Thursday, 24 July 2014

Staplehurst By Election

Tonight we lost the Staplehurst (Maidstone Borough Council) by-election to the LibDems by a majority of six votes.

Conservative 603 36%
Lib Dem 609 36%
UKIP 311 19%
Labour 117 7%
Green 41 2%

Over the last few years I have helped win by-elections by margins of 2 votes, 4 votes and 5 votes. Tonight we lost by 6 votes. I am happy to claim my share of the credit when we have won, and I am big and ugly enough to take my share of responsibility when we don't. Losing elections is part of the majesty of the democratic process and thank goodness for it.

One of the team asked me tonight "what went wrong?"  I never blame the voters (they are totally free to vote however they see fit). I don't blame the opposition - they, like me, fight like tigers for what they believe in, and have every right to do so.  Nor (unlike quite a few in my Party) do I blame UKIP for allegedly "splitting our vote" - we don't own our supporters or have a right to their loyalty.

Tonight, however, there is someone to blame. the ward's former Conservative councillor who resigned from the council within a week of the 22 May election and caused the vacancy. Why did he resign?  Because he wasn't given a sufficiently important job by the new Conservative Group leader in her administration. Not only that, he compounded matters by giving a "no holds barred" interview to the local paper, confirming his reasons for going. In taking this course of action he betrayed his council colleagues, he betrayed the Conservative Party and he betrayed the residents of his ward. Some might not like me for writing this, but his behaviour was deplorable and in my opinoon he should be booted out for bringing the Party into disrepute.

Our candidate today, Louise Brice, was a true star who could not have worked harder. I was proud to be her agent and get to know her over the last 5 weeks. I hope she stands again and wins the seat back in 2015.

It is ironic that the Conservative vote went up by 3% compared with 22 May (despite the cause of the by-election). Sadly the LibDems managed to establish themselves as the main challenge and pipped us at the post. That's life!

Congratulations to Staplehurst's new LibDem councillor, Paulina Watson.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nice Tweet from East Worthing and Shoreham Association

Nice to be able to help, and very generous of East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative Association to Tweet appreciation!  Their Agent, Daniel Humphreys, is a great guy!

A Tale of Two Tories

Jon Botten and Matt Boughton have spent the afternoon sorting out GOTV leaflets for tomorrow's by-election. The photograph below shows their respective piles of leaflets. 

Controlled Order 'v' Creative Chaos - which is which?
Here's the question - which pile was created by Matt and which by Jon?
(Answers in the comments please!)

Mr Cameron - BEWARE!

The phone rang this morning. It was Maude Harrington (obviously not her real name). 

"Oh hello, Dear. Maude Harrington calling.  I have received a very charming and correctly punctuated email from the Prime Minister informing me that the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham is the last chance to hear about our policies before the General Election. Mr Cameron indicated that I really should attend, if at all possible, and I was offered a discount."

Oh! Lovely. And would you like to attend?

"Me, dear?  I am 96 years of age!  And whilst the mind might be willing, sadly the body is weak. I really do think I am a bit passed it now!"

You would be very welcome to attend if you wanted to go, you don't have to go for the whole four days. 

"That's very kind, but I shall stay at home and watch it on television. The reason I am calling is that I would like to write back and thank the Prime Minister for his email and explain why I cannot attend, and I should like to know if I should write to dear Prime Minister or Dear Mr Cameron. What do you think is best?"

How did he address his email to you?

"Well, he addressed me as Dear Maude..."

In that case perhaps you should write to Dear Dave?

"I don't think so, Dear. I have never been formally introduced. I suspect it's a generational thing. Do you think people do call him Dave?"

There was a time when he told us to!

"Really? My goodness. Do you think Mr Macmillan went around telling people to call him Harry?"

I doubt it! Anyway, I suspect he won't mind if you call him Mr Cameron or Prime Minister. It's very good of you to show such consideration.

"Thank you for your time. By the way, when I do write, I am going to give him a piece of my mind about the Common Market!  And I am going to tell him that he should not have sacked Mr Gove either.... "

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Every picture tells a story

Google analytics not only tracks visitors to my blog, but also provides me with a list of search terms people type into Google before clicking through to a blog post. One of the most common is "sex shops in Aylesford", which came about after I posted a piece from The Sun showing the UKs busiest sex shops and the MPs who represent that area - Chatham and Aylesford was No 7!

Today, however, tells a very different story...

Somewhere out there is a poor activist, either staring at a canvassing card or trying to input onto Merlin, and he (or she) is stuck!  If you are reading this and you are still in need of help, do get in touch on at If I cannot help, I will put you in touch with someone who can!

