Notes from the canvass: What do candidates stand for?

When I decided to run late last year I put a lot of thought into the type of policies I wanted to pursue. One of the first things I did was develop this website and I used it to build my manifesto and outline why I was running and why people should vote for me.

Throughout this election I have tried to present a clear and coherent reason for people to vote for me. I am running because I want to see Fingal County Council deliver for the citizens of North Dublin and ensure that our taxes are spent properly. I see one of the roles of Councillor is explaining to people why decisions are made and being a watchdog on how their money is being spent.

While this website has allowed me to develop a comprehensive platform and outline my ideas I knew that I would need to get my message and my policy platform on to a leaflet to put through people’s letter boxes. Obviously the key being condensing my material into a clear message for the leaflets.

I think I have managed to do this and I have in my most recent leaflet outlined a summary of most of what I want to do if I do get elected. At all times I have kept it realistic and in my view my policies are all achievable if I do get elected. However what has really struck me is the lack of policy detail or indeed platform found in so many other campaigns. As a candidate you will of course look at other candidates campaigns across the country.

However I have found it remarkable that many candidates have been able to produce leaflets which have absolutely no policy detail and or have statements that are simply general or glib.

There are two particular examples that can be found:

1) The candidate that describes themselves but very little or indeed no policy or commitments. For example they will often mention some of the following:

  • They have family heritage in the area that dates back to the Normans
  • They run a business in the area
  • They are a Parent
  • They are a community activist
  • They are active in local clubs and sports

So you are being asked to vote for a personality and nothing else.

2) The candidate that gives a very general description of what they want to do and can include some/all of the following:

  • Change
  • New voice
  • Job creation
  • Transport
  • Community
  • Taxes
  • Services

To be fair to all candidates each and every one of us wants to improve the Council, create the conditions for local job creation and tackle anti social beahviour, the housing crisis, transport, environmental issues and be champions for our communities.

However the problem I have is two fold: 1) Lack of specifics 2) Raising expectations. When we ask for someone’s vote and they give it to us they are trusting what we are saying. It is important that candidates and indeed political parties put forward a consistent set of policies that can be achievable. Anything else will just increase disillusionment and people’s understandable disenchantment with politics.

One of the reasons I think candidates minimize what they have on a leaflet or canvass card is this perception that they need to present information in small chunks that are easy to understand. I think this is highly patronizing and treats the electorate with contempt.

In my view I think every candidate needs to present a coherent set of policies after all the role of Councillor will involve multi million annual budgets. In my opinion if a candidate cannot do that and explain what they want to do over the five year term they aren’t worth voting for.

 

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