Thursday, 28 January 2016

What a load of balls!

If your Association Office has sold-out of numbers for your original 500 Club draw and decide to open a second 500 Club for all the people on the waiting list, here's some advice. Ensure your second set of numbers don't accidentally get "mixed-up" with the original numbers, because if you do, you will end up with duplicated numbers and you won't have a clue who has won. Fortunately the error was spotted before the next draw!

You will then need to sweet talk a good-natured volunteer into doing this..., sorting through 600 orange balls and picking out the 100 duplicates. 

Or, as Gill (the lady above) said, "When I arrived at the office today, the last thing I thought I would be doing is playing with the agent's balls."  Quite!

Meanwhile, elsewhere at West Kent Towers today, a fabulous team of 17 volunteers working in shifts managed to pack four Association's worth of AGM notifications...

My thanks to Jane and James Scholes, Sue Nuttall, David and Catherine Adams, Jeff and Brenda Tree, Gill Levine, Glynis Coates, Owen and Chris Baldock, Keith Ferris, Joseph Mamo, Margaret Thompson, Thelma Huggett, Vivian Branson and Janet Sergison. 

....and commence work packing 5,300 fighting fund letters for the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Campaign. 

Then finally, a meeting with Kent County Council Conservative Group to sign-off the biggest direct mail campaign we have ever managed at West Kent. 100,000 letters to Conservative pledges encouraging them to sign-up for a postal vote.

Not a bad day's work!  

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Dr John Hayward - A round peg in a round hole

People join political parties for many reasons; personal identity, to campaign for (or against) something, to support their beliefs financially, to bring about change, to seek elected office for themselves, to expand their social circle - and some to debate and help shape policy. 

Whilst each brings value and attracts different people we must remember that everything we do should be directed towards the single goal of winning elections. 

Like many campaigners I am often frustrated by those who think that sitting around and "talking about it" is a replacement for talking to voters on the doorsteps. This is not to say that many involved in our Policy Forums do not pull their weight as campaigners, but it is fair to say (at least in West Kent) that few of those whose names come up most regularly in the discussion group minutes are regularly seen tramping the streets at election time. For me, the nadir came several years ago during a fiercely contested by-election fought in the bleak winter snow. As I accompanied the local Chairman and MP around the streets for a final 8pm "Knock-up" we saw through the windows of the local Constitutional Club around 20 of our members talking about the latest CPF Policy Brief. I popped in to appeal for help, only to be castigated by the chairman (herself a councillor) for not attending her discussion and stopping the MP and Chairman from attending too!  Apparently she did not see why her meeting should have been cancelled or postponed as it was "in the diary before the by-election was called."  I suspect the bluntness of my response was not appreciated, but at least it has saved us both the cost of sending each other a Christmas card ever since. 

I was therefore delighted to hear that my good friend Dr John Hayward has just been appointed as Conservative Policy Forum (CCF) Manager by CCHQ and will be working alongside Hannah David to relaunch the Forum and make it more relevant.

I first met John 12 years ago when he and his family moved to Tonbridge. John is one of the most intellectually astute people I have ever met, but despite having a first-class academic brain he is also a grafter. He made it his personal mission to win the last remaining Labour council seat in Tonbridge and worked tirelessly with our local candidate to do so. John's intellectual capacity and ability to solve the most complex political and mathematical questions continues to astound me. I once needed a macro which would divide households based on gender and household size and he created one in 20 minutes, which worked perfectly. To my shame I must admit that I did not understand the explanation of how it worked let alone how it did actually worked!

John's enquiring mind, together with his evidence-based research background, will make him the ideal person to promote the policy debate. But, just as importantly, he will approach this task as a long-term Party activist who both understands the Voluntary Party and the role it should play. If there was ever an appointment which could be considered a round peg in a round hole, this is it. 

I wish John and Hannah David every success, and in doing so send a message about how I feel the CPF could be improved. I hope it can be used as a vehicle to reach out beyond the Conservative Party, to involve all those who share our broad vision, but are not necessarily paid-up members. By this I mean using CPF to involve churches, youth groups, small businesses, carers and the hundreds if not thousands of organisations which keep the wheels of civic society turning, rather than just as a talking-shop where we sit around in draughty halls talking to each other.

If they achieve that then CPF will become a very valuable tool in not only redefining and developing policy but also expanding our intellectual base.

The night Steve Bell and I were outed by Boris

News of Boris Johnson’s imminent visit to West Kent reminded me of the first time the Mayor and I met.

It was the 2011 Party Conference in Manchester. Discussions about the boundary review were in full flow and there was concern that a number of people in Kent held “unhelpful” positions which may have resulted in conflicting submissions to the Boundary Commission. 

It was suggested that I got together with Steve Bell (then South-East Regional Chairman) and the two CCHQ apparatchiks responsible, but, as ever, finding a time when all four were free during Conference week was proving difficult.

