Thursday, 28 December 2017

Supper with Nick de Bois

How many tickets would you like?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Improving Standing Order Payments

We all know the advantages of converting annual cheque / cash / credit card payers into standing order payers:

Advantages for the Association:
1. No printing or postage costs to send the renewal letter (£1 saved)
2. No reply paid postage costs for the member to send their cheque (another 58p saved)
3. No time frittered opening letters and banking the cheques
4. No additional costs to send a reminder to the 35% who never pay when first asked

Advantages to the Member:
1. No digging out a dusty cheque book and writing a cheque
2. No form to complete and post
3. No danger of membership lapsing 

Even though we have membership collection costs nailed down to a minimum, it still costs us about £3,000 a year to write to our annual payers to invite them renew their subscriptions (this does not include the cost of posting their membership card once renewed). This £3,000 (and a lot of office/volunteer time) could be saved if we switched payments to standing order.

Across West Kent we have around 3,000 members, of which one third pay by SO.  This leaves 2,000 members who do not. We have today written to all of these members explaining the benefits of SO payments and inviting them to change their payment method ahead of their January renewal.  Here is a copy of the letter. 

And thanks to the generosity of one of our donors, who is committed to this initiative, we are also offering all new standing order payees a small incentive/thank you gift for returning their SO forms promptly; a 2018 Desk Calendar showing some fabulous views of West Kent - the photographs taken and submitted by members in a competition held some months ago. See below.

I will let you know how we get on.

Front cover: River Medway and Aylesford Bridge and Village
Chatham and Aylesford Constituency

January: The Pantiles
Tunbridge Wells Constituency

February: County Hall
Maidstone and the Weald Constituency

March: Megalithic Burial Stones at Kits Coty overlooking the Weald of Kent
Chatham and Aylesford Constituency

April: Faversham Creek
Faversham and Mid Kent Constituency

May: Cranbrook High Street and Windmill
Maidstone and the Weald Constituency

June: Cricket on Meopham Village Green
Gravesham Constituency

July: "A Different Ball Game". Art installation marking the entrance to Kings Hill  
Tonbridge and Malling Constituency

August: River Medway and Aylesford Bridge and Village
Chatham and Aylesford Constituency

September: Leeds Castle and Lake in the morning mist
Faversham and Mid Kent Constituency

October: Bidborough Ridge overlooking Sevenoaks and the North Downs
Tunbridge Wells Constituency

 November: Gravesend Pier and the River Thames
Gravesham Constituency

December: Tonbridge Castle
Tonbridge and Malling Constituency

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Those Bloody TPA Types!

One of my local councillors was meeting with a Senior Officer of a neighbouring authority to discuss joint working. 

As always, the difficulties in balancing the books came up during the discussion. The neighbouring councillor gesticulated towards the "free" coffee machine which dispenses expensive ground coffee for councillors, staff and visitors. 

"Things cannot be that bad here if you can afford to give free coffee away". 

 The Senior Officer shifted uncomfortably. 

"Yes, quite. Well, errr.... we are getting rid of them but we are just running down stocks." 

*For the record, they have been saying this for almost a year now. 

"I don't think Cllr XXXXXXXX will be very impressed. He has been campaigning against these indulgences since he was elected." 

Long pause.... before the Senior Officer replied 

 "I cannot bloody stand these Tax Payers Alliance types." 

 And that is why Local Government cannot balance its books!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Online Payments / PayPal

Yesterday I put onto social media that we had emailed our database ahead of sending out Christmas Raffle reminders, and the initiative had raised £700 (now £800 as more responses today) at no cost whatsoever. I said that Associations who do not use online payments are really losing out.  

This resulted in a number of inquiries from other Associations as how we do this, which in turn encouraged me to write to two blog posts. One on using PayPal, and another, which I will publish later today or tomorrow depending on time, will focus on how we use PayPal to specifically promote draw ticket sales. 

