Monday, May 10, 2010

So the result....

A very emphatic Lib Dem hold. Hats off to Mr Sanders and his team who seem to have really dug in to Torbay now; probably until he retires.

I am deeply disappointed, but resigned to the fact that I am probably never going to be an MP. Unlike a lot of people in politics the thought of sitting on green benches has not been a burning ambition since I was twelve, in fact I became involved largely by accident. So contrary to what some have been saying; I will not be leaving Torbay in search of a seat somewhere else - we are totally settled here and the last thing I want is to disturb my family who have stuck by me so firmly for the last 8 years.

Having studied the results from Thursday it is pretty clear now in a way that was not clear then, that the bay is a clearly divided place politically speaking with the mass on the left outweighing the mass on the right by roughly 20%.

After the build-up when we were so far ahead in the polls and all the positive feedback from our own supporters during the campaign it is perhaps understandable that we thought we were going to win. Unfortunately we picked up no signs at all of the fact that Labour were defecting to the Lib Dems in droves, we wouldn't though, would we?

Adrian Sanders team know exactly what buttons to press to garner support from Labour, and they pressed them.

I wrongly thought Sanders' support would be affected by the expenses scandal but it seems however much voters complained in public, in private they are happy to let him carry on - it seems there are at least 24,000 people in Torbay who still want 'anyone but the Tories' to represent them.

95% of the result in a general election is down to what goes on during the National campaign and 5% is down to the local campaign; I am satisfied we delivered our 5% but I fear the 36% vote share we got in the Nationwide result was nowhere near enough for us to take Torbay. When we used to hold the (current) seat the national vote share was never less than 40%.

We did everything we could, but Politics is never fair and the result is not often connected to the effort expended. I said at the start that main reason we had to work hard and leave no stone unturned was to be able to sleep with a clear conscience if we lost.

The ultimate irony, which will not be lost on many Torbay voters (especially Labour ones) is that we could end up with Adrian Sanders working on
our side of the House of Commons voting to support our manifesto - voting for huge spending cuts and a drastic re-drawing of the role of Government.

Quite where that will leave both sides at the next local elections is anyone's guess.

And on a last, philosophical point - it is only politics, after all. The day after the election, while we sat around feeling sorry for ourselves I heard that a friend of a friend had suffered an unimaginable personal tragedy on Thursday - and that really did put life into perspective.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Places, everyone!

Three days of campaigning left and it's all down to the process called 'getting out the vote'.

For several years we have been campaigning for one purpose; to make sure we win the most votes on Thursday. A big part of that process is ensuring the people who are intending to support us, actually do so.

Campaigning takes several forms; Firstly holding events to raise money to campaign with. Then we spend years listening to voters by canvassing on the doorstep, holding open meetings and doing postal and on-line surveys. Then as the election comes onto the horizon we define and refine our message, and deliver it to voters by leaflets and mail whilst also seeking to find as many people as possible who want to vote for us, and support and help us.

The most intense part of the process is the election campaign itself, in this case we started in January; we have been knocking door to door, six days a week since the start of the year seeking support and meeting a record number of electors, all the while building up a huge list of voters committed to back David Cameron as PM and myself as their MP.

Now we have to remind those voters to act on the day itself, and political parties switch into frenzied activity in the final remaining hours before the polls close at 10:00pm Thursday, monitoring who has already voted (to cross them off the list) and then basically nagging the rest into going to the polling station; even driving them there when necessary.

As the final preparations for the big day are completed it is feeling a bit like the build-up for a big wedding; everyone knows their places, what to say and how to say it, their moves choreographed and rehearsed to the finest detail; the stationary is ordered, the cars cleaned and prepared, the refreshments ready. And as the candidate I it does feel a bit like being a groom - with all the frantic preparations going on all around all I have to do make sure I turn up on the day, shoes cleaned and hair brushed.

We enter the last few days of this campaign in better shape that at any election in living memory; with more pledges, more helpers and more goodwill than any of us can remember.

To all of those dedicated people who have helped me campaign for what we believe in, whether for some or all of the eight long years we have been at it, I say a hearty thank-you.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

At a time when their leadership are trumpeting a new kind of politics it is a bit disappointing to note that locally the Lib Dems are engaging in some very old-fashioned negative campaigning. The latest broadside from Mr Sanders team contains more totally untrue allegations, to add to old favourites they put about during the last election.

The first myth is that I am the man from Windsor. Can I just point out that I have never lived in Windsor? My only connection with the place is that my Dad lived there for a bit when my parents split up in the '70's and I was once the Chairman of the Constituency Conservative Association. It is a matter of record that I live in Torquay, and have done so for years. My wife and I work here, my children go to school here, and all our friends live here.

The second myth is that I am connected at the hip to the Mayor. Nick Bye was chosen as our candidate in 2005 - and with everyone else I worked hard to help get a Conservative mayor elected. As the Lib Dem campaign team know full well I do not get involved in the local council political scene, I am not on the council, do not campaign, advise, or work for the mayor or any councillors in any capacity, I do not have a say on policy, planning matters or anything else.

The newest myth has just appeared in the Lib Dems latest leaflet. "The conservative intends to be only a part-time MP" - they shout. This is another wholly untrue allegation. They know full well that I have always made it clear that I intend to work flat out, full time, on being your MP if elected. Indeed the expectation is that the new Parliament will be working through many long nights to try and sort out the mess the last Parliament have left the country in.

And for the last MP to be shouting about the possible work-rate of the next one is a bit dangerous, it might just prompt voters to spot the fact that he and his colleagues spent the least amount of time working of any Parliament for 30 years - despite the worst recession in living memory, and after getting a record pay-rise.

As The Sun newspaper reported earlier this year: "Analysis of the working day at Westminster showed the House sat for just 139 days in 2008-09. Members' average working day lasted seven hours and 35 minutes - meaning they sat for 1,053 hours and 51 minutes overall. That was the lowest total in a non-election year since 1979."