Saturday, 28 February 2015

A moving and emotional end to a busy week

At home in time to eat with my partner for the first time this week, after six days of the most varied, frantic and exciting events of the 2015 election campaign. Here is a summary of what the West Kent Towers team got through this week. 

 Team Tom sets off to canvass the residents of Tonbridge

Monday: 325 items of post and 720 VIs captured. 14 ward newsletters sent to print. F72H campaigns finalised in three constituencies.  Meeting with Maidstone & The Weald Association candidates to agree and sign-off local campaign plans.

Tuesday: 182 items of post and 400 VIs. Briefing with 8 late-selected LG candidates. Lunch with donor. Faversham & Mid Kent Parliamentary selection. 

 With modertor, Rob Hayward, preparing for the Faversham & Mid Kent Parliamentary Selection Meeting

Wednesday: 420 items of post and almost 1,500 VIs. Accept delivery of window posters, letterheads and rosettes. Hire a van and pick up 55,000 Residents Surveys' and deliver them to T&M candidates for delivery this weekend. Drop-off 30,000 Residents' Surveys at fulfilment house for Tunbridge Wells. 

Thursday: 155 items of post. 350 VIs. Commence printing 7,200 Fighting Fund letters. Sign off a further 14 local newsletters.  Send three constituencies-worth of EA1 to print. Send templates for EA2 to parliamentary candidates. Start work on templates for EA3.  Sign contract with fulfilment house. Trial run (successfully) "Haywards Macro", a bespoke macro written for me by my amazing friend, Dr John Hayward, which sorts 75,000 names on an electoral roll and places them into different tabs depending on number of occupants of each household. 

Friday:  240 items of post and 450 VIs. Start work on local government manifesto template. Design F72H leaflet. Accept delivery of correx boards. Attend Maidstone Association AGM. 

Saturday: Attend T&M AGM with a magnificent and moving farewell speech by Sir John Stanley MP after 41 years outstanding service to constituency and country. Organise four canvassing teams (35 people total); additional canvassing / delivery teams in C&A, TW and Maidstone.  Pop into Tonbridge school to finalise Nicholas Soames event. Lunch with parliamentary candidate and helpers. 

 "For forty-one years as your MP including some very difficult and trying times as a Minister,
the friendship and loyalty of the members of this Association have been my strength,
my own Rock of Gibraltar. I could not have asked for any more."

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

D-70 in pictures

 The letterheads have arrived.

 The A4 and A3 window postershave arrived. The correx boards come tomorrow.


The new supply of three-tier rosettes have arrived - all 300 of them!

And all three versions of EA1 have been signed-off by Royal Mail and have gone to print.

Oh yes - and 55,000 Residents' Surveys are about to land on the doormats of Tonbridge & Malling this week.

Chatham & Aylesford's Iron Lady

An envelope arrived at West Kent Towers this morning containing one of Tracey Crouch MPs latest Resident Surveys - complete with its own decoupage! 

It was from a 72 year old lady who took great delight in informing us that she was voting Conservative for the first time since "you dumped Mrs Thatcher in 1990"  The reason?  "Tracey is our own Iron lady and deserves to win again."

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A moment of schadenfreude

Just home after the hugely successful Faversham and Mid Kent Parliamentary Selection contest, clutching my box of papers and a bag full of money from the collection. Whilst counting the cash to let the Treasurer know how much was raised, out came a very generous donation in the form of a €100 note.

"That must make you smart" said Steve, enjoying the schadenfreude a little too much. "I guess a good Better Off Out-er like you will want to give it back..."  

"Well, we need to be pragmatic about these things....." I said, sounding a little too much like Sir Humphrey Appleby than even I was comfortable with.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Does racism become acceptable on Friday 8 May?

Most of us (including, I suspect, many of UKIPs own supporters) must have been horrified at Rozanne Duncan's outburst about black people during Sunday night's "Meet The Ukippers" programme on BBC2.  UKIP have defended their position by saying that she was expelled from the Party "with immediate effect."

One small point in this has been overlooked, however. And this point lies at the very heart of why many people fear UKIP. 

