Roll Call: At the Races

October 14, 2022 | Blog Post

Shop talk: Nick Vaughan

Vaughan recently joined Bullpen Strategy Group in London, after previously working on UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ leadership campaign and for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Starting out: Vaughan said he was 17 and preparing for his A levels when he decided to seek out his local young conservatives organization. “Went to the local office and I joined the Young Conservatives and the answer was, well you’re it,” he said. “So that was my start. It was essentially Nick Vaughan by himself was a young conservative in the provincial city called Hereford starting up the Young Conservatives from scratch.”

Most unforgettable campaign moment: Staffing both Johnson and Truss led to many memorable events on the road, he said. “Boris is one of these politicians that loves going out and meeting people, and I think one of the most memorable moments was up in Scotland, on High Street, and we just found out from our police protection that there were protesters with lots of empty milkshake cups, filling up their cups of milkshake [to throw on him], and Boris was still planning to go walk down High Street despite all those protesters,” he said. Vaughan was able to persuade Johnson not to walk that route, so that he wouldn’t potentially get hit, which had previously happened in the UK. Other times, protesters laid down in the road in front of Johnson’s car or glued themselves to Johnson’s campaign bus, and it took hours to remove their hands. “Obviously, my role is to make sure that everyone is safe … and obviously, in the UK, you obviously have the right to protest. So you’ve got the scary moments, you’ve got the funny moments and a lot of sort of variation.”

Biggest campaign regret: Negative campaigning is becoming a bigger feature of UK politics, Vaughan said, something he isn’t the biggest fan of. “The biggest regrets I’ve had over the years is falling into that trap of not trying to sort of keep your head above water,” he said. “Clearly I’ve made mistakes over the years on campaigns — we all have — but I think, for me, the biggest thing I don’t like about our politics at the moment, and it’s emerging more and more, is negative campaigning and negative politics. So maybe those occasional moments when I didn’t stand up on that stuff.”

Unconventional wisdom: Being transparent and honest are both important, he said. “If you can be completely transparent in everything that you do, whether it’s an email that you write, a conversation that you have or generally how you present yourself with people, if people disagree or people don’t agree, or people you do agree with, I think that’s the No. 1,” Vaughan said. “With public affairs and comms, who you’re representing, why you’re doing it, what are the benefits, what are the negatives of what you’re trying to do. I think that’s something that’s very often forgot, that if you’re transparent with people and they know exactly where you’re coming from and you’re honest. … I think those are sort of the big two. That’s how I’ve tried to play it with my career in politics, but also in PA and comms.”