Sunday, 28 December 2014

Twelve of the best from 2014

With little of significance occuring at the office during the Christmas and New Year holidays, here are my twelve favourite (though not necessarily the best read) blog posts of 2014. Please dip in and out if anything takes your fancy. Looking forward to getting back to blogging early in early January. For now, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and best wishes for a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year.


1 January 2014  
Celebrating multi-cultural Britain and all it offers.
I started the New Year with a theme to which I would regularly return throughout the year; why we should welcome immigration and cherish being part of a multi-cultural society. The twin-evils of racism and intolerance and the need to challenge and face down such prejudice is becoming increasingly important to me.

4 February 2014  
The day I exposed myself as a secret MOSSAD operative.

19 March 2014
Honoured to attend Politicos Political Book Awards.

I was genuinely honoured and excited to receive an invitation from Iain Dale to the Politicos Political Book of the Year Awards and here is my revue of the evening’s events

21 March 2014  
The case for abolishing the Electoral Commission.
Every so often I write something I think is a bit “geeky” only to find it goes viral and produces a massive response. My criticisms of the Electoral Commission being one such example, the article being read over 3,000 times and being linked-to by the Society of Electoral Administrators. Interestingly many local ROs took the trouble to write, email or phone to say “well said, we agree with you”.

3 May 2014  
“We must not allow ourselves to be defined by UKIPs narrative of Anger, Intolerance and Fear.”
With the European and Local Elections approaching I return to UKIPS narrative of intolerance and urge the modern Conservative Party to eschew the temptation of trying to out-UKIP UKIP.

15 May 2014  
Chasing votes in The Brighter Borough.
Supporting my friend Matthew Plummer’s election campaign with a slightly deranged woman from the ward next door, his hypo-glycaemic sister and a born again Christian.

Saturday 24 May
How we won the Battle for Tunbridge Wells.
On 22 May Tunbridge Wells bucked the national trend; a 7.5% swing against UKIP and an increase in Conservative councillors. Here’s how we did it.

Thursday 29 May  
“How Kent’s elite laughed at Craig Mackinlay’s simple messages. They’re not laughing now.”
After a disastrous year for Kent Police & Crime Commissioner Anne Barnes, I review Craig Mackinlay’s campaign themes and ask if Kent’s elite who baked Anne Barnes may be regretting their decision.

Sunday 29 June
“Before we can win their votes, we first have to change their hearts.”
The importance of understanding what motivates people to behave in certain ways and how we must change their hearts before we can win over the minds and their votes.

Wednesday 6 August
The importance of understanding the human cost of defeat at the ballot box.

Sunday 30 September  
“If we are serious about reforming or leaving the EU, 2017 might well be our last chance.”
How I fear UKIP are not only damaging the chance of a 2017 referendum, but are probably reducing the chance of winning one.

Sunday 30 November  
Our very own “Brief Encounter” on the 1201 from Paddock Wood.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas from all at West Kent Towers

May I wish you all a very Happy Christmas; thank you for reading, commenting and for all your messages and support over the last 12 months.

Andrew x

Monday, 22 December 2014

The wheels of democracy keep turning - even at Christmas time!

As regular readers will know we are always examining ways to widen the franchise and increase participation in the political process. I was therefore delighted when the revised Mandatory Selection Rules included reference to Associations being allowed to use "Open Primaries" for Local Government selections.  This came about following a lot of campaigning by me and many others, including Rob Semple who has long championed opening-up the process to wider participation. 

I believe Chatham & Aylesford were the first Association to run a full postal primary for a contested local selection in the newly created Aylesford North & Walderslade ward. See HERE. The activity was overtaken by events in Rochester & Strood, but I can confirm everything went ahead as planned, the ballot papers and information booklets were delivered to all local residents and over 7% participated in the process. A very satisfactory result which resulted in 350 people helping choose their local candidate. 

Today we counted the votes for our second "postal primary" for the Culverden ward in Tunbridge Wells constituency, where we had three outstanding applicants contesting a single vacancy following the retirement of the incumbent councillor. The photograph below shows Association Chairman William Rutherford and Deputy Chairman David Elliott "scrutinising" the opening of the envelopes. I now know how the poor staff must feel at the "count" with me staring over their shoulders!

