Friday, June 30, 2006

The Bromley By Election: Lessons to be Learned

I am afraid this has the makings of a rather long post, so bear with me. On 10 February, following the Dunfermline by-election, I wrote this...

"The LibDems are past masters at persuading all those who don't like Labour that they are the only ones who can defeat them and I suspect that this accounts for part of the reduction in the Tory vote. But let's not kid ourselves. The Conservatives need to think about what will happen if there's a by-election in a Labour marginal in a rural area. Just how do they convince the electorate that it is they who are best placed to oust Labour, rather than the LibDems? To be frank, we haven't fought a good by-election campaign since, well, I honestly can't remember. I understand a special by-election unit was set up recently. I hope it is going to be given the campaigning resources it will need, because although we all say by-elections don't matter, the way they are fought sends out important signals to party workers about how the Party is geared up to fight a national election. It's important that when the next by-election occurs in an English seat with a good Conservative vote, the Party is fully prepared to fight it."

So what happened in Bromley & Chislehurst? What lessons should the Party take from the result and what should happen now?

THE RESULT

Firstly let's look at the result. The BBC is spinning for all it's worth that the Conservatives lost 11,000 votes, only mentioning as an afterthought that the turnout was a mere 40%. If there had been a 40% turnout in the General Election the majority would have been about 6,500. The Conservative vote went down from 50% to 40%. The LibDem vote actually only went up by 1,620 although their percentage rose from 20% to 37% - whatever way you spin it, that's a real achievement. However, the Labour vote collapsed from more than 10,000 to a mere 1,925. They went down from 22% to 6% - from second place to fourth. There will be several Labour MPs in South London who look at that result with absolute horror. UKIP overtook Labour to grab third place and increased their vote from 3% to 8%. I have to say that while I never thought we would lose this seat, I never thought we would get a bigger per centage than in 2005. LibDems were constantly saying that if we didn't get 60% (or even 70% in one case!) it would be a disaster for Cameron. In my view it was always inevitable that our vote share would decrease. The Labour vote was always going to go to the LibDems (and, as it turns out, UKIP), and any right wing dissatisfaction with the Conservatives would transfer to UKIP. However, none of this can explain why 11,000 Conservatives just didn't bother to turn out and vote - or why our campaign machine failed to get them out.

WAS BOB NEILL THE RIGHT CANDIDATE?

The LibDems fought a viciously negative campaign against Bob Neill personally. It worked. The 'Three Jobs Bob' line stuck. A the time of the selection I thought that if there was a good local candidate, the local association would be well advised to play safe and pick him or her. When Carroll Forth announced she would stand I thought she'd get it. On the face of it Bob Neill fitted the bill, being the local GLA Member. But the LibDems were able to exploit the fact that he didn't live in the constituency - neither did Ben Abbotts, but we were too polite to point that out. Well, when I say "we", you know what I mean. Bob also appeared like a Tory candidate of yesteryear - he didn't look like the new model Tory candidate. In some ways that may have been a blessing, but he didn't fit the brand with the consequence that the campaign team found it difficult to market him as part of the 'change' message. However, all that said, I still believe they were right to pick him. If an identikit 'A' Lister had been picked the result could have been worse and instead of this morning raking over the bones of a narrow victory I can easily see the circumstances in which the Party would have been in meltdown and blaming the whole 'A' List strategy and modernisation approach for the defeat.

WAS OUR CAMPAIGN UP TO IT?

It's clear that the Conservatives fought a campaign based on issues and did not campaign negatively. There was not a single mention of the LibDem candidate in any of their literature. By contrast, the LibDem literature devoted huge amounts of space to slagging off 'three jobs Bob'. They also built their candidate up to be a local campaigner who lived locally, married with two children - well, you know the rest. They lied, they cheated, they exaggerated, they misled. And they nearly won. What does that tell us? As Bob Neill said in his victory speech "If you [Lib Dems] sometimes wonder why it is that people in this country are turned off by politics, get a mirror and look at yourselves". He's right, but did we drop the ball by not hitting back? Should we get more negative in future? I'm not very familiar with our campaign in Cheadle but it appears that we adopted a much more negative approach there and it just didn't work. So that's not much help. But LibDem by-election successes are not rocket science. They follow a set format, both in strategy and literature. We should have woken up to that long ago and developed a strategy to counter it. The campaign in Bromley was a mirror image of that in Dunfermline. It should therefore come as no surprise to us. The challenge now for the Party is to develop a strategy for the next one. We might not be lucky enough to be defending a 13,000 majority in future.

