I am a great fan of Party Conference and encourage as many people as possible to attend. I am pleased that most who attend on my recommendation usually return in future years. This year I have signed-off over 50 applications for members from Kent - which I think is a record (at least in recent years).
Earlier today, however, I took a phone call from a young chap whose name I recognised, but whom I have never met. He is not a member, at least locally. He paid a few years ago but has not responded to membership reminders since.
He wanted to attend conference and was hoping I would countersign his form. The form in question requires me to sign a statement that "I have personally known this person for a minimum of six months". Unfortunately, in his case I couldn't even say that I had known him for six minutes. And whilst I wanted to be helpful, given this form is part of the Special Branch / Police security process, I was not prepared to lie. Nor, in fairness, did he ask me to (though he did say the person who had signed his form last year had never met him - which does cause me concern!)
I suggested his local councillor or branch chairman / organiser could be asked to sign. He didn't know who that was - he had never met them. How about your Association Chairman or another Association Officer. That was no good either - he had never attended a meeting. How about the person who organised the last campaign event you attended. He sounded somewhat bemused by this! Apparently, he had never gone out campaigning - he was far too busy to do such a thing (though clearly not too busy to attend Party Conference on the discounted Party Members' ticket!). When I pointed this out to him he seemed surprised that people actually "do that sort of thing". Quite!
After five minutes of going around in circles, I simply ran out of ideas, and suggested he should contact Fingerprint Events for advice. I am sure he isn't the first completely inactive activist to have this issue.
"If you ask me it's a stupid system with dumb rules" he said. "Well, maybe if you'd like to come out and help with the local elections I will have the chance to meet you, and then next year I will be able to sign your form", I offered, more in hope than expectation. "Oh God no - who'd want to do anything like that."