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Andrew Kennedy
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Cameron and Maude have probably decided that a fight with UKIP is going to be their "Clause 4 moment". They have likely concluded that if Hague and Howard were unable to attract the UKIP voters back to the Conservative Party then Cameron will certainly fail to do so. However, the 600,000 UKIP voters at the last GE are just the tip of a very large iceberg. As the last two rounds of European Elections have shown, there are millions more who sympathise with UKIP but remain loyal to the Conservative Party at Parliamentary level. Tomorrow morning I am leading a group of 15 active members who are making a 120 mile round-trip from rural Kent to provide mutual aid in a marginal London borough. These people are all councillors / branch chairmen or constituency officers. They are the campaign stalwarts in my own constituency and the backbone of the Association. Of these 15 I know at least 6 of them vote UKIP at European elections and are not ashamed to do so. By attacking UKIP in such personal and abusive terms, Cameron is not just attacking the 600,000 UKIP voters, but millions more who sympathise with UKIP policies but remain loyal to the Party at national elections. He may be doing so in the ignorant belief that the Right have nowhere to go. In this he is wrong on two counts: (i) In one critical London ward (which we must win to take control of the council) a postal survey of 1,000 previously pledged Conservatives indicated that around 12% of them were intending to vote BNP on 4th May. (ii) A quick study of LG by-elections since Cameron was elected leader show a decline in Conservative like-for-like vote share in all but the most affluent wards. Amber Valley -23%; Harborough -17%; Waverley -16%; Dacorum -13%; Northampton -14%; Aylesbury -7% and dozens more with swings around 5%. In fact, in the few wards where the Conservative vote share has actually improved, this is almost exclusively in areas where Independent candidates have not stood where they previously had split the Conservative vote. There is no evidence whatsoever, from LG by-elections, to indicate any Conservative revival. We need to attract back to the Party the 4 million traditional Conservatives who left us in 1997. Attacking UKIP and besmirching those who share their values and patriotism is not the way to do so.
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Has a European Policy Review been formed yet ? If not, I am sure Emma Nicholson or Hugh Dyke might be available to chair one.
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Cameron - trust me, I hear what you are saying and I have experienced all these frustrations myself. Too many "old school" see election day as a social event, and the Campaign HQ as a nice place to meet for a chat over tea and coffee. The problems you have highlighted are not with the system, but rather the people that often run local branches and Campaign HQs. However, despite all of that, the result in Wimbledon was one of our best results in the country - a 7.2% swing and a gain from Labour. If we had achieved that result nationwide Blair would not have had his Parliamentary majority. So, for all the faults and concerns you have expressed, Stephen Hammond and his team obviously did something right ! I am always happy to show genuine and bona fide activists our own system and the way we use BlueChip to campaign. If this would interest you please let me know and I will see what I can arrange (ak23566@yahoo.com).
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Cameron - we actually investigated the possibility of running a trial with PDA's in a LG By Election. The first hurdle was Data Protection. A voters Polling Number is considered "personal identifying data" under the Act. Therefore, all users of PDAs at a polling station would have to be registered, as would the locations they were being used. The present "pen and paper" system overcomes this problem as the data is only processed in one location. Secondly, there was massive resistance from the volunteers. The majority of "tellers" are our more elderly members who cannot do other jobs on election day due to age or mobility problems. I accept that we could use different (younger) people for telling - but as an Campaign Director the thought of younger / fitter people sat at polling stations collecting numbers when they could be out of the streets helping GOTV is anathema. I accept your frustrations about knocking up to find the person you have called has already voted, however... (a) Many people say they have voted to get rid of us as they know we will call back and pester them again if they admit the truth, and (b) about 10% of voters refuse to give their number to the Teller when they leave the polling station. No amount of modern technology or IT based solutions would overcome these problems. In my own constituency we do use a number of IT solutions to minimise "knocking up". In our key wards we have entered "AM" "PM" or "EVE" on bluechip to identify when the elector normally casts their vote. If a voter has a record of evening voting we don't waste our time with them during the day. Likewise, if an elector always votes in the morning and they haven't done so by 2pm, this person will receive special attention. As I said in my earlier post, IT is a useful tool to assist with campaigning, but nothing more. An interesting footnote, I have a good friend who works for John McCain, the Senator for Arizona. He has told me that in the US the move is away from IT based campaigning and back to "Precinct Captains" and personal contacts. Voters there are becoming increasingly cynical of pre-recorded phone messages, push polling and fake personal letters. I don't think it will be too long before we start witnessing the same levels of fatigue in the UK.
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There is always a danger to see technology as a replacement for traditional campaigning, when it should be used alongside established practices or as a tool to target and direct effort. The millions spent by CCHQ in 2003/2004 on Voter Vault did very little to improve our end result. With any technological-based campaign tool it is always matched by our opponents so the net effect is neutral. Voter Vault can (and did) provide a useful starting point in constituencies where there had been little campaign activity. In my own constituency 80% of V9's (the most likely Conservatives according to the Voter Vault coding) where actually pledges. Likewise, only 18% of V1 codes where supporters. However, we knew this information anyway from our own activity. BlueChip is also a useful tool - but like any data based system it is only as good as the information it has stored. We are fortunate that we have recorded pledges for 40,000 voters plus marked registers covering the past 4 elections. Elections are won not be technology but by localism and community activity. Politicians (whatever level) need to have roots in the communities they wish to represent. Regular newsletters (not just in March and April preceding an election). A rolling programme of survey canvassing, and constant communication and feedback. In the wards I look after in my own constituency not a single street lamp is repaired or grass verge mowed without local residents knowing we asked for it to be done! And how do I know this works ? Well - in the 1999 local elections I achieved the largest LibDem - Con swing in Sussex (Forest Row Ward, Wealden DC). In the 2003 local elections I achieved the largest LibDem - Con swing in Kent (West Malling and Leybourne Ward, Tonbridge and Malling BC). I also achieved the largest Conservative swing in any local government by-election in 2004 (Burham, Eccles and Wouldham Ward, Tonbridge and Malling BC) and in 2005 the largest increase in the Conservative vote in any Kent County Council division. So yes, let us use new technology as a tool. It can help target campaigning and it can help maximise differential turnout. But it is NOT a replacement for community activity and hard work.
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