Posts Tagged ‘Edgbaston CLP’

Now we’ve got more councillors, here’s how we show the difference they make

17/05/2012, 02:48:56 PM

by Tom Keeley

A major challenge for Labour’s 824 newly elected councillors is to prove to their electorate that the right choice has been made.  In local politics this is easier said than done.  Even the hardest working councillor can be made to look like a one-trick-pony come election time. Avoiding this depends largely on how work done and successes achieved are perceived by the electorate.

Most councillor accomplishments will be small.  Road signs cleaned.  Bulky waste collections increased.  Alleyways cleared.  Double yellow lines painted.  Police patrols rerouted.  And, while there is much more to council politics than this, this is what the majority of the electorate will see the majority of the time.  The little things.  The challenge for local councillors is to present their successes to the local electorate in a way so as to maximise results at the ballot box.

The traditional way of presenting successes is that as double yellow lines are painted we rush out leaflets to the surrounding roads claiming credit.  As potholes are resurfaced, pictures are circulated of the candidate standing by the newly smoothed piece of road.  Night-time door knocks in areas where new street lights have been installed.  The usual.

This traditional way presents success as one-off individual accomplishments.  The problem is that residents do not and will not vote for a councillor simply because there are new street lights on their road.  This is a naïve and commonly held misconception.  Residents want more than this.  Therefore we need a new way of promoting Labour councillor success.  This should present individual accomplishments as part of a larger body of work, maybe even as part of a vision for the local area.

In my professional life I work as a qualitative researcher, which essentially means I make sense of what people say on a given subject; in my case the subject is health and health care.  Stay with me here, I am coming back to politics.  To make sense of what people say you need a structure.  You build this structure by initially pulling out broad themes within what people say, and then attaching or attributing people’s individual statements and opinions to the broad themes.  The structure allows you to make sense of a huge amount of opinions and present a coherent case or argument.  A similar method can be used in presenting local political success.


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