Firstly I acknowledge that some people have had difficulties with PayPal and can be very vocal with their complaints. I can only speak as I find. In three years and over 5,000 individual transactions, we have never had a problem. There are several online payment options, some of which charge less than PayPal. The difference however is marginal and most do not offer the many sales and marketing benefits and "tools" which come free with PayPal. 

First you will need to set-up a PayPal account by visiting their website and clicking "sign up". From memory the application process took about ten minutes. The most difficult part was to link our PayPal account to a bank account. This involved entering the linked bank account details onto the application form. PayPal withdrew a penny from our account using a reference number. I had to ascertain this reference number and enter it onto the system (no doubt to prove I had access to the nominated bank). As I am not a signatory this resulted in the West Kent Treasurer visiting the bank with me to get a print out with the relevant reference number, though once this was obtained the process ran smoothly. 

And contrary to popular belief, you do not need a PayPal account to use PayPal payment services. On every transaction page there is an option to "pay as a guest" in which case the user simply enters their credit/debit card details to pay. There is no need for them to have a PayPal account. 

For most Associations this is all you will need to do. Money from ticket sales, membership renewals and donations will come into your PayPal account and your Treasurer will simply transfer this to the Association's bank account. This is a simple process and takes less than a minute to do (money is transferred within two hours).

If you have more than one Association (as in our case - we have six) it becomes more complicated. We decided to have just one PayPal account which accepts money from all six Associations in West Kent and we have linked each Association's bank account to the same PayPal account. On a weekly basis go through the receipts and allocate the funds to each Association as appropriate. We keep a manual record of what we have transferred and why, and when the bank statement arrives each month we annotate it to enable the Treasurer to allocate the income appropriately. 

For example:  "£175 membership. £260 Annual Dinner.  £125 Tonbridge branch quota."

Considering at any one time we can have payments coming in for 20+ events this takes a lot of managing, but probably no more so than receiving, annotating and banking the same number of cheques each week! 

It is worth noting that around 80% of our ticket sales for events are now done totally online. We circulate the flyer electronically and receive payments via PayPal. This has saved thousands of pounds each year on printing and postage. 

How do we actually use PayPal and what features does it have?

PayPal have a whole page of selling options to help and support their users. Many of these are no use to us, but the ones we tend to use most often are

1. BUY NOW Button: Under the tools section there is an option to create a "Payment Button". The user simply gives the button a name, for example "Christmas Draw" or "Annual Dinner with Rory Stewart MP" and defines the ticket price. This generates a simple block of html code which you copy and paste into your website. Here, for example, is the payment button for our 2017 Christmas Draw (if anyone would like to try it out to see how simple it is..... you are very welcome to do so!)

How many 2017 Christmas tickets would you like?

2. DONATE Button: This is just the same as setting up a "Buy Now" button but it reads "Donate Now" instead. This can be used for fighting fund appeals, random financial appeals for purchasing expensive office equipment etc. This also allows the donor to send a one off donation or to donate a similar amount on a weekly/monthly/quarterly or annual basis. 

3. INVOICING:  This has two options. It can either generate a one-off invoice which is automatically emailed to the recipient (good way to secure payment from people who have won auction lots or similar). Or you can upload multiple names and email addresses and it will generate and send personalised invoices to large numbers of people. The recipient simply clicks on the "pay" button on the electronic invoice and enters their card details.  See sample below. 

Finally...and this is hot off the press.  We have today ordered contactless card readers for use at social events Increasingly we are losing raffle ticket sales as people have no cash. This will no longer be an issue - our raffle ticket sellers will each be issued with a contactless card reader linked by Bluetooth via an App to our PayPal account. Supporters will simply hold their debit card to the reader (as in a shop) and their raffle ticket money will come directly from their bank account and into ours! Kerching!  The card readers from PayPal are just £35 each!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Curse of West Kent

In March 2016 we invited Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP to speak at our Annual Dinner in July.
On 14th July he was sacked by the Prime Minister!

In May 2017 we invited Canterbury MP Julian Brazier to speak at our Annual Garden Party in August.
On Thursday 8 June he lost his seat!

