Monday, 21 July 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Neighbourhood Quiz



The Office for National Statistics has posted this link, which enables readers to participate in a short quiz about "how well do you know your neighbourhood". See HERE.

The answers have been culled from the latest national census and are presented in a ward format - so not only a bit of fun, but also an ideal tool to test your local councillor about how well they know their community! 


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Tom Tugendhat's Tonbridge & Malling New Activists Recruitment Campaign

On Wednesday I posted samples of the Chatham & Aylesford new helpers and activists recruitment campaign - HERE

On Friday I sent Tonbridge & Malling/Tom Tugendhat's campaign to the printer. Obviously the format is similar, but to provide readers with example of the different styles (incumbent MP compared with a Paliamentary Candidate) I have published Tom's letter and reply card below.





Friday, 18 July 2014

Quick on the Draw - 2014 record results for West Kent Associations !

Following just a modest improvement last year, 2014 has produced some outstanding results for the five West Kent Associations with regard to the Summer Draw. 



Thank you to all our members and donors for helping us achieve record results locally. And thank you to Philip Dumville and his team at NCDS for all the work they do (often without thanks, I suspect!) to help our Associations raise funds in this way!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Random (Thursday) Snippets from the life of an Agent

ALL ALONE AT WEST KENT TOWERS
The office is like the Marie Celeste today. Jon Botten is at his girlfriend's graduation, Matt Boughton is away driving a Golf Buggy at the Royal Liverpool Open and even the young lady who is with us for work experience has not come in as she has a migraine. I have cleared my in tray (like clearing the freezer - amazing what I have found at the bottom) and written all those letters I keep "putting off" as I always have something better to do.  I hope the gentleman from Tonbridge who regularly writes in red ink on the lid of a Kentucky Fried Chicken box will be pleased to hear that I share his general opinions on Nick Clegg though I don't actually agree that he is a Chinese Communist spy.  

EXECUTIVE STRESS
Last night was the Tonbridge and Malling Executive Council, and there was disharmony. Now I appreciate that a row at the Executive isn't a surprise for most Associations (and for many it's compulsory). But at T&M it's unheard off. The cause of the fracas? It was the Treasurer's Report. Our super efficient Treasurer not only shows year to date, but also shows year against budget and like for like comparisons for each of the last 6 years. His skills and patience are renowned and we all dread the day he retires. Had he been there last night he might have brought that date forward! The row was about the fact that in the historical figures for  2011 appeared twice. No-one cared about this year's figures - not a single question, but the debate about why 2011 appeared twice got a certain corner of the meeting quite agitated. At one point six people were speaking about it; often at the same time.  After they had blown themselves out, the Chairman announced the next item.... "shall we move on to item five..."


"Actually Mr Chairman, I've found another error.." said the man who resembles Statler from the Muppet Show.  He rummaged through his papers - "here - on page two..... I think Ladies' Luncheon Club should have the apostrophe after the S..."

THE AGENT'S REPORT
I am always up at Item 6 (Agent's report) followed at 7 and 8 by the two Deputy Chairman. I take this quite seriously, and always put some effort into the content and tone of my report, keen to give members a taste of what is happening, what's to come and where we are politically. I admit my reports are usually quite thorough, but they pay my salary and they deserve their money's worth!  This, however, is very unfair on the two Deputy Chairman who have to follow me as at every single meeting for the last two years they look crestfallen as they each stand up and say "Well.... the agent has said everything I was going to say - so I won't table a report this time."   This must be incredibly frustrating for them, having spent hours writing a report about all their hard work, only to have the bloody paid help stealing their thunder. So I have emailed the Chairman to suggest that in future I go on after the two Deputy Chairmen, allowing them a clear stage for their reports. I can then simply mop-up on anything they might have missed. 

ANOTHER UNHAPPY CUSTOMER
Ring ring...

AK: "Conservative Campaign Centre, how can I help?"
Woman: "My name is Mrs (x) and I have just moved into (very rural parish)..."
AK: "Yes..."
Woman: "And I want to know who my MP is as I wish to complain about the church bells."
AK: "What's the problem with them..."
Woman, "They keep ringing..."
AK: Yes, they do that, church bells.
Woman, "Well I want them turned off, I work from home and they are irritating." 
AK: "May I ask where in the village you live...?" 
Woman: (gives address on the High Street, three houses away from the church)
AK: "so let me get this straight, you've just bought a property in an historic village, three doors away from the church, and you are now wish to silence the church bells which have been ringing in that village since 1788?"  (I had Googled it!)
Woman: "If that's your attitude I'm not voting Conservative."

