Open letter: Please run your election campaigns with honesty and honour

Ballot Boxes for local and general elections in Bedford

To our mayor, councillors, and council and mayoral candidates,

Those who grew up in the 90s might remember the essay “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” written by columnist Mary Schmich, and then recorded to music by Baz Lurhman.

In it, Mary (and Baz) put forward that we should, “accept certain inalienable truths. Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble…”

I don’t fully agree with this but with the way many politicians have been behaving in these recent times, it’s difficult to disagree with the sentiment.

The past few years have seen an unprecedented rise in dishonesty, infighting, and passing the buck in politics, with examples from either side of the political spectrum and everywhere in between across the world.

Reading this you may say, “not me, not my party” and I’m not here to argue with you or list the compelling evidence that says otherwise.

Instead, I’m here, perhaps with some naivety, to simply ask you to act with honesty and honour and show with action why you are the person we should vote for.

In a little over 13 weeks, polling stations up and down the country will be open for local council elections, including those in Bedford Borough. Here, we’ll also take part in a mayoral election.

Immoral tactics

I was reminded recently that in marketing it is considered bad form and unprofessional to criticise a competitor in a campaign. It is an exception, not the rule, to see brands saying “buy our stuff because the other stuff is rubbish”.

In politics, it is the other way around and it’s become all too common for politicians to go on TV or radio or write in a newspaper about how their opponent is rubbish, without actually telling their audience why they themselves are not.

Is that really how you want to be seen? Is that really all you can do in an effort to score votes? Don’t you think that’s a bit sad?

Already we’re getting your leaflets posted through our doors in a bid to convince us that we should vote for you and your party.

It’s likely that most of the people you’re talking to already have their minds made up, it’s possible an increasing number won’t care.

It’s likely many will vote for or against you on a single issue, many may use their vote to send a message to Westminster.

You probably know this already and so the temptation to use immoral tactics, like dressing a leaflet up as a newspaper and calling your councillors ‘editors’, will be strong.

The temptation to get close to defaming or personal with your opposition may also be something you find hard to resist.

As you look to ramp up your campaign, however, let’s try and remember why you truly chose to stand.

For the love of Bedford Borough

Every councillor or candidate I have spoken to, written about, or worked with in my 20+ years as a local journalist, has one thing in common. They all love Bedford.

Your ideas for making Bedford a great place to live, work, and play may differ but you all, seemingly, want what’s best for the Borough you share with those you wish to work for.

So, tell us why your ideas are the best ideas and highlight your own achievements and how they’ve genuinely helped or will help your Bedfordian neighbours.

Even if you do that, putting your head above the parapet will attract attention and criticism, so it’ll be easy to point at your opponent and offer the weak argument, “yeah, but look at how rubbish they are”, in return.

Instead of doing that, stand your ground, rise above it, treat voters with respect and present your manifesto with actual evidence to support a compelling argument as to why your ideas will work.

Ignore the criticism and focus on what you believe are the positives.

When you’re writing that media release, that quote, that leaflet, that social media post, that email, let’s hear more about why we should vote for you and not constantly why we shouldn’t vote for the other.

Again, it might be naive of me to ask this of you, but please leave underhand tactics, flippant remarks, mistruths and non-stop moaning about the opposition to those less professional than you.

It will make the next few weeks more positive, maybe even more exciting, and more likely to encourage people to turn out and choose the person they best believe will be positive for the Borough, rather than simply choosing the best of a bad bunch.


Paul Hutchinson
Co-founder and co-managing editor
Bedford Independent

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