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My views, if we're defending a seat, where the Lib Dems will plainly be fighting us hard, and are likely to persuade the anti-Conservative voters to vote tactically for them.

1. Always select a local candidate (whether or not an A List candidate). Local should mean living in the constituency, wherever possible.

2. Work out what there is in the candidate's background that the Lib Dems will attack over - and how to counter that attack. With the benefit of hindsight, it would have best if Bob Neill had resigned immediately from the Health Authority, and announced that he would step down from the GLA if elected. These were two trivial issues, but ones which the Lib Dems were able to exploit.

3. Ensure that as many supporters as possible vote by post.

4. Go for as short a campaign as possible.

5. Make people on the Approved List spend hours in the seat campaigning - or get chucked off the Approved List.

6. Ensure that Agents from CCHQ are working with the local association from day one.

7. Go negative on the Lib Dem candidate from day one. Trawl through the candidate's record. Don't worry about being unfair. Labour were wildly unfair in Hartlepool and it still served them well.

A very good idea for a thread.

I've just got a few of things to say.

Firstly we need to be much better at rebutting attacks in Lib Dem leaflets - quickly. Why for instance was the hypocrisy of the LIbs in calling Bob Neill 3 jobs not pointed out? Two Lib Dem MSP's were also sitting MP's so it's hardly something there not guilty of themselves.

Secondly - were the allegation that Ben Abbots was misleading people about working in an orphanage not at least investigated to see if they were true. If so they would have been excellent ammunition.

I know these are both very specific but they seem symtematic of a wider problem.

On a more general level surely it can't be that difficult to bring together MP's, councillors etc, who have a history of fighting and beating the Lib Dems, together to find out what they're doing right and use this across the board.

Francis: on the question of the LibDem assault about Bob being possibly ineligible to stand for election, I attended an excellent training course at the Leadership Institute (www.leadershipinstitute.org). It is one of the courses I am replicating in the UK with the Young Britons' Foundation (www.ybf.org.uk). The course covered the topic of "OPPOSITION RESEARCH".

It was stressed that before we dig around into an opponent's voting record, public profile and (let's face it, it's a nasty world) personal life, the first person who should be thoroughly researched is the candidate himself. Any possible weakness should be looked into so that it could be responded to if it came up during the campaign or it should be pre-empted.

The possible disqualification of Bob being able to stand for election is based on one of less than a dozen disqualifying factors (which include being a bankrupt or a member of the House of Lords). If a candidate's campaign is too stretched in terms of time or financially such that formal opposition research consultancy cannot be provided (a false economy in my opinion) then at the very least the questionnaire from CCHQ which asks whether there is anything embarrassing in the candidate's past that should be brought to CCHQ's attention also ought to list the other bars on standing for election. At or before the selection meeting, and in the weeks, months or years running up to polling day, the continual communications from CCHQ should also remind candidates of their obligations under the law. Ignorance is no excuse.

Someone - be it Bob or the Candidates' Department - got this badly wrong and they should hold their hands up. This was not a parish council election, this was an absolutely critical by-election. As I say in my piece for the Platform tomorrow, preparation is everything :)

Sean - agree with you on every single point. Particularly 1 & 2.

Donal, you are quite right. The fiasco over Bob Neill's membership of the Strategic Health Authority is an excellent example. (and not at all trivial Sean).

We know the opposition, particularly the Lib Dems, are going to go negative and make any attack they can on our candidates. Why are we always so surprised when they do? Taking the moral high ground doesn't work - knowing where they will hit and either dealing with it before it happens (eg resign from SHA) or have a quick rebuttal ready. You are quite right when you say that all candidates (and agents) should be made aware of the implications of the legal documents that they sign - and the penalties for making mistakes.

I entirely agree with Sean's analysis.

We lost Romsey by failing to choose a local candidate and this is another example of the importance of going local in by-elections. Actually, I think either Syed or Julia would probably have fared worse on the local score - at least Bob was the GLA member.

I would emphasise two lessons:

1. As a party we just don't take by-elections as seriously as the Libs. Lib Dem activists travel from all over the country to help in by-elections. We were unable to mobilise even the whole of south London to help. There's got to be a more concerted effort to get activists drafted in in large numbers.

2. Our literature was not nearly as good. Were B&C given a final veto on the literature? Surely our by-election team can come up with better literature than the pedestrian stuff that was put out?

I feel strongly that "making people campaign" is the wrong approach for a voluntary organisation or indeed any organisation.

It's much better that people should *want* to come and therefore will be motivated, positive and enthusiastic on the doorstep. After all being part of a successful campaigning team should be an uplifting experience and convincing people to support us is what we are about.

I think the ways to do this are:

1) Having a well structured/well organised campaign where people don't feel their time is being wasted when they turn up. All the basics like clear maps and instructions need to be covered.

2) Sending people out in teams so that they have the opportunity to meet other people and it's a sociable occasion.

3) Having people who are greeting those arriving for the first time that are clued up, enthusiastic and grateful. I thought we did this very well in Leicester South.

The Liberals produce the same literature at EVERY by election. They have been putting "post it" notes on leaflets and producing glossy magazine style leaflets in the last week of a campaign for years now.

The answer is to copy them and concentrate on turning our candidate into a local human being who the voters can identify with. Then it be more difficult for the Libs to win by going negative. If that means putting our candidates wedding photos etc in leaflets so be it - it works for them!

Secondly, we need to produce the same volume of leaflets to create momentum. Again, they have been doing this for years.

Thirdly, the organisation can be left to agents but we need a political brain to mastermind these campaigns. We lost momentum in Bromley and in Moray because we were unable to respond to opposition attacks.
New Labour sent Mandelson to by elections before 97 we need someone of the same ability
to mastermind ours. Its not fair to leave it to the area agent these are national campaigns now.

Good luck its easier said than done but I am pleased you and DC are determined to sort this out.

Francis,big difference between a School Governor and working on the Health Board and the GLA.The first is voluntary the others are (well)paid.At this time of 'anti politician'politics this was an easy line of attack from the Lib Dems and others.It had been widely forseen on CH and elsewhere.Our rebuttals were half hearted and rather pathetic in my opinion.
On the literature why did we not ake the Lib Dems on in terms of their national policies?

1 Candidate selection. Agree publicly that by-election selection is outside normal rules and perhaps have a joint local/CCHQ Selection Board but make it clear from now on what the process is so we don't get media expoiting the lack of clarity. I tend to agree with Sean over local candidate issue (though LibDems & SNP seem to have managed with outsiders) but still go for diversity in the choice.

2 Literature should be localised but on-message (the national and local campaigns need to synch. Exploit what candidate has done locally if possible. Look for photo-ops but real ones that bear examination. Flood the streets on last few days.

3 Was there something to exploit that Bob had achieved for the consituency in his Health role? Recognise that while voluntary participation in local charities, instituions or a history of active participation in good works is a pro that if there is pay involved its a con.

4 Positive campaigning doesn't mean you can't point out the difficencies in other party's policies - local income tax means two bills for hardworking families etc. But I think you also need to respond to slurs and be ready to go negative in response but carefully.

5 Organisation - look at who in the party has run really effective campaigns and get them together to organise a Campaign Team. Ask them to look closely at LD & Labour winning campaigns and plan a response to Winning Here, Bar Charts etc. Get a named someone ready to respond immediately, with authority, to personal attacks and misleading articles etc. Ruthlessly plan visits by the big hitters (the DC visit came across as a bit chaotic).

Elizabeth makes a very important point. Other than candidates or those on the candidates' list/A-List (who have to campaign otherwise they are in trouble with CCHQ), the rest of us are volunteers. We give of our time. And in the modern world, time is scarce. If the ground operation is a shambles, the campaign team rude and the volunteers not made to feel welcome then suddenly an evening in watching television or doing the ironing seems that much more appealing.

Positive Campaigning:

The electorate is hypocritical - asking for a clean campaign but rarely rewarding it. What is wrong with flat out assertions along the lines of "The Lib Dems are lying, they know they are lying, and we can prove it".

The public have a right to know what sort of MP they are getting and if the oppo canddiate is a liar and a photo-opportunist then it is our duty to highlight that.

I know why people aren't happy with a 600 odd majority. But a win is a win is a win. Bob gets to vote in the Commons and the other canddiates don't. Tories won, Lib dems lost, Labour 4th, eat that!

I am getting the feeling that CCHQ are putting too many hurdles to jump for local candidates. In Colne Valley, we have , potentially, a superb very local candidate.
I was at a memorial dinner for Sir Donald Thompson the other week, with said potential local candidate, and said to Jean Searle, "You must make her stand, we are trying to persuade her" Jean Searle informed me that she would have to apply for 100 seats first. What utter nonsense is that????? The poor lass is getting really stressed, and we could nicely lose her. She could decide to continue with her high powered job instead! What I am asking Francis, is , is this really neccessary, or is it the bean counters at work again. It is essential to have a good local candidate up here. One who has been an active campaigner for years. I am not mentioning her name, as I am rooting for her behind her back. Answers please.

I'd say the lesson for all parties should be that elections are about the national concerns of local people not the local application of your national gameplan.

Don't take people for granted as they are increasingly likely to sit on their hands than go out and vote for a rosette.

With Eric Forth gaining 51% of the vote, there is no way that not being 'modern' enough was an issue in B&C.

1) Reacting to the LibDem assault.

