Is a website useful?


I mean, I get a lot of use out of my website, so of course I’m going to say that. At the last Election, there were plenty of candidates who didn’t have websites, and it did them no harm. But I couldn’t imagine going into this Election without one.

I say that because the States manifesto and web page will be useful ways of introducing yourself to voters, but you are bound to want to tell them more about who you are and what you stand for.

You have options for doing that. You could take part in the various surveys, media supplements and so on that are bound to come out during the campaign period. You could print your own manifesto and post it (or deliver it – if you have a team!) out to Island households. Or you could make sure that your website is on every other bit of campaign material you have, so that voters who are interested in finding out more about you have somewhere to go.

If you have a website, you can explain your policies and principles in more detail. You can upload videos, audio, graphics or anything else you want to, and link to these from a range of social media accounts. You are the sole author and editor, so you can be confident that nothing you say will be misprinted or misrepresented.

Basically, I just think a website is an ideal one-stop-shop for voters who want to find out a bit more about you, and I would want to make the most of it in this Election campaign.  

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What other campaign materials might I need?

If you want to reach as many voters as possible, you might need to engage with them in a variety of different ways. These are some of the things you might want to think about.

Do you want to use the materials provided by the States? If so, you will need:

  • Content for a two-page manifesto (in one of five possible templates)
  • A script or outline for a 3-minute video, and
  • Content for a candidate page on the Elections website

There is more information about how to prepare for each of these in the official candidates’ guide, towards the end of the document.

Do you want somewhere candidates can find out more about you? If so, you might want:

  • A separate personal manifesto (online-only, or printed)
  • A personal website

Do you want to drop something through people’s letterboxes, or have something to hand to people you meet face-to-face? If so, that could be:

  • A separate personal manifesto (as above)
  • A postcard or calling card, telling people where they can find out more about you

Do you want to connect with people on social media? If so, you might want to set up accounts on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • or any other platform you’re comfortable with

Do you want a variety of ways of connecting with people online? If so, you might consider:

  • A personal website (as above)
  • A blog
  • Graphics with your key messages – you can post these on social media
  • Audio recordings
  • Videos
  • Livestream events

Do you want anything visual? If so, how about:

  • Posters (think about where these might be displayed, and how big they’d need to be)
  • Banners (if you’re arranging a face-to-face event, for example)
  • Something more creative?

There are probably plenty of other things I have forgotten about, but hopefully this is a good core of campaign materials to get you thinking. You won’t use all of these – some of them are more costly and time-consuming than others, for little gain in terms of impact, so if you have a limited budget, don’t try to do all of this! Focus on a few things, do them well, and take advantage of every free opportunity (media supplements, hustings and face-to-face events, and so on) to raise your profile.

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How do I write something people will read?

I wish I knew!

I try to write in everyday language, and to avoid technical terms if there’s a simpler alternative. Normally, it doesn’t sound condescending, just conversational.

When it comes to your manifesto, you’re going to have a lot to say, in a very small space. Keep it short. Don’t make people wade through paragraphs of fluff to get to your point – if they’ve got a hundred manifestos to read, they might just not bother with yours.

You can break text up with bullet points and internal headings. You can put key words and phrases in bold text, but have a good look at how that appears on the page – sometimes it works well, and sometimes it looks silly.

I find it helpful to use questions as sub-headings (as you can probably tell!). It is a good way of telling people upfront what the purpose of your paragraph is, and drawing them in to the answer. That might not be a great format for a manifesto – if I remember rightly, it’s been tried before and didn’t go down too well – but it might be helpful for your website.

If you have time, you might want to run your writing past a couple of friends, and ask for their impressions. You don’t have to change everything they suggest – it’s your writing, after all – but it might be helpful to have a sense-check before releasing it into the wild!

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How do I make my manifesto accessible to everyone?

Start by making it a priority. This means that you will consciously think about accessibility in all you do. You might not get it perfect, but you’ll do a much better job than candidates who aren’t even considering it.

There is some information on making your campaign accessible in the official candidates’ guide (pages 20-21), together with links to more information. Local charity Access For All* has some great guidance on making accessible websites, printed material and videos.

If you are using social media, there may be ways to make your account more accessible for disabled voters – for example, by writing captions for pictures you post, so visually-impaired people can enjoy them too.

