My First Year on Dorset Council

I have learnt a lot during the last year, during my first year as a councillor on a principle council. Kelvin Clayton

High on the list has been the need to negotiate the difference between being, on the one hand, a political activist and campaigner, and on the other, a politician.

Whilst I have experienced no conflict regarding what I believe in and what I’m trying to bring about, I have learnt that how I go about being a politician is quite a bit different from being an active campaigner.

In many ways, campaigning on a certain issue is relatively straight forward.

Your aim is to not only make an argument to bring about a certain change, it’s to make that argument to as many people as possible in the hope that public opinion will force the relevant decision makers to make that change. 

Even if, on the surface, your argument is directed at the decision makers, most of the time you are trying to get so many people to support you that these decision makers have no choice but to go in your direction. And to do this, any stunt, any publicity, helps.

However, as a politician, particularly as a politician from a minority party, you are trying to directly influence these decision makers. And because you need to work closely with them you need to develop a certain relationship with them.

In particular, to get them to take you seriously. To get them to listen to you and take your views on board you need to develop a certain degree of trust and respect – even if politically you disagree with them.

And none of this can easily be achieved by adopting the techniques of an activist. Both techniques can be effective, but perhaps they need to come from different directions.

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Kelvin Clayton