Unfortunately it can frequently work the other way. The issue appears to be the sheer volume of jobs that Bob held. There is still a very real perception that many politicians (more so for Conservatives than any other party) are only in it for what they can get (the legacy of excessive non-exec directorships from the last Conservative Government lingers long in many memories). Where a candidate has so many public roles the natural assumption of the general public is not to celebrate their public spirit, but to assume that they have their noses in the trough. This needs to be tackled by addressing where these memberships have resulted in improvements for the community (which is an area that the Liberal Democrats do very well – even if it is false (witness the B&C orphanage address)

2) Should we keep strictly to only positive campaigning, in the face of this kind of LibDem campaign?

In contrast to what is being said by many commentators I personally would always advocate positive campaigning. The electorate consistently retorts that negative campaigning turns them off politics, and reinforces the already negative perception that people have of politicians. My suggestion is that we need to counter negativity with the facts and where possible highlight positive things that have been done. Such an approach when undertaken correctly can turn negative spin on its head, particularly if it can be turned into questions about what the Liberal Democrats will actually do. This is where Sean’s suggestion that we fully understand the opposition candidates backgrounds (would I be naïve in assuming that CCHQ has a database of all previous campaign literature used by opposition candidates that could be referenced to quickly counter allegations?) comes into play. I believe that this is the area in which we need to focus our attacks. Focus on the inconsistencies in the Liberal Democrats policy agenda, and force them to clarify what they stand for. Much is made about the efficiency of the Liberal Democrats campaign machine, but we need to remember that ideologically they tend to struggle to agree on anything. By addressing the question of what the candidate stands for we can accentuate those ideological splits that exist within the campaign teams. Ensure we remain focused on the issues and not personality, again this is what the electorate continually tell us they want from politicians. Negative campaigning is easier and often a good way to score easy points, but honesty and integrity play well on the doorstep and for candidates to articulately present what they stand for as opposed to what they dislike about the opposition candidates further reinforces that the party is changing.

Finally, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have plenty of time to put these things right before the next election.

CCHQ really does need to establish a by-election speciality team that, when a by-election is triggered, drops their normal 'day jobs' at CCHQ and starts working straight away on getting logistics sorted for the by-election i.e. campaign office, research etc. Yes, it could be bad taste if the previous MP died and the funeral was yet to take place, but the Lib Dems do this all the time, and to make sure they do not pose a threat, we must play by their rules.

In my view, the problems with this by-election were mainly the fault of the local association. Any weakness in candidates should be detected and neutralized, and in campaign literature, the strengths of the party i.e. David Cameron should be used. This did not occur.

Do not be afraid to viciously attack the Lib Dem candidate for their hypocrocies and inaccurate statements.


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.

I'd echo Donal's points about pre-emptive research on our own candidate. I know it's doubly difficult in a by-election but we really ought to have thought through every single potential attack they could come up with and worked out our detailed rebuttal.

This would have greatly assisted with my second criticism; context sensitive leaflets. The leaflets we put out, particularly in by-elections, need to respond much more to how the campaign is going. I don't mean a rebuttal to each Lib Dem leaflet, necessarily, but I do mean leaflets which helps us to be the ones who establish what issue will define the battle in the context of what the other parties are arguing. It's all well and good producing nice, glossy, professional leaflets (and this is more of a general point than specific to this election) but this isn't enough...and may even be wrong in certain circumstances.

Finally, you need energy around the campaign. All too often I and other younger friends have gone to help campaign in "alien" constituencies and not been given the autonomy to work as a group enjoying blitzing specific areas, been split up so we are individuals helping with other worthy but less dynamic members and haven't found it as enjoyable. By contrast in the South Staffs election for Patrick Cormack last year a few of us were allowed to work as a group, brought some energy to the campaign and enjoyed it so much we committed more time to it - and it all worked out bloody well.

What we should not be doing is *anything* because "that's the way it's always done". CCHQ is just as guilty of this as fossilised associations. All too often both camps fall into this trap.

And, quite simply, responsibility breeds competence. Which individual was directly responsible for running the by-election?

Yes perhaps many Bromley Labour voters switched to the Lib Dems, some because of dissatisfaction with Mr Blair (the Lib Dems are, apparently, I think, to the Left of Mr Blair, but one can never be sure - depends on which Lib Dem you're listening to, and where they are campaigning?), and some tactically as the Lib Dem would be best placed to deny the Tory victory.

Also we mustn't underestimate the impact of UKIP, who increased their vote by 872. When I looked at the results of the 2005 General Election, I reckoned we could have won another 30 or so seats in southern England if it were not for UKIP, and thus it could have been a hung parliament.

Could a lesson therefore be along the lines of the "Ands" theory of Conservatism? That is modernise by sharing and addressing voters' concerns about the environment and public services, while being right-wing on social issues such as crime and law & order, and firmly Eurosceptic.

I understood that Mr Neill as well as looking more like an old-style Tory, is also more of a Europhile. Maybe, in this particular contest, a modern but right-wing Eurosceptic 'A' lister could have done better?

But congrats to Mr Neill - he DID win!

Nick Bennett's contribution is excellent and demonstrates his campaigning experience as a former MP. It was disgraceful that he removed from the Candidates List.

At least Bob Neill was a better candidate than A-list "Wimmin" nonentities that CCHQ proposed.

End the agenda and gesture politics and start talking about issues that actually matter to people.

Trying excessively to convince people that we are 'right on', 'trendy', 'modern' types by jumping on the nearest passing vested interest makes us look ludicrious.

The gay lobby, female lobby, green lobby, pc lobby, all of whom we seem to be caught in their headlights, are not repeat not representative of any sort of majority in the county.

Yet the brand tactic that you as Party Chairman (sorry shouldn't use the work Chairman as it may offend your right on views) is to repent past sins that never were, when people are crying out for someone to stand up and respond to their concerns. That doesn't mean we have to make a rightward turn but we do have to talk about the issues that people are taking about - crime in particular - otherwise we really are in danger of become a sideshow.

The Labour Party is falling apart, if we can't encourage people to come out in droves and vote conservative now, what will happen when the election is called in almost certainly more propitious circumstances for the Government that now?

You personally have pushed the change for changes sake agenda. It has been swallowed by a whole lot of people who should know better. The result is a falling between too stools as we saw last night.

Sean Fear - I would agree with you on all those points, however on point 7 did we not go negative on the Lib Dem candidate from day 1 in the Cheadle by-election?

If we do go negative it will have to be with substance. In Cheadle the literature would say Mark Hunter was an unpopular outsider with a map of Cheadle pointing out that Hunter was not local. However this was undermined somewhat by showing Hunter lived only a few miles outside and also lived in the same borough - not really an "unpopular outsider".

Nevertheless if there is substance to the negative attacks then they should have some sort of effect. I have been thinking about what should have been done in Bromley - we should have adopted the Lib Dems own tactics and used them against them. Not the "three-jobs Bob" personal attacks, however we should have wheeled out the bar-charts and said that the Lib Dems were third and "can't win here" - constantly hammering the message and undermining the Lib Dems campaign. We could also have tried another Lib Dem trick of putting out leaflets saying "Tony Blair wants you to vote Lib Dem tomorrow as he knows they can't win here (maybe the same for UKIP voters as well) - though they would have to be carefully targetted as they could encourage tactical voting. Nevertheless all of this might have stopped the Lib Dems from gathering momentum.

Also, as other posters have mentioned, we should have re-butted the Lib Dems instantly whenever they tried to smeer our candidate, plus we should have attacked immediately whenever anything about Abbotts was exposed such as his apparent orphanage work.

The plain and painful truth is that people still want to vote tactically against us when the opportunity arises. It didn't in the local council elections, where the Tories did very well in that part of the world, but Labour voters fed up with Blair do not want to switch to the Tories. This is an unwelcome change from the attitude of fed up Labour voters when the Tories were in opposition in the late 70s and late 60s.

Our party has not yet discovered how to get former Labour supporters interested in voting for us in the way that Thatcher and yes even Heath did when in opposition.

I am not sure there is agreement in the party how to go about this. But my belief is that while we were completely right to abandon the nasty moralising for which we acquired a bit of a reputation, we currently lack definition. People look at us and just don't know what we would do about the big issues in politics. They want to know that we have a better, different plan from Blair.


But compare the Cheadle and Bromley results. We pushed up our vote share by 2% in Cheadle. It fell by 11% in Bromley. I'm not saying Cheadle was the most effective of campaigns, but it was more effective than the one in Bromley.

Or, as I mentioned earlier, look at Hartlepool. Jody Dunn, as a barrister, takes her clients as she finds them. Yet Labour hammered her relentlessly for acting for teenage hooligans. That was unfair, but it was also effective.

Nicholas Bennett has highlighted the negative points we could have made about the Lib Dem candidate.

Not directly related, but Francis why was there no official reaction to the by-election results in Bromley? I have heard and seen at least five or six different versions of "This is a fantastic result for Lib-dems blah-blah-blah" which only serves to reinforce the mistaken perception within the electorate that Lib-Dems are "the real alternative", but no official response from the Conservative party stating clearly what a dirty, underhand and hypocritical campaign the "Liberals" have been running for years. Why has there been no attempt to properly unmask them? The Conservative Party used to be a very well oiled machine at fighting elections, the natural party of government. A distant memory now and we need hard work to redress that. Look at it this way Places like Hornsey and Wood Green, and Falmouth and Cambrourne which had been traditionally Conservative, and had a Conservative MP as recently as 1992-1997 are now Lib-Dem via Labour with Conservatives a distant third, exactly the opposite to 1992. Food for thought?
End of rant.

Yes agreed Sean, and I have said we should have hammered Abbotts for his flaws during the campaign - which we didn't!