I suspect some people would like me to be a bit more sympathetic, but things like this really annoy me. Like people who buy houses by bus stops and complain about buses stopping outside their house, or buying a house on a main road and complaining about the traffic. It is the modern thing to show empathy, but I sometimes wonder if this is right. Often people are simply wrong and trying to find words to placate doesn't help, especially when a "sorry I don't agree with you" is by far the most honest and right thing to say. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Recruiting new helpers in Chatham & Aylesford

With Tracey Crouch significantly out polling her Labour challenger by over 20% in our internal polling, we are launching a major constituency-wide campaign to attract a new generation of activists. 

Over the coming weeks nearly 40,000 target voters (known Conservatives, pro-Conservative switchers and soft Labour / anti Miliband) will be receiving this letter and reply card from Tracey. 

Our target is to capitalise on Tracey's local popularity and recruit 200 new delivery helpers. When added to our existing team, we will then have the resources to deliver the entire constituency in two days (against the five days we take to do so now).  It will also release resources to travel to Eastbourne, our nearest 40:40 target seat. 

If this is succesful, over the coming months we will roll out the campaign to all five West Kent Associations. 







Monday, 14 July 2014

Rekindling old friendships


I am very grateful to Roland White who writes the Atticus column in the Sunday Times. Roland has featured this blog two or three times over the past two years, including two weeks ago when he reproduced my tale of the local member who returned his raffle tickets with the family crest "embossed" on the stubs.  See HERE

A few days later I received a blast from the past. An email from Richard Lazenby; a very good friend who I had lost touch with over 15 years ago.



Richard knew more than was healthy to know about wine and I had an equally detailed knowledge about eating lobster - so we pooled our skills and opened a wine bar and restaurant. Sadly neither of us knew anything about running a business, but it was fun whilst it lasted.

A amazing amount of water has passed under the bridge since we last met. I went to sea, settled in Australia, returned to the UK, met Steve and am now living on our boat in Kent. Richard met Julie, they had two children (the eldest of whom 14!) they moved to Knowle and he became MD of his company.

Today, after a few exchanges of email and a brief catch-up by phone, we met for lunch at Rules in Covent Garden. And like all good friends, we picked-up where we left off, as if the last 15 years was just 15 days.

This is the second time Roland White's column has rekindled an old friendship - as I reported on my blog last year.  So thank you to Atticus for bringing old friends back together - and thank you to Richard (and Stephanie) for making the effort to get in touch after all this time.

I am sure many of us have old friends who we have allowed to drift out of our lives but often think about with fond memories. I certainly have. Perhaps we should all make a bit more effort to get back in touch!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Food for thought on LG re-selections

Obviously I am not going to be specific or write anything which might identify individuals, but several of our incumbent councillors have been invited back to meet the Local Government Committee to discuss various aspects of their performance or issues which have arisen during the re-approval process.

What is important to remember is being invited to meet the committee means just that! Nothing more or less. It means quite simply that that majority of the committee wished to see the applicant to clarify or discuss a concern. It certainly does not mean they are being removed from the 'Approved List'.  In effect it's just the same as my appraisal with my line manager - although for councillors it happens just once every four years whereas mine is annual!

The reaction, however, has been quite remarkable - outrage, indignation and in one case a threat to "stand for another party". This last threat is, IMHO, reason enough to deselect them.  I, however, don't have a vote! 

So why have they been called-in to meet the committee? As I said above, I would never identify any individual, but here is a summary of just some of the concerns.Some of the following relate to one or two individuals, most apply to a larger group.

Five of the group have failed to attend a single Association-designated "campaign day" in the three years since the last election (sadly, delivering or canvassing in your own ward does not count as "campaign support").

Four have allowed their party membership to lapse for a whole year during their term as a councillor. Three have allowed it to lapse for two years.  Not only is this against the Party and Group Rules it also costs the Association a lot of money sending reminders. 

Unsurprisingly, three of the same five people have also failed to pay the CCA subs for one or two years.  Again, against the rules and causing unnecessary cost in chasing payments. 

Three of the five have not attended a single branch meeting since their election and also failed to attend any of their branch's campaign days or social events. Do they not think that the volunteers who you will be asking to deliver your leaflets and campaign on your behalf deserve a bit of support in return?

One didn't attend an event with a visiting Government Minister, held to relaunch his local branch, as he didn't particularly like the Minister concerned.  Another told a lady who had just moved into the village and had offered to help, "please don't try to form a branch as it will be just another committee meeting which I will be expected to attend."

What we must bear in mind is that the overwhelming majority of councillors manage to pay their party dues when asked, and find the time to support the Association's campaigning objectives. I appreciate that people are "very busy" but if Nicolas Heslop (who works full time in London, has four young children and is also leader of the council) can find time to meet his campaign responsibilities each and every time he is asked, I don't accept that others cannot do so.

