Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tom Tugendhat's audition for Strictly Come Dancing

By popular demand, and with his couragous consent, here is Tom Tugendhat dancing on stage with Tonbridge & Malling Mayor Sasha Luck, at the annual switch-on of West Malling's Christmas Lights.

Well done Tom - just don't wait for the call from Strictly Come Dancing!

Brief Encounter (on the 1201 from Paddock Wood)

Every few months I meet with Tom Tugendhat in London for lunch. I would like to say it's to discuss strategy. In fairness we do talk strategy, though I certainly don't always remember the finer strategic details at the end of the meal. Our lunches are a good opportunity for the two of us to get to know each other. We cover the broad direction of his campaign, he then trusts me to implement the details whilst I trust him with being the Parliamentary candidate; it's a good relationship, each recognising and respecting the other's strengths and abilities.

Our Christmas lunch, held on Friday last week, was memorable for another reason. In the train from Paddock Wood to Charing Cross we chanced to sit opposite three ladies (mother and two daughters-in-law) en route to London for a "girlie weekend". There they were meeting three other members of the family for a pre-Christmas break.

By Tonbridge they had retrieved a bottle of Prosecco, plastic glasses and a tube of Pringles from their bag and generously offered us some. We politely declined, though I did hesitate and hoped they would ask again. By Sevenoaks they did and I didn't need to be asked a third time! By Orpington they had opened another bottle and all reticence has gone out of the window! 
We got chatting over the aisle and it soon came out that Tom was a budding politician and I was his "spin doctor" (their words, not mine). "What Party are you?" asked the older of the ladies (who'd already told me she was a widow, 74 and lived in Ashford). "Conservative", said Tom. I waited for the reaction. "Thank goodness you're not UKIP" she said. "Dreadful man, that Nigel Farage. Dreadful - he's a disgrace"

She spat out the words with venom I didn't expect.

"Why don''t you like him?" I asked, genuinely interested not only in her response but also what lay behind her ferocity.

"I grew up during the war in Whitechapel, all our neighbours were immigrants, mainly Jews who had escaped Hitler.  When I married and settled down my husband's job was a mechanic with London buses, all his mates were the black men who had come here to drive and fix buses, they came because we invited them. One of my oldest friends is the widow of a chap who came from Jamaica in the 1950s - she's lived in this country longer than any of my children. I might be in my 70s and live in a nice flat in a nice part of Kent, but I don't have any time for racism."

By now she was a on a roll

"In the 1970s we had saved a bit of money and had moved to a little house in Bromley. I had a job in Littlewoods, in the restaurant. When Maggie got in, the other staff would ask each other who we had voted for, and when I said I was with Maggie all the way they would ask "what have you got to conserve? - you're one of the workers, you should vote Labour."  I told them that my husband and I had worked hard all our lives, I had two jobs to make ends meet, to ensure our children had a nice home and food on the table. Until drawing our state pension we had not claimed a penny of state benefits in our lives. We made our kids work hard so they could all pass the 11+ and go to Grammar Schools, which they did, so they could have better lives than we did. All through my life Labour have run the country down and Conservatives have cleared-up their mess. And as for that Ed Miliband - God help us if he gets in."

When our train arrived at Charing Cross I said to Tom, "keep them talking whilst I run to the shop". I bought them a bottle of wine to replace one of those we helped drink and also a box of chocolates for them to enjoy in the taxi on the way to their hotel. 

The whole episode was a lovely, chance encounter. I don't even know this lady's name - and unless she has the memory of an elephant she won't remember mine or Tom's either. But for that hour between Paddock Wood and Charing Cross she made me proud to be a Conservative, and she reminded me just who, and what, we are fighting for. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Twenty firsts

I have been nominated by various friends on social media to partipate in this "twenty firsts" round robin - here goes"


First Job
A Summer job packing lettuce at the local market garden.

First Real Job
JA Sewill & Co in Liverpool; an historic Liverpool shipping company which once manufactured ships' clocks and sextants for the Royal Navy. When I was there it was a shipping supplier and chart agent. It was an exciting job for a young lad - I would take orders from the ship owners or their agents and then source and deliver what they needed for their voyage. It could be anything from bottles of Black Label for the Chief Engineer, to a new flags (which were made to order by an old lady in the attic with a manual sewing machine, who had been doing it for 50 years and could make almost any flag of the world from memory).

First Role in Politics
Chairman of Wallasey Young Conservatives - 1982

First Car
A red Triumph Dolomite - LKA 437R

First Record
I thunk Mull of Kintyre by Wings (cringe)

First Football Match
Don't be ridiculous

First Concert
Rod, Jane and Freddy of Rainbow fame did a "summer singalong" at New Brighton's Floral Pavilion in 1974 (I was 8!).

First Country Visited
Republic of Ireland in 1977

First TV Appearance

Defending the Community Charge (Poll Tax) on Kilroy. 1990. I did my best.

First Political Speech
1983 GE, I spoke against unilateral nuclear disarmament at a First Time Voter's meeting.

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend A girl (!) called Tracey at Shackleton Primary School when I was 9. My life has been full of girls called Tracey ;)

First Encounter with a Famous Person Growing up in Wirral we would often see famous Liverpool and Everton footballers around. I would often chat to Bob Latchford at the local shops and a few years later we lived two doors away from Adrian Heath. There was another encounter with Wayne Sleep at Madam JoJos - but that's another story!

First Brush With Death
1996 ish - I was in a taxi in Panama City and it got caught up between two cars whose occupants were engaged in a drug related gunfight.

