Cllr Brian Robinson represents Mitcheldean Ward on Gloucestershire County Council
I was very pleased to be re-elected to Gloucestershire County Council in a by-election last week. The area (Forest of Dean) has been a target for UKIP in recent years – and they claimed they were “cautiously optimistic” about taking the seat. As it was, their vote went up three per cent, but the Conservative vote went up 14 per cent. Labour, who held the parliamentary seat until 2005, were utterly defeated – pushed back into fourth place with just 11 per cent of the vote. Both of these things bode well for next year’s general election.
I thought it might help to share a few of the campaigning ideas that worked well against UKIP. None are particularly revolutionary – but they might help candidates elsewhere:
1. A good team. I had excellent support both from the group agent and the campaign manager for the seat, but also from the Leader of the Conservatives on the County Council and their group whip – who both worked hard to pull in mutual aid from across the county.
2. A clear plan to inform, engage and activate the voter. We wrote a detailed plan leading down to the election – with a focus on literature deliveries. Even more impressively, we pretty much stuck to it!
3. Focus on issues the voters can engage with as helpful to them. In this case easing congestion. Something they agree will make their life better. An optimistic message. We often focus on our priorities such as balancing the budget or dealing with a social need like adult services. While people do not disagree with our priorities is does not engage them.
4. Local focus. Finding something in every parish that could be targeted such as a specific pothole, speeding stop or bus issue. I got these ideas by speaking to local people – listening to what they had to say- and then looking at how we could address their concerns.
5. Get the message out by getting a team of deliverers and take time to reach the hard to reach homes. If you are the only person to reach them they are impressed. Whilst that’s hard work in a rural area with big gaps between houses and no footpaths, it is worth the effort!
6. Engage potential UKIP voter. Let them know that you share their fears and concerns but that Conservatives have the best chance of addressing them. I used the words if you simply want to protest: Vote UKIP. If you want to make a difference/impact you need to vote Conservative. I had several who said I was going to vote UKIP but would now vote for me.
7. Get out the vote. We ran GOTV for postal voters, and again for the actual election day. Contacting voters directly really worked for me – I know it was worth a significant number of votes on the day.
8. Don’t get distracted by opposition. Stick to what you can do for voters.
Nothing there is rocket science – but I hope it gives some useful ideas to others in a similar situation.