Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

101 Ways to Win an Election, by Mark Pack and Edward Maxfield

I have no immediate plans to return to electoral politics (full disclosure: Cambridge City Council, 1990; North Belfast, 1996). However, I deal on a daily basis with people who are personally very much involved with elections, and occasionally they even ask my advice, so it was useful to return to basics with this handbook - not so much 101 different ways to win, as 101 steps that must be taken by a decently run election campaign, skewed very much to a particular part of the British environment (no massive campaign spending as in the USA, no compulsory voting as there is here; I also miss anything substantial on engaging with minority communities).

But a lot of it is of universal value, not just for election campaigns but for any public policy campaign, and I think the division into five main themes is sound: 1) getting a good message; 2) building a good team; 3) managing resources (money, time, and especially voter data); 4) communicating (leaflets, media, internet); 5) leadership. Some of the points transfer well beyond public affairs to any position of responsibility.

I think what struck me most was the early emphasis on message development. Back when I was a political neophyte in the early 1990s, this wasn't something we were told to worry about very much - the emphasis was on the mechanics of communicating with voters and hoping to get votes as the person best at doing that, and developing a local message beyond fixing the pot-holes looked a wee bit dodgy. But when I got involved with international democracy development in the mid-1990s, it became clear to me just how important message development is. This was (and is) a serious lacuna for all Northern Irish political parties: most of them are unable to give an elevator pitch statement as to why anyone should vote for them (see one recent example).

I commended this book to some Northern Irish activists the other day, and I commend it also not just to people who are themselves campaigning or thinking of campaigning, but anyone who is interested in how politics actually works in real life, as opposed to in the newspapers.
Tags: bookblog 2014

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