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Cllr Victoria Borwick AM is London Assembly Member and Statutory Deputy Mayor.

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 15.11.06I would like to
commend the organisers of the Conservative Renewal Conference in Windsor last
Saturday.  An informal gathering enabling delegates to hear, debate and
discuss ideas from a broad range of speakers.  It was wonderful to be away
from the frenetic body searches, and expense of Conference – is this the way
forward?

Far from shunning such
grass roots activity, the Party should actively be encouraging local
conferences of this nature – if we as a Party want to engage with our
supporters who enjoy the opportunity of debate then every local association, particularly in those areas where we have less support, should be encouraged to
run their own mini-conferences.  These should be supported by the offer of
excellent speakers from the Party.

Windsor attracted
about 50 speakers on a broad range of topics, including a thoughtful debate on
“what should be the nature of the UK’s new relationship with the EU”, and a good
debate on immigration – how refreshing that this is now a subject that we can
discuss without rancour.  Two sessions on how to improve our campaigning
including hearing about new Kanto software for real time canvassing, data
collection and telling – long overdue innovations to making sure we use our
volunteers better.  Yes, there are Conservatives out there who want to win
and make sure we have the tools to do it.  There were also everal breakout sessions,
including on our arts policy, and a well attended session on “marriage and the
family”

In spite of the array
of speakers, I gather that front bench spokesman were barred from coming to
share their vision on their portfolios – a great shame, as I think they would
have been well received in a friendly positive atmosphere.  No doubt they
may have received some “constructive challenge”, but from those who wish them
success in the long term -not backstabbing colleagues who cannot wait to usurp
their position.


So who
attended?   Although visitors came from far and wide, the vast
majority were within an hour’s travelling time with a good smattering of local
members, and that is why this is a format that we should repeat around the
country.  Get our messages out locally and enthuse people to come and
share ideas and have the opportunity of contributing to policies and
campaigning initiatives.

If we as a Party care
about encouraging our supporters then let us meet together, break bread
together, and encourage people to join our tent, listen to debate in a
relaxed environment, give your views – I heard members of the audience say to a
speaker  “I don’t agree with your view,  what about ……” – and
voicing their alternative.   When did we last have that sort of
debate at Conference?  I believe these more informal occasions are good
for the Party, and say “come and join the Party that cares what you
think”.  An active Party with a vibrant and thriving membership is a
winning party – who is going to take up that challenge?

Come on, CCHQ – this is
something you should be encouraging, and commending associations for promoting
localism, let’s build up a network of these events – the old format of Party
Conference is too long and too expensive.  Although I shall be making my
way to Manchester, I know that others will give it a miss.

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