Rob Semple is Chairman of the National Conservative Convention
We can all agree that this has been a truly momentous year in politics. As we move into 2017, the Conservative Party has strong leadership and a clear sense of purpose. Whilst we look to the future, the Labour Party is — in contrast — divided, distracted, and out of touch.
The National Conservative Convention (NCC) met at the Conservative Party conference in October, and voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Party Review recommendations. For those not familiar with the NCC, it is the representative body of the Party’s membership. We should not be surprised by this support, as the recommendations were a direct product of 18 months of consultation and refinement, in which Party members participated in their thousands. This shows what can be achieved by listening to, and engaging with the members to ensure that it is they who drive change in the Party.
The decision to move towards central administration of membership is key to progress. It moves us in line with virtually all other UK-wide institutions, and will allow us the opportunity to deliver a better membership experience, with far greater emphasis placed on interaction between those who lead our Party and the members. It will also enable the Party to run far more effective national recruitment campaigns, whilst ensuring that members remain part of their local Associations.
By gaining approval for extending Association officer terms from three years to five years, and moving Association AGM dates from March to July, the Party is adapting to the new electoral cycle created by fixed-term parliaments.
We are already in the process of agreeing to the first Multiple Constituency Association trials. This voluntary initiative is, in addition to its many other benefits, one way we can look to adapt to constituency boundaries changing more frequently in light of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. The Government’s commitment to introducing fairer constituencies of equal electorate size is surely a principle that all Conservatives will support.
Revisions to the rules on the selection of local government candidates will be discussed by the Candidates Committee in January, as requested by the Convention, thus progressing a further important item in the Review.
The planned recruitment of apprentice campaign managers gives a clear indication that our focus will be on campaigning in the run up to 2020. By starting this initiative now, it allows us time to develop the necessary infrastructure across the country.
Finally, I know that the introduction of candidate bursaries, championed by the Party Chairman, has already been discussed. Our aim is to have the scheme in place for candidates standing in 2020. This shows our determination to make it easier for people from all walks of life to stand as a Conservative candidate.
At their core, these proposals will allow the Party to adapt to a changed political landscape. When it comes to fighting elections, our aim must always be to be as good as we can be.
Finally, may I use this opportunity to wish all ConservativeHome readers a very happy Christmas and new year.