Browse Category: Winning Elections

which words to use

Merton Conservatives Campaign Video

A great campaign video from Merton Conservatives outlining their manifesto pledges and entitled: “Unlocking Merton’s Potential 2014”

It is fun, snappy, tangible and specific. It speaks about real issues and uses short words – like normal people do. I like it.

You can visit their website here.

late candidate selections

Candidate selections 290 seats not yet selected.

It looks like the next 8-9 months won’t be much fun for anyone working in CCHQ candidates department. As far as I can make out, as of today’s date, 290 constituencies still do not have a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate.

I understand from a number of sources that no CSI seats will be selected until after the May elections. This is probably also true for most non-CSI seats although the advert for Erewash has already gone out with the deadline for applications being midday 25th March.

To make any sort of dent candidates surely need 6 months in post. So if the aim is to have all seats worked by a candidate for 6 months and selections are postponed until after the May elections, there will have to be a minimum of 40-50 candidate selections a month from May.

There was once an accepted wisdom that active and focused candidates could negate most of any incumbency advantage – IF selected 2 years before an election. If that remains true we have missed a trick here.

I fully understand the financial and family pressures of a candidate fighting a seat for 24 months before an election and the argument will be that the 40/40 seats selected candidates early for that very reason. (How effective the 40/40 silver bullet will be is another story).

But have a look at some of the seats that have not been selected yet – they may not be “easy wins” or even “maybe wins” in 2015 – but many are surely seats that should be worked with a view to a decent result in 2020 – or is that too far away?

Parliamentary Seats With Conservative PPCs as of 18/03/2014 by Peter Botting

Guest Post – Memories of Maggie

(This is a guest post from by Alex Evelyn, President of Essex University Conservative Future)

Yesterday, ‘Memories of Maggie’, was held by Essex CF in the Lords. The event was hosted by Baroness Jenkin of Kennington. Celebrating the life of Lady Thatcher and appreciating the transformation she made to Britain: Free markets, property owning democracy, competition to our public services.

AlexEveleynThe opportunity for Young Conservatives to listen and question friends and colleagues of the last government allowed us to unravel the legend and misrepresentation caricatured by the left giving us all something more personal.

The evening consisted of four speakers Lord Baker, Baroness Bottomley, Lord Jenkin and Lord Sherbourne. All distinguished speakers who had a unique story.

Lord Baker spoke of Lady Thatcher’s loyalty to her government ministers. He talked about her dedication to ideas, allowing ministers to have ownership over their ministerial portfolios. There was also clarity of what she wanted to achieve and how she wanted individuals to get on. Lady Thatcher’s hatred of vested interest which prevented free individuals pursuing the best course of action drove her to rein in the unions – who were preventing ideas and economic growth in Britain.

Baroness Bottomley talked of Lady Thatcher charm and charisma. She also spoke of Lady Thatcher’s obligation to social mobility and her difficulty to understand individuals not prepared to better themselves. Lady Thatcher was never a snob and her ideology was centred on the strivers in life. Baroness Bottomley spoke of Conservatives being the doers of social justice; not the posers like the left – citing our commitment to charity and helping the neediest in our society.

Lord Jenkin discussed Lady Thatcher’s resolve to get the job done. She realised the taxpayer was sovereign and not a cash machine for state extravagance. The issue of privatisation demonstrated Lady Thatcher’s resolve with the breaking up of British Telecom rejecting the use of taxpayers’ money. Her headstrong attitude saw Thatcher win friends in unlikely quarters. Lord Jenkin shared a memory of canvassing in Ebbw Vale, formally Michael Foot and Aneurin Bevan constituency. A resident answered the door to Lord Jenkin and responded (queue Welsh accent) “I hate everything this government is doing and I hate Margaret Thatcher”. Lord Jenkin replied “I assume I will not be getting your vote”, for the resident to say “you will be getting my vote because she does what says”. This is a fine example of strong convictions winning friends in unlikely quarters.

Lord Sherbourne, Lady Thatcher speech writer, had the closest contact with her and would spend hours meticulously preparing speeches and PMQ performances. Lord Sherbourne cited her forensic eye over all aspects of government policy. The working atmosphere was intense with long working days all borne out of a desire to get things RIGHT! Lady Thatcher also had a remarkable ability to oppose her own government. Lord Sherbourne recalled a time when the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs had a stated policy from the Permanent Secretary, only for Mrs Thatcher to top and tail the letter and provide her preferred course of action.