After Rozanne Duncan's racist tirade, the local UKIP Press Officer turned to the camera and said, "She has been told time and time again to keep her mouth shut..." and "I might have to take her aside and tell her to tone it down until at least after the election..."

Clearly Rozanne Duncan's deeply unpleasant views were known to UKIP.  If not, why else would their Press Officer have "told her time and time again"? And why, if her unpleasant views were know, was she going to be asked to keep her mouth shut, but only "until after the election...?"  In UKIPs eyes, does racism become acceptable on Friday 8 May?

And if her views were previously known, why was she not only allowed to remain in the Party but was also reselected as a UKIP council candidate?

I can only conclude that UKIP were quite quite happy to turn a blind eye to Rozanne Duncan's extremism, until it was recorded on camera.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Oh dear, Ed!

Poll of swing voters in one West Kent constituency. 

"Putting party politics aside and thinking of them as individuals, who would you prefer as Prime Minister of Great Britain?"

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Beware who's behind the knocker!

A warning to all candidates - you never know who's behind the  knocker!

We had several teams out in Tonbridge & Malling last evening, including a group in the small hamlet of Four Elms, in one of the remotest corners of this rural constituency. By 9am this morning, however, I had received a full report on their activities, from a very senior member of the Party Board, no less. 

"Hello Andrew, just calling to let you know that your team in Four Elms were doing a good job last night." - said the Board member. 

AK: "How on earth do you know that...?"

"One of your local team called at the house owned by the eldest daughter of my managing director..."

AK: "Oh, and what did she say..."

"She said he was somewhat effete but not wholly unattractive..."

AK: "No! No! No!  I meant is she going to vote for us.....?"

"Oh yes, though she did say that even after she pledged her vote, he kept her talking for 15 minutes. Do pass it on..."

Somewhat effete but not wholly unattractive.... Surely she wasn't referring to our local candidate?

The Bishops should address their own failings first

I have never held the view, as some do, that the Church and/or Bishops shouldn't comment on matters political. Faith leaders have a role and a duty to voice their concerns, and society is wise enough to filter those views through a prism of theological liberalism, just as our Reform Jews filtered the traditional views of Jonathan Sachs. 

My concerns over yesterday's headlines is not based on a view that the Bishops shouldn't have a voice. It's about the material inaccuracies of the comments and how they willingly based their assumptions on a flawed premise. 

According to Pastoral letter "the Church of England finds its voice through being a presence in every community" and "recognises the inherent danger in the current situation where people are disengaging from politics, arguing that restoring faith in both politicians and the political process requires a new politics that engages at both a deeper more local level within a wider, broader vision for the country as a whole."   It is this basis of "disengagement" which is the driving argument behind the Bishops' wider assumptions and deserves greater scrutiny. 

I fail to see how a church, whose own internal figures show regular worshippers have now fallen to around 1% of the UK population, can lecture any group about their failings to "engage more deeply". And they should remember that political parties actively engage 4% of the population and annual involvement of 35% - 68% at election time. All of us who believe in politics as a vehicle for good must be dismayed at how our trade is viewed by many, but I suspect I would to put my own house in order before taking the moral high ground and lecturing others. 

Now is the section I really object to, "Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes..."

I think we should pause at this point and remember that almost all of the great social reforms of the last 100 years came from politics, not faith. In fact, the Church of England was one of the major roadblocks to social reform and liberation.  Universal suffrage was opposed by the Church of England. The foundation of Trades Unions was opposed by the Church of England. The right of access to family planning was opposed by the Church of England.  The right to divorce a violent husband was opposed by the Church of England. An equal age of consent was opposed by the Church of England. And of course the Church opposed Civil Partnerships and Same Same Marriage. 

And even today, twenty one years after the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Church still sanctions sexism and homophobia, albeit grotesquely wrapped in an ugly cope of "tradition". The Church still has Provincial Episcopal Visitors "flying bishops" to provide pastoral support and oversight to parishes which refuse to recognise the ordination of women. Opponents of women priests will argue that this is not based on sexism or bigotry but a traditional interpretation of scripture. I am sorry, but can you image the outrage if any other national organisation employed peripatetic managers who toured the UK supporting branches who refused to employ black people on the grounds they are not traditionally British? They would be scorned and prosecuted - and rightfully so. But we turn a blind-eye to such discrimination where the Church is concerned. It is one thing that individual members of the Church of England still hold such unreconstructed views but quite another that the Church panders to such prejudices - not dissimilar to UKIP criticising racism whilst continuing to use dog whistle messages to keep them inside their tent.

