Life and times of a Constituency Organizer including the rizograph problems...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

To be honest it's all a question of planning...

I should remember that myself more often.

I planned on getting out of work today at about half 6 but then dicked about on Facebook for twenty minutes. This led me to losing bus-roulette again...

Until 7 the 121 Bus is every ten minutes like clockwork but after 7 any timetabling is trusted at your own risk. You may as well be loading the gun, spinning the barrel and spitting in Ivan the angry Russian's face.

Tonight though the gun had been cocked a little early. I got to the bus stop at about ten to 7, and I had evidently just missed the last regular one because another one didn't come in the next half hour... At which point I decided to chance it. I jumped on the 289 knowing that I'd then have to jump off at a junction and run round the corner to get another bus, this would probably be the 313 and save me time BUT if I was unlucky it would be the 121 and so cost me more money for no time saving... I think we all know which way this is going...

Within a couple of minutes of getting to the second bus stop the fucking 12-fucking-1 turned up! So I paid twice for the privelage of waiting half an hour for the bus to take me home... I had successfully lost bus roulette once again and my commuting brains were splattered all over the Ivan's grinning face as he went through my pockets for vodka money... I always lose the bus game.

But at least I didn't lose the will to live like I did last night. Yep, thats right I was lucky enough to go to the Enfield Council Labour Group Meeting!!!!! Arrive early to guarantee disappointment!

The Agenda in a ridiculous fit of optimism predicted the meeting to end at 9.30. It didn't finish till about half ten. To begin with it was useful because it allowed me to put faces to the names I'd been harrassing on the phone for the last two weeks and also to make character-assasinating notes on them too! But after that was over I just had to endure...

It was about 9 when the issue of planning came up. They were discussing an opposition debate they were proposing on the 'Future of Enfield' and the 'Town Plan' when Planning itself reared its ugly head.

What followed was a series of diatribes on the issue, ranging from legal definitions and recitals of standing orders to vicious attacks on the 'depoliticization of the issue of planning' and heart-felt cries that Planning Policy should be at the very centre of Socialist thinking on the Council, and in the middle plenty of bickering about what a Socialist Planning Policy should consist of.

I admit to some depression when this was going on. I mean we all know what Councils and Planning means: giving or denying permission for Conservatories or Satellite Dishes. And 90% of the time this is the case.

But the sting in the Council House-shaped tail is that the other 10% is really important. It was Councils that scarred our towns with Tower Blocks in the 60s, its Councils who pedestrianize High Streets, inflict one-way systems, decide what shopping centres are built and which Housing Estates can go where and what they should contain. Local Councils shape our communities and one of the most profound ways they do this is through Planning.

So despite my utter despair part of me was quite proud that these men and women were using their free time to argue about the Politics of Planning. I can't imagine a Tory group doing that. It would get in the way of all the Claret sloshing and Public School petting...

Luckily after the meeting ended me and a few Councillors went to the Pub so at least this post has a happy ending.

Almost like I planned it that way...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Being too slow...

I suppose I should comment on the weekend's disappointments.

I can't feel too bad though, although several people pulled out I had half a dozen door knockers Sunday mornng and 20 people came along to the Coffee morning so that was okay.


Oh, right yeah, the sporting catastrophes, well the Rugby passed me by abit as I was too busy stuffing myself silly at bit of a dinner party at the house of some Turkish-Cypriot members, none of whom knew the rules of Rugby but all of whom seemed to care about the result much more than me. I did try and tell them that as Socialists they should take more interest in the working man's Rugby or Rugby League as its known but that seemed to pass everyone...

As for Lewis Hamilton well, I think I'd best remain silent...

Except to say he was abit slow wasn't he? I mean seventh? Come on! He could drive London buses at that pace!

On that note I should point out I haven't been chucked off a bus in the wrong place for a few days now so naturally I fear the worst for tomorrow. Still I have been enjoying the much more reliable thrill of waiting in the cold and wet for half an hour waiting for the 121 in the evenings. All the more fun for the scum outside the bar next door standing around having a fag or a fight (they appear to decide which by some sort of elaborate randomized pacing system. Between 2 and 12 paces from the door a fight becomes likely). In fact it was such delights this evening that made me late for the lowlight of my week so far:

A Council meeting to decide the position of Polling Stations.

I hadn't been planning on atending, in fact I blessedly didn't know such a meeting existed until about four this afternoon. Then the phone rang.

'Hello' (said in a brisk manner. All friendliness in answering the phone has been driven out of me like people drive out of warzones; quickly, painfully and with alot of crying)
'Hi George, its Toby Simon' (a local Councillor and a nice chap)
'Hi Toby what can I do for you?' (said nicely and politely because I want him to come door knocking on Sunday)
'I just thought, its the Electoral Arrangements Committee tonight and we're discussing where Polling Stations will be placed and I thought you might find it useful. If you have plans don't cancel them but if not...'
He trailed off as I had started laughing. I had - in a knee-jerk kinda way - assumed this was a joke, but as I stopped laughing and realised he hadn't said anything else it dawned on me he was serious.
'Err yeah, well I suppose I could (you better canvass your ass off after this!!!) what time and where?'
'Thats great at the Civic Centre at half seven.'
Okay I'll see you there.' And then I wept, pretty much until it was time to get the bus.