First House/Flat Owned
2 Oakmount, de Grouchy Lane, Southampton - what a great address! 1997 - it was a lovely one bedroom garden flat in a Victorian property in Highfield, one of Southampton's nicest suburbs. The house was the former headmaster's house in the grounds of a private school accessed down via  half mile wooded drive and set in an acre of gardens.. The developer had also built a row of mews cottages - one of which was occupied by Danny La Rue.  We had some very outrageous parties!  

First file seen at the cinema
I cannot remember, probably the original Star Wars.

First Time on the Radio
BBC Radio Merseyside - early 1980s. I had put together a fund raising book of politicians' favourite recipes to raise money for the local Young Conservatives - they invited me on to talk about it!

First Politician I Met
Our local MP Lynda Chalker (now Baroness Chalker of Wallasey).

First Book I Remember Reading One of the Famous Five or Secret Seven Books - goodness knows which one.

First Visit to the London Palladium
Strangely, despite going to the theatre every few months, I think I have only been to the Palladium once, and that was last year to see Dame Edna.  And I had Iain Dale's unwanted tickets for the Royal Box!

First Election
This is sad - 1976! I was 10. My mother was a Liberal then and I took a disliking to her Liberal friends. When the Conservatives came around I was playing in the garden and asked if I could help. I was asked if my parents would mind and I assured them they wouldn't. I had a massive rosette pinned on my jumper and I was allowed to mark the canvassing card. Unfortunately after 10 minutes we bumped into my Mother and the local Liberals coming the other way. There was a shouting match and the poor Conservative lady was accused of "brainwashing innocent children" and I was sent home. That was the end of my early political career. I remember the Conservative candidate to this day - her name was Jennifer Merrill. Three years later my mother had seen the light and had joined the Conservative Party. Forty years later I am still walking behind the candidate, marking the canvassing card (and I still have a disliking of Liberals!) 

Bloody cheek!

A couple of local members gate crashed an event I organised at this year's Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. They refused to pay as "we arrived late and there was nothing left to eat" but have now had the audacity to write to complain about the food and to tell me they will not bother attending next year due to the "poor quality of what was on offer". I have replied and offered them a full refund!  

They at least had the good grace to begin their letter with, "we have left it until after the Rochester & Strood by-election as we didn't want to distract you from your work..."

Bloody cheek!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Botten & Elks - Frightening residents all the time - not just at election time!

Well done to our two youngest candidates in Tonbridge & Malling, Benjamin Elks and our very own Director of Paperclips, Jon Botten.  Despite the dark nights and bitterly cold weather, they are out again on the doorsteps of Tonbridge's Medway ward tonight, chatting to residents and inviting people to participate in their local survey.

This is the tenth or twelth campaign session Jon and Ben have undertaken - and it's not even December! As you can see from the photo, poor Paperclip is suffering with a heavy cold, but he doesn't even let that stop him!  Jon and Ben (with support from their third colleague Russell Lancaster) have already knocked on around 1,000 doors!  Well done guys - you are an inspriation. You deserve to win.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Great Tunbridge Wells Bake Off

I received a message this morning from Cllr David Elliott, the popular and hard working Deputy Chairman (Political) of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association. 
"Hello Andrew, welcome back from Rochester. I will be in Paddock Wood at 10.30am
and I would like to pop-in, I have something for you..."

At 10.30am David arrived, clutching a tin. With a theatrical flourish he whipped off the lid and presented me with a selection of fairy cakes left over from the cake stall at Saturday's Conservative Christmas Bazaar ("don't worry - they've been in the freezer").

They cakes had been baked by another TW councillor and award winning local baker, Cllr Mike Rusbridge, and each was decorated with a photograph of Greg Clark MP or David Cameron!  

Is there no end to the talents of Conservative activists?


A new strategist joins the West Kent team

We were delighted yesterday to welcome a new political strategist and personal adviser to the West Kent team. This latest recruit comes with outstanding Parliamentary experience...

Charlie Grant was winner of the 2010 Westminster Dog of The Year award. He can be seen above with one ear listening to my latest presentation Voter ID strategy but both eyes focused firmly on Matt Boughton's ham sandwich. He clearly found the ham sandwich more interesting than my presentation.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The West Kent genius strikes again

The first day back and top of my list is to organise the West Kent Office Volunteers Christmas Thank You Lunch. 

The Director of Paperclips is looking at the office diary - I am online looking at availability at various local restaurants and pubs. 

Then comes the moment of genius...  

"Christmas Day is on 25 December this year." 

(and don't even ask about the ball of wool on his desk). 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Success has many fathers...

Regular visitors will know that I have not blogged for the last seven weeks, and deliberately so. Having been invited to help run the Rochester & Strood Parliamentary By Election I had no intention of publicly commenting on what we were doing, or posting anything which might help the opposition. This post will be my first and only comment on the campaign.

Already on Conservative Home and elsewhere there are the usual round of laptop warriors and anonymous commentators sharing their infinite wisdom on what we did wrong, why we lost and what we should have done differently. I suspect very few of them visited the constituency. However the team who fought Rochester were, more or less, the same team lauded as heroes after our success in Newark (and Norwich and Crewe & Nantwich before that).As the saying goes, "success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan."

From day one the polls put UKIPs lead in double figures, some as high as 15%. The actual result was was a UKIP margin of 7%. Had we pulled it off - and we only need to win back 35 Conservatives in each polling station to do so - I suspect many of the people who are happy to lob grenades from the comfort of anonymous blog posts would be elbowing their way to the front to try and share in the warm glow of success. 

The energy, commitment and dedication of those who run these by-elections is astounding and I salute them, as I salute the army of volunteers who came to help. It was fascinating to be involved and I was honoured to be part of the team.

Now, back to West Kent Towers - we have Christmas Draw reminders to dispatch.