Point taken about the share of the vote increase in Cheadle and I agree about Hartlepool - probably the one by-election where Rennard had rings run around him for once. I think though that Jody Dunn made things worse for herself during that campaign which was probably why it didn't back-fire on Labour.

As has already been pointed out, the electorate are hypocritical about negative campaigning, claiming to loathe it whilst succumbing to its charms time and time again. It's all very well playing to Queensbury so long as you don't complain when a street fighter kicks you in the goolies.

I am rather disconcerted at Francis Maudes afterthought that 'it will take some convincing to campaign negatively'!!
My personal thoughts are that we Tories must fight fire with fire when it comes to the malign campaigning from the libs. This does not mean our whole campaign gravitating around pointing out the oppositions flaws, but to get across our positive message while refuting negative campaigning if and when it arises!!
On May 4th I observed the leader of a Tory group on a London Council lose his seat to the libs, because of not refuting negative campaigning, and assuming that keeping within the parameters of 'honest politics' would see him through to winning the day!!
I believe the key is getting our response out quickly and efficently when we are subject to negativity, and not hanging around complaining of the ethics of it all!!

The Conservatives are respected among traditional Tory voters for not campaigning negatively, we mustn't be tempted to lower ourselves to the LibDem's level.

What we must remember at this point is that the policies are not yet solidified and that we are fighting with very little to say on the doorsteps.

When we are able to say, look, we're out of the EPP, we're not for that costly EU, and yes, we do care about individual freedom, because here's our draft text of a new Bill of Rights -- then we'll be in a position to actually fight.

Before the solid policies we're not able to fight, and I don't think we should be worried about that, especially as we won regardless!

As I said to Andrew Lansley, when he visited Nottingham this week for a Built to Last roadshow, our local polling here in Sleaford, Lincs (in preparation for next May's local government elections) indicates that former Labour supporters are either: (a) not intending to vote; or (b) are intending to vote for anyone who will keep the Conservatives out (and, in practice, this means LibDems). The CCHQ view that Labour supporters will switch to Conservatives cannot be evidenced here. I agree with Douglas Hogg's view, as best I recall it: "Whilst it is clear that Mr Blair and his colleagues have lost the support of the British electorate, it is not yet the case that the electorate have fallen sufficiently in love with Mr Cameron to ensure a Conservative victory."

My own preferred tactics are therefore to: (a) keep entirely positive in our general campaigning leaflets; (b) keep to the 3 basic principles that together set Conservatives apart from all other major other parties (freedom/trusting the individual, no unnecesary bureaucracy/small government, & compassion/giving a helping hand to those in need not a handout for life) and I'm glad that the leadership has finally woken up to the need for opposition to stress principles not policies (I'm sure Tim has heard me say that too many times already); (c) deliver a truthful, factual last-minute leaflet about the LibDems only to those households certain to be core LibDem voters in order to discourage them from voting; and (d) also deliver a "letter of recommendation" for our candidate to all possible Conservative supporters on eve of poll.

Apologies for the lengthy post. I was expecting to be baby-sitting an SMTP server this afternoon, but now find myself at a loose end ;-)

Dear Francis

Just a few Musing on what I think should have been done by ourselves.

Firstly thorough research should be done by us onto the opposition candidate by a profesional researcher.

Advertise ourselves from the start the first set of leafletting should be done within the week of a resignation or the next day after a burial, if the M.P has died.

Don't stop being positive with our campaign but there should always be at least one prominant article in each leafelt 'trashing' the main opposition on their points of weakness. An Easy example in Bromley would have been to address Ben Abbotts on election leaflets as 'Out of towner spin merchant Ben Abbotts'
Also don't be affraid to rebut accuasation they make.
If we do that we will see Liberals arguments being unnnoiticed because people will see them for the lying charlttons they are.

There was a leaflet that was distributed by us on polling day that left me with a bitter taste. I know we have to campaign harder, better, and more innovatively than the Lib Dems, but using such literature results in us degenerating to their level. The leaflet concerned was a photocopy of a letter from a voter called ‘Joan’.

If we really want to see results we need a ‘by-election’ team be funded by CCO. Unfortunately the Associations would see this as ‘stepping on their turf’. It seems to me that this is the real problem to a professional campaigning organisation.

Francis, you had a very narrow squeak on this one.
If an A list candidate had been chosen and lost (less local), then the Cameron project would have been derailed. All because we have an inadequate Campaigning System and a failure to groom candidates. The responsibility for this rests at your door.

We lost Romsey six years ago because of poor candidate selection and an inadequate campaign. We nearly lost B&C for the same reasons. Why has this not been fixed?

So you need to stop all your other activities and just focus on fixing the Candidate grooming process and installing a first class Campaigning System. We cannot risk another near disaster like B&C.

The next similar by election may only be weeks away, which is why you need to act now.

Lastly is there one individual owning responsibility (outside of yourself) for this failure? If not then you need to appoint an experienced Campaigns Director who can roll their sleeves up asap.


I can't see anything objectionable in that letter, Chris.

The problem with it, IMO, was that it was so scruffy that I'd have just chucked it in the bin if I'd received it.

When the Tories fought such a positive local election campaign and reaped the benefit, surely it would be a huge mistake to scrap in the gutter with the LibDems?

Lessons learnt in my Greater London constituency during last year's Gen Election and this year's Council elections:

The GE LibDem vote increased despite the candidate being a real outsider and doing no work because it was a hopeless seat (Tory gain after 8 years, with great truly local candidate) - bearing out views stated above that dissatisfied Labour voters will go to LibDems.

One forceful anti-Labour Govt sentence in letter to Tory pledges got lots of tut-tuts, 'oh dear, not nice, much too strong', yet a nasty (and acknowledged) whispering campaign by LibDems against a Tory council candidate this year simply on the basis that he's gay stopped us gaining a seat, and no-one protested!

CANDIDATE SELECTION – There wasn’t really a problem here. Others made a big thing of it, but if we’d run an exciting and well run campaign it would have died a death immediately.

LITERATURE – This is certainly where we lost the fight. Nice and glossy, but even I couldn’t be bothered to read them. Bland, bland, bland. We were putting out ‘Ex MP’s wife supports Bob’ or ‘Bob walks down street’ leaflets. The Lib Dems come out with ‘Tories soft on crime’ and the more personalised attacking leaflets. The photographs and headlines were dull, the candidate’s (full) name wasn’t well publicised and you could barely tell which party it was from. Stories should excite and so should the headlines.

REACTING TO THE LIB DEM ASSAULT – It really wasn’t such a big assault. It’s only a problem when you let it be. We were always playing ‘catch-up’ in this campaign, that was the real problem. If we run an exciting campaign with a mixture of positive stories showing the Conservatives actively working for local people (rather than just tell people what we will do if we get in) and stories attacking the Lib Dems, we can keep the initiative. Where was the planned campaign where we develop our campaign over a number of weeks? Keep the Lib Dems on their toes.

POSITIVE CAMPAIGNING – This is the way forward and the way to win, but not on its own. Despite having DC, voters are still more open to believe what the Lib Dems say. Conservatives need to work hard and publish good quality positive stories before they put out any hard hitting attacking copy. A mixture of positive and attacking stories is the key to beating the Lib Dems.

ORGANISATION – The Lib Dems have more activists and better motivated activists. It’s no wonder really, as the Lib Dems reward hard work and dedication. The Conservatives have never done this in the years gone by, and if anything things are getting worse under DC. It’s OK asking those on the candidate list to come and work for the By-Election, but they should already have a long history of campaigning before getting on the list. The A list is a big two-fingers-up to hard working campaigners who will never be given a chance to get on the list.

We will keep on struggling and nothing will happen to change the way local Conservative campaigns are run. I’m not anti-DC, he has made some good changes since he was elected, but he seems happier spending time changing logos and filling the A list with luvvies rather than getting his hands dirty sorting out the business end of the party.

I do not believe that candidates need to be local but they do need to be acceptable locally. These are very different things.

The local party were asserting their independence very early on. They chose a candidate that was acceptable to the insiders. A professional politician in an age of anti-politics.The local party bosses assumed that the seat was in their gift.

So lesson one: no complacency. Full frontal reality.

Lesson two: make sure your candidate meets the local perception of a Tory MP who they can support.

Lesson three: choose a candidate that at least looks and sounds as if he is part of the revitalizing poll boosting change David Cameron is bringing.

The job of an M.P. requires a wide acumen of skills and this demands alot of time and expertise to deal with all the varying needs of their constituents. Would it be preferable in future general elections and even more importantly under the sharp focus of by elections, to make sure that the candidate is shown to be focused only on the job of serving their constituents in the House of Commons, and not on other political bodies??

Francis,

Rogue associations must be brought to heel. Yourself and David Cameron are in charge, and the "faster and deeper" change you say is needed by the party must be spoken with one voice, rather than having many different areas saying contrasting and completely different things.

Personally I would suggest this, that all Conservative candidates; be they potential councillors or MPs, say that they are taking the line or side of common sense. The use of the words common sense must become far more frequent in our election material.

Chris.

One further comment on negative aspects of campaigning: when the LibDems do this well they make it sound as if they're doing it out of genuine benign concern for the local area. We tend to sound as if we hate those darned Lib Dems and will slag them off 'til the cows come home (as in Cheadle).

Given that the candidate is a Barrister
the error on the qualification form is serious, even if it would not ultimately disbar him from taking his oath.There are surely grounds for the Bar Council to invoke a disciplinary process.Let us not forget that other incompetent form filler Mandelson.Perhaps wee Bob could end up as an EU Commissioner too.If he doesn't read the forms he signs what else won't he read------the next EU Treaty perhaps ,a la Clarke.