You might be able to find information about improving accessibility under your Account Settings or somewhere obvious, or you might have to google your social media platform + “accessibility” to find it! (The irony of making accessibility information obscure is not lost on me…)

The benefit of searching the internet for social media accessibility tips, instead of being able to find it easily on the platform itself, is that you will probably also come across information from disabled social media users* explaining what works well for them. Read this and learn from it, as much as you can.

What I did on my manifesto and my website – which mostly boils down to clean presentation, large font size, and writing in plain English to the best of my ability – was really all I did in terms of accessibility. There is a lot more that you can do if you want to. I didn’t use videos as part of my campaign, but if you are doing video or audio clips online, do try and make sure there’s a transcript or subtitles available for people who need them.

One thing I wanted to do, but lacked the confidence to, was to write a one-page easy read version of my manifesto, which could have been tucked inside the main document, for the benefit of people with learning disabilities, people with dementia, and anyone else who found the longer manifesto difficult to make sense of. It’ll be different this time – you probably won’t be producing a separate manifesto anyway – but I’ve mentioned it because I regretted not doing it, and you might want to do better.

Finally, apart from Lilita Kruze, who stood in the last Election, there have been very few candidates who’ve been able to communicate with voters here whose first language is something other than English. But if you’ve got a couple of key messages, what about making them available in different languages on your website? It might not be easy to get a reliable translation at short notice (please don’t use an online translation tool!), so this might not be feasible, but it’s another angle to think about if you are considering how best to make your campaign accessible to everyone.


* I mentioned that you might be able to get advice on accessibility from voluntary groups, and from people who share their expertise on social media. Although this is freely available, if you find it useful (and if you can afford to do so), you might want to consider making a donation (in the case of individuals, take a look at whether they have a patreon account or similar) by way of thanks. These are uncertain economic times for everyone, and little courtesies can make a difference.

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How much do I need to know about what past States have done?

For your election campaign:- quite a lot about what the States immediately before you has done, almost nothing about earlier States.

To be effective once you’re elected:- dive deeper. The more you know, the better equipped you are. I’m hoping to give you the tools to do that in Part Two. But let’s concentrate on the Election for now.

The reason why you need to know a fair bit about what the States before you has done (or failed to do), is because that’s what the public will think about first when they’re asking about your plans for this term. They’ll want to know what you’re planning to continue, or what you’re planning to undo; or if you’re going to pick up the baton on something this States has failed to progress.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to build up a picture of what people will be concerned about. Most local news organisations – Bailiwick Express, Island FM, BBC Guernsey, ITV, Guernsey Press (let me know if I’ve missed any!) – have online archives of local news. Skim back through them, and remind yourself of the headlines and issues you might have forgotten.

I recommend using the media at this stage because that is what most voters will use – not (necessarily) because it is accurate. That’s an important distinction to bear in mind!

Most people are politically interested, but not so interested that they will actually follow what’s happening in the States – so they rely on the local media to let them know what’s happening here. That’s why reminding yourself of the headlines is helpful – because it will clue you in to what your voters are likely to be worrying about.

But – especially on topics you have a personal interest in, and want to speak confidently on – it helps to be able to refer back to what the States has actually done. This means you’re going to need to learn your way around the States website. The two most useful sections will be the News pages (available in the menu bar at the top) and the record of States debates (available under Government > States Meeting Information).

But here’s a tip, before you get too frustrated with the hopeless search function on Gov.GG. If I don’t know where to find what I’m looking for, I use a regular search engine. I will put in something like “” or “States of Guernsey” (or “Billet”, if I’m sure it was a States debate) to narrow it down, and then search for what I want to know.

For example, to look for more information about Guernsey’s Equality legislation, I typed in “” and “equality” to Google. The first four pages that came up were the general page on Equality, the general page on Discrimination, the details of the Discrimination Law consultation, and the Policy Priority page for the Disability, Equality and Inclusion work. Not perfect, but pretty relevant. But try searching for “equality” on Gov.GG itself, and you get a far more scattered bunch of results…!

If you’re a first-timer, no one is expecting you to know everything the last States has done. But it helps to have a general idea, because it gives you a sense of the kind of questions you’ll be asked, and it helps to prepare you for what’s going to be on your agenda in the early part of the new term.

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How do I set realistic expectations?

Step one is to be realistic with yourself, before you are realistic with the public.

A few things you need to know:

  • Things will always move more slowly and meet more resistance than you expect
  • The States is about teamwork – you’ve got to be willing to work with others
  • Significant change is possible, but it will cost you far more time and effort than you can imagine right now

You need to know that it won’t be possible to fix every flaw and injustice you find. You need to pick your battles. At various points during my term, I would do a kind of “stock take”, and work out what I needed to prioritise. That didn’t stop me being dragged onto other things, but it did help to keep me focused and make more progress than I otherwise would have done.

