Local Government Magazine
LG Magazine

Winning ways in election year


Some home truths from someone who’s been there, done that.

I hope you’ve been campaigning for the past three years because that’s what it takes to win an election. You never stop shaking hands, kissing babies, cutting ribbons and always being available. I was fortunate enough to win six elections in a row. To win takes a lot of courage and, if I might add, some cunning thinking.

One of the cardinal rules in local government is to start early. Act like you want to win: nothing is more depressing than a reluctant politician. Start now by telling everyone people are asking you to stand. If it’s going to be a tight race and some people may think you’ve been around for too long, that’s fair enough but make it clear that this is your last term. There are always a few votes in that tired old truth.

You should also remember that all politics ends in tears whether you are Tony Blair or Helen Clark. It’s rare that we get out of politics in one piece without regrets.

Start getting your best campaign photo: not something from 20 years ago. You are fooling no one. Simply be you.

As you drive around your town or patch, look for the best lawn to site your hoardings. Name recognition is hugely important. Don’t underestimate the power of your personality. You are going to need some charisma to get those votes so start with writing letters now to your local paper and start saying something important. It’s not hard in these troubled times but after Christchurch please, no anger and definitely no Trump politics – that will get you nowhere.

Right now, this country needs politicians who understand decency, healing and understanding.

Right now, this country needs politicians who understand decency, healing and understanding. It’s a great opportunity to get elected or re-elected. Get some policies that are holistic, environmental and feel good in your community.

This will be a gentle election and it will be cheered on by local politicians that have a heart. So, start being as nice as you can be. You may have to swallow the occasional rat but do it quickly and get out there.

Take a note from Jacinda: get the tone right and remember you can’t fake sincerity so don’t even try. Local government will be tested this year at getting people out to vote. It’s important that you play a major role in encouraging voters to take part in the future of this country.

Understand that – whether you be a local councillor or aspire to be the mayor – leadership and commitment need a sense of delivery. The tragedy in Christchurch and Jacinda’s response have seriously lifted the bar. Recent events have changed the way politicians in this country are expected to act: a sense of urgency and worth is required.

Your voters will be expecting leadership at a local level like never before. There will be times when local government is challenged by a situation that comes from nowhere.

It’s highly likely this could be flooding. The elements are playing up right now and you can expect the unexpected at any time. There is no more hiding and so these are real tangible objectives that you need to be spelling out long before the final few days before the votes are counted.

To win an election you have to appear to be a winner. You need courage, commitment and an absolute willingness to be part of whatever the future holds for you in the next three years.

I once saw a sign at a protest in Tahiti that impressed me. It said simply “Jesus is coming, don’t be sleeping in”. I’m not sure about a second coming but I sure understand that if you want to be elected, you need to get out of bed.

  • Sir Bob Harvey
    021 986 107

This article was first published in the June 2019 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.


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