‘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!

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Agent’s Training 1 – Beware men with a red rosette under a long coat with a piece of paper in their hand

Tony Blair visited the by-election on the same day as a man in a long coat came into our office for the first time...

Tony Blair visited the by-election on the same day as a man in a long coat came into our office for the first time...

It’s been a while since I went to an event to train as an agent. But, at the weekend I attended a course in Perth.

Having been an agent for numerous parliamentary elections, and by-elections, you might think there isn’t much I can learn, but with numerous legal changes and updates for next year it was very worthwhile, and extremely interesting.

As part of the training the lecturers went through a number of scenarios that should be avoided, and whilst they went through them I was reminded of one of the more memorable moments of the Eddisbury by-election, in 1999.

This was a very strange by-election caused by the appointment of Sir Alastair Goodlad as the new British High Commissioner to Australia. The writ was moved just 20 days before the election. The Conservatives had the right to call the date because Goodlad was a Tory MP. I was in London on the day the writ was moved, very helpfully the then Chief Whip, North Cornwall MP, Paul Tyler, called me so that I could get straight on a train back North, and within 20 days we had to select a candidate and run an effective by-election campaign.

I was to be the agent and Paul Roberts the candidate.

The campaign was fiercely fought with Labour very keen to take the seat whilst they were still even more popular than they had been when elected to government in 1997. Labour was so convinced they could win that Tony Blair himself came to the by-election to campaign for their candidate (don’t believe the myth that Prime Ministers don’t go to by-elections).

It was during this visit that a man walked into my office in Winsford.

Labour Party officials, particularly in those days, had a look about them. He sauntered up to the front desk and asked to speak to J. Ault. This is my first piece of advice to agents; no one who knows you will ever ask for you by your initial, so automatically our staff were on their guard.

Having confirmed my identity, the gentleman pulled a large piece of paper from his inside pocket, inadvertently flashing the distinctive yellow and red of a Labour rosette. He served me with a writ from the Labour agent’s London-based solicitors, and promptly left.

Over the next ten days he, and others, including the present International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, visited me over a dozen times, including seven times on one day. For some reason they seemed to think we were trying far too hard in a by-election they were trying to win.

They failed to beat the Conservatives, we increased our share of the vote, and Alastair Campbell described the Liberal Democrat campaign as ‘more robust than we had anticipated’, and all that during a leadership campaign!

Liberal Democrats in Cornwall should learn from Thermopylae!

Julis Goldsworthy - media savvy but are they a fickle friend?

Media savvy Julia Goldsworthy MP - but are the media a fickle friend not to be relied upon?

This may sound like a far fetched comparison, but the Liberal Democrats in Cornwall face a similarly difficult battle as the Spartans did by the sea in 480BC, unless they can learn from their own history, embodied by David Penhaligon, quickly.

The problems the local Liberal Democrats face are very simple; an overwhelming force, which has almost unlimited financial support, which has, as yet, not tasted defeat and is beginning to sweep to victory in the rest of the West Country.

The party, in Cornwall, has had unrivalled success since the 1997 election, going from strength to strength, eventually winning all five seats by 2005.  Potentially it has a great opportunity to stop the Conservative advance in its tracks at the Tamar.

‘But are the Cornish Lib Dems up to the task,’ I hear you say? If you had asked me this question even 6 months ago I would have given you a negative response. The party was fractured in the run up to the elections for the new Cornwall Council, divided or even unaware of the party’s response to the rise of the Conservatives.

In some cases this has not changed and those choosing to listen to themselves, rather than party campaigns experts, will unquestionably suffer at the ballot box next May.

Depending on the press and media in Cornwall may be a very dangerous strategy. About 12 months ago the Liberal Democrat County Council eventually got round to publishing its own community newspaper. Although it was quite well received by the public, it was roundly attacked by the commercial press, mainly because it attracted advertising that had previously been going to them. By this action the media became much more interested in the failures of the Liberal Democrats and has noticeably turned its support to other parties and against the Liberal Democrats.

Those who listen to campaign chiefs, and remember how the party achieved its electoral success in the first place, by campaigning and building up party organisation, might well be able to fend off the wave of anti-Labour feeling that is sweeping other parts of the country and coalescing as support for the Conservatives.

St. Austell and Newquay, in particular, led by Steve Gilbert and Hamish McCallum, and North and South East Cornwall, to a lesser extent, have shown clear evidence that they have re-learnt these old campaigning skills and should be safe from the Conservative campaign, but others may persist in hoping that the fickle media will be their lifeline, not their own hard work through constituency campaigning.