Personally, if I were them I would be grateful for the opportunity to explain my actions, not complaining loudly that they have been asked to do so!

But, as I said above, I don't have a vote.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Assisted dying

With George Carey and Desmond Tutu commenting on reforming the law around assisted suicide (euthanasia) I was reminded by a good friend of an article I written seven years ago on this very subject.  This was part of a series of articles about life issues for the Conservative Christian Fellowship, examining the response of the faith community to today's political challenges. 

In writing my piece I drew heavily on my own experience of my mother's death, which not only challenged me personally but changed my own view on euthanasia. The immediate reaction from many people was "I didn't know you were a Roman Catholic" or "I didn't know you were religious". For the record, I am neither. I do find it strange that people assume that being pro-life equates to having a faith. For me, it's a deeply held belief that the state does not have the right to empower people to take the life of others unless in extremis.

Although this subject is off topic for this blog it is something I feel strongly about. And just as two significant religious leaders can take a view contrary to the teachings of their church, so my own position, coming from one who considers himself socially liberal, shows that it is not just conservatives and the faith community who are opposed to reform. 

I have been encouraged to republish this by my good friend Dr John Hayward and also by a recent Tweet from Maria Caulfield, who is a research nurse specialising in cancer drug trials and who is also our outstanding Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes constituency:


I know many people will disagree with me, and I accept that these issues are far from clear-cut or defined. I also know that the overwhelming majority of people who want reform do so with the best intentions and as an act of humanity. I suspect reform is inevitable, but I hope for a decent and thoughtful debate, and any legislation carring much better safeguards than were put in place for similar matters of reform in the recent past.

Here is my article

Step by step we are heading to a Eugenic-based society.

Well intentioned legislation is invariably redefined by the courts and the result is inevitable liberalisation.

Take, for example, David Steel's Abortion Act of 1967. Safeguards built into the Bill at the time, legalising abortion "only when the Mother's life is at risk" or when there was "evidence of extreme foetal abnormality" were instrumental in gaining the Bill sufficient support to become law. Yet over the ensuing 40 years, liberal judicial activism has redefined those terms to a point where now we have abortion on demand, and for far too many, abortion as a means of contraception. This happened without any further primary legislation until the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act reduced the time limit to 24 weeks.

The same well intentioned philosophy strengthens and encourages those who support Euthanasia. No doubt many stricken patients, and their carers, would welcome such legislation. I was personally tested during my Mother's twelve month struggle with terminal cancer. In my case, however, my own liberal view was turned to opposition as I witnessed the dignity of my Mother's personal struggle. Towards the very end of her life, she was "confirmed" into the Church of England when the Bishop of Chester visited the hospital especially for her service. Following her Confirmation she left her bed for the first time in 5 weeks, she chatted to her friends and family, ate well and even drank a glass or two of sherry. Afterwards she told me it was one of the happiest days of her life and that she had finally found the strength to face what she knew was ahead. Two days later, she died in peace. I have little doubt that had Euthanasia been legalised, my Mother might not have lived to see that day.

My real opposition, however, is based on the example of the Steel Bill. I have little doubt that once legislation on Euthanasia is enacted whatever safeguards and caveats introduced in the original Bill would be redefined and reinterpreted by the Courts, encouraged by those who view balance sheets above human life. Surely, given the precedent, it wouldn’t be long before terminally ill patients had to “opt-out” of being euthanatized at the time of their admission. I fear the 2006 Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists submission to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (supporting the introduction of euthanasia of disabled newborns) is the thin end of the wedge.

We already have a society which allows, for all intents and purposes, abortion on demand and which is actively considering legislation that will allow the state to euthanize the terminally sick. Technology exists through research into the Human Genome that might soon allow us to identify not only disabilities, but also sex, sexual orientation, eye and hair colour of embryos and the sickening (yet I fear inevitable) introduction of reprogenetics.

NOW HEAR THIS! Wise words about using loudspeaker cars during elections!



 At the recent elections a candidate was quite insistent that we used a loud speaker mounted on a car, so he could go around the ward broadcasting his messages to the grateful electorate. I explained why I didn't think it was a good idea. Apart from it being a bit crass and passe, I genuinely thought that it would do more harm than good as it was indiscriminate in its target as would do more harm by reminding your opponents to vote. It also ran the real risk of waking sleeping babies, night workers and the sick. In the end it caused quite a row and ill feeling, but I put my foot down and it didn't happen.

