‘The Christmas Raffle has raised more than ever!’ – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 13 – Check the rules before playing!

John Pardoe plunged his hand into the bucket of tickets and he received quite a surprise!

One of the most ubiquitous aspects of any event in a political party is the Christmas Raffle.  Some now coalesce to form mega-raffles across their area and others buy into national raffles that have better prizes than any local party can offer.

But, a local party with thousands of members like North Cornwall in the 1960s was quite capable of organising such a raffle, and capable of raising a lot of money as a consequence.

The Liberal MP at the time, John Pardoe, in a rushed arrival to the big event of the Christmas Bingo and Raffle draw was asked at the door if he would like to buy any last minute raffle tickets.  Knowing he hadn’t already bought any the MP duly plucked a crisp £10 note from his wallet and handed it to the fundraiser.

The evening went well and the time came for the raffle to be drawn.  Mr Pardoe, as local MP, was expected to be the celebrity drawer and a large bucket of tickets was duly brought to the front of the hall by the fundraiser.

‘Number 865,’ came John’s exclamation from the front of the hall.

‘That’s your ticket Mr Pardoe,’ said the fundraiser.  Slightly embarrassed at this he duly drew a new ticket, knowing that his £10 was really a glorified donation and he wasn’t expected to win.

‘Number 613,’ came the second number.

‘That’s your ticket, again, Mr Pardoe,’ said the fundraiser.

Moving more swiftly this time he pulled another without further comment, ‘Number 1342.’

‘Yours again Mr Pardoe.’  In fact the first nine tickets drawn from the bucket were John Pardoe’s as he had bought £10’s worth of tickets, with each at the face value of five ‘old’ pence!

It was a very successful raffle but MP’s would be wise to make their donations donations rather than expecting raffle tickets in return.

It can lead to very long evenings!

Intern if you want to – The Case of the Missing Lord

But for a missing Lord we would have been able to employ his land rover and pulled ourselves out within minutes...

But for Lord Elgin going missing we would have been pulled to safety in minutes...

Only last week I, and our present intern, were out in the West Fife villages distributing leaflets to our members.

One such member lives on the estate of Lord Elgin in the village of Culross.

Driving my car down the lane, past the big house where the Earl’s son lives, I proceeded to the member’s house.

I parked outside whilst our intern nipped to the house to drop the bundle of leaflets with him.  Unfortunately he was out but knowing he wouldn’t mind he found a safe, dry place for them and returned to the car.

I should tell you that the car is a 4X4 which I bought for work on a country estate and as such is perfectly designed for this sort of rural terrain.

Nonetheless I had somehow managed to park the car in such a place that due to the muddy conditions it would not move forward, or backward.

Trying and failing for about ten minutes to extricate the car we abandoned it as a bad idea and walked back down the lane to the ‘big house’ as I had seen that the noble owner had a very industrial looking land rover that would easily be able to pull us out.

After a discussion with the nanny and various noble children we were told that the car didn’t work and wouldn’t be of any assistance, and there was no sign of his lordship who might be able to help. Not wishing to impose on their hospitaility too much we returned to the car, still beached.

So I called the AA and following a wait of two hours nobody turned up, probably finding it rather difficult to find us in such a remote rural location and the other 23,000 people stranded in winter weather.

Getting rather bored with calling the AA for an ETA I pressed a button on the dashboard and with a combination of the ground having now hardened due to frost and the 4X4 now engaged I drove straight out of the hole onto the road.

It became clear from the streetlights on the way home how much comedy mud I had been able to spray over the intern whilst trying to remove the car from the mud, whilst he pushed and I over accelerated!

‘Forget the toothbrush, you can buy one; dignity is priceless!’ – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 12 – Pack a reserve parachute

With me in Brussels and my suitcase in Kuala Lumpur I was faced with a tricky dilemma when I met the European Commissioner

As a young man I was elected to lead the Liberal Democrat delegation to the British Youth Council. I led a small but excellent team of Lib Dem activists who had a significant impact on the nation’s leading youth organisation.

As part of the political engagement of BYC I was regularly invited to attend meetings, conferences and events across the UK and Europe.

One such meeting was the weekend European Youth Congress in Brussels in 1994, it was a meeting of young politicians from across the European Union and was a most enjoyable event for all concerned.

