30 things any would-be politician should do this summer (Part II)

Inspired by Journalism Grads: 30 Things You Should Do This Summer post (pointed out to me by Lib Dem Voice’s Stephen Tall), here’s my list of 30 things anyone wanting to become an elected public official should do over the summer.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my Twitter, Facebook and email messages asking for suggestions for inclusion in the list. Whether your idea(s) made it in or didn’t quite make the cut, the final 30 are the better for all that feedback. You can read Part I here.

  1. Submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. It’s a key tool for unearthing information.
  2. Read Irrationality: The Enemy Within. There is a fair number of good books on how fragile our thought processes are, the common logical fallacies we fall in to and the way statistics can be mangled and misunderstood. This one’s my favourite.
  3. Get your email inbox down to zero and keep it there by the end of each week. As you become more successful and more high profile, more and more people will email you. Unless you get into good habits of email management now, you’ll end up drowning. Try Googling, “how to keep my inbox empty” if you think this is impossible.
  4. Subscribe to at least 20 sites using an RSS reader, 10 of which are not party political. Using an RSS (feed) reader is a huge time-saver and an effective way of keeping up with news and information. But there’s no point just being an expert on party politics if you want to be an elected official.
  5. Learn how to mailmerge letters and emails. Once you know how to do these you can communicate better and more quickly. Mailmerging is a big time-saver.
  6. Write and get published at least two blog posts. It may be that becoming a blogger yourself makes sense, but if you suspect that’s not going to be your style then make use of one of the many political sites which accepts guest posts.
  7. Film and upload a clip to YouTube. Best if it doesn’t feature you drunk. But if you’re so anti-technology that the thought of doing this makes you blanch, accept that you’re not going to be able to cope with the modern form of politics which relies heavily on people’s ability to communicate personally via gizmos that involve electricity.
  8. Set up a Twitter account and get 50 (non-spam) followers. It may not turn out to be the best way for you to communicate in the decades to come, but the general skill of learning and making a success of new methods of communication is one that will be useful all through your career.
  9. Watch a video of yourself with the sound off. Study your body language. With a bit of luck, you won’t discover the drunken sailor mannerism I found when I did this a few years ago. But you’ll almost certainly spot at least one mannerism to work on.
  10. Watch Bob Roberts. There are stacks of political movies. This one has satire that’s actually funny and not just worthy. Enjoy.
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This entry was posted in News.


  • I’m sure it is – the rest of his advice has no basis more reliable than his own meandering experience!

  • In joke for those of us that are members of the class of ’99

  • In terms of books on irrationality, ‘Predictably Irrational’ and Caldini’s book on Persuasion are well worth a read. ‘The Bill’ on Clinton’s Americorps is good- shows the lifecycle of a campaign promise to legislation.

    I think part of being an elected representative is also to get a sense of the struggles of those from a different background. Most MPs are well-paid lawyers (nothing wrong with that necessarily), but visiting and understanding a Surestart centre might be a good idea etc. Is there a British equivalent of ‘Nickle and Dimed in America’?

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