Article I wrote for Conservative Home website on candidate selection issues at the General Election which they have chosen not to run.
The party that wins the next election will be the one that most quickly learns the lessons of the 8th June. Given the possibility of an election in the next year we need to start learning those lessons now. The one advantage we have is that we feel we lost the election despite winning it and should be more open to making fundamental changes. Labour will feel that they won the campaign and will stick to what they did before but with a better idea of our weaknesses.
So, let’s start with candidates. We went into this election with not enough candidates for all 650 seats so we wasted time at the beginning of the campaign finding, selecting and allocating candidates to seats. I am aware of at least one non-target seat only getting a candidate three days before the deadline, I am sure there are others. PAB’s were conducted by Skype at the last minute. But we know that the Liberal Democrats had candidates selected in advance. Candidates then had to spend time learning about their new seats, where the boundaries were, who the key contacts are etc. All wasted time which meant they started the campaign behind.
We need to have candidates ready for every seat, working as soon as possible. For seats held by Conservative MP’s we should have a pool of reserve candidates identified should anything happen to that MP.
We then expected candidates who have made enormous sacrifices in time and money to not even work in their new seats but to campaign elsewhere. They were cannon fodder used to supplement a party which does not have enough campaigning members in target seats. That is a very expensive strategy and I fear it will be harder to motivate them next time. And please can we treat them as adults, some of the stories I have heard of micro-management are deeply concerning but local candidates will know better than CCHQ local conditions and issues.
I know of a candidate currently a Councillor elsewhere. She hoped to be the candidate in her constituency (it was not a target seat) which would have helped her get re-elected next May. But instead she was sent to another non-target seat which she did not know but was then told to spend all her time in a 3rd (target) seat. We need to find a better way of finding and allocating help.
But some of those target seats saw huge increases in Labour majorities but we were told to go there through poor intelligence, over confidence and hubris. The risk now is that CCHQ instructions are so mis-trusted that they are increasingly ignored or cut out of communications, something that has already happened. But that leaves us in the worst possible situation, a fragmented campaign with no central awareness of what is happening.
We also need to be more careful about candidate selection, we naturally focussed on finding candidates who can win elections or who fit a desired profile but we also need candidates who can keep marginal seats safe in 5 and 10 year’s time through their local reputation. I know some who did not have that ability which also harmed us.
Which raises a critical issue, we need local candidates wherever possible who can keep working in target seats between now and the next election, again something the Lib Dems did. In non-target seats the main criteria for candidate selection should be local issues, many of us have local elections in May 2018 and might have wanted to use 2017 GE campaign literature to highlight local election candidates or issues.
But then as non-target seat CCHQ expected us to do no local campaigning. But that is not sustainable. Not every member had the time nor inclination to travel to the nearest target seat. And we could not afford to give our opponents a free reign but even so we received complaints that people had not seen our leaflets but had seen our opponents and we have a Council election next year.
But in target seats given how close the winning / losing margin was, local candidates personal links, name awareness and connections may be enough to tip the balance in any future election. In really safe seats we can take a greater risk and select outstanding candidates from elsewhere who are most likely to add strength to the Parliamentary Party. Local candidates will also know the lay of the land, where to find support, even the best leaflet delivery routes. These are all advantages that a new candidate from outside has to spend time learning.
That does not mean keeping every candidate we selected for the 8th June, we do have a little time to review and re-allocate candidates. But by the autumn we should have candidates selected who have started work whether the election is in 2017, 2018 or 2022.
We are a Party that does not like theory very much but can I suggest that we look at Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop theory. observe, orient, decide, and act. You can defeat an opponent basically by thinking and acting faster than they do, getting inside their decision cycle and we need to start now if we are to win next time.
In addition to my work locally I am also very interested and concerned about defence issues and wrote this article below for Conservative Home but they wont have time to publish until after the General Election. So here is it is.
‘We want eight and we won’t wait’ that was the cry in Parliament in 1909 by a Conservative MP for how many Dreadnought type battleships we should build in response to the perceived German threat. Thanks to public support we built eight battleships that year and went into WW1 with a clear superiority over the Imperial German Navy.
In the recent Conservative Home survey of party member’s, the question “Uphold the NATO commitment to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence” received the highest support of any policy commitment demonstrating that Conservatives believe in prioritising defence spending.
While the Prime Minister recently made the welcome announcement that defence spending will increase faster than inflation by 0.5% a year, what does that mean in terms of combat effectiveness and is it enough when the latest Treasury Public Spending Statistics report shows a decline in Departmental Expenditure Limits (long term planned expenditure) defence spending from £37,196 million in 2011/12 to £34,424 million in 2015/16 and a decline from 2.4% of GDP to 1.9% over the same period.
But is it right that we now measure our military effectiveness and preparedness through purely financial criteria. Is spending 2% of our GDP on defence or the relative international size of our budget the measure we should be using? And last year the Defence Committee concluded that we had met our 2% commitment “through what appears to be creative (albeit permissible) accounting.” And the recent letter to the Sun newspaper by a wide range of retired military leaders said “Government boasts of spending two per cent of GDP on defence are widely criticised as an accounting deception. Most analysts agree core defence expenditure for hard military power is well below two per cent.”