IS FRANCIS MAUDE RIGHT?

Francis Maude had appeared on the media this morning describing the call as "a bit of a wake-up call for us - that we've got a long way further to go". He told the Today programme: "David's been rightly, driving a process of change in the party - and the simple truth from this election result is that we have to drive that change faster, wider and deeper, because we have to supply more and more positive reasons for people to vote for us. And I'm sure we will do so." Is he right? I didn't see all the literature at the by-election but the pieces that I did see seemed to be too reminiscent of the literature we used to use under Michael Howard's leadership. David Cameron is our main electoral asset, yet we didn't make the most of him in the literature. There were rumours that the local Party had too great an influence on the campaign literature. If true, that was a mistake. We didn't stick to the CHANGE brand. When I was delivering letters on Saturday I was rather appalled to read the text. It was straight 'dog whistle' appeal stuff. This needs to change and change fast. Those in charge of campaigning at CCHQ need to ensure that in future, it is they who control by-election campaigns and control the message. You can't have two masters. Either CCHQ are in charge or either the local Party are. This campaign bore all the hallmarks of neither being the case. So going back to my original question, is Francis Maude right to say we need to drive change faster, harder and deeper? If by that he means changing the perception of the Party he is 100% right. It is clear that it is the Conservative label or brand that is damaged. If you asked people Do You Agree with David Cameron on X? And then asked the question Do You Agree with the Conservatives on X? I suspect the percentage saying Yes to the first question would be markedly higher than the second. And that's the challenge - to get those Yes figures identical. And that means proving to people that change is not just superficial, but it's deep. This is not something that can be achieved overnight, or within six months. It will take time, and results like this must not deflect the overall strategy. It must also not provoke a knee jerk reaction to do something drastic like impose all women shortlists, which is something I suspect is gaining currency among certain people.

WHERE IS THE CONSERVATIVE CHRIS RENNARD?

Chris Rennard is the LibDems' campaigning guru. He has total control of all by-election campaigns. What he says goes. He has the total respect of every LibDem (and many Conservatives!). Astonishingly, following Gavin Barwell's departure from CCHQ there is now now "in-house" Director of Campaigning. This situation must be rectified. Lynton Crosby was the nearest we have had in recent years to a Director of Campaigning, and in a very short time he built up a tremendous respect both in CCHQ and throughout the Party. We need someone like him to take on the role again now. Not in two years time, but now. I do not have any name in mind, but if I were to send one message to Francis Maude and David Cameron it would be to impress on them that the recruitment of a new Campaigning Director should be something very high on their agenda.

WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF THIS RESULT

None. Well, that's not quite true. While this by-election will have no bearing on a general election, there is one consequence which will be to the benefit of the Conservatives. It entrenches Ming Campbell in his position. In the long term - and in a general election - Ming Campbell is not a vote winner for the LibDems. No matter how they spin it, not a single person who switched to the LibDems in Bromley did it because they were so impressed by Ming. But the overall result does mean that those in his Party who have become exasperated by his leadership will find it more difficult to shift him. And that's good news for the Conservatives. No Conservative should panic over this result. The YouGov poll in today's Telegraph shows the real national position. We're on 39%, 6 ahead of Labour. And that's something few of us would have imagined possible only six short months ago.

Perhaps the best summing up of the situation comes from John, someone who has posted on the ConservativeHome Bromley thread this morning. He takes these lessons from the result...

1. Never ever complain about the other party's tactics, blame yourself for not anticipating them and knowing how to counter them.
2. Don't take anything for granted, thank your lucky stars that the LD's don't have a more marketable leader.
3. UKIP may not have had a particularly good night, but between now and the GE they could improve. UKIP has the potential to cause considerable damage to the Conservative Party in some seats.
4. Don't be misled by opinion polls, they are very reliable as far as it goes. Remember they are snapshots of opinion at the time they are taken, things can change!!
5. Some of us remember, when at byelections when it was guaranteed that the main opposition party would benefit from swings of 20% or more. The B&C result shows just how different British politics are becoming.