In October 2017 guess who agreed to address our Patrons' Club Winter Dinner?
Yup - you guessed. Priti Patel MP!

I am now looking for a speaker for our Spring Lunch. If there is anyone you would like to see the back of, please let me know and I will invite them to speak. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

West Kent's 2017 Christmas Draw

It's that time of year again
- the Annual Christmas Draw! 

Members and supporters are invited to participate in the 2017 West Kent Christmas Draw via credit/debit card or PayPal. Paying this way not only saves you the tedious task of hand writing the counterfoils and finding your cheque book. It also saves us the cost of the postage!  Once your payment has been received, we will write your counterfoils and let you know your ticket numbers by return email. 

To support your local Conservative Association simply click on the link below to buy your tickets. 

Good luck and thank you for your support. 

How many tickets?

Sunday, 8 October 2017


For those who share my love of and support for Britain's Overseas Territories, the annual Conservative Friends of Gibraltar Reception addressed by the Chief Minister, is one of the highlights of the Party Conference. 

For those who were unable to attend or who were there but did not hear his words, I am pleased to reprint the Chief Minister's speech below. I think I have listened to twelve such speeches over the years. This is probably the best. 

I would like to express me thanks to The Rt Hon Fabian Picardo for sending this to me. I messaged him yesterday afternoon to ask for a copy and it was in my inbox when I woke up. The fact the Chief Minister bothered to read and respond (and so fast) is a reflection of his character. I am sure he had much more important things to do. 


My Lords, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen

Thank you.

A really big thank you from Gibraltar.

Thank you for being here. Thank you, for your support over this incredible year.

The people of Gibraltar know they can always count on the support of the Conservative Party.

In particular I must thank the Conservative members of the Gibraltar Group in Parliament ably led by Bob Neil and supported by so many others. Indeed, I don't think that there is a Conservative Member of Parliament who does not support Gibraltar.

But, trust me. We don’t take that for granted.

It really is a pleasure to be here in Manchester with you and in the excellent company of the Foreign Secretary [AND THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE]. Both have been stalwart supporters of Gibraltar BEFORE and DURING their time in the Cabinet. Boris will recall how just days after the referendum, hot on the heels of very firm assurances to Gibraltar from the newly appointed Prime Minister, he welcomed me into his office with a glass of French red wine. We toasted the prosperous British future of Gibraltar. It was the start of an excellent friendship. Since that day every minister, every team of officials that we have met – Foreign Office, Home Office, Treasury, Trade, Environment, all of them - have made us feel just how close we are to the United Kingdom and its people and that we are truly appreciated as an integral part of the British family of nations.

Politically, our friendship and partnership is ministered to by the equally robust and supportive Sir Alan Duncan - an old boy of RAF Four Corners in Gibraltar, where he lived in his happy early years when his father was Wing Commander on the Rock. And at the Treasury, Steven Barclay undertakes the work of ensuring we resolve all issues on financial services in time for Brexit day. Also, in particular, in nurturing of the day to day relationship is Gibraltar's point man in DeExEu, Robin Walker. I must tell you Robin works as hard for Gibraltar as any one of my own Ministers and that comes across in the detailed work we are doing in preparing Gibraltar for a RED WHITE AND BLUE BRITISH BREXIT ALONGSIDE BRITAIN. Because Conservatives - whether they were advocates of remain or leave in the referendum - have stood by us as we look to the challenges that the decision to leave the European Union set before us.

And our partnership will deliver a successful Brexit for Gibraltar.

A prosperous Brexit for Gibraltar.

Because we are already working on maintaining and enhancing our access to our most important market, the UK market on the basis of a common regulatory standard agreed between us. A fantastic reinforcement for David Davis’ cast iron, clear and unequivocal pledge to us that the United Kingdom would not do any deal on future trade with the European Union if Gibraltar was left out of it because of Spanish pressure. That is what friendship and commitment means in practical terms!

The European Commission has already bent to Spanish pressure in its shoddy and probably illegal negotiating guidelines on Gibraltar. But I do not believe this is a Conservative Government that will ever surrender to Spain pressure to sacrifice Gibraltar's commercial interests and its prosperity.

