Thursday 23rd February
Another busy day started early with some good news for the team as we finally got a reply from National Secretary to our requests for confirmed nominations. Now that the deadline had passed to add new candidates to the online nomination page, Lorna Finn confirmed that we’d reached the 100 members from 20 branches threshold, although pointed out that members could also ‘ remove their nomination’ until Friday noon when nominations close – we thought it a strange thing for her to say at the time.
Later in the campaign this optional ‘edit function’ became more significant…
Our ‘How to Nominate’ video was having final edits, and would be released later that day, via our Ash Ambassador Network and on social media.
The 9 am, early team call started with some banter as we waited for some members to join. The team chat had contributions into the wee hours as there was so much to do. When AshVengers finally Assembled 😜 by 9.15 am, we ran through the day ahead, tomorrow’s media launch and the weekend plans for visiting the North East (that now included an invitation to Fraserburgh SNP on Sunday).
Our media grid was building but we were still flexing to reactive moments like the morning’s sudden announcement of Chief Inspector Livingston’s resignation. A quick online team discussion and response lines were prepared and approved to meet media asks. Bailey was bossing the media inbox like a pro by now and negotiating with journalists and production teams, like he’d been doing this for years, not less than a week!
An early morning interview with Holyrood Magazine was lined up as a great start to Ash’s day but the media pack were still trying to make a story of yesterday’s Diet Coke moment’ – when Ash walked in through Parliament lobby with Kirk Torrance and Robin McAlpine at each side. It made us all both giggle and eyeroll at what makes a story in Scottish politics these days!
We planned to raise the bar to address the issues that matter to the people of Scotland. That first required us to take control of the media narrative today by confirming that, our nominations threshold had been met, that Ash was a serious contender for leadership and FM and thanking the growing Ash Ambassador network for their support.
Then the Ciaran Jenkins ‘corridor dance’ happened…
Now, we must clarify that we do really like Ciaran and the Channel 4 News team but it’s never acceptable for the media to impede our elected members going about their Parliamentary business, even when there is a frenzy of activity in a leadership election. To be fair, the obstructing camera that added to the squeeze wasn’t Channel4 News, as they recorded the incident with their camera.
Ash was very uncomfortable at this sudden press pincer manoeuvre, which is daunting even to those who’ve experienced intrusive media. Added to that, to answer media questions on camera about a third party’s views on matters with potential legal ramifications, on the hoof is never wise, so Ash managed to escape the stramash and retreat to her office to prepare for FMQs.
This was a big media learning day for both Ash and the team.
While the media continued to scramble to get Ash on camera for comments, we continued to keep to plan, and keep Ash’s media appearances low key before our Friday media launch, once membership nominations had concluded the final ballot.
We planned an eve of launch exclusive with Kevin McKenna and chose the perfect spot to conduct this interview ‘in plain sight’.
We waited for Ash to arrive, watching the comings and goings of Holyrood from our sunny vantage point of the top steps of Dynamic Earth, with Kevin and Gordon from the Herald.
We decided to meet Kevin McKenna there for the interview as parking was easy, it was close to Parliament for Ash and critically, they had a decent canteen for our lunch. The wonderful Lynn from Ash’s constituency office was in Parliament and provided support to Ash as she navigated the media scrum after FMQs and joined us for lunch.
The weather was glorious and Kevin and his photographer Gordon, got some great outside shots, with Holyrood in the background. We met up with our campaign photographer Colin Fisher, there too as he’d been working at Parliament for FMQs. With outside photography complete, we all moved inside – fortuitously just as the canteen emptied of school kids and their packed lunches as they moved onto their next trip stop.
We selected a few quiet tables with a black curtain backdrop for Kevin’s interview with Ash and some photographs and ordered coffees for everyone.
Now Graeme and me have a political event nacho tradition, after he nearly choked on an inhaled nacho at one of our first event, just as we were about to get up to speak. Backslapping normally happens post-speech 😂 In line with tradition, we added a plate of nachos for the team to share, with our order of mac and cheese lunches!
Inside photographs done and the interview in full flow, we sat a couple of tables up and over lunch, had a good blether with Lynn from Ash’s constituency team on independence campaigning. Gordon, the photographer from the Herald, later entertained us over coffee, with his brilliant ‘pants’ story of his trip to see Sean Connery in his Bahamas home! Ask him if you see him 🤣
Ash and Kevin finished, what we all agreed was a great interview and we all looked forward to reading it later that night, as Kevin headed straight back to my home city of Glasgow, to ‘file the copy’ before tomorrow’s big Ash Regan campaign launch day.
We walked Ash and Lynn back to Parliament then Graeme and me went to collect the ‘vote Ash Regan’ launch posters, from a local print shop, that the team had ordered. Graeme then headed off to meet Kirk and Ash to finalise the speech for tomorrow while I headed home for a school parents evening.
The team chat was busy that evening with last minute details for tomorrow’s campaign launch, and a final read through of the speech. Ash Ambassadors had been invited, photography and video footage plans agreed, with Colin and Al, and copies of speeches and media run lists had been printed and packed into the car. Tomorrow was an early morning start.
I finally got to bed around 1.30am – I think most of the team did too. We were all buzzing for the campaign launch proper, in the morning!