If any job or position creates even the slightest arguable doubt about a candidate's eligibility, that candidate must surely resign from the job/position immediately after selection.

I don’t know what the legalities are but I would have thought it unwise (easy after the event I know) to select a candidate who holds and wants to retain any other elected position of significance

I think the fact that UKIP put up their biggest name is a mitigating factor in terms of the result

I don’t think any national conclusions can be drawn from this ONE result. I am always amazed that people are willing to draw national conclusions from by election results.

There is quite a bit to be learnt from all this. I visited twice during the election. The first time I went out alone doing some canvassing in an area that it then emerged we had a lot of telephone info and Geneva had already canvassed them.

The second time I took a team over for delivering and we waited 30 minutes for leaflets to turn up. I may be unfair but it was difficult to see who was in charge - CCHQ or the Association!

Why were we using fileplan?

Our literature was parochial. The penultimate leaflet telling us Mrs. Forth was backing Bob was ludicrous!

I have beenthe subject of and seen a lot of the Lib Dem campaigning technique. What is intersting is it is predictable. CCHQ needs to see it is predictable and have tools to combat it. We now they will go negative and get dirty. I also think we have to remember their tactic when they do this is not to get people to vote for them but to sow doubts in our supporters minds that stops them coming out to vote. We therefore need to have the rebuttal leaflet ready to go because it is not easy to identify what they will go negative on.

In my own Borough they have even started delivering different leaflets to different doors based on their voting intention.

I know that this is being put together already but a 'national campaign team' is I think now vital. At the Association level we have also come to recognise that this is vital and are putting something similar together. An experienced team of campaigners that can be moved where they need to go is the only way we can ensure consistency in our campaigning. Just because a ward or an association has lots of members does not mean they know how to campaign.

For the LibDems to accuse the Tories of being soft on crime is a joke. That the LibDems perform well despite having policies unpopular with the electorate – signing away more powers to Brussels and a soft approach on crime and drugs implies that the electorate don't know the true views of the LibDems. What can we learn from B&C? Firstly we need an election campaign coordinated by CCHQ – local constituencies should not be running a by-election that can have a severe impact on the overall standing of the party. In B&C we should have been emphasising Labour failures and the soft and wishy-washy LibDem ‘solutions’ to such problems – and then underlining our credentials on efficiency in the public sector, a tough approach on crime and a guarantee not to sign away more powers to the EU. On crime, Europe, immigration – and to a lesser extent on education too the electorate likes traditional Conservative policies. We need to exploit that, especially in ‘safe’ seats like B&C. Going from the result we failed to do that as well as we should.

Francis Maude should be commended on this post. It is another good example of him interacting in this way. Thank you.

Having been very critical of the B&C campaign I thought I should also put forward some constructive comments. 2 hours later I have just finished typing!

I wont take up space on ConservativeHome with my essay. If anyone is keen to read my thoughts please follow the link.

http://www.andrew-kennedy.blogspot.com/

The lesson from Moray, which I was involved with, and Bromley, is that we must be far more responsive and aggressive in dealing with local issues and opposition attacks. In Moray we got disastrous local press coverage which poisoned our campaign. A blandly positive campaign simply will not work in a by-election.

Kevin Davis asks "Why were we using fileplan?"

Kevin - please tell me which Parliamentary by-election has been won by Conservatives using BlueChip software?

I think it is always worth going negative and digging for dirt.

It's unedifying, but, frankly, it works. Simple nastiness is not good enough, but if you have something (like the Lib Dem's orphanage stuff) use it.

Exposing a faked photo did for Ed Matts in Dorset. In Greenwich a Tory was wrongly smeared as a racist-he got a retraction and apology but the damage was done-his running mates won and he didn't. Howard Flight was recorded and finished.

I'm not a fan of lies but there's nothing wrong with digging up embarassing details. We can't walk naked onto the hustings.

There is a thought doing the rounds that CCHQ weren't actually behind the B&C campaign at all, for the simple reason they were not happy with the candidate selection process, and the thought goes that if the Conservatives had have lost then CCHQ would have been able to bring associations to heal and that that loss might have been a small price to pay to gain control, given that historically the Lib Dems have held onto very few seats that they have won at By Elections, in fact I can only think of Newbury, which they lost eventually.

Clearly if there is any truth in the above, and I really hope there isn't, then the first lesson is, make sure everybody is onside, irrespective of what internal grievances they might have, difficult I accept, but I remember the unedifying sight of Conservatives cheering when Chris Patten lost his seat in 1992.

From what I can tell, it seems that the Conservative campaign was an old fashioned, rather complacent one. By-Elections are very different beasts to the GE and I rather like the idea of a specialist By -Election team who will put together a very aggressive campaign, certainly highlight what we will do but don't be afraid to give other candidates a "good kicking" if you can dig up their failings, there certainly seemed to be plenty to go at with the Lib Dem candidate as well as their national party policies, they are EU Federalists, they will increase taxes and waste the proceeds, they are soft on crime and drugs, they have policies that try to be all things to all people, they are soft on immigration etc etc, it's a long list I would suggest.

Personally I would like to see a lot more standardisation in the Conservative brand image and local associations should be helped in that process, just look at good business examples, they all have a common image and mode of operation. Local Conservative Associations, I would suggest, are like cottage industries that by and large do their own thing, with some probably not doing anything.

Finally on a positive note, despite everything that the Lib Dems threw at us, and I guess it was everything, they lost, I repeat, THEY LOST.

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.

René

It was a mistake to threaten UKIP with legal action about the billboards, and then not to follow-up once they refused to budge. If you are going to threaten to sue, be prepared to actually go to court. Refusal to do so looks like you are guilty of the accusations. Better to spell out the truth in campaign literature to address lies and exaggerations of opposing parties.

The late Eric Forth's majority was reduced to a mere 633. Most of the missing votes did not go to other parties. Therefore, while admiring Francis Maude's refusal to play silly games like Blears, I'm perplexed as to why he sees this result as a sign that we need to change even more quickly. The result seems to me, to be an indication that the changes have had a negative effect in Bromley and faster changes may result in disaster.

I believe the Party needs to do some research with our non-voters and find out why, rather than guessing. Show that we want to listen to them.

1 - Positive campaigning only. Voters want to hear something positive - Maggie c.1979 knew this - and they despise bitching. Ultimately, it only increases stay-away on election day.

2 - Literature quantity: max. Ubiquitous. Like snowflakes. BUT - only if it looks good, feels good and feels DIFFERENT. Most political leaflets are toilet paper. Same old stuff, same old presentation. Needed: original style and language. New look throughout. Desperate need for professional copywriting and design, and a revised logo. Get top professional designers/writers in from the agencies. Shoot any political lifer who thinks he can do a better job than they can. Politicians do Political Principles and Policies, Designers do Design, Copywriters do Copywriting. The medium *is* often the message, to the extent that weak message-delivery says 'weak message source'.

3 - Election posters: don't waste them. For every 'Vote Tory' poster in a window or on a farm fence, you have room to advertise the following:-

4 - Every Association to have its own campaign websites (not its usual one). Free blogs would do - use a central-issue template - get the copywriters to brand it and the designers to design it. The local Association should appoint their own local Iain Dale to run it and to publicise the site in the local papers and in leaflet drops, and its URL should be given on all posters. Have a (separate) central Conservative Campaign website, with links to all the local Campaign websites.

5 - Have EVERYONE report to a Campaign Plenipotentiary to whom give total control of campaign materials and planning, reporting only to you - and don't YOU interfere with him (or her) either. (Learn from successful industries: Dysons don't do their own advertising. A lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client.) Make it a permanent post. When not running campaigns, s/he should be researching the latest political campaign methods around the world and in the advertising industry, building up the toolkit for the next fight.

6 - Fighting the LibDems: play the ball, not the man. Find out which balls (sic) they are playing locally. Get out a hailstorm of local statements (and leaflets) fisking them on policy subjects but ignoring their candidate completely. The ad hominem issues are (actually) irrelevant in most constituencies - even Bromley. It was stay-away wot dun it, not anti-Bob. If the LibDems play your man (as they will) quietly make sure everyone knows they're doing it but do not respond in kind and do not shout 'foul'. Not even at the acceptance speech (Bob). Tsk. But do issue dignified (make them look cheap) rebuttals immediately, or before they start their attack if poss.

7 - Tell Col. and Mrs. Bufton-Tufton (my in-laws, bless 'em) to get the (cough) off the back of young volunteers who come in from the local university or wherever, who should be allowed to make their own original contribution, within guidelines laid down by Campaign Central HQ.

7 - Labour: is self-destructing anyway. Their right-leaning swing voters are looking for an alternative government - as are even those who vote UKIP and LibDem. Concentrate on national topics highlighting the incoherence/vacuity of LibDem and UKIP and tell local Associations to interpret them in the language of their local areas.

8 - Your Q: What more can we do at selection stage to ensure that the tiresome and completely bogus stories about a row between Association and CCHQ could have been avoided?
A. Provide campaigning leadership at HQ - the Plenipotentiary. Let him (or a sharp deputy) handle this problem with the national editors. Back him by telling HQ big-mouths to shut the up for the duration.
B. Get each Association to find a local PR pro who can get the right story all over the local press. Get the local Editor on side by giving him/her exclusives from both the locals and someone appointed as his/her personal liaison at HQ. What s/he then writes in the Baggleton Bugle will get into the nationals.