So yes - Bishops are entitled to speak out politically - but they should take care  when they do so and should perhaps have the honesty to address their own failings too.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Faversham and Mid Kent shortlist

1. Yes - it's four women
2. Yes - they were selected by the Sift Committee of their own accord
3. No - there was no pressure from CCHQ

Congratulations and good luck to four outstanding candidates. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Please let it be true

News reaches West Kent Towers that one of our local members, selected to fight a "challenging" Labour seat many miles from Kent, was campaigning in the constituency with her husband. After a hard morning's leaflet delivery they entered a remote local pub for a livener. The candidate wisely ordered a half of larger "and what would you like darling...?"  Mr Candidate (who is not at all political) scanned the bar shelves. "Do you have any Hendricks?" he asked hopefully. The barman fixed them with a suspicious stare; "I'm not sure what's on the juke box, you'll have to check."

Sunday, 15 February 2015

State funding for political parties - not in my name!

The issue of taxpayer funding of political parties is back on the agenda following this intervention from Ken Clarke. HERE

For the entire time I have been a member of the Conservative Party (35+ years) we have been the party of the individual and the free market. Under successive Conservative governments:

  • State subsidies where (rightly) withdrawn from nationalised industries to force them to compete on an equal footing with the private sector. 
  • Whole areas and indeed sub-regions of Britain faced economic restructuring after unprofitable industries (rightfully) closed-down due to their inability to attract customers or make a profit.
  • Responsibility for such decline was placed (rightfully) at the door of those companies whose management and trades union leaders were unresponsive to their customer's needs in the modern market place.
  • Whole swathes of government administration have been (rightfully) removed from the state sector and transferred to fee charging agencies in an effort to force them to be market responsive and charge end-user fees for their services.
  • Subsidies to local councils have been (rightfully) reduced and caps placed on Council Tax increases to force councils to reduce non-core expenditure,  dispose of assets, merge back office functions and do "more for less". 
  • And, of course, our welfare reforms have been (rightfully) implemented including the benefit cap and the spare room subsidy on the basis that state handouts should be a last resort, not a way of life, and people ultimately have a responsibility for themselves. 

And as a Conservative, I wholeheartedly support it all.

What I cannot accept or understand however is how any politician (especially a Conservative) could say...

"All the above is fine for the state sector, for the free market, for local government, for benefit claimants and for business - but not for us in Westminster. If my political party cannot balance its books, cannot attract members (or customers), cannot compete in the modern market place and cannot cut costs to fit the economic situation then we shall simply dip into the taxpayers' pockets to make up the difference."

If we do go down the line of state funding how could any Minister make a moral case for refusing state subsidy or an increase in funding when whoever they were sitting opposite at the negotiating table could simply say, "why are you refusing us as we all know you wouldn't be here if they state removed your subsidy too." The policy would re-empower every pressure group and give trades unions a stick to beat us with. More importantly, it would fundamentally weaken the moral case for free markets.

It really doesn't have to be this way. The National Trust has 3.93 million members who between them contribute £140 million per annum. Studies indicate the majority of those people never visit a NT property. They contribute because it's something they believe in and they want to help. I know it's been said many times before, but surely we need to do much more work on why just 1% of the 10.7 million people who voted Conservative in 2010 are prepared to join our party, and just 2% are prepared to support us financially. I fail to see how accepting taxpayer funding will do anything to make our political establishments more responsive to their customers (voters) than they are now. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Campaign Internship at West Kent Towers

A chance to work with the West Kent Campaign Team 

If anyone knows someone who may interested, we need a part-time paid intern during March and April. The job will be far from glamorous - just "mucking in" when and where needed and helping Jonathan Botten and me manage 5 parliamentary and 180 local government election campaigns. 

