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Tim Aker: Council Mentors

Tim2_1 Tim is standing for the CF Exec

If you’ve delivered leaflets in the rain, had some dog (or letter box) almost rip your fingers off and been shouted at by someone who tells you “they’re all the bloody same”, or if you want to run for council next year, then read on. 

I’ve been in politics now for a fair few years and, as we all do in CF, I’ve been through my share of campaigns.  But now as I come of age to qualify, legally, to run as a candidate in local elections…what do I do?  How do I go about it?  What do I do if I am elected?

Thankfully in Thurrock and Basildon there’s been an abundance of help and a self appointed mentor who I’m indebted to for so much information, help and support in my bid to get myself selected as a candidate for next year’s local elections.  It’s from that experience that if elected to the National Executive, I will look to get senior councillors appointed as mentors to CF members who wish to run for council.

Andrew Stephenson’s article about CF presence in local government and, more recently, Patrick Sullivan’s piece about conservatives in the community show what role CF can have in creating the next generation of political and community leaders.  Andrew’s own achievements demonstrate what positive role CF members bring to local council groups.  What has been lacking are the structures in place to bring more CF members into the fold, to get them involved with local politics and act as standard bearers for the community.

The plan is simple, yet potentially very effective. If elected I will contact council groups with a conservative presence, invite them to appoint one senior councillor as a mentor and for their details to be available to CF branches so that there is a contact point between CF, the council group and local associations.  If there is no conservative presence on the council, I will contact the local association and ask the deputy chairman (political) to act as that mentor.  Either way there should be a link between CF and our local government campaign next year to provide knowledge about the process and, more importantly, support to CF candidates who want to run for council.

Running for council isn’t just knocking on doors.  There’s much more to it, as Andrew’s article points out.  There’s the nominations process, election law, spending restrictions, finding an agent who knows their stuff, local campaign techniques and developing an in-depth knowledge of issues relevant to that ward or area.  There’s also the learning curve after being elected, which the council mentors can help with much more than perhaps the DC political in the association.  In some instances CF councillors can be those mentors.  Either way, the mentor is there to guide CF candidates through the election and, if elected, what to do afterwards.

Therefore the benefits a council mentor brings are strong enough to erase any intimidation associated with running for council.  Plus it has the added bonus of aiming to increase CF presence on local councils.

If we are to generally expand CF, if we are to get more young people interested in local government and if we are to have a wider CF involvement in our local communities then we need to reach out to those CF members who want to be the change in local politics but are weary as to how they go about becoming a conservative candidate.

In 2007 we face more elections in areas that aren’t traditionally conservative.  It’s time we got serious about getting a larger CF presence in local government.


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