The meeting was however the shortest Council meeting I've ever seen. Only half an hour! This was helped by the fact that one of the Labour Councillors was late and so there was no point in long debate on each point as the Tories could always just go 'Yeah well there's more of us than you so NAH-NA-NAH-NA-NAH-NAH!!!' Which is pretty much what they did.

Still you could tell that had things been even I'd still be there. Listening to them drone on and on. The vast majority of the Councilllors were in jumpers and looked like they'd been on the Council for about 70 decades (not that I'm stereotyping here). One bragged that he'd been the Tory Agent for over twenty five years (I did consider saying that as he hadn't won much in the last ten years shouldn't he consider resigning but that would of been asking for it). Most of the time I wasn't listening, but just made eyes at the pretty blonde Council worker taking the minutes instead... To be honest I think its fair to say it wasn't a jumping party.

Still thats the thing about Democracy, it takes some really boring, really stupid and really fucking pedantic stuff to keep it all running. And it may be slow and really sodding tear-your-own-arm-off-and-beat-yourself-to-death-with-it-to-liven-things-up dull but thats what it takes. You rush this type of thing and as they've just found out in Scotland it all fucks up! So I suppose being slow sometimes is an advantage...

Just not if you're a Formula 1 Driver.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The first week: A long time in politics...

A week is a very long time in politics.

Especially when you extend it by only sleeping a few hours a night and working every hour you're awake.

A week is also a long time to be crapping yourself.

To be quite honest mentally (and at many times physically) that week I was feeling looser than XXXL slacks on an anorexic.

The first two days were blind panic. Phoning people I didn't know begging for help, photos, explanations, paper or help and not getting very far with any of it. At the end of my first day I worked for a few more hours and then went home. I had been planning on meeting a friend who had started a cushy city job on that same day in town for a drink but I texted him some incomprehensible gibberish about not having the ability to leave the office for anything but sleep.

The problems I was having were made all the more great by the facts that the people in the Parliamentary office were all on holiday. This was especially annoying as they had most of the contact details for people I was meant to be talking to about the calander shots. Another few issues were that Joan was on the PM's business in Cyprus, the guy meant to be training me (and two other new Organizsers) was busy trying to pull a General Election campaign out of his arse and Clare the Caseworker who also works in the Office couldn't help me because her and my illustrious predecessor hadn't got on to put it mildly and so she didn't know anything about my job.

Day 2 saw me get my first volunteer to come in and help out at the office, freeing me up to try and get a handle on my job, until 2 anyway when I had to leave for a Strategy meeting in Portcullis House, which I turned up to about half an hour late for (bastard Victoria line!) It then proceeded to go on until half 8...

On one side of the table the three new organizers; John at Harlow who had been in the job a month, Emily at Mitcham and Morden who had started the Friday before and me who had started yesterday. On the other side some at various time were former General Secretaries, National Campaign Co-ordinators and other vastly experienced people and they just mentally pummelled us with what we were to do over the next three weeks. I don't think I've ever felt so totally inadequate for five and a half hours before, mainly because I normally roll over and fall asleep about five minutes later, but also because I usually feel pretty good about what I'm expected to do.

But this was different.

Very SODDING different!

The fact that the Strategy meeting went on for about seventeen years also meant that I - very helpfully - missed meeting my landlady for the first time. Especially good as she was already half way there byu the time I got a message to her that I was not going to be there...

The next couple of days though - to the surprise of pretty much everybody - went well. Even when it was discovered that a mailing to every constituent in Enfield North about the local Hospital hadn't been sent to half a sodding Ward it didn't screw things up too badly.

By the end of Thursday I had 11 photo shots organized all over Enfield for Friday, had spoken to the Executive meeting and felt like to quote myself I had 'found the paddle and would soon be out of the creek!' And then Friday went well too... Joan was back the photographer was great and despite we all went all day without a meal we had some fun... It was almost as if I was getting the hang of this...

Saturday we went door knocking and then me and Joan were discussing the campaign. Tory conference had galvanised the opposition and they had hauled back most of our lead in the polls. Then Joan got a phone call, ten mintues later James phones me. And as simple as that it was all off!

So I went out for a pint.

A week over and I had survived, the next week started tomorrow.

And the fuck ups would be free-fucking-flowing!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Day 1: Any Questions?

The alarm on my phone went off like a bandsaw being revved up in my skull. Not that the opening Bass of a Jamiroquai was unappreciated but the phone was also vibrating on the bedside table shuddering along like a mechanical slug.

I pulled my eyes open and turned it off. Yep, it was time to get up on my first day alright!