Overall, a good outcome and a welcome change in the rules which, if adopted and promoted with enthusiasm, will dramatically increase participation and interest in the democratic process. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The right and honourable thing to do

There has been much in the news over the last few days about Rochester & Strood Conservative Association's decision to serve a County Court Summons on Mark Reckless and his Agent Chris Irvine over the cost of Conservative campaign literature authorised by them and printed 48 hours prior to his defection to UKIP, all of which had to be scrapped. See HERE and.HERE.

I was not aware of this action until I read about it in the Kent Messenger newspaper, and there was no reason that I should be. Although I live in Rochester and am a member of Rochester and Strood Association I am not an active member and don't serve on its Executive Council or Management Committee. This has not stopped a number of people seeking my view. 

There are two issues at stake here, and it is important not to confuse them. 

The first was his defection. Yes, like almost every other Conservative activist I know (and a significant number of local residents I met shared this view) I was angry about his defection and felt he had not behaved wholly honourably. However I am sufficiently long in the tooth not to take it personally, though had I been one of those people who had spent the last ten years working for his election, I might understandably have felt differently. Defections are political gold, and their timing is always handled with care. Over the years I have handled several defections (at a much lower level) and I have never given advanced notice as this spoils the surprise. In fact when Marta Andreasen defected from UKIP to the Conservatives two years ago I am sure the timing of that was handled by her Conservative minders with equal care. That's all part of the rough and tumble of politics. 

The issue here isn't his defection or the actions around it. As far as I can see it's something quite different. It is the legality of Mr Reckless and Mr Irvine spending money which was not theirs to spend, and in doing so defrauding the Conservative Association of use of that money for the purpose it was raised, especially as he would have known that money would have been used to campaign against him following his defection.

I have not read the writ nor am I an authority on such matters, but if it can be proved that at the time Mr Reckless (and his agent) authorised the expenditure they knew the timing of the defection and that the expenditure would be wasted, then I would hope a court would seriously consider they had acted unlawfully. At the very least the Association has every right to test the issue. 

There is however another, perhaps even more important, dimension. And that is one of honour. 

Mark Reckless knows the members of Rochester and Strood Conservative Association as well as anyone. He was part of the Association for 15 years. They first selected him pre 2001 and again in 2005 and continued to stand loyally behind him in 2010, in difficult circumstances. R&SCCA is not a naturally wealthy area and its success is due mainly to a loyal and dedicated band of voluntary workers who go above and beyond the call of duty for no personal gain. The money they raise does not come from big corporate donors, it comes from hundreds of small donations, raffles, suppers and garden parties, almost all of it from people on fixed retirement incomes who give willingly to keep a Conservative MP in Parliament. 

This issue reminds me of an incident in my own life from 20 years ago. I was a partner in a small business which sadly did not succeed. The business closed down with small but not insubstantial debts to suppliers and the landlord. There were three of us involved. One partner washed his hands and walked away and we never saw him again. I, having sunk my life savings into the business to help get it up and running, simply had nothing left.  The third partner, who had substantial family assets, ended up with the debts as we were a partnership and "jointly and severally liable".  Over the following two years in small lumps of £200 / £300 a month I repaid my share and I repaid 50% of the third partner's share too, as it was simply the right and honourable thing to do. 

IF Mark Reckless knew he was about to defect to UKIP when he signed off that expenditure, then regardless of the legal position, he too should consider what is the right and honourable thing for him to do.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A cast of thousands...

I am just back home having hosted the first of the series of Election Briefing Meetings I hold each year to bring all candidates and MPs up to speed with election plans and strategy.  Tonight's meeting was particularly large and lively as it was for candidates from Tonbridge & Malling and Chatham & Aylesford constituencies; and with "all out" elections in both areas we had a full room.

What always strikes me with this particular group is even after a prolonged period of electoral success, there is not an ounce of complacency. Despite being just a week before Christmas, every single candidate (apart from two who are out of the country and two who are unwell) attended as did Tracey Crouch MP and Tom Tugendhat.  

