Thursday, 17 April 2014

Yes, I am a bit stressed. here's why...

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". 

Andrew x


  1. Sounds very similar to my wife's cri de cour as she gets to get her candidates to get right! Glad to say my three sets all corrected and lodged on the 14th.

  2. I think you already did this in 2013, didn't you?

    I'm a candidate in London but despite my seat being off the pace I would sooner be here than be a candidate in the safest Tunbridge Wells seat or an officer in that Association, with the agent slagging his candidates off here in public at every turn (and despite you anonymising things, the people in your Association will plainly know who you mean) - moaning at the amount of mutual aid his Associations in the safest 18000 majority darkest Weald get - oh, yes, and also moaning how hard he works and how his Associations work him to death, but funnily finding plenty of time to write it all up for a blog, just to let his opponents know the problems in that part of the world.

    The Party could perhaps welcome a period of silence from you, Mr Andrew.

    1. Dear Anon

      I have though hard over the weekend about whether I should respond to your comment, but on the basis than if an untruth is left unchallenged it becomes fact, I have decided to do so.

      Firstly, a year ago when someone (again anonymously) complained about my blog I asked my chairman to consult leading local members, Association Officers, councillors etc to see if they thought I should stop. I believe he took soundings from 30+ people and just one was un-supportive. If my Chairmen asked me to stop, I would have to do so. They are, after all, my employers.

      "Moaning about how much mutual aid his associations with 18,000 majorities get". Really. Where is the evidence for this? I have never asked for nor expected any mutual aid in West Kent. In fact, the opposite is true. The West Kent Associations give more mutual aid to target seats than any other. We sent 120 volunteers into Carshalton for the Mayoral Campaign, we sent coachloads to Eastleigh, Feltham & Heston and Croydon North Parliamentary By Elections and I am in the process of organising four coaches between now and the end of the year from West Kent into 40:40 target seats. If I blog about mutual aid it is that we do not give enough; I am on the record saying we should do more. I have never asked for mutual aid nor have I ever complained that we do not receive it.

      "Moaning about being worked to death but finding time to blog". I would be very surprised if you find anyone locally complaining about my work rate. I am at my desk by 8am and seldom leave before 9pm and work every Saturday too. If during my 70 hour week (for which, for the record, I am paid 36 hours, never claim a penny overtime, never take time off in lieu and never claim travel or other expenses) I take the odd 30 minute break to blog, then I cannot see how anyone would complain. In fact, no-one has complained - apart from you!

      "Slagging his candidates - even anonymously..." You may have a point here, but let's remember; sorting out the errors of the five candidates who did not listen to the briefing or read the detailed guidance notes took most of a day - time the Party pays me to do proper work. The errors I highlighted were so basic and foolish, that it was clear the candidates concerned simply did not read or listen to the advice and training provided. If reading about it on this blog (and I did not name them) makes them feel "uncomfortable" then maybe they will pull their socks-up next time. If so, we all benefit (including them).

      "The Party could perhaps welcome a period of silence from you, Mr Andrew". At the moment, I have 11 outstanding speaking engagements for constituencies, Area Councils and Regional conferences. Last week, 9 Campaign Managers contacted me for support or advice (often directeed to me by CCHQ as they know I am always positive and supportive). In the last month four Associations (two from Kent, one from Surrey and one from Sussex) have enquired about joining the West Kent Group - their Chairmen and MPs / Candidates all read my blog and all want to be part of what we are doing. Our best practice guide to running a summer / Christmas draw has been circulated nationwide and my blueprint for running an Open Primary is now the standard document of reference for any Association planning a parliamentary selection. If a period of silence really is required, then there is little evidence of it coming from anyone other than you.

      I appreciate that not everyone likes me or my blog - that's your choice, If so, you are welcome not to read it (or request a refund). But if you are going to attack me, at least check the facts. And please have the balls to put your name to your accusations, rather than posting under the cloak an anonymity.

    2. Clearly people down here have a bit more of a sense of humour than in your part of London...

    3. WELL SAID, ANDREW. I Am a voluntary Organising SECretary in a so called no-hope constituency, so we receive little help an support from CCO. Your blog is an inspiration to me and many colleagues in Associations like this, Keep it going. SC.

  3. Which muppet decided that a few weeks before the local elections was a good time to change the Party's registered name?
    Like you, I had given our candidates a full blow-by-blow guide to what to put in each box in the nomination pack that the CCA had sent through. To make sure that I got it right (we don't have professional staff in our constituency - although it was a gain in 2010 we won by too many for it to make the 40/40 list for CCHQ support) I looked up the Party's registration details on the Electoral Commission website.
    Two weeks later, and with everybody having entered Conservative and Unionist Party on the certificate of authorisation, I found out that the name changed earlier this month to The Conservative Party. Doesn't that sound like the kind of thing that should have been communicated more widely?

  4. To quote another frustrated party agent from Kent; wise words that have stuck with me throughout my time as agent.

    "It's like wearing a dark suit and wetting yourself; you get a nice warm feeling, but no one else seems to notice"

    Carry on, Andrew. Highly entertaining and I can sympathise with all of this!