It's been a tough week; one of those weeks when I returned home late each night and wondered what, if anything, I had achieved. Now it's over, I can look back and appreciate we did quite a lot, but each day has been a slog, with very little light and shade.
I have been to two long Executive Council meetings, one as the constituency agent the other as a guest speaker. The first was Tunbridge Wells, where he main item on the agenda was the West Kent Group / Campaign Centre and the other Faversham and Mid Kent. The discussion at TW was long and thoughtful - over two hours. Most people in the room contributed and made very good points. Some of the contributions were based on genuine misunderstandings, others on suspicion or apprehension of the unknown. Many people raised genuine concerns or points which require further investigation and will probably lead to changes before the final agreements are signed. The discussion, however, brought home to me that politics is a human business and the decisions we take affect people differently and often in an emotional rather than simply rational ways. As a "functionary" who is ultimately driven by statistics, I do tend to base my judgements on purely rationalist analysis; too often forgetting that for most people a degree of empiricism shapes their judgements, even if subconsciously.
Another example of the above is an election - which ultimately are the reason we are here. Whenever a politician approaches an election they immediately start thinking about language, policy and messages; where my attention is on previous ballot box analysis, pledge targets and differential turnout. Perhaps this is why so few politicians are good agents and so few agents make good politicians; the skills are totally different and are seldom transferable. Politicians are, by nature, emotionally involved with the people they represent and the issues which affect their lives. For me, an election is about outcomes; how many pledges do we need to win; what percentage of those pledges need to vote and how we can maximise differential turnout. The real skill for all those involved is for each to recognise and respect the skills of the other.
This week Tom Tugendhat provided dates for the first two events to allow members and donors an opportunity to meet and get to know each other. These are (with more to follow) a Cheese & Wine evening at Tonbridge Castle and Champagne, Carols & Canapés at Shipbourne. The Cheese & Wine event represented a significant breakthrough for us, too. This is the first event which we have advertised solely via our "social events" database - and sold all the tickets online, with payments by credit or debit card. Advertising the event and taking payments electronically has probably saved us £100 in printing and postage.
The 2013 Christmas Draw is nearing its close - and this week saw "reminder letters" being sent to none responders. TW and T&M are both running behind where they normally are at this stage, which is hardly surprising as both Associations had late Autumn Appeals to help finance significant capital projects. Maidstone, which is following the West Kent Draw Best Practice for the first time, are already 50% up on 2012, and C&A are storming ahead with their best ever response.
On Wednesday we took delivery of our latest Tunbridge Wells constituency--wide newsletter, with a common reverse and individual ward-specific fronts. The immediate response has been overwhelmingly positive. We also designed and printed two local newsletters for C&A wards - so 16 wards are delivering newsletters this week! And tomorrow (Saturday) we have our usual doorstep campaign teams working in Southborough and Chatham.
Today, however, brought confirmation of the news I have been anticipating for a few weeks. One of our long-serving councillors has stepped down due to ill health. David Evans has represented Borough Green and Long Mill ward on Tonbridge & Malling Council for over 20 years. He has been in poor health for some time, but his condition has recently worsened and he was finding it a struggle to attend meetings and get out and about in his ward. Rather than hanging-on doing the minimum, he has decided to stand down; a brave and selfless thing to do given how much he enjoyed being a councillor and his deep commitment to public service. We all wish David the very best for the future. A by-election is always hard work, and one fought over Christmas is harder than most - but like an old warhorse, I can smell the gunpowder and I am already chomping at the bit.
So apart from tomorrow's Race Night to raise money for Team Crouch - that's it from West Kent Towers!