It was the climax of a long and tiring campaign for all the candidates at Preston City Council’s election count on Thursday. For some it was a chance to celebrate, but for all, it was an opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months and experience a peculiar sense of relief.
Local election counts are strange events. This is partly due to the time at which they occur, late into the night (or even the early hours of the morning), but largely by the effect it has on those attending, which is clearly visible to those of us who are merely spectating. In the Guild Hall on Thursday, a dozen or so dance floors from Preston’s thriving midweek nightlife, an auditorium was populated by men and women who sat, stood and paced around around a square of tables stacked high with ballot boxes, like holiday goers at a bags carousel – except this was no holiday.
Each of the candidates standing in wards across the city would (or should) have been required to canvass throughout the election campaign, knocking on doors, posting leaflets, sending emails and getting on the phone to each and every potential voter. Some would even take to forums, blogs or Facebook pages. Whichever party you support, would-be councillors should be commended for their tireless effort and hard work. But walking around the auditorium on Thursday, tweeting the results and interrupting candidates deep in thought, I realised that running an election campaign also has an impact on a mental, social and cyber-social wellbeing.
On Thursday night, I was lucky enough to talk at length with two of Preston’s candidates about these issues. In the first interview, John Wilson, Labour candidate for Sharoe Green, talks about what he wanted to achieve with his campaign, what he tried to do differently and the internet’s importance for communicating with the younger generations. The second interview with Stephen Mullen, Liberal Democrat candidate for Ashton, reveals a discussion about the perils of online campaigning and the benefits of traditional door to door tactics.
How should candidates communicate with voters both before and after the election campaign? If you stood to be a councillor in your ward next year, what would you do differently? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below.