Tonight I once again saw a calm determination to put self interest aside and work as a team to win. Working alongside such selfless and dedicated people is one of the great privileges of being the West Kent Agent.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Scrooge comes to West Kent Towers

Group Treasurer Allan Sullivan brought the joy of Christmas to West Kent Towers today as he came in to start work on the annual accounts. Happy Christmas. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Setting out the facts on Local Government Selections

The West Kent Group covers (in whole or in part) six district councils and five "political" town councils. Of the six districts, two elect in thirds the other four are "all out". This has resulted in us having to identify, interview and select 124 district council candidates and a further 60 town council candidates. Simply managing 184 applications is a major undertaking, and we have followed due process to the letter in every case.  Apart from one or two exceptional circumstances (typically branch-run contested selections) we are now ahead of the game. Four Associations have completed the process and with the exception of one ward we will have a full slate in place by January.  My thanks go to the various Local Government Committees who have worked long hours to interview incumbent councillors and new applicants.

As with any selection process there were disappointed people. Some new applicants did not make it onto the Approved List for a whole variety of reasons, usually a lack of experience or complete misunderstanding about the role of a councillor. Almost without exception they were let down gently, encouraged to find out more and to re-apply next time. We have had a number of contested selections, which again resulted is disappointment for some. And yes, in two or three cases incumbent councillors were not re-approved. It is this last group who understandably are most vocal and angry.   

Now we are nearing the end of the process I thought it would be worth explaining in general terms how the system works and also slaying a few of the myths. 

Firstly the composition of the Local Government Committee. This is not some secret or self appointed clan. Its constitution and membership is laid down in the rules. Although there are small variations, Local Government Committees comprise the Officers of the Association (Chairman, two Deputy Chairmen and Treasurer - all of whom are elected by the membership). It also includes the Leader and other representatives of each local council in the Association area and additional lay members elected at the Association AGM. Election to the LGC is advertised openly within the AGM notice (sent to all members) and any member can seek nomination or nominate someone else to serve on it. It's an open and transparent process. 

But don't the people at the top of the Association decide who is elected?  Yes they can have influence, but in each Association the number of people nominated for the LGC was fewer than the number of spaces available. If any Officer (or indeed the Agent) wanted to stack the committee to promote a predetermined outcome, then leaving most of the positions unfilled is an odd way to achieve it. 

Who decides which councillors should be called in for interview? As part of the interview and assessment process a wide range of people are consulted by the Local Government Committee including the Council Group Leader (to comment on the contribution to the work of the Council), the Group Whip (who advises on attendance and discipline), the Association Chairman/Branch Chairman (regarding contribution to the life of the Association), the DC Political (who advises on campaigning) and the Agent (who confirms their Party membership and CCA subscriptions are up to date and have been paid throughout the term of office). For a councillor to be invited for interview at least three of the above people would have needed to raise a point of concern. No councillor would have been called-in for interview on the say-so of just one individual. 

The interview process was aggressive and like a "star chamber". Any interview where the perceived weaknesses of an applicant are being openly discussed is bound to be uncomfortable. For a candidate to be removed from the Approved List the decision of the LGC had to be unanimous. 

In conclusion: It must be incredibly distressing for any candidate to go through this process and the committee making these difficult decisions did not have a particularly nice time of it either. However, looking back, I have no doubt that the LGCs acted fairly in all their dealings and deliberations. 

One of the problems is too many councillors see themselves solely as elected representatives and forget their commitment and obligations to the Association and Party. In fairness, these obligations were set-out in the Candidates' Agreement which they all signed as part of their application and interview process in 2011.  A councillor is rightfully first and foremost a community champion, but they are also elected party politicians and members of a political movement which relies on the support of its members to retain its power and influence. Conservative councillors are elected using the Party's name, branding, organisation, expertise and resources. It is not unreasonable for the Party to expect something back in return. 

The Christmas Post

I run the risk of ruffling a few feathers, but I need to get this off my chest. 

