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Tuesday 19th February 2013 | 08:26
Behind in the polls, anecdotally losing ground on the ground*, a controversial candidate. Are things getting sticky for the Tories in Eastleigh?
Well, I’ve been passed an email showing that there could be more trouble ahead. The Tory party’s voter contact system has crashed and could be out of action for THREE WEEKS. The letter from co-chairman Andrew Feldman suggests that the blunder could not have come at a worse time.
The leaked email reads as follows:
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:56 PM
I am writing to let you know that the Party is currently experiencing problems with the operation of its MERLIN servers. At present, these servers are hosted by a third party company that has suddenly, and unexpectedly, gone into administration. We are working to find a solution to this problem which involves bringing the servers back in-house.
This is preventing the central database from replicating with your local MERLIN. However, this doesn't prevent you continuing to use your local version of MERLIN as normal.
· Continue to use their local MERLIN, entering campaigning and membership data as per normal. This data will be reconciled to the national database once the server issue is resolved.
· Report problems with MERLIN to the Helpdesk as normal.
The lack of replication may cause some MERLIN PC's to error. The MERLIN team have a manual fix, which can be applied before the server issue is resolved. Should you have any issues in this respect please report them to the Helpdesk.
Please be reassured that the team at CCHQ are taking every step possible to resolve this matter as soon as practicable.
If you require any further information or have additional issues to raise, please contact Paul Bolton, Deputy Director of Campaigning – ERM, at Paul.Bolton@Conservatives.com.
With best wishes,
And here's just one of the responses sent to Feldman:
This is a disaster, but one of which I am not surprised. This programme has been nothing a problem area from day one, caste your mind back to the last elections. And in the time since the problems have not been resolved. We now have this.
My concern is, is there any no fall back plan in the event of a problem such as this, apart from paper and pen.
Lets hope we have a creditable solution before it gets out in the public arena.
Cllr Colin Law - Oulton Broad Ward
Leader -Waveney District Council
Of course, emergency plans may be put in place for Easteligh (particularly if the local database is running OK). And with the Vicky Pryce jury set to return to its deliberations today (and Huhne's sentencing to follow - probably the day after), things could take a sharp turn in favour of the Tories.
But this can't help morale.
UPDATE: I'm told by CCHQ that the Merlin servers are now back up and running. Meanwhile, they have gone on the attack:
*FOOTNOTE: The Times today reports that polling for the UK Independence Party suggested that the Lib Dems had a lead of up to ten points over the Tories. But just as worrying perhaps, one Tory suggested that the gap was nearer seven points.
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