One of the most memorable results at this year's general election was that in Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, where a supposed Labour stronghold was gained by Aidan Burley for the Conservatives.
Aidan’s 14.02% swing, called in to me by Peter Botting at 4.21am on May 7th as the result was being declared at Cannock Leisure Centre, was called a "staggering result" by the BBC - and was the largest swing of any Conservative candidate to gain a seat from Labour.
Aidan turned a notional 9,227 Labour majority into a Conservative majority of 3,195 – making him one of the youngest of the new intake of Tory MPs, aged 31.
Born in New Zealand to British parents, his family returned to the UK several months later and he was brought up and educated in Birmingham. He won the mock election at King Edward’s School, Edgbaston, for the Conservatives in 1997 and later helped run OUCA and the Union whilst he was studying at St John’s College, Oxford.
He went on to work with the Home Office and the NHS as a management consultant, and also worked for Philip Hammond and Nick Herbert when they were shadow ministers. He was also a Conservative Councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham, but stood down from his seat to concentrate on winning Cannock Chase.
He explains here how he managed that feat:
"I had an agent, the former candidate - Ian Collard, who believed in me and in victory from the beginning and I had an incredibly stubborn and demanding coach in Peter Botting who kept on pushing me and pushing me.
"At target seat position No. 198, and not even on the radar of Target Seat Funding, we were totally left to our own devices in terms of fundraising. We also have a relatively small association of modest means. So we raised our own money - lots of it - through events, auctions and donations. It was hard work and we spent everything we raised. This became easier after we were able to evidence momentum. The fundraising was arguably harder than the campaign.
"We had great literature, put together by Stephen Ion and written by a strident committee of 3 (Ian, Peter and myself, and approved by my girlfriend Helen – who looked at it from an ‘external’ i.e. non-political perspective!) that debated every word, picture, colour and layout.