The type of jobs: helping manage and data capture the mountain of VI data we will be processing, dropping off supplies with candidates and activists, running street stalls with candidates and volunteers, checking accuracy of nomination papers, running to Costa Coiffee 5 times a day for the grumpy Agent's extra shot Americano, opening and sorting the post (we receive 300+ items per day), managing teams of envelope packers, helping erect correx posters and more... 

The West Kent Campaign HQ is fast, furious, damned hard work, long hours under incredible pressure and stress. I think it's fair to say that if you are looking for a peaceful environment with "good karma" and serene atmosphere, this probably isn't the job for you! 

We will pay the National Minimum Wage and reimburse any reasonable out of pocket expenditure. Our location between Greggs and a Greasy Spoon results in a plentiful supply of bacon sandwiches and sticky buns. The office is in Paddock Wood (a small town between Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge). Paddock Wood had a mainline railway station which is two minutes walk from the office and an hour journey from London - Charing X. 

If you are interested, drop me an email and tell me why you'd like to join our team for the coming election. I look forward to hearing from you. 


Thursday, 12 February 2015

D-83 in photographs

On way way to work I stopped off for a meeting with the printer and saw a further
50,000 Residents' Surveys about to be dispatched to the fulfillment house. 
And despite signing off the artwork at 10pm last night, the first of the GE window posters were
rolling off the press. Outstanding service from our print partner, Jason Allen at DA Printers of Rochester. 

By 9.30am the first of today's volunteers had taken-up residence at the packing tables. 
The fabulous Vivian Branson, who is one of a new team of ten volunteer Data Capturers,
who are working in shifts to keep on top of the workload. This week we have captured over 1,000 VIs per day!
Nice to welcome Adam Holloway MP to West Kent Towers, who popped into see our Data Management operation. His pale bare legs in tight shorts (hidden from the camera) were quite a distraction for our packers!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Say hello to our poster boys (and girl)!

Here are my "poster boys" (and girl) - it's all getting very real!  I can smell the gunpowder. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Poor old Matt

Spare a thought for our poor intern, Matt Boughton.

After a hard day at the office Matt joined Tom Tugendhat and the team on the doorsteps of Tonbridge tonight. It was an office night out, as they were campaigning in support of Jon Botten in Medway ward, where he is one of our local candidates. 

At one house an elderly lady answered who proudly told Matt that she was 92 "and I have never voted anything other than Conservative." Having secured a pledge of support for May he thanked her and turned away. 

 "Hang on one moment", she said, pointing at the bundle of calling cards in Matt's hand, "you haven't given me one of those" .  Matt handed over a card with Tom's and our local candidates' photographs upon it. "He's quite a dish, isn't he?" she said. Matt nodded awkwardly, not wanting to confirm that he also thought his boss was "a dish".  "Did I read he was in the Army?"  Matt confirmed that he was. Then without a hint of embarrasment or hesitation, she poked a wrinkled arthritic finger firmly into Matt's tummy... "I must say you're a bit porky, aren't you - six months in the army would do you good too. Close the gate behind you.

Labour's pink van says more about Labour than it does about women

Labour's pink minibus, touring the country to persuade women to turn out to vote for them, is the epitome of why I dislike the Labour Party and it's condescending attitude to the groups they believe owe them their loyalty.  

Like Blair's "for the many, not the few" Labour seek power through division and the expected blind patronage of their client groups. Whilst tediously reciting the mantra of "equality and justice"  Labour know that their only route to power is to continue to divide and stigmatise. If you keep telling woman that the Tories don't recognise equality; keeping telling the BME community that the Tories don't respect or want them, keep telling the poor that they are better-off with another hand-out rather than a hand-up....  then you keep people divided and angry; then you can exploit that anger and division for selfish political gain. .

Last year a friend's daughter, a natural Conservative who had never bothered voting, wrote to me and asked me why she should vote and why she should vote Conservative and not for one of the other parties. Here is the passage I wrote about why I believed Labour was unworthy of her support. 

I wouldn't change a word.