I just do not see Boris Johnson surrendering one grain of sand or any aspect of sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over Gibraltar. Nor Theresa May. Nor Liam Fox. Nor David Davis. Do you?

And I have no doubt that Spain will nonetheless understand that the United Kingdom and Gibraltar are seeking a string future relationship based on mutual respect and with mutual commercial benefit for all sides as move forward toward our future outside the European Union. Because we continue to seek friendship from our Spanish neighbours and all our European partners. Together we can convince all of them that the way ahead is trade and friendship, co-operation and security, partnership and shared values.

But we will never compromise any aspect of sovereignty, jurisdiction or control in exchange for any commercial advantage. Our British Sovereignty means more than anything to us. Indeed, just three weeks ago we celebrated 50 years since we voted in our first referendum by 99% to remain British. 15 years ago we voted again by 99% in a second referendum to stay British when Jack Straw tried to betray us in a Joint Sovereignty arrangement with Spain. Spain insisted then and insists now that both our referenda were illegal. But in the words of the enduring slogan of the 1967 Referendum: BRITISH WE ARE AND BRITISH WE STAY.

On the day of the 50th anniversary the Prime Minister told the people of Gibraltar in a televised message that Britain is absolutely steadfast in its support of the Rock, its people and its economic future. Thank you Theresa May for that unequivocal support.

We know that support comes through the Prime Minister from across the British people and across the whole Parliament. We know that when things get tough, as they will from time to time in the negotiations with the EU, we will have full support from both Houses of Parliament at Westminster.

Clearly the strongest voices in that choir are those of you gathered here in this room. And your support and because of our great bond and the efforts made by our respective governments to ENERGETICALLY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY make a success of that democratic referendum, the fears of 96% in Gibraltar who voted to remain have to date been met with genuine and realistic reassurance.

As a result, the Gibraltar economy has moved ahead full steam.

The quarterly figure of unemployed for the quarter that ended yesterday is 85 individuals.

More cross frontier workers are coming to Gibraltar than ever before. 13,000 people cross the frontier every day to work in Gibraltar. 7,000 of the Spanish.

Gibraltar's GDP per capital is amongst the highest in the world. Our GDP growth has exceeded expectations again this year.

More companies are applying to do insurance and online gaming business in Gibraltar AFTER the result of the BREXIT referendum than before.

AND, I am confident that in PARTNERSHIP WITH BRITAIN - I KNOW we are going to make this work.

I KNOW that you will be there with us shoulder to shoulder.

AND I KNOW that with the continued concerted effort made by the dynamic entrepreneurs and hard-working people of Gibraltar - OUR GREAT ROCK OF AGES will hold its own.

We will stand FIRM.

We will stand PROUD.


Friday, 29 September 2017

30 years' experience at your service...

30 years' experience at your service


In case we have not met, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Andrew Kennedy and I am one of Britain's longest serving Conservative Party Agents, with seven General Elections and almost 30 years experience.

Five years ago I helped form the West Kent Group, which is widely considered as the ideal model for the future of grassroots campaigning. Over recent years the Group has grown from three to six constituencies, with several more negotiating to join. At the 2017 election I looked after seven Parliamentary Candidates including Greg Clark, Tracey Crouch, Adam Holloway, Helen Grant, Helen Whately, Tom Tugendhat and Craig Mackinlay.

Following the 2017 campaign, with the full support of my Management Committee, I have formed my own Campaign Consultancy - Andrew Kennedy Campaigning Ltd. Unlike most consultancies, my aim is not to run high profile and "glamorous" campaigns, but to help and support our Associations, Councillors, Candidates and Members of Parliament in rebuilding their local grassroots campaign infrastructure, so each Association has the skills and resources it needs to fight and win locally. This includes:
  • Building a pledge base so we have a wide and deep pool from which we can recruit new activists, donors and most importantly voters.
  • Training and developing volunteers to improve both the quantity and quality of our campaigning, including accurate data and improved communications with residents on the issues that matter most.
  • Maximising income from existing donors and developing new donor streams to ensure we have the money in place which we need to fight and win against an increasingly well-funded Labour Party.
  • Finding new poster sites, postal voters, deliverers, canvassers and dealing with the dozens of vitally important tasks which are too often left until it is too late.
Everything I do is based on thirty years practical experience at fighting and winning elections at all levels. 

