vote”. There is a very real risk that campaigners from Party A and B and UKIP may (!) notice and may point out your two-faced messaging to the electorate.
  3. Pledge data needs more work than ever before. More canvassing – less preaching. Pledge data has often been more ancient fiction than current fact. Now more and more people are changing their minds and their loyalties as well and acting like consumers. Much of the existing pledge data could do with being treated with extreme caution and campaigns should focus on authentic and honest surveys.

According to a YouGov poll for The Spectator in Feb 2013, while 60% of UKIP supporters voted Conservative in 2010, 15% of UKIP supporters voted Lib Dem in 2010 and 7% voted Labour. As Michael Heaver says, UKIP aren’t just grumpy Tories and there are some Labour and Lib Dem MPs who should be anxious too.

The mix of the Scotland independence vote, the state of the economy and a European referendum around the corner means that politics will become much harder to predict and may even increase turnout. Anything that raises interest in policies, proper debate and scrutiny of manifestos should be welcomed. It might get bumpy along the way but I guess good politics is bumpy politics.



One of my first coaching role models was called Major Adams

A friend of mine was a Parabat

Everybody had to do two years national service in South Africa. This included basic training which, if I remember correctly, lasted for 3 months. This was tough for many and there was an ongoing debate about whether you should go to the army straight from school, when you would be more able to handle being shouted at, or after university when you would be even less receptive to the world of the shouty corporal and the raw recruit.

When my friend joined the army he came under the command of a Major Adams. Major Adams was tough. South African army tough.  He mocked the middle-class, baby-faced recruits, calling them his “little girls” and pushing them incredibly hard. Far too hard, they thought. Everyone hated him.

It is the one of the oldest tricks in the military book to create bonds between raw recruits by making them unite in hating a superior. But for Major Adams – and almost all like him – being tough on the recruits was necessary. In fact, like parental love, it is the real meaning of tough love. Because the standard of the training had a direct impact on the survival chances of the recruits.

My para friends spoke about Major Adams after their 2 years national service with awe, sometimes with tears and always with tangible affection. They toasted him when drunk and when they were sober they said they survived because of Major Adams – and because of luck.

It was not just his training that moved these experienced soldiers to speak so openly and so emotionally in such an incredibly macho country about another man. They told of how one day a fellow para’s chute deployed incorrectly with one of the ropes caught over the top of the chute making it look like a giant cupcake and dangerously reducing the braking power of the parachute. One of Major Adams’s “little girls” was hurtling towards the earth, seconds away from a broken back or death.

Major Adams had already jumped and the panicked 19 year old overtook him. Major Adams cut away his own main chute, freefalled after his soldier, grabbed hold of him and locked his legs around him. Then he cut the half open chute away, deployed his own reserve chute and they both landed, hard and far too fast – but alive. When everybody had landed Major Adams made them all put in extra hours packing, unpacking and repacking parachutes – making everyone check each other. No champagne. Just more practice.

The coaching that I do will not decide whether my clients live or die. Or whether they will have broken legs or suffer a broken back. I have no idea how Major Adams carried that huge responsibility. Major Adams is a hero to me, not just for the life he saved that day, but for all the other lives he saved and the effort and the emotion he put into training them.

Although I never met the man, I knew plenty like him. He influenced how I coach in my comparatively trivial sector and why I love coaching and take the job of coach seriously. My stomach churns when I see a client calling me and I do not know whether they got the job or not, won the election or not, got the big deal or not. I don’t know whether the call means I have to console and rebuild or whether we can celebrate together. I prefer the celebration calls – that drives me too.

Good coaching can change my clients’ careers, their reputations, their income and their lives. So I apologise for not apologising to my clients if I am sometimes tough with them and why I stand by my motto of “Good Enough Seldom Is”. It is in their interest, after all.



The New Website is here. At last.

My website was once the love of my life. Then it started to annoy me.