Memories of Maggie was an opportunity for her legacy and ideology to be remembered in a respectful and dignified way by four superb speakers, who were able to articulate Thatcher the Lady, Thatcher the PM, and Thatcher the Champion for workers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers who shared their ‘Memories of Maggie’ yesterday, Baroness Jenkin of Kennington for agreeing to host the event, Peter Botting for sponsoring the wine, and Essex University CF executive team for supporting me to ensure this event could happen.

We most certainly envisage hosting a similar event next year and if you would like to get involved please do contact me!

Alexander Evelyn

@jalexevelyn (twitter)


What makes a Political Legacy

I drove to a friend’s funeral in the Midlands yesterday. I have been to a lot of funerals in my life – this was my first to a Labour politician’s funeral. On the way I got a premonition of the size of Lord Bilston’s funeral when I saw the street signs on the dual carriageway to Bilston. The town where he was born, the constituency he represented and the name he carried in the House of Lords. Bilston.

LordBilstonDennis Turner aka Lord Bilston was a Labour Party trade unionist, councillor, MP and Peer who I met and worked with on the NO2AV referendum campaign. The word plotting is overused but he, Lord Bruce Grocott and George Howarth MP and I plotted, schemed and worked together for a solid month – the result being the extraordinary alliance between the Conservative and Labour Parties to defeat the Lib Dems and their proposed Alternative Vote. Without the input of these three men we would never have got Labour’s big beasts (John Prescott, John Reid, Margaret Becket, David Blunkett and Charlie Falconer) on board.

But,  intense and busy as it was, working with these tribal political opponents was great fun. Bruce told me yesterday that he had enjoyed that campaign more than any other and Dennis certainly took great delight in reminiscing about the campaign whenever we saw each other in Strangers Bar. Bruce, George and I were together again yesterday to bury a friend.

The church was packed and the service was long. 1 hour and 20 minutes long. There was standing room only at the back and people waiting patiently outside for the whole 80 minutes. Luckily the sun shone. These were not political people – not duty attendees. We estimated that there were 750-800 people there. It was, inevitably for a man with over 40 years of public service, a political funeral – with some political speeches, a number of Peers, former Cabinet Ministers and Labour MPs attending and therefore missing PMQs. The coffin bearers wore red ties. But – all the speeches were real and personal and I bet they were all written by the people giving them. They were raw – as funeral speeches should be. One of the best stories was how teenage chorister Dennis had led a strike of the choir – timed on a Saturday just before 3 weddings were due to take place.

Two of the speakers mentioned the fact that walking through Bilston with Dennis took ages. Both explained that he literally knew everyone, their names, their kids names and even their dogs names – a plus for a dog lover like me.  But the line that really got me yesterday was “Dennis was one of us”.

Much is made in both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party of candidates being “parachuted” into seats and how this doesn’t go down well with the voters. Research has shown that an ACTIVE candidate can negate an incumbent’s advantage if selected over 2 years before an election and I have candidates like that right now. Much is also made of how Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 81-19 on the question “Does he understand/get people like me?” But what a great line that “Dennis was one of us” is. What an epitaph. What a summary.

Politics is important business and we need good and competent people in politics. They can’t all come from within their own communities. Or could they? Maybe if they did we would have more politicians getting over 700 local people, non-duty attendees, coming to their funeral. Funeral attendance is clearly not the only test of a political legacy or a sign of whether a politician made an impact on people, in legislation etc – but it is a human one. And politics is at its best when it’s about people.

Picture from

As this article makes clear – I wasn’t the only Conservative there.

winning elections - who calls the shots?

The Conference Speech and Winning Elections

Ed Miliband’s conference speech actually had an impact. Speeches are supposed to do that and they very seldom do. So I stand and salute. But will it help him win the next election?

Let us pretend for a minute that  our Pseudo-Dem, Nick Clegg, hadn’t turned his pouty back on an actual electoral reform – making sure that every parliamentary constituency had the same number of voters.

Politicians have a range of audiences to appease, engage, convince. The most basic difference, the one that tripped up Mitt (47%) Romney and still threatens the Republicans, is appealing to the selectorate and the electorate.

But a Party Leader’s conference speech at conference, when people actually half-listen, has multiple audiences. The selectorate; the electorate (i.e. the general public); the leader’s ambitious colleagues; the donors; the media and the increasingly important commentators; business and ” interested” third sector groups.

Let us assume there was a “focus on winning elections” thought process in The Labour Leader’s Office and that the content of the speech was the result of a strategic decision. What about Ed’s poor speechwriter if Ed had actually tried to appeal to all? Ed had a 3-way split selectorate of Brownites and Blairites and the Unions – who, annoyingly for him, also inhabit the major donor category. Plus the standard stuff – ambitious colleagues; normal donors, the media and the business community and third sector groups.