The one thing during the Season of Goodwill which is guaranteed to raise my hackles is fending off "elected representatives" (at various levels) who expect their local Association to pay the postage for their Christmas cards. 

Each year I send over 1,000 Christmas cards, which I pay for personally. I wouldn't dream of asking my employers to foot the bill. The reason I pay is the same reason I always pay for tickets at branch and Association social events; the same reason I pay a subscription to each of my five local Associations (plus the one where I live), the same reason I always buy raffle tickets and never charge mileage when I attend functions.

Most of our most active, hard working and generous members are retired and on fixed incomes; I suspect many have less money than me. The thought of asking those people to work hard so the money they raise can be given to me to send them their own Christmas card is quite frankly a little bit absurd.

I appreciate it is a burden; hand writing and addressing 1,000 cards and buying 1,000 stamps is a burden for me, too. But it's the right and decent thing to do. 

How to lose friends and alienate people!

I have just been chatting on Facebook to a certain parliamentary candidate who shall remain nameless. I asked her about her new house; she has just picked up the keys and is starting to decorate tonight. . 

"Is it old or modern?" I enquired. By that I meant was it Victorian era or post war.

"Oh it's old" she said. "It was built in the 1960s". 

I quickly pointed out that I was born in the 1960s and do not consider myself old!

I hope she is very happy in her "old" house and this "old" agent looks forward to an invitation to the house warming party!

Bloody cheek.

Monday, 8 December 2014

18 months later..... the ripples are still lapping the banks

In the middle of last year I published a post about a few struggles I had been through 6 years earlier with anxiety. I won't rewrite the article again, but for those who might wish to read it, please see HERE. 

The feedback was truly amazing; literally hundreds of emails, letters and calls thanking me for telling my story., and in doing so making it easier for others. A small number of people kept in touch, and even now (16 months later) I still receive the odd email from those who were helped in some small way. 

Over the weekend I received the following email. Publishing my story was like throwing a pebble in a pool, but I never anticipated the ripples would be lapping the shoreline over a year later. It demonstrates how important it is for people who feel able to do so to tell their own story in their own way, as each human story breaks down the barriers and gives hope to others. 

The following email (with certain omissions) is reproduced with the permission of its author. 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Xxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxx
Date: Sat, Dec 6, 2014 at 8.22 AM
Subject: Thank you
To: "" <>

Dear Andrew

                I am writing to thank you for the role you played in helping me get over my depression. I was one of the many people given hope by your compassionate article on the blog last year about your own issues and how you dealt with them. I email-ed you at the time to thank you using a false name as I was too ashamed to confirm who I was. At that time I had not told my girlfriend, parents or my friends I had depression. I am sure you receive many emails about many matters so I felt and still feel guilty that in the two or three months following our initial contact I must have contacted you 10 times. If I irritated you then to your great credit you never allowed it to show, even when you replied in the early hour of the morning when I am sure you had more important matters on your mind such as sleeping. You were never judgemental and apart from one time when you said you me “change doesn’t happen by accident, if you want to make something change you have to initiate it yourself or else you will always be a passenger.” I thought at the time that was harsh but it was also true, and maybe more than anything else the realisation that I was allowing myself to be a passenger through my own life journey was the hard truth I needed to hear.
                To cut a long story short I found the courage to go and see my doctor. Unlike you I did not feel I then had the strength to face my illness alone so I accepted her offer of anti-depressant medication and also began attending a support group. Six months later I went through a phased withdrawal of my medication and I am now back in control, though I still attend counselling as and when I need it. Finally, a few weeks ago I had the confidence and courage to put my name forward for selection in Xxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxx for a marginal council seat, unthinkable for me this time a year back.
                I hope I would have perhaps found the courage to face this without reading your own story, but who can be sure? I do know that your honesty and the very fact you remained in your job and retained the loyalty of your colleagues gave me hope and courage. The fact that in that dark place late at night without the distractions of the day I was able to email someone who was real yet anonymous was huge comfort. Thank you.
                I am afraid I have misled you. Above I referred to the fact that we have never met, but we have met without you knowing. In Birmingham early on day one, the Sunday, you and three colleagues were drinking coffee in Starbucks in the ICC at about 9.30 in the morning. I approached the table and asked if you were Andrew Kennedy and told you how much I enjoyed your blog. You thanked me and we shook hands. I thought briefly that perhaps I should tell you but you were busy and distracted and I did not want to intrude. You probably will not remember, but I said “your writing makes a big difference to a lot of people”. You looked a bit taken aback, now I hope you know why I said it.