I couldn’t find anything. It was like a small house that had a new extension every couple of months – for several years. The purpose of the site became less and less clear and I was finding content repeated in difference places, unconnected and generally a bit of a shambles. Then one day I said to somebody that they could find an article with a list of interview question on my blog. They couldn’t – and neither could I!

Now that is just not good enough for any site – let alone someone who preaches about clarity of thought!

So the website went in for some serious repair. So much so that the site went down for two weeks and was replaced with a holding page while we worked on it, argued over layout and content. I culled and edited and shortened content – killing off some favourite children along the way. I took a deep breath and asked a friend for some input. Despite my fears, it didn’t kill me – but external input improved the site in a huge and positive way.

Today I have been going through old blogposts fixing formatting that looked clunky and overweight. I haven’t finished yet but there is a lot on so will have to repair and add a bit every day from now on.

But there is only one way to start – by pushing publish now. The new Peter Botting website is there!

Mental Strength – Focus on the next point – lessons from Tommy Robredo

Mental Strength – Your Head Needs To Be In The Right Place

Tommy Robredo gets it and I admire him. He understands that each point is worth the same as any other, that the match is only over when it is over and that every point is worth fighting for. And he keeps plugging away at every point.

In the French Open this year he fought back and won – THREE times – from being in the head-destroying position of being two sets behind to get to the quarter finals. Apparently that doesn’t happen very often. In fact it has happened twice. Ever.

Those who play will know that the pressure of being two sets behind even in a game of social tennis is immense. When you have a coach, salaries, it is your job, the game is being filmed and commentated and the tennis media is watching… it is 9 different types of HUGE!

This was also after he had dropped from his number 5 world ranking and been written off by almost everybody due to his injuries from 2011. Maybe he had stuff to prove – but don’t we all? He just didn’t let his head get in the way. He focused on moving that mountain  – one small stone at a time.

The beautiful forehand passing shot he used today against Andy Murray in the last game – when he was 2 sets down, 5 games all and 40-LOVE down – to get to 40-15, was another example of his never giving up and playing hard to the last.

Successful people in politics and business share this characteristic – often described (by others) as sheer bloody mindedness. They refuse to give up and they keep practicing and doing the basics better and better and better.

To do this, you need to ignore the commentators (including the one in your own head) and focus – intensely and with all you have – on the task at hand. Ivan Lendl, who is Murray’s coach and an icon from my tennis playing youth, used to fiddle with the strings on his racket between EVERY point. The strings were fine – it was a focus thing. It kept away the noise of the crowds, the shouts and the visual distractions. I understand from reading about him at the time that he used the time between points to focus on the next point. He didn’t beat himself up about the point just lost or revel in the point just won – he focused on what he was going to do next. Where the serve would go, where he would push the ball, stretch his opponent and find the gap in the court.

When I coach, I get “in the room” and ignore all else. I switch off my phones and ignore iPads and laptops. It is intense – but I am totally with my client. I will have no-one else in the room. No spectators or distractions. Full immersion. It is exhausting for both of us – but it seems to work.

To perform well  when speaking, negotiating, presenting or interviewing – full, deep, intense concentration is needed. It wakes up all the senses – it gets you in the zone. Afterwards it sometimes feels like having been in a film or having experienced an “out-of-body experience”. Whatever. It gets you to perform where you should be performing and prevents you short-selling yourself. Worth doing.

New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions. The process when we all lie to ourselves.

Making New Year Resolutions is when we all turn into politicians – making promises to ourselves that we firmly believe we will keep. Until the same time next year, or even in summer – or even earlier, when we realize that we haven’t come close. In which case, there is always next year! 🙂