9 - Stick with Cameron. He *is* changing the political culture although it will take some time for people to realise that. He has the right message (never mind policies... there's time for them in the processes you have under way) but what's needed is a Rolls Royce message delivery agency.

10 - Get a crack agency in. Not Rabbit's Friends and Relations. Hold a beauty parade. Get them all in to pitch, show them the product, outline the challenge, see what they propose, hire the best, and let them off the leash, reporting only to your Campaign MasterMind - one of their kind, not someone from inside. The only person in the party allowed to talk to the Mastermind and the agency should be you.

11 - Don't ever, EVER, leave campaign leadership entirely to the local Association. They can't cope. Question for you: Are all local Agents fully up to speed on campaigning publicity options and methods? Or are they simply regarded as 'sufficiently experienced' and left to get on with it?

Welcome to the Conservative Party, Rene. It's good to have you on board.

I always think positive campaigning is the best way to go about elections. Negative campaigns tend to be hard to control - once the horses have bolted, it's difficult to get them back. It usually takes only one person to get too carried away with it all and then things start going a bit Tango Uniform.

I think one of the most important things in this kind of situation is the reaction of the Party, and Francis has got it spot on. Going around parading untruths and spin looks silly. If we take it on the chin, accept it was a setback and move on I think that voters will respect us much more. The best thing to do is to go on and keep the morale high. And, as I'm certain he will, Bob should on and fight for the constituents he now serves.

Up in Newcastle the Lib Dems always seem to be at it all the time. Every week a new leaflet comes through my letterbox and they keep in regular contact with voters. Maybe we should start doing the same. Really make sure that we're constantly trumpeting our message every week (if we don't do already of course!).

As the "wife and experienced Ward Chairman" referred to by Cllr N Bennett I would like to add a few comments re the logistics of running the by-election campaign.

[1] Would CCO staff please remember that the local activists are volunteers with other commitments. In my case I am not just a Ward Chairman, but a local Cllr with a full time job (and was unable to take holiday during the by-election period). We therefore need to know as far as possible what is planned in terms of literature/campaigning so we can plan what precious time we have available.

CCO staff & agents should as part of their traning be required to take on some organisational role (e.g. Ward Chairman) in a constituency and do that work outside of their working hours - so they understand the pressures that local volunteers experience in juggling their commitments with their political activities.

[2] Communication was poor e.g. I had members who knew of David Cameron's visit when I as their Ward Chairmen, and Chairman of the Conservative Group on the Council was unaware that he was coming!I only got lists of contacts and Bob's campaign programme when I went down to the the Campaign HQ half way through the campaign.

I suggest a weekly campaign "e-newsletter" to Ward Officers and key Cllrs etc so we know what is going on and can pass on info as appropriate people.

[3] My Ward was run from the Orpington Conservative Office - miles from my members. It could take an hour and a half to two hours round trip to collect leaflets. The distance from the Ward discouraged my members from dropping into the Campaign Office. Therefore I wasted hours phoning, then driving around my Ward most weekends and many evenings dropping off leaflets to my members to deliver.

Try and find more local bases in future.

[4]Remember election day basics - for example my committee room box arrived on the Wed night at 10.45 pm, in spite of my nagging for 3 days. One of my members nobly drove round dropping off teller confirmation letters into the early hours of election day. There were 2 rosettes to cover 5 polling stations so I had to collect more rosettes at 5.00 am on day. (Francis - I was the rather bad tempered woman at Bickley Station at 5.00 am - 3 hours sleep, not having eaten since lunchtime on Wed, and having to cope with with all this unecessary aggravation - now you know why I was so irritable.)My tellers therefore got their pads and rosettes at 6.00 am - which is cutting it a bit fine too say the least. I understand that the delay was because election day leaflets arrived late. However surely pads, rosettes and tellers letters can be allocated by the weekend before to allow the Ward Chairman to organise their tellers etc, with the leaflets dropped off later? The member who was running the 2nd Committee Room in my Ward was disturbed late at night by CCO staf bringing computer equipment etc.
All this may sound trivial but these organisational mess ups caused a lot of stress to local organisers (who remember had only just recovered from the local elections).

[5] The CCO person running one of my committee rooms was a trainee agent of just 2 weeks (this is spite of the fact I was unable to be there in the morning as I had advised the Campaign Centre). Under the circumstances she did well, however she had never run a committee room in her life!

So more experienced staff in future by-elections please.

[6] I had a lot of problems organising tellers - I e-mailed a partial list to the CCO team on the Monday morning, with the understanding that they would fill the gaps and advise. I heard nothing for 2 days and on ringing on Wednesday was told that it had been passed to Orpington CA to help fill. Orpington did do a super job, however I did not know who of their members was helping us and importantly -when and where -till about 10.30pm on the Wed night - so I was typing out tellers list into the early hours of election day. None of the Orpington tellers would have received confirmation from me, and I worried that they would not turn up, get lost etc.

I would suggest in future that it should work the other way - CCO staff collect the names of possible tellers from other associations, then pass them to the Ward Chairmen who contact them directly. That way the local people remain in control and know what is going on in their patch.

[7] There were too many leaflets - over kill for the voters and overkill for the volunteers. For the first time in 20 years campigning I got to the stage that I did care if a particular leaflet didi n't go though every door. (I confess I still have two undelivered walks of pledge letters in my car).

[8] Local members including Councillors said to "me that the election was in the bag". This was because none of them had had personal experince of by-elections. As someone who was on the ground during a by-election campaign (Greenwich 1987) I knew how the Lib Dem steam roller would work and how underhand and devious they would be. (Firstly trash the incumbant party candidate, secondly target the middle party - 2 horse race etc with dubious polls; thirdly spin the Lib Dem candidate like crazy.) I would suggest that for future by-elections, members should be shown a video at the start of each stage of the selection meetings showing them what they can expect. I think the Lib Dem campaign was an eye-opener for many local Conservative activists!

[9] Unless a local Cllr has a very good reason , it should be considered a disciplinary matter if they don't help in a by-election in their borough. In spite of e-mails and letters from the 3 Associations, CCA and various mebers of the Conservative Group there were some Councillors who made little effort in the campaign (and in contrast some who slogged their guts out). If a UKIP teller flew in from Gibraltar, then Conservative Cllrs should be expected to do their bit.

------------------------------------------

On a political front, I was frustrated that the Lib Dems persuaded the voters that Ben Abbott was local and Bob Neill was not. I dug out photograps of Bob campaigning for more police in Bromley 4 years ago, and better train services 2 years ago which I forwarded to the Campign HQ. Bob has attended RA meetings in my Ward and has been very supportive of teh Conservative Group on key local issues. All this never came out in our literature.

Ben Abbott was only elected on May 4th, and then abandoned his ward 2/3 weeks later to fight the next door constituency. Good going to become a "popular local councillor" in just 3 weeks" (and without a Council e-mail address or telephone line!) Last year he was local to Sevenoaks. At his first and only Council Meeting he remained mute and abstained on one of the crucial local issues in the borough. We let them walk all over us on the "local" aspect.

Well that's enough from me - I now have to catch up on 4 weeks case work and ironing this weeknd.



The Party has an experienced LibDem Unit at Coleshill, headed up by Richard Murphy who is absolutely first class. Why weren't their skills and experiences of fighting LibDems used to greater effect?

A bit off topic, but I thought Julie Kirkbride was terrible on Question Time. Didn't do our cause any favours.

I'm not sure what's going on at Coleshill. We ordered leaflets for a county show and they failed to arrive which was very inconvenient.

TWO specific things in my view helped keep Eric Forth's voters away from supporting his successor candidate:

1] The perception that the Tory candidate was the old style in it for what he can get politician. How dare you insult the electorate's intelligence by trying to pretend [? to yourself] that being a very well paid member of a Health Authority and a highly salaried GLC member is on a par with being an unpaid school Governor?

If you don't know the difference that reflects on you not the electorate. As regards the votes that can be won or lost by the candadate as opposed to the Party this is far more important than living a few miles away in a different part of London, or being female or black. People aren't that stupid. They can recognize the difference between a public spirited person and a selfish one.

2] The perception that Tory policies on key national issues as decided in Westminster; specifically:

Crime;
Human Rights Act rubbish Judges authorized by Parliament to impose anti-common sense policies;
grotesque levels of legal and illegal immigration making it impossible for people on average or even above average salaries to even be allocated a council or housing association flat much less aspire to owning their own flat; [even getting a go on the internet in your local library is difficult now as the 'puters are hogged by alleged asylum seekers (but how would someone with three salaries or an Eton type background be aware of that?) ]

are no different from those of Labour. Is the answer to the Human Rights Act wickedness really to leave it effectively in place but in addition to enact another 'British' one and then entrench the latter ??????????? ##Human Rights Act Bad! British Human Rights Act good !!##

What planet are you living on Tory High Command ? People want highly difficult policy issues decided in a common sense no nonsense way by elected and sackable Parliamentarians, not by Judges. And they do want common sense, no-nonsense policies, not lukewarm versions of Blairism. If they want Left-Liberal, Guardian - pleasing rubbish they can vote for Lib-Dems who are at least convincing in their espousement of such rubbish, having been doing so espousing for hundreds of years.

Being very close to the bromley by-election, my view would be to wait a week for the dust to settle. Then deliver a simple leaflet of thanks to the electorate. followed by a list of a few sharp home truths about Mt Abbotts, with a footnote saying, fortunately the majority were not fooled!!!

