Monday, February 23, 2009

Whether to stand...

The local Council elections are just around the corner, veering from kerb to kerb like a bad dream on wheels and I’ve still not decided if I should stand or not. Time is not only running out, it is turning around as it does so and sticking out its tongue.
Most of the other prospective candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring, which I secretly consider a waste of good headgear. It may be that I am too late already and that lost ground, like that in Kellystown, cannot be made up. On the other hand, I could always say that natural modesty debarred me from standing but that I have reluctantly agreed to go forward following strong representations from those in the community.
The problem with the local council elections is that most people tend to vote on national issues. If you stopped somebody in the street and asked them to name our eight local councillors, they’d probably ask you if they could get to the footpath first before answering.
I would of course be standing for the Independence for Dublin 15 Party. This will give me the perfect opportunity to lambast the Government for their mismanagement of the area over the past number of years and also condemn everybody else for their weak and ineffectual opposition. Independents will also get short shrift as without a party machine behind them they will merely be a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
The candidate who gets his name out there in the community stands a great chance when polling time comes around. If you only recognise one name out of a list of twelve, it has to be an advantage. If I do decide to stand, therefore, I will have to join the other candidates in letting the constituency know that I exist.
The first thing to do will be to produce a newsletter and get it distributed. I will call it The Goulding Report, as this will imply a regular communication from myself to the community that I profess to hold so dear, even though I have only latterly shown an interest in events beyond my hall door. If I also call it Volume 2 Issue 27, people will think my commitment to local issues has been ongoing for a number of years.
In the newsletter, I will select various issues from around the constituency (having of course scoured the Community Voice first) and give my two hundred word view on each of them. It is important that I do not concentrate on one particular area as this will restrict my vote-getting.
My views on each topic of debate will of course not depend on the rights and wrongs of the issue. Such an attitude may be praiseworthy but it will not get me elected. I will naturally side with the residents as they are the ones who will put their X on the ballot paper, not the issue itself.
Where the residents are up in arms, I will naturally launch a “scathing attack” on the authorities. Scathing attacks are always good for votes as they demonstrate real commitment. During this scathing attack, I will “call upon” the Council / the Government / the Gardaí to act swiftly to put an end to this “lamentable situation.” Again, calling upon people is a winner, even if those in authority have no idea who I am.
Where a resolution has been reached, I will “applaud the decision,” whatever it may be, despite the fact that nobody has asked me for my approval. I will also “monitor the situation” very carefully and “liaise closely” with the residents, if I can find out who’s in charge.
I will also dress up in a suit and tie and travel around to different areas and have my photograph taken there. This will show how hard I am working for all the residents in the constituency. I will not make the mistake of one previous PD candidate who simply superimposed his photograph onto the platform of Coolmine Railway Station, making him appear taller than the train beside him.
It is also vital that I organise at least one local meeting for people in my local community on whatever issue is most likely to be uppermost in people’s minds. Transport is always a good one. This will allow the riff-raff to come along and tell lurid tales of having to get up at 5am in order to be at their office by 8am. It is important though that I bar other candidates from attending the meeting, in case they muscle in on this nice little group of potential voters that I have assembled for myself.
At the meeting, I will stand up and launch a scathing attack on Dublin Bus and the local authorities, calling upon both of them to put an end to this lamentable situation. I will promise the residents that I will monitor the situation very carefully and will liaise closely with residents on the issue.
It is also advisable to shake as many people’s hands as I can, as this conveys trust, and when I am approached at the end, I should cradle my chin in one hand and nod my head vigorously, thus indicating empathy with whatever they are waffling on about.
After the meeting I should write a letter to Dublin Bus, calling upon them to immediately allocate another 25 buses to the area. When the inevitable apology comes back, I will then distribute both epistles to the community, thus demonstrating how hard I am working on their behalf.
Sometimes an issue might be so contentious that I might not be sure what the view of the majority of the residents is. In this case, it is a good idea to hold a rough straw poll of those entering the meeting. A quick tot up of the figures will easily show me where my sympathies should lie and I will come down unequivocally on the side of the majority, even when they are wrong.
Writing letters to the local paper is also a good way of raising the profile. I simply need to find an issue and then launch another scathing attack on the powers-that-be. Editors will be reluctant to withhold the letter in case they might be accused of political bias, so it’s a sure-fire advertising coup and if the letter is long enough, he might feel obliged to add my photo too.
Sadly, I would also need to spend a lot of money on election posters. It is a widely known fact that the more posters a candidate puts up, the better equipped he is for the job. “Oh, he must be a great man – he has a poster on every lamppost” is a comment widely heard at election time.
I probably will not go as far as one candidate in the last elections who flew a huge hot air balloon over the locality advertising his candidature. Not only did it create a hazard for bemused pilots making their final approach to the airport, but it also demonstrated to the community that some people have more money than sense and it failed to garner him enough votes to get him elected.
Between you and me, though, the thought of spending a lot of money is one of the main reasons why I am unsure about standing. True my commitment is deep and whole-hearted but I need to think about this year’s holiday to the Algarve too.
So if there is a local benefactor out there in the community who would be willing to sponsor my candidature, I would feel duty bound to consider acceptance, for the good of the community. The sum of €50,000 would go a long way to delivering a real voice for the people but of course I would not be able to entertain any rezoning requests my benefactor might make.
God forbid!
This was written for issue 131 but my wife didn't like it. She felt I was getting at too many people, she felt the article was disjointed and lacked structure and that without local councillors, the political system would fall asunder. As her views on my writing are of necessity more objective than mine, I didn't submit it.
PS. Three months later, Fergus asked me to do an extra political musings for Issue 137. I am ashamed to say I took the easy way out and submitted this piece, which appeared in issue 137.

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