I started writing this blog to entertain, vent, share good ideas and blow my trumpet. A year later, with over 450 posts and 140,000 visitors, I think I have done just that.
I try through these pages to provide a mix of best practice, gossip, examples of our work and commentaries on the more absurd aspects of my job. So, with little fresh political news this week, here are a few of my personal favourite/best read posts from my first 12 months as a blogger.
Thank you for reading, for your comments (public and private) and, most important of all, to those readers whom I know personally, thank you for your forbearance and, in so many cases, your friendship. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and send my best wishes for a healthy, happy and successful 2014.
February - LESSON FROM EASTLEIGH
The Eastleigh by-election filled me with rage. Not at the fact we lost or even came third behind UKIP- that's democracy, but that we shouldn't have lost. This post, more than any other, established this blog in the political village; it was picked up by the Sunday Times and reproduced almost verbatim as part of their by-election analysis. Nearly 20,000 people visited as a consequence. Addressing the demise of the voluntary party, and challenging the myth that all we can do is "manage decline" are the two issues which motivate me most.
April - YOU CANNOT MOURN MAGGIE WITH A HIPPOPOTAMUS TIE
One of my favourite kinds of post to write (and judging by your reaction, your favourite to read) are the "parliamentary sketch" style reviews of the more absurd aspects of my job. I don't like to do these too often, as they can be a bit sarcastic - but at times the things that happen are so surreal and farcical, comedy is the only suitable narrative. This is a prime example; it features Tunbridge Wells Conservative Ladies, Danny La Rue's dressmaker, a semi-retired Drag Queen and me racing against the clock to find a black tie to mourn Mrs Thatcher. Joe Orton couldn't have made it up.
May - A TWO-PART REVIEW OF THE DAY WE WENT TO LAKESIDE
Morning Session: A DAY OF MY LIFE I SHALL NEVER SEE AGAIN
Afternoon Session: I KNOW IT'S UNCONVENTIONAL BUT I HAVE TO MAKE A POINT
No blog post has ever struck such a cord with the people who were there more than this one. My two-part review on the South East Region European Selection Contest perfectly captures the absurdity of 100+ people wasting a day of their lives, sitting amongst the Cha Cha Cha trophies to select candidates for a parliament few of us believe in.
June - THE LIFE CYCLE OF A LOCAL PARLIAMENTARY ASPIRANT
The overwhelming majority of our members and donors give money to support our work, but apart from casting their vote at election time, most do little else. Their money makes a valuable contribution, and without their financial support we wouldn't survive. A smaller number not only pay money, but work their fingers to the bone on the party's behalf. They are worth their weight in gold. Sadly, there is a small minority, and we really are talking about a very small minority, who have absolutely no interest or commitment to the party other than using it to further their own ambitions. I have absolutely no time for these people, and I didn't hold back when they started jostling for position in our parliamentary selection. A few read my blog and took "great offence". The fact is, they clearly recognised themselves from what I had written, which somewhat proves my point.
July - ANDREW KENNEDY'S BLOOMERS AND OUT-TAKES
Evidence that I am not perfect!
July - PLACARD WAVING SOCIALISTS PICKET TORY TEA
"Tories drink Champagne whilst the people of Medway starve". We've never had a Strawberry Tea picketed before!
July - THE CASE FOR OPEN PRIMARIES
Long before the Tonbridge & Malling Association turned its attention to the Parliamentary selection, I set-out the case for open primaries, and received overwhelming support from the T&M Members. The rest is history.
August - KEEPING MY OWN BLACK DOG ON A LEAD
After months of drafts which I never had the courage to publish, I finally hit the "send" button and put into the public domain my own battles with stress and anxiety, which has seriously affected my health and wellbeing in 2008 (though thankfully, not since). Publishing my story (with the support of my partner Steve and also the MPs I work for) was partly cathartic but mainly to help the many people who, like me, have spent too long suffering in silence, afraid to seek help in case it ruins their careers. The response was overwhelming. Thousands read the post and hundreds wrote or emailed to thank me for speaking out, including many people I knew well who I would never have guessed were living with depression and anxiety, as I had been. As a consequence of publishing this post, I was asked to address conferences and write further pieces about my own experiences. I declined all such offers; I had achieved what I wanted to achieve - I didn't want to become a cause celebre nor did I want the issue to define me. I remain humbled by the response and yes - a little bit proud that I found the courage to speak publically and in doing so bring help and comfort to others.
September - TWO POSTS FROM MACHESTER DURING PARTY CONFERENCE
Overheard in the main conference hall: 'ERE GLADYS, WHAT DOES THE BME MEAN?
During the Education debate: I HAVE NEVER BEEN PROUDER TO BE A CONSERVATIVE
October - GIVERS AND RECEIVERS, ALL FOR GOOD OF THE CAUSE!
A surreal evening at CCHQ - nobody knew which way to turn.
November - THE DAY WE LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE
We really did let the people decide. The people choose well! A photo-diary of events at the Tonbridge & Malling Open Primary (with thanks to our photographer, Matthew Plummer)
November - THE SUNDAY 3 NOVEMBER BLOGPOST I WAS ITCHING TO WRITE
In the months leading-up to the Open Primary, I read and heard enough ill-informed crap to last me a lifetime, usually posted on Con Home and elsewhere by people who think elections are won from behind a laptop. Unusually for me I forced myself to stay above the fray as I didn't want a to let a row spoil what was our big event. Until Sunday 3 November when I told a few home truths!
December - OLIGARCHS AND IDEOLOGY
Life at the coalface was not as glamorous as the son of a Russian Oligarch had hoped!