Isabel Hardman

Tories run two rickety databases in target seats

Tories run two rickety databases in target seats
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The Conservatives are running two voter databases, neither of which are fully functioning, in their key constituencies, Coffee House has learned.

The party had been trying to get rid of its frail database Merlin, which keeps breaking during by-elections and at other crucial moments, in time for the General Election. But it hasn’t quite managed it yet, and is instead running Merlin alongside a new, but not fully-tested, database called VoteSource.

Candidates in target seats say VoteSource is currently working for them, but that it is lacking some of the functions it was supposed to have by this point and they do not know how it will cope with big changes in data. They are running their data on both Merlin and VoteSource in case one breaks. One constituency campaign team is considering reverting to keeping its data on a card system in case both break.

It is rather late in the day to be running two rickety databases in an election that’s all about the fights in individual seats, and where Labour has the upper hand when it comes to the ground war (while the Tories have the upper hand when it comes to the air war and spending power). When I approached CCHQ for a comment, they declined.

P.S. Another candidate gets in touch to say that his campaign planning includes 'actions on CCHQ f***ing up our data', such as backing up in other formats. In 2010, the campaigners ended up using Google documents to share canvass sheets after they realised CCHQ's systems were sending them to the wrong doorsteps. The fury among candidates who are trying to do a very difficult job of winning seats when their party is in government is quite something. One says: 'They need a rocket. Three months out from the most important election in yonks is not the time to launch new platforms. Complete incompetence. Our team is furious.'

It's worth noting that this broken database problem has yawned back over many elections for the Tories, so they should hardly be surprised that they're going into yet another battle under-equipped. Rupert Myers also wrote about the woeful lack of data in the Eastleigh by-election leading to activists calling dead people. One activist says that in 2010 the data in his seat was so bad that on polling day he was sent to knock on Andrew Rawnsley's door, rather than getting out the Tory vote.