The above are just a few examples of the help and support I can provide. Please visit my website for further information. There are designated pages listing the services and support I can provide for

Conservative Associations (HERE),
Councillors and Conservative Groups (HERE) and
Members of Parliament and Parliamentary Candidates (HERE)

And if you are not familiar with my work and reputation, please take a look at some of the wonderful testimonials and endorsements from MPs and Council Leaders up and down the UK who I have worked with in recent years, (HERE).

I will be at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester from Saturday until Wednesday. If you would like to meet for an informal chat over coffee or a glass of wine to see how I might be able to help you, please get in touch. You can email me at or phone me on 07792 924820.

With best wishes

Andrew Kennedy
Campaign Consultant

PS You might be interested in attending the Conservative Home fringe meeting on Monday 2 October 2017 in "Central 5" with Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP and Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, when I will be speaking about the 2017 election, and what we must do better. 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Launching "Andrew Kennedy Campaigning"

Earlier this week William Rutherford, Chairman of the West Kent Group, circulated a note to the local membership informing them of changes at West Kent Towers, which had been signed off several weeks earlier.

In a nutshell, my long-suffering and highly competent colleague, Jon Botten, has been promoted to Agent and is taking on many of my day-to-day responsibilities. Jon will now be responsible for the administrative management of our member Associations as well as most of my legal obligations as an agent, including nomination papers, election expense returns and management of campaigns. 

I will remain at West Kent as Campaign Director and Consultant with responsibility for strategy, working with our Members of Parliament, Councillors, Group Leaders and Candidates to develop campaign plans and win elections. I will also retain responsibility for activist training and several of West Kent's higher profile fundraising initiatives. 

As well as (rightfully) recognising Jon's talents and commitment to the West Kent Group, these changes will also release me two days per week to develop something which has been in my mind for many years; my own freelance campaign consultancy.

The West Kent Group is a huge success and will continue to develop and grow. I am proud of what I have helped to achieve and the many accolades we receive from members across the UK. But it is also fair to say that with our five figure majorities, the future of our country will probably not rest on what happens in the leafy suburbs of West Kent. The next election will be won or lost in Hastings, Eastbourne, Canterbury, Eltham, Lincoln, Peterborough and dozens of other marginal seats.

And sadly, it is these Associations that seldom have the money to pay a campaign professional; a vicious circle in which our best campaigners are working in the safest seats building up great majorities whilst we lose by a handful of votes the very seats we must win to form a government.

o try and break this vicious circle is exactly why I am today launching Andrew Kennedy Campaigning - offering freelance campaign advice, training and support to Associations, Councillors, Group Leaders, Members of Parliament and Candidates on an hourly or daily basis.

There are many freelance campaigners out and about - most with expensive Westminster offices and seeking high profile and glamorous campaigns to front. That is not the market I want or am aiming for. The most successful campaigns grow from the bottom-up, they are not imposed from the top down. My skill will be to use 30 years' experience to rebuild our grassroots campaign infrastructure so our Associations and candidates have the tools they need to run their own successful campaigns from within. 

The key services I will be offering are as follows

  • A constituency audit and report highlighting your Association's strengths and weaknesses, along with a road-map to take you from where you are to where you need to be to win.
  • Building a grassroots campaign infrastructure including pledge base, delivery networks and poster sites.
  • Training your activists and volunteers so they improve their campaign techniques and harvest better, more accurate data which can be used to win elections.
  • Identifying new local government candidates to both widen and deepen the pool of talent, and training your Local Government / Approvals Committee to ensure they identify and approve the best local candidates.
  • Data gathering through postal and hand-delivered surveys, doorstep and telephone canvassing.
  • Maximising differential turnout and postal vote recruitment.
  • Regular communications with target groups and swing voters
  • Maximising income from existing and new donor streams
As you can see, none of this is glamorous, but our future success relies on our local Associations and campaign teams having the skills and abilities to do these basic things effectively at all elections, not just in the three weeks before polling day.

