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Vote for me!

For many years activists in the UK legalise cannabis campaign thought that standing in elections would help bring about law reform by showing there was a significant body of people willing to vote for it. The idea wasn't so much to actually win seats, but rather to threaten to demonstrate that there was a body of people who were being ignored

In 1997 this was tried for the first time in Norwich and a few other places, but it wasn't a great success. However it lead to the formation of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance as a national political party but to be honest - and not for want of trying - it failed to gain any real momentum and the LCA wound up as a political party in 1997.

As reasonably well funded and organsed parties like the Greens can barely make an impact, single issue politics like cannabis law reform probably don't have a place in UK politics.

However, if you want to try, here's how to do it.

How to stand for Parliament

The formalities are a lot simpler than you may imagine - the essence is, of course, getting the votes, which means convincing people and getting your supporters to the ballot boxes on the day!

It would be beneficial to read "Representations of the People Act 1983", available from HMSO book shops. This gives details of the rules and regulations which apply to candidates, their Agent and sub-agents, account keeping and account returns after the election, the hiring of halls and vehicles etc.

The expense accounts must start from the day you refer to your candidate or yourself as 'the candidate', so until necessary refer to him or her as Prospective candidate.

It is the Election Agent'sresponsibility to keep the accounts, hand them in after the election, appoint sub-agents and counting agents (who witness the count) and polling agents (if required - these are the people who stand outside the polling stations representing the candidates - the guys who ask who you are before you get in). The Election agent, whose name bust be given to the Election officer on a form requiring the signature of the candidate, normally deals with the press, hiring of halls, getting included in hustings etc.
NB : A candidate may be his / her own election agent.

Rules can vary from town to town or city to city, therefore it is advisable to check everything with the Election Returning Officer (ERO).

At the moment the deposit for a candidate is 500, but this can be changed very quickly. This deposit is returnable subject to gaining a 5% proportion of the votes. Otherwise the deposit is lost.

The deposit includes the charge for delivery of one small leaflet to each house (NOT each voter) in the constituency. The leaflet must be approved by the Post Office (best before you print it). If they consider it abusive or pornographic (subject to their definitions) they will not distribute it. This also means that bright day-glow colours may not be allowed, and expressions such as "F--k the Tor_es" are definitely out! Leaflets do not need to be addressed and can be folded or not, and does not need an envelope. Leaflets will have to be counted or weighed, and bundled into postal code areas as instructed by the Post Office. You should contact the Election Leaflet Person at the post office head office in your area as soon as you can and produce a mock up leaflet for approval.

It is normally desirable to get through to as many voters as possible. The Election Communication is a letter, in effect, from the candidate to the voters, in the candidate's own words, although quotes are allowed. It should tell the voters exactly what issues the candidate is standing on and his or her views. There are certain words which the Election communication must bear, and it can be folded and put into an envelope or left unfolded, addressed or unaddressed. The elections person at the post office will give you the details and arrange for the flyers to be delivered. In fact the cost of the deposit for a constituency is small compared with the normal cost of putting a flyer through every door, so it is a good exercise in communicating the message whatever the vote.

To nominate your candidate you will have to collect nomination papers from your local town or city hall. A map of the constituency boundary can also be purchased for about 5. The form requires you to enter the full name and address of the candidate, and "Description"; NB : what you enter under description is what will appear on the ballot paper, so if you write "Housewife" that is what there will be; so write something like "Legalise Cannabis Party" or "Cannabis Party". On the same form you must enter the signatures of the proposer and seconder, and another 8 people (assentors), along with their Electoral Number from the electors lists. All these 10 people must live in the constituency and be on the register, the candidate himself or herself does not. No elector may propose or subscribe more than one candidate in any one election. You may get a copy of the register from your local Election Register Officer.

Contact all your community associations who may hold public election meetings. By law they must allow you to attend; if they refuse threaten to take out an Interdict to stop the meeting as they would prejudice your candidate.

Then you have to get the votes. Street leafletting, door to door leaflets in addition to the one delivered by the PO, newspaper, TV, radio publicity. You have to get your supporters to the polls. You can offer them but not charge them for lifts; cars and vehicles used for this cannot be hired.

On a single issue such as legalising cannabis one has to both persuade non-supporters and supporters alike to change their minds / votes. Although a person may strongly support the cause they may have interests in other policies discussed by other candidates which may attract their vote. In the 1997 General Election many supporters later admitted to having voted Labour simply to make sure the Torys were ousted. That lost Howard Marks (the Legalise Cannabis Party Candidate in four constituencies), many votes. Simple apathy lost us more. The key to a really good vote must lie with getting the usual non-voting tokers to the polls on the day.

[Produced by CLCIA with suggestions from Linda Hendry, LCC Scotland]

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