‘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!


Goldsmith to the right of me, Goldsmith to the left of me, Goldsmith’s in front of me, I marched into the interview…

The interview was the strangest I have ever had, which would you pick The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Morning Star...?

All this discussion of Zac Goldsmith, and his apparent lack of desire to pay the UK Taxman and Lord Goldsmith and his apparent uncertainty as to the legality of the war in Iraq, has reminded me of my visit to Goldsmith’s College 20 years ago.

It was my second choice University, but as I was very keen to study History in London I arrived at the interview in good time.

I was taken by a very large lady to a chair, placed outside the office of the Professor I was due to see for my interview.

After about 10 minutes the previous person, as I thought, came out of the interview room and said that I should go in.

Behind the desk all I could see was a copy of The Times and a rising plume of pipe smoke coming up from behind it.  Thinking this would end fairly soon I just waited patiently.

After a few more minutes of pipe smoke and page turning I noticed that there were three newspapers neatly place, pointing at the candidate’s chair.  They were The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Morning Star.

I divined after a few more minutes that the Professor behind the paper was not intending to stop reading his paper so I decided to pick up one of the newspapers sitting in front of me.

Having never seen a copy, let alone read a copy, of the The Morning Star before I picked it up and started reading. 

After a few seconds at last came the first evidence that the man on the other side of the table even recognised my existence.  He grunted, ‘why did you pick that one?’

I responded with the answer that I had never seen it before, let alone read it so I thought I would take the opportunity.

‘Hmmm,’ he said, ‘we’ll offer you two Cs, will that be OK?’ I responded it would and for the next 30 minutes we just chatted about politics, and why I had joined the SDP, not the Liberal Party.

As I didn’t take the place up I never discovered what the offer would have been if I had taken The Guardian or The Telegraph.

Imagine the shock of a Tory Woman from Plymouth beating a Liberal favourite from Cornwall…

To be beaten by a Tory woman was quite a shock, especially as the national party was so openly opposing the local Liberal favourite

The shock of being beaten by a woman from Plymouth, who had no political experience to speak of, was quite a shock. It was compounded by the fact that the national leadership of the party was actively opposing a local Liberal candidate and writing letters in support of the Tory opponent.

But, nonetheless, ninety years on it is time to remember Nancy Astor’s election to Parliament, beating the local Liberal champion, Isaac Foot.

It was a strange campaign in the 1919 Plymouth Sutton by-election. Isaac Foot, the local Liberal, contested the seat against a candidate who had the backing of the Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, despite Nancy Astor being a Tory. But, as part of the Coalition agreement which Lloyd George had entered for the 1918 General Election only those candidates in receipt of the ‘coupon’ could stand for the Coalition Government.

So, Isaac Foot contested the election as an ‘Asquithian’ Liberal candidate, against a candidate with the backing of the Liberal Prime Minister.

As Nancy Astor had the support of both the Conservative Leader and the Liberal Prime Minister, as well as contesting the seat vacated by her husband, it is perhaps no surprise that she became the first woman to win a seat in Parliament and take it up.*

Despite this brief setback for Isaac Foot he returned three years later to win the Bodmin by-election in 1922, presently the South East Cornwall constituency, winning the seat off a Conservative Coalition candidate, who also received the backing of the Tory/Liberal Coalition government in London. But, with no Labour candidate standing Foot romped home undermining the coalition, which was to finally collapse later that year.

*Although Countess Markiewicz did win a seat in Parliament she never took her seat due to Sinn Fein policy.
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Because of where Sir Cyril Smith was sitting it totally changed the name of the party in the publicity photos – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 3 – Photographic Blunders

Because of where Sir Cyril was speaking from the party's name was totally changed...

Sir Cyril Smith, Liberal MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, has a personality so large that only his stature can compare to it. 

He was an astounding advocate for Rochdale and in many ways still is.  But, I remember him chairing a session of the newly merged Social and Liberal Democrats in 1988, at a regional conference in Southport.

The party, formed from the merger of the SDP and the Liberal Party had received a very difficult birth with many members of the SDP failing to join the new party and many Liberals unhappy with the new name of the party, which was to cause much debate for the next couple of years.

From where I was sitting in the hall it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing.  Because the party had only just received its new party banners, having only been in existence for a few weeks, where Sir Cyril was sitting obscured part of the sign totally changing the name of the party.

Instead of reading ‘The Social & Liberal Democrats’ Sir Cyril was obscuring the ‘c’ in Democrats, making the party name appear to be two titles, they were:

‘The Social Demo’ and ‘Liberal Rats’

Thankfully no bright photographer noticed the potential gaffe and the conference went off surprisingly well!
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Tales from Wales: Myself and a Lib Dem MP attended a Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Party Meeting by mistake

Plaid Cymru

Myself and Colin Breed stumbled into a lift which was acting as the meeting room for a Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Party meeting

Having worked in Wales for a few years for the Liberal Democrats, as the party’s national campaign manager, I seem to have a number of stories that might be of interest.

But, the first one is concerning a time before I worked there.  Those old enough to remember will know of the old jokes of the Liberal Party, or for that matter the SDP, about them being able to hold Parliamentary Party meetings in the back of a taxi or for that matter a phone box.

Having elected Colin Breed in the 1997 election I went up to London for a for a few weeks to set up his office there, and whilst wandering the corridors of Westminster we jumped into a lift with three MPs – Cynog Dafis, Dafydd Wigley and Elfyn Llwyd.

From a conversation in Welsh there suddenly became silence. After a few moments of uneasy silence, mainly I suspect because they had no idea who we were, or from which party, we jumped out of the lift before them.

Colin said, ‘that’s my first parliamentary meeting, pity it was with the wrong one!’