Comment - Miscellaneous
On being an agent by Bill Linton.
Being an election agent is a vital job, but one that alternates long periods of doing nothing with briefer
periods of fairly frantic activity. Elections are rightly quite tightly controlled affairs, so you can't
afford to make too many mistakes or you can leave the party looking foolish - or even be in danger from the law!
For a party such as EGP, the main work is around the local elections, so only every 4 years - though you do
need to be ready for a by-election at any time, and there is also stuff to do for Euro elections, GLA elections
and of course General Elections.
The first task - though not exclusive to the agent(s) - is getting candidates. Apart from whichever ward we
are 'targetting' all the other candidates are 'paper candidates', i.e. they aren't expected to do any
campaigning in their ward, they are just there to give everybody the chance to vote Green and to build up
our profile. Persuading members to stand can nevertheless be challenging - some of them have the weird idea
that they might win! Sorry to disappoint you, but as things stand at the moment it would take a minor miracle
for us to win a council seat in Enfield, let alone to do so in a non-target ward.
The next challenge is to get the willing ones united with their nomination papers and persuade them, where
possible, to go out and collect their 10 signature from registered electors. That's usually fairly easy for
those standing in their own ward, but tougher in a distant ward where it usually involves knocking on the
doors of complete strangers to ask them to sign. That sounds daunting, but actually most people do sign, and
the ones that don't hardly ever get stroppy. With timid - or busy - candidates the agent may have to go out
with them, or do the job him/herself.
Then off to Electoral Services to deliver the completed paperwork, hoping they won't spot any bloomers! As
long as they don't, you can now relax till the count (apart from leafletting and canvassing, of course!).
The night of the count is when you get to feel important as from time to time the agents are summoned into an
inner sanctum to pass judgement on the spoilt ballot papers - though the final decision on whether to accept or
reject lies with the Returning Officer or one of his deputies, and most of the decisions are totally obvious
anyway. After congratulating your successful candidates (or not - see above!) it's home to bed in the small
hours (or sometimes quite big hours).
All done? Oh no. There are still expense forms to be filled in for each candidate. One or two of the recent
crop might like to take note that these are not about 'claiming' expenses (I wish!), but about proving that you
haven't exceeded the legal spending limit. We never have, of course, but a signed set of forms to prove it is a
legal requirement, and there is a deadline to meet.
Much of the job of agent is about chasing up your candidates for one form or another. That sometimes feels
like herding cats! If you fancy yourself as a cat-herder then you are ideal material for being a Green Party
agent, and we could do with another - preferably younger! - one. There's plenty of help and advice available
from the existing agents (myself and Douglas)and from the National Agent, Chris Rose.