The Blairites who campaigned and voted for Blair don’t seem very happy. Owners of shares that lost value yesterday following the speech can’t be delighted.

Owen Jones and others, like Kinnock, seem very happy. But who else were the comrades going to vote for? Are there enough of them to win an election?

I know someone here in Sussex who has voted Labour all their lives who popped around and told me that now they would rather have Cameron in Downing Street. Whether they will bother to vote is, of course, another question. But that’s definitely one vote lost for Ed.

But there is a long time to go still, we still have Clegg’s “unfairer votes” constituency legacy to factor in, and Lord Ashcroft’s current polling says Ed will be PM.

Ed’s speech made  more headline than most conference speeches because his choices were tougher than normal and, at last, he made a call. Which will always please some and lose others. He has definitely helped frame the question. I quite like him as Leader of the Opposition.

communicate new ideas

Communicating for dreamers – crafting messages to communicate new ideas

Last night I got petrol in my tank by being part of a discussion dinner co-hosted by Dr Pritpal Tamber  and addressed by TEDMED speaker coach Denise Graveline. Denise asked what people wanted out of the evening. Themes included how to communicate new ideas and concepts, how to get a minority view across, how to be seen to be influencing within an organisation, how to pitch to a VC and how to make a distant possible event relevant to an audience used to thinking conventionally and in the present or immediate future. One person said that they had no communications issue but wanted to meet interesting people. I meet interesting people every time a client walks through the door – but last night I met a whole table full and it was great.

I don’t know if Chatham House rules applied so won’t mention names – but I was excited by the people. There were lots of titles, doctorates and serious jobs around the table including TEDMED and IGNITE speakers – but that wasn’t what created the buzz.

Everybody there was trying to achieve something – often reframing whole “things” into new categories rather than just tweaking existing solutions to acknowledged spaces and problems. There was an excitement and an eagerness and an almost revolutionary spirit co-hosting the great food and the intoxicating “what if” thoughts. Many of the people there had left great and well paid jobs to DO stuff. New stuff is often hardest to describe and communicate because it doesn’t fit tamely into our lazy mental filing and classifying boxes of “Ah, I know what you mean – that’s A or B or C.” New ideas, new vocabulary, new thought processes and new concepts…new thinking.

Conservatives are often accused of being backward thinking – and some are. Conservatives are at their best when they keep testing and pushing the status quo, and then combine CONSERVing that which is good and solid and sound and being revolutionary about that which is not.

George Bernard Shaw said “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”  Last night there were loads of dreamers at dinner.

It is more fun being with dreamers and doers. Some may laugh at the thought of taking dreamers seriously – but then they will probably also use a laptop or a tablet and post updates on Facebook. Both of which few would have dreamed of a couple of decades ago. Perhaps, we Conservatives should test the status quo and the “givens” more rigorously, conserve less blindly and think more like revolutionaries. Looking back at our past, the great leaders of our country are those who have done just that.

Speaking in Public.Take your job seriously, but not yourself.

This YouTube clip is glorious. How could it not be? Two Oscar winners and George Stephanopoulos – perfect! Plus it illustrates two of my favourite tips for speaking in public in less time than I can write this post!

Stephanopoulos is the guy who worked with Bill Clinton before and throughout his entire first term and wrote a brilliant book about it afterwards. But he is just the extra in this ABC news clip! h/t Denise Graveline

It has Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson without a script, without a Director and without an Editor. He is naughty, funny and real. He is right at the very top of my very short list of people who I don’t know but who I would love to go drinking with, and I am delighted to see him being just as I imagined. After all, according to his wikipedia page, while at school he was in detention every day for a whole school year.

Then there is “the refreshingly real” Jennifer Lawrence, a gorgeous and successful Oscar-winning actress, being wonderful and natural and herself. She is fun and likable and unedited. I often tell clients that they are world experts at being themselves and mediocre to rubbish at being anyone else – so they should stop trying. Ijust hope that she doesn’t get “training” that mutes or hides her personality.

The worst trait, and the biggest turnoff, that I have to address with clients is pomposity, snobbery and arrogance.

My standard instruction to all my clients is: “Take your job seriously – but not yourself.” Unless you have a monopoly on something that people must have – hardly relevant in my coaching sectors – you cannot flourish unless you are at least competent AND likable.

Anyway, enough of me – watch and enjoy.


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