The results for the local elections in Manchester are in now. The Pirate Party made a few gains and although they got no seats, it's important to note that getting more attention is the name of the game. I've got a few thoughts to share on what they're doing right, what they're getting wrong, and how they might improve at the polls next time around.
Pirate party candidates, by score:
Bradford Ward - Loz Kaye - 127
" winner: Labour Party - Neil Russell Swannick - 1903
Ancoats & Clayton Ward - Tim Dobson - 75
" winner: Labour Party - Mike Carmody - 1862
City Centre Ward - Maria Aretoulaki - 57
" winner: Labour Party - Joan Elizabeth Davies - 704
This doesn't look great, but if you compare the Pirates with the other contenders and previous results they're slowly making gains. The important thing is that they're getting votes in the first place. What they need to do is get more, or at least enough that the other parties are paying attention. See more election results here.
What they're doing right
Loz Kaye has been writing for the Guardian and the Huffington Post, and is often interviewed in the tech blogs and national daily papers. As a musician, he can make a better case for his party position than people who aren't intimately involved in the copyright issues. After all, how can a man who believes that copyright should be just ten years from the date of creation make a living from music? Well, he seems to manage it.
The other two candidates, Tim Dobson and Maria Aretoulaki, have blogs and social media accounts, and have been cultivating a web presence. They've also been interviewed by the local press.
Why don't they get more votes?
First of all, most people don't know much about them. They're running on a digital rights, anti-surveillance, and intellectual property law reform platform, so their appeal tends to be limited to nerds. The trouble is, most voters aren't nerds and aren't bothered either way about the issues the Pirate Party are running for even though they are affected by them.
Secondly, as Loz told me himself, the name "Pirate Party" conjures up images of decadent, lawless freetards who want to make it legal to pillage other people's work and make it available to everyone without compensating the innovators who created it. I must admit, that's what I thought until he explained his position to me.
Thirdly, they're not well-known and haven't had any policy successes by influencing lawmakers or politicians.
Fourthly, they've had no major politicians defect to them. Yet. It does need to happen.
Finally, their lack of political experience in the UK counts against them. People tend to stick with the devil they know.
What they can do better
All the SEO blogs and pundits will tell you that becoming an authority is the way to go. That's what Loz has been doing, but the other candidates are not as well known because they're not posting opinions on blogs or in interviews where a wide number of people can see them. They're not very visible. I'll help any way I can but they've got to do their share.
- Opinion pieces for tech blogs, local papers and national dailies is the way to go — it's working for Loz.
- High-profile local charity work, perhaps by providing a tech service or raising awareness of a particular issue, such as internet provision for the disabled or internet safety for children. This would get parents on their side.
- Local engagement; find out more about demands and needs in the wards they stand in so they can provide what service they can and steal the thunder from Labour.
- Provide an advocacy service of some kind. People need to feel listened to and if they can get results by working with other organisations, so much the better.
- Seek sponsorship/recommendations from local businesses in order to raise awareness.
- Get name-checked by thought leaders and prominent bloggers, etc.
These are just a few of my ideas. They're actually based on what I do to promote my business:
- I've been invited to write for another blog and will submit articles for them.
- I've done my bit for charity by providing free graphics for the Kirsty Club and web design services for TEDxSalford.
- I provide help and advice to friends and neighbours about IT and the internet and promote local causes.
- I've got a link on every website I've developed and have fanned and followed my clients and associates.
- I "chat" with people on the social media, e.g. Glyn Moody, a UK-based tech and digital rights journalist and involve myself with tech rights bloggers.
It doesn't hurt that other people retweet links to my blog posts AND I comment on relevant posts in the tech blogs. What I'm really saying is, engage, engage, engage. That's not just good for business, it's good for politics, too.
I'm a big fan of the Pirate Party and will always support them. I hope this bit of criticism serves to help them in their next electoral battle. I'm here if you need me, guys, just tell me what you want me to do.