How to Win Elections

How to Win Elections


Starting Point

Types of Election

Electoral Areas

Polling Districts


Electoral Register


Registering as a Candidate




Local Press

Press Release

Public Meetings

Online Campaigning

Eve of Election

Knock-Up Areas

Election Day

Number Tellers


The Count

Post Election Party

Post Election

Election Expenses


About The Author


Public Meeting

A Public Meeting is, as the name suggests a meeting that is open to the public. These normally take place, again implied by the name, in public venues such as church or community halls, sometimes schools. There can be a number of reason for holding a public meeting but during an election these can be divided into two categories.

The first is a 'Quiz the Candidates' type event where all candidates standing for election will be invited along. In some areas the local churches have a history of organising an event of type at every General and European Election. They are not so common for council elections but that's no reason not to hold one or if someone else orrganises it, not to attend.

The format of these meeting is a bit like the television show 'Question Time' where a neutral chairperson will host the event and either put questions to the candidates or invite questions from the floor. There may also be a spot early in the agenda where each of the candidates are invited to speak for a given time on what they are standing for and why they think they should be elected. If this is going to be part of the meeting you would normaly be told in advance.

Either way it is a good idea to prepare thoroughly for such meetings as any embarrassing slip-ups can be used against you by your opponents. Also, and this may sound obvious, but if you are going to answer a question you should listen to that question carefully and answer that question, I remember well one event where a candidate heard a question and started scribbling notes on what she would say, by the time she was called to speak, one of her colleagues (there were more one there from each party) had dealt with the question and the topic under discussion had changed completely, leaving her answering a question that had already been resolved. When this was pointed out to her she loudly accused the chairman of bias. He then kept quiet and let her make an even bigger fool of herself by continuing to go on about what was by now an irrelevant subject much to the amusement of much of the audience. So listen carefully and if you have not fully heard the question ask for it to be repeated.

When you prepare you should not only consider what you want to say and what subjects you want to discuss (your agenda), but also what issues are likely to arise either from members of the public or from planted questions asked by supporters of other candidates (their agenda). If there is a particular subject you want raised then try to ensure that some supporters of your campaign are at the meeting and ask them to raise the issue with a question that you can be well prepared to answer. If you do this have your answer prepared in advance and use it in a press release after the meeting.

There is one issue you may have to face at this kind of meeting and it is probably best to raise it now. If all the candidates for election have been invited to speak then there are likely to be people there those views are diametrically opposed to your own. This is called Free Speech and means you don't have the right to not be offended by someone else's views. There are however some people whose views are so obnoxious that you may want to consider whether or not you wish to share a platform with them. I am not going to tell you whether you should or should not but it is an issue you may want to think about.

The second kind of public meeting is one where you will want to discuss one particular issue and it may be that you or the campaign team will have to organise this. If you are standing for election on a single issue, such as school closures or road safety or the maintenance of local parks, then you may only want to alert those residents that are affected most by the issue. So put out a leaflet telling people of the meeting, put a notice in the local paper, let your canvassers know to tell people about it when they canvass and try to hold it early in the campaign.

The reasons for holding it early are, if you are addressing a genuine issue of local concern you may find that people who attend the public meeting join your campaign and if it goes badly and only a few people turn up you will have time to re-focus your energies.

At this kind of public meeting consider yourself a host; put on refreshments (not alcohol) and make people feel welcomed. Have two or three speakers, if possible ones people may know such as local councillors or former public frigures, to address this the issue with the candidate being the last to speak. Let people know where you stand but also invite them to participate in whatever change you are trying to bring about.

Your should also alert the local press to the fact that your holding a public meeting. Do this sufficiently in advance that they can go to print prior to the meeting.

Make sure the venue is accessible to those you wish to attend and by that I don't just mean that it shouldn't be up a huge flight of stairs but that it should be in their locality, be somewhere they feel safe and would want to go and can be found easily. Church Halls, Public Halls, and Libraries can sometimes be good choices but not pubs or places that older residents may not feel safe such as youth clubs.

Before the meeting as part of your preparation you can draw up a statement of what you want to say. Your manifesto, if you wrote one, should assist with this. If for whatever reason you haven't said all the things you wanted to say, don't worry, you can always issue them as a statement to the press later.

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