Simon Hedges winning here

As the local elections get underway, Red Pepper's Simon Hedges shares his own experiences with the trials and tribulations of electoral politics

May 5, 2022 · 4 min read
Electoral masterminds Ed Davey and Tim Farron at the Liberal Democrats’ 2009 spring conference

It’s 1983 and my school is having a mock general election. For readers thinking, ‘I bet Simon went to a posh private school’ – yes, I did. For security reasons. My father worked for MI5 – if I’d been sent to a comprehensive, I would have risked a daily toilet bowl head flushing by the child of a disgruntled trade unionist or accidentally imprisoned Irish person.

Anyway, back to 1983. Candidates for Conservative and Labour quickly declared themselves, which left me to volunteer for the Social Democratic Party. For younger readers who don’t remember the SDP, imagine a party consisting of the most sensible talents of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats (or plain Liberals, as they were then) and the fantasy cabinet that exists in Richard Osman’s head. Imagine, in other words, a 1980s Lib Dems, but with people you’d heard of.

As the outsider, I had to think strategically. The Tory candidate was Sir Freddy Debenham. Knighted as a baby, he was heir to a huge fortune and would smoke a pipe with impunity during lessons because his father had paid for a new school planetarium. The Labour contender, James Holmes-Tors, was more popular than me on paper, but lacked my charisma, political nous and humility.

The Labour contender lacked my charisma, political nous and humility

I won the election by inventing the idea of ‘tactical voting’. As that is an extremely complex concept for the uninitiated, I’ll break it down in modern day terms: tactical voting is when you vote for the Liberal Democrats. Very similar to the ‘progressive alliance’, which is also when you also vote for the Liberal Democrats.

If you ever find yourself as a Lib Dem candidate in an election, here is my strategy guide, borne from the experience of ‘83:

1. Lean heavily on bar charts. Most people will be dazzled and won’t check the workings. You got 3 per cent in the last poll? Never fear, that bar can be as tall as the Burj Khalifa. Just fold it up so it unravels as the leaflet opens, making readers squint at your opponent’s pathetic sliver of 76 per cent. There is no copyright on maths.

2. You are always ‘Winning Here’. Essentially, ‘winning’ can mean anything you like. Winning at Scrabble, winning at having the biggest house, winning at a game you just invented. The public will assume any political candidate is a loser. By repeating the phrase ‘winning’ you will convince them that is not the case for you.

3. Pretend that your politics are not indistinguishable from those of the Conservative Party. Thankfully, these days all major political parties have exactly the same views on everything and are only separated by slightly different grades of private education. But the electorate, never satisfied, needs more to chew over. Pretend you’re concerned about that local hospital that you’ve never visited; you will endeavour to reduce both waiting times and the number of cockroaches living in the ventilators. Keep everything as local as possible. You will save the local zoo, the local John Lewis and keep the local parks free from local litter louts.

Stick to this masterplan and tactical voting will guarantee you a comfy seat in parliament and you’ll be the talk of British politics for at least 12-18 hours. Best of luck.

Simon Hedges is an ‘Award Winning Quality Journalist’ who can be followed on Twitter @Orwell_Fan

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