Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Zac Goldsmith Campaign (anecdotes and all).

by Sophie Rose

Zac Goldsmith campaigning
for Mayor of London
This year I have been immersed within the ‘political circus’ of the US primaries working on the ‘Hillary for America’ Campaign and also on Zac Goldsmith’s London Mayoral Campaign. Although two very different campaigns, both shared an avid display of politics in action and an insight behind the uncompromising walls of politics and power.

As a London ‘outsider’, I was particularly tantalised to work on the London Mayoral Campaign; a campaign to elect London’s New Mayor but one that has global implications. I have admired Zac since he first became MP for Richmond in the 2010 General Election. Zac is a man with integrity, a strong moral compass and a kind heart and will not shy away from a rebellious vote in order to stand up for his constituents and put them first. My attraction to work for Zac was borne out of his economically sound policies and his innovative ideas for London to be at the epicentre of everything green. A policy I was particularly behind was his idea to make London the first ever ‘garden city’ – truly promoting the green agenda. Having already been a key advocate of Zac, made the experience to work for him even more pleasurable. My hard work was having a direct influence on getting a man I believed in to potentially be elected as the next Mayor of London, the politician holding the largest mandate in the UK.  

It was an enthralling campaign to work within and reflect on the often misconceived opinion portrayed by both the media and the public. The short-term nature of the campaign extenuated the smallest issues, which if whipped up by the media could turn into negative media cycles for days. The Zac campaign faced a handful of issues that had to be carefully dealt with, including the EU referendum and The Chancellor's announcement on cutting disability benefits. There was an unforeseeable nature to every day, which made coming into work one of elation and excitement – an internal policy proposal one day could turn into a media storm tomorrow.

Having worked on both the London Mayoral Campaign for Zac and the Hillary for America campaign, it truly opened my eyes to the complexity that comes with every political campaign. I was involved in the ‘TeamBackZac’ department which was the campaigning organisation that spearheaded all voluntary campaigning activity. I was involved in a varied range of jobs from organising campaign days, preparation for external conferences, writing daily emails to volunteers, using VoteSource and NationBuilder, preparation for rallies and responding to correspondence on behalf of Zac. Of course Zac was the main show, but the finished product that was being sold to the electorate of London was most certainly enhanced by the resolute team of employees and volunteers behind him.

During the weekends, there were countless campaign days across London; a real focus on the ‘traditional’ grass roots movement. It was interesting to see that both in America and London the parties were using highly targeted methods of campaigning – speaking to voters that were most important to securing victory for their candidate. Having foot soldiers on the ground is crucial to any campaign. It is often a gruelling task in English weather but nonetheless can make the difference in getting your candidate over the line. My experience talking to voters on the streets of the highly un-Conservative Lewisham was one of slight fear but also a great chance to talk and debate with the general public, getting Zac’s message out there. Often the most effective debate is not between politicians themselves but between passionate volunteers and individuals who believe in their candidate. A personal conversation on a doorstep goes a long way to get a voters support compared to a leaflet or reading something in a newspaper.  

Whilst the central campaign was the most important, it was vital to have synergy with the local associations to help enthuse voters. The sheer scale of the mayoral campaign was far greater than I imagined. Each week, campaign days were commodiously organised, with guests from Cabinet Ministers, Boris, several MPs to Zac himself. Responsibility was placed within local associations by central office; communication skills were central to the day-to-day running of the campaign. From campaign leaders, to campaign managers ‘rallying the troops’, everyone was important in a campaign of this nature. There are no safe seats in mayoral elections; it really was a fight (in Zac’s case) to get as many Conservative ideologues out to vote.

One of the focal points aside from the different tasks I was able to take on was the number of politicians and decision-makers that I met. My shock to see the Prime Minister, David Cameron whilst making a cup of chocolate milk had the potential to be an incredibly embarrassing moment. You will be pleased to know that I did not spill chocolate milk all over the Prime Minister’s navy blue suit. When you have been interested in politics as much as I have, it’s truly an opportunity of a lifetime to meet those who are shaping the country’s policy. The visit from the entire Cabinet was one of both awe and terror. Never have I had so many butterflies. This was a representation of how the campaign becomes more than simply about the candidate but instead about the whole party uniting to fight for Zac’s objectives. The Cabinet have an immense schedule yet gave up their time to phone up volunteers and engage with the ‘party faithful’ to support Zac’s cause.

My inability to formulate words when approaching Teresa May is a moment I would perhaps like to forget. It truly is such an opportunity to be in the presence of such highly established politicians. Perhaps one day the role could be one day transposed.

Working on the campaign has completely altered my opinion of politics. The campaign is where all the action happens and it is critical we continue to get as many people involved in campaigning on a local and national level, both old and young, as possible. There’s criticism about an apathetic electorate, but within CCHQ I have never seen a more engaged and enthused team, dedicated to their candidate, Zac Goldsmith. 

Finally, I came to realise that politics is still truly alive, the opportunities are out there and we must embrace our inner Athenian so that power truly is with the people. Politicians can and do connect with the electorate; however, we mustn’t forget we are also responsible for bridging that gap.

1 comment:

  1. May I ask why you supported Secretary Clinton over Senator Sanders? I genuinely cannot understand the reasoning behind backing a corporatist like her.

    I really hope it isn't just because she is a woman because if she is, that would make you inadvertantly sexist. After all, did you support Senator Palin for President in 2008? Bernie's policies are clearly much more progressive and would make history as the USA's first non-Christian president.


Comments with names are more likely to be published.