Liam Walker is the Chairman of Witney Conservative Future
Young activists played a vital role in the General Election earlier this year but the organisation set up to represent their views has lost its way. To properly become the campaigning force that is needed to counter the surge in membership and supporters for the Labour party, and to successfully represent the views of its members Conservative Future must live up to its name and resume pursuit of its founding objectives.
When people think of Conservative Future members they perhaps default to students and graduates, and while many of our members fall within this category the age range to qualify as a ‘CFer’ is from 14 to 30. There are thousands of members classed as ‘CF’ by their associations simply because they are under 30, when in reality those at the upper end of the age spectrum feel they have little or nothing in common with those at the other end, or indeed in the middle.
While clearly asking one organisation to cater for such a wide and ultimately diverse age range was always going to be a tough ask, we can and must do better to represent our members. Separate groupings of students, postgrads and young professionals designed to represent the differing views and interests of these members have fallen by the wayside in recent years and we are now all unhelpfully ‘lumped in’ together.
The interaction between these disparate groups and those that represent them must be re-addressed and restructured. Leaders of the organisation and most importantly the Party leadership as a whole must cease treating CF membership as a homogenous group.
In the wave of support of from young activists within the Labour Party and tens of thousands of new supporters drawn to the Corbyn cause, Conservatives face their biggest challenge in terms of campaigning for the foreseeable future.
Labour Students, the primary organisation of young Labour supporters and indeed the Labour Party more widely are a campaign force to be reckoned with. We saw this in the general election with marginal seats flooded with Labour activists and Conservative Associations outgunned and outmanned. We should not be complacent in coming elections, we should not underestimate the challenge we face with ‘boots on the ground’ campaigning and we should be seeking to build up our ranks.
To do this we should address several things:
- Be aware and appreciative of those willing to give up their own time to set up and/or Chair a CF branch and ensure they have the support to do so. Ageing associations often do not have the knowledge or resource to help with this and it is other members with prior experience from around the country that should be on hand to lend their knowledge.
- Work with the party to have our own campaign team and boost regional networks. Campaigning is most effective when activists are local people in local seats, regional CF networks outside of London are in need of revitalisation to facilitate this.
- Entrench proper systems of review: Hold regular meetings across the country along with the national CF conference for members to engage with their representatives.
- Consider our offering – CF members are all too often seen solely as campaign infantry, we need to re-evaluate what we offer potential members and bring back some of the fun to the organisation and to being a member.
- Conservative Future must regain its voice – There is nobody else to represent the views of young members of the party and the organisation should take that responsibility with a greater degree of seriousness than it has done previously.
At gatherings of young Conservative members the lamenting of our place within the wider party is often a topic of discussion; why we are not taken seriously, why are our views not listened to, and why are our representatives not held in higher esteem? All valid and all too easy to answer looking at the organisation as it is today. To be taken seriously again, to move forward, and to truly live up to our name, Conservative Future must remember its origins and counter these questions with action in the strongest possible way.