What kind of help am I likely to need?

That depends entirely on you, and your circumstances, and how you want to run your campaign!

For example, if you’ve got your own printed manifesto or leaflet, and you want to get it out to all Islanders, you might need an army of friends and family to help you distribute it. Or, if you’ve decided to use social media for the first time for this Election, you might need someone who can help you to find your way around it.

Or, possibly, the kind of help you’ll find most useful may have nothing directly to do with your campaign. If you have children to look after, then the most important thing might be friends or family who are willing to provide childcare while you go out canvassing or attend hustings.

The next few weeks are going to be intense and your schedule will be all over the place – if you have lovely friends who can drop in with a meal you can warm up in the microwave, or who might be happy to do something as simple as washing a sink full of dishes or passing a hoover for you, then lean on them. Your friends are likely to be cheering you on, and wanting to support you – if you’re not sure how best to ask them for help, feel free just to leave this blog post somewhere they might see it!

Finally, sometimes you just need moral support. You’ll get a lot of that from your fellow candidates – you’re all going through something extraordinary together and, although you are competitors, you can also be friends. Lean on your existing support networks as well, and make sure you take time out of campaigning to be with people who refresh you, who make you feel good about yourself and the world, and who fill you with the energy you need to go out and campaign once more.

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How can I prepare for voters’ questions?

Read a lot, and talk a lot. In particular, seek out existing States Members and ask them about the issues that have been debated this term, and the different angles that concern people about them. Talking is helpful because you cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time, and you get a window into aspects of the issue that aren’t necessarily going to be obvious in writing.

Even if the deadline is a long way off, you might want to start preparing answers to the various candidate questionnaires that exist. Doing this will help you to think through where you stand on a variety of issues, so you’ll be able to answer more naturally when people ask you similar questions face-to-face.

Finally, don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to everything. Be honest with voters – most people respect that. Show that you’re willing to learn. Explain how you would go about solving a problem, if you don’t know the actual solution yet. Don’t shut the conversation down – I don’t think many voters would be impressed by a candidate who says “that’s outside my comfort zone, so I’m not going to talk about it.” But feel free to acknowledge “that’s something I need to learn more about”, and even to ask “what do you think I should know or do?”

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Can I help to solve people’s problems?

If you’re talking to people about the States, a lot of people are going to tell you about public services that don’t work well for them, or about times they feel they have been treated wrongly or failed by the system. Some of these will be desperately difficult problems which are a real issue here and now – and you’ll want to try and do all you can to help fix it.

If you are a first-time candidate, I would just be a little bit cautious about what you promise. People’s lives are complicated, and you may not have the time or the ability to get fully involved in sorting out a problem while you’re on the campaign trail, however much you may want to.

If there is an obvious, immediate need for outside help, then you might want to point the person in the direction of someone who can offer it. The Citizens Advice Bureau is usually a good place to start, or another voluntary organisation more directly related to the person’s needs. It is probably wisest to pass on contact details, and leave it up to the person to choose if they want to get in touch.

If there is an injustice which needs addressing, but it isn’t urgent, you can say to the person: “I don’t think I’ll be able to address this for the next few weeks, but I’d be glad to pick it up with you after the Election, and try to get things sorted for you.” If you say this, make sure you mean it. Give the person a way of getting in touch with you that will work after the Election, whether or not you’re elected; or make yourself a diary note to get back in touch with them again after the Election. If you’re not elected, you might not be in a position to do what you hoped – if that happens, try and connect the person to someone else who might be able to help.

Ultimately, you’ll handle this in the way that feels right for you. I think it might just be useful to know that the campaign period is a conundrum – it’s the time when you’re most likely to find out about people’s problems, but least likely to be able to take any meaningful action to address them – and to have some ways of managing that, so you don’t leave people in the lurch, but you also aren’t making promises you can’t fulfil.  

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What are the risks?

I have written a fair amount about risks in the sections on family and health. The trouble with risks is that you often don’t know you’re taking one until something goes wrong – so I can’t give you a comprehensive list of all the risks associated with political life (because I don’t know what they are) but I will try and talk about it in general terms.

This is an area where it would be particularly helpful to speak with as many Deputies as possible, and perhaps also with other people working in the public sector, who will be able to tell you what they themselves have struggled with, or what keeps them up at night. This might help you to build up a more comprehensive picture than I can give you by myself.

Generally speaking, I think most risks fall into one of two categories. First, there are risks that arise simply because you are a public figure – the whole gamut of insults, slurs and misinformation about you on social media, threatening emails or phonecalls, attacks on your reputation, threats to your safety.

I haven’t yet felt unsafe myself, but some of us have, and with reason – especially people who are more publicly visible, because they’re Presidents, or associated with an unpopular policy.

And then there are risks that relate to the general and specific responsibilities you’ve taken on in the States. This includes things like data protection, challenges under the Code of Conduct, and any legal responsibilities you have as a result of your Committee duties.

You will be introduced to these responsibilities as part of your induction as a Deputy – but it will probably feel like a lot of information all at once, so don’t be afraid to go back and ask for a recap once you’re ready to take it in. In Committee, you will benefit from the knowledge, resources and support of the civil service; but the rest of the time, you are on your own – and that can be pretty frightening.

Of course it’s right that we are held to high standards – we have an almost unique power to make decisions that can affect people’s liberty, their livelihoods, sometimes even life itself. But we don’t have any of the infrastructure, from personal assistants to party advisers, which politicians elsewhere benefit from, so it can be very lonely and very vulnerable.

Your best support will probably be trusted colleagues – current Deputies, or those who have recently retired, who may have been through something similar, or who can help you to get the advice or assistance you need. If you have people you can confide in, don’t be afraid to ask them for help.

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