So whether you are an:

ASSOCIATION OFFICER seeking to strengthen your local organisation,

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT/ PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE looking to maximise your incumbency advantage or improve your doorstep campaigning, or a

CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLOR OR GROUP LEADER working hard to retain / gain control of your local council......

then I may be able to help you.

Please visit my website to see what I can offer - and if we have never met, take a look at what those who have worked closely with me over many years have kindly written about me and my campaign skills. 

To contact me and discuss how I might be able to support your local campaign, please CLICK HERE

My speech to ConservativeProgress / London Area Conservatives Conference

Thank you very much for that warm and generous introduction.

And thank you to Nabil Najjar, Luke Springthorpe, Mo Fisher and Ian Twinn and everyone at Conservative Progress and London Conservatives for organising today’s conference. It is refreshing to have this opportunity to look forward positively to what we must do better next time, so that we can avoid that awful, gut-wrenching feeling we all had when the results of the exit poll flashed up on the TV screens at 10pm on the night of the election.

To plan for the future we must be honest with ourselves about what went wrong.  Our failures must not be brushed under the carpet, nor should the process result in a culture of blame and recrimination. But the Conservative Party owes it to its members, donors and activists to involve them in that debate.

And that includes to listening to opinions which may be unpalatable to those within the Matthew Parker Street bubble, opinions formed through tens of thousands of conversations on the doorsteps, and in the pubs, workplaces and dinner tables up and down the country.

To seek to exclude our members and activists from that debate and to allow those who were responsible for the campaign to be both judge and jury, would be a dreadful disservice to all those who gave freely of their time, energy and money to help secure a Conservative Government.

In 2015 I was invited by Andrew Feldman to contribute to the Voluntary Party Review. I gave detailed evidence and submitted papers on what we had achieved in West Kent, changes which resulted in one of the most successful “groupings” in the UK; a way of working which reduced costs and trebled the amount of money we had available to spend on campaigning.

A model which maximised efficiencies whilst ensuring the autonomy of Associations and protected their long held and strongly defended right to select their own candidates.   

To help prepare the ground for what we hoped would be a far reaching and fundamental reform, I also wrote several articles for Conservative Home, the first of which contained the following preface

“We must ensure that any changes are bedded-in before our next major electoral challenge. Whatever we do, we should not allow a small number of recalcitrant Associations to use self-interest to block essential reforms which in our hearts we all know must come.

The Party is in a unique position of strength. We have won an election that most people didn’t expect us to win. Our opponents are in disarray. We are ahead in the polls and our finances are strong.

The temptation is to do nothing – or simply to “tinker”. To do so would be a dreadful missed opportunity. It could be decades before the moons are in such favourable alignment again. Having helped to win the war, I really hope Lord Feldman and his group have the courage win the peace and bequeath a voluntary party fit for the future.”

That was written in the summer of 2015.
In the light of how little progress has been made and with the benefit of the 2017 campaign fresh in our minds, how prescient those words turned out to be.

The first lesson we must address is the institutional dysfunctionality of much of the voluntary party. Please note the word “much” – because throughout the UK we are hugely fortunate to have the loyalty and support of thousands of people who constantly give more than their fair share, which is just as well as we have even greater numbers who have no intention of pulling their weight.

In Kent as elsewhere we have members, many in their 80s and some in their 90s, many in poor health, who struggled from door to door delivering leaflets and canvassing for support. We had volunteers in the office six days per week, some for 8 hours a day, packing envelopes and manning the phones. And we even had members who took their entire annual leave to enable them to work full time, such was their determination to defeat the threat Jeremy Corbyn posed to our country.