I wish Bob Neill all the best. I suspect he hasn't enjoyed the last few weeks very much, but now he can get on with being a worthy successor to Eric Forth and look forward to a huge majority at the next General Election. And what now for Ben Abbotts? Frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn. He should be ashamed of himself for both his campaign tactics and his behaviour at the count. Click HERE to watch the video of Bob Neill's victory speech to see what I mean.

38 comments:

Lord Haw Haw said...

No sensible Tory could disagree with a word of this. Lets make the most of it. Build a decent by election unit. Congratulate Ming and wish him a long career as LD Leader.

Chris Doidge said...

The BBC is spinning for all it's worth that the Conservatives lost 11,000 votes, only mentioning as an afterthought that the turnout was a mere 40%.

Don't you do exactly the same thing in relation to Labour's share of the vote in the paragraph below!

Inamicus said...

I think Bob Neill's speech will have turned off a lot of floating voters - he came across as the epitome of smug and complacent golf-club & freemasons Toryism, and he was petulant because he knew he had been outfought.

Let's nail this Lib Dem dirty trick business - in what way was the Lib Dem campaign "worse" than the Tory one in Cheadle.

Benedict White said...

Inamicus, The Lib Dem campaign may not have been worse than ours in Cheadle. The point is we do not useually do it that way.

What we do need to do is track Lib Dem candidates so we can show then up for what they are if we need to.

Theo Spark said...

The next election will see a swing from the main complacent parties to the 'independent' candidates. The big boys just don't get how fed up the English are with their bullshit, spinning and lack of moral fibre!

Anonymous said...

So was this a protest vote against Bob Neill or David Cameron ???

As a former conservative, the Conservative party have been sent a message, that they are not impressed by 'something'.

David Camerson on Sunday AM, confirming that he has Scottish Blood running through his veins, really does not help the Conservative vote in Middle England - Bromley is a very "English" part of England !

The Remittance Man said...

The missing 11,000? Could it be Tory voters who are not 100% happy with the new, softer approach being taken by Mr Cameron?

If it is these are people disatisfied with his policies (or lack thereof) on things like taxation, crime, europe, NuLabour. If one assumes that these voters would never vote LimpDem or Labour, even in protest and all but a few find UKIP distasteful; then the only form of protest available to them was to stay at home.

My worry is that Dave's attempts to woo the centre are not having much effect (how many Labour and LimpDem supporters actually sitched to the Tories?) and may even be driving his right to stay at home.

RM

Louise said...

As I suspected it wasn't a good night for anyone. I think all parties should probably keep their heads down about this one and have some internal soul-searching.

The Lib Dems played their usual nasty game, but in certain respects we walked straight into it. Why didn't Bob Neill just resign from the Strategic Health Authority the day his nominations went in? For a few weeks it would have stopped a lot of bad publicity before it happened.

We know the Lib Dems will pick up on anything, yet we still seem stunned when they behave in type.

James said...

The point is we do not useually do it that way.

Ho ho ho. Keep saying that and you might just be able to convince yourselves.

Martin Hoscik said...

Iain

Less a comment and more I wondered if readers here would be interested in this

"Conservatives in Bromley and Chislehurst have complained about the Liberal Democrat campaign's references to Bob Neill's "three jobs".

This has been commented on by a number of readers and posters who pointed out that Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Graham Tope also has three 'jobs' - AM, Councillor and Peer.

We asked Mr Tope for his response to the suggestions that this put his own position at odds with party policy"

http://www.mayorwatch.org.uk/news.php?article_id=320

Hope that's not considered spam!

captain morgan said...

RM is on the money.A lot of old school conservatives are none too happy with DC,I'm not.Just as the country is becoming ready for a traditional tory message we're spinning the politics of chnage and nothingness.We are philosophically devoid of any real direction that I can see.

The campaigning shortcomings are a separate issue but there comes a point when we're talking about change when you have to look at the people at the top.Who's fault was it that there was a lack of control and direction?Who's been soooo busy facilitating the process of change that he's forgotten to change himself?

Richard Bailey said...

There are no Lib Dem, Labour or UKIP lessons from B&C.

10,000 Eric Forth supporting, right wing, Thatchertite Tories stayed at home because they are not yet convinced by Cameron's approach.

I suffered a similar rebellion locally in May. We continue to win without them. They will come back when the polls consistently show that normal people prefer the new message to the old.

Press on, Cameron. Press on.

Anonymous said...

