This is a list of discoveries, some obvious and some not so, compiled from the experiences of two of our NEC (founder) members who stood as a candidates in local / general elections one in Bedford and one for the constituency of Liverpool Walton. Dirk Bruere stood for local election more than a decade ago for a party he created called “The Consensus”. This party later formed the basis of a possible party stemming from the Zero State organization, which in turn would later become one of the roots for the Transhumanist Party. Dr Alexander Karran stood in the May 2015 general election as an independent Transhumanist candidate supported by the Transhumanist Party. Alex attempted a full campaign, which included door-to-door “meet and greet”, campaign leaflets (delivered by PO mailshot), interviews and articles.
Much of the information in this briefing concerns the logistics of running a local party and the problems that arise from not having a support structure in place.
To provide some context, there are more than 20,000 positions in the UK that come up for election on a regular basis. In effect, this means that if we wanted to contest all of them we would need a minimum of 20,000 committed party members, who are also activists, a feat of no small consequence. This coupled with the fact that ideally each candidate requires at least five other people in support, brings the total number to above 100,000! However, there is an upside; whoever can do it becomes a major political party, in both deed and fact, providing a large enough platform to leverage policy in the media, the public eye and in the houses of parliament.
The aims for the Transhumanist Party this year are more modest. We hope to find five people who are willing to stand in local elections in May 2016 on behalf of the Transhumanist Party. It is our goal be double that number every year thereafter.
Standing in local election is very much an exercise in “showing the flag” and raising the profile of the Party and its policies incrementally. We are not standing in the belief that anyone will be elected to their local council, and as such we are not asking for the full “candidate thing” i.e. a campaign consisting of preparing and delivering leaflets, door to door canvassing and so forth. As you will soon see, a full election campaign is a very non-trivial thing to comprehensively attempt. However, should you wish to go that route, at least to some extent, this document details what you can expect.
Despite our lack of on-the-ground resources, the party can help in a number of ways. Most notably by taking you through the steps necessary to allow standing in local elections. In this briefing, we will explain who is eligible to stand and what statutory requirements exist, in addition to highlighting to details on the site of the Electoral Commission that may be of value.
Central to this process within the party is the Nominations Officer, currently Dr Alex Karran it is he and thus the office of Nominations that controls various permissions and issues certificates, which will allow you to use the party name and logo. Alex also stood for the party in last year's national parliamentary election, and so understands the requirements, and pitfalls in detail.
The party can supply templates for leaflets and advice on content if you decide you want to go that route. However, you will have to get them printed and delivered yourself. Additionally, the Party would undertake to issue endorsements in support of your campaign and help craft press releases for local / national media via the party's PR department.
What's in it for me?
This question is one that parties rarely comment on explicitly. The expected answer is “to support the party and further our common aims”. Which is all well and good, however pure altruism seldom works as well when compared against altruism plus self-interest.
The real answers can be one or all of the following:
- If you are young and with not much work experience what looks better on your CV - “Worked in McD” or “Stood for the Transhumanist Party in local elections”?
- If you wish to pursue a political career, this is your foot in the door (no matter what the party).
- People, who actually do things without being paid, or threatened, are rare. Employers notice. The classic interview question: “What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?” can be answered with alacrity and honesty, encouraging further questions and interest in you as a person with expanded horizons.
- It will get your name and face spread around to thousands of people.
- You can use it to meet “real” politicians and influential people, thus growing a network, which may be useful in the long term.
- If you are of a particular mind-set, it's fun!
The Experience and the Lessons
- Delivering leaflets is a long and tiring business! This may seem obvious in a sense, but calculations bring home exactly how long and tiring. Consider an average local Ward of some 6000 electors in around 3000 homes. If the area has reasonably high housing density there may be as little as 10m between houses, and gardens may only be around 7.5m long. That means for each house one has to walk 25m. Multiply by 3000 gives 75km (approximately 47 miles). This is not a straight line either, but includes around 9000 radical changes of direction. In practice, one can deliver about 100 leaflets per hour, so at least 30 hours must be set aside for that alone. I did not do so and only got about two-thirds coverage in the three days before the election.
