Monday, 1 September 2014

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

We are fortunate to have a small army of helpers at our disposal, who never fail to rise to whatever challenge. Two members, however, are "always there" when called on, and today really did go above and beyond the call of duty.

Tonbridge & Malling stalwarts Owen and Chris Baldock arrived at West Kent Towers at 10am this morning and were still there when I left just before 6pm tonight. Apart from a brief 30 minute lunch break, they worked non-stop and packed over 2,000 envelopes.

What's more impressive; the work they were doing was not for their ward nor even their home constituency. It was for Helen Grant MP in neighbouring Maidstone and the Weald.

One of the reasons we receive so much willing help is our volunteers know their efforts are appreciate. For example, the team who came in last week to assist with Maidstone's packing each received a personal note today from Helen Grant thanking them for their efforts. A nice touch, too often overlooked.

Worthwhile weariness

Some of the weary members of Chatham & Aylesford's Local Government Committee at the end of tonight's meeting to finalise selections for next year's local elections in the Chatham wards.  This was the third and final round of the contest, with applicants having gone through an assessment evening, then one to one interviews to join the "approved list" and tonight the final round of contested ward-by-ward selections.

Nearly fifteen new candidates have come forward for selection in C&A this year. Tonight's meeting saw contests for two seats - each with five outstanding applicants.

My thanks to all the volunteers who have given up many evenings assessing, interviewing and selecting our next generation of candidates and councillors.And thanks too to our candidates, many of whom have never been involved in politics but who put in amazing performances at the various stages of the selection process.

AUCTION! Submit your bids please

Our star intern Matt Boughton won a super prize at a charity cricket match yesterday - a large montage a Formula 1 photographs in a display frame - signed by Sir Stirling Moss. 

Matt, who apparently has little interest in F1 has kindly agreed to auction this and donate the proceeds to West Kent funds to aid our target seat campaign. I suspect there is also some parental pressure along the lines of "this isn't going up in my house - stick it in the garage."

The value of these things is hard to determine, but by way of example Matt has already been offered £120. 

If you would like to bid, send an email with your name, address and contact phone number to  

If Matt receives any offers over £250 by next Monday (8th September) he will sell it to the highest £250+ bidder. If £250 has not been reached, he will list it on Ebay. 

Happy bidding. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

MPs get thrashings from Lashings

I have just returned home after the most super day out  - the Lashings Charity Cricket match at Maidstone's Mote Park. We had forty guests there (four tables of ten) as a fund raiser for Helen Grant's campaign fund. I would imagine over 1,000 people in total attended the event. I hosted my own table of ten friends and colleagues.

From left: Jon Botten, Pat Gulvin, Frixos Tombolis, Andrew Kennedy, Mary Streater, Helen Grant MP,
Adrian Gulvin, Paulina Stockell, Tim Streater, Matt Boughton, Richard Stockell, Nathan Gray + guest

There was something about today that was very special, greatly assisted by a burst of late summer sunshine. Sitting outside enjoying the warmth, accompanied by friends and colleagues, drinking (far) too much Pimms and beer, reading the Sunday papers, surrounded by trees and the wonderful sounds of cricket. There really was no better way to spend an afternoon.

The Lashings All Stars (including such international greats as Devon Malcolm, Phil Defreitas, Andy Caddick, Mohammed Yousaf, Saqlain Mushtaq, Min Patel, Mark Ealham, Ed Giddins, and John Emburey). Their opponents today where the Parliamentary XI including John Redwood, Nigel Adams, Crispin Blunt and Guy Opperman. What can I say about the outcome? Well, let's just say that few cricketers make speeches in Parliament as they probably know their strengths lie elsewhere!

The day was rounded-off with a special bonus when our very own intern, Matt Boughton, won the Heads & Tails and walked away with a framed set of F1 photographs signed by Sterling Moss - though I must say seeing a blushing Matt Boughton and unsmiling John Redwood battling it out on stage for with their hands on their heads and backsides, added a great deal of value to a long and boozy lunch!

And here is our main man being presented with his prize by Helen Grant MP. Well done Matt.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

2017 might not just be our best chance - it could be our only chance.

Thirteen years ago when Steve and I met, we spent a lot of time explaining to each other our respective beliefs. Steve educated me about faith and Christianity. I hope I was able to explain and expand his knowledge of politics and Conservatism.