Good point about the role of Campaign Director at CHQ, before I joined the Conservatives from Labour (after a combination of actually listening at hustings and reading Hayek :) ) I was one of the organisers for Leicester South which Labour re-took (despite being outmanned and outspent) and it’s tremendously important to have a figure (especially in the “hot house” atmosphere of a by-election) who can dictate the course of a campaign without alienated others.

I agree also that you either allow the local or national party to take the lead in formulating the campaign, I fear in B&C (as you report) neither was the case, also I think there may well have been an element of bloody mindedness within the local association with some perhaps keen to run a “proper” Conservative campaign and shun the Cameron model.

IMHO had the central party had more of a handle on the campaign, for which you would probably need a strong, authoritative, Reynard-like, character there would have been much more use of Cameron, much more use of the “change”, optimistic themes from the local elections and I think the result would have been far more secure… as it was it sounds like it was a campaign that could (almost) have been from the Hauge era…

…I would add that I don’t know if I agree about the candidate issue, I think Neill will be an excellent local MP and has been put through a pretty awful experience during the last few weeks, indeed had he been the candidate in ’05 he’d have been elected with a huge majority… however I don’t know if he was the best “by-election” candidate either of the other two finalists would IMHO have been better (though I stress for a “by-election”) as would Mrs Forth, Neill, to be frank, had too much baggage.

We can only hope that lessons will be learnt :(

malcolm said...

Where's Gary Elsby?I was looking forward to him crowing about Labours triumphant lost deposit in Bromely and massive success in cutting the Independants majority from 9,000 to 2,500 in BG.

Ever Ready said...

Excellent analysis Iain.

I think there is one important lesson from this.

Everyone who has ever worked on a campaign knows how negative the Lib Dems are in their campaigning – nationally, however, they are quite effective at maintaining they are somehow 'above party politics' and an ‘alternative’ to it. We all know this is not the case.

We also know the lazy monotonous mantra “people are turned off by politics”. They may well be. However, I would argue that we should play the Lib Dems at their own game – get nasty. It is what people expect anyway - and I’d argue what they want.

I think that people are not “turned off by politics” because of this style of campaigning. The reality is – and I’m glad of it – the majority of people do not have any worries and are generally content: they are happy with their lives; the ideological battles have been won; and the difference in policies of all the main Parties is mainly detail.

I’m sorry to have strayed from the main thrust of the thread.

PS: It’s the first time I’ve seen Ming on the telly in a while!

Martin Curtis said...

The advent of the internet means that there are more subtle ways to counter negative campaigning than throwing negative literature at people.

In my last Council election Campaign, every leaflet I put through the door had a note on it to say that I would not put negative literature through people's doors, but that I would comment and counter them on my website, which I did. It had two effects - those that wanted to check it out did, those that chose not to were made aware that there was an alternative view and therefore not to take things at face value. It worked.

The Remittance Man said...

Richard,

Loosing ground on the right would be ok if the party were gaining on the left. The worst most of the right wingers are going to do is abstain.

But from what I can see there was no real gain with the voters from the left switching to Cuddly Dave's new improved Tory party.

Combine the disaffection of the traditional vote with the complacancy of a safe seat and this is the result you get. I fear the Conservatives either need to address this or run the risk of loosing several 'safe' seats at the next GE. Not a happy prospect, methinks.

RM

Anonymous said...

With reference to the point about getting a Tory equivalent of Chris Rennard into CCHQ, the party could do a hell of a lot worse than look at someone lime Greg Smith, now a councillor in Hammermsith and Fulham. He masterminded the campaign which saw Greg Hands elected in 2005 on a swing of 7.5%, and did the same with the council elections there in May, where the party won every seat it had targeted and another besides.

Kate said...

If anyone not knowing the result in Bromley had just seen the 'coming later on the local news' slot on the BBC's 1pm news, they'd have assumed the Conservatives had lost the seat. The headline was: 'As Bromley gives a huge thumbs down to the Tories, the head scratching begins.'.

Anonymous said...

Most of your post makes a great deal of sense.

But if we are to learn the lessons of this by-election (and Dunfermline and others) we need to make sure that our analysis of the Limp Dems's campaign is realistic and not based on an emotive response.

The Limp dem campaign was hard-hitting and certainly rubbed in the point about Bob's other jobs and the fact that he lives in Tower Hamlets. However that is not the same thing as being 'vicious' or 'nasty'.