But sadly we also have more than our fair share of laptop warriors, who think elections are won on the comments pages of Con Home or Political Betting. Those with sharp elbows who always seen to be front and centre of the photograph for any visiting Minister, but cannot be seen for dust when there is work to be done, and too many who see the Party as a vehicle for self-advancement and self-aggrandisement, with no intention of contributing to a common goal or shared endeavour.

Locally we must accept that the Conservative Party is a national brand with branches throughout the country, just like Sainsbury’s, NatWest Bank or Hilton Hotels.

Can anyone here imagine Sainsbury’s allowing a feud between a store manager and his assistant managers to continue to a point when the store does not open its doors or stack the shelves;

…but we allow feuds – often decades old – to result in dysfunctional Associations failing to meet even the most basic requirements set out in the constitution.

Can anyone here imagine NatWest allowing a branch manager to refuse to sell mortgages as she does not believe in them;

…yet we allow Chairmen and Management Committees to refuse to campaign or canvass or run GOTV as “they don’t believe in it”.

And can anyone here imagine Hilton Hotels employing people who continually lose customers due to an inability to use basic IT;

yet we elect as our local leaders people who lose votes and membership due to their inability to use email and social media.

I know of no other organisation which has such a laissez-faire approach to how its local branches work or are perceived; we have no Key Performance Indicators, impose no quality control, provide no training, turn a blind eye to continual non-performance and incompetence and fail to assess what, if anything, is being achieved.

Is it any surprise our field operations are falling continually further behind?

I acknowledge that the majority of activists are volunteers. But when a member seeks elected office, either as a councillor or a branch, association, county or regional officer, with that office comes duty and responsibility.

Responsibility to those who elect them.
Responsibility to their colleagues, and
Responsibility to the Conservative Party in whose interests they have been elected to serve. 

Those who seek office simply to advance their careers or promote their own agenda are seldom nett contributors to our success and would frankly not be missed.

The present proposals to tackle our decline are Multi Constituency Associations (or MCAs). I fear these are not only too little, but also too late and destined to fail.

My own experience of working with two federated groups of Associations bodes badly.

Putting four weak Associations with one or two strong ones usually results in the weak Associations giving up, secure in the knowledge of their stronger neighbours will pay the bills and do the work.

This results in further atrophy of the weak coupled with anger and resentment from those who are left to pick up the pieces.

In politics as in life; you cannot make the weak strong by making the strong weak.

In my area, the hardest and most demanding aspect of my job isn’t winning elections or raising the money; it is managing the often unreasonable and competing demands of six MPs, six Council Leaders, six Management Committees and 88 branch Chairmen, all of whom think their needs should take priority over everyone else’s.

Putting a fresh faced, enthusiastic yet inexperienced CCHQ trained 25 year-old campaign manager in charge of an MCA is almost certainly not going to end well. It is unfair on the members and unfair on the Campaign Manager to expect them to manage such a viper’s nest of competing egos.

So where do we go from here?

What is clear is no change = no hope. We cannot carry on as before.

We got away with it in 2015.
We scraped by with the support of the DUP in 2017.
We will almost certainly not be so lucky in 2022. 

Our failure cost us at least the 19 seats which we lost by a margin of below 1%; a stronger more focussed ground war would have delivered victory and provided Theresa May with a majority of 24.

To illustrate the problem we face at grassroots level I would like us to examine the statistics from Kent.

Kent is a solid Conservative county; we hold 16 out of 17 parliamentary seats with majorities
from 7,000 – 24,000 and we hold of 13 / 15 local councils.

In terms of activism, political strength and organisation I suspect Kent is as good as it gets for the Conservative Party and probably better than most. 

It is also a county where one third of the constituencies fall under the West Kent Group and the other two thirds do their own thing, so we can easily compare and contrast.

Take a look at the slide…

West Kent Group
(6 constituencies)
Rest of
(11 constituencies)
Premises, including rent, rates, heat, light, utilities


Internal admin, including postage, stationery, leases and rental and admin-specific salaries


Campaigning, including printing of newsletters, surveys, election leaflets and campaign-specific salaries





Across the UK our Associations spend around £3.2 million a year on campaigning. 

