A successful #IndependentsDay is like winning Eurovision: @adropex reviews #GetElected #ActiveDemocracy

Lesley Howard

Lesley Howard

Citizen Journalist at No Fibs
After shouting at the television for many years Lesley decided participation was the best antidote to cynicism. She has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. Lesley is currently completing a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.
Lesley Howard
- 1 hour ago
Lesley Howard
Lesley graduated from the University of Melbourne with dual majors in Statistics and History and Philosophy of Science. The combination of the two fields formed a strong background in objective research, critical appraisal and the analysis of relationships, and in assessment and reporting. With this skill base she has variously consulted for an Australian timber company analysing the unloading of logs in Chinese ports, reported on the role of SMEs in Defence, critically analysed scientific papers, designed and advised on surveys and sampling for various private and government groups, and reviewed and advised on research proposals as a member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s MHREC. Lesley has a keen interest in supporting sound environmental social practice, communities and democracy in action. She is currently completing a Masters of Science, Applied Statistics.

Pale, male and stale

The political class ‘is on the nose’ and trust in our politicians is going into a deep dive. Parliament is seen as being dominated by “personalities, parties and pecuniary interests”. People are tired of the scandals, the factional power struggles and the revolving door of leadership and prime ministers. With each new scandal the calls for a properly empowered federal independent integrity commission, Royal Commissions and transparency get more strident.

It’s the perfect storm for an insightful how-to guide on how to stand up and enter politics.

The electorate has had enough and the frustration and dissatisfaction is apparent in the rising number of micro-party and Independent candidates contesting federal, state and local elections. Ruth McGowan argues in her timely book Get Elected that the remedy is to encourage a greater number and diversity of candidates to stand for public office, to turn their dissatisfaction into action and to lead the change they wish to see in their communities.

It’s time for more voices to be heard in chambers and parliaments across our nation and it is time to challenge the stereotype of the ‘typical pale, male, stale politician’.

Inspired by her sister Cathy McGowan’s election in 2013 as the Independent federal member for Indi, Ruth draws upon Cathy’s time in office as an “example of how an independent can successfully campaign, get elected, thrive as a politician, and make a difference whilst maintaining integrity”. At the time of her election Cathy McGowan was the first female Independent to be elected to the House of Representatives of the Australian Federal Parliament.

Ruth with Cathy ‘in full flight’ at the launch of Get Elected, Parliament House, Canberra. Photo: Georgia Ginnivan

Action from dissatisfaction

Get Elected is a step-by-step campaign guide to winning public office at the three levels of government. The guide is widely researched and extensive in its practical and emotional advice and offers knowledge, tips and strategies for successful campaigning.

Ruth brings her own lived experiences as a local councillor, a mayor and as chief strategist of Cathy McGowan’s 2013 Indi campaign and is informed by the collective wisdom of many successful campaigners who contributed their stories and their advice.

Practical in format and written in an easy-to-read style, Get Elected is divided into four parts: Decide, Plan, Run, Next. Planning the campaign is by far the biggest section and details the actions and timelines for a successful campaign. Running the campaign covers putting those actions into practice and managing the campaign process, including the emotional wellbeing of the candidate and the team. Practical post-election matters for both the successful and unsuccessful candidate are covered in the final section.

However, it is the decision-making process outlined in part one that lays the groundwork necessary for a successful campaign, be it as an Independent or as a party-aligned candidate. In this section Ruth challenges the reader to delve into the deep recesses of the ‘why’ of running for office. This section is largely composed of questions, some of which potential candidates may have already thought about or would get to on their own, but some are confronting and require the reader to really examine their emotional strengths and weakness if they are to usefully answer them.

What sort of dirt would opponents toss on me, and is my skin thick enough for that?

Whilst the aim of Get Elected is to encourage a diversity of candidates to step into the political arena, Ruth deliberately uses the pronoun ‘she’ throughout the book when referring to the candidate “so that women contemplating standing for office can more easily picture themselves in the role.”

Our political landscape will never change unless more, diverse and competent citizens stop complaining, step up and get elected… I hope that I can inspire diverse candidates and prompt more women to step forward, run for office and get elected.

Ruth McGowan

Cathy McGowan describes Get Elected as a how-to for community activists to make a change through political candidacy. However, the audience for this book is one far wider than only those people considering standing as an Independent candidate. I for one would not enjoy or thrive in that environment but I would be happy to put up my hand as part of a campaign team for the right Independent candidate. As the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and a successful political campaign takes a well organised team with a diverse skill set.

Whether you are an aspiring candidate, or see yourself as a campaign manager or part of the team of supporting volunteers, Get Elected is a practical guide for planning and running a political campaign. Whilst geared towards the Independent candidate, this book also offers valuable insights for the party aligned candidate as well, or even the aspiring singer!

Read an extract from Get Elected.


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