I recall him asking how someone as "moderate and sensible" as me could be so tolerant of people on the extremes of politics. By this he was referring to Enoch Powell, Tony Benn, David Nellist, Ian Mikardo, and the many other "bogeymen" who occupied the fringes. I explained that I believed these people played a vitally important role; their uncompromising positions extended the groundsheet of politics and ensured all those people whose views might be considered unpalatable to the majority where contained within the big tent. Their views may have been anathema to me, but it was better that those who held them were part of a wider political group where they were able to influence but never dominate.

One of my personal regrets about the "centrification" of mainstream parties is the almost radicalisation of the political fringe who have now left our big tent politics and are pitching their own. I see UKIP as a mirror image on the Right of what happened on the Left in the 1980s, with every liklihood of a similar outcomes. Despite a brief honeymoon the only real achievement of the SDP was to enable Mrs Thatcher to win a parliamentary majority of 144 seats with just 43% of the vote. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that had they stayed with Labour and continue to fight for what they believed, the Labour Party would probably have recovered faster than it was able to do without their influence. 

I have long believed there would be an inevitable realignment in British politics. The old labels of 'Left' and 'Right' being increasingly irrelevant. Under the old politics I would probably be considered "Right wing" and my views on a minimalist state, free markets, leaving the EU, privitisation of the public sector and private property would confirm that. However I am equally passionate about social equality, the disestablishment of the church, an elected second chamber, I am (still) a 'dove' on foreign policy and military intervention, I support open immigration and am perfectly content in a multi-cultural society. What's more, I suspect my own position is not too far from the mainstream view of most conservatives of my generation.

Like the majority of my peer group I wish the Party would take a tougher line on the EU; I would personally be much happier if the narrative around the post 2015 negotiations was a list of UK demands with a recommended 'no' vote if they were not met in full, rather than an ambiguous list of reforms with the PM hoping to campaign for a yes vote if they are acieved. However we are where we are, and if we want a vote on the EU, David Cameron and the Conservatives really are the only show in town. Even Douglas Carswell admits this.

What is so disturbing is the unavoidable reality that by defecting to UKIP Mr Carswell is making the possibility of a referendum less likely and the possibility of a Miliband-led Labour government more likely; just as the Social Democrats walking away from the internal struggle within the Labour Party paved the way for 18 years of Conservative government from 1979-1997.

I usually agree with Matthew Parris, but in this today's Times I believe he is wrong. He wrote that Douglas Carswell's defection (with perhaps more to follow) could pave the way for a realignment of the Right; with a Thatcherite/UKIP split leaving behind a  Blairite/One Nation/LibDem core. He implied that Conservatives should welcome this. In my view this would be a disaster, installing a permanent dividing line through the Right and separating its heart from its head. Such a split would disenfranchise millions of voters like me who would find it impossible to choose between a form of continental-style Christian Democracy on one side and the reactionary certainties of UKIP and the Cornerstone Right on the other.

Where I do agree with Matthew Parris is I suspect many from the Better Off Out / UKIP are afraid of Cameron's 2017 referendum on the basis that it could be difficult to win, and that no referendum is better than a lost referendum.

This view only works if you believe that a 2015 GE defeat will result in a favourable realignment of the Right which will go on to win in 2020 and then fight (and win) a referendum with more hostile anti EU mood music. It falls flat on its face if the subsequent realignment ensures 20+ years of centre left government, by which time the EU institutions would have embedded themselves as firmly into our culture as the Public Sector ethos has into Scotland and much of the North, resulting in an almost unshakable political grip based on fear of change.

Never before has the unity of the centre right been more vital but less assured. It would be a tragedy if Mr Carswell and his friends not only paved the way for a Miliband government but made any future referendum almost impossible to win.

Banging head against brick wall

Just attended a meeting where fundraising was the main item of discussion. The man in charge of fundraising gave his report...

"Well, there's such a lot of apathy about at the moment I have decided it's not worth bothering..."

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Coach to Clacton

No date yet, but we are collecting names for the inevitable West Kent Battle Bus to Claction.

Pick-up points in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Blue Bell Hill.

To register your interest please visit the Facebook page:

Or email your name and contact details to

Douglas Carswell - in his own words!

Hat tip: Mario Creatura

Baroness Trumpington - tickets go LIVE!

Maidstone's Hazlitt Theatre are now selling tickets for our COMING UP TRUMPS - An Evening with Baroness Trumpington.

Members or supporters wishing to buy tickets at the last minute can now do so via their online ticket booking system. The price is still £10.00 although any tickets sold directly by the theatre are subject to 10% commission plus VAT going to the theatre from the ticket price. However, this is an efficient way to book for anyone wishing to attend at the "last minute" or who cannot find their cheque book. 

To buy tickets directly from the theatre using any form of credit or debit card click HERE