Thank you again.
Xxxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxx
(my real name this time)

Friday, 5 December 2014

The ultimate example of "Dad Dancing"

Working with large teams of fabulous volunteers is a privilege and often great fun. It can also provide regular "butt clenching" moments when words literally fail. Such as the time a delightful lady in her 70's innocently announced to a room full of envelope packers, "Does anyone else have dry flaps?" She was, of course, referring to her self-seal envelopes. 

Today's email brought a similar butt-clenching moment. An invitation from the Chairman of Canterbury Conservatives (the hard working and all-round good guy, Cllr Neil Baker,) to attend their Association Christmas Party on Thursday 18 December. Not much wrong with that, I hear you say. And I agree. But, the Party is being hosted at Canterbury's "Club Chemistry" sandwiched between their regular CandyShop night and the hard edged "Chemistry Experiment".  

And it gets better - Julian Brazier MP will be there - and we are informed that might even dance (but hopefully not on a podium). 

What more could you want to kick-off the festive season. The lovely city of Canterbury, a student / rave night club, Julian Brazier MP dancing - and there will even be "festive nibbles". And it's free!!! 

I wouldn't miss it for the world! Contact Neil to have your name added to the guest list. 

Seriously, Canterbury Conservatives under Neil's leadership are doing great things, attracting a new generation of candidates and reaching out to new members and voters better than most. These guys deserve success. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Ho! Ho! Ho! Design A Christmas Card Competition winners

I am delighted that three of the five MPs/PPCs I work with have organised "Design My Christmas Card" competitions among local children - some via primary schools, others using youth clubs and / or children and grandchildren of residents or members. 

Tom Tugendhat's competition had three categories:

(a) 4 and below
(b) 5-7
(c) 8+

As well as seeing their drawing printed on a Christmas card, Tom is presenting each winner with a certificate and a gift voucher and the parents/guardians of each winner will receive 100 complimentary Christmas cards to send to family and friends. 

Thanks also to our excellent local printer, Jason Allen and his team at DA Printers Ltd in Rochester, who are producing the cards free of charge in exchange for a small promotional advertisement on the back page. 

Everyone's a winner! 

Here are the winning entries in each age group:

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tom Tugendhat's audition for Strictly Come Dancing

By popular demand, and with his couragous consent, here is Tom Tugendhat dancing on stage with Tonbridge & Malling Mayor Sasha Luck, at the annual switch-on of West Malling's Christmas Lights.

Well done Tom - just don't wait for the call from Strictly Come Dancing!

Brief Encounter (on the 1201 from Paddock Wood)

Every few months I meet with Tom Tugendhat in London for lunch. I would like to say it's to discuss strategy. In fairness we do talk strategy, though I certainly don't always remember the finer strategic details at the end of the meal. Our lunches are a good opportunity for the two of us to get to know each other. We cover the broad direction of his campaign, he then trusts me to implement the details whilst I trust him with being the Parliamentary candidate; it's a good relationship, each recognising and respecting the other's strengths and abilities.

Our Christmas lunch, held on Friday last week, was memorable for another reason. In the train from Paddock Wood to Charing Cross we chanced to sit opposite three ladies (mother and two daughters-in-law) en route to London for a "girlie weekend". There they were meeting three other members of the family for a pre-Christmas break.

By Tonbridge they had retrieved a bottle of Prosecco, plastic glasses and a tube of Pringles from their bag and generously offered us some. We politely declined, though I did hesitate and hoped they would ask again. By Sevenoaks they did and I didn't need to be asked a third time! By Orpington they had opened another bottle and all reticence has gone out of the window! 
We got chatting over the aisle and it soon came out that Tom was a budding politician and I was his "spin doctor" (their words, not mine). "What Party are you?" asked the older of the ladies (who'd already told me she was a widow, 74 and lived in Ashford). "Conservative", said Tom. I waited for the reaction. "Thank goodness you're not UKIP" she said. "Dreadful man, that Nigel Farage. Dreadful - he's a disgrace"

She spat out the words with venom I didn't expect.

