Friday, June 30, 2006

A win - but a wasted opportunity

So Bob Neill won then. I'm not sure that it was ever in real doubt, although the sharp fall in the majority surprised me. But the Bromley & Chislhurst by-election was a wasted opportunity which so nearly went badly wrong.

The death of Eric Forth allowed the Party to show how far it had progressed both in PR and professional terms. Instead it was a shambolic disaster. Before I start let me just give a health warning - I wasn't there, I'm making all my comments from what I have read and heard. In other words my judgements are based on the same info that the majority of punters base their judgements on.

1 It was the perfect opportunity to show that the A-list had teeth and that it would change the face of the Conservative Party. Instead the local Association dug their heels in and selected a white, middle-aged, pin-stripe wearing solicitor. As I read on another site - he looked like a Tory from the 80s. A lot of middle-aged white men may be the best choice for a seat. I have my doubts in this case, and so it seems do the people of B&C.

2 The World Cup poster looked brilliant. It was a great theme and showed a bit of humour, style, awareness of life outside politics. Then got spoiled by the fact that a copyrighted image had been used without permission. The kind of amateur mistake that shouldn't happen with so many people on board.

3 Talking of amateur - why were trainee agents running sector offices? Of course it was right to put trainee agents into the by-election. But running a sector office is a tough, stressful job for fully qualified and experienced agents, why was one trainees first day in the job (literally) running their own sector office? Put your best and most experienced people in charge and let the new guys learn from their experiences.

4 David Cameron is the most popular Conservative Party leader in decades. Why didn't he feature prominently in the campaign and the literature? Yes people vote on local issues but if you have an asset you damn well use it.

5 The bloody nomination fiasco. What the hell possessed Bob Neill to sign a declaration of nomination saying that he had read the House of Commons Disqualification Act and wasn't disqualified from standing when he damn well was disqualified as a member of a Strategic Health Authority. Thank God the Authority is being disbanded today or we would be looking at another by-election - or worse had "votes thrown away" been notified which would have allowed the Lib Dems to take a petition to the High Court and very possibly be awarded the win. Knowing that the SHA was being abolished why didn't he just resign the day his nomination papers were lodged. It was stupid and arrogant. He deserved to lose for that alone. Election Law is there for a reason.

6 Ungracious speech. Yes, yes, yes the Lib Dems are the smuggest, dirtiest fighters in politics. But you won. You looked like a bitter, twisted, angry, Nasty Party member. Not a good first speech.

So what's the answer? I don't know how we have more diverse candidates selected without removing the autonomy of local associations, but some of the mistakes made were just stupid. Upgrade, don't downgrade the campaigning department of CCHQ. Start to treat Agents as the professionals you love to claim that they are. Make sure that Agents Training encompasses more knowledge of election law. Use the brightest and the best at all times. Set up a dedicated by-election team who all know what is going on.

Phew - that's perhaps enough ranting for a Friday morning - time to go do some work.

1 comment:

Ellee Seymour said...

It certainly wasn't smooth sailing, but that's what makes politics so fascinating.

And yes, we should demonstrate graciousness and decorum with success.