When should I start preparing?


Literally, right now.

I am writing this on August 14th. That means, three weeks from now, the nomination period will have closed. Everyone who wants to stand for election will already have thrown their hat in the ring. There will be a month to go until votes are cast.

What if you haven’t made up your mind yet? Then act ‘as if’ you were standing. It will be far easier to get to the start of September, having done all your preparation, to decide to walk away – than it will be to get to the start of September, decide that actually you do want to stand, and frantically have to do weeks’ worth of work over a couple of sleepless nights.

If you haven’t seen the States in action before, there is still time – we are sitting from 18-21 August and again from 25-28 August, assuming we don’t finish our agenda in the first week. We usually sit from 9.30-12.30 and again from 14.30-17.30 each day of our meeting. You can come and sit in the public gallery of the Royal Court at any time while the States Meeting is going on. (And you can leave at any time too – you don’t have to commit to the whole session!)

It is worth seeing the States in action as a parliament, although that’s only a small fraction of what we do – a lot more happens in Committees, and I will try and shine some light on that in later blog posts.

You will also want to research key issues, and take time to think about your own position on them. You might want to talk to existing States Members to get a more personal insight (you’re always welcome to get in touch with me if you’d like a chat, and I know many of my colleagues would say the same). And you might want to find out more about the Parties that are forming, and decide if you are interested in joining any of them.

And then you’ll want to decide what campaign materials you’d like – will you just use the States manifesto, or will you have a personal one too? What about posters or leaflets? Do you want a website? What social media accounts will you use – if any? Will you be doing video or audio recordings? You need to start thinking about how you will source those materials, and getting the content organised.

There’s a lot to do. As a general rule of thumb, the earlier you can start preparing, the better. I’m the kind of person who needs a deadline, so I’m not terribly good at obeying that rule of thumb – but even I started writing my manifesto in earnest at least a month before nominations opened. The closer the campaign period gets, the harder it will be to do justice to your preparation – so, honestly, there is no time like the present.

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What should I have ready on day one?

This is not a complete checklist, but here are three things I think are essential to have ready on the day you submit your nomination:

  1. Your manifesto
  2. Your completed, signed nomination form
  3. A campaign plan for the month ahead

If your manifesto contains links to a personal website or social media, make sure that those links are up and running. There needs to be enough content on your website to grab people’s interest from day one, even if you’re planning on adding to it throughout the campaign period.

The States is providing a number of “freebies” for election candidates. You can find out more in the official candidates’ guidance. These include a two-page manifesto (as part of a book of manifestos), a 3-minute video, and a dedicated candidate page on the Election website. Make use of these. Voters will use them as a one-stop-shop to find out about candidates – you don’t want to be missing from that.

These have tight production deadlines. Those are also set out in the guidance. Make sure you know what they are. The content for your two-page manifesto will need to be submitted at the same time as your nomination. That’s why you need to have it ready on day one.

(Also, manifestos are really hard to write! Getting everything you want to say out of your head onto paper, in a way that means voters will connect with you, is not easy for anyone. So if you haven’t started doing it yet, get cracking!)

Finally, campaigning under island-wide voting will be really hard. I can’t advise you on it properly, because I’ve never done it before – none of us have, not like this. What I can say is that you’ve got a very short amount of time (four weeks) to reach a very large number of people – maybe 30,000 voters. So, if you want to have a big impact, you need to plan in advance how you’re going to use your time. Budgeting time for the right things is even more important if you’re going to be working full- or part-time during the campaign period.

Over the next few posts, I will look at some of the things you might want to take into consideration if you’re putting together a schedule for the campaign period. Just a couple of tips to get started:

First, don’t schedule it too tightly! Things will come up. But have a sense of what proportion of your time you want to use for answering emails, face-to-face engagement, social media, and so on. Different things will take priority from day to day, but try and keep to your time budget (if you think it’s right) over the course of a week. If it’s not right – adapt it.

And second, make sure you put key dates in your diary as soon as they emerge. There will be a Meet the Candidates event at Beau Sejour on September 20th (it’s in the guidance) – do you want to be there? Get it in your calendar. There will no doubt be hustings and events on various themes, organised by different groups. Decide which ones matter to you, and make it a priority to be there.

Standing for election is a big deal, and there’s no one right way to do it. If you are well-prepared, you will have structure and content to fall back on, which are two very useful things. Candidates who try to wing it at election time always struggle, and island-wide voting will magnify that. But nothing ever goes perfectly to plan, so try not to let it stress you out – take it in your stride, and maybe even enjoy it now and then!

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Do I need to sign or swear anything?

You will have to sign and vouch various things, at various different stages of the Election process. The best place to start, as always, is the official candidates’ guide on the Election 2020 website.

