With the election campaign now becoming something of a distant memory, I wanted to take a moment to have an objective assessment of the role that Conservative Future played in the election.
A sum total of approximately 3,100 hours were put in by Conservative Future members through London Conservative Future organised days. If we are to take a very conservative estimate of 3 canvass returns achieved per hour, we have almost 10,000 canvass returns being accounted for by the efforts Conservative Future members.
One Labour target seat where the Conservatives defied the odds was in Croydon Central. Having been tipped by the bookies and pollsters to lose the seat, Gavin Barwell clung on by a wafer thin margin of 165 votes. This was largely down to one of the most well organised local campaigns I have ever seen. But here, Conservative Future also had a role to play. In this seat, London Conservative Future clocked up approximately 500 hours on the ground during the campaign in addition to delivering 35 people to help get out the vote on polling day.
So, how were we able to motivate such large numbers of activists to come out on a regular basis for the duration of the campaign? Many were motivated by the threat of what would have been the most radical left wing government our generation would have known. But this on its own wasn’t enough to mobilise people in the kind of numbers required.
The support of Central office was also crucial. Although many of the candidates I helped in 2010 would often dig deep in to their own pockets to buy a round of drinks at the pub after campaigning, this was the first time we knew that we had our own budget to buy a few rounds at the end of every single campaign session. This both added a social element as well as showing a bit of gratitude for people giving up a good chunk of their Saturday or evenings in the week.
Improvements in our own infrastructure helped extend our reach with London Conservative Future almost trebling its Facebook following in six months and growing the size of the mailing list threefold. Communication was instrumental in ensuring we reached everyone who had even the slightest potential interest in helping to achieve a Conservative victory. The London Universities also mobilised admirably, with London Universities Conservatives coming together and actively taking the lead on several days.
There was also a focus on pulling in high calibre speakers or holding some kind of event, such as pub quizzes or, later on in the campaign, ‘Watch Parties’ for the leaders debate. This helped make every single campaign day seem like an occasion rather than a trudge.
The final element was a very relaxed attitude to membership. Of course we weren’t going to ask people to produce their membership card to come and campaign. But nor did we for a lot of the fun, non-campaign activities we hosted such as debates, dinners, and conferences. People were free to come along and see if they liked what they saw, make new friends and, hopefully, come out and help us campaign at some point. Many of the people who joined us out on the campaign trail started out by coming along to one of our events and getting to know people in a relaxed environment. This gave us a pool of 2,000+ people to invite out for our campaigning activities. Some became regular and avid campaigners, while others only joined us once or twice. It all made a difference.
Luke Springthorpe is Chairman of London Conservative Future
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