How To Be a Successful Election Candidate by Rupert Matthews - Read Online
How To Be a Successful Election Candidate
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After over 25 years of campaigning experience, Rupert Matthews has finally decided to tell all. Whether you are standing for local council, parliament or other elected office, this is the book for you.

From how to dress for the public to how to deal with the press, from how to write leaflets to how to organise a petition, Rupert covers all the basics of running a successful political campaign. He also includes easy to follow, step by step guidance to the legal minefield that is modern political campaigning. Rupert also spills the beans on the darker arts of campaigning, explaining the tricks and turns of the backroom boys that are essential to any winning candidate, but which rarely get talked about and are never acknowledged in public.

As Rupert says
“There is a world of difference between a candidate with a good message and one
who actually gets elected to office.
Always remember,
you want to be ELECTED.”

Rupert Matthews is a former staffer at Conservative Central Office in the UK. He has acted as a freelance campaign manager on parliamentary by elections. He has stood himself as a candidate at Council, Parliamentary and European elections. He is recognised by friends and foes alike as one of the most dynamic and innovative political campaign managers in the business.

Published: Bretwalda Books on
ISBN: 9781907791093
List price: $3.99
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How To Be a Successful Election Candidate - Rupert Matthews

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How to be a Successful Election Candidate

Rupert Matthews

What Elected Politicians are saying about Rupert Matthews

Rupert Matthews is an experienced and long standing campaigner who has put in many years of work for the Conservative Party. - Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, British Cabinet Minister under Prime Minister David Cameron.

Rupert was an impressively energetic candidate who undeniably worked very hard against a very difficult background. - Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, British Cabinet Minister under Prime Minister John Major.

Nobody will persuade me not to believe in Rupert's big talent - a very clever campaigner. Essentially, he is whatever any promising conservative politician should be. - Gianluigi Premazzi, Movimento Libero (Italy)

Rupert Matthews is a former staffer at the Conservative Party in the UK, who has acted as a freelance campaign manager on parliamentary by elections. He has stood himself as a candidate at Council, Parliamentary and European elections. He is recognised by friends and foes alike as one of the most dynamic and innovative political campaign managers in the business.

Published by Bretwalda Books at Smashwords

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Copyright © 2011 Rupert Matthews

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This book is available in print from Amazon.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

ISBN 978-1-907791-09-3



PART ONE - Being the Candidate

PART TWO - On the Campaign Trail

Getting Started - Strategic Planning - Canvassing - Fundraising - Leaflets - Street Campaigning - Press and Media - Ecampaigning - Dealing with the Opposition

PART THREE - The Election Campaign

Election Paperwork - Election Literature- Posters - Fighting Fund - Election Canvassing - Postal and Proxy Votes - Election Week - Eve of Poll - Polling Day - After the Election


Being an election candidate is a tough job, but a rewarding one. This book is about being a Successful Candidate, which is strangely not always about winning the election. Some of the best candidates I have met have never won an election in their lives.

And being a Successful Candidate is not just about elections. Any candidate who turns up only for the election campaign itself is on to a loser. Being a Successful Candidate is about very much more than politics, polling or soundbites.

How do I know? Well, I’ve been a candidate more times than I can remember. I have stood for local elections, British Parliamentary Elections and for European Elections. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. And I have not always been a candidate. I have been an agent as well, and a campaign manager, for other people. I have fought elections under first past the post, proportional representation and under supplementary vote.

My first election was the British General Election of 1979. I was just a footsoldier then, pounding pavements to deliver leaflets, then sitting up late on Polling Day itself to watch the results. I can’t actually remember how many elections I have been involved with since then — it must be over 40 at a guess.

Whenever I have been candidate or campaign manager, I have kept a Campaign Diary of what I did, what worked and what didn’t. This book is the result. It contains the distilled knowledge of thirty years of fighting elections as they are actually fought — not as journalists and spin doctors think they should be fought. You won’t find high flown rhetoric or theoretical discussions in this book, only sound and practical advice on being a Successful Candidate.

Finally, this book is not about politics, it is about elections. The techniques and tactics you use in an election have nothing to do with your policies. It does not matter if you a liberal or a neo-con, you will still need to campaign effectively.

Whatever your politics might be, the business of being a candidate remains the same. And this book is your essential guide to being a Successful Candidate.


Part 1

Being the Candidate

Being a candidate is hard work, and it can be very hard work indeed. Nor is there any guarantee that you are going to win the election. Even if you are standing in a safe seat, things can go horribly wrong. More than one candidate has got close to ordering their new stationary only to find with days to go that their chances are destroyed by some chance remark by the national party leader. I have seen it happen.