Our flawed campaign in Cheadle was vicious. The dreadful leaflet with the 'rape' headline was simply not justifiable but gave the Limp Dems a legitimate opportunity to cry foul.

In Bromley their campaign against Bob was justifiable - however much we didn't like it - and therefore our complaining about it fell flat.

The Limp Dems are much better at choosing the right candidate, on this occasion we got it wrong. Mrs Forth would probably, in retrospect, have been a much better choice.

As you point out the Limp Dems are also simply better at running by-elections. We need to learn from this. Why oh why were the local party allowed to run an important parliamentary by-election campaign? Surely we can assemble a strong by-election team from the talented people we've got round the country.

The result is a dent in our momentum which shouldn't have been allowed to happen.

(One final point. Why on earth was Bob allowed to deliver that speech? He came across as a sore loser, even though he won.)

David said...

The LibDems ran almost EXACTLY the same kind of campaign up here in Moray . Same leaflets, bar charts so called polls etc. Is Rennard a one trick pony who will suffer if the Tories and Labour come up with a proper and SWIFT response to the smears and lies they spread before and during a campaign?

I wonder how the LibDem figures will look in the GE or next year's Scottish elections as the electorate get more turned off by them and their tactics. Ming by the way is being typically legal- he knows damm well what goes on in his party so can't claim to have stopped things or not known about them. Otherwise people might think he is getting senile or something.

RememberRinka said...

Lessons:

a) Too many tories are still complacent - how many "in the bag" - "we cannot lose this " posts were there when this one started? No by-election is ever safe.

b) Candidates. Bob Neill looks like a fat rich middle aged barrister which is er... exactly what he is. Maybe in a general election he is fine and will be a good MP but for a by-election you know what the liberals will do, do not give them open goals. By election candidates MUST be local, boring and solid. We do not care how useless they are in parliament just that they get there. Carol Forth would have been a shoo in as even the limps could not have attacked her. Why oh why did we not select her?

c) Fighting as nasty as the libs in a contest will turn people off becuase frankly the libs are the masters of it. Using the web to nail Liberal lies - the 2 ben abbot ones about graffitti and the orphanage are corkers - is fine. who owns www.libdemlies.com?

d) It is great news that Ming's position is safe. At the General Election the libs are heading for a poor showing. But to ensure this they must be starved of the oxygen of by-election glory. Start selecting Carol Forth's and we can do that. Thus ensuring that the only Liberal publicity is of the oaten variety.

mbe said...

Very good analysis overall, Iain but I'm becoming convinced that the Tory party is going to lose the next General Election.

The message doesn't fit with the image, the image doesn't fit with the party (MP's and Members) and the 'change' appears superficial.

That bloody 'faster, wider, deeper' phrase is a woeful tagline for a party steeped in a history of successes. Is the Tory party seriously suggesting that everything should change? Change to what?

We Tories should acknowledge this result for what it is: an utter failure. And, naturally, Maude would say the reason is the change is moving too slowly as it fits with his agenda.

But I'm on the side of RM; it was a failure because most people are a damned sight more right wing than DC and Maude seem to understand.

Andrea said...

"Click HERE to watch the video of Bob Neill's victory speech to see what I mean."

please don't advertise it, it was a bad speech. He looked hysteric.

And please could we stop with all this faux outrage?! There're many byelections candidates (Tatchell for ex) who suffered much more personal attacks than Neill.
So Neill should stop to act as the poor victim

Andrea said...

Ah, btw, I agree Abbotts should have kept his self control during Neill's speech and not act in that way.

Anyway both of them should probably take a lesson from candidates in Blaenau Gwent

jimthechimp said...

What's all the fuss about. This is a byelection. Liberals are good at by-elections. They are not good at winning General Elections. They are protest vote, point of departure not point of arrival. The Lib Dem Votes swell at by-elections because Labour voters vote tactically and swell them. The good burghers of B&C have had Tory MPs for years. If Mrs Forth had been nominated she would have walked it: local, sympathy vote etc. Your man looked like every other Tory boy candidate that's ever existed. But he's in now so get over it.

Neil Craig said...

If this was "not a particularly good result" for UKIP in a Westminster election then they have some good times coming. They beat Labour into 4th place. I am sure the parties are all going through their estimates of ward results to see how much of the UKIP vote was ex-Tories & how much ex-Labour.