Unlike you, Laura, I was born in real poverty. My parents divorced when I was a young child and my mother moved back to Liverpool from Scotland, to be close to her mother and support networks. Apart from some limited financial support from my father’s family, they had nothing. My grandfather was a dock worker and my grandmother worked in a cotton mill. I was raised in a two bedroom  council flat in Wirral and educated at the local comprehensive. I was lucky. I had a mother who believed in hard work and self-reliance and a school which still retained its previous grammar school ethos, under a Head Master who believed in discipline, hard work and respect. The estate I grew up on was Labour to its core – unthinking, dependency-culture Labour. I saw from the earliest age what Socialism did to individuals. It created (indeed required) a client culture to survive. It removed hope by keeping people dependent for their jobs, benefits and houses. Comprehensive education rewarded mediocrity – no one failed but few excelled. You may think this odd, but for a young boy who had hopes and dreams, I loathed Socialism and all it stood for. And I still do. Some theorists say it’s ‘fair’ – the only fairness is the equal sharing of misery. It is telling that hardly anyone in the upper echelons of the Labour Party grew up in poverty; had they done so they would never want to impose it on others. Many people were born into the Conservative Party; I wasn't. I chose it because I believed it offered me hope.

And so it begins...

The West Kent team start sorting and batching application forms for the Faversham & Mid Kent selection / sift committee. Exciting times. 

Talking of exciting times and hopeful candidates....  look what the printer has just delivered!

Monday, 9 February 2015

The day I became Iain Dale's pimp

If Iain Dale needs confirmation that he is now in the big time he can look at his rocketing RAJAR figures or review his increasingly frequent media appearances - or he can reflect in the glory of this bizarre tale.

On Friday, completely unannounced, a man turned-up at West Kent Towers. He was clutching a Selfridges carrier bag.

"Forgive me for turning up un-announced, but you are my last hope. Do you by chance know Iain Dale...?"  I admitted that I did, though deliberately didn't sound too enthusiastic in case our unknown visitor was bearing a grudge. "Thank goodness, I was about to give-up" he said, pulling from his bag two pristine copies of Iain's "Memories of Maggie" book.

He introduced himself as an "inactive member" from one of our better heeled villages. "My friend and I have copies of this book, and we have been looking for Iain everywhere as we would love him to inscribe them for us. Do you think that could be arranged?  As he spoke he got out a cheque book from a particularly prestigious private bank. "I appreciate it will cause you a degree on inconvenience, so I am happy to make a small contribution to Party funds..."  I tried not to look too obvious as I craned my neck to count the 0s - though as I took the payment I did feel a bit like a street hooker sticking a £5 note down her cleavage.

"I am sure Iain would be happy to oblige - though it might take me a couple of days to get hold of him."

After he had left I saw the Director of Paperclips looking at me with a hint of scorn mixed with disappointment . "You're shameless" he said. "Is there nothing you won't do to grub a few pounds..."  I tried to argue, but I had to admit that being Iain Dale's pimp was a new low, even for me.

FOOTNOTE:  Iain has indeed agreed to sign the books, but offered something better. He has a number of fly leaves pre-signed by Baroness Thatcher at the time she launched Statecraft. Iain offered two of these to our mystery donor in exchange for a donation to Tracey Crouch's campaign fund. Our mystery donor was delighted to oblige - and has agreed a five fold increase in his original contribution. Thank you, Iain - everyone's a winner ;)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Knock three times and ask for Lisa

Three unrelated events this week focused my mind on the inevitability of change and how distressing it must be for those who see change as a threat rather than an opportunity.  

I was fortunate to spend my early formulative years in Southampton; a city which, probably in no small part due to it's Merchant Navy connections, was more socially liberal and laissez faire than many others of its kind. I had few concerns about "coming out" in Southampton, surrounded by a peer group who were supportive and accepting. My social life was based in and around a pub called The Grapes. It wasn't a gay bar per se more an Off Off Broadway production with a cast of hundreds, each one with a story to tell, a history to hide or a song to sing; we were, after all, our own special creation.  Late nights were spent at the Magnum Club where "knock three times and ask for Lisa" would ensure you were allowed inside, whilst the drunken hens and voyeuristic straights were left in the street. It was provincial but it was fun. 

