Thursday, 10 October 2013
Another day in the life of a constituency agent
Finally home (just after midnight) after a 17 hour day, which included meetings in all four West Kent constituencies. Steve had lit a log fire to welcome me home, and I could smell the wood smoke as I walked along the pontoon. I love the deep, mellow heat of a burning logs on a bitterly cold night.
The day started with a breakfast meeting in Maidstone, followed by Chatham & Aylesford's Management Committee, which was dominated by the President complaining that councillors didn't help with the washing-up at fundraising events, and the councillors complaining that they had to balance their civic duty against the needs of the Association and no-one understood the pressure they were under. I drifted off into a sleep deprived trance, wondering how an Association which has never once fallen out over equal marriage, Europe or immigration could be at each other's throats over dish mops and soap suds. I sat, slumped, in my chair, one of eleven people crammed around a dining table for six, wedged between the Chairman's bright red corduroy trousers and a tea trolley. My eyes fixed on a bag of Morrison's hyper-value mini Cornish Pasties. "I've said all I'm going to say on the subject", said the President, then added, "but let me just add this..." and off they went again. "Well how else might we raise funds to fight the election?" someone asked. "A sponsored silence might be a good start", I replied.
From there it was a quick dash back to the office, via a takeaway in Walderslade, where I negotiated a good price for 70 portions of fish and chips for the Association' Race Night. Once back at West Kent Towers I found Jon juggling a small army of volunteers; three were franking, bundling and sacking 20,000 envelopes (invitations to the Open Primary), two ladies were packing more envelopes, someone was running the risograph and two more were in the attic on the folding machines. "What's being printed?" I enquired. "Leybourne's newsletter." "Oh, who designed that?" "I did, on Tuesday, whilst you were at CCHQ", said Jon. "Did I sign it off?" I asked. "No, I decided that if you saw it you'd start rewriting it, and given it was perfectly good as it was I decided to print it without you." I smiled broadly; two years ago Jon wouldn't have said boo to a goose, now he's not only running the day to day administration of the office, but is writing, designing and producing newsletters just as good, if not better, than me. He's really done well - and I told him so!
Next up was a briefing note for the Chairman of the Local Government Committee on local candidate reselections, emails to our PPCs confirming details of their assessment day and interview, a quick chat with former ITN newsreader Sandy Gall about his dietary requirements and finally a bizarre conversation with lady in an overseas call centre who wanted to sell me low cost Fairtrade decaffeinated coffee for our 'staff room'.
Against a cacophony of franking, printing, folding and babble, I finished my presentation on local government polling data for tonight's meeting of the TW Borough Council Conservative Group, then headed off for a meeting with the AV Technician to talk about the Open Primary. AV Technicians are akin to car mechanics and financial consultants; they all insist on telling you the most tedious technical details, when all you want to know is "will it work and how much will it cost".
Finally it was to TW Town Hall to meet the Conservative Group, but not before I sat through a presentation on a new project, the success of which was clearly defined by how much LGO speak could be used throughout the presentation. During the "Service Offering Synopsis" we were told about it being "an attractive end-to-end space offering multi faceted access". Apparently it's going to be "an integrated hub focussed on end user interface" and there will be "linkage through a shared-space where users interface with the offer via wet and dry environments."
This reminds me of a council leader who called me in as he had thought-up a brilliant slogan on which to fight the campaign. He proudly unveiled his handiwork. "DASHBOARD TOWARDS OUTCOMES". I wonder how long you need to be in local government before all these words and phrases start to make sense?