Here is my take on some of the top New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Lose weight. My six pack has been in hiding since I was 18. Like everyone else in the UK, I want to lose weight. But as a superb friend told me recently “Everyone in the UK wants to lose weight! Get over yourself. Stay healthy, do more exercise, eat less and better – but don’t freak out about it!” Nothing to add really.
  2. Getting Organized. I am generally just happy I can find my desk. I need to know where the important stuff is and this year I need to bin stuff that clutter or confuse my head, my thinking, my work or my emotions. Keep it simple, Old Man!
  3. Spend More Time with Family. Hmmm. I spend 1-2 days every week with my aunt – which is cool. Will increase that or at least ensure that 1-2 becomes 2. On the other hand, like most people, I have some family I am quite happy to spend even less time with. Will work on that too. I have a bunch of amazing family and cousins – particularly in Ireland. Should definitely get over there more often this year to see them – seems I have only been there for funerals recently. Not good. I also need to spend more time with my friends in the UK and Germany!
  4. Spend Less, Save More. Well, that’s easily said. I guess what I am going to do is buy less but buy quality – whether it is food (see Lose weight!), clothes or stuff for the home or office. Oh, and I plan to work even harder for those who I like, who pay well and who pay punctually and work less for the rest.
  5. Enjoy Life. I plan on laughing much more, wearing suits far less often and getting out in the fresh air much more – far away from my multiple electronic bleeping, ringing things. They may all be Apple products but too much is too much.
  6. Getting/Staying Fit and Healthy. I have a plan. Which I have already started. Four or five days ago. An hour long walk with Buster every day. This may help my health – but it is GUARANTEED to rescue my sanity.
  7. Learn Something New, Fun and Exciting. This is a challenge. What to do? Apparently it takes 15 hours of practice to learn to ride a unicycle. Can I be asked? Should I learn another language? Or get a degree in something? I lived in Germany for a while. They have a great saying: – “As soon as you become a Master in something, you should become an Apprentice in something else.” I doubt I am a master of anything (apart from sleeping in) but it is a thought process that has merit. Do something new, visit new places, drive down roads you have’t seen before, take Buster for walks in new places.
  8. Fall in Love. Definitely NOT going anywhere near THERE on a public forum. Ever. 
  9. Quit Smoking. Done that last year. With some help. Going to keep on quitting, or not smoking, every day. Non-Smoker. Smug. 
  10. Help Others achieve Their Dreams. Well that is my day job. And I love it. Helping people tell their stories. Storytelling for business, politics or personal career development! Helping people get a new job or promotion or even getting their first job – mega! Or playing a role in winning political selections and elections. In 2012, my work even including playing a tiny role in helping a company buy a UK football club. I love what I do – and would do it even if I didn’t have a mortgage. But I do have a mortgage – so will continue loving what I do, a while longer! 😉
getting selected

Getting Selected – Becoming a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate

Getting Selected is a tough and demanding process.

Getting Selected is tough – but first you have to decide whether you really want to go through with this. You have to decide whether you are seriously ready to turn your life on its head.

Then you contact the Candidates department at CCHQ who in turn arrange for you to meet someone in person who assesses your level of insanity.

That is the easy bit. Then, suitably certified, you apply to go on the parliamentary assessment board – the PAB. This can be incredibly tough and consists of an interview, a speech, two essays, an in-tray exercise and a group exercise.

CCHQ have an unusual marking process for the PAB and there is (allegedly) no appeal process. They have got the judging criteria spot on, though, so you have to demonstrate that you possess them all.

Opinions vary as to how good the PAB process is and, like anyone, I have my thoughts on the process. But it is what it is and CCHQ isn’t going to change it anytime soon, so consider it as hoops that need to be jumped through. Being an MP is tough and has many challenges, but at least as an MP you have real people and real situations to deal with.

Getting past the PAB and being able to apply for real seats is a huge breakthrough. The stakes are now higher and, depending on the seat, you are now within spitting distance of becoming a Parliamentary Candidate and even an MP.

Now you have to wait until CCHQ releases the next tranche of seats which you need to assess in terms of winnability, doability and whether you have any affinity for the seat. Then the next stage of your journey to getting selected starts.

Then you have to summarize all your life’s details in an attractive and compelling way and set them out in a 2 page formatted Word document CV. This CV is incredibly annoying and time consuming to work with as the formatting keeps moving around like a sulky, scowling, arm-folded kid having a strop. But you HAVE to get this bit right as the ‘paper sift’ is often the most brutal stage and is aimed at excluding rather than including.