Fast forward to February 2015 and an email from an angry resident who takes great exception to a councillors' newsletter praising a recent upgrade to the local railway station, including a new forecourt, additional parking and new pedestrian crossings and seating. These things apparently are not be be celebrated, as they represent a further denigration of the town which is "going down hill" due to such changes the investment in the railway station represent. 

Finally I am in a taxi, dashing back to Victoria after a meeting in Portcullis House. As soon as the taxi doors lock the driver launches into a well rehearsed tirade about politics and politicians. Apparently "that Maggie Thatcher was OK, but look at what we've got running the country now." His father grew up in the East End in a two-roomed house "they had nothing but he was happy, salt of the earth..." And, of course, "that Nigel Farage is right - we need to send 'them' back and take back our country..."

This weekend Steve and I took a rare day off and drove to Oxfordshire to spend some quiet time on our narrowboat. On Friday night we drove into Oxford and finally got to watch The Imitation Game. I am fortunate to have known someone who worked with Alan Turing and was involved in the campaign to secure his pardon. The film was a romantic adaptation of the reality, but one thing was ghastly and true; his post-war breakdown and suicide was due to the brutal treatment of gay men at that time and the psychological and physical reaction to the chemical castration imposed by the courts as an alternative to imprisonment.  At the end of the film the following words appeared on screen: 

"Between 1950 and 1967 49,000 men were sentenced to government sanctioned
chemical castration by UK courts."

So when my group of Southampton friends get together and talk about our own "good old days" and someone inevitably says "how much more fun it used to be, with secret knocks on club doors" I will remind them that tens of thousands of men feared social opprobrium which forced them into secret lives. They must have longed for the liberty and acceptance we too easily take for granted.

Just as I replied to the railway station complainant; explaining that a Chamber of Commerce study had indicated that same newcomers, whose arrival forced the railway station to improve, are also responsible for 47% of spending in the town's thriving High Street, which would otherwise be unoccupied and in decline. 

And, as for the taxi driver... As I alighted at Victoria, I asked what his plans were for the weekend. Ironically he was heading off for a curry. "But don't you want to send them all home and take back control of our country?" I asked, trying to hide my anger. "Nah mate, the Indians are OK, it's the others." 

I asked him if he had ever heard of Martin Niemoller.  Unsurprisingly he had not.

Widdy Wows West Kent

We have just waived goodbye to always popular Ann Widdecombe, now heading back to her home to Devon, after a day of fund raising activity which has raised over £6,000 for Party funds in West Kent.  

A series of events, at just £10 or £20 per person, were packed to the rafters as our local members and supporters turned out in droves to hear Ann speak and to raise money for the election campaign. At today's event - a set lunch in the excellent Gurkas Brother Nepalese restaurant in Chatham, raised over £3,000 (including £2,000 bid for days out on my Dutch Barge on the River Medway). 

There are just a few politicians whose reputation and popularity transcend normal party political boundaries; Ann Widdecombe is one of those people. At today's events we had as many non-members attending as paid-up Conservatives; and she left them wanting more. To those who have only heard her in parliament she is, in the flesh, more humorous, self-deprecating and charming than people expect. It was a pleasure to welcome her back to Kent. 

A formidable double-act: Ann Widdecombe and Tracey Crouch answering questions at today's lunch
An equally formidable double act - Janet Sergison and Vivian Branson; the best raffle tickets sellers in Kent
Wonderful selection of delicious Nepalese food from our friends at Chatham's Gurkas Brother Restaurant,
owned, managed and run by retired members of the Brigade of Gurkas, who settled locally
after their service in the British Army.

Almost 100 guests attended today's lunch

Friday, 6 February 2015

BEWARE of Labour's data mining

Before people happily and innocently click on this link doing the rounds on social media, they should read the small print. The above icon invites people to enter their name, address, postcode and email address "to see how common your name is in the UK".  It's only later in the process does this appear:

In case you struggle to read it, I will transcribe below:

"The Labour Party or its elected representatives might contact you about the issues
you are interested in or our campaigns."

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A day on the river for floating voters

Steve and I are pleased to offer an auction lot with a difference - a day out on the River Medway for six people.

