Friday, 20 November 2015

Laser Printers - free to a good home


The West Kent Group has three laser printers which are now surplus to our needs, and we are keen to give them to a worthy home, rather than paying to send them to landfill.

Two are mono HP Laserjet 4015 printers. They run at 55 pages per minute.

 The third machine is a Ricoh Aficio 240DN colour printer (see note below). 

nb The Ricoh is relatively new but the colour toner cartridges are quite expensive and the machine runs slowly, so not suitable for long runs. 

All three machines have had heavy use, but are in working order though probably in need of a service. 

Our preference is to give them to another local Conservative Association or a charitable organisation rather than an individual. 

If you would like one of these machines, please email 

Please note - the machines will be given to you "as seen" on the basis you arrange collection.  

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Bewitched on Hampstead Heath

I have just received a telephone call from a lady who refused to give her name and called from a withheld number. 

Apparently one of our councillors has a historical connection with witchcraft. She is about to send me a dossier. This includes many photographs she has found of black cats and historical witches who apparently all bear a resemblance to the councillor concerned. Apparently he's in a coven which meets on Hampstead Heath at midnight, 

I suppose of the many things he could be doing on Hampstead Heath at midnight, practicing witchcraft is cause for little concern. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Increased revenue from online Christmas Draw facility

Another internal organisational post for the geeks and nerds, here is our Christmas Raffle reminder letter, being posted next week.

You might note the 6th paragraph refers to buying the tickets online using a debit card. This is a new innovation for us and has proved remarkably successful. About 25% of income has come via online payments. We simply complete the stubs in their name and send the buyer a scan of the counterfoils - all of which is done by a volunteer at the office.

What's most interesting about this method is the increased revenue. Most supporters buy the tickets we send them (£20 worth) but the average online spend is closer to £40.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Tracey Crouch - keeping it local

For those geeks (like me) who actually enjoy reading literature produced by other Association's, here is Tracey Crouch MP's latest Westminster Report. The only thing of note from an agent/campaigner perspective is how we try to localise this for each ward in the constituency. Whilst pages 1,2,3,4,5 and 8 are common throughout, pages 6 and 7 change for each ward. This allows the local councillors to tell their own local success stories it also gives a degree of local "ownership" and encourages prompt delivery. It also prevents one on my pet hates - two pieces of literature landing on the doormat at the same time. 

Producing 13 different versions is more time consuming and complicated (especially when councillors don't meet deadlines!) but I believe it's worth the extra effort.  

Championing Mutual Aid

I have always championed "Mutual Aid" or "Campaign Support" as it's now called. We are fortunate that in West Kent we have substantial resources behind us. In recent years we have provided coachloads of activists for almost every target parliamentary by-election, and in the run-up to May 2015 we provided around £20,000 worth of support (cash, printing and material support) to 40:40 target seats. It's the right and proper thing to do and something we are quite proud to continue.

What really irritates me however is when that support is always "one way". 

I won't cause embarrassment by naming and shaming, but four years ago West Kent provided over 1,500 'man hours' of support to two Greater London constituencies for the Mayoral campaign. This involved between 20-40 activists every month, including all five local MPs. Yet despite this support, neither of these Associations managed to muster a single offer of assistance when West Kent faced five local by-elections in recent years. They didn't even manage to make a GOTV phone call. The local organiser from one of these constituencies phoned me recently to ask if we would be helping them again for Zac Goldsmith's campaign, and I think he was a bit surprised to receive a firm NO. West Kent will, of course, be pulling its weight for Zac - but we will be doing it somewhere else.

In a recent Maidstone by-election the biggest single contingent of outside help came from Hastings - one of the smallest Associations in the South East. They came as a 'thank you' for the help we gave them a few months earlier. It was a kind and generous gesture - but also a good investment as the goodwill generated will certainly be reciprocated when needed.  Likewise a couple of people also came from Swanley and Ashford; again a welcome gesture and greatly appreciated. In terms of Ashford that help is already being reciprocated with WK volunteers assisting in this weeks by-election there. 

What matters is not the volume of help, but that someone has made the effort - and making the effort is what really makes the difference and builds goodwill. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

500 Reasons to be Excited

Just two months ago West Kent Towers (with help and support from the great Ann Widdecombe) launched our new 500 Club. See HERE. Our aim was to enroll 500 members to the 500 Club at £30 per year each. This would produce income of £15,000 (500 x £30). Of this, 50% would be returned in prize money and the other 50% retained to help fight future elections. At capacity the Club would raise £37,500 by 2020. 

That was the plan. 

In reality, I thought it was a big ask. After all, this was a General Election year. Our members have paid their annual subscription, paid again for the local and Parliamentary campaign appeals, bought Summer Raffle Tickets, attended fundraising events and responded to numerous CCHQ financial appeals. I was conscious there are only so many times you can return to the same well. I hoped the 500 Club would be a success, but in my heart I thought we would probably sell 300 numbers and have to reduce the prize fund (and profit) accordingly. I am delighted to say I was wrong. 

This morning we sold our 500th number and the Club is at capacity. In fact, we now have a waiting list. 

What's more encouraging is around 40% of the Club members (about 197 of the 500) are not Party Members - they are pledges and supporters who have never before been involved in our work or fundraising. Interestingly, all of these people have previously (at least twice in recent years) been invited to join the Party, but none have done so. 

This is further evidence of how we must adapt to changing expectations in order to survive and grow in the future. 

