Monday, 24 November 2014

The West Kent genius strikes again

The first day back and top of my list is to organise the West Kent Office Volunteers Christmas Thank You Lunch. 

The Director of Paperclips is looking at the office diary - I am online looking at availability at various local restaurants and pubs. 

Then comes the moment of genius...  

"Christmas Day is on 25 December this year." 

(and don't even ask about the ball of wool on his desk). 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Success has many fathers...

Regular visitors will know that I have not blogged for the last seven weeks, and deliberately so. Having been invited to help run the Rochester & Strood Parliamentary By Election I had no intention of publicly commenting on what we were doing, or posting anything which might help the opposition. This post will be my first and only comment on the campaign.

Already on Conservative Home and elsewhere there are the usual round of laptop warriors and anonymous commentators sharing their infinite wisdom on what we did wrong, why we lost and what we should have done differently. I suspect very few of them visited the constituency. However the team who fought Rochester were, more or less, the same team lauded as heroes after our success in Newark (and Norwich and Crewe & Nantwich before that).As the saying goes, "success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan."

From day one the polls put UKIPs lead in double figures, some as high as 15%. The actual result was was a UKIP margin of 7%. Had we pulled it off - and we only need to win back 35 Conservatives in each polling station to do so - I suspect many of the people who are happy to lob grenades from the comfort of anonymous blog posts would be elbowing their way to the front to try and share in the warm glow of success. 

The energy, commitment and dedication of those who run these by-elections is astounding and I salute them, as I salute the army of volunteers who came to help. It was fascinating to be involved and I was honoured to be part of the team.

Now, back to West Kent Towers - we have Christmas Draw reminders to dispatch. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A picture speaks a thousand words....

A picture speaks a thousand words....

(or what happens when the folding machine jams)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mea Culpa

One of the many highlights of today was to welcome the Team 2015 Battle Bus, bringing 70 activists from London to assist Kelly's campaign. Their commitment, energy and enthusiasm was amazing and I look forward to their next visit.

It was also an honour to welcome Party Chairman Grant Shapps MP with Stephen Hammond MP (Wimbledon) as well as National Vice President Steve Bell, who all arrived with the bus.

Having arranged everyone for the team photo it was suggested that Steve Bell and I join the group. "Where should the ugly duo stand?" asked Steve. "I think the uglies should stand at this end," I said - slotting in at the end of the second row with Steve alongside me.  I was, of course, replying to Steve's comment and what I said was meant to be self deprecating. Unfortunately, the far from ugly lady standing next to me had only heard my part of the conversation and understandably took umbrage. "Charming", she said, bristling with anger. Stupidly I tried to explain, but as hard as I tried the worse I made it, and the more I blushed and stumbled. The situation was not helped by Bell muttering "you've done it now" under his breath, obviously delighting in my predicament.

Having enjoyed a bit of fun at the expense of a colleague last night, I suspect this is karma. However, in the hope that the lady with long auburn hair who I inadvertently offended is reading this blog, I thought I should at least try to explain. And apologise.

Friday, 24 October 2014

With friends like these...

The Campaign Centre where I am based is also responsible for bundling and distributing literature to the other Campaign Centres in the constituency. I am grateful to a small army of volunteers who come in almost daily to help with this work.

Earlier today I sent a note to a colleague to inform her that the latest leaflet was ready to collect. About an hour later I received a call to inform me that she had driven over and was waiting outside for her leaflets. Being a helpful chap I said I would bring them down on the trolley and help her load-up.

In reply to this she could have said thank you, or asked if I was sure, or said that she could manage. In fact, she could have said many things.  

But no - what she actually said was.....

"That's very kind, but isn't there anyone younger
who can do it."

Talking about kicking a man where it hurts!

Monday, 20 October 2014

A random act of kindness

I had an impromptu lunch break today with Chatham & Aylersford MP Tracey Crouch.

We were in a cafe many miles from her constituency, where she was unknown and unrecognised. At the adjoining table an elderly man was assisting his wheelchair bound wife to eat her lunch. Suddenly the lady let out a cry; her husband had accidentally knocked over a cup of coffee which had spilled over the table and was pouring onto the lady's legs.

Whilst everyone around stared or in some cases laughed, quick as a flash Tracey went over to help. She mopped-up the coffee than started using wet wipes from her bag to clean the lady's legs and clothes. Having ensured the lady wasn't burnt, she then reassured the confused and agitated husband, before returning to the counter to get a replacement drink.

