Hustings key to identifying the weak link
TO A muted fanfare, Guernsey entered a brave new world this week with the first political party registering for June’s election.
The Alliance Party Guernsey has stolen a march on its rivals and can now set about its ambitious plans to gather candidates and public support.
Quite how many parties will follow suit is hard to judge. As with much of this first island-wide election there is no template for what will happen.
That uncertainty adds interest to the build-up but few can claim to have a clear idea what effect it will have on this election and politics in the longer term.
What seems certain is that there will be a mix of parties and individuals. Each will be competing for the same seats but with vastly different resources and ambitions.
Getting a message across through the traditional media and its social counterpart will be crucial if candidates are going to cut through the hubbub and gain voters’ attention.
A slick online campaign is more likely to come from a group of candidates co-operating than an individual trying to juggle the demands of running in an election while perhaps holding down a day job.
In previous elections a good candidate could overcome poor media skills with solid door-to-door canvassing. Nothing is more effective in engaging a voter than a face-to-face chat.
But with tens of thousands of homes to cover across the island such shoe leather politics will be hard work and very time consuming. Even the most energetic candidate will struggle to cover a small proportion of the electorate.
Again, the advantage would seem to be with a party. Done well, the manifesto message can be better distributed by a team of candidates and helpers than any individual.
Hustings performance has traditionally been a key way to enable voters to distinguish between the blowhard and the brilliant. A candidate with an abrasive personality or poor grasp of island life will struggle under the direct unsparing eye of parishioners.
This is one area where a weak party candidate cannot hide behind others’ coat-tails.
Islanders know this and have called to see individuals under pressure, debating island issues.
Difficult though it might be, the States must work hard to meet that demand.