Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Keep your head down lest someone notice we're here

I recently visited an Association Office (thankfully not in the West Kent Group) to show them how to do something on Merlin. As ever, I won't name the Association as that is not the purpose of this blog. Their office was in a smart town centre location - and was the tidiest political HQ I have ever seen.

No paper, no piles of In Touch newsletters printed, half printed, waiting to be folded or waiting to be collected. No stacks of canvassing cards or surveys or PV application forms waiting to be data captured.  Nothing.  In fact, it couldn't have been more different from West Kent Towers where the cacophony of noise, human chatter, ringing phones, printing machines chugging and folding machines clacking, blends with the heavy smell of riso ink and the clutter of campaigns to come.

For a moment I was envious of their discipline. Then I started looking at the neat rows of files and folders lining the pristine shelves. "AGM minutes", "Executive minutes" (dating back to 2000), "Management Committee Minutes", "Discussion Group Papers", "Branch Minutes", "Council Group Minutes", "Annual Dinner Booking Forms".

But nowhere was there a single newsletter, PV form or any evidence whatsoever that this Association talks to anyone other than themselves.

"Where's your printing machine", I asked - out of genuine interest. Printing machine envy is a sad affliction for those of my ilk.  "What would we need a printing machine for, the laser printer copes with anything we do," was the equally genuine reply.

This isn't a particularly safe seat - nor is it vulnerable. It's an Association which, in my opinion, chronically under-performs its potential. But it falls between two stools. Not being statistically under threat it's not on the 40:40 radar, not being wealthy or well resourced, few demands are ever made upon it. Slowly it trundles on, managing its decline as gracefully as they can.

This is exactly the type of Association which would benefit most from grouping, but I fear it is exactly type of Association which would be least enthusiastic about joining one. After all, if they were too successful they wouldn't continue to get away with doing nothing!.

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