One of the difficulties of my job is balancing the needs of those who demand my time. This was difficult enough when we had one constituency, but those demands have grown as Tonbridge & Malling turned into the fledgling West Kent Office then grew further to incorporate three, four and now five Associations.
Understandably, everyone believes their email / phone call / leaflet / newsletter / minutes / canvassing plan / social event / circular / m+eeting / press release is the most important of all. And to them, it is.
By their nature and the authority of elected office, MPs are the elephants in the room. (I suspect this view is encouraged by being surrounded by people thanking them profuously and by others whose advancement is dependent on their patronage). I am still amazed that if a parliamentary staffer or employee is waiting in a tea queue and an eleced Member joins it, they are expected to step aside and let the MP walk to the front! I cannot imagine any of the MPs I work for exploiting or even expecting such privilege (in fact I have stood in enough tea queues with them to know that they don't), but such a system must surely impart an unhealthy sense of entitlement?
I recall one long-suffering Agent telling me of the twelve years he worked with an Association, and the candidate who journeyed with him from PPC to Minister of State. In the earliest days the candidate was on the phone nightly, asking for advice and support, offloading the demands of awkward members and unpleasant internal disputes, and generally soaking-up his experience like a sponge. Once the candidate was elected, the friendly calls became less frequent and more formal, the hand written 'thank you' notes stopped and the personal birthday and Christmas cards turned into risographed signatures with pre printed labels. The calls were then replaced by instructions from his parliamentary secretary prefaced with "Philip (not his real name) would like...." and finally, the straw which broke this Agent's back, "the Minister wants...."
Balancing these demands and having the courage to say no (sometimes to people who aren't used to hearing it) can be one of the hardest aspects of my job. I have no idea how our new, young and as yet unscarred Campaign Managers do so.
In West Kent we are very fortunate to work with MPs who are not only respectful of the job we do, but also work as part of a team towards a shared goal of winning the next election.