How MPs should react to the result: an etiquette guide

IT IS the awkward moment at the end of any election - how should MPs react to the result?

Losers should be honourable in the face of defeat. Picture: Getty
Losers should be honourable in the face of defeat. Picture: Getty

A beauty queen and an etiquette coach have offered some guidance and for both winning, and losing, candidates.

The winning MP should:

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Be honest, open and grateful

Winners should be muted in their celebrations. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Politicians are reasonably expected to celebrate, but should consider that they did not reach the top on their efforts alone.

Businesswoman Ursula Carlton is the reigning Miss Great Britain (Miss GB), who rose to fame after winning the nationwide pageant in 2016, at her first attempt.

At 26, the former Miss Aberdeen said she immediately felt the heavy sense of responsibility bestowed on her once she was crowned Miss GB, and was was eager to express her thankfulness to her supporters, without gloating.

She said: “When (I won), it was the greatest moment of my life, and you have to be so grateful to the judges and to those who have got you to the stage you’re at. Even though it’s your own hard work, I wouldn’t have got there without other people.”

Winners should be muted in their celebrations. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Behind one MP stands thousands of voters, so it is important to approach the result with a sense of gratitude, “not boastfulness”, Miss Carlton said.

Acknowledge, but do not patronise, unsuccessful candidates

A degree of self-awareness will go a long way in leaving a positive impression in the opponents’ minds. Offering words of encouragement, support or even a compliment will reflect well on the politician’s character.

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Miss Carlton said of her time as a Miss GB contestant: “Because I had become really good friends with the girls who were competing for the same title as me, I had to be conscious of the fact that I was winning in a way that wasn’t brash, because they’ve worked equally as hard for the same title and have gone home with nothing, so it’s about ensuring they’re going home not feeling disheartened by that.”

The businesswoman added: “It’s about having that ability to be sensitive to people’s feelings and winning gracefully, not boastfully.”

Watch out for body language

Solicitor Marie-Helene Ferguson is an authority on social graces and the founder of the London School of Etiquette, which trains up luxury sales assistants, graduate trainees and high-powered bankers in the art of soft skills and good manners.

She suggested that it is not all about what competitors say, the way they act can betray their true feelings, so beware of body language.

Ferguson advised winning candidates to offer well-wishes to their opponents in a heartfelt, considerate manner, and said: “Of course you want to look pleased - the people who voted for you want to see a positive reaction in you, but you need to be mindful. You have to be a good sportsman about your win.”

She added: “Nobody likes to see someone who gets overexcited, especially in the face of their adversaries. So you want to control your body language to the extent of not jumping around, throwing fists in the air and so on.”

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The losing candidate should:

Not be ashamed of expressing their disappointment

Nobody would expect any less than an honest response.

Ms Ferguson said: “Those who voted for you will also be disappointed and and that should be reflected in your reaction.”

But be honourable in the face of defeat

Nobody likes a “sore loser”, Ms Ferguson said, so candidates should control an instinct to strop or show disdain for the winner, for the sake of their public image.

Unsuccessful candidates probably will not be grinning from ear-to-ear, but they will need to at least feign happiness for the successful candidate, even if it means sporting a false smile.

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The solicitor added: “Some contestants will be more bitter than others, but you’ve really got to overcome that, going as quickly as possible to shake the hand of the other person.

“They will have won and you need to recognise that and do it with integrity.”

Although Miss Carlton’s pageant history features a string of successes, she noted the encouragement of unsuccessful contestants around her, when she won the national title.

She said: “Everybody was very supportive of each other.

“I didn’t have anybody come up to me and say I shouldn’t have won, everybody was congratulating me and they were happy for me.”

What if the runner-up considers the successful MP undeserving?

Do not attempt to steal their limelight in a Kanye West-style protest.

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As the losing party, it is vital for politicians to present a gracious front and acknowledge the outcome of a democratic process.

Thoughts about who should have won will be irrelevant by that point.

Ms Ferguson said: “Part of the etiquette process is to prepare yourself for each eventuality, to rehearse it and practise, which sounds ridiculous but it’s what leaders do in front of the mirror.

“Rehearse in front of your partner, in front of your family, in front of your party members if you can, and think carefully about your reaction.”