Overall this, & the Gwent result, show a general disapproval of the big parties as such. People want to be able to choose something (anything) other than the spin offered by the biggies. Even if all the Lib Dem MPs decided to join the Tories this wouldn't go away. The age of 2 big party oligopoly is over & should be decently buried.

Verity said...

mbe nailed it. The Tories are not secret lefties. They are right wing law and order/stable and civil society people.

Cameron is going to lose the general election and UKIP, which at least has some thoughts on the preservation of Britain and our way of life, will pick up a large number of seats - maybe as many seats as they can afford to run in.

Tory candidates must not fear to tackle terrorism, immigration and the Sovietesque welfare state.

Man in a shed said...

People start from a position of suspicion about the Conservative party and good will towards the Lib Dems. We need to make the voters see the Lib Dems for who they are, based on how they behave.

Bob was right to point out the behaviour of the Lib Dems - we need to do a *lot* more of that.

Here in Woking we let the Lib Dems get away with unanswered negative and disingenuous campaigning and have lost control of the local council as a result.

Your dead right on the BBC - it just can't help itself.

Cllr Nicholas Bennett said...

Well said Iain, I don't disagree with any of your analysis.

This is the first time in my 40 years in politics that I've lived in a constituency with a Parliamentary By-election. A fascinating experience! Never have so many trees died in the cause of the democracy. My neighbours have been a way on holiday for 12 days, how they will get their door open when they return I dread to think.

1. Selection of candidate.

Bob was and is a good choice; however a number of assumptions were made.

• Because he was the local GLA member he would be well known. Bob has been a first rate member, assiduously taking up local issues, attending Resident Association AGMs and campaigns in every local election, however as most MPs cannot be named by the majority of their constituents, the same is true of other local politicians.

• Whilst I have no argument with his decision to stay on the GLA until 2008, he should have made it clear that he wouldn’t take a salary.

• He should have resigned the Health Authority and other posts immediately.

• As a non-lawyer I am aware of all the posts which disqualify one from election including offices of profit under the crown. A silly mistake not to deal with this; however I understand Bob resigned from the Health Authority last week I don’t think any judge would overturn the result of the technicality of the form, it is disqualification at election which counts.

2 Dealing with the negatives

• The LD campaign followed the usual path - identify any weakness in your opponent and ruthlessly exploit it. Do CCHQ not learn from previous by-elections? In the days when I was on the list we were always asked if there were any skeletons in our cupboard (Alan Clark at K&C in 1996 – “A whole graveyard full”). Similarly we have to look at things like where the candidate lives, has he/she lost before (‘Failed MP, Failed wannabe MP’) etc. None of this bars a candidate – most have to fight hopeless seats but we need to be ready with the rebuttal.

• As the old saying has it "truth is getting its boots on when lie has gone half way around the world'.

• The LD campaign from the outset went for Bob and they spent the whole campaign issuing variations on the same theme. Our rebuttal leaflet was on the eve of poll!

3. Literature and Campaigning

• I showed some of the LD literature to an experienced agent and he said: "That's the sort of thing they always issue!' And? Why weren’t we ready with our own ‘Hallo’ style 8 page colour glossy?

• Given that the LD candidate fought Sevenoaks last year, moved to Beckenham in 2004 and had only been on the council six weeks why did we not point these things out?

Abbots and the LDs were vulnerable on a key Bromley issue, Prescott’s dictat that Bromley will increase housing densities. That should have been one of our causes and the LDs support (including Abbot’s silence and abstention in the council on the issue) should have been hammered. It illustrates the best sort of issue – positive for you and negative for your opponent.

• Both UKIP and LDs campaigned on the same simple issues from start to finish. UKIP – ‘cut taxes; get out of Europe, control immigration’. LDs – Local MP, 3 jobs Bob, I’ve got a wife and kids and live in the borough’.

• There was no such theme in our campaign. One week it was crime (Here again no use made of pictures of Bob campaigning in 2003 for more police in Bromley!), last week MPs wife supports Bob (there’s a surprise) and this week Human Rights Act (not yet the talk of Bromley’s pubs!).

Law and Order is a Tory theme and the local increases are horrific – four fold increase in robberies, 60% increase in violence, burglary up.

• As a result our literature had no theme. Some simple rules for leaflets

 You have no more than 8 seconds to get your message across from the letterbox to the waste bin.

