PREFACE: I am grateful to many friends and colleagues (from all parties) who have contacted me with their own "horror stories" about nominations.
My favourites being:
The Labour organiser from a very wealthy Home Counties town, under pressure from HQ to field a candidate in every seat, ended up approaching wives, husbands and children of members to stand as paper candidates. On receiving one completed nomination paper from a particularly prosperous village, he noticed the party description was "Labour and Waitrose". When he asked the candidate where the name had come from, he was told "I noticed from the list that Labour and Co-Op was allowed, but no-one shops in the Co-op around here."
Or the Surrey LibDem who was frantic with one reticent candidate who was constantly late, finally handing in her nomination paper two hours before the deadline. He rushed it into the Council Offices just in time and returned to his home only to pick-up an answer-phone message from the Returning Officer to say, "sorry about this, but your candidate appears to have entered the assenter's telephone numbers rather than their polling numbers..."
And finally the Hampshire UKIP candidate who submitted his paper on time and neatly completed in fountain pen. However, alongside "description" (where the party name should be entered) he had written, "five eleven, greying, clipped moustache. Married."
Nice to see it's not just us!
One of the things members often say when they phone is, "Oh, you sound a bit stressed..."
There's a good reason for that. I often am. And here's an example why.
We are now on the cusp on local government nominations. Two weeks ago I spent a whole morning briefing and training candidates, in detail, about how to complete their nomination papers. In fact, 70% of the paperwork was completed there and then, with me going through line by line, advising them what to write. All they had to do was get the requisite ten signatures (for which I gave them an electoral register to check they were registered voters).
As usual, with no names mentioned...
Candidate One managed to submit a paper with seven of the ten signatures invalid. When I asked why so many non-residents had signed his paper he replied, "I took it around my local pub". But two thirds of them don't live in your ward.... "well, that might be the case, but they were in my ward when they signed the paper..."
Candidate Two managed to ask a Thai lady, who is not even a UK citizen, let alone a registered voter, to sign her paper. Strangely, however, despite not being registered she had a roll number alongside her name (although the number didn't exist). When I asked where the roll number came from, the candidate replied, "Oh I couldn't find her, so I added her to the end of the list and made-up a number for her."
Candidate Three: Not a single roll number matched the ones on the register, though fortunately everyone lived in the ward. Apparently, the candidate couldn't find the electoral roll I had given him four days earlier, so used last year's. "Does it really matter?" he asked.
Candidate Four: Now this is a first. This candidate got "somewhat confused" over the paperwork and entered me as the candidate and him as the election agent. When I pointed out the error, he asked, "Oh that's OK - would you like to stand instead?"
Candidate Five: This candidate couldn't find a tenth signatory, so signed the form himself.
SO, if you are a branch Chairman and phone the office during an election (when we have 50 candidates to look after) and ask me to print your luncheon tickets (which you have known about for months), or ask if we can photocopy 20 copies of your 200 Club accounts and post them to you (when it would be cheaper and quicker to run them off on your own printer) or even phone, demand to speak to me, then ask me to look-up a councillor's phone number (when you could have found it yourself on the council website), please don't be surprised if I sound "stressed".