- When canvassing door-to-door a reasonable rate is 15 per hour. Bear in mind that, as I discovered, around 2%-3% of people are interested enough to spend a couple of hours talking about the party.
- The canvassing should start early – at the very least the one month before the election date and after candidates are officially sanctioned, if not sooner. That way one can count on 30 days times (say) 20 per day in order to reach 600 households, or around 20% of those possible.
- Combine leaflet delivery with the canvassing to save time.
- Between 60% and 70% of electors do not vote in this area – a lot of potential.
- I got 0.7% of the votes cast, 16 in total. All of those I attribute to people I actually talked with, and as that numbered 200 (I started my campaign only 10 days from the election) it suggests that if I could get the message across to more people the support might be as high as 8%.
- By starting earlier and talking to 600 people I could expect to see a rise to approximately 2% purely from that effort.
- For someone new to canvassing, have your spiel worked out before you go door knocking, at least the first introductory sentence. Some of the things that went down well:
- Honesty – don’t bluster and bullshit or sound like a politician. Tell it straight even if it means you think you will lose that vote.
- Admit you are poor and cannot put on a big show like the major parties
- Tell them that their vote means more to you than it does to our millionaire opposition.
- Explain that this is costing you money, and that nobody is paying you – many people think the local politicians get paid for ‘doing the rounds’.
- Explain that under the TP you are effectively an Independent who does not have to toe any party line, other than honesty.
- Tell people where you live, especially if (like me) it’s the rough part of the Ward.
- Tell them of personal experiences with local problems – everything from rubbish collections to crime.
- Admit that you probably don’t stand a chance of winning, because XXX always wins, so it doesn’t matter if they ‘waste’ a vote on you.
- Tell them that this is a beginning for you and although you do not expect to win this time, next year or the year after may be different.
- Ask them whether they normally vote (most do not) and that if the answer is ‘no’ – can I have your vote please, since it’s not going to anyone else?
- Most people under forty do not vote, and most over 40 do. Be prepared.
- Most people will not really be interested, but some are – spend time with them.
- Ask them whether you can count on their vote, or failing that (if no) ask whether they will consider you.
- Shake hands with people - physical contact cements relationships
- However, the biggest failure was the leaflet used. It generated no votes and no traffic on the website despite the fact I distributed around 2000. In fact, it is reasonable to assume it put off potential voters very effectively (including some of the 200 I personally spoke with).
- In hindsight, the mistakes are obvious and based on the feedback I have received are as follows:
- Not focussed on local issues in a local election.
- Too intellectual, with too many ‘big words’ and undefined terms.
- Nothing ‘personal’ was included – not even my name. It was purely party oriented which might not be a problem if the party was well known – but it isn’t.
- It could be viewed as ‘telling people what to do” which generates immediate resistance.
- Too ‘negative’ in some respects
- Discourse that works and/or impresses people in newsgroups and on the Web does not work with ordinary people in real life.
- More money should have been spent on fewer leaflets.
- Total ‘spend’ was around £120, which did not compare favourably with other parties which I estimate spent almost 5x that amount directly and indirectly in a more focussed manner. However, I could double what I spent per leaflet to much greater effect by using colour instead of black and white and reducing the number printed to match the Ward size. I effectively wasted nearly half of what I spent.
- Paying an additional 1p to have the leaflet machine folded is worth it in time saved.
- Note that one local party, Better Bedford supported by our millionaire mayor, has an annual budget of around £2000 per Ward per year. They did not do well, despite that.
- The leaflet to be produced should include name and photo, plus personal details and musings on the state of the town as well as support for the any local groups (in my case an Animal Rights group). The party name will still feature, but not as prominently.
- It may be worth getting both sides printed, with the reverse holding something of non political significance and interest e.g. a map of the town, a picture of something interesting, a calendar etc. To be determined.
- The forms required by the government, to be filled in by the candidate, allows one to specify the description of the party or candidate. I had simply put ‘The Consensus’. Other parties used this facility to better effect by specifying local area details e.g. ‘Liberal Democrat – Goldington Focus Group’ etc.