Youth politics was quite un-Tory at that point being the fag end of a Tory government and as such the delegation was almost entirely made up of Labour and Lib Dem activists.

Our delegation was all booked on flights from London to Brussels and we met at Heathrow for the plane. We checked in promptly and settled down for the short flight over to Belgium.

I and Dan Shepherd, a Labour member, were very disappointed to discover, on arrival, that our suitcases for the trip had not been stowed on the plane before leaving and had in fact been flown on a much more exotic flight to Kuala Lumpur.

A rather unhelpful member of British Airways staff, at Brussels airport, gave us both an overnight bag with all the essentials for a night without a suitcase. We were promised that our suitcases would be sent on as soon as they could be returned, but even at a best guess this would be a minimum of 24 hours.

Arriving at the accommodation we duly opened the rather pathetic contents and discovered a toothbrush and all the things that a hotel would quite happily have given or found for us.

At the bottom of the bag was a rather strange wrapped up piece of tissue paper. Upon closer inspection this appeared to be a shower cap made of paper, but with three holes, rather than one.

They were paper underpants.

Now I’m as happy as any man to sleep on floors or sofas and I have even been known to wear a shirt for more than a day when the need has arisen, but there can be nothing to compare to the personal discomfort of wearing paper underwear, in thirty degree heat, whilst meeting a European Commissioner and Ambassadors from the EU nations.

This is compounded by the fact that your own underwear is having a much nicer time of it in South East Asia.

As such I, and I am sure Dan, always pack underwear in hand luggage now, just in case BA threaten me with paper Y-fronts!

You can buy a toothbrush in a hotel but dignity is priceless!

‘There’s been a missile attack at Heathrow you’ll have to do the Today Programme!’ – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 11 – Be Prepared for anything!

With the IRA attacking Heathrow Paddy's plane was delayed and so I had to do the Today Programme...

Leader’s visits are the highlight of any election campaign. The 1997 General Election was no exception.  Paddy Ashdown was due to fly into Plymouth airport, twenty minutes from his first visit of the day at Saltash Community School in South East Cornwall, where I was the agent.

Colin Breed was to meet the leader at the airport and arrive, by battle bus at the school, to be followed by a 45 minute walkabout of the classes talking to staff and students.

It was an excellent visit designed to engage with the party’s top policy of the time to raise income tax by 1p in the pound to pay for education.

With an early morning press conference in London the leader’s entourage would board a plane from London to Plymouth, arriving at the school in time for the first lesson of the day.

The arrival time was anticipated between 8.30am and 9am.  As such a gaggle of local and national journalists began to assemble outside the school in anticipation.

A gentleman in a nice suit, from Special Branch, took a call and after a few moments of concerned conversation he sidled across to me to tell me some bad news. ‘There’s been a rocket attack by the IRA at Heathrow airport and all flights have been grounded until further notice, he’s going to be late, very late!’

Although this was manageable with the school a number of the journalists, especially those who were hoping for a live comment from Paddy at the gate were about to be disappointed.

One of them, from Radio 4’s Today Programme, had only turned up to make sure he had something for the programme before 9am, when it ended, and with 9am fast approaching guess who was press-ganged into action.

Thankfully I was not expected to comment on the party’s policies nor the reason for Paddy’s visit to the school, he just wanted the much better story of why Paddy was late and whether this was something we normally have to deal with. I told him it was not!

Paddy arrived about three hours later.

Is the return of the monocle a sign that the Old Etonian Tories are taking control or the preparations for a Labour anti-Toff campaign?

Tory fashion accessory or a cunning plan from Labour Agents across Britain - The Monocle!

Vision Express has announced that it is to start stocking monocles for the first time following a spate of young male customers requesting to buy them.

This apparently came as quite a shock to the major high street retailer who has never sold them before.

I couldn’t help but think that the boys from the Bullingdon Club and the Old Etonians (the Conservative front bench) might all be dashing out to buy them as part of the season’s must have fashion accessory.

But, then it occurred to me that with the increasingly anti-upper class tone of Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Question Time and of Labour campaigning it was probably a raft of Labour agents dashing around to buy a monocle for anti-Tory photos for their election literature to show a division between them and their quadruple barrelled opponents.

Only time will tell!