 A picture is worth 1000 words

 A headline is worth 1000 words

 More people read the Sun than all the quality papers combined

• Our leaflets were wordy – a letter from the local councillor was two pages of small, cramped handwriting. One paragraph with printed stylised writing would have been read.

• Bob’s picture was dreadful - the one they used made him look smug and complacent when those of us who know him, know that he is a decent hardworking chap. Thus the picture reinforced the LD smears.

• Fewer leaflets. I had 8 or 9 from the Conservatives and LDs and at least 7 from UKIP. Many were wasted as there was no attempt not to deliver to postal voters who had cast their vote already.

We need to go back to the basics of running and election. B&C has 7 wards and 39 polling stations. The polls are open from 7am to 10pm. 585 telling slots before people start doing more than an hour. It was only 6 weeks since the borough elections which had been run by the individual wards. What should have happened is that the wards prepare as far as possible from their own resources the telling, with CCHQ agent helping to fill in any gaps from additional volunteers. Instead, experienced ward chairman, like my wife got their committee room boxes late on Wednesday evening and had to drop rosettes, tellers’ pads round at 6am on polling day. An hour’s planning saves a lot of wasted time.

Despite using computerised knocking up slips I found myself knocking up members at 6pm who had voted early in the day and found that they had also had 2 phone calls.

Better use of manpower would help. Fit and active campaigners tied up on polling stations telling at 7pm when they could be knocking up.

Centralised use of volunteers from outside the constituency so they could be sent to areas with large numbers of pledges but few knocker uppers.

Let’s treat volunteers with some consideration. I dolled out tea to a number of friends who had come considerable distances to canvass. They all commented that, after driving miles to get to Bromley the sector offices hadn’t offered a cup of tea or even a loo. Don’t let’s forget how we turned the press against us at one party conference by putting them in a windowless car park basement!

We need a dedicated CCHQ campaign team but one which can take advice from the best of the voluntary party.

S Penketh said...

In amicus you ask wha you did thta was so nasty in Cheadle

1/ follow female helpers in cars and filmed them on estates as they delievered or canvassed, they didn't film them on foot they filmed them in a slow moving car. They tried it with a very good looking friend of mine (The man lived to regret it).
2/ Tearing down posters of ours late at night.
3/ Sending a council offical (fully paid up member) to tell us to take our signs down in the shopping mall where we had our main HQ, claiming it was council land. despite the owner being a tory and in at the time telling her it was his land she kept threating to close the office if we didn't remove them. the police were called she was on the phone to mark Hunter's HQ when they arrived. The police threatened to arrest her if she didn't move off the mall and that the posters were clearly on private land.
3/ Our main poster man, an essex lad, had to have a police escort at regular intervals for the last few days due to the amount of violence threatened at him.
4/ Brian Binley MP having to chase a lib dem who he saw removing leaflets he had just posted in Bramhall.
5/ 5 tory HQs doors all being glued at between the hours of 1 in the morning and 4 in the morning. Also someone hit the labour office, nice of them.
6/The car marked in Lib dem posters that threw a bottle at me as I walked by delievering leaflets.
Is that enough of your parties activity inamicus or would you like more examples.

Paul Linford said...

I wouldn't be too hard on Bob Neill. Defending a seat at a by-election is one of the hardest tasks in politics. And as all England fans will no doubt agree, a win is a win is a win.

Man in a shed said...

I see that David Cameron is making an issue of Lib Dem campaigning also. We must do more of this and make the voters see what they are really like !

Pulsar said...

Was it fair to expect anyone to fight an election on one policy (EPP) which appears to be in trouble!
Tombstone at CCHQ has misread the runes and is in danger of "out lemming" Major.
I believe Rem Man has it broadly right.
The leadership are mistaken if they beleive that "fluffy bunny" politics are going to carry the day-they won't!
The next candidate needs to go into battle with a bit more policy than a glacier hug and a bike.

Rene Kinzett said...

As a member of the Conservatives for just over one week, having defected from the LibDems on 19 June, I only have limited second hand knowledge of the process of candidate selection, literature design, etc within my new Party.

However, having been immersed in LibDem by-election campaigns over the last 16 years, I do have an admiration for their effectiveness at a) winning and b) never failing to annoy/surprise the opposition. That these campaign very often win (and win big) should surely lessen the annoyance/surprise caused to those that lose out or just narrowly see off the yellow challenge?

