How many votes

It is Saturday again. Let’s see if I can get it right this week. This time last week I sent one rather idle tweet. It alerted folks to the fact my good friend Sioned (or @efrogwraig ) had 2,500 signatures on the petition she started on 2nd January. I thought that was rather impressive – 2,500 votes in 10 days.Then I found I had misread it. There were 25,000 votes. Today there are 40,000. By internet standards perhaps that isn’t defined as going viral, but even so, reaching out to 40,000 people in little more than a fortnight is not bad going.

Alongside those 40,000 votes, there are other signs this campaign is growing. The bureaucrats it addressed were obliged to comment. Local newspapers and radio have covered it, as have some specialist press. it has a mention in the Guardian. Google ‘Edith Cavell coin’ and find pages of references. It still has time to grow.

So why is the campaign to see Edith Cavell featured on a commemorative coin growing? I have been pondering that for a week.Here are some thoughts.

  • It has a simple message with a straightforward outcome.
  • It is topical, given the wider focus on our impressions of WW1 recently
  • It has some personal touches, with Sioned letting on this was a childhood heroine
  • It looks achievable
  • It is easy to join in – yes it only needs a signature, but it is also simple to share on twitter and Facebook

I know Sioned hasn’t relied entirely on the ‘grain of sand’ approach.There have been some targeted tweets. There have also been emails that developed links – finding the descendants, identifying the local leaders in areas Edith was associated with; nurturing those specialist professional areas of interest. But it hasn’t cost much other than a chunk of time. It needs a bit of IT skill, but not very technical ones.

Those 25,000 votes seemed particularly apt last Saturday. At the same time, Labour members were out and about all over the country trying to talk about that ‘cost of living crisis’. I did my bit – part of three ‘teams’ locally. We were trying to build up conversations, so progress was slow. One particular couple took the trouble to have a chat in their dressing gowns, keen to share their thoughts on what was wrong, but also with thoughts about putting it right. I reached a handful of people, would love to follow up a few, but I doubt if I will ever manage to speak direct to 25,000 voters even if I give up every minute of my valuable time.

I have recently decided I would stand as a council candidate again, so I have been pouring over those voter statistics even more than usual. In the ward I would love to represent my opponent had 2,400 votes last year, but in 2010 my party had 2,100. There is a  it gap when you look at the year on year, but looking in totality a different story. Can I convince 2,000+ people to tick the box in May? Can I persuade 500 people to change their mind – or 1,000 people to vote who didn’t do last time? To many Local Election strategists that might seem a tough task. Put it in the context of that petition and the current 40,000 votes in a few weeks it is a tiny one.

I will try some of the techniques of e-campaigning as we build our work to May. I can find the people I need to talk to. I can give the campaign a personal touch. So what do I need the most? Surely the lesson of that petition is that to succeed I need a simple message with a clear positive outcome. In the political world where Local Government is under sustained attack that might just be the tricky bit.

Oh – and if you haven’t signed or shared that petition yet now is the time. How many votes by next Saturday? http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-british-treasury-issue-a-2-coin-with-the-face-of-edith-cavell-on-it

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