In 1999, I moved to the highly marginal seat of Elmet on the outskirts of Leeds. I attended my first Elmet AGM with only the intention to do some volunteering but left an hour later Deputy Chairman Political. Since then, I have held virtually every position in the Voluntary Party culminating this year as Conference Chair. My journey has shown me that the members are the continuous bedrock of the Conservatives.
I'm proud of what I have achieved to help our members in my three years as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee. We have made a radical move in creating the CAMS outsourcing membership administration service and setting up a ‘text to join’ scheme. This has been coupled with the exciting prospects of Team 2015 and Roadtrip headed by Paul Abbott and Mark Clarke. We now have 50,000 activists who for the most part are not members of the Party but who want to be at the coalface of politics. With all these changes the Conservatives have managed to engage with a group of supporters who want a less ‘traditional’ form of membership. What would now be criminal is for us to lose these activists by offering them only one way to be a part of the Party.
I have a vision to adapt our membership model accommodating these new activists who currently do not sign up locally as members. They should be able to join centrally, and be renewed centrally, but also be recorded on Votesource so local Associations can contact them and invite them to events. However, their key source of communication would be from the new Team 2020, providing them with all the latest campaigning information and opportunities to travel around the country to campaign in our key political contests. Having spent a week on the Battlebus this year during the election, I saw the tremendous difference that experienced activists like these have on a marginal seat. We must make sure they continue to be a part of our campaigning.
Effective campaign organisations will keep the 50,000 activists engaged. When we are campaigning we must have the resources, voter targeting systems, and campaign managers to bring it all together. We must replicate the 40:40 model across the country to do this to make sure we can win all future elections whether they be Local, Mayoral or the various Assembly elections.
Lord Feldman’s review gives the Voluntary Party a unique opportunity to outline a vision that will continue to support our election success whilst ensuring the members remain the core of the Party. The Voluntary Party must be pro-active and prepared to set the agenda. Therefore, the next Chairman of the National Convention, apart from having a daunting task in taking over from the exceptional Emma Pidding, will need to play the key leadership role and make sure members are represented well throughout this review with the ideas I want to implement.
Rob Semple is standing to be the Chairman of the National Convention of the Conservative Party.