General Elections: Interrogating the Candidates

Here in Ireland we are now a mere 8 days from probably the most eagerly awaited general election since the founding of the state.  But many Irish people are still quite naive about electioneering. About how to use their voice and above all about their place in the grand scheme of things.  So over the next three posts I will hopefully help a few people both here and in other countries to get the most from any election.

In any election all the parties will bring out their manifestos to immense fanfare.  These booklets are meant to be a road map to what a given party will attempt to achieve while in office.  Typically they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on.  The unfortunate truth is that whether the new boss is the same as the old boss or indeed ends up being the same old boss the winner in any election campaign will quickly run in to one very solid brick wall.  The last guys will have left some sort of political mess that with even the best intentions in the world will still take a couple of years to clear up.  This is the charitable reason why election manifestos are worthless.

It's important to give everyone their say, even those who let us down in the past.

The uncharitable reason is that they are to put it simply nothing but lies told to a hopeful and sometimes desperate populace to get a party elected.  So if you can’t trust the party manifestos how do you choose who to vote for?  Well you take your brain out of neutral use it and then use your voice.

Start by looking at the history of actions taken in the last decade by all the parties and even the independents.  In most nations most of the talking heads of any political party will have changed surprisingly little in a decade and their past actions will provide you with a good litmus test of their future conduct.  Ask yourself and their histories a few simple questions…

Did they live up to their election promises?

Did they protect the vulnerable in your nations society?

Were the taxes they gathered on your behalf spent wisely?

Did they put the best people for a given cabinet position in the right place?

Did they do a good job at protecting your nations interests both at home and abroad?

Is the country better off because of them?

Did they act with honour?

All of these questions (barring the taxation one which only applies to the last ruling party/parties) are just as important to ask of either the government or the opposition.  Though for my money the most important of those questions is the last.

“Why,” you ask “is their sense of honour so important?  After all we all know that politicians are self-serving snakes.”

Well they’re not all snakes.  Any group of people will have its demons.  So yes politics will draw the sort of people you wouldn’t trust to count potatoes.  But it will also draw true statesmen and women who wish only to act in the national interest.  So yes I do believe their individual and group sense of honour is vitally  important especially when you intend to ask some of them to speak for you for.  After all if we can’t trust them to be honourable no-one else will either and that will only be bad for your country or mine on an international stage.

Once you’ve done your research into their pasts you need to think about the various parties futures and what you as a citizen would like to see them do for your country if they’re elected.  To this end you need to sit down and really think.  Think about what the last government both failed and succeeded to achieve in their term of office.  Think about what your country needs first and foremost, then your county, then your town (or whatever your local regions are broken down into).  Try to think beyond what we Irish call “parish pump politics”.  You are after all going to vote for a national government, so try to leave the knucklehead local stuff for local politics.

This is where you decide who gets the job. Make sure you give it to the best candidate for your country.

Once you’ve decided what you want from your future representative and the government in which he or she will sit, write a shopping list.  I am absolutely serious about this.  Write a list of them.  Group them logically, with social, taxation and political reform wishes all grouped in a logical and easy to follow way.  Put your name and address to it.  Print it off, a minimum of one per party representative and when they come to your door go through it with them.

Don’t take no for an answer.  These people want to be elected.  That means they want you to give them a well paid position in the national company.  They want to work for you and the election campaign is their job interview. Make them give you an answer on each and every point.  Make them take their copy of your list with them.  In fact mail it to their political headquarters and if you can even get your townsfolk to do the same.  Remember that politics is not a science it’s an art-form where the art is produced by national committee, so its quality is dependent on everyone giving their best effort.

In closing I’ll repeat the core point of this post.  The election campaign is nothing more mystical than a job interview for political candidates and parties.  Never forget that and never let them forget it either.

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