When you are a Parliamentary Candidate you get huge volumes of stuff - post, texts and e mails (mainly e mails now). Some of this is from residents, wanting your views on various things. Some is from organisations, wanting your views or wanting to persuade you of a particular point of view. And some is from Party Headquarters - briefings on how to answer various questionnaires and questions.
I know, from having been a party HQ volunteer during a General Election, that loads of work is put into providing these briefings.
But I have a confession to make. When it comes to briefings on how to answer questionnaires or residents' queries, I haven't read a single one.
I have been involved in the party long enough now to know what policy is and more importantly to be able to apply the principles we believe in to the issues that come up. And I've been around for long enough now to know what I think ( and boy do we Lib Dems like to think for ourselves!)
That's not to say the briefings aren't useful for some people. Being a candidate can be stressful and if you are new to it you need all the support you can get.
But I decided at the start of this Campaign that I would work out my own responses and on those rare occasions when they weren't our official policy I would say so.
Obviously as a Lib Dem I do agree with Lib Dem policies! But there are a few areas on which my view differs a little and in these cases I am happy to say so. I had a questionnaire the other day for example about troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. I'd like the troops to come back earlier than the timescale in our manifesto, so that's what I said.
I do also believe that the use of standard replies is wrong when constituents, or groups of constituents, have taken the trouble to produce a series of thought through questions that obviously matter to them.
Of course the downside of this approach is that I am spending more time than otherse writing e mails and letters but it is actually rather rewarding.