Right! So, I’ve spent the last week meeting people and trying to sort out some sort of a team to help me with this election stuff.
This is fundamentally DIY politics, as I’ve no party and no history of politicians in my family or close circle. But I’m learning as I go. And it’s good to have the opportunity to “do” as it were, democracy in real time and learn how the whole shebang works. Most of think that entering politics and becoming a candidate is a Very Difficult Thing to do, and Not For The Likes of Us. I’m hoping to prove the opposite – that politics is open to all – men and women (particularly women as we need so many more of them in Leinster House) who don’t necessarily have a political background. I have to say that so far, my fellow Independents have been fantastic is supporting me and giving me their time and expertise. It’s nice to be able to deal with people who don’t have to look over their shoulder in case their party pulls them up for helping out the “outsider”.
Getting people to give advice on political life isn’t too hard, but getting them to commit to actually working with me up until the actual election is rather more difficult. Particularly as I don’t know when that will be. Autumn or Spring? Who knows? Best bets are for next February, but the whole thing seemingly is “the gift” of the Taoiseach – meaning he can call it anytime between now and the beginning of next April. Another problem of course is that I have no budget. As I’ve spent years working first as an actor, then as a writer/journalist, I am all too familiar with the phrase, “but you’ll get great exposure” when people try to get you to donate your time and expertise for no financial gain. I’ve had so much “exposure” over the years it’s a miracle that I haven’t died from hypothermia. So I understand that being asked to something just for the glory of it – or whatever it is we try to spin it as – is never as good as receiving good hard cash.
So, what happens now? Seemingly I have to get a campaign team together. People who have the expertise that I clearly don’t. I need to define my politics and policies and of course, I have to try raise cash that I so clearly don’t have. But thankfully this isn’t the US where you need to be funded by oligarchs in order to even think about putting yourself before the people. And I have to try blog the experience so hopefully people (like me) who have no idea what it’s like to run for office but would like to know, can read it and not be totally discouraged about going into politics.
I also have to clearly define what my policies are – basically social democratic with an interest in promoting small business in communities. The local butcher, hairdresser, retail, IT, PR company, garage, childcare company etc aren’t likely to pack up and move to India or China if they think they can get a cheaper workforce there, plus communities need the lifeblood of small local business and all the social benefits it brings. Obviously I support what are often called “women’s issues” but what are really social benefits; paternity benefit, early child education, public transport etc. And of course mental health is very high on my list of priorities.
The day after I “came out” as it were Newstalk called to ask if I’d chat to Sean Moncrieff about the affairs of the day – and obviously running for election. I’m a big Moncrieff fan so that was easy to say “yes” to.
Here’s the Moncrieff Interview: (after the ads etc).
But, as Sean makes the point, he’s a pussycat – and sort of on my wavelength when it comes to talking politics, philosophy and what we think are the important things in life. BUT I’ll have to face the hard hitters at some stage who will see a rookie like me as fresh meat to maul… (We know who I mean don’t we?) But that’s part of the brief and I’ll have to get used to it.
Sometimes you’ve got to feel the fear and do it anyway ‘Sunday Independent’s’ Carol Hunt explains why she’s biting the bullet and putting her name forward for election
In a week when I finally swallowed any sense of sensibility – or pride – and threw my name into the ring for the next general election, my eye caught a witty newspaper piece. Edwin McGreal, of The Mayo News wrote about last Monday’s meeting of Mayo County Council and the election of the new Cathaoirleach and Leas Cathaoirleach.
McGreal noted various comments about “beautiful looking women”, “good-looking women”, finding a “good woman” and the fact that the wife of the incoming Cathaoirleach would be having “the shirts ready” for her important husband. Yes, its hilarious stuff. Problem is, the piece wasn’t a political satire – a Father Ted style sketch. It’s real. It happened. In 2015. In a county near you.
As McGreal noted at the end of his piece: “Mayo County Council has 30 members. Currently, 25 of them are men and five are women. In light of yesterday’s meeting, perhaps it’s not too difficult to see why.”
How deranged or delusional must an Irish woman, with no family political background, need to be to volunteer herself for political office? I’m waking up in a cold sweat most nights asking myself that exact question.
I’ve written before about all the obstacles facing women in politics (I’m not talking about women from traditional parties who “inherit” seats from fathers or brothers, but those who enter solely off their own bat): the five ‘C’s: Childcare; Confidence, Culture, Cash and Candidate Selection (All but the last apply to me).
As I’ve now finally decided to take the plunge put myself before the electorate I thought it might be useful to blog all my experiences of what it’s like to put an election campaign together – from deciding whether to run, who to run for, what to stand for etc, etc…
Obviously I’ve never done anything like this before – nor have any of my family or friends – so I’m a complete newbie and will be making mistakes which more seasoned politicians wouldn’t. There will be so, so many opportunities for me to make a total eejit of myself and I know I will probably do so every time.
But that’s okay. Or at least I’m telling myself that now. I might say differently after I’m repeatedly mauled on TV or radio for public entertainment by experienced interviewers, say, like a certain late night TV3 host. I may need to meditate often – or invest in a stack of Valium or go for long walks while I kick myself for being bloody stupid! (I’ve already started that).
But it’s a learning experience and as the whole point is to try to encourage other women to run for election also, I’ll blog all my experiences and hopefully it all won’t prove too traumatic in the long run – no matter what the outcome.
I’ll start by posting the first article I wrote when I started thinking about running – but hadn’t fully decided and then add the one from this week – when I finally took the plunge.