Bad losers look bad, so do bad winners,

I could weep at poor Ruth Bennett's post. What a shambles, despite her hard work. Did I say, previously, that local Associations can't cope? This is an absolute disgrace. By the sound of it, we haven't even GOT a campaigning machine worthy of the name. Just some martyrs at local level like Ruth.

You won, Ruth, despite it all. Well done. What on earth could you have done if you'd had more help on the ground and a bit of common sense and back up from CCO?

Frances M: ponder this one in detail and copy it to everyone at CCO. Unless Ruth's advice is taken, we don't have any safe seats, anywhere.

They do, the Lib Dem loser is now history and best forgotten, but I think a simple and personal leaflet saying thank you etc will go down well.

Well done Bob Neill, too close for comfort but you won and no doubt at the next GE your majority will be much greater.

PS Hope you will be buying a house in the constituency. ;)

Quote from the losing Lib Dem candidate in The Times online:

"The Conservatives tried to take the support of local people for granted. The result, as is absolutely clear, is a disaster for Cameron's Conservatives. Make no mistake this is an absolutely sensational result for the Liberal Democrats."

Hello, you LOST.

With regards to his use of the word disaster, a Tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people is a disaster, and a sensational result would have been a win, but that's the Lib Dems for you, so melodramatic, God knows how they would cope if they were in Government and there was a crisis, thankfully of course we will be spared that punishment. ;)

To add balance, it seems to me that Conservative support was taken for granted, and let it be a lesson, although if history is anything to go by, it is one that will soon be forgotten!

What's the problem folks. High Lib Dem vote levels is all part of Cameron's and Maude's strategy.

They are talking to the Lib Dems about of coalition remember. Cameron openly calls himself a liberal tory. The electorate is not daft, it can hear those dog whistles too.

We have let the lunatics take over the asylum. Best get used to the vote flaking away.

Best get used to committed activists flaking away because this change agenda is doing real damage.

What I find incredible is that chatting to Francis Maude at the recent Conservative City Circle event I found him to be intelligent and extremely reasonable, despite my telling him I am a lapsed Tory and keen UKIPer, and he having a reputation as a born-again trendy lefty.

However, despite his admirable openness to debate that evening and sensitive humility in asking for advice on this blog, he rules out policy issues as a reason for near-breakdown in Bromley preferring to pre-define the debate as a discussion on mechanics.

Philip Holobone (of whom I have never heard) has today on Conservativehome joined Philip Davies, Dan Hannan and other elected Tories in calling for the UK to take back its independence. 100% of Conservativehome respondents praised and agreed with his argument in the Comments section when I last checked. On such a serious issue there is a disconnect between Cameroonism and common sense. The same could be said for a whole range of Blarite policies. Now, is the question why so many Tories stayed at home, or not?

I want a new freedom-loving government, not to split the conservative vote by having to work for sensible policies through UKIP. For crying out loud Mr Maude, have a look at your policies and get us back on board. Lib Dems are not the issue - airhead, cowardly, defeatist, patronising non-freedom-based policies are.

Nothing personal at all - I greatly enjoyed chatting to you. UKIPers have chosen to fight for what we think is right under a new banner because the constitutional, political and economic issues are more important to us than popularity with our lumpen Conservative friends who are looking for policies to get them elected rather than for what in their judgment and experience is right for the country.

Many, many of us are ready to come home as soon as we can live with your policies. The same goes for working-class Labour voters who want to switch. At the moment they are going to the Lib Dems rather than the Tories. Patriotic, liberating policies will, I believe, bring them over to the Tories as they did for Maggie.

Finally, we did not try that with previous post-Maggie leaders, they were all in favour of staying in the EU and did not challenge the intellectual fatuity behind "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" etc. In short, they crumbled through mental exhaustion and loss of touch with the reality of running businesses and ordinary careers.

Now is the moment to rejuvenate, based on historically-proven Conservative principles. Praising the awful public sector which so oppresses our people is not a good start, nor is support for high taxation (stability!) or a written, inflexible, Act of Rights. It is not just about "Europe".

You can do it if you really want it, and are as honest with yourself about the intellectual emptiness and, I am sorry to say, patronising deceit of Cameroonism, as the working-class and traditional Tory electorate were against it when it came to the polling booth in B&C. We have all had massive exposure to the Project and don't want it - not now, not in three years time. Back to freedom and opportunity for all please.

It certainly shows that the Party cannot rely on disgruntled voters, voting anyway.

Rebuttal is not the same as negative campaigning. It means picking up and exposing any lies about your party as soon as they appear. Julian Grainger, an Orpington candidate had Duncan Borrowman the Lib Dem's regional organiser standing against him. On every In Touch the reverse side was named 'Re-Focus'. There he would draw attention to LD claims and boasts, dissect them and disprove them.

Julian and his two colleagues won on May 4th with a 1000 majority.

Francis it's very simple. We need to stop playing cricket with the others parties.

Or maybe play as the 1932-33 England tour to Australia - AKA "The Bodyline Tour", where as I recall we regained the Ashes with a 4-1 margin. ;)

You and whose army?

Nicholas Bennett makes an important point.

It's not often I praise John Redwood but his campaign for the 2005 election should be used as a textbook example for how to take on the dirty tactics and double standards of the Liberal Democrats and expose them as the lying, hypocritical weasels that they are.

Part of the problem with the Conservative performance in elections in general and by-elections in particular is that the current Constituency Association model just doesn't work anymore. I believe that Ruth Bennett's experiences above are more the rule rather than the exception. Francis, you made a start in May 2005 in your consultation paper 'A 21st Century Party'. That needs to be followed through. There needs to be greater professional support for the activists who work their socks off. Local Associations need agents and that means CCHQ actually having to help out financially. Too much money is wasted on advertising campaigns in newspapers and on billboards which could instead be used to fund agents. When senior party members talk about 'modernisation' it seems to be a euphemism for 'let's move to the left'. That's not my understanding of what modernisation should be.

Following the June 2001 General Election, the Telegraph published a leader entitled 'The Hardest Job' (09/06/2001). The points in it were well made and are still just as valid today. The first point was:

"The party needs huge technical modernisation. It requires a depth of knowledge, information technology and political organisation which has been lost, or never existed. Candidates with real local credentials are still too rare."

Please modernise the party by making it democratic, accountable, efficient and organised. Administrative competence needs to be demonstrated by the party in handling its own affairs if the Conservatives are to be given the opportunity to demonstrate it in government.

Reading all the interesting posts above, two main things seem to stick out..

1. That Conservative Central Office needs to get a lot more professional in its vetting of candidates, in campaigning, and in its attitude to local conservative associations. Perhaps a delegation should go to the States to one or other of the parties, and see how they vet their candidates backgrounds.

2. Local Associations are expected to achieve too much on their own, without enough help from CCO - its not control that they need, but useful advice in this slick, media mad world that we live in nowadays, and that most people take for granted. After all even a war is fought in front of the camera now!

It all costs money, but if you want to get back into power then money has to be spent, but maybe too much money spent on one person could a waste!

Waffle, waffle, waffle. The exposure that the Project has had in the media is far more pervasive than anything that can be achieved by an unknown candidate in a by-election.

No, Cameroonism is unappealing to conservatives. It comes across as Blairism, and Blairism is bankrupting the country morally and economically.

Mr Cameron is just the same as the young man who inherits control of his failing family business and decides to move sectors and sack the current bosses. Result: closed doors.

My suggested policies:

Economics
Focus on the importance of owning assets to wealth creation
Make the case for reduced taxation and highlight one tax that will be cut by the Tories
Make personal contributions to tax-free long-term saving/pension compulsory. Rebuild the Mutual Societies based on pre-Lloyd-George era services, especially pension, unemployment and sickness provision. Eventually move large proportion of welfare provision to Mutuals

Political
Leave European Court of Human Rights
Leave European Court of Justice
Leave European Union
Negotiate Free Trade Agreements worldwide
Strengthen relations with India and the Gulf
Take harder line with Israel on UN resolutions
Move towards eventual independence for Scotland and deepen integration of NI with the South
Scrap the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Downsise the Commission for Racial Equality and scrap the special status of Hate Crimes

Er..there's plenty of others including amalgamating the RAF with the army and navy, but that will do to make the point that there are non-boring right of centre policies that could juice up the party and country.

Cameroonism will continue to bankrupt the place in every way and is therefore unpopular.


"Kevin - please tell me which Parliamentary by-election has been won by Conservatives using BlueChip software?"

None! But it says a lot about the state of the associations that a strong association with, I presume, plenty of money and members is still using a system that the party pretty much gave up on years ago. We are about to move to the follow on from Blue Chip and yet here we are using Blue Chip's predescessor.

Agree totally with Prodicus 18.31 and with Ruth Bennett. I would hazard a guess that a majority of local associations are made up of the "over 60s" or 70s or 80s.
Demographically we are in the ascendant,as long as our hearts/lungs/livers/legs (delete as appropriate) hold out, but physically, I bet that its not just me that has to use a nordic walking pole to get around leafletting and canvassing!
Also, old people tend to get testy and crusty when their world view is challenged, as DC is now trying to do with the party.
Translate all of the above to the average association exec meeting, and it can and does, turn into a shambles.
So go read Prodicus post again, Francis, and inwardly digest. Its valid! Also take on board poor Ruth Bennetts experience. Also valid.
Whats to be done? Tough love is what one does with recalcitrant kids, dont know about recalcitrant pensioners though! Im allowed to say that, because I was born in 1935!!