The success in attracting new donors demonstrates to me that people are happy to pledge their support and even open their wallets to help us. But they are not willing to 'join' - with all the suspicion and fear of commitment that membership entails. 

The reality is, had we written to these 197 new donors and asked them to join, very few, if any, would have done so. But offer them a new way to support us - something tangible with a specific purpose and outcome, and they are happy to enroll.  Between them they have contributed £5910 to Association funds (of which £2955 is clear profit). I would be genuinely interested to hear if any other Association has attracted almost £3000 of new income since September. 

As we look forward to Lord Feldman's reforms, we must be brave and open. I have long maintained the old 'membership model' is due for fundamental reform. The success of this project demonstrates that hundreds of thousands of supporters are willing to donate if the offer is right and the purpose is clear. We must find a way to reach out to these supporters and involve them on their terms, not insist they join on ours.  

Tom Tugendhat MPs letter to Jeremy Corbyn

Many readers will have seen or read extracts of Tom Tugendhat's letter to Jeremy Corbyn regarding Seumas Milne's comments regarding the British soldiers having themselves to blame for dying in Afghanistan as they were... "occupiers in another country where they're not wanted."

I am pleased to publish a full copy of Tom Tugendhat's excellent letter below. 

Click the letter to enlarge. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

An Audience with Charles Moore

Since West Kent started its popular series of 'An Audience with....' it has been an honour to welcome many distinguished guests, including

Baroness Trumpington - who spoke about her life as one of Lloyd George's Land Girls, her work at Bletchley Park and her campaign to secure a pardon for Alan Turing.

Sir Nicholas Soames - whose personal recollections and reminiscences about his Grandfather enthralled and moved the audience.

Lord Trimble - who brought a human and very light hearted assessment of 'The Troubles' and his personal journey from an intransigent Ulster politician to one of the signatories on the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am therefore delighted to announce that our fourth guest will be Charles Moore, who will be speaking about his work as Margaret Thatcher's official biographer, and in particular about the second (of three) volumes of her biography 'Everything She Wants'.  

An Audience with Charles Moore will be hosted by Tom Tugendhat MP at a venue in Tonbridge (to be confirmed) on Thursday 10 March 2016. Tickets will be £20 per person to include an arrival drink.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Thank you to our super team

Over the last week our team of office volunteers (plus the satellite team working at the home of Chatham and Aylesford President, Joyce Gadd) have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Working in shifts since Monday they have packed over 19,000 envelopes, including
  • 3,000 Christmas Draw packs
  • 7,000 Residents' Surveys
  • 4,000 Tracey Crouch mailshot
  • 1,500 Notices inviting members to select the Police & Crime Commissioner candidate
  • 3,500 Postal Vote recruitment letters

A big thank you to Joe Mamo, Thelma Huggett, Bill Hills, Owen and Christine Baldock, David and Catherine Adams, Vivian Branson, Janet Sergison, Charles and Joyce Gadd, Allan Sullivan, Mike and Chris Parry Waller, John and Brenni Wilson, Jeff Tree, Ron Leagas, Gill Levine, Glynis Coates and Marion Cole.

What a super team we have!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Resident Cards

Each year the West Kent MPs writes to every new resident inviting them to participate in a Residents' Survey, with an opportunity to offer political help and support. We have now produced these smart DL sized cards, which our ward councillors will be delivering each month to new residents moving into their wards. 



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

2015 West Kent Christmas Draw

For those interested in what we do in West Kent, here is our 2015 Christmas Draw letter and reply slip. We have deliberately sent them out late this year as we needed to leave a couple of months between the launch of our 500 Club and the Christmas raffle. 

A high price to pay for tea!

Every two years or so I arrange a visit to Westminster for Afternoon Tea. 

It is not a fundraiser and never has been; the cost of the tea and the coach hire is so high that it would be almost impossible to add a margin for the Association - and even if we could do so we wouldn't as it is against the rules to profit from events at Westminster. In fact, once we take the printing and administration into account, it probably costs us money. It is, however, a nice thing to do. 

A basic Afternoon Tea (cup of tea, finger sandwiches and a cream cake) is £20.00, similar to what one would pay in a decent tea shop but less that a top hotel. In fairness, given the location I don;t think that is unreasonable. 

This year however, for the first time, the parliamentary authorities have introduced a "room hire fee". Again, I have no problem with the principle of this provided the fee is fair and reasonable.  And that is the problem. The room hire fee for the terrace pavilion is £2700. Considering we are going to be there for two hours, that's a hire charge of £1350 per hour. If we had selected the Members' Dining Room instead of the Terrace Pavilion, the rate would have been an eye-blistering £4500!

Had there been 100 people attending, the £2700 room hire would have to be divided between them resulting in a charge per person of £27 before the cost of the tea (£20) and the coach travel (£10) was added, resulting in a cost per person of £57. Fortunately we have managed to attract 150 guests which has reduced the hire charge per person to £18 (plus £20 for the tea and £10 travel) so the total cost per guest is £48. Still high for three finger sandwiches, tea and a scone!

I appreciate the Palace of Westminster is a prestigious venue and in times of austerity monetising the parliamentary estate to offset running costs is the right thing to do. However there is a balance between charging major corporations (for whom £2700 is an insignificant sum) and imposing what many would consider a punitive tariff on voluntary organisations. 

The UK Parliament prides itself on being open and accessible and rightfully so. Sadly I cannot see how pricing parliament out of the reach of so many helps achieve this goal. I hope a number of MPs will take up this issue and ask the House of Commons Administration Committee to look at this again.