So before you set out on the long road to the election itself, you need to stand in front of a mirror look yourself in the eye and ask yourself the following questions.

1) Why do I want to be the Candidate?

This might sound like a fairly daft question, but its answer is crucial to everything that follows. There is no getting away from it. You need to know why you want to be an Election Candidate before you can move forward to do any sort of planning, never mind any work on the election itself.

I have met candidates who have no idea of why they are running, but just fancy the idea of getting into public life somehow. Unfortunately that sort of thing shows, and voters don’t like candidates who are in it for themselves.

The best candidates want to achieve something. It may be something local and specific — such as getting improving sports facilities at their local school — or it might be something massive and vague — say eradicating world poverty. Whatever it is that motivates you, make sure that you know what it is, and that you can communicate it clearly to other people. A good exercise is to write down in a single paragraph of no more than 100 words exactly why you want to be the candidate for this particular election. It will be harder than you think, but once you have done it show the paragraph to a friend. Ask if they understand what you have written (just for now it does not matter if they agree with you or not). If they have questions, deal with them. Write the paragraph again, and again if you have to. Getting this right is important.

2) Is this the right election for me?

Depending on where you live, you can stand as a candidate in all sorts of elections: School Governor, State Congressman, City Mayor, Police Chief, Member of Parliament, Provincial Legislator or President. It is important that you are standing in the right election for you and your aims. For instance, if your most important aim is to increase defense spending then there is little point standing for your county council. You should instead be looking to stand at a national level.

That said, it is often the right choice to stand as candidate in an election that is not, strictly speaking, relevant to your main interest. You are very unlikely to be chosen as a candidate for a national election unless you have first stood in a local election. This will not only give you good experience, but will also show your commitment to your political party. It is also often the case that standing for one post (even if you lose) will help to raise your public profile with voters and the local press. Then when you stand for the position that you really do want you will be taken more seriously than if you were a first time candidate. And you could always use the election campaign to talk loud, long and often about your chosen campaign theme. Even if you do not win, you will have forced the issue on to the political agenda.

Then there is the thorny issue of timing. We all have things going on in our lives, some are good and some are bad, but they all impact on what we do. If you or your wife is pregnant, then taking on the task of being a candidate this year might not be a wise move — leave it for next year instead. If the company you work for is about to transfer you to Head Office located 300 miles away, then again this is not the right time to be a candidate.

Whatever your motivations, think about them seriously. Ask yourself the question. If the answer is yes, then go ahead. If the answer is no, let somebody else do the job as candidate.

3) Can I afford the time?

Being a candidate can be a very time consuming business. Of course, it does depend on what position you are standing for and what your chances are of winning (I will come on to that later). Put simply the more important the position for which you are standing and the better your chances of winning, the more time you will need to devote to being the candidate. If you are standing to be a national legislator in a safe seat, then you won’t have a moment to call your own. If you are standing for a local position against a popular incumbent, you probably won’t need to bother too much about having pressure on your time.

Most candidates find that demands on their time fall somewhere between the two. If you are standing for a local post you might expect to spend one evening a week on the campaign in the run up, then every evening during the campaign, plus weekends as well. If you belong to a political party, ask your colleagues for advise as they will have a reasonable idea of what they are going to expect from you. Of course, you can devote as much or as little time as you like. Bear in mind, however, that no matter how carefully you plan a schedule there will always be surprises. An opposing candidate may say something that you need to respond to in the press, or a key supporter may fall ill and you need to take on their campaigning workload.

Once you have got a rough idea of how much time you will be devoting to being a candidate, you should think seriously about whether you can spare it. Talk to your family about this. Make sure that they are happy with your making this commitment. Then think about your job. Do you think your boss will be sympathetic if you need an afternoon off at short notice. It is worth taking into account what you know of his political views. If you know he is a fervent supporter of your opponent, you probably won’t be able to count on him giving you any time off for to campaign. I wouldn’t raise the issue with your boss at this point (though that is up to you, of course), but do think through how he might react when he does find out, because he will.

4) Can I afford to win?

Let’s be optimistic and assume that you are going to win. Can you actually afford to win? Some elected positions are quite undemanding, but others are full time jobs. Find out what will be expected of you if you win in terms of meetings, days away from home and so forth. Then go back to your family and ask their opinion. And think about the likely reaction of your boss. Many elected positions come with some sort of pay these