- It may well be worth doing some mid-year canvassing just to get ones face known.
- Some midterm publicity may be helpful.
- I think that realistically one can get at least 4% of the vote, or around 100 votes. Potentially many more, up to 10% in my estimation if everything is ‘done right’. Of course, if the people who don’t vote could be mobilised in our favour we would rule the town in no time!
- Finally, success breeds success.
Alex (Appropriate for general Elections but take-homes are the same for Locals):-
- Do official paper work early, and if you think it’s too early it is really not
- Check paper work not once, not twice, but thrice (and then check it again before you hand it in)
- When reading the UK electoral committee documents be sure to face magnetic north and if you believe in gods have at least one pantheon in your corner. Ok, I jest but the electoral documents created to aid a candidate in standing for an election require a certain amount of patience and must be read stepwise, any speed reading or skimming will result in a mistake that can set back a campaign significantly
- Leaflets are probably best as A4, 1 fold to allow for more “glitz and glamour” i.e. “in the community” photo ops, standing by road sides with the name of the constituency etc. (this seems a really popular approach even though it is a really cheap shot).
- Have a PR and Campaigns manager, it is very hard to keep track of what is going onexternally to a particular campaign and opportunities for engagement can be missed
Leaflet / Poster
- One cannot simply put up a political poster anywhere, if it is in a city centre then you needcouncil permission, locally shop windows etc. are acceptable
- Leaflets: simple design, simple message, as few words as possible to get the point across,depending on your tastes, inflammatory defamations aimed at other political parties seem the norm, but is rather déclassé in my opinion so I avoided it
- To use the “free” Royal Mail election distribution service, if you are an independent (even if supported by a party, like in my case) you must avoid any advertising, that includes any mention of websites .com,.org etc. You can have open endorsements but they must be specific to the individual, if you stand for a party then you must have party branding and you can include the party website
- Check the Royal Mail candidate documentation, not once, not twice but …… (I hope you see the recurring pattern here)
- Line up a printing service before sending any leaflet to the Royal Mail artwork verificationservice; you need to ask the printing service if they will allow you to place their full addresson the front of your leaflet. Furthermore you should ask the print service if they can label the boxes appropriately (said label is in the Royal Mail document) and package it to the Royal Mail stringent packaging requirements (it will be refused and then binned if it doesn’t), not a problem if you are doing it at home, but again time will be a factor.
- Have your leaflet ready at least 5 weeks in advance of the closing for candidate nominations, do this to stop the absolute and terrible panic that accrues from running out of time, the Royal Mail Artwork checking service (where you send your leaflet for vetting) takes 48 hours to process an email, and if they request changes this then takes a further 48 hours and if further changes are required …… after this is complete you get a verification code, and you can send your leaflet to a printing house
- Learn how to read a catch 22 situation and deal with it effectively, the Royal Mail prefers to give out delivery time slots for the collection of leaflets at the distribution office (DO) (the label mentioned above must include the DO on every box or it will be refused).
Additionally, they also prefer the leaflets to be delivered by a service and not an individual, which is strange because they also require form EL1 to be associated with the delivery notice which you can’t fill out until the royal mail gives you a delivery slot, which you can’t know until you know when it is going to be delivered….. So your choices: pay through the nose for a guaranteed delivery service that gives exact time slots and send your EL1 to them via special delivery or just get it sent straight to your home / business (see above “get a campaign manager”) and go against preference and take it personally where you can guarantee a time slot.
A final note on leaflets: under any circumstances do not deviate from the vetted design in any way, even the smallest change will result in it being returned or binned, they have the vetting code and a copy of your artwork and will further vet it to check its authenticity.
If you get an opportunity to talk the Party message and about what you are doing, take it, no questions asked. Try to have a conceptual framework that you will work within when you talk and try not to deviate from it, journalists will always ask leading questions in order to get that juicy sensationalist sound bite, and this could then play against you at some future time. With that said however, go full bore, give concise answers yes but if you have leeway enjoy the moment and talk around the subject. I’m told any publicity is good publicity by trusted sources, I however, remain skeptical on the issue.
