Graham Steele is breaking ranks. Politicians are going to hate his new book, which is being published today.
Steele, a retired politician and former political staffer who spent some time as Finance Minister of Nova Scotia, has penned a readable guide to how ordinary citizens can get politicians to do their will. Call it a guide to effective lobbying perhaps, but it is so much more.
As someone who has worked in both paid and volunteer political positions I found myself affirming pretty much everything Steele has to say in The Effective Citizen. It is difficult to get a politician’s attention, to keep it and get everything done. The key is planning; what do you want from the politician and what is in it for him or her?
Why will politicians hate this book? Because it exposes what they are and how they work. Steele lists the “Rules of the Game” that govern political life. I’ve lived under those rules, but never thought to write them down.
As a former political staffer, it is nice to see someone acknowledge the work a politician’s staff does in making things happen. After all, there are only so many minutes in a day and one person can’t do everything. It is the political staff that do most of the work that a politician is given credit for.
Steele explains just how the political system works (you may think you know, but there will probably be a few surprises for you here) and how to make it work for you. His methods won’t always work – there are times when you just can’t change a politician’s mind – but the framework he lays out is more likely to be effective than not, if your cause has merit. Though merit, as Steele points out, has very little to do with it.
I have wasted enough time in meetings with people who wanted a particular politician to do something about a situation when it was obvious from the outset they didn’t understand the realities of life. I wish they had read this book. Maybe The Effective Citizen should be mandatory pre-reading for anyone who wants to meet with an elected representative of any level of government. A lot more would get done.
The book is written by a Canadian for Canadians, but much of what Steele writes is pretty much universal to a modern democracy. Politicians have the same self-interests no matter where you are.
I’m kicking myself today that I didn’t write this one, but Steele’s version is probably better than I could have done – he has the perspective of someone who has been in elected office. If you have ever wanted to get your local politician to act on something, here’s how.
“Book has been provided courtesy of Nimbus Publishing.”