Monday night, however, we all found ourselves at the Regional Reception at the Midland Hotel. Trying to have a confidential chat in a room of 2,000 people was proving difficult, due to constant well-intentioned interruptions. I opened a near-by door to see if it led to somewhere quieter; it did. It was an unlit utility room stacked high with banqueting chairs, mop-buckets and all the detritus that hotel management want to keep hidden from their guests. Quietly we slipped inside and continued our discussions in the pitch-black – with the chinking of glasses, and the guffawing of inebriated representatives just a few feet away.

Suddenly we heard the great man being introduced – so we concluded our discussions and attempted to slip back into the room, hopefully unnoticed. What we didn’t anticipate was that the microphone at which Boris was speaking had been placed 3-foot from the door from which we were emerging. Our hopes of a clandestine withdrawal were completely scuppered as we saw the entire room staring in amusement at four red-faced men shuffling out of the darkness and blinking in the light.

A bad situation, however, was going to get worse.

For Boris spotted the open goal, and couldn’t resist scoring. “Come on, chaps! Come out of the closet, and get a drink!”.

And that, dear readers, is the story of the only night that Steve Bell and Andrew Kennedy were found in the closet!

Friday, 22 January 2016

It's Boris!

On Monday 4 April Boris Johnson will be our very special guest at our next An Audience with.....  

He will be interviewed on stage by Tom Tugendhat MP at the E M Forster Theatre at Tonbridge School. Tickets for this event will sell fast, so we have tonight sent a special invitation for priority tickets to the 140 members who have supported our previous An Audience with..... events. It's only fair that those who have supported these events from their inception are given a chance to book before the madding crowds. 

West Kent will be donating 50% of the tickets proceeds to the Zac Goldsmith Campaign Appeal. 

West Kent 500 Club Monthly Newsletter

Thursday, 21 January 2016

That's an awful lot of balls

Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clark, called into West Kent Towers this evening to attend a local election strategy meeting with our super team of TW council candidates. Whilst there (and in front of a small audience) we invited Greg to draw the February 500 Club winner - which was ball 222, owned by Tonbridge & Malling Treasurer, Alan Bristow.  Congratulations Alan - the cheque's in the post!

Maria Caulfield MP to speak at Tunbridge Wells Annual Dinner

Tunbridge Wells Conservatives are delighted to be welcoming Maria Caulfield MP (Lewes) as Guest of Honour at the Association's Annual Dinner. This will be held on Friday 8 April 2016 at the High Rocks in Tunbridge Wells. 

Tickets are £32.50 if purchased before 29 February 2015 or £35.00 thereafter. This is for a three course meal including coffee. Reception drinks (cash bar) from 7.30pm with dinner served at 8pm. There will be an auction and a raffle. 

To reserve tickets please send a cheque (payable to TWCA) to West Kent Campaign HQ, Suite 3, Paddock Wood Business Centre, Commercial Road, Paddock Wood TN12 6EN. Alternatively, the fastest and simplest way to book is online using a credit/debit card or PayPal by clicking below.  Please note online bookings include a £1 fee to cover costs and interest charges. 

How many tickets

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Here we go again..... !

Canvassing cards hot of the press, boxes of SYWO cards arriving from the printer...

We must be heading towards local elections!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Spending other people's money!

All local government, regardless of which party is in control, is living through difficult times. Reductions in central grant, tax increases capped at 1.99%, increased demand on services and the constant demand to do "more for less" all take their toll.

I was disappointed to hear from a friend that at the recent annual finance meeting of a local council, with councillors going through expenditure on a line by line basis, few objections were raised to any of the proposed increases in charges, but my colleague's suggestion to show solidarity with hard-pressed taxpayers by proposing the abolition of the council's £7,000 per annum "civic hospitality" budget caused uproar. One councillor even suggested that he had no right to such an opinion as he hadn't been on the council long enough to hold such an impertinent view. In fact, such was the anger and opprobrium pouring down on my colleagues (from his so-called political friends) that four other councillors (a quarter of those present) emailed him afterwards to apologise for their colleagues' behaviour and rudeness. 

In these circumstances I compare the actions of the council with our own prudence at West Kent Conservatives. Both organisations take money from others and spend it on their behalf (though in the case of West Kent people have a choice, in paying their local Council Tax they don't). Jon and I always buy the tea and coffee personally and we even paid our own way at the Office Volunteers' Christmas Lunch. If we host a reception here (for candidates or helpers) we raise sponsorship for the food and drink.  Neither of us claim travel expenses and whenever we attend branch or Association events we always pay full price for our ticket and pay our way when we get there with the raffle. 

I accept in the grand scheme of things £7,000 is not a lot of money, but when councillors vote to increase car parking charges, reduce services and freeze staff wages,spending the combined Council Tax of 44 families on prawn vol au vents and White Burgundy is not setting a very good example.