Meeting the Public
So not only did I have to canvass for signatures to support my nomination as an independent Transhumanist candidate from my local constituency, but I also needed to speak to the people on general principles (this after all is the very basis of politics). I was very nervous about this, not that I have a problem opening lines of communication with people just that after talks with other Transhumanists and the general feel from the Facebook population there is a belief that “the general population” just doesn’t get Transhumanism. In this and only this, they are right but they are also dead wrong. I will explain my reasons for such a statement, the internet Transhumanist community likes to pontificate upon how “out there” Transhumanism is, when in fact only the more esoteric arms can be seen in those terms (i.e. cryopreservationists, singularitarians). On the doorstep, I would argue what could be more natural than our technology. That we use tools and that technology is merely a natural extension of that.
The Transhumanist movement has thus far failed to externalise its philosophy in such a way as to appeal to a greater audience of “non-Transhumanists”, if indeed such a thing can be said to exist. As with all things, agreement appears to be a matter of degree and not philosophical difference. So when I explain to the so called average person (who is anything but average), that I stand for the core principle, that “technology can and should be used to overcome human limitation in all its forms”, then relate this principle to personal issues such as accelerating technological unemployment, poor education and health care, Transhumanist thought becomes relatable. Of course your mileage may vary and you will need to modify your message to your constituents (I suggest dipping into one or more of the “three pillars” upon which we are founded social futurism, technoprogressiveness and Transhumanist philosophy).
To tease apart what I mean by relatable, not a single individual made any link to transsexualism or other negative connotations, all were open to having Transhumanist terminology explained and when it was explained that I advocated the use of technology to overcome problems and enrich their lives and the lives of their children the Transhumanist message was well received.
Why vote for a minor party...
…such as the Transhumanist Party?
Surely it’s a wasted vote? That is a question put to both Dirk and Alex over the course of their campaigns. What do you say when you hear that? Here are some reasons you can give to encourage votes for a so called “no hoper”:
- You believe in the policies of the minor party
- You do not like any of the major parties
- You do not normally vote, because one of the ‘Big Three’ always wins
- They are all the same – only the minor party offers a real choice
- Politicians only care about votes and money – if you want to hurt them, cost them one or the other
- A minor party needs the support far more than the majors
- Success breeds success – minor this year, maybe not so minor next year
- Publicity – it helps puts the minor party ‘on the map’
- It encourages the members of the minor party to continue
- If one of the major parties has the area ‘sewn up’ your vote probably doesn’t matter much to the major anyway
- If there is a balance of power between two of the majors, voting for a minor will definitely hurt the second place party, no matter who wins. Especially if the votes cast for the minor exceeds the difference between first and second place. Be a ‘spoiler’.
- The fewer votes the winner gets the less their legitimacy – it helps set the scene for proportional representation.
- Voting makes your area valuable to the politicians, no matter who you vote for. If few people vote in your area the politicians will think ‘why do anything for them – nothing to gain and nothing to lose’.
How to stand in the local elections – requirements
The Electoral Commission:
Note that the above link is for people standing in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own sections and rules.
First, some relevant points concerning local elections, although the above link is the definitive source for all such information for elections local, national and European.
- One does not have to put up any cash in order to stand in a local election.
- As long as have you lived or worked within the larger electoral area you can stand in a ward other than your own within that area.
- You need to get ten signatures of people on the electoral register in the ward in which you are standing. [Ideally, get more than 10 if possible as a backup] Of these one must be a proposer and the other a seconder. Since you will not at this point have a copy of the electoral register, you need to do some door knocking and asking.
- Disqualifications for candidature are listed in the information on the Electoral Commission website.
If you have any questions, please address them to the Nominations Officer or Party Secretary
And good luck!
The following is a link to a directory of all councils with elections on 5th May 2016
Local elections - WE NEED YOU - Dr. Alexander Karran and Dirk Bruere
Eugenics and transhumanism - Dirk Bruere