This upcoming General Election will be the first time I vote. This fact could leave me feeling pretty daunted by having to make my first big political decision this May. Luckily, the Tax Dodging Bill campaign – a national campaign to make tax fair and raise funds to fight poverty – is proving to be the crash course in British politics that I needed.
Its main tactic is constituency campaigning, which is giving me an opportunity to get much closer to politicians in my local area. Getting a meeting with one of my local candidates was fairly easy (see how here). But it was my first time engaging with a politician who is campaigning for my vote in the run up to an election, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. After a great experience though, I thought I would share some of my newly acquired top tips:
GO IN A GROUP Besides the fact that it is great meeting people locally who are passionate about similar issues to you, the diversity of approaches and reasons for being at the meeting made it a really powerful conversation. One of the campaigners was really good at engaging the politician in a relaxed way and linking local issues to larger structural problems like Tax Dodging. The other spoke passionately about how this campaign fits into the major challenge that we face globally of growing inequality. While the third campaigner, sat quietly for most of the meeting, but then at a crucial moment struck a bargain with the candidate when he initially wouldn’t support the campaign.
ASK THE CANDIDATE QUESTIONS My preparation for this meeting was to study the parliamentary brief as if I was going to sit in front of the candidate and sell the campaign in one strong monologue. Of course, this is not the best way to convince a real life person. It was through asking questions that we could discover what the points were where our candidate needed convincing that the Tax Dodging Bill is a good solution. And it meant that we learnt what other constituents were writing to them about, which will help our local activism.
THIS IS YOUR MEETING At one point I asked the local candidate what he thought of his party’s stance on Tax Dodging. In response, he started a very long story about the need for more social housing. For a moment I thought I had missed something and was unsure of how to respond. Then I remembered that this was my meeting to make him aware of the things that I care about. We were able to link his story on social housing back to why we were there by explaining that money raised by the Tax Dodging Bill (an estimated £3.6 billion a year!) should go to fighting poverty.
BRING YOUR PASSIONS What I really enjoy about the Tax Dodging Bill campaign is that everyone who supports it does so for a wide variety of reasons. Whether it is ensuring tax is paid in developing countries (totally talk about your overseas volunteering experience here), giving local business a chance, or restoring the balance between big corporates and the public, bring it all to the discussion. This meeting is your chance to introduce yourself as a constituent who cares and who will be in contact on a number of issues.
INFORM YOUR PPC ON NEXT STEPS At one point one of the local campaigners smartly informed the candidate of the other candidates’ stances to the Tax Dodging Bill. We informed the candidate that we would be doing some street campaigning to get people locally aware of the campaign and that throughout April we would be attending local hustings. By having our candidate aware that we will be asking all local candidates publicly about the Tax Dodging Bill, he knows to do his homework and take our campaign seriously.
By Rachel Walker, taxivist and Restless Development’s Campaigns Co-ordinator. She would love to hear from you, so get in touch with her with your questions about campaigning on the Tax Dodging Bill or if you have some top tips to share at firstname.lastname@example.org