Wednesday 08-04-2015 - 11:57
Slip ups on social media, awkward political endorsements from celebs and that uneasy feeling when party leaders are looking directly at you during a party political broadcast….it can only mean one thing - a General Election has begun.
In all of this noise it can feel like there is no way of getting your voice heard - but that’s not true. Change.org is the world’s largest petition platform that helps anyone, anywhere to campaign and win on the issues they care about. Every day we see people using these tools to get the issues that matter to them onto the political agenda and into the news.
Here are five ways you can get yourself heard during the General Election.
1. Don’t go for the usual targets
During this period in the run up to the election, known as ‘purdah’, big policy decisions and announcements are put on hold. Which means if the Government is a decision maker in your campaign, don’t expect them to respond with a decision until after Thursday 7 May.
But that creates an opportunity to be more creative with your campaign ideas. We often think of the government as the decision maker in most situations - but don’t forget that companies have power too. For example, this campaign started by a BBC Three fan is calling on the BBC Trust to stop cuts to the channel dedicated to young talent and this petition is calling on the Premier League to pay their staff the living wage.
2. Politicians as advocates
Although politicians can no longer act as decision makers during this time, they can become influential spokespeople for your campaign. Do some research on which candidates are talking about your issue and get in touch with them. Politicians are professional campaigners and can really help you get your campaign out there, and win. This is just what Caroline Criado Perez did when she campaigned for women on banknotes. She gained the support of female MPs and used their influence to further her campaign.
3. Add multiple decision makers to your campaign
Though the Government can’t make any decisions during this period, don’t forget that they are out there trying to win your vote. Use that. Add each party leader or your local party candidates as decision makers to your petition so you can add pressure for a response. This campaign - calling for 49,000 gay men prosecuted under indecency laws to be pardoned in the same way Alan Turing was - received a response directly from Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
4. Keep your eyes peeled
In every election there is always a moment when a party or a broadcaster has tripped up and this can create an opportunity to get your issue into the spotlight. Big issues are important, but it can be hard to make them sound urgent. In this election think about the little thing that makes the big thing come to life - particularly around issues of gender, race and disability.
Earlier this year when the broadcasters announced that the leaders’ debates would only include four of the parties running, all of which were four male leaders a young petition starter said: ‘By excluding a party with a female leader, we are sending a clear message to the public — politics is still an old boys club’ and started a petition to get the debate broadened. With over 200,000 signers she clearly tapped into something. And she won.
5. Go local
Campaigning on local issues can have the most direct impact on your life. And during election period party candidates will be especially keen to support local issues. What are the issues that mean the most to the people in your community? Get them on the agenda of the candidates campaigning. Find out about local hustings in your area and go along to ask the candidates if they support these issues and ask what they will do to help. Local campaigns can gain national attention, like the campaign to save the New Era Estate which captured the attention of the entire country by making national headlines - and eventually won. Log on to Change.org to keep tabs on what’s happening in your area, or to start your own campaign.
And finally, don’t forget you can use the ballot box to have your voice heard. There is a lot of debate out there about voting - Russell Brand says he’s never voted and never will. Critics say that if you don’t vote you allow the status quo to continue. It’s up to you, but you can’t vote if you’re not registered and the deadline for registering is April 20th - so make sure you are down on the electoral roll so you have the choice on Thursday 7 May.