Looking back a year…
It’s just over a year ago now that I decided to run as an independent candidate in the general election – according to my electronic records I made the first draft outline of an election platform in the last week of October.
I’d grown increasingly dissatisfied with the noises coming out of the PLP (and had been speaking privately with them to encourage them to call the election as far back as summer 2011).
It’s no secret that I’d been hoping for a left-ward turn by the PLP. I advocated for that when a member, and I kept calling for it after I formally ceased to be a member in 2009.
Nor was I impressed with the decision by the BDA and the UBP to merge and form the OBA – and I wasn’t impressed with the rhetoric of the OBA for that matter.
And so, not looking forward to voting for either the PLP or the OBA, or spoiling my ballot like I did in 2003, I thought I’d may as well run instead.
At first it was just a vague idea in the middle of October.
Then I challenged myself to see if I could come up with a policy platform. After all, I figured, if I’m going to critique other people’s policies, I should probably have something to point to as an alternative.
And so, I outline a vision of what I wanted to see, what I personally would vote for, and sent it out to some trusted individuals for their feedback. And it went from there.
Independents Versus Parties
Now, political parties have a lot of advantages over independents. And I’m speaking here solely in terms of developing and organising an electoral campaign.
Political parties have a lot more resources.
They have greater financial resources with which to hire consultants (for policies, for political strategy, for design purposes, for internal organisational matters – such as databanks and data analysis), to purchase airtime, online advertising and to produce physical advertising, such as shirts, memorabrilia, pamphlets, signs, posters and platforms.
They also have resources in the sense of human capital and labour.
They have people who can specialise in different tasks – they tend to have a platform committee, an election strategy committee, even a design committee.
They have access to people with specialist knowledge to inform their platform positions, they have the labour to canvass an entire neighbourhood and to feed the data into specialist software with which to identify voters and voter trends and to fine-tune their message for particular demographics or to identify ‘safe’ neighbourhoods and those marginals where they should deploy their resources.
As an Independent I had none of that.
I had myself, my passion for politics, an ideological foundation to build on, experience from Canadian, Bermudian and Scottish (and to a lesser extent South-East Asian) politics, access to some really smart people who were willing to give me some feedback and a reasonable ability to use a computer.
Financially I had a very limited budget – the majority of which went into pamphlet production and registration fees (namely the $250 deposit).
If you want to make a comparison with a chess set, parties are playing with a full set. Independents are pretty much restricted to a single piece, say a queen. More nimble than the party machine, more independent, but limited in what a single independent can do compared to the parties.
I had a steep learning curve in terms of even registering to run, filling out all the paperwork and learning where everything is and what was required. Parties generally have people dedicated to that purpose and also contain institutional knowledge from past elections, which saves them time and effort.
I had a huge challenge when it came to getting my name out there, let alone canvassing a huge constituency.
Was it worth it?
I think so.
I’ll write more over time, but I enjoyed it; I enjoyed the experience of putting together a platform and figuring out things as small as what was the best font to use in designing my material.
While I knew the odds were against me, versus party machines, I was determined to set a precedent for future potential Independents or small parties, to show what was possible, with the hope of inspiring more people to become active participants in the future, rather than passive voters.
As a laugh,here’s my very first draft of the election platform, whipped up over a coffee break…! Vote Starling in 2012!
And the original symbol I was going to use: