Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Idiots Guide to Elections - Part 1


The election starts with the nomination meeting. You can tell quite a bit about a candidate by some of the people who are backing him as proposer or seconders.

Notable in these elections for St Helier No 1 and No 2 were the presence of Rose Colley (Consumer Council) and Senator Paul Routier coming in support of Gordon Forrest, which suggests he is the preferred States candidate (as well as being a Chamber of Commerce Member)

Also of note was the Dean, Bob Key, taking an unusual foray into politics and supporting Bernie Manning, along with Catholic Deacon Ian Macfirbishigh. Is he the Church candidate of choice? Ian Macfirbishigh was quite catholic with his support and also seconded Ian Philpott.

Meanwhile Nick Le Cornu had Gino Risoli on his nomination paper. One might have thought he would have mentioned in passing to Gino that if you intend to stand, you need a nomination paper before the night, about which Gino seems to have been unaware.

There are also the nomination speeches, as reported in the JEP, which take up a few paragraphs, and amount to the merest sound bite. One of those I enjoyed as Clive Barton cheerfully mixed images in support of Ian Philpott in a manner worth of Private Eye's Commentator Balls. Mr Philpott, he said, would be a "team player" who would "lead from the front". No, Mr Barton, it is the Team Captain who leads from the front, and the players support him!

Meanwhile Alberto Rodrigues, speaking about Bernie Manning, told the assembled gathering that "Bernie is not a member of any political party. He has a mind of his own." Clearly someone should tell David Cameron that the two are mutually exclusive!

The Totem Poster Pole

The posters and banners are starting to appear. At the moment, Sam Mezec has taken the lead, and his youthful face is gazing benignly down at motorists and pedestrians alike. I've also spotted a few Bernie Manning ones.

But for the best "Totem Pole" effect, you need poles with one poster face under another, and under another, preferably with all candidates there. It's the modern political equivalent, I've always thought of the Native American Indian Totem Pole, and rather like a votive offering to placate the gods of the ballot box.

People with more money may put up the bigger banners, usually on roundabouts, where they attempt to simultaneously gain voters, and cause voters to swerve out of control and crash. I think if I had crashed trying to see what a banner said, I'd be rather unlikely to vote for the individual concerned.  Banners usually go for the larger snappy slogan along with the mantra to vote for their candidate. "A safe pair of hands" would be a good example, although it does suggest the person may be into safe cracking in their spare time. "He listens" is another good one, and if a telephone number is also given (and you can memorise it whizzing round the roundabout), you can always ring them and leave a message on their answering machine for them to listen to.

Canvassing door to door

Along with posters, goes another roadside endeavour, canvassing door to door. It shows the candidate has a degree of commitment, and they are prepared to talk, to drop off manifestoes, and to actually see the voters they want to vote for them. I've known some people decide not to vote for a candidate simply because of the perception that they could not be bothered to wear out the shoe leather (or whatever material trainers are made of).

Memorandum to candidates - don't go out with a friend in a smart suit on Saturday mornings. You may be mistaken for Jehovah's Witnesses, and lose votes largely from people who think you are out to push Watchtower Magazine (or whatever they call it nowadays) and who don't open the door when they see you coming. "Millions now living will never die" was their slogan in the 1970s, but has been dropped of late, as most of those millions have since died. And they probably didn't vote much either. And I don't know for certain, but I'd suspect there are probably half a dozen dead people on the electoral role today.

Old people's homes are also worth a visit. They are a captive audience, and a would be politician can enliven what might otherwise be a routine day, as long as you don't make a boring speech and send them to sleep. And you can meet a number at the same time, without having to walk very far. It might be well for older candidates to avoid such venues however, in case they bump into some of their contemporaries who think, mistakenly, they are sussing the place out for their own retirement. Of course, old people's memories may not be what they were, and they may vote for someone else entirely, or confuse you with Winter Ecobichon, who died in the influenza epidemic of 1919.

The Hustings and their reporting in the JEP

The hustings is the chance for the candidates to prove their worth. But appearances can be deceptive. What most people learn of the hustings are the reports, by BBC Radio Jersey, on the CTV website, and most importantly in the JEP. This can easily shape perceptions. Remember how the 2011 elections had Sir Philip Bailhache pictured on the front, with a few lines from his speech, and the line "the other candidates' speeches can be read inside". Except for Chris Whitworth, who had a large cardboard cut out in his place, and was not present.

Be positive. Don't get into an argument with other candidates. I've seen this happen, and the media love it, because they love a good prize fight; it sells news. But it doesn't buy votes, and the public image is that someone is quarrelsome, and however good a debater you are, you will lose votes. Even Churchill lost opportunities of office by making a speech in which he attacked the leader of the opposition as "the boneless wonder" that his parents had forbidden him to see at fairgrounds.

And the JEP can be very selective in the way they pick the sound bites to report on. What can seem like a successful hustings meeting, making points which seemed to go down well with the people listening can be wholly unlike how the speeches are reported in the JEP. Remember that massively more people read the JEP than turn up to the hustings. To be is to be perceived in the media, as Bishop Berkley once said, or would have said if he was living in today's media sound bite world.

Blogs can print the full text of your speech, and you can put links up to that on Facebook, but really only a fraction of the people who read the JEP will see that online.

The JEP may also do a Q&A for aspiring politicians, where they select particular questions to appeal to their readership and sell papers. "What do you think of Sunday Trading?" could be a hot topic for this election. "How well do you think the Fiscal Policy Panel reports help the Council of Ministers?" is a dull question, and no one really wants to know, despite the fact that it is as important.

In days of yore, the JEP used to actually provide a slate of candidates they recommended to the general public. Matters are more subtle today, but watch out for the odd column endorsing or criticising a candidate. Helier Clement, after a bottle or two of calvados will probably sound out on the election, and others may as well, although in more sober fashion.

In my next part of the Idiot's Guide to Elections, I will be looking at Manifesto Leaflets, Websites, and Adverts in the JEP.


Maureen Morgan said...

I too enjoyed the proposal speech for Bernie Manning by Alberto Rodrigues. I rather think that when he said "Bernie is not a member of any political party. He has a mind of his own" he was thinking more locally than David Cameron however...

It is nice to know somebody else heard this as I was surprised to be the only person who laughed when he said it.

Nick Le Cornu said...

There are only really two candidates in the No.1 election; myself sponsored by Unite the Union and representing the broadest sections of the working classes.

As you correctly spotted, there is Gordon Forrest the candidate of the party of the Right, the Establishment party and funded by the Chamber of Commerce. He was proposed by an Establishment figure (a wanabee Senator) and local Gauleiter for District No.1,Paul Routier.

My Proposers's speech is on my blog so there is no need to interpret the JEP synopsis. Listen and judge http://district1sthelier.blogspot.com/2014/02/solidarity-nick-le-cornu-candidate-for.html