Increasingly however I am an "Agony Aunt" for members and supporters for all across the country - someone to turn to for advice (or to express their frustrations). All too often these emails are about the inability of our local Associations to respond to people in a timely, welcoming way - or too often to even reply at all!
I would never use this blog to name and shame, so as always I have deleted anything which would identify either the author or the Association concerned, but here are couple of examples received this week. The first concerning a very strong Home Counties constituency with a majority of over 10,000
"Hi, I don't suppose you happen to know if the (Association) is DOA do you? I have been emailing for over a week asking for a membership form, and they don't reply. If you would poke them please - either they're not reading their email or the email is being lost to the ether. Neither of these is good. I appreciate that they belong to another region, but it was your blog that finally prompted me to at least enquire about membership - and since you appear to care about the membership as a group, I didn't think you'd mind too much."
After diplomatic enquiries via CCHQ it transpires this this Association has recently "lost" their Organising Secretary, not appointed a new one, and no-one is willing to go into the office to clear messages or read emails. It was suggested that I pass my correspondent details of the Association Chairman's private email address, which I have done.
How about this one, from another safe Conservative seat in the East Midlands
"You don't know me, but I find your blog inspirational. I joined the Party in 2009 as I wanted to help change the government and was inspired by David Cameron's leadership. My local office happily took my membership money (though it took them 14 weeks to bank my cheque). I didn't even receive a membership card or acknowledgement - though they managed to remember my address three times a year for financial appeals. My emails requesting details of events and campaigning activities were simply ignored. The one event I did manage to attend resulted in me being left standing in a corner, no-one spoke to me, introduced me to others or even thanked me for attending. I emailed my councillor during the local election to offer help and was asked to join a canvassing team. Nervously I turned up at the appointed time and place but there was no-one there. I waited 30 minutes then went home. When I enquired my councillor told me that he had changed his mind as something else had cropped up. It would have been nice if he had called or emailed to inform me. I finally gave up on the lot of them. It was clear all they wanted was my money, I felt they didn't even want my presence at their events as I was an intruder in their private club. In the end I walked away. I am still an enthusiastic Conservative, and I accept this might be a local case of bad leadership, but I must ask why, in a safe seat with a high status MP, this inefficiency and rudeness is allowed to go unchallenged. I would like to help the Conservative Party but I am not willing to donate locally. Can I join your Association in Kent? I won't be able to help, but at least my small donation will be doing some good for the Party and I know it will be spent well."
I have suggested to this chap that he signs-up for Campaign 2015 and helps with phone canvassing from home for a marginal seat, and asked his permission to forward his email to the MP and local Regional Chairman (I wouldn't do so without his authority). And within 24 hours of receiving his email, he was enrolled (by credit card over the phone) as a "out of area" member of Chatham & Aylesford - where his financial contribution is welcomed and will indeed be put to good use in helping ensure Tracey Crouch is re-elected in 2015!
Sadly the above are just two of many examples - and they make my blood boil. I probably receive 10 similar emails every month. Too many Associations complain about our decline in membership, blaming the leadership, CCHQ, Merlin - anyone but themselves, where too often the blame really lies.