This random act of compassion and kindness towards complete strangers, who didn't have a clue who she was and almost certainly wouldn't have a vote in her constituency, provide a real insight into Tracey's character. If anyone wonders why Tracey is so popular in her constituency and commands such loyalty from local members and activists, this is why.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Brighton's Most Wanted

Security patrols are on the look-out for a gang of slightly eccentric people; one with a odd haircut and wearing red Dr Martens, and another short balding man with a Sarf London accent and smelling of fag smoke, who were spotted by CCTV leaving the Chatham Dockside Outlet Centre via an escalator carrying correx poster boards.

A spokesperson for the board's rightful owner said, "if you see this bunch approach with extreme caution. They are essentially harmless but do have some strange habits, such as spending their weekends assaulting the ear drums of innocent residents in the Brighton, Lewes and surrounding areas."

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Making history in Rochester and Strood

Those who know me or read my blog regularly will know I am a passionate advocate of opening the democratic process and allowing the widest possible public participation in candidate selections. I have championed Open Primaries and Open Selections for many years and was delighted to be instrumental in securing agreement for one to be held on Tonbridge & Malling. I have also lead the campaign to allow Open Primaries for Local Government selections, testing the method last year with a pledges-only primary and again this year with a full postal primary of all registered voters to select a LG candidate in Chatham & Aylesford. See HERE 

I was therefore delighted when Rochester & Strood Association agreed to hold a full Postal Primary to select their by-election candidate for the 20 November poll. My delight is two fold. Firstly as I believe it is the right thing to do. Secondly because I actually live in the constituency and will have a vote myself. It is super to be involved in choosing who will be my local Conservative candidate and hopefully my next MP. Obviously I will be working on the campaign whichever candidate is selected so I will not be divulging which candidate I am supporting, but either would make an outstanding MP for this constituency.

Our local Campaign HQ have been decked out promoting our Postal Primary and the final candidates - the photo below is of our Chatham Maritime Campaign HQ in the Dockside Outlet Centre.

Best of luck to both candidates - you can visit their websites here: KELLY and ANNA.

And if you would like a trip to sunny Rochester & Strood, please call in and say hello. We have canvassing, we have leaflets and you might even bump into someone famous signing his name on the wall!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wilco - and out!

There was a whoop of delight in West Kent Towers this afternoon when I spotted a bargain. A random Google search uncovered the UKs cheapest supply of ring binders: the discount retailer Wilco. Just 40p each.  Over £1 cheaper than the next cheapest I could find.

If any fellow Agents or Campaign Managers are keen, I am afraid you are out lo luck. I bought their entire national stock! 

So come down to Kent - and you can tramp the streets with your very own Wilko-value ring binder. A perfect accessory for any seasoned campaigner. 

Matt and Jon are on stand-by. The lorry is on it;s way.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A day on the Campaign Trail in Rochester & Strood

It's been a long but really productive day on the campaign trail in Rochester & Strood, with a packed agenda of canvassing, leafleting and campaign activity. It was great to welcome old friends and new helpers, many of whom came from across Kent and the South East to offer support. I never cease to be amazed at the dedication of our voluntary party, who not only give up their time but also travel long distances and pay their own travel expenses to support our cause. We are very fortunate.

Rochester and Strood Association Chairman Andrew Mackness has emailed helpers to express his thanks. I too would like to express my thanks to all those who work with me behind the scenes to get everything ready. Preparing hundreds of canvassing packs with maps, directions, laminated showcards and all the other detritus of a well organised large scale campaign day is a major undertaking. As always Jon Botten and Matt Boughton have been steadfast and uncomplaining over hours of hard and tedious work, made harder this week as they were alone running the office as I had duties elsewhere. They did a super job and I am immensely grateful.

As well as playing our part in the by-election we also have five Associations to run. So in addition to providing me with logistical support for what I am doing in the Medway Towns, Jon and Matt also arranged the printing and packing of five Associations-worth of Christmas Draw tickets, packed and distributed 4,000 Chatham & Aylesford Open Primary ballot papers and booklets and also sent out the Q4 membership reminders.  Oh yes, and Jon got himself selected as a local government candidate in Tonbridge!

For those unable to join us in Rochester & Strood today, here is a selection of photographs:

Tracey Crouch MP is the first to arrive at Campaign HQ and sign-in

One of our teams meeting residents on the High Street today

Just some of the Members of Parliament on the Campaign Trail in Rochester & Strood

Volunteers bundling and preparing our next leaflet delivery inviting residents
to participate in the Open Primary

Rt Hon Damian Green MP signs in