Saturday, 27 May 2017

West Kent's GE Literature Pack

A lot of candidates, agents and activists have complimented our West Kent organisation, in particular how fast we were "out of the stalls" and the volume of local literature we produced, the first piece landing on the doormats the day after the County Council campaign finished on Friday 5 May. 

I have written before that other peoples' election leaflets are like baby photographs, only of interest to those whose name they bear, but for the record here is what we have thus far produced. In total, we will be producing 11 separate items of literature for our seven candidates, so between us and our print and design team, by polling day we will have designed , printed and mail merged 77 different leaflets totaling 1.38 million pieces of paper!

For the record, here is what we have so far put out. I am only publishing literature which has already landed on the doormats for obvious reasons, but I will add new items as and when they go live. 

Regardless of which example I use in this blogpost, each of our seven candidates (Greg Clark, Tom Tugendhat, Tracey Crouch, Helen Grant, Adam Holloway, Helen Whately and Craig Mackinlay) have had the same support. 

Election Address 4 (EA4)
The fourth and final piece of Royal Mail Election Freepost started landing on doormats today. This is EA4 and is being delivered to the second named person in each household, unless the second named person is either 18-25 (in which case the would have received EA2, the younger voters leaflet) or 60+ (in which case they would have received EA3). In these cases, EA4 would have been sent to the 3rd or 4th named person instead. Approximately 20,000 voters per constituency will receive EA4. This leaflet is A4 folded to A5 but landscape rather than portrait.

Followers of this running blog may have noticed that all four pieces of Royal Mail Election Post are very deliberately a different shape, size and design. The reason for this being we did not want any voter thinking we had delivered the same leaflet twice.

As with all West Kent literature, the content is 100% local (provided by the candidate), the leaflet was designed by me, printed and mail merged locally in Kent using our local print partners.






Election Address 2 (EA2) and Election Address 3 (EA3)
EA2 and EA3 started landing on doormats across the seven constituencies where I am Agent this morning (Sat 20th May). It was planned for these to go out together as they are targeted at very different audiences.

EA2 is 4pp 148mm square: this was sent to approximately 8,000 younger voters (18 - 25yo) in each constituency. The sample below is Greg Clark's but all seven candidates in the "group" had their own version with 100% locally produced copy.






EA3 is A4 folded to A5: this has been sent to voters aged 60 and above (excluding those who received EA1 as "first in household"). EA3 has been sent to around 12,000 voters in each constituency. For those curious how who identified this data, we have developed our own macro which not only splits each household into "first on register" "second on register" and so on, but then re-runs the data and again separates into different tabs those voters we wish to target based on date of birth range. 

This is Helen Whately's EA3, but once again the leaflet was available to all local candidates with 100% local content.







Get Out The Postal Vote Card (GOTPV) with postal votes landing on doormats in just three days time, our teams are now focused on delivering a personal GOTPV postcard to over 70,000 postal voters in West Kent. This is Greg Clak's example.  








Election Address 1 (EA1) which started landing on the doormats via Royal Mail Election Sort today. This went to the first named elector in every property. Like all West Kent literature, it was designed by me and our graphic designer, Caroline Spenceley, printed by DA Printers in RochesterThe "finishing" (ie, mail merging, folding and packing to Royal Mail requirements) was done by another local business TMB Mailing in Plaxtol. It is A4 folded to DL. 






First 72 Hour Leaflet (F72): as soon as the Kent County Council campaign finished on Thursday 4 May, our teams transferred smoothly to the Parliamentary campaign, hand-delivering 20,000 - 30,000 F72 leaflets between Friday 5 May and Sunday 7 May. Most Associations had teams at the local railway stations at 6.30am on Friday 5th to meet and greet commuters along with street stalls in all the major town and village centres on Saturday 6th May.








Calling Card: We deliberately don't use the traditional "sorry you were out when we called" wording as I like candidates and their teams to hand these out "far and wide" when canvassing, something harder to do if they say "sorry you were out."  These cards can also be used to hand-out at street stalls and railway stations if stocks of other generic leaflets run low. 


   


Letterhead:  In previous elections we had supplies of letterheads printed, which either ran out necessitating a reprint, or there were boxes left after the event. This year, having now bought a high quality full colour printer, I simply asked our designer for a high-res pdf from which we print letterheads as needed. 







Window posters and correx boards: again, I have our posters and boards produced locally. DA printers do our A3 and A4 window posters and our correx boards are done to      exactly the same design by another local company, Scarbutts Ltd in West Malling.










Sunday, 21 May 2017

A few thoughts on social care

25 years ago, when my dear Mum was dying of lung cancer, there was a brief period of remission. Understandably, she was desperate to “Go home” for the last few months of her life – though both she, and I, knew that she didn’t have the strength to keep house for herself and do her own shopping, cooking and cleaning.