But what % of GDP we spend tells us nothing about our defence preparedness now or in the future. The real questions should be, are we fully funding the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), do we need to update the SDSR given global changes and how do we ensure that the military units described in the SDSR are deployable and effective.
The SDSR says we should have nineteen destroyers and frigates. Will six Type 45 destroyers, eight Type 26 global combat ships and five Type 31 general purpose frigates be enough? Given that in the Falklands war we lost four destroyers and frigates and had another five badly damaged (we would have lost more had the Argentineans possessed more Exocet missiles and better fused bombs) are fourteen top line warships and five lower capability frigates adequate?
I wrote previously here that those ships won’t have the ability to sink large ships at a safe distance between 2018 and possibly as late as 2030 due to the retirement next year of the Harpoon anti-ship missile. We have announced that the Type 26’s will carry the Mk41 vertical missile launcher which can launch a wide range of offensive weapons including anti-ship, anti-submarine and land strike missiles but even though construction starts this summer we have not yet said what type of weapons will be acquired let alone when. The American, Japanese and Korean Navies all launch a wide range of missile types from their Mk41 launchers. And it has just been announced that we will re-manufacture thirty-eight WAH-64D Apache attack helicopters, last year we said we would manufacture fifty new E versions, we have sixty-six D in the inventory today.
What is also missing is any objective analysis of what the right level of capability should be given the global situation. What core capabilities do we wish to have? Given that it can take decades to design and build new weapons what capability do we want out to the 2040’s? If we do not invest enough in our military the costs of failure are very high, either we lose the ability to deter conflict or if conflict is forced on us we lose. And failure will almost certainly be measured in British dead and injured.
We also need to move away from purely financial measures of defence capability. So, a modern replacement for the “We want eight and we won’t wait” cry could be “We want two fully equipped globally deployable carrier strike groups, more than twenty top line combatants capable of destroying enemy ships, aircraft and submarines at safe distances, two squadrons of search aircraft, silent attack submarines, the ability to land Royal Marines anywhere in the world and the ability to hunt and destroy any mines that threaten our shipping lanes and we won’t wait”
I know that is a mouthful but if we are to be serious about defence that is the kind of detail we need to be discussing rather than stating what % of our GDP we are spending as if that is enough to deter aggression.
I used the new Met Police website to report a driver driving on the pavement to avoid a road block and got a picture of the vehicle which I submitted to the police together with a detailed report online here;
The driver told me he did not care that he had driven on the pavement when I challenged him, I hope he cares now.
I have used Mailchimp to send my first online newsletter, please click on link below to read it. Let me know what you think by commenting below.
Virgin Marathon & Transport for London have both got detailed information on their sites although they slightly differ on times of road closures. Interestingly nothing on Council site.
The 1st picture below shows the route, 2nd TfL traffic impact analysis, 3rd & 4th more detailed road closures maps.
Vehicles on route will start to be removed 7am Sunday. Road closures start 6.30am but Virgin say vehicles can still move until 9.45am on Westferry Road if escorted. Access can re-open after 2pm but officially roads closed until 7pm.
It is not very clear but it does appear that Prestons roundabout is open (although a part is on the route) but your options are limited as Aspen Way & Cotton Street closed so you can only head east but I suggest you park outside of the area close to a DLR station if you have to use a car Sunday.
ISLE OF DOGS
There is no longer a dedicated vehicle lane along Westferry Road. Residents on the east and west side of Westferry Road will be able to exit onto Westferry Road and travel south to Manchester Road until 09:45 on Sunday 23 April. From 09:45 no vehicle movements will be possible until after 14:00.
Event motorcyclists, assisted by stewards, will be available to guide vehicles along Westferry Road when safe to do so before 09:45 or after 14:00 only. Residents will be unable to return to Westferry Road until the roads are fully reopened.
GREENWICH FOOT TUNNEL
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel will be open, however, it will be busy crossing south to north with queues anticipated. The Foot Tunnel will be closed north to south between 10:30-12:30. Alternative arrangements are in place on DLR services from Island Gardens.
The Marathon route through Canary Wharf is unchanged from 2016. Westferry Road and Heron Quays have ongoing building work and spectators should plan their visit. Shops, cafes, restaurants and transport links remain open
Vehicle removals across the whole route will start from 07:00 on Sunday 23 April.
Road closures in our area 06:30 until around 19:00 Sunday
East India Dock Tunnel
Limehouse Link Tunnel
Marsh Wall - I think there is emergency access only east side
Poplar High Street
Upper Thames Street
East Ferry & Aspen Way are not on the TfL list but it has to be closed as part of the route
Detailed road closure map
If you use the Met Police new online incident reporting website to share pictures with them you need to load the pictures/video onto a site they can access rather then downloading onto their site.
Left hand picture - Eastferry Road in distance with road warning signs. At time of incident I had replaced cones across the entrance. Range Rover avoided by driving from the left onto the pavement in the middle of picture
Right hand picture - is from Eastferry road after I had put cones back on the top left of picture.
Both pictures clearly show road closed signs and how Eastferry road was closed )or was meant to be closed) with a double set of cones & barriers, many of which had been moved illegally.
Middle picture is of vehicle dark green Range Rover Sport that at 22.13 hours Sunday 2nd April drove onto the pavement to avoid first set of cones and then stopped in road so that driver could move rest of the cones at the 2nd barrier.