Activism and... Standing for and holding office

IssueMarch 2009

Because it takes so many years to actually get anywhere, even in the council election, I’ve found there’s more focus on building a campaign than actually becoming a part of the “party machine”.

I’ve never felt the sort of necessary dedication needed to actually get elected for office. I’m not really a party animal.

I’ve been surprised by how much more time people spend talking about tactics than they do talking about policy.

I think so many people who stand for office tend to compromise their own principles to match those of the party they’re serving. I don’t believe I’ve ever strayed from my beliefs to suit those of the party.

I just find it very easy to agree with just about everything my party stand for, and I’ve leafleted a bit for them. When I’m quizzed on “Well, what does the party stand for?”, it’s easy: peace, environment and human rights.

But then people come up to me on the street and want to know how I feel about legalising cannabis. They don’t seem to care about the important issues.

I think one thing is that standing for election is quite a good way of finding out what’s going on in your local area.

There’s quite a lot of people you’ll meet who you never knew were a member of whatever party.

I stood for office because nobody else was, so it was one of those rather reluctant things.

It’s one of those organisations that has to have structure, that has to have offices or the organisation ceases to exist.

For me, the experience has also been sort of taking on different structures than one’s used to working in, in that you have to have a chair, who chairs the meeting, and a secretary, who takes the minutes of the meeting, and it’s like going into a world that isn’t horizontally organised, but rather, it’s quite hierarchal and quite conservative.

It is somewhat time-consuming. It’s more like community activism, not straight forward political activism, but it’s very much supporting one of the town’s community institutions.

For that reason, I thought it was important, that it was a way of people in the town getting together and creating something good and taking issues into their own hands.

In my experience, groups that work well are groups that value each other for what they can do rather than fixing them into the post of an officer and then only that person is allowed to do the duties of that office.

Office puts power into the hands of the very few and I’ve been desperately trying to share my power around and it unnerves people.

Having officers is very ineffective. It’s a structure that spends a lot of time arguing about structure, rather than working on getting the work that needs to be done accomplished.

I stood for the party because they needed enough candidates to stand across the country to get an election broadcast.

I was assured that there was no way I would be elected. I had to write a statement, and I said I supported local businesses and local transport, and was against climate change.

Shopkeepers started telling me they were promoting my candidacy. I got a frighteningly high vote, without doing any campaigning.

It was a very close call.

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