The sender has replied and confirmed he was emailing on behalf of Conservative Grassroots (as I suspected when I first read it). Interestingly, he also confirmed that he never tried to phone or email our office.
"First, be assured that West Kent was not in my original sample, and I am sure your information is up to date. I have not written to, or rung West Kent."
So, when he wrote to our local MPs, using their staff for his own lobbying interests, and said
"In order to do this I have tried telephoning the local offices, but then found numbers have been incorrect and messages to ring me are often left unanswered. Therefore I need some assistance, urgently."...this wasn't strictly accurate. Some might actually say it was an untruth.
I will leave my readers to consider if emailing MPs staff, implying the local Association has not responded to emails or returned his calls when those emails and callls were never sent or made, then asking for private contact details on that basis, is an honest or straightforward basis to conduct business.
If Conservative Grassroots are actually as representative of the rank and file as they claim to be, surely they should be able to compile a list of Association Chairmen from their own internal contacts without needing to harrass MPs under false pretences?
There is certainly nothing clandestine concerning the request for information.
It certainly is not to bring division within the party, which would be suicidal, but there are policy issues that have to be faced well before the election, with specific underlying issues affecting individuals, families and employment, such as uncontrolled immigration and the role of the European Union.
Grassroots is fully compliant with Data Protection legislation. I trust this reply is satisfactory as this is a legitimate request from within the Party, but if you wish for further information, do please ask. The information I need is: Name of the current Chairman, direct email and a contact phone number.
Four of our five local MPs have today received emails similar to the one below:
I wonder if a member of your staff could help me. In preparation for the upcoming election, I have been asked to revise an out of date list of Conservative Association chairmen. In order to do this I have tried telephoning the local offices, but then found numbers have been incorrect and messages to ring me are often left unanswered. Therefore I need some assistance, urgently.
The information required is the name of the current (xxxx) Association Chairman, and his or her direct contact details (email, phone and mobile). Please, could someone from your office try to find this out and email me back? I hope I am not a nuisance, but it is so important to retrieve up to date information.
Haltemprice and Howden
Always suspicious of such emails, I sent the gentleman the following reply
Dear Mr Xxxx
A number of local MPs have forwarded your email to them asking for the contact details of our local Association Chairmen.
I am concerned to read that you have been trying to contact every local office and your phone
calls and emails have not received a reply. All five West Kent Associations are based at this office where we have a full time staff of three people. We log every call and email and I can assure you no calls or emails have been received, nor any answerphone messages left in your name. Perhaps you could kindly advise me which phone numbers and email addresses you have been using, as I fear these may be listed incorrectly somewhere.
I would be grateful if you would advise why you are compiling a list of Chairmen and requesting their private phone numbers and email addresses. Not only are there data protection issues with this, but our senior officers receive a great deal of unwanted lobbying and unsolicited correspondence from groups and organisations, many of which are not helpful or welcome. If you could advise why you want this information and what you will do with it, I will ask our five local Chairmen if they are happy for you to have this information and act on their instruction. Alternatively, you are welcome to use this email address and I will forward your messages to them.
Conservative Party Agent
West Kent Conservative Campaign HQ
It's worth noting that he signs his email as "Councillor" with his Association name beneath, which might give the casual reader the impression that he is acting in some official capacity on behalf of that Association. The lady in the H&H Association office has assured me that this is not the case, and that the correspondent is not a district or county councillor (although I have found someone of that name on a local Parish council!)
I do think it is poor form for someone to contact Members of Parliament on a spurious basis (ie your constituency office has not replied to my calls) and seeking personal data without explaining who he is or in what capacity he is requesting it, or what he will do with it.
If and when I receive a reply, I will post it on my blog.