Sunday, 29 September 2013

Time to burst the (speech) bubble

Ten years ago when, as constituency Chairman, I ran a Parliamentary Selection, there were none to be seen.  Five years ago, when we selected Tracey Crouch for Chatham & Aylesford, there were a few. Now 30% of CVs have them. And just like overused exclamation marks, they sadly do little to enhance a narrative, and may even irritate the reader.

Here is what Lynne Truss wrote about the exclamation mark,
"In the family of punctuation where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the
semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big
attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."
And many might say the same about the speech bubble. In fact, there are now so many of them, and they are all placed at the same point on the page (i.e., the first one 4 inches down on the right, the second one 3 inches below the first on the left) that it cannot be a co-incidence. I suspect that some well-meaning "consultant" is charging candidates a small fortune to advise them on how to make their CV "stand out from the crowd" with exactly the opposite effect.
The other risk applicants take when including endorsements and speech bubbles is the very high chance that one of the Sift Committee might dislike or distrust one of the endorsers, and hold it against you; and that risk is multiplied the more endorsers you have. Many CVs have as many as six.  And then there is the understandable question about whether the fact that Alan B'Stard MP thinks you "worked very hard" is a real reason to consider you as a potential Parliamentarian?   I suspect many members of a Sift Committee would consider such second-hand views as totally irrelevant.
Then we have the downright amusing; the cases where two or mor CVs carry exactly the same quote from the same MP; "(insert name) is the best campaigner I have ever met". Really? Can they both be the best campaigner ever met?
Finally the best example of all. Following the recent County elections I wrote, as I always do, to every volunteer and activist thanking them for their work.  Our target seat, Malling North, was one we could have lost to Labour, but in the end we held by over 700 votes. Our much larger than anticipated majority was down to our outstanding incumbent County Member, Sarah Hohler, who worked tirelessly, alongside an army of outside volunteers who we directed in to support her campaign.  My thank you letter included the following line,

"Sarah's majority of 750 was down in no small part to a army of willing volunteers, who put personal interests aside to campaign where it really mattered most. I am grateful for your hard work and support, and for helping deliver an outstanding victory in a seat Labour really needed to win."

This generic, if accurate, statement has re-appeared on one applicants CV as follows:

"Sarah's victory was down in no small part to you.
Thank you for putting your personal interests aside to help us defeat Labour."
I am happy to acknowledge that the above selective quote has not materially changed what I originally wrote. However, I don't think anyone who read the original email could be in any doubt that it has been taken out of context. Such a willingness to "adapt the actuality" would lead me to question the validity of many other such quotes too. Would an MP, turning to an activists after a tough by-election and saying, "well done, you have worked harder than anyone for this result" subsequently turn up on a CV as "You are the hardest working activist". I suspect in many cases, this is exactly what happens!
All of the above, of course, is a personal view and not one necessarily shared by those making the selections (so if you have used speech bubbles, please don't despair!) However, I cannot help but think that, along with clip art and comic sans, they really have had their day!

No comments:

Post a Comment