Thursday, 27 April 2017

Then there were four!

A fourth West Kent Association has "upped the ante" on councillors who fail to do their fair share. Respect to Chatham & Aylesford Chairman, Cllr Michael Base, who sent this email today to the habitual slackers!

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Ring Behind the Swing !

Almost 8pm on Friday night and still going strong. My thanks to a marvelous team of over 50 volunteers who have helped man the phones and between them made over 6,000 contacts with postal voters in our key marginal wards. #ReallyWinningHere

The Roll of Honour: Elen Gente, Ron Leagas, David Grant, Betty Williams, Lee O'Toole x2, Mary Ratcliffe, Chris Woodward, Sarah Hohler x2, Harry Rayner, Sue Nuttall, Rose Tanner x2, Brian Bissell x2, Owen Baldock, Chris Baldock, Jon Botten, Matt Bailey, David Adams, Catherine Adams, Pam Bates, Jane Shepherd, Ann Kemp, Alex Hyne x2, Robin Betts, Nicolas Heslop, Alex Lewis-Grey x2, Sandra Garside x2, Jenny McDonnell x2, David Cure, Lynne Cure, Matt Boughton, Janet Walker, Georgie Wellford, Peter Homewood, Jo McTavish, Claire Stewart, Rosina Mercier x4!, Bev Palmer, Stanley Ward, Thelma Huggett, Barbara Cobbold, Matthew C F Dickins, Ade Kosoko, Steve Perry and Julie Perry.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

And we're off

Less the 48 hours after the Prime Minister announced the date of the General Election, West Kent's MPs are about to be presented with their locally produced campaign packs.

Exciting times.  

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Nurse Crouch to the rescue

Chatham and Aylesford MP and Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, was recently guest of honour at a lunch hosted by a nearby Conservative Association.  After the pudding had been cleared away and coffee served, Tracey started to deliver her speech. Half way through there was a loud and unpleasant thud - one of the guests had collapsed and landed on the floor underneath his table.

Undeterred and without hesitation, Tracey sprang into action - removing her jacket and crawling under the table to administer first aid whilst someone called an ambulance. Our poor chap was taken off to hospital but thankfully made a full recovery and is now back home. 

Was it too much sherry in the trifle or the thought of Tracey in her football kit?  Whatever the reason I have a horrible feeling that now our older male members know that collapsing at a lunch might result in Tracey stripping off to administer CPR under the table might start a trend.   

Data Data Data

With much of the country focussed on May’s elections, this is a good time to examine what we do on the doorsteps, what we need to achieve and how the data we collect should be used to maximum effect.

One of the challenges we face in West Kent is to convince our more traditional campaigners that canvassing is no longer about having a detailed discussion on every doorstep with the aim of converting the misguided into changing their ways. Similarly, to persuade our newer helpers that canvassing is a simple data gathering exercise and they do not need detailed knowledge of every aspect of party policy.

With so many Associations being wholly reliant on volunteers there is a danger that some may lack people with the training and knowledge now needed to gather and store data and how it should be used to maximise our chances. This includes:

  • ·         How to choose the targets and why certain groups are important
  • ·         The questions to ask to maximise accurate and useful responses
  • ·         The medium used to ask those questions (postal survey, doorstep, phone or email)
  • ·         How to record and store that information legally and in an accessible format
  • ·         How that data can be used to build future success

And when I refer to “future success” I don’t just mean electorally, though that is clearly our primary concern, but also in terms of recruiting members, donors, activists, postal voters and possible even future LG candidates.

In a previous era when 90% of people voted either Conservative or Labour a simple “may we count on your support” was probably sufficient; you were either with us or against us. That is no longer an option. Voters, even those who identify a Conservative, happily switch their votes at local, parliamentary, EU and PCC elections, and even at the same election as anyone who witnesses the bizarre vote splitting in multi-member wards will testify.

In this climate, we must be smarter and more accurate. Understanding a voters’ second preference is probably just as important as recording their first, and the ability to target nuanced GOTV messages to different groups is now vital in delivering victory in marginal council wards.

At West Kent Towers we are now working on our targeted GOTV material for delivery during polling week. For us, the days of a simple “Don’t forget to vote on Thursday” are long gone. In our target wards our teams will be delivering at least seven versions of GOPTV material

  • ·         Strong pledges who always vote
  • ·         Weak pledges who sometimes vote
  • ·         Conservative postal voters
  • ·         UKIP voters who would prefer a Conservative councillor to Labour or LD (Q voters)
  • ·         Labour pledges who prefer a Conservative to Lib Dem or UKIP (T voters)
  • ·         LD pledges who prefer Conservative to Labour or UKIP (M voters)
  • ·         Uncanvassed voters in target mosaic groups

For this to be effective however we must have the data in the first place, and this requires our doorstep and telephone teams to have the training and confidence to ask the right questions and enter the correct codes on the canvass sheets.

Other initiatives we are (or have been) working on include:

The time of day people vote: by time-stamping tellers sheets and recording this data, we can build up a picture of when people vote (morning, lunchtime, afternoon evening). This allows our teams to focus GOTV efforts where needed, for example not calling on evening voters in the morning releasing time to target those supporters who we need to turn out before dark.

*Variable paragraph pledge letters: by ensuring we ask the same questions by post, email, telephone and doorstep we are able to build a database of the main issues which concern individual voters. This information is then recorded and used to produce personalised letters from the candidate dealing specifically with the issues voters have told us concern them.

*Street-specific newsletters: again, by recording specific issues which affect roads or groups of residents, we have been able to produce a generic newsletter with a tailored “lead story and headline” for each road or target group of residents.

*So far we have only had the resources to do this for by-elections, but where we have the impact has been very considerable.

Data is key to almost everything we do. Knowing which voters will never consider voting Conservative (or who will vote for whichever party is best placed to defeat us) is just as important as knowing who we need to target. I will always remember Britain’s longest serving Council Leader, the late Mark Worrall OBE, telling me “the first step to winning an election is not to do anything which sufficiently irritates your opponents to motivate them to go out and vote against you.” And there is nothing more likely to motivate a laissez faire Labour voter than having a constant stream of Conservative literature landing on his or her doormat. It is for this reason I don’t like window posters, street stalls and loud speaker cars; they are indiscriminate in their audience and thereby reduce our advantage.

And after the dust has settled, good quality data is the gift that keeps on giving.

  • ·         Overlaying the pledge base with the marked register, you can identify pledges who did not vote and use peacetime to sign them up for a postal vote.

  • ·         Identifying your strongest and most consistent pledges you have a pool of support in which you can fish for helpers, activists, members and even future local government candidates

  • ·         Each year you can target one or two well canvassed wards and send every pledge a book of Christmas draw tickets; the response rate may only be 5% but the exercise covers costs and provides an easy gateway to build your donor base for the future.

All of this however relies of good quality data and that means we have to spend time and effort explaining to our volunteers why accurate data really matters and providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to ask the right questions and in the right way.