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Campaigning has always been the Cinderella to media and communications at Central Office. That is not true for the LDs and Cowley Street.

Just read Iain Dale's post and I'd agree with every word. B&C Tories were churning out Howard-esque literature and therefore we almost got whacked. Change is important, selling Cameron vital but for goodness sake it is all meaningless without organisation. A single campign director in charge of By-elections who calls all the shots is vital.

Effective campaigning calls for graft, organisation, discipline and resilience.....none of which the Tories have "done" in the last ten years. Fatty Rennard knows that they are a complacent establishment party who think that power is their birthright but whose national infrastrucre has largely collapsed. The Lib Dems are an insurgent party who understand that power has to be fought for....and do, taking no prisoners in the process.

I don't understand why some people are so certain that it would have been different if Cameron had been more heavily "sold". Eric Forth was an independent-minded right-winger and former Communist who had built up a large majority. Most of that majority stayed at home yesterday. Is there any reason to believe that it would have turned out to vote because of a leader who has spent as much time flirting with the Lib Dems as challenging them?

A professional, experienced Agent who has spent time in constituencies (not just CCHQ)and isn't afraid to stand up to the politicians.

Don't have a suggested name, but they do exist.

Cameron thoroughly understands the product, and the product's better then its competitors. Now get him someone who understands how to sell it. Products don't sell themselves and tired old materials handed out by too few salespeople will not win new customers. The opposition will simply kill you. (And it can happen at GEs, too, so don't tell me it's just a by-election.) The LibDems understand about sizzle, even if they don't know a sausage from a sandbag. So sandbag those now in charge of campaigning and hire some sales & marketing professionals.

Michael, you have to ask whether the turnout for the Conservatives would have been higher during a General Election. I would guess that a great many Conservative voters stayed home purely because they believed the seat to be safe and therefore no reason to vote.

The Liberal Democrats gained only 1,000 votes, which, all things considered was no a great deal. I expect the seat to go back to being very safe at the next election on a normal turnout of around 65% instead of 40%.

The obvious candidate is James Frayne.

Our by-election campaigns were none too successful in Dunfermaline, and the Holyrood one in Moray.
Moray, I may say, wasted an awful lot of time and money writing to people who said they were unable to help beyond a small donation. I know as I was one of them.

Forgive me for saying so, but the Lib Dems were assisted by a suspicious 80% collapse in Labour's vote - which suggests an electoral pact was in place at Bromley.

Someone I believe is gifted at campaigning is John Redwood, since you are interested.

He understands the spontaneity of political campaigning, which messages to put across and how to deliver them at Constituency level.

Chris, I was merel asking a question. Having said that, given Blair's unpopularity and the alleged popularity of Cameron, wouldn't you have expected there to be a surge of Tory sympathisers wanting to register their support..... rather than apathy?

How about Donald Stewart, the Westminster agent, who has shown much promise on Cameron's modernising agenda?

Some people may not be aware that the Party appointed a campaign director responsible for by-elections at the beginning of the year. This happened at the same time as the ill-concieved and rushed break up of the Area Campaign Director network. This has been replaced with floating campaign directors that are directed to the Party's political priorities. All very good, but if you are not a target seat you are ignored and not nurtured. We now have a team of campaign directors (especially in the case of London who lost all three ACD's for various reasons during the reform) who have no working relationship with non-target conmtituencies in their regions. If they had we may have been able to pull more people in from across London and counties like Kent.

Michael, as has been said before on this website, David Cameron was rarely mentioned in the campaign literature, so his impact on the vote was not as great. The local association wanted to do it their own way - and did, and it very nearly cost the party.

I might be mistaken here, but aren't the Conservatives currently actively seeking to hire a new campaigns director?

Chris, neither you nor I know precisely what Cameron's impact was/ was not. I have no idea how many of those who stayed away from the polls like/dislike Cameron and his strategy.....However, I do think it is suspect, in relation a constituency where the late MP was a right-wing populist with a large majority, to suggest that selling Cameron harder would have done the trick. That of course doesn't rule out errors by the local association as well.

In addition, Michael, staff from CCHQ were heavily involved in the campaign from the outset. It wasn't a case of the local association just going off and doing their own thing.

Thanks, Sean. As ever, you are a mine of information.

Anthony Steen or Oliver Letwin should direct Conservative campaigns. Both have held on to seats where Labour and the LimpDums have worked together to try unseat them- and every time they hold on, when all the conventional signs indicated that they were toast.

Steen has specific experience and talents in this area.

A single campign director in charge of By-elections who calls all the shots is vital.

I agree that clear lines of reporting and responsibility are vital. But the ability to respond swiftly to the situation on the ground are even more vital in by-elections than national elections. I point out this truism simply because last week we had two constituencies with by-elections on the same day. Perhaps in that situation a single full-time director responsible for by-elections should not be spread impossibly thin, but use a senior experienced ACD in each constituency reporting to them (who should be unloaded of their day-to-day responsibilities by Area officers or other Agents).

When our national by-election director is not needed in a parliamentary contest, they could be of great use in disseminating campaigning techniques among other Associations, perhaps even using local government by-elections in some sense as training opportunities for local Party officers and activists.

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