Advice to those seeking public office

Adderbury experienced a hustings meeting last night at The Institute in preparation for the Parish Council By-Election to be held on Thursday 21-Feb-19.  It was organised by Iain Corcoran who is one of two candidates standing.  The other candidate  is Vicky Head who has distributed a leaflet round the village with information about her.

The meeting was attended by some 20 residents, mainly of more advanced years and with some half a dozen clearly supporting Corcoran and a similar number opposing him.

Having watched Iain Corcoran at the hustings for the first half hour, here are some tips for  him or anyone else seeking public office. They are based on my own experience as a county councillor for 24 years; as a parish councillor for much of that time and as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council for eleven years.

  • Know your constituency:  It was quite unwise to demonstrate your ignorance of the name of the Aynho Road.  It is one of the main roads leading into the village and contains the village’s primary school.
  • Be inclusive:  Omitting the Oxford Road and the Aynho Road from your list of roads requiring traffic calming certainly did not win the support of those living in or near them.
  • Reflect on your body language:  Addressing a meeting with your hands in your pockets is not a good idea.  Your hands say a lot about you and are a valuable asset if used moderately and to good effect.  For an ex-soldier, standing with hands in pockets seemed an odd contradiction?
  • Know your audience: It was highly likely that your audience was going to comprise mainly older residents and of a small “c” conservative disposition.  You might have  been better off  in a shirt, tie and jacket and with proper trousers rather than jeans.  Blair and Cameron masqueraded as men of the people but many villagers want to see those aspiring to public office decently and respectably attired.
  • Respect your audienceWagging your finger at your audience and reminding one of them that you are likely to outlive them are unlikely to win many friends or votes.
  • Do not insult your audience’s intelligence: Trite comments about “bobbies on the beat” might fool a few who are living in the past but many understand the real world and will not be impressed by your intention to address the Chief Constable of TVPA.
  • Understand democracy; It is foolish in the extreme to refer to seven members of the (currently) 10-sstrong parish council as “the opposition”.  The opposition in any council are those who cannot secure a majority of votes.  While it is unusual to find an opposition in a parish council, it is a sad fact that Adderbury Parish Council has one but it comprises three members and not seven!
  • Have clarity on your policies:  While you are clearly majoring on your desire for traffic calming, you need to be honest about their implementation with chicanes, build-outs and other aspects that those living near them might find objectionable.  You also need to be clear about the unavailability of much of the developer contributions that you seem to think could be spent on traffic calming and the police’s unwillingness to enforce 20 mph seed limits.
  • Milton Road development: You need to be clear about your intentions for the Milton Road site.  You kept referring to it as a “sports facility” and, as a resident of a nearby development, there may be a suspicion that you wish to derail any development there to prevent something you might see as noisy or intrusive.  It is not clear whether you had been to the Institute ever before or have seen the other meeting places in the village.  None of them is sufficient for the 21st century and a village of Adderbury’s size.  It is the intention of the majority on the parish council to develop a modern community centre and sports facility at Milton Road that meets the needs of the village.  It s also clear that a group who oppose development of the Milton Road site are seeking to spend funds allocated towards it on a highly expensive and questionable traffic calming scheme.  You may be thought to be a part of that group if your position is not clarified.

All in all, I think you have something to learn about standing for public office.

About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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3 Responses to Advice to those seeking public office

  1. Iain Corcoran says:

    Mitchell – I’ve read your comments and I’m pleased you’ve put pen to paper as if you had spoken to me in person I wouldn’t have understood you at the best of times in parish council meetings you either talk out of your nose or your backside, having reading your blog it’s pure drivel….
    I was nervous last night, and if you had stayed long enough you would had heard my views
    Although you along with the clique that you surround yourself with were at the institute to cause disruption
    If you were a man you’d speak to me face to face but you cower behind your blog!
    As for shirt and tie I wanted it to be a relaxed environment
    Something which it wasn’t as your cohorts disrupted throughout the evening, and I’ll give you advance warning now if you continue with defamation of my character you’ll be hearing from my solicitors.

    • I had no intention of speaking at your meeting. You were quite capable of digging you own deep hole …..

      • Iain Corcoran says:

        You have dug a bigger hole than me, you can’t even give true facts costing for the Milton Road Development
        I’m going to enjoy coming to Parish Meetings going forward as I’m going to call you out, so if I was you I’d start getting your office in order!
        As a Parish Counciller in mine and many others your not fit for purpose!
        I’ve also noted you speeding on the Milton Road your as bad as other motorists.
        Perhaps a note to oneself make more time tackling the true issues within the village rather than spending time writing on your old grumpy man syndrome blog!!!
        Victor Meldrew

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