The Area Co-ordinator is the key person in the Political Area for supporting and encouraging Independent Candidates.
There are four things we ask an Area Co-ordinator to do, and a list of things which can be done as and when there is time and resource:
A. As the Area Co-ordinator you are a Member of the IN Forum, and we ask that you receive emails from the National Co-ordinator and respond to them if you have something to contribute. These Forum emails will relate to decisions and ideas that are being considered. There cannot be any 'voting' as we have no such structure, but it is the task of the National Co-ordinator to try and find a consensus that enables actions to be taken.
B. As the Area Co-ordinator, you may receive emails from IN specific to your area. We ask that if you are unable to take any action on these emails that you let us know so we can try and ensure we respond to all enquirers; it would also be helpful to know any feedback from direct contact. You may also have requests from IN, and we will do what we can to respond quickly.
C. We ask that as a first task you enlist a few locally elected Independent Councillors or committed supporters to act as your 'Area Council of Reference'. We ask that you tell us who these people are, and they should be people who are well known in the area, and willing to commit publically to the recruitment of more Independent candidates. They should ideally be people who have been elected as Independents, and not those who have defected from a party. These are people who simply agree to be consulted by you for advice when people ask to be considered as election candidates. There may well be other local issues where the support of such a Council of Reference will be invaluable to you. The number on this Council will rather depend on how many Councillors there are in your Area, and how many interested supporters there are. IN would like to name these people on the national website.
D. We ask that you do whatever you reasonably can to promote the advantages of elected independents, and do whatever you can to recruit suitable candidates to stand in elections as independents.
These are the four key tasks of an Area Co-ordinator, and the following are suggestions for what you could do if you have the time available:
1. The Ward is the basic building block in our democracy, so have a working knowledge of the Wards in your Area. This may sound daunting, so start with what you do know, and over time build up a local picture.
2. Identify community groups who may be interested in supporting one of their own to stand as an Independent. These could be Residents Associations, School PTAs, Sports Clubs, Faith Communities, Civic Societies, U3A, or special interest campaign groups.
3. Coach good candidates and encourage them in their campaign. It is a long game, and they may not win the first time. Try and manage their expectations, and constantly remind them that the odds are stacked against them but they can win if they work hard on getting known, knocking on doors, meeting groups and key individuals, and communicating with the voters in as many different ways as possible.
4. Make sure each candidate already knows who the ten people are who will sign their Nomination Form. It is important they are well-known, respected people in the community. They may also be useful in encouraging others to stand. People will judge a candidate by the people (or organisations) who publically support them.
5. As Area Co-ordinator, in conjunction with your Council of Reference, you can ‘endorse’ local candidates for IN, but for good order we suggest you submit the names to the Forum for national approval. Any difficulties will have to be resolved by the Forum, or the National Co-ordinator, until we can put in place some structure at the 2014 Autumn Conference.
6. Feed back to IN office anything that might be useful to go on the website or to the National media.
7. Some people do not like the idea of a 'brand', but people have a perception of what an Independent is or should be, and this is the 'brand'. Where this perception is a 'good' one, we need to reinforce it and try and convince others to have a 'good' perception. Where this perception is a 'bad' one, perhaps thinking that Independents are eccentrics and unelectable, we need to work to change this 'bad' perception.
8. We will be calling the IN Areas 'Barsetshire Independent Network', or 'East Herts Independent Network'. This should not conflict with anything, but some Independents will not want to be grouped with others, and we have to be sensitive to that. In time we hope there will be general acceptance that we can do better together, and it may be that other Areas will be willing to adopt this name: so 'Barset Independent Network' rather than 'Better Barset' or 'Barset Independents'. All of this will take time, but we would hope that the Area Co-ordinators will do what they can to argue for the benefits of being together and being linked together.
9. Try and find a team of working supporters, not necessarily elected Councillors or potential candidates, to share the work not only at election time, but in the difficult periods between elections when the foundation building work needs to be done.
10. Make special efforts to connect with young people in schools, colleges and universities. Offer speakers to Politics clubs, or school assemblies. Try and recruit young people with energy and time to help your candidates during the election period, as a means of learning about the democratic process.
11. Consider organising Hustings at election time.
12. Consider at election time putting up an Area website listing all the Candidates in a Ward and their Manifestoes, and publicising this beforehand as a service to the community. IN office can help on this.
13. Liase with the IN office if you need help with websites or social media. If you have a volunteer, consider having a page for a Ward on 'Ward Times' - details on how to do this, and to get a password to put up articles for your Ward, from Nick in the IN office.
14. Share ideas and experiments with IN so that we can share this with other Area Co-ordinators. What worked? What did not work? What were the reasons?
15. Keep a Diary or record of what you do, so that you can hand this on to a successor when the time comes.
16. Funding We have no funds at present, so this is all being done by unpaid volunteers. This is not sustainable, but we need to take things a step at a time. When we have a national structure in place, we can consider asking people for financial help, but this will be difficult until people can see what they are getting for their donation or subscription. We cannot realistically ask people for money if they cannot see what they are getting. So IN national office will (a) get as many Area Co-ordinators and Councils of Reference in place as we can (b) try and do something for the London Boroughs next summer (c) draft a Business Plan and Costings for the next two years and then (d) as we come to the elections, use that as a platform to try and sign people up and get funding. The funding is essentially for staff and office costs, and for PR and Media help.
17. As a member of the Forum, the input of the Area Co-ordinator is vital on this key issue of funding, and all ideas will be most welcome.
18. Data protection: we will try and negotiate one Licence with the ICO to cover all Area Co-ordinators. We will therefore need to know what sort of records you are keeping; we do not need a copy, but we will need to know what fields are in your database.
19. We need to emphasise that we start at the bottom and build up: the Ward is the basic unit of democracy in the UK, and we start there, not the constituency. It is impossible to come from nowhere and be elected to Parliament or the European Parliament. We should spend the next five years building the grass roots, and then suggest to our best that it is worth having a shot at Parliament.
Finally, thank you so much!
Revised 6 December 2013 and Feb 2014