Since this thread is about Francis Maude I would say that if he can make daft remarks after a debacle that he has caused, to the effect we just want more of the same the best thing for the party would be to get a new Chairman - a TORY one

Half the Tory voters stayed at home. THAT's the fact. Why ? Because there is no Conservative alternative on offer. I don't think the debacle was in Bromley. It was in Victoria Street and is getting worse.

Since this thread is about Francis Maude I would say that if he can make daft remarks after a debacle that he has caused, to the effect we just want more of the same the best thing for the party would be to get a new Chairman - a TORY one

Half the Tory voters stayed at home. THAT's the fact. Why ? Because there is no Conservative alternative on offer. I don't think the debacle was in Bromley. It was in Victoria Street and is getting worse.

May I say how much I enjoy your distress in seeing your vote plummett. however, I would like to suggest to you why it has.

dave has done everything most people didn't expect of a Tory. He loves the planet,Norway,and he rejects almost all of (his) last manifesto. Along with Osborne, he is still a Tory toff and fighting the Conservative line of John Bull Britain.

The public have warmed to Dave and consider him to be a good guy attempting to vie the party as nice and not nasty. So why the downfall? According to your pet opinion polls, It's Dave over Tony all the way. Got that wrong, didn't they!

Here's the truth.

Dave is attempting to back Britain by attacking the EU. Your EPP campaign isn't widely known by the wider public but is relished by members. Big mistake.
Too inward looking and not enough foresight.
Tony has most EU policy on the back burner.

William is a bright and clever man but was trashed over Europe. You still look to him for a lead. Big mistake.

The EU is not totally the reason for your plummet though but it has come to the fore, yet again, just before kick off. Big mistake. It makes you look old and not young, as you are trying to portray yourselves. You keep going back to settle old scores.

You won't listen to me, I know. I'm not stupid! But just in case some-one in there is listening to anything, you should do the folowing.

Champion the EU and ditch Hague. Signal an end to hostility over Europe and champion British business and workers in Europe.

This policy would give UKIP an initial edge but show them up to be right wing extremists, who conspire against business intrests (your backers) and workers rights (most of your support).

UKIP only have one policy of hatred for the EU. Your party has members who also hate the EU. Ask them to leave or sign up to loyalty.
What is wrong with the Tories fighting for the EU just as thatcher and Major did? Zilch, if the truth is allowed to play.

Dave is dropping a big clanger over Tory EU policy. It's not the big daily issue for most people but it affects daily life for all. Isolationist Britain is 'little btritain' and you can't convince me to believe that is what responsible Tories want.

Remeber! Thatche folowed the vote away from Labour in 1979. She pushed it further to the right with your disastrous sell offs. The public ditched her and moved to the centre with Major. The public ditched Major and moved to the middle ground with Blair.

Politics all over the world is stuck in the centre and those that attempt to break out lose. The USA went to court, remember.

So, if you attempt the break out next time over EU policy or HRA, then you will lose yet again.

Tories listening to Tories has failed you for some time now, so at least listen to this socialist who considers the EU to be good and not bad. I also believe Francis to be correct on most things lately and Dave to be good but, Hague is incorrect and Ken Clarke's being ignored at your peril.

Yours
Gary (people's republic of S-o-T)(but not mine)

mattsimpson said "The Party has an experienced LibDem Unit at Coleshill, headed up by Richard Murphy who is absolutely first class. Why weren't their skills and experiences of fighting LibDems used to greater effect?"

I absolutely agree, best advice on how to fight lib dems comes from there. Does Francis understand how to fight Lib Dems?

Q "But what more can we do at selection stage to ensure that the tiresome and completely bogus stories about a row between Association and CCHQ could have been avoided?"

A Make it clear to Associations, the press, etc that there are rules and procedures for by-elections. If there was more continuity at CCHQ then everything would not be in continual flux.

Q "Reacting to the LibDem assault. Did anyone foresee that Bob being on the health board could be portrayed as a negative? If you're serving as a school governor for example it's normally seen as a positive, isn't it?"

A You are misrepresenting the Lib Dems misrepresentations by focusing on the School Gov issue and qualification issue whilst omitting the LGA issue. All of this was entirely predictable to anyone who has fought the LDs (and Chris Rennard) in the past. Don't come over all surprised. The LDs will always find a way of rubbishing our candidate, all candidates have traits that can be rubbished. We're all big boys and girls here. It shouldn't be a case of REACTING but rather EXPECTING and PLANNING how to deal with what the LDs will throw at us. How many times will we hand them the agenda in a by-election before this sinks in?


Q "Literature. Style, message, volume?"

A Just what do you pay the likes of Steve Hilton and all the other overpaid types for? For gods sake, a by-election has a large budget because of the literature issue.
Rule One - Compete on the grounds of quantity and quality
Rule Two - Set the Agenda. Cover the Issues.
Rule Three - Target, target, target. OAPs, Young Voters, Streets, Estates, Commuters
For Gods sake this is elementary.

Q "Should we keep strictly to only positive campaigning, in the face of this kind of LibDem campaign? (I'll need a lot of persuading that we shouldn't!)"

A Well then you are more naive than I thought if you think that a strictly positive campaign is best. Look, a positive campaign is fine, but only when it fits the circumstances - clearly not these ones. There has to be a balance between positive and negative, not too mention the different TYPES of negative campaigning. Hit the oppo candidate? Hit the oppo party? Hit the oppo leader? Use quotes, use track records, use photos (Abbot's stunts?)
Again, you have a lot of paid advice and exerienced folks here Mr Maude - listen to them. Getting the message right is an objective and dispassionate business - no place for halo polishing.

Q "Organisation? Media? Anything else?"

A Replace Gavin Barwell with a real professional not an MP and then let him or her get on with the job of buidling up campaign organisation.
A Put in place a team of regional press people who can liaise with media outside Westminster.

1. Try and get a really good local candidate. MPs used to go to Parliament to represent their constituencies.
2. All candidates should be thoroughly vetted at the start of the selection process to see that they are properly eligible and that there is nothing in their backgrounds that could be used against them by the opposition.
3. Thoroughly investigate the opposition candidates in the same way to produce ammunition if needed.
4. Provide all candidates with a basic simple hard hitting meassage stating the core beliefs of the party - when we know what these are!
5. Offer any help with speech making or voice training that might be needed to increase the impact.
6. Get the best possible promotional literature and get it distributed as widely as possible.
7. Wind the candidates up and let them go.

As rather not say posted yesterday " start talking about the issues that actuallt matter to people"
Francis! Todays Daily Telegraph has given you an open goal! Kick the ball in.
Front page headline.
lABOUR RED TAPE HITS FREE NURSERY PLACES.
GO!!!!!!!!

Bromley is part of it But Rupert Murdoch puts his finger on it..

TELEGRAPH 1/7/06

==Right answer

This week, Rupert Murdoch hinted in an interview with the Australian that his newspapers might well dump Labour in favour of David Cameron's rejuvenated Conservatives at the next election.

And Spy hears that the media mogul made similarly encouraging noises during a chance encounter with a group of Cameron acolytes during his recent visit to London.

"Murdoch and his wife were standing in the lobby of the Ritz when they were spotted by four young Tory MPs," I'm told.

"The most eager of the quartet, Mark Pritchard, sidled up to him and introduced his colleagues.

"One of them, Graham Stuart, asked when his newspapers would be transferring their loyalties to the Tories. Murdoch's answer was short and sweet: 'WHEN I KNOW WHAT YOU GUYS ACTUALLY BELIEVE IN" [my emphasis]

More thoughts from a tired and frustrated Bromley Ward chairman...

2 days on, and more horrors come to mind - the lack of ward maps for committee rooms; no list for helpers to sign in...I have since learned that sector offices were closed on the day - volunteers turned up at them and did not know where the committee rooms were. Surely a list of committee rooms should have been circulated to a wide audience some days in advance - ward activists, councillors etc.

.... all in all the most shambolic election day organisation I have had the misfortune to experience in 20 years.

On the plus side, I thought the computerised knock up had potential.. much faster than rruling off NCRs. However the old NCRs had the advantage of being very graphic - you could tell at a glance what was happening. It is clear from reading other contributions that volunteers were being handed ancient print outs from the computer.I don't think much thought has been given on how to monitor and manage a computerised committee room.

Training consisted of an hours demo which covered the technical side. Other than noting down times on a simple grid listing knock up groups, there was no real system demonstrated as to how to manage the process as opposed to just using the computer. No manual was available, which was risky given many had not used the system before.

Having spent 1/2 an hour playing with the programme on Thursday night, and thinking about the problem, I have thought of ways to improve the management of a computerised committee room. I would be happy to demonstrate my "system" if someone from CCO would like to contact me.

It would have been helpful if all key locals (sector office managers, ward chairmen, senior cllrs etc) were invited to a briefing meeting every weekend to discuss with the CCO team the previous weeks/future weeks activities. Committee room managers should also meet the CC0 staff working at their commitee rooms for mutual briefing the weekend before the election, so we all know what is expected of each other - what CCO will supply, what we should supply etc.

Most of the CCO staff seemed to be under 30. Whatever their technical abilities I feel that they lacked mananagement and people handling skills. Elections are not about "high politics" but about logistics, management, organisation, planning and motivating people. I am having to smooth down a lot of ruffled feathers among my local ward activists.

I think CCO need a broader range of staff, including those who have learned practical skills outside of politics, and campaigning skills in the voluntary party. The 5 years I spent in managing a Customer Services Dept taught me more about managing an election camapign, then a degree in politics from Oxford ever would have....Oh and a few more mature staff with authority and experience.