"Why don''t you like him?" I asked, genuinely interested not only in her response but also what lay behind her ferocity.

"I grew up during the war in Whitechapel, all our neighbours were immigrants, mainly Jews who had escaped Hitler.  When I married and settled down my husband's job was a mechanic with London buses, all his mates were the black men who had come here to drive and fix buses, they came because we invited them. One of my oldest friends is the widow of a chap who came from Jamaica in the 1950s - she's lived in this country longer than any of my children. I might be in my 70s and live in a nice flat in a nice part of Kent, but I don't have any time for racism."

By now she was a on a roll

"In the 1970s we had saved a bit of money and had moved to a little house in Bromley. I had a job in Littlewoods, in the restaurant. When Maggie got in, the other staff would ask each other who we had voted for, and when I said I was with Maggie all the way they would ask "what have you got to conserve? - you're one of the workers, you should vote Labour."  I told them that my husband and I had worked hard all our lives, I had two jobs to make ends meet, to ensure our children had a nice home and food on the table. Until drawing our state pension we had not claimed a penny of state benefits in our lives. We made our kids work hard so they could all pass the 11+ and go to Grammar Schools, which they did, so they could have better lives than we did. All through my life Labour have run the country down and Conservatives have cleared-up their mess. And as for that Ed Miliband - God help us if he gets in."

When our train arrived at Charing Cross I said to Tom, "keep them talking whilst I run to the shop". I bought them a bottle of wine to replace one of those we helped drink and also a box of chocolates for them to enjoy in the taxi on the way to their hotel. 

The whole episode was a lovely, chance encounter. I don't even know this lady's name - and unless she has the memory of an elephant she won't remember mine or Tom's either. But for that hour between Paddock Wood and Charing Cross she made me proud to be a Conservative, and she reminded me just who, and what, we are fighting for. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Twenty firsts

I have been nominated by various friends on social media to partipate in this "twenty firsts" round robin - here goes"


First Job
A Summer job packing lettuce at the local market garden.

First Real Job
JA Sewill & Co in Liverpool; an historic Liverpool shipping company which once manufactured ships' clocks and sextants for the Royal Navy. When I was there it was a shipping supplier and chart agent. It was an exciting job for a young lad - I would take orders from the ship owners or their agents and then source and deliver what they needed for their voyage. It could be anything from bottles of Black Label for the Chief Engineer, to a new flags (which were made to order by an old lady in the attic with a manual sewing machine, who had been doing it for 50 years and could make almost any flag of the world from memory).

First Role in Politics
Chairman of Wallasey Young Conservatives - 1982

First Car
A red Triumph Dolomite - LKA 437R

First Record
I thunk Mull of Kintyre by Wings (cringe)

First Football Match
Don't be ridiculous

First Concert
Rod, Jane and Freddy of Rainbow fame did a "summer singalong" at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion in 1974 (I was 8!).

First Country Visited
Republic of Ireland in 1977

First TV Appearance

Defending the Community Charge (Poll Tax) on Kilroy. 1990. I did my best.

First Political Speech
1983 GE, I spoke against unilateral nuclear disarmament at a First Time Voter's meeting.

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend A girl (!) called Tracey at Shackleton Primary School when I was 9. My life has been full of girls called Tracey ;)

First Encounter with a Famous Person Growing up in Wirral we would often see famous Liverpool and Everton footballers around. I would often chat to Bob Latchford at the local shops and a few years later we lived two doors away from Adrian Heath. There was another encounter with Wayne Sleep at Madam JoJos - but that's another story!

First Brush With Death
1996 ish - I was in a taxi in Panama City and it got caught up between two cars whose occupants were engaged in a drug related gunfight.