I have thought about this on and off ever since, and I wondered if I had been harsh or too dismissive. A few days ago I asked my friends on Twitter and FB what they thought, either as normal voters who might hear a loudspeaker car or as campaign professionals. I am grateful to everyone who responded, in particular Martyn Punyer (one of the Conservative Party's most trusted and experienced agents) and Peter Botting, who is perhaps one of the UKs top independent political strategists and marketing experts.

Wise words all round.

  • Steve Hadley From a simple voter....I find them irritating noise pollution and so yesteryear
  • Toby Illingworth I know quite a few who do and I have seen a few polling day operations where it has worked well, but it does depend on how it is done.
  • Peter Botting Not if they understand differential turnout. Or if getting out the opposition isn't a factor. I have seen Labour GOTV that consists of running from door to door banging and shouting to come out and vote - if indiscriminate motivating of people to vote is ok - then fine, but generally and default = no! no! no! no! no!

  • Matt Davies First time I stood for the council we thought about it, and I must confess I wish we had. The only reason we didn't was the car and loudspeaker let me down at the last moment. But I still wish we had, irrespective of the outcome.
  • Janet Sergison Had great fun in Doncaster in the 1980's but don't think it would go down very well in Hadlow today!

  • Andrew Kennedy Matt Davies Matt - I am genuinely interested to know why? You had obviously canvassed to identify your supporters and had delivered targeted GOTV messages to them to remind them to vote - so why did you want to send around a speaker car which would (i) wake up night workers and sleeping children, causing anger (ii) irritate your opposition and remind them to go out and vote against you. I am not being sarcastic, I just don't understand what any candidate thinks a loudspeaker achieves. And I would really like someone to give me a good reason to use them, so I can at least understand the arguments in favour.

  • Matt Davies The area we would have targeted would have been were my dad worked. Because he was the local GP it proved quite useful and led to me winning the polling district, but losing everywhere else. The idea was to remind voters and try some last minute "canvassing/knock up" would it have worked I'm not sure. But I would have tried it anyway. Sorry that's probably not a great answer why.

  • Martyn Punyer When I was much younger, loudspeaker cars and indeed a slow-moving cavalcade through the shopping areas on Saturday mornings were seen as essential. No thought that we might be upsetting electors, delaying them and adding insult to injury with incomprehensible messages.

    With the adoption of targeted campaigning, the use of loudspeakers etc ceased and was replaced with street-stalls and similar 'profile' activities.

    I don't regret the passing of loudspeakers and can't think of a reason to use them, even in ares where we haven't run any sort of campaign.
  • Tara Hewitt Nothing beats an organised team however big wearing out the shoe leather and quick knock and drop relys in targeted areas. If you need to use mega phone you've probably already lost. Sorry just personal view.

  • Tara Hewitt On the different approach side i do like some of the usa campaign activities in run up to campaign. Music videos, more large open forums, friends of friends networks etc depends on area and campaign being run but think usa has alot we can steal

  • Jean Atkinson The Labour Party used to use it in trench, it actually worked for them at that time and bought out their electors during the course of the evening which was when they won their election, would I use it now, not too sure on that one!!!

  • Robert Cooke The last group in hastings I saw doing it was th BNP nuff said

  • Philip Young Huh? Surely the whole point of the loudspeaker car was the relevant time's best attempt to communicate a message to multiple voters at once. Nowadays technology has moved on just a bit and the same message can be emailed, twittered, facebooked, websited, texted, etc. etc. etc. but unlike the loudspeaker car nowadays technology permits the message to be personalised for each voter. The only possible advantage I can see to a loudspeaker car is that some people might be amused/entertained by the quaintness of it but I suspect this will be heavily outweighed by everyone who will be annoyed by the additional and unnecessary noise pollution.

  • Neil Baker Sorry to be late to this but as an Association chairman and a councillor, I fully agree with Andrew. All it does is potentially get the opposition out to vote as much as our pledges. Surely the trick is finding pledges and focusing on them, turning a pledge into a vote rather than annoying people?

    An example locally a fair few years ago was a by election for the council where an opposition party ran a pre-dawn raid and lost the seat because they woke up so many dogs delivering leaflets at 4am that their supporters were annoyed and refused to vote.

  • Steve Browning I was in Eltham yesterday where an evangelist was preaching loudly. Even though I admire his courage and have sympathy with his message (decent theology withstanding) I just thought how counter-productive his efforts were. He made me embarrassed to share the same faith and everyone else gave him an embarrasedly wide-birth.

    It got me thinking .. if this style of messaging was actually effective, why don't any of the advertising firms do it? I certainly wouldn't buy anything that was shouted at me indiscriminately.

    Surely these loudspeakers are an ego-trip for councillors who are hoping that "that will do" rather than putting in the leg-work and time to reach their people - targeting messages, canvassing, delivering leaflets.

    In other words, empty vessels make the most noise.