My mother was not a wealthy woman, but was proud that in her latter years, she had saved from her pension and her part-time job, about £20,000 which she always told me was her “nest egg”, which she wanted to come to me. At the time I didn’t have two buttons to rub together, and that inheritance would have made a huge difference to my life too.

To enable Mum’s wish to go home we needed to arrange some basic home care for her; someone to cook and clean and do her shopping, and as her health deteriorated, to provide her with personal care too. Money for this came from what my Mum had saved. She would never have dreamed of expecting tax-payers to pay, nor for one single moment did I begrudge Mum spending this money on herself and her care. By the time Mum was readmitted to hospital for the final weeks of her life, all but £5,000 was spent.

Quite frankly I find the vested interest and selfish behaviour of those who expect tax-payers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, to pay for their own parents’ social care so that they can inherit a fortune, to be simply vulgar. I acknowledge the arguments about those who have frittered their money on booze, fags and bingo – but ultimately we have a responsibility for ourselves and our families. It is wrong to rely others to pay our bills.

If Theresa May had not introduced this bold policy into the manifesto, and had tried to ignore the huge fiscal time bomb that social care carries with it, she would not only have been falling short of the office of Prime Minister, but would have been accused of ducking difficult issues. The reality is, the money has to be found. The truth is that we are responsible for our own lives.

The State is there as a safety net; not an alternative for self-reliance.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Kiss Greg Clark for £10 a go!

Can you tell them apart?
There was a time when candidates would kiss babies....

Last Saturday Greg Clark and his team were running a street stall in Tunbridge Wells town centre. Greg was happily chatting to a constituent as was his Association Treasurer William Rutherford, (above left). 

Suddenly a young bloke in his late teens ran up to William, flung his arms around him and planted a kiss on his cheek and shouted "I love you Greg". This took all by surprise, especially Greg who wondered what he had missed and William who knew what had happened but probably wished that it hadn't!

William and Greg watched in bemusement as the guy ran back and joined his mates observing from a street corner nearby, all of whom were applauding and handing over £10 notes for a successful "dare". Little did they know that rather than kissing the Secretary of State, their mate had actually planted a kiss on the cheek of a local councillor and bee-keeper!

I am not sure who came out worse.... but rumours that William has been standing in the same spot every day since have been strongly denied! 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Size Queens of Cornwall

Local councils are constantly complaining about lack of resources and the need to cut services and staff. This lack of resource did not however stop Officers of the former LibDem led Cornwall Unitary Council from turning into rosette size queens.

At 7am on Thursday morning (4th May) a good friend who was standing for election in Cornwall turned up at his local polling station for a spot of early morning telling, whereupon the Presiding Officer promptly appeared to measure the size of his rosette to ensure it was "compliant" and not 'over sized'.

How does one judge what is or is not "oversized" as I do not think there is case law on this? And what one person may think of as "huge" might be perfectly normal to someone else.

Perhaps things will improve now the Lib Dems have lost control.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Then there were four!

A fourth West Kent Association has "upped the ante" on councillors who fail to do their fair share. Respect to Chatham & Aylesford Chairman, Cllr Michael Base, who sent this email today to the habitual slackers!






Friday, 21 April 2017

The Ring Behind the Swing !



Almost 8pm on Friday night and still going strong. My thanks to a marvelous team of over 50 volunteers who have helped man the phones and between them made over 6,000 contacts with postal voters in our key marginal wards. #ReallyWinningHere

The Roll of Honour: Elen Gente, Ron Leagas, David Grant, Betty Williams, Lee O'Toole x2, Mary Ratcliffe, Chris Woodward, Sarah Hohler x2, Harry Rayner, Sue Nuttall, Rose Tanner x2, Brian Bissell x2, Owen Baldock, Chris Baldock, Jon Botten, Matt Bailey, David Adams, Catherine Adams, Pam Bates, Jane Shepherd, Ann Kemp, Alex Hyne x2, Robin Betts, Nicolas Heslop, Alex Lewis-Grey x2, Sandra Garside x2, Jenny McDonnell x2, David Cure, Lynne Cure, Matt Boughton, Janet Walker, Georgie Wellford, Peter Homewood, Jo McTavish, Claire Stewart, Rosina Mercier x4!, Bev Palmer, Stanley Ward, Thelma Huggett, Barbara Cobbold, Matthew C F Dickins, Ade Kosoko, Steve Perry and Julie Perry.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

And we're off

Less the 48 hours after the Prime Minister announced the date of the General Election, West Kent's MPs are about to be presented with their locally produced campaign packs.

Exciting times.  



Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Nurse Crouch to the rescue

Chatham and Aylesford MP and Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, was recently guest of honour at a lunch hosted by a nearby Conservative Association.  After the pudding had been cleared away and coffee served, Tracey started to deliver her speech. Half way through there was a loud and unpleasant thud - one of the guests had collapsed and landed on the floor underneath his table.


Undeterred and without hesitation, Tracey sprang into action - removing her jacket and crawling under the table to administer first aid whilst someone called an ambulance. Our poor chap was taken off to hospital but thankfully made a full recovery and is now back home. 