D-288 and counting

Monday, 21 July 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Neighbourhood Quiz

The Office for National Statistics has posted this link, which enables readers to participate in a short quiz about "how well do you know your neighbourhood". See HERE.

The answers have been culled from the latest national census and are presented in a ward format - so not only a bit of fun, but also an ideal tool to test your local councillor about how well they know their community! 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Tom Tugendhat's Tonbridge & Malling New Activists Recruitment Campaign

On Wednesday I posted samples of the Chatham & Aylesford new helpers and activists recruitment campaign - HERE

On Friday I sent Tonbridge & Malling/Tom Tugendhat's campaign to the printer. Obviously the format is similar, but to provide readers with example of the different styles (incumbent MP compared with a Paliamentary Candidate) I have published Tom's letter and reply card below.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Quick on the Draw - 2014 record results for West Kent Associations !

Following just a modest improvement last year, 2014 has produced some outstanding results for the five West Kent Associations with regard to the Summer Draw. 

Thank you to all our members and donors for helping us achieve record results locally. And thank you to Philip Dumville and his team at NCDS for all the work they do (often without thanks, I suspect!) to help our Associations raise funds in this way!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Random (Thursday) Snippets from the life of an Agent

The office is like the Marie Celeste today. Jon Botten is at his girlfriend's graduation, Matt Boughton is away driving a Golf Buggy at the Royal Liverpool Open and even the young lady who is with us for work experience has not come in as she has a migraine. I have cleared my in tray (like clearing the freezer - amazing what I have found at the bottom) and written all those letters I keep "putting off" as I always have something better to do.  I hope the gentleman from Tonbridge who regularly writes in red ink on the lid of a Kentucky Fried Chicken box will be pleased to hear that I share his general opinions on Nick Clegg though I don't actually agree that he is a Chinese Communist spy.  

Last night was the Tonbridge and Malling Executive Council, and there was disharmony. Now I appreciate that a row at the Executive isn't a surprise for most Associations (and for many it's compulsory). But at T&M it's unheard off. The cause of the fracas? It was the Treasurer's Report. Our super efficient Treasurer not only shows year to date, but also shows year against budget and like for like comparisons for each of the last 6 years. His skills and patience are renowned and we all dread the day he retires. Had he been there last night he might have brought that date forward! The row was about the fact that in the historical figures for  2011 appeared twice. No-one cared about this year's figures - not a single question, but the debate about why 2011 appeared twice got a certain corner of the meeting quite agitated. At one point six people were speaking about it; often at the same time.  After they had blown themselves out, the Chairman announced the next item.... "shall we move on to item five..."

"Actually Mr Chairman, I've found another error.." said the man who resembles Statler from the Muppet Show.  He rummaged through his papers - "here - on page two..... I think Ladies' Luncheon Club should have the apostrophe after the S..."

I am always up at Item 6 (Agent's report) followed at 7 and 8 by the two Deputy Chairman. I take this quite seriously, and always put some effort into the content and tone of my report, keen to give members a taste of what is happening, what's to come and where we are politically. I admit my reports are usually quite thorough, but they pay my salary and they deserve their money's worth!  This, however, is very unfair on the two Deputy Chairman who have to follow me as at every single meeting for the last two years they look crestfallen as they each stand up and say "Well.... the agent has said everything I was going to say - so I won't table a report this time."   This must be incredibly frustrating for them, having spent hours writing a report about all their hard work, only to have the bloody paid help stealing their thunder. So I have emailed the Chairman to suggest that in future I go on after the two Deputy Chairmen, allowing them a clear stage for their reports. I can then simply mop-up on anything they might have missed. 

Ring ring...

AK: "Conservative Campaign Centre, how can I help?"
Woman: "My name is Mrs (x) and I have just moved into (very rural parish)..."
AK: "Yes..."
Woman: "And I want to know who my MP is as I wish to complain about the church bells."
AK: "What's the problem with them..."
Woman, "They keep ringing..."
AK: Yes, they do that, church bells.
Woman, "Well I want them turned off, I work from home and they are irritating." 
AK: "May I ask where in the village you live...?" 
Woman: (gives address on the High Street, three houses away from the church)
AK: "so let me get this straight, you've just bought a property in an historic village, three doors away from the church, and you are now wish to silence the church bells which have been ringing in that village since 1788?"  (I had Googled it!)
Woman: "If that's your attitude I'm not voting Conservative."

I suspect some people would like me to be a bit more sympathetic, but things like this really annoy me. Like people who buy houses by bus stops and complain about buses stopping outside their house, or buying a house on a main road and complaining about the traffic. It is the modern thing to show empathy, but I sometimes wonder if this is right. Often people are simply wrong and trying to find words to placate doesn't help, especially when a "sorry I don't agree with you" is by far the most honest and right thing to say.