Your election campaign starts with the nominations process. This is the time when you submit your name, supported by a proposer and seconder, to the Bailiff. This term, nominations open on Tuesday 1 September, and close at 4pm on Friday 4 September 2020. If you miss that window of opportunity, you won’t be able to stand for Election.

The nomination form is a standard document, which you can get from the Royal Court or download from the Elections website. As part of the form, you have to sign a declaration confirming that you are eligible to stand as a candidate, and whether or not you have any unspent criminal convictions. You also have to declare whether or not you are part of a political party (and which one).

That is the main formality at the start of the election period. At the end, of course, you’ll have to submit a statement of your expenses (regardless of whether you’ve been elected) – and if you are elected, there will be all sorts of other forms to fill in, as there always are at the start of any new job.

One thing I think it is worth knowing, at this stage, is that if you are successful, you will need to swear an oath of office. This is a promise to serve the Island to the best of your ability, and also to respect the Crown. I have to admit, I found the second bit hard. I could do it, because I wasn’t going into the States with any plans to try and change Guernsey’s constitutional position – but I’m not a natural monarchist, as you can probably imagine, so it involved a bit of wrestling with my conscience.

The promise to serve your community is more straightforward – after all, that’s why you’re standing for election. But I think it’s only right that you should know, before you make a decision to stand for office, exactly what you will be committing to when you are sworn in! The oath is mentioned in the candidates’ guidance, and I think you could request the full text from the Greffe if you wanted to.

P.S. “Swearing an oath” has religious connotations – it involves making a promise before whatever God you believe in. If you don’t believe in any God (or even if you do, but want to maintain a separation between Church and State) you have the option of “making an affirmation” instead. It is essentially the same promise, but with no divine dimension. When I was sworn in, there were just a handful of us who took that option, but that was fine.

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Who should I ask to nominate me?

If you want to stand for the States, you will need a proposer and a seconder before you are allowed to register as a candidate.

You will have to submit a nomination form signed by your proposer and seconder to the Bailiff’s office at the Royal Court. Look out for the candidates’ guidance on Election2020.gg to find out about the technical side of the nomination process, and how to get hold of a nomination form!

You are going to have a very short window to get your nomination in. Nominations open at 9am on Tuesday 1 September 2020. They close at 4pm (that’s four o’clock, f-o-u-r … it’s not a typo!) on Friday 4 September 2020. Once that deadline has passed, it’s too late. So it’s important to prepare for this in advance.

The Reform Law says that your proposer and seconder both need to be registered on the Electoral Roll. So if you know who you want, and they’re not signed up, nag them until they do! You only have until 21 August 2020 to register – and unfortunately you’ve got to do it again for this Election, even if you voted in the last one.

(Side note: The Reform Law (Guernsey) 1948 is the main law that sets out rules for Elections in Guernsey. You’d never guess it from the title! It’s available to download on GuernseyLegalResources.gg, which is a kind of online library of all Guernsey’s laws. I’d strongly recommend getting yourself a copy – you’ll want the version that’s called a ‘Consolidated Text’, which includes all the updates – and starting to learn your way around it.)

Apart from being on the Electoral Roll, there are no limits on who can propose or second you. It’s an island-wide election, so they don’t have to live in your parish – but if maintaining a link to a particular parish is important for you, that might be something you take into account when you decide who to ask.

Likewise, if you’re standing because you want to work in a particular area or to represent a particular cause, you might want to approach someone who has experience in that sector or shares your values on that issue.

Honestly: I have never looked twice at who is proposing or seconding a candidate. It is much less important than what the candidate themselves stands for, and how they behave. Other people might look more closely at your proposer and seconder – and perhaps it will count for more in an island-wide election than it did in the past – but it is still only a tiny part of your overall campaign.

For me, the thing that would be most important in choosing a proposer and seconder is trust – do they trust me, and do I trust them?

As a potential proposer or seconder, I’d be glad to nominate or second someone if I know I can vouch for their good character. Of course I’d take an interest in their policies and principles – there are some things I could simply never put my name to – but the main thing I’d be considering is: “Do I believe this person is good, and sincere, and will serve Guernsey to the best of their ability?”

As a candidate, I would want the security of knowing that my proposer and seconder are people who really believe in me – something that runs even deeper than a shared interest on an important subject.

But just because that’s my priority, doesn’t mean it also has to be yours. Think about what you want your choice of proposer and seconder to say about you, and approach the right people for you.

The bottom line is simply that your proposer and seconder have to be registered on the Electoral Roll; that you get your paperwork in order for them to sign; and that you get your nomination in before 4pm on Friday 4 September. Good luck!

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