Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Post UK Update

So I haven't updated this in quite some time and I am sure the masses have been waiting singularly for the return of this site. I am officially back from the UK, finished interning in Parliament, fought a British General Election Campaign, lost a British General Election Campaign, lived with my boss, got a new internship for the summer in Boston, and just started work last week.

In February I discontinued my blogging efforts temporarily because the Member of Parliament I was working for was a little paranoid about the idea of me blasting out potenitally sensitive information across the internet. As a concession though I was allowed to give his internet outreach a much needed update. In order to bring new media up to date in Eastbourne the campaign overhauled my MP's(Nigel Waterson) facebook, started managing press hits, as well as a number of tools tied in with the Conservative Party's voter identification software called Merlin. Despite coming up 3,500 votes short working the 2010 General Election was an incredible experience and one that has made me reevaluate some of the camapaigning techniques I have previously advocated. There truly is something electric about working a marginal seat in any country. Watching Nigel and his local team (supplemented of course with a bevy of past and present interns from London) pound the pavement to get out the vote and combat the most negative campaign I have ever seen on the part of his Liberal Democrat opponent Stephen Lloyd was truly inspiring. Combining the best and worst aspects of politics this race was (to paraphrase Cory Bookers 2004 Mayoral bid) a "Street Fight."

Although very different from working in Nigel's Westminister Parliamentary office I found the campaign trail to be a place of great opportunity for someone like myself. More specifically a willingness to work hard and quick thinking were valued over age and how long you had known the Boss. Although the first weeks were stressful as Nigel's Researcher Joel and I established the basic practices of the campaign and divided our duties. We did not overcome the administrative challenges we were faced with until about halfway through the campaign. However, with two weeks to go the campaign hit its stride and began playing offense instead of responding to the lies and smear tactics utilized by the Eastbourne Liberal Democrats. One major issues we were confronted with was getting campaign posters up and keeping them up. Within a day of putting posters up they were quickly torn down by our opponents (a practice Nigel forbade anyone in the campaign from taking part in). This issues got so bad that a former Lib Dem Councillor (local official)was arrested for harrasing our volunteers, attempting to bribe our volunteers, and destroying dozens of Conservative Party signs.

Polling day in the UK is just as hectic here in the States. The major difference I found was the emphasis on the ground game. The size of the modern American Congressional District makes door knocking extremely difficult and usually not terribly effective. Being a tenth of the size makes a Parliamentary Constituency not only walkable, but allows for micro targeting. Based upon returns from our representatives at each of the polling places Conservative Party Software generates "knock up lists" that give specific addresses for us to get out the pledged Conservative Vote. Despite losing Nigel earned 21,223, an INCREASE of 190 votes from 2005. With this in mind I would have to attribute Lloyd's increase of nearly 5000 votes to winning the youth vote as well as tactical voting on the part of Labour Party supports (with a 50% drop in support from 2005).

One of the most surreal experiences of the campaign was being present at the election night count, a process by which all of the votes are manually counted. Further building the tension, packets of 1000 votes are clothespinned together and placed on tables. The way the tables were arranged gave the impression that Nigel had not only won, but possibly increased his majority. However when the votes were tabulated it was clear we had been defeated. Each of the candidates stands on stage alongside their opponents and gives final remarks.

Just one day later I packed my Flat in Maida Vale off of the Warwick Avenue Tube Stop and headed to Heathrow for the long flight home. Volcanic ash extended my trip by a few hours but in the end I made it back to Boston. After a week in DC for CUA's graduation I was back in MA and ready to start my summer job as an Administrative Intern with Fidelity Investments in Boston.

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