The first day of a job is normally quite a stress for me anyway but when that new job could mean throwing you into the heart of a General Election campaign in what amounts to one of the key marginals in the country it - I have to admit - added an extra edge to the day's proceedings.

Having not slept all that well getting up was a challenge but as I shuffled out the door at 8 lack of sleep wasn't at the top of my concerns. The likelihood of a bloody election had been growing ever since I had accepted the bloody job about a month before but it still didn't seem possible. Okay so we had a ten point lead in the polls but the Scotish Labour MPs had come out against and there were plenty of good reasons not to go.

I mean there are plenty of good reasons why the last November election had been in the 30's (and only then because the National Government had collapsed), the fact that it goes DARK at 5pm, the fact that its bloody COLD and bloody WET!

I got to work at just after 9 but James (the guy training me and who funnily used to have this job...) was late so I waited in a cafe brooding over a cup of tea.

Phone rings.

'Hi George, I'm here on the car park behind the office, meet you here.'

Hangs up.

Alright then, when I walk onto the car park James is stood there furiously texting something on his phone.

'Hi George, right I've gotta go after this morning but I'll show you the ropes first.'

That didn't exactly sound like the greatest amount of training but it appeared something more serious was going on. I could only nervously smile and nod like some sort of retarded mute.

Once in the office he rounded on me once again.

'Right these are your keys, also the keys to Celbic Hall (the first time I'd heard of the place) and this is your office. This is your intray (overflowing with mail) hasn't been emptied for a few days, going through this stuff is your bread and butter alongside inputting on Labour.Contact, thats on your computer there...'

This went on like this for some time. Not enough time for it to register or sink in but quite some time nonetheless. I should point out there was also alot of swearing... In fact if you swap every piece of punctuation I've written for a 'Fuck!' you'd be close to the reality...

'Right any questions so far?'
'Err yeah, the reason I was starting today was so I could have a handover week with Chris, but he's not here... Has something happened?'
James stared at me for a second hatred in his eyes (I wasn't sure if that was aimed at me or somerthing else)
'One piece of advise George. The worst thing as an Organizer you can do is say you've done something when you haven't... Don't ever do that, don't lie, if something goes wrong tell people. Don't do a Chris okay?!?!?'
'Errr sure, okay.'
'Right, ever used a Rizograph? No okay...' At which point I was taught (I use the word loosely) how to use all the bits of office machinery.

'Right, this Friday you need to organize a bunch of photo shots for Joan for her Calander or for the election, this is the list of shots...' and then he gave me a quick list of phone numbers of useful members and people to call. 'Okay so I've got to go, you okay? Great I'll give you a call later.'
'Err, before you go, how likely is it? The election I mean...'
'I'd say about 80% (Fuck), give me a call if you get in any trouble.'

And with that he was off.

So then, there was no-one in the Parliamentary Office, Joan was in Cyprus till Friday and I had to start organizing the Election Campaign for Friday and I've already lost half a day...


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello from Enfield!

I just read that Lewis Hamilton - the novice F1 Driver who has been wowing the world this year - is 22.

I'm 22.

So to sum up Lewis Hamilton - who IS 22 - is already a very wealthy F1 Driver and is on the cusp of history and being crowned the best and fastest driver in the world and I am fighting a losing battle with a paper folding machine and eating far too many kebabs...

Where did it all go wrong?

Well I suppose his first error was starting with the racing. School boy mistake. But you can't judge him too harshly, I mean the exciting and interesting world of the Constituency Organizer isn't for everyone, some people prefer to be rich, successful and not work over 12 hours a day for 16 days in a row without training... But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This first post is all about saying hello and and telling you that since leaving Brussels I am now working, living - and even playing - in exciting Enfield! It's also about explaining why Lewis Hamilton will be wondering what might of been this weekend when he's balancing his trophy on one knee with a Brazillian glamour model on the other...

In this blog you'll read all about the amazing things I get up to. To give you a sneak preview it will include deep political analysis of key issues like does the photocopier have a soul and if so does it hate me? Where is the logic in leafleting one side of a road and not the other? Why does the 121 bus always say its going to Enfield Lock outside my office and then spew me out in Enfield Highway instead EVERY OTHER BASTARD TIME!!! Oh and hilarious trivialities such as saving a community's Hospital, visiting new schools and reunifing Cyprus.

But anyway, back to Lewis. The thing is that although he may BE materially happy, wildly successful and no doubt sexually satisfied (have you seen those girls on the starting grid! They aren't hired for their Umbrella holding skills!!!) is he happy? My thought is no. You see to have achieved what he has means that he's obviously highly driven (no pun intended) and to be THAT driven probably means he'll never be happy with what he's got. In fact he'll never be happy.

Me on the other hand, well I'm just happy if I survive a day without shredding my hand in the bowels of the Rizograph like a Dickensian street-urchin and then getting home and passing out on my bed before midnight. Thats RIGHT! Easily pleased, urgo a happy individual!


No really!

Oh just sod off then! I hope Alonso stuffs him!!! You happy now!?!?!?!?