Saturday, 27 April 2013

Not a bad day for a Party "in decline"

There were almost 80 Conservative campaigners on the streets of Chatham & Aylesford, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells today, and that does not include all individual members and supporters delivering leaflets. Not bad for a Party which the media like to portray as 'in decline'.

From left: Mike Parry-Waller, Russ Taylor, Matthew Dickins, Chris Philp, Andrew Mackness, Victoria Atkins, Jacques Arnold, Peter Homewood, Richard Ashworth MEP, Nick Brice, Sarah Hohler, Jonathan Galbraith, Sophie Shrubsole, Craig Mackinlay, Alan Mak, Anne Moloney, Steven King, Alice Hohler, Dave Davis and Michael Payne (I took the photograph). 

Our campaign teams included:
  • Richard Ashworth MEP leading a team of 26 in Leybourne
  • Greg Clark MP leading a team of 10 in Southborough
  • Sir John Stanley MP leading a team of 6 in Offham
  • Tracey Crouch leading a team of 6 in Snodland
  • Jacques Arnold leading a team of 10 in West Malling
  • A further 18 in Tonbridge and Hadlow 
From left: William Rutherford (TW Chairman), David Elliott, Julia Soyke, Peter Oakford, David Scott,
Greg Clark MP, Nicholas Rogers, Nasir Jamil, Dave Street and Colin Bothwell (taking the photograph).

I have always liked organising large groups to campaign. There is not only strength in numbers, but mutual support and camaraderie, too. There is little worse than turning up to help, especially in an area you don't know, to be handed a canvassing card and sent out to face the voters alone.
Whenever we have a large team canvass, we endeavour to pair visitors with locals, to ensure each group has someone familiar with the area and understands the local issues. And we try to arrange hospitality at the end of the campaigning. Today, we all re-grouped in The Old Rectory in Leybourne, where I had arranged for a comfortable corner to be sectioned off for our private use, with platters of sandwiches and a modest sum behind the bar for coffee and drinks. If 26 people have given up their Saturday morning to help, the least the Association can do is buy them a coffee and a sandwich, and allow people time to chat and socialise.
Richard Ashworth MEP joined us today, and had driven from his home in Surrey. I am sure there are 101 things he (and the rest of the team) would prefer to have been doing on a Saturday morning.  He made the point of saying how good it was to be in a large team and was appreciative that we had made the effort to thank people afterwards. He said that in so many areas he would turn up to meet the local people on a street corner, often to be given a canvassing card without so much as a map or a briefing note, and  told to drop the completed card through someone's letterbox at the end, without even a cup of tea or a word of thanks!  At times, he might have driven two hours to be there and then face a two hour drive home again afterwards, so I can fully understand how he feels when he said, "I often wonder why I bothered".
Having been on the receiving end myself, I know just how he feels - and that's why we always try hard to say thank you and encourage people to come again.  Perhaps that's why, on a chilly Saturday in a difficult mid term campaign, we can muster eighty people to tramp the streets on our behalf!

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