When you hear people talking about how government could be improved, you could be forgiven for believing there’s a great big button labelled “Fix Everything”, and the only reason no one has pushed it is because politicians and civil servants have stood shoulder-to-shoulder around it so that no one can get through. A lot of candidates seem to believe that, if only they could get in there and shake things up, everything would suddenly be a whole lot better.

The reality is that making change takes hard work. On a personal level, you need to be willing to do your own research, push for progress at Committee level or in the States, use every tool in the box to try and make things happen. You also need to work together with others and build a consensus for change. If you have great ideas but you don’t put in the work to make them a reality, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Don’t let any of this put you off. Talk to voters about what you plan to achieve – give them something to be excited about! But be honest with yourself, and with them, about the barriers you expect to face, and what it’s going to cost in terms of time and effort, to actually achieve those things.

Of course, you don’t have to be honest about any of this. You can play into the myth that your great ideas would have been achieved if only the whole establishment wasn’t conspiring to keep you away from the “Fix Everything” button.

Politicians do that, here and elsewhere, and it’s often a quite successful election technique. I owe it to you to acknowledge that. But I can’t promote it, because I hate it and think it is deeply irresponsible. It works well as a selfish and short-term tactic – it fuels public distrust in government, and lifts up those who claim to want to “shake things up”. But that is exactly the problem. It is a dull axe blow to the roots of our democracy, every time. It alienates the people you are meant to serve and actually makes it less likely that government can work effectively in future. Good for you, bad for the Island.

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What if my opinions are controversial?

OK, a couple of questions.

First, why are your opinions controversial? If they are hateful or violent; if you enjoy “playing devil’s advocate”; then there’s nothing much I can do for you.

But there are lots of other reasons why opinions can be controversial. Sometimes you can’t avoid having a controversial opinion – in the recent abortion debate, everyone had a view for or against, and everyone alienated some people through their view. If you are going to have the confidence to take on polarising debates (which you’ll need to, as a States Member) then you will have to accept that sometimes you can’t please everyone.

Sometimes you are trying to defend an underdog, and shift the weight of tradition, law and influence. Calls for drug reform, until recently, might well have fallen into that category. Anything that says “we should stop criminalising X” or “start criminalising Y” is likely to be controversial, at least to begin with.

So, what are you going to do with your controversial opinions?

If you plan to act on them during this States term, then I think you should share them during the campaign. In the case of both abortion and drug reform, the debates we started this term will come back again next term. You’re going to be part of that, and the public will want to know how you’re going to act. You don’t necessarily have to include every controversial opinion in your manifesto, but you can expect to be asked questions on the campaign trail, and you need to be prepared with answers.

There are other areas where your opinion might be controversial because it’s new; because it would involve significant change; and because you intend to drive it through the States even though there’s no interest in it right now.

For example, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a policy concept which would see every person receiving a basic income – enough to survive on – from the government. You might want to see it as part of our pandemic recovery plan, as a buffer against the next disaster. But it would certainly meet resistance from certain entrenched interests, while other people would need to be convinced it was a practical and affordable solution. There is currently no public call for UBI, and no movement within the States to introduce it.

If you were determined to bring in UBI during your term of government, then I think you should be open about that during your campaign. You would need to invest more time in educating people and myth-busting, because you’ll find it is a fairly new concept to most; but perhaps it’s also something you can get people excited and enthusiastic about, and win them over to your bold vision. (See what I did there? Make it positive. Switch it up from a “controversial opinion” to a “bold vision”. It shouldn’t make a difference, but it does.)

But! What if your controversial opinion is “every household should have UBI” but you also know that “there is no chance I will get this through the States”?

In that case, I don’t think you need to share that opinion at all unless you want to. If you do share it, you will probably have to spend time educating and myth-busting, convincing voters that you’re a sensible and rational person. That will cost you time and energy which are in short supply on the campaign trail. If you don’t intend to act on your controversial opinion; or if you know that any action you do take will fall far short of your ideal solution; then why mention it? (Unless you’re asked, of course.)

You can be honest and authentic, while still being realistic about the limits of what you can achieve. For example, I have never been convinced that UBI will work as it is supposed to – I think a far better safety net would be to take the cost of housing out of the equation. But I was never going to write a manifesto that said “I think all islanders should be entitled to a free home” because I knew I couldn’t make it happen, and I knew it wasn’t where I would focus my attention for the next four years.