Locally we were at fault as well. There was too much complacency. Many Councillors did not bother to display posters or stakes and I am certain many did very little to help. (The Conservative Group Whip and myself as Group Chairman shall be looking at the helpers lists with interest). It is a honour to be selected to stand as a Conservative candidate for a winnable seat - it is essential that you support the party during elections. I shall be looking to re-write the Bromley Conservative Councillors Group Rules to include an expectation that Councillors will give of their time in 'by' and ordinary election campaigns anywhere in the borough. I suggest that associations do the same and that a lack of effort (without good reason) should be considered a disciplinary offence.

There were about 4 times more Liberal knocker uppers out there on Thursday, than Conservative. I guess that is because it is considered unacceptable within the Liberal Party not to do your bit if you are a councillor/wannabe councillor. We need to change our party 'culture' on campaigning. Councillors who do not actively support the cause should not be allowed by their associations to stand again.

Perhaps we should have a joint meeting - local activists & CCO staff to discuss what went wrong and the lessons to be learned. No recriminations, but about seeking a way forward for future by-elections.

Finally can I ask anyone who came to the Claremont Rd committee room in the morning when I was not present, to drop me a line so I can ensure you are added to the list of helpers, please e-mail me at:

ruthebennett@hotmail.com

As I said to the trainee agent at my committee room, the most important part of any election campaign is sending the thank you letter after (and organising a party if possible). Not having a helpers list for the committee room was a major crime in my book!

Kevin, I don't want to turn this into a Resource Management's FilePlan v Central Office's BlueChip debate, but you must remember that a primary reason for introducing BlueChip was that the vast majority of Associations found FilePlan too complex. I put it to you that a considerable number of "strong Associations" (as you put it) continue to use FilePlan because it is a better product (albeit that BlueChip has some nice features currently lacking in FilePlan; and I speak as one who has used both in a professional capacity).

I have two hopes:

(i) that Associations will not be forced to adopt the proposed BlueChip replacement under some kind of "central control" mandate when politically we are stressing the need for local solutions to local problems.

(ii) that Associations who do adopt the proposed BlueChip replacement will pay the proper commercial cost of developing and supporting the new software. It would be very wrong indeed for "strong Associations" who wish to continue using the commercially-produced FilePlan software to also be forced to pay towards subsidising the new software.

Perhaps I should start a new pressure group and call it Pro-Choice Conservatives? :-))

I would heartily endorse Ruth Bennett's comments above - they do perhaps chime with the experiences of many top-tier activists struggling to get organised within their local Associations. Ruth, I hope you can find time among all that casework for a well-deserved rest - you deserve all our gratitude, along with your colleagues for your hard work.

Associations do without a doubt need strong professional support during a by-election that suddenly gives them national exposure. They certainly must not see that as an intrusion - we need to be one team - national, local, volunteers, professionals.

I also agreed whole-heartedly with the early comment on this thread about the need for the local associations to review their own operations. I have been to a few too many association meetings in different capacities where the first instinct is to throw criticism at CCHQ, the Leader, etc. You want localism? Focus relentlessly on reforming your own operations. What can *we* do better on the ground? Now that *is* Conservative - a balance of rights and responsibilities.

I have far too many experiences and insights as a veteran of local, euro, targer seat and LG by-election campaigns to share in detail here (I've written enough here already!), but I may well write privately to the individuals concerned to pass these on. My email address is below if any Conservtive colleagues wish to correspond privately. Let me just say that Ruth's comments are a little familiar, and some planning and co-ordination could fix many of them.

Regarding the software issue (I spend much of my professional life up to my neck in software one form or another), while I appreciate Graham's comments, it is amazing that the Party has not previously had one system for this earlier. I can't believe that this wouldn't cut support costs overall nationally. When I visit your constituency to give campaign support, am I going to be confronted with a totally diffent format of canvass card to that which I am used to because "we've always done it this way"? Plus, do you really want to be sending your BlueChip database to CCHQ for a day or two to have targeted direct mail flags added in the middle of a campaign, when a new server-based system could eliminate all that?

Perhaps I should start a new pressure group and call it Pro-Choice Conservatives? :-))

No Graham, you shouldn't! I know this was meant as a light-hearted comment, but far too often associations seem to be better at forming an "internal pressure group" defending an outdated system than embracing present-day improvements.

From the brief preview I've had from the CCHQ IT department this does seem to be a big step forward, providing wider access and much-improved data security. I strongly feel that we need to move forward with one joined-up system.

The local Association and CCHQ both wanted to win desperately, any other suggestion is ludicrous. However, the result just illustrates our campaigning weakness on an organisational level. If any lessons are to be learned, it is we must improve this area.

I would point Francis Maude to the recent article about effective urban campaigning that was posted on the platform recently.

Maybe we should follow Norman Tebbit's advice, as laid out in his autobiography:

"I do not accept that in politics the meek shall inherit the Earth. In campaigning I believe in being noisy and aggressive and that one should do all in one's power to take advantage of your adversaries' embarrassment, failures and discomfiture"

In other words...Sock it to 'em

A great deal of self pity going on here, Francis.

Please remember that the Labour party are past masters of losing elections, as the 20th Century bears witness to.

21st century is very much different though with the advent of the digital revolution.

Neil Kinnock transformed modern politics. He spent (too) little time on personal vanity and focused on routing his party of dissent. He narrowly lost to a diminishing Thatcher who's star was waning.
But he modernised his party to dominate the 21st Century. A fact that you Conservatives are paying very little attention to.

Your party is still hell bent on fighting the big bad Europeans who steal all of our money and want us to remove our Union Flag.
Not true though, is it.

The EU is the only politic that I can identify the Tory part with and to.Why? aren't I looking to carefully?

I'm looking with a passing magnifying glass and I continually find the sole criteria that people don't vote for:

A split party.

You are split over nothing other than the EU. You have done Dave Cameron to death. He's a nice guy who rides a bike. Come on, we've done that now. The Labour party are absolute masters at being nice to all, including the environment. Nice telly but not at all unique.
The Conservative party is wooing the UKIP vote when the Labour party is totally united in wanting the death of the BNP.

The Tories are being seen as the party with one last throw of the dice.You've removed Grammar schools and love the NHS. Nice try but at least you're trying. You'll never be as good as me. Trust me.

But, as I see it, UKIP floaters are coming home to rekindle Hagues hurt ego. Fly the Union flag and bring on the home guard to defend every cul-de-sac in South England.
Captain Mainwaring is proud of you.

Finale:

Tory Toffs sticking the boot into Britain's middle classes by rallying the yobs over Europe. Bring on the Tories to deliver a free and fair Britain unleashed from our jailing EU parl.Oh,dear.

Meanwhile Gordon persuades Britain that it's in our economic(get it?)interests to play a greater part in the EU. The USA welcomes such a move. BIg business backs Gordon and so does Rupert. Small business is persuaded to follow (biggest employer).
Do you want me to go on Francis?

Neil Kinnock kicked hell out of his losing Labour party. I hated him for it.
He sett up a hat trick of power for us.
I love him now.
Whats the biggest decision you have done Francis, allowed an 'A' list? Got Dave to buy a solar panel?

Big leaders make big and life changing powerful decisions that hurt in the short term and win in the long.

The conservative party has been a bit photogenic and been a bit nice. Nothing more.
You will continue to lose because you haven't (yet) shown the people that you have the guts to rip the heart out of your traditional thinking.

Gary

1. This may be happening already, but if so I am not aware of it. We need a separate by-election candidates list. On the main candidates list there must be many candidates who simply could not drop everything and fight a by-election next month. If those people are removed, you'd have a much smaller list of possible candidates who could then be classified regionally. These candidates would know who they are and be ready to apply for any seat that became vacant in their region.

2. I did 4 sessions of canvassing and leafleting in Bromley and it was apparent from very early on that the Lib Dems were getting their message across about 3 jobs Bob very effectively. It would have been helpful to have a rebuttal prepared for volunteers, especially before the postal votes went out. I know we lost quite a few Tory voters that way.

Thanks, everyone. Lots to think about and digest - and too much to respond to in detail straightaway! Special thanks to Ruth Bennett, Prodicus and Nick Bennett for their exhaustive and penetrating thoughts and analysis. And thanks to everyone who helped in the campaign. We did win after all, and no election is sewn up from the beginning. But we need to raise our game. And that's for all Conservatives, not just us at HQ.

Francis

Listened to you on Tory friendly radio, Francis.

You passed the buck, basically. Interviewer let you off. Ratings in freefall and not even in power. Why? What did you or Dave do wrong? Nothing? One of them things?

Been there, done that.

Let's re-cap.

You love the NHS. You love our schools. You love green. You are new Conservatives but don't say it. You are left of right but right of left.Young, not old.
Picture perfect.

The Truth!

You don't like the NHS or our schools.So- so green but behind the times.Right of left, of course, and going further(Willie+Jean=loonies)
Young, already old= same old tired Tories.

Rupert says he may support you, when he knows you.Nobody knows you and you're banned from his home (USA).How can he?

It stands to reason that nobody can know you if you have no personality. You crave one that only a psychopath longs for.
Voices suggest that a lurch to the flagwaving right is the answer for the world to see, but a lurch to the left in UK plc will 'bring home the bacon'.

Split personality and a split party wins nothing. Not even for Israel.

Where's your downfall? NHS and schools or UKIP supporting anti EU-EPP?

Writings on the wall and you're heading for a fall.
My prediction is that Francis will be Leader sooner than most think.

Gary

Nicholas Bennett misses an important point about Julian Grainger's Re-Focus - they were packed with lies and libels.

And I am not a Regional Organiser.

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