Sunday, 25 November 2018

If we don't defend free markets, who will?

In the mid to late 1970s Jim Callaghan and Denis Healey, rocked by the collapse of "In Place of Strife" and the ensuing Winter of Discontent, lost their confidence and stopped defending collectivisation, trades unionism and nationalisation. This created the political space needed for Maragaret Thatcher to privatise state assets and roll back the post-war Butskill consensus.

For too long now the Conservative Party has failed to defend the free market. For too long now we have sat by and allowed a narrative to take hold which confuses globalisation and capitalism with free markets and consumer choice, to a point where public mood has now turned.

And now we have headlines like this:

Globalisation and corporate greed are not the same as entrepreneurship, competition and choice.

Unless we stand up for free markets we will have allowed, in fact created, the space for Socialism to return.

And we will only have ourselves to blame.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Bullying and victimisation cited by Chatham Labour Councillor for resignation

Statement from former Chatham Labour councillor, Sam Craven, on why she has just resigned from the Labour Party and will now sit as an Independent.

I have loved working with the residents of Luton and Wayfield since they elected me as one of their councillors in 2011. It is an honour to represent the ward and I will continue to work hard for the residents as an Independent councillor.
This is not a decision I have taken lightly and have tried for months to find a solution to the problems I have raised with the core leadership team. However, I can no longer remain a member of the Labour Group, or the Labour Party, after yet another broken promise has left my position untenable.
I made my concerns known to the core leadership team about the actions of a councillor and a candidate many months ago. I offered my resignation then, and on subsequent occasions since, as I felt I could not work with them. I was persuaded to stay while the leadership team pursued a resolution to the treatment I received which they acknowledged could be seen as ‘ganging up against a woman, bullying and victimisation’.
From this process meetings were held and a set of protocols were put in place. I followed instructions as promised. However, these agreements were never met, with no repercussions. Equally there had been communications which I was not fully involved in, or received, all leading to further undermine my position.
I had been working collaboratively on our ward newsletter (that I had been requesting since February 2017) as agreed to find out that an alternative newsletter had been designed and signed off to a deadline that I never knew existed. I never saw a copy until the leaflet had been printed and I did not feature in any form – though ward work I had specifically done was included. I only found out about the newsletters existence at one of our branch meetings, when a candidate told the meeting it was available.
The core leadership team had reached a compromise to produce two separate leaflets without informing me until after the fact. However, the promise they gave me for the production of my own newsletter has now been broken as they have decided this will not happen, taking away my right to correspond with residents.
On Tuesday evening I received an email telling me the full Leadership team has considered ‘the negative impact of leaflets going out without all of the candidates on, and that the re-selection for the third Luton and Wayfield candidate is imminent, it has been determined that a single leaflet solely with your content will not proceed but that funds for an additional leaflet which will contain all three candidates will be provided once the new candidate has been selected. This leaflet will be designed and signed off centrally instead of by Councillors or candidate’.
This suggests an admission that their own resolution had failed and appeared to be a poor idea to begin with. If they had actually managed their own protocols effectively in the first place this situation would never have spiralled so out of control and left me feeling my position within the group as untenable.
I thought I could have remained working within the group once my leaflet had gone out as agreed. But now they have broken that promise there is no way I can work with the core leadership team. I just can’t trust them anymore. Poor judgement, lack of leadership and a string of broken promises as led to this. I followed their instructions to the letter, put faith in their procedures and I have been let down at every step. They know I have strong opinions about how councillors and candidates should act and they have used this to drive me out instead of resolving matters.
They have succeeded.
When I got involved in politics, I was just a mum fighting to save her son’s school and I have always taken that approach since being elected. I am elected to help people so I have avoided the political game-playing that has turned so many people off politics.
My values have not changed but the party around me now seems to tolerate behaviour I find unacceptable and should not be shrugged off as political rough and tumble. There are serial offenders within the local party that no matter how many times they are spoken to, or investigated, keep on causing problems. I’m convinced it is only a matter of time before something really serious happens that cannot be swept under the carpet and I do not want to be associated with it.
In fact, it is relief to be away from nonsense like a councillor boasting about the deal they did with another member to ensure councillors were reselected without problems – all without the knowledge of the actual sitting councillors. It’s objectionable, makes a mockery of the selection process and is disrespectful to the membership as well as many of my ex-
colleagues who work tirelessly for the benefit of their wards.
Thankfully, I can now just concentrate on working hard for the residents of Luton & Wayfield with my head held high.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Defective Defections

I take a degree of absurd pleasure when a councillor who is not re-approved or
re-selected grandly announces that he/she (almost always a he) is defecting to another party.  

Apart from sense of self-flagellation, why would this please me? 

Simple because there is no faster, more definitive or simple way to prove that the Approvals Committee or Branch Committee were absolutely right to dump them in the first place. 

I simply do not comprehend how anyone can suddenly change their core political principles due to actions of the local Conservative Association's Approvals Committee.  

If the Chatham & Ayesford Local Government / Approvals Committee decided to turn their fire on me and dump me as a candidate I would have every right be be irritated / upset / bloody furious / vengeful (*delete as appropriate) with the members of that committee. I might decide they were all a shower ungrateful shockers and resign from the Association or even give my money and energy to another Association nearby.  But the one thing I wouldn't (couldn't) do was suddenly decide after 40 years belief in free markets, small government and personal liberty that I am becoming a big state, internationalist Socialist and fan of high taxes.  

Unless, of course, the councillor was never a real Conservative in the first place, and was just using the party as a stepping stone to self aggrandisement. In which case their defection is not surprising, because clearly it's all about them and not about principles or beliefs.