It would be a complete waste of my time to convince people of the sense of my controversial opinion, when I had no intention of acting on it and no chance of making it a reality. Opinions you might share with a friend in the pub, but which aren’t going to be the focus of your political term, don’t need to be put out there just for the sake of it.

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What if there’s just one main thing I care about?

I think you stand a much better chance under island-wide voting than you ever would have done in district elections.

At district level, if you just appealed to people about one thing, you would never have gotten the amount of votes you’d need to be elected. At island level – depending on the issue you focus on – you just might. (It would still be a gamble, though.)

But I would never recommend basing your campaign on one issue alone. I still think you’ll need to convince people on a number of fronts – not just to prove that you’re interested in the same things as them, but also to demonstrate that you’ll be a competent member of government, capable of participating in a diverse range of debates.

(The other side of that is, if there really is only one thing you’re interested in, is politics the right job for you? By definition, the majority of your time is going to be taken up with things that aren’t that issue, as you’re engaged across the whole range of government business. It’s okay to have priorities for your term – I certainly did – but you also need to be prepared to get stuck in to whatever comes your way.)

Don’t be afraid to tell voters about your priorities. I think your manifesto can tell your story and explain your priorities much more directly than perhaps was possible in previous elections. But you do need to give voters enough substance, on a broad enough range of things, that they know you will be a good States Member all round, as well as a passionate champion of the things you care for most.

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What should I put in my manifesto?

A manifesto is a really personal thing. And drafting it is usually hell, because you want to get feedback from people you trust, but that feedback drags you in all sorts of different directions.

So trust your gut. It’s your manifesto, after all. You are the one who will be sharing it with voters, and saying: “here are my reasons for asking you to trust me with this massive responsibility.” Take any advice from me – or anyone else – with a pinch of salt.

With that massive caveat, here are a few thoughts on what I will be looking for when I’m reading candidates’ manifestos. I’m really talking about the two-pager that will go in the combined booklet – if you want to expand beyond that by writing a personal manifesto or a website, or both, you can make those fill whatever function you need them to. But the two-page manifesto is likely to be your first impression on most voters, so it matters.

Remember, you’ve got two pages, in among everyone else’s, to make yourself stand out. Grab me with something original – give me a reason to look twice.

Don’t make it hard work. Don’t make me wade through paragraphs of dense text. You don’t need long words or technical terms to prove how clever you are – people are much more likely to connect with you if you can explain things in ordinary, everyday terms.

For what it’s worth, I think island-wide voting means that you can be more direct about your priorities for the States, than was possible in district elections. You might alienate some people, but if you think the core support base for your main issue is large enough, then I see no reason why you shouldn’t focus most of your efforts on appealing to them.  

I am interested in your personality – of course your policies matter too, but I want to get a sense of who you are as a human. Because you’re going to be dealing with all sorts of situations you can’t begin to imagine now, and your character is an important indication of how you’ll deal with them.

I’m not looking for a slick, polished, professional persona. If you’re too glossy, my eyes are going to slide right off you. I want to know you are competent and capable and grounded, but there are a hundred different ways to show that. Do what is right and authentic for you.

I want to know what you stand for. As a first-timer, it’s totally fine if you mostly talk about your values and principles. You don’t have to have an established view on every policy. But I think you need to include some substance – some problems you want to tackle; some solutions you’d like to offer. It doesn’t need to be a big part of your manifesto, but it gives me some sense of how you’re likely to spend your time when you’re in the States.

You are going to be asked a lot of questions in the course of the campaign period. Some of those will be one-to-one conversations with voters; others will be for media supplements, online surveys, and so on – your answers to those will usually be publicly available. This means, over time, that the public is going to build up a picture of you that is bigger than what’s in your manifesto.

That’s a double-edged sword. It means you have to be prepared with answers to those questions. (I said that you don’t need an answer to everything and I meant it. But there are some questions where you will look like a fraud if you say “I need more time to think about / research it.” If you can’t explain your view on abortion, for example, you will just look like you’re squirming.)

But it also means that you don’t have to worry about including those issues in your manifesto – unless they are central to your campaign. You’re going to be asked about them anyway; your answers will be out there. So you can use your manifesto to tell your story, your way. Focus it on the key messages you want your voters to hear. The other stuff will follow.

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How should I reach voters?