If that figure was increased to equal we spend in West Kent, we would nationwide be spending an additional £10million pounds each and every year on winning elections.

Imagine the difference that would make.

But, of course, we cannot do that because up and down the country we spend 80% of our income on:

·       Buildings we cannot afford to heat,

·       Offices that are seldom open

·       Well intentioned secretaries who are paid a wage to print tickets inviting people to cheese and wine parties which raise money to pay the secretary to print more tickets for cheese and wine parties

·       Expensive lease arrangements on risographs which produce poor quality leaflets which no-one wants to read

And if we are lucky, there will be a little bit left for a newsletter, though sadly in many areas there will be no-one available to deliver them and they will be hidden in the boot of our councillor’s car until they find their way to the recycling bin.  

There is a better way.  My proposal is to take the best of what we do in West Kent but scale it up. My plan is for the Party to establish a network of 25 Campaign Centres, each covering around 20 constituencies, with separate arrangements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We must not fall into the trap of working out what we can afford then squeezing the model to fit the money we have. We must work out what we need to win, then ensure the finance is in place to deliver victory. 

That means each Campaign Centre should cover sufficient constituencies to ensure it has the money and resource it needs to win rather than spending half its time and energy raising funds. This requires a base of 6,000 – 7,000 members.

Each Campaign Centre would employ

·       An experienced “grey beard” Campaign Director with the experience and confidence to knock heads together and focus minds

·       A Campaign Manager to assist with campaigning plus one additional CM for each target seat within the group.

·       An Administration Manager to manage contracts and supplies, data management, procurement and the day to day running of the office

·       A part time graphic designer to ensure our literature was produced to the highest standard and also specialist help to ensure we have a strong and vibrant presence of social media.

·       A part time secretary to support the Associations and branches

·       A part time book keeper to ensure the money is banked and recorded efficiently and to work with Treasurers to ensure we are legally compliant

·       All housed in a modern, accessible building with sufficient space to accommodate the staff comfortably and professionally.

Obviously the costs would vary from region to region, but around £220,000pa should on average be sufficient to finance salaries and infrastructure. This, of course, would be shared between twenty Associations.  

The cost could be covered by transferring membership income and the proceeds of the two annual draws from Associations to the Campaign Centre. 

Such a plan would negate the need for national membership and all the attendant risks involved whilst relieving Associations of the burden of collecting this money – something most don’t enjoy and few do well.

My plan would also guarantee the independence of Associations to do the things which are most important to them.

Each would retain their own Management Committee and Executive and the right to select their candidates run their internal affairs. 

The Associations only financial responsibility would be to raise money to fight elections, and they could do this from their patrons’ clubs, fighting fund appeals, social events and contributions from councillors and candidates. Their continued independence from CCHQ control would be guaranteed.

But most importantly we would finally professionalise the party throughout the UK; ensuring campaigning was based on local issues and local need, enable the best quality literature to be produced with strong local content, that we were legally compliant and that resources were directed to where they are needed most, which is not where most of them actually live.

These changes could be proposed by the Party Board, approved by the convention and ratified by a postal ballot of all members then implemented nationwide.  If some of the crusty backwoodsmen get angry and resign in disgust, then we should say thank you and goodbye. The price of failure is too high to allow progress to be derailed by those who look back to halcyon days that never were.

The opening paragraph of the Conservative Party Constitution is clear.

“the primary objective of the Conservative Association is ….to promote the objects and values of the Conservative Party; to provide an effective campaigning organisation; and to secure the return of Conservative candidates at all elections.”

There is no mention of our primary objectives to be to run garden parties, fall out with each other at Executive Council meetings and squabble over the ownership of the photocopier.

Until we face up to this reality, the influence of the voluntary party will continue to decline along with our worth.  Those of us who engaged with politics to win elections and bring about change must take control of the narrative and force change on voluntary party before it really is too late.