Which brings me back to my original point..... the Approvals Committee were absolutely right in the first place !

Thursday, 15 November 2018

There's still more that unites us than divides us

As passionate and determined as I am about Brexit, we all need to remember that when it's finally over there will still more that unites us than divides us. And the only alternative to us is Corbyn.

As angry as I am with the 'deal' I do not believe for one moment that those who support it, or take a different view to me, are 'traitors' or 'evil'.  I believe they are wrong. But I also believe that they are doing what they think is right.

I don't take any pleasure in finding myself so opposed to so many of my friends and colleagues. In fact, despite the bravado, I am actually finding this whole business quite disturbing and upsetting. It has divided friendships, families, communities and parties.

I want it to be over, but I will fight to the bitter end for what I believe. As must you, whatever side you are on.  But let's fight with facts and humour and grace, so we can at least pick ourselves up when it finally ends and rebuild those friendships and loyalties that have held us together and made us the most successful political party in the world.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Thank You x 14,000

One of the great but unexpected successes of the West Kent Group is our ability to use our numerical strength to raise substantial amounts of new money. And a good example of this is the West Kent 500+ Club.

The great Ann Widdecombe is the Club's Patron, and having such a respected and popular name involved certainly helps. 

If you opened a letter from Andrew Kennedy asking you to stump-up £30 it would probably go straight into the bin. When you see Ann's familiar face and signature, you at least read what she has to say!

The Club is now coming to the end of its third successful year and has once again raised over £14,000 profit for local Association funds. Since its formation, it has raised over £40,000 and given a similar amount back to members in cash prizes. It takes about 10 hours per month to administer from the office with no burden whatsoever on our Associations. Imagine how many BBQs, Cheese & Wines or Jumble Sales you would need to organise to raise £14,000!

What's more remarkable is the West Kent 500+ Club is a very simple and popular entry point for supporters to help the Association financially. At the end on this year over 50% of our 500+ Club Members are pledges rather than Party members. Many 500+ Club members now also buy Summer and Christmas Draw tickets, attend social events and a few have even got actively involved. 

Ideally you need a group of Associations working together to make this happen. One Association alone will not produce the size of membership required to make joining an attractive proposition. Asking people for £30 with a chance of winning £80 is not that enticing. Asking for £30 with a chance of winning a share of £15,000 (with a top prize of £2,500) really is worthwhile!  You need a critical mass to make it happen.

We are now recruiting members for the 2019 Draw, starting in January. If you'd like a gamble and a chance of winning, please sign up by clicking HERE

And if you are an Association or Group/Federation Chair and you would like to see if the West Kent 500+ Club model could work for you, email me via HERE

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The nine most terrifying words in the English language

President Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

For an old school agent who believes elections are still won door-to-door, the nine most terrifying words I now hear are, "We need a committee to improve our social media."

I'm hardly shy and retiring when it comes to social media myself. I am a prolific Facebooker, I have a Twitter a/c with 2,200 genuine followers, I use Insta and my consultancy has a website. And the ward where I am standing for election in May 2019 also has a FB page which is growing slowly and makes a nice addition to our traditional campaign toolkit 

My issue therefore isn't with social media, it's with people who think it can replace traditional campaigning. These fall into two groups:

(i) the new and enthusiastic who genuinely believe it to be true, and
(ii) the habitually bone idle who think it might save them from doing some hard work. 

At present I have two "social media committees" in my patch, each of which is "developing a strategy". Endless meetings are held, policies produced and plans made. But nothing every bloody happens. There are never any outcomes.

I suspect the type of people who convince themselves that they can thumb and tap their way to victory are more or less the same type of people who registered to vote in their millions in the 72 hours before the EU Ref but couldn't be bothered to walk to the polling station to vote. 

One of these committees even convinced the Association to stump up two thousand pound so they had a budget, which they spent employing someone to tweet for them. And that's the problem. Some Orwellian "newspeak" which simply retweets CCHQ propaganda alongside municipal press releases is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Last year I was sitting at my desk at West Kent Towers half listening to one of our Association's Local Government/Approvals Committees interviewing incumbent councillors in the adjoining room. The senior councillor being interviewed started berating the Association Officers for their lack of social media commitment. As she ranted on I searched her Twitter account; she'd tweeted nine times in the previous three years! "Something must be done!" as long as someone does it for me.  

When she sadly lost her formerly safe seat everyone else was to blame. Not enough support. Not enough money spent in her ward. Not enough time from the agent. Not enough literature. It was never mentioned of course that this ward had fewer pledges than any other, no peacetime newsletter had been delivered in the past ten years and two of her ward colleagues hadn't even been bothered to collect their main election leaflets from the office.  Had that branch spent more time building a relationship with their residents, the residents may have been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when they needed it. In politics as in life, what goes around, comes around. 

So yes, social media has its place. But for me it must be local, intimate and immediate. Association Twitter accounts blasting out CCHQ memes will never make the emotional connection with local voters that is vital to success. Councillors and candidates should use their social media pages to build relationships with their residents by posting examples of what they are doing locally and the difference they make to people's lives. For it to make a difference we must use social media to narrowcast, not broadcast. My most popular FB posts on my ward political page are when I post a lovely sunset or a photo of me with a random cat I have met on the doorsteps. These work because they tell a human story, and my goodness, now more than ever, those of us in politics must demonstrate that we are authentic and human.

And being human does not require a huge budget, a committee or a strategy. It requires a phone with a camera and an ability to talk to people on an emotional rather than political level.

And that I am afraid is a skill too few of us have.