Then CCHQ and the association officers meet in London where your CV will be coldly assesses and eyebrows will be raised and discreet nods will be nodded, in ways eerily reminiscent of Sir Humphrey.

Get past this stage and you are nearly in the Getting Selected game. All you have to do now is pass two selection interviews consisting of a 5 minute “Select Me – I am Wonderful” speech and 20 minutes of questions – one in front of the Association Executive and one in front of the full membership.

Then you are a Parliamentary Candidate. All you have to do now is get elected. Easy huh?

This can be a long and emotional roller-coaster of a journey that can take a huge amount of time and money. It also can impose a significant amount of pressure on your partner, family and personal relationships. But if you are doing it for the right reasons, you will manage it. If you want to know more about my Getting Selected and Getting Elected courses please email on (You will have to prove to me that you are genuine here btw!) Feel free to have a look at my track record here.

The Daily Politics Show interviewed me for a piece on Getting Selected as an MP – have a look here.

Here is what one of my clients wrote to me today – he has just been selected for his home patch of Sutton and Cheam.

Hi Peter,

Thank you again for your help in getting me through the Parliamentary Assessment Board and getting selected for a seat first time of asking.

So many potential candidates have to tear around the country repeating that process before perhaps securing a winnable seat. I know that I would not have done anywhere near so well if it wasn’t for you.

Years ago I was told that like when taking medication, it was better to respond than to react. Building up an armoury of stories and responses helped me do just that, responding in a way that allowed me to answer the unasked questions as well rather than simply batting back the original question.

The key lesson for me was to have succinct responses that go beyond simple platitudes.

The simple question “Why do you want to be an MP?” has started a process across my borough of ensuring that our local council candidates each have a positive vision to share rather than simply to beat the other guy. The former leads to the latter but follows a different, more productive path.

You certainly put me through my paces but by the time of the interviews I felt ready for pretty much anything. …. I look forward to seeing you soon. Paul— Paul Scully. Conservative PPC Sutton and Cheam

How to give a compelling speech and not just make noise.

Compelling Speeches Make Points and Get Results. They compel.

  1. Prepare, Practice and then Practice the speech some more.

    Some “experts” say that you should spend 20, 30 or 40 times as much time preparing and practicing your speech, as you spend delivering it. Of course, the more important the speech is, the more time you will be able to budget/justify for the speech – but reading it out loud 7-8 times are an ABSOLUTE minimum. The most important bits of the speech are the beginning and the end – if your time is limited, focus more time on the beginning and the end, even learning them off by heart. This will also help you relax and calm the fear.

  2. Be You, Be Real and Be Authentic.

    Tell personal stories in your speech to underline what you are saying. Parables work – so do personal stories. Remember to only tell the part of the story that the audience needs to “get it” – don’t clutter your stories with unnecessary details, words and phrases. If they don’t have a job, get rid of them.

  3. Take your job seriously – not yourself.

    Self-deprecating humour is not just useful, it is almost mandatory. Ask Boris Johnson. Don’t mock members of the audience, forget jokes as a general rule and be careful of jokes against the opposition.

  4. Know Your Stuff

    If you don’t know why you are giving the speech, what you are talking about or why you are talking about it, why are you even thinking of talking? Know your stuff, know the issues, know the causes, the alternatives, the enemy, the victims and, above all, know the solution.  

  5. What do you want them to do?

    Know what you want. You must be speaking for a reason, either to persuade people or to move people to action. Be specific, make it easy for them and clear about how to do what you want them to do. Political speeches want to convince or activate votes, corporate speeches usually want money. Good political  speechwriters are used to asking for votes and money – as a Conservative speechwriter it is a basic requirement!!  Some call it “deliverables” or, even worse, “required outcomes” – whatever you want to call it, ask for it!

New: Free downloadable guides to improve speeches, survive telephone interviews, set goals and more.DOWNLOAD NOW
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