The joys of Social Media during an election campaign

So, as we enter the final week of the campaign, I have continued to read the posts on Huntingdon Living relating to those currently campaigning (or not) for the election on the 3rd May.

It’s a mixed bag really, I fully understand and agree with a lot of the comments, but there also appears to be a few posts that are simply being made to stir up emotions with those who may be undecided on which way to vote.

I decided early on that whatever happened, I was not going to get into any online discussion regarding my campaign as there are some very fine lines as to what can, or cannot, be said relating to other candidate’s campaigns and aims. Of course, I fully believe in a healthy debate and arguing my own cause, but the social groups in which comments have been made are not there for advertising, campaigning, or stirring up trouble.

I have made it clear in my campaign material that I am a member of the Conservative Party (with a capital ‘C’ for those who have cited it as ‘Conservative with a small C’), but that I do not believe politics has a place at local level. I had a choice to stand as a Conservative or as an Independent, I chose the latter as I would like all those electors in Huntingdon Central Ward to view (if elected) me as their Councillor regardless of any party influence. I can’t speak for other candidates standing as an Independent, but would like to think they have similar motivations behind this decision.

I shall now address some of the comments I have read online (not all are necessarily aimed at me of course):

1. Conservative Party members are misleading voters by standing as an Independent.

a. As I’ve already stated above, I made the choice to stand as an Independent as I do not believe politics should be a deciding factor at Town Council-level. However, I would also point out that all my campaign material clearly states that I am a member of the Conservatives, I have been up-front in my campaign material, and in discussion with electors during my door-to-door campaigning.

2. I have only seen [Party A] and [Party B] candidates out campaigning, or have only received leaflets from a particular party (in addition to this type of post, I did see one posts asking about Town Council candidates for Huntingdon Central Ward – my response should cover all similar comments).

a. Huntingdon Central Ward covers a very large area. As an official candidate, we get sight of the electoral register. I tried to write up addresses to visit which would incorporate as many electors as possible, I knew in the timeframe that I could never visit every single house, but made sure I did get to as many as possible. In one case, when I noted that an elector had known who the candidates were, but did not know anything about me personally, I checked my campaign route and saw the individual was on my list. I then visited that person and had a very nice chat and cup of tea. I have lost track of how many residents I have spoken to, but was surprised at how many said I was the first that had actually spoken to them about the elections in the years they had lived here.

3. The Independent Candidates are actually Conservatives, even their leaflets have a blue bar and look like the Conservatives’ leaflets.

a. Both myself and Brian were in the Armed Forces, Brian was Royal Air Force (RAF), I was Royal Navy (RN); the associated colours for these services are light blue for the RAF and Navy blue for the RN. I decided upon navy blue as my font for the larger text in my leaflet, a blue box was on the front to provide our website address, a larger blue box on the inside cover was used to show the responsibilities of the council. I chose blue boxes to compliment the blue font. To me, the leaflet would not work with red, yellow, green, or black font (as the smaller font was black, this would not have the desired effect I was trying to achieve). The colour choice had nothing to do with a political party

4. If an ‘Independent’ candidate is really a Conservative, then they will always back the Conservatives in a vote relating to the Town.

a. The role as a Town Councillor is to represent those residents within their elected Ward. I intend to canvass residents prior to votes that will have an impact on them (e.g. if a planning application for a house, or houses, next to their properties is to be discussed, I would try to inform residents of their options to voice their opinions or to find out the majority approval or denial and base my vote on the residents’ wishes, not that of any political pressure from any of the political parties).

5. The only people who are working hard on the campaigns are not the Conservatives, or real Independents.

a. Since the start of the campaign, I have been out pretty much every day, walking from street to street knocking on doors, and if no response, posting my campaign leaflets. I am in full time employment; all my canvassing has taken place outside of my working hours. I have designed my campaign leaflets, arranged, and printed, my own photographs, registered a domain and produced a website to aid in my campaign.

6. All councillors are in if for what they can get. (I’ve also been asked as I am in full time employment, how can I be sure I can dedicate enough time to the council?).

a. Huntingdon Town Councillors do not get paid, District and County do get allowances (I don’t know amounts or for what criteria). I could not afford to be a full-time Councillor without any income so being employed is vital for me. I currently attend most Council-led community events and have been attending council meetings on a regular basis. I am very keen to support this community and therefore will dedicate as much of my time as possible in carrying out the duties of a councillor if elected. I don’t see any opportunity for any financial gain, all I seek is the satisfaction that I have made a difference in the community.

7. Why are there candidates standing as Independent Town Councillors, but also standing as Conservative Party members for District Council?

a. As I am not standing as a District Councillor, I cannot answer that question, but would agree it does appear to be a conflict of interest. If I was standing for both positions I would stand as an Independent or Conservative for both posts. Personally, I don’t have time to commit to both roles.

8. If you are elected as an Independent, does that mean you will not back the Conservatives?

a. I have made it clear that I am a member of the Conservative Party. I will support the Conservatives at District and national-level, that is my choice; however, as I’ve also stated, at Town-level, I will represent the majority vote of those residents in the Ward that I am representing, even if it means going against the Conservative Party direction.

9. Have you canvassed for the Conservatives during this election period?

a. No. I have supported the Conservatives by helping with some early delivery of leaflets and Postal-vote letters, but made it clear that I am not going to canvass for the Party as I have my own campaign to run.

10. The Conservatives have attached campaign material to the front of my house without my permission.

a. I would be very angry if someone did this to me, I have no knowledge of who may have done this and would report it to the local Conservative Party to be investigated.

11. I have never received any reply to any of my emails to councillors, they do not care, represent or support us.

a. I have never stood for council before so cannot speak of events that I have no knowledge of. I would like to think that this is the perfect opportunity for electors to vote for some new faces on the council. New faces often bring new ideas and a fresh start, this can only improve the belief that the council is there to support our residents.