Many activists kindly open their homes and gardens to help raise money for the Party - so we thought we would open our home too! This prize will be auctioned at the West Kent lunch with Ann Widdecombe this coming Sunday. 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The elderly voter who speaks for us all !

Chatham and Aylesford activists deliver a quarterly MP / Councillor newsletter to every house in the constituency, and once a year we like to include a light-hearted competition, such as a "word search" or "spot the difference" or "can you identify this building" etc. I dare say some of our more high-minded politicians may scorn such lowly endeavours, but each competition attracts several hundred responses, people seem to enjoy participating and it certainly does no harm. It also shows us where there are holes in our delivery network, as the response rates are so high it is easy to spot the gaps!

January's newsletter contained a Wordsearch for the 17 towns, villages or hamlets within the constituency boundary, and to help us select the winners we included a tie break question:

"I want Tracey Crouch to continue as our MP because...."

We've already had several hundred responses, but one arrived this morning which caused great amusement.

And so say all of us !

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A day in the inbox of a Conservative Party Agent

Dear (insert name)

Thank you for your email. (Please select one of the following sentences as appropriate)

"I am sorry you don't like the font we used on the flyers advertising your branch coffee morning. I am however pleased to read that your 8 year old grandson could probably do a better job and I would not be at all offended if you asked him to print them again."

"I am sorry if it has taken us 4 hours to reply to the email you sent at 10am this morning. The deadline referred to for "signing off" your calling card was actually last Tuesday, not today. Your ward colleague signed them off on your behalf as I hadn't heard from you."

"I am sorry that you haven't received a reply to the "numerous emails" sent since Christmas, however I notice you have been using an email address which was closed down in 2012. May I suggest to avoid confusion you delete the old address from your contact book and use this one for all ongoing correspondence."

"I am sorry you think the office is 'incompetent' for not sending you a 2015 membership reminder. Upon investigation it would appear that you have actually been paying your subscription by standing order since 2011, hence we renew your membership automatically without the need to ask you to pay."

"I am afraid that I do not have Grant Shapps personal telephone number nor his address, however CCHQs phone number is (xxxxx), who may be able to tell you why you have not yet received your limited edition Conservative Party mug."

"I am sorry that the calling card contains an incorrect email address but please see below a copy of your email in which you confirm all details are correct and it is OK to print."

"I note your comment that "if we hadn't put the wrong email address on the card in the first place this mistake would not have happened" however may I draw your attention to the attached scan of your contact form, on which you wrote rather than .com. We simply copied what you had written."
"The reason you did not receive an invitation to the branch selection meeting is not due to the "ineptitude of the agent" as you claim, but because you have not actually paid a membership subscription since 2009.  I hope this clarifies the situation." 
"I am sorry to read that you think the new calling cards are too heavy to carry and they bend in the wind."
"I don't actually think it's wise to mark someone as a Conservative on the basis they have two Jaguars in the driveway. So did John Prescott."
 "I have just spoken to the lady who delivers your road and she has assured me that she did not have a dog with her nor did she leave dog excrement on your lawn. She did say that you do not have a fence or gate and it is therefore possible that a passing dog or cat may have entered your garden without an invitation."

"I am sorry that you do not like the orange chiffon scarf you are wearing in your election photograph, I think it looks quite nice. However I must ask why you were wearing it for your photograph if you don't like it?"
Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can be of any further assistance. 

With best wishes

Sunday, 1 February 2015

155,000 Voter ID Surveys going to print this week

This week we will be sending to print 155,000 Residents' Surveys. As everything we do in West Kent, these will be sent jointly from the parliamentary and the local council candidates.

Across the four constituencies participating in this project we will be designing 65 different versions of the survey - one for each council ward. Yes, this creates an enormous amount of additional work, and yes it would be much faster and simpler to have one constituency-wide survey from the MP/PPC. However, our local councillors, candidates and MPs / PPCs have a proud tradition of supporting each other and working together. In the months leading to Thursday 7 May we need everyone working towards a common goal - the maximum Conservative Party vote for all Conservative Party candidates. 

Our councillors want a Conservative MP and a Conservative Government. Our Parliamentary candidates want Conservative Councils and Conservative councillors. We recognise that the best way to achieve this is a common campaign with everyone working together for victory.