Going negative is only one side of the story. The level of the LibDem leafleting machine is wonderful in its simplicity. The "Chat" style glossy ( I LOVED the post-it note innovation!), the blue ink "handwritten) letters, the personal messages from the candidate, the eve of poll AND the good morning leaflets show an inventive and simple approach: Have something to say, say it, say it again and say it through different formats to stop voters from getting bored with the "same old" literature.

The LibDems are not overly negative.
They are just very opportunistic and repeat back to the voters what the voters already think about politicians - they position themselves as being "non politician" politiians - like Ken Livingstone. Its as if they are saying "the other parties are the ones who are hypocritical, opportunistic, self-serving, lying, pocket-lining SOBs - we are just calling on you to point this out, oh, and by the way, we have a lovely candidate who washes graffiti off the walls". Such wonderful nonsense but it works!

Lets stop being surprised by the obvious and get on with constructing ways to combat this cynical (different to negative) election campaigning method which still seems to serve the LibDems well. Construct teams which work, not only in by-elections, but across the UK who look into new ways to convey messages to voters - whether that is MUCH better use of photography, more accessible leaflet design, new formats, etc.

We have people in this Party who are in PR (like me), marketing, design, printing, customer relations, etc, etc...we can also learn lessons from the US on such matters (where the LibDems get a lot of their ideas) or from the Labour and LibDems themselves. I have seen so many good examples of literature use from the LibDems and Labour at by-elections, but never, I am afraid to say, from the Conservatives.

We may have the best things to say to people and we may be the only alternative to this clapped out government - but lets get the machine in order to make sure we can win and win well.

Andy Goff said...

Don't you geddit guys! People are voting for anything but the incumbent party. The LibDems didn't win a seat, the tories nearly lost seat and Labour didn't regain a seat. Voters are voting AGAINST parties not FOR parties. They want, those that can be arsed to express an opinion, a change. The problem is that choice is limited. We have two pro war parties, a, what was, an anti war party but supports our boys (whatever that means) and then a mixture of stupid and extremist parties. Thinking voters don't know which way to turn. If only we could vote for a manifesto, rather than a party, which may be made up of various parties policies: Based on the number of votes for a particular pledge, a manifesto which must be implemented within the life of a government. So, trident replacment? No. ID cards? No. Fewer bills from the Home Office? Yes. More PFI? No. Hazel Blears in office? No. David Cameron in power? No. You get the idea. We have to change the system to engage more voters. Voters that are not being driven by an irrational fear of trivial concepts. A war on terror? Bollocks.

Dee said...

I'm not involved in politics, except as an interested floating voter.
It seems to me that just when the public were absolutely sick of Blair, the Conservatives elected Blair Mark II as their leader.
All I can tell about Cameron, from his few outings, is that he wants to save the planet, be happy and hasn't yet decided what policies the "New" Conservatives will have just yet as far as running the country goes.
Never has the country been more ready for a Conservative government; then just at that moment, they go and change the landscape, so there isn't one.
Having fallen for the "New" label once, we are expected to be just as stupid a second time around.
As mentioned in the last post, a lot voters go for a protest vote when they are unhappy and the Conservatives are not the party of protest. No one expects the Lib Dems to ever form a government, so it's a way of expressing dissatisfaction, by voting for them.
Cameron turns me right off, because he's a smarmy toff, who has had the money and time to adopt rich pastimes, like telling everyone to save the planet and be happy. The rest of us have to worry about paying the extreme rises in council taxes and sit back, helpless, while NL in privatise the NHS by stealth in England and legislate every tiny aspect of our lives. On top of that, our children are being riddled with debt if they want an education, simply for being English. The opporition have not been doing their jobs.
Mostly, though, people are not voting because they are so pissed off with the corruption that oozes from the very pores of our politial elite. You may disagree, but then you're not sitting where the ordinary voters are sat, looking on in disgust.
We need a serious politician, who can be trusted, not a couple of point scorers, scrambling to get media coverage about their latest stunts (I said stunts)

Praguetory said...

I agree that B&C is not important in the long term, but by-elections are. By-elections results will garner a significant amount of press coverage between now and the general and we need to be gain momentum. I've had to put up with a few swing voters almost crowing about the B&C result - shouldn't the main opposition party be storming these seats etc? We can't afford this sort of PR. Put someone in charge of by-elections as a matter of priority - and if they fail replace them. And don't send 8 or 9 leaflets out - talk to people - that's how we'll counter the negative messages.