First House/Flat Owned
2 Oakmount, de Grouchy Lane, Southampton - what a great address! 1997 - it was a lovely one bedroom garden flat in a Victorian property in Highfield, one of Southampton's nicest suburbs. The house was the former headmaster's house in the grounds of a private school accessed down via  half mile wooded drive and set in an acre of gardens.. The developer had also built a row of mews cottages - one of which was occupied by Danny La Rue.  We had some very outrageous parties!  

First file seen at the cinema
I cannot remember, probably the original Star Wars.

First Time on the Radio
BBC Radio Merseyside - early 1980s. I had put together a fund raising book of politicians' favourite recipes to raise money for the local Young Conservatives - they invited me on to talk about it!

First Politician I Met
Our local MP Lynda Chalker (now Baroness Chalker of Wallasey).

First Book I Remember Reading One of the Famous Five or Secret Seven Books - goodness knows which one.

First Visit to the London Palladium
Strangely, despite going to the theatre every few months, I think I have only been to the Palladium once, and that was last year to see Dame Edna.  And I had Iain Dale's unwanted tickets for the Royal Box!

First Election
This is sad - 1976! I was 10. My mother was a Liberal then and I took a disliking to her Liberal friends. When the Conservatives came around I was playing in the garden and asked if I could help. I was asked if my parents would mind and I assured them they wouldn't. I had a massive rosette pinned on my jumper and I was allowed to mark the canvassing card. Unfortunately after 10 minutes we bumped into my Mother and the local Liberals coming the other way. There was a shouting match and the poor Conservative lady was accused of "brainwashing innocent children" and I was sent home. That was the end of my early political career. I remember the Conservative candidate to this day - her name was Jennifer Merrill. Three years later my mother had seen the light and had joined the Conservative Party. Forty years later I am still walking behind the candidate, marking the canvassing card (and I still have a disliking of Liberals!) 

Bloody cheek!

A couple of local members gate crashed an event I organised at this year's Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. They refused to pay as "we arrived late and there was nothing left to eat" but have now had the audacity to write to complain about the food and to tell me they will not bother attending next year due to the "poor quality of what was on offer". I have replied and offered them a full refund!  

They at least had the good grace to begin their letter with, "we have left it until after the Rochester & Strood by-election as we didn't want to distract you from your work..."

Bloody cheek!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Botten & Elks - Frightening residents all the time - not just at election time!

Well done to our two youngest candidates in Tonbridge & Malling, Benjamin Elks and our very own Director of Paperclips, Jon Botten.  Despite the dark nights and bitterly cold weather, they are out again on the doorsteps of Tonbridge's Medway ward tonight, chatting to residents and inviting people to participate in their local survey.

This is the tenth or twelth campaign session Jon and Ben have undertaken - and it's not even December! As you can see from the photo, poor Paperclip is suffering with a heavy cold, but he doesn't even let that stop him!  Jon and Ben (with support from their third colleague Russell Lancaster) have already knocked on around 1,000 doors!  Well done guys - you are an inspriation. You deserve to win.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Great Tunbridge Wells Bake Off

I received a message this morning from Cllr David Elliott, the popular and hard working Deputy Chairman (Political) of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association. 
"Hello Andrew, welcome back from Rochester. I will be in Paddock Wood at 10.30am
and I would like to pop-in, I have something for you..."

At 10.30am David arrived, clutching a tin. With a theatrical flourish he whipped off the lid and presented me with a selection of fairy cakes left over from the cake stall at Saturday's Conservative Christmas Bazaar ("don't worry - they've been in the freezer").

They cakes had been baked by another TW councillor and award winning local baker, Cllr Mike Rusbridge, and each was decorated with a photograph of Greg Clark MP or David Cameron!  

Is there no end to the talents of Conservative activists?


A new strategist joins the West Kent team

We were delighted yesterday to welcome a new political strategist and personal adviser to the West Kent team. This latest recruit comes with outstanding Parliamentary experience...

Charlie Grant was winner of the 2010 Westminster Dog of The Year award. He can be seen above with one ear listening to my latest presentation Voter ID strategy but both eyes focused firmly on Matt Boughton's ham sandwich. He clearly found the ham sandwich more interesting than my presentation.