Election stories II: the campaign

2017-04-13 09.58.15

We started this year’s campaign pretty early of course and certainly well before all the candidates were announced. That happens about 4 weeks before Election Day itself which results in a final election push when you know with whom you’re actually competing.

Because I was restanding I played a lot of the campaign by the book and early on I got a decent team in place. I attended an ALDC QuickStart weekend late in 2016 and then held a couple of workshops early in 2017 to share ideas about strategy. The latter were key because Orchard Park (Yemi and Gary) were involved and I signed up Almut/Eugenio and John Turner (a member transferring in from Norfolk) to wholesale. With Juni also involved I had a complete wholesaling team. The other members were David Collins and Eric Barber.

Other significant additions to the ‘core’ team were Martin/Aga Cahn (Aga having become disenchanted with Labour) and Stuart Lothian (one of the few ‘mature’ new members who’d helped out at the Richmond by-election).

The literature program was demanding but we stuck with it. It had the very positive feature of being high quality and we complemented that with good photography including several taken by Histon photographer Nik Pennycuick. I took advantage later on of another excellent Histon creative, Fiacre Mueller, who produced an excellent ‘not totally amateur but not over professional either’ video.

Everything was done of course in parallel and integrated with the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough mayoral campaign. That was positive for me because the Lib Dem mayoral candidate, Rod Cantrill, fitted the Histon & Impington demographic.

When the full slate of candidates was announced there were no surprises. The Tory was a Judge lecturer, Othman Cole, living in Orchard Park and the Labour candidate was a teaching assistant, Beccy Talmi, from King’s Meadow. There was also a Green, Darren Cotterell, from Impington and, thankfully, no independent.

If I had to choose an opposition slate I wouldn’t have chosen anything much different from that so it was an election for me to lose. But as Martin Rigby said to me on Election Day itself ‘to succeed you have to be a little bit paranoid’ and I was.

The campaign continued. I did some canvassing and it was generally very positive. I veered between being confident and worrying about a Hilary Clinton result. On a good day I imagined a majority of over 500.

In the meantime I got myself up to speed with Connect, the Lib Dems’ campaigning software that replace EARS some years ago. I was abetted in this by another new member, Christine Stapleton, who became our data officer.

Then came the bombshell. Teresa May called a ‘snap’ election to take place 5 weeks after ours. That confused everyone, campaigners and electors alike, but it also gave another boost to our membership with another bunch joining. They were to prove invaluable.

Surprisingly the competition seemed to be absent. We got a Tory calling card delivered by the postman even before nominations closed and although I’d seen a multifold leaflet it wasn’t delivered to 14 Pease Way. Similarly there had been a pretty scruffy and small Labour leafet but that didn’t make its way to my place either.

Life went on. The delivery network worked a treat with enough spares to plug gaps when people went away. Then we got the blue letters.

I don’t like blue letters but they are a Lib Dem tradition. They are hand addressed, but no longer blue, and the idea is that because they are not boring typed addressed envelopes they get read. Generally they cover 30% of houses: defs and probs and soft labour for example.

Given that the regular deliverers had delivered enough I sent a call out to the newer members for volunteers. It paid off and I was able to cover H&I with an alternative network. I decided not to do Orchard Park, because we had a special edition Focus to go out there, or King’s Meadow, nobody votes.

Problem was the blue letter delivery was about 60%. The filter was also set to include voters for whom we had no data. I grovelled and apologised and nobody complained. It went out.

That left the final week. Yemi, Gary and I did the Orchard Park special on the Monday morning. I got another alternative network to do the eve of poll delivery but there was a last minute printing hitch and they had to come from Peterborough but were with me by 1745 and into the right hands before 1830.

So we got to polling day but had we done enough (paranoia again)? We hadn’t done enough canvassing but what we’d done was very positive. We’d got all the literature out, we’d got 40 stakeboards up and I’d emailed 1200 people with my monthly report on the final Sunday. Would it be enough?

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