Was it too much sherry in the trifle or the thought of Tracey in her football kit?  Whatever the reason I have a horrible feeling that now our older male members know that collapsing at a lunch might result in Tracey stripping off to administer CPR under the table might start a trend.   

Data Data Data

With much of the country focussed on May’s elections, this is a good time to examine what we do on the doorsteps, what we need to achieve and how the data we collect should be used to maximum effect.

One of the challenges we face in West Kent is to convince our more traditional campaigners that canvassing is no longer about having a detailed discussion on every doorstep with the aim of converting the misguided into changing their ways. Similarly, to persuade our newer helpers that canvassing is a simple data gathering exercise and they do not need detailed knowledge of every aspect of party policy.

With so many Associations being wholly reliant on volunteers there is a danger that some may lack people with the training and knowledge now needed to gather and store data and how it should be used to maximise our chances. This includes:

  • ·         How to choose the targets and why certain groups are important
  • ·         The questions to ask to maximise accurate and useful responses
  • ·         The medium used to ask those questions (postal survey, doorstep, phone or email)
  • ·         How to record and store that information legally and in an accessible format
  • ·         How that data can be used to build future success

And when I refer to “future success” I don’t just mean electorally, though that is clearly our primary concern, but also in terms of recruiting members, donors, activists, postal voters and possible even future LG candidates.

In a previous era when 90% of people voted either Conservative or Labour a simple “may we count on your support” was probably sufficient; you were either with us or against us. That is no longer an option. Voters, even those who identify a Conservative, happily switch their votes at local, parliamentary, EU and PCC elections, and even at the same election as anyone who witnesses the bizarre vote splitting in multi-member wards will testify.

In this climate, we must be smarter and more accurate. Understanding a voters’ second preference is probably just as important as recording their first, and the ability to target nuanced GOTV messages to different groups is now vital in delivering victory in marginal council wards.

At West Kent Towers we are now working on our targeted GOTV material for delivery during polling week. For us, the days of a simple “Don’t forget to vote on Thursday” are long gone. In our target wards our teams will be delivering at least seven versions of GOPTV material


  • ·         Strong pledges who always vote
  • ·         Weak pledges who sometimes vote
  • ·         Conservative postal voters
  • ·         UKIP voters who would prefer a Conservative councillor to Labour or LD (Q voters)
  • ·         Labour pledges who prefer a Conservative to Lib Dem or UKIP (T voters)
  • ·         LD pledges who prefer Conservative to Labour or UKIP (M voters)
  • ·         Uncanvassed voters in target mosaic groups


For this to be effective however we must have the data in the first place, and this requires our doorstep and telephone teams to have the training and confidence to ask the right questions and enter the correct codes on the canvass sheets.

Other initiatives we are (or have been) working on include:

The time of day people vote: by time-stamping tellers sheets and recording this data, we can build up a picture of when people vote (morning, lunchtime, afternoon evening). This allows our teams to focus GOTV efforts where needed, for example not calling on evening voters in the morning releasing time to target those supporters who we need to turn out before dark.

*Variable paragraph pledge letters: by ensuring we ask the same questions by post, email, telephone and doorstep we are able to build a database of the main issues which concern individual voters. This information is then recorded and used to produce personalised letters from the candidate dealing specifically with the issues voters have told us concern them.

*Street-specific newsletters: again, by recording specific issues which affect roads or groups of residents, we have been able to produce a generic newsletter with a tailored “lead story and headline” for each road or target group of residents.

*So far we have only had the resources to do this for by-elections, but where we have the impact has been very considerable.

Data is key to almost everything we do. Knowing which voters will never consider voting Conservative (or who will vote for whichever party is best placed to defeat us) is just as important as knowing who we need to target. I will always remember Britain’s longest serving Council Leader, the late Mark Worrall OBE, telling me “the first step to winning an election is not to do anything which sufficiently irritates your opponents to motivate them to go out and vote against you.” And there is nothing more likely to motivate a laissez faire Labour voter than having a constant stream of Conservative literature landing on his or her doormat. It is for this reason I don’t like window posters, street stalls and loud speaker cars; they are indiscriminate in their audience and thereby reduce our advantage.

And after the dust has settled, good quality data is the gift that keeps on giving.


  • ·         Overlaying the pledge base with the marked register, you can identify pledges who did not vote and use peacetime to sign them up for a postal vote.

  • ·         Identifying your strongest and most consistent pledges you have a pool of support in which you can fish for helpers, activists, members and even future local government candidates

  • ·         Each year you can target one or two well canvassed wards and send every pledge a book of Christmas draw tickets; the response rate may only be 5% but the exercise covers costs and provides an easy gateway to build your donor base for the future.

All of this however relies of good quality data and that means we have to spend time and effort explaining to our volunteers why accurate data really matters and providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to ask the right questions and in the right way.