This is island-wide voting. There are about 30,000 people on the electoral roll. Every candidate is trying to reach every one of those 30,000 people and trying to make a good enough impression to win their vote.

How do you do it?

In truth, you probably can’t. But here are some things to think about, in terms of making an impact:

You have the opportunity to include a two-page manifesto in the States manifesto booklet. This will be delivered to all households on the electoral roll. I reckon that many voters will use this as their one-stop-shop for finding out about candidates. So:

  • Don’t miss out
  • Make an impression
  • Use it as a springboard

If you want to be in the combined manifesto, you will need to use one of the five templates set out in the candidates’ guide (pages 42-46). Choose which one you want to use now. Think about text and graphics. It’ll be a big book – what are you going to do to catch people’s eye?

You’re going to need to have your manifesto submission ready on the day you put in your nomination, and – trust me – writing a good, short piece is much harder than writing a long piece. So make this a priority for now.

Keener voters will want to find out more about you, so give them the opportunity to do so. Include links to your website and/or social media accounts in that combined manifesto. You won’t fit everything into two pages, but you can use it to stir people’s interest, so that they want to discover more about what you stand for.

Use the other States-provided services, too – the 3-minute video, and the dedicated web page. The content for the web page is much the same as for your short manifesto, so don’t worry about that.

The video is harder – 3 minutes is not a long time. You need to plan what you want to say, so you don’t fumble and lose the chance to communicate. But you don’t want to be reading from a script, either – you’ll come across as wooden and unsure. You’ve got a slightly longer deadline there, according to the candidates’ guide: recording slots will be available on 5-8 September. But that’ll be upon us soon, so don’t leave it to the last minute!

If I were standing, I would take every opportunity available for face-to-face contact with voters. It’ll be different to previous elections – no traditional hustings, little if any door-knocking. But there is a human connection you make when you see someone, which isn’t quite the same as just engaging with their words. So use the opportunities that do exist – go to the “Meet the Candidates” event, take part in any hustings that are set up, and so on.

And if you have the time, I would always say it’s worthwhile to do a bit of door-knocking. As much for what you learn from it, as for the voters. I’ll come to that later. But if you are short on time during the campaign period, then you need to know that door-knocking is a big investment of time for a very small return, so it’s probably the least efficient thing you can do.

I have a sneaking suspicion that, if you’re not seeing many people face-to-face, online videos might be the next best thing. Video-recording is an art (and not one I know very much about, so take my recommendation with a pinch of salt), but I think that at least being able to see you while you speak might help you to make a connection with some voters. You could put these on your website, if you have one, or share them through your social media account.

Another, similar alternative might be to offer a livestream event where voters can listen in and ask you questions. At the very least, you’d probably want to do this with a friend, who could read out questions for you, and screen out the trollish ones. And you’d probably want to have some pre-prepared material – “lots of people are worried about X. Let me tell you my views about X!” – in case the questions run dry.

As you might guess, if I were standing, I would definitely have a website. You need somewhere to put more information about what you stand for, than you can fit in the two-page manifesto. For me, a website is the obvious thing. You can keep it updated throughout the campaign period, and you can have it ready to go live from the very beginning.

An alternative is to write and print your own physical manifesto and post it through people’s doors. It’s an option, but it’s expensive and slow, and I reckon most people will just recycle it. Maybe I’m wrong. But if I were re-standing, I’d have a lot less than £6,000 to spend on my campaign, and I don’t think that would be how I would choose to spend it.

You will probably want to be present on social media, but I would suggest being strict about the amount of time you’re prepared to spend in social media discussions, and be upfront about that. Although social media feels like you’re reaching a broad audience, I have usually found that, in fact, a disproportionate amount of time is spent in discussions with the same small group of people. In terms of efficiency, it may not be all that much better than door-knocking!

Part of the reason why I suggest being strict with yourself about social media is because I think you will have to allocate a fair amount of campaign time to answering questions, and I think that could be a far more effective use of time. You’ll be asked to complete surveys by the media, by various interest groups, by individual constituents. You’ll probably receive significantly more emails than we did, and we received quite a lot. (You might want a dedicated election email address, so you can easily keep track of things, by the way.) I’m guessing this will be the main substitute for what parish door-knocking used to do – that is, let you have conversations with lots of different people about their main areas of interest – so I’d make plenty of time for it in your day.

Of course, these are just my predictions. The reality might be quite different. Within a day or two of submitting your nomination, you’ll already have a better sense of that than I do! Don’t be afraid to adapt your strategy to match your experience. Good luck!

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