Paul Abbott

Paul Abbott is Chief Executive of Conservative Way Forward and an Associate Director at Portland Communications.

I have spent the last four weeks tilting at the windmills of membership, IT systems, candidates, and Associations. And to be blunt, I was quite content to leave it there.

But, last week, it occurred to me that there was something else substantive to say. I had missed out a whacking great area! Namely: the duty of the broader Conservative movement to help and to amplify the work of CCHQ and Associations.

Yes, we have a right to expect that our campaign structures should work well, and should make our lives easier. But, we also have a responsibility to our Party. Activism is a two-way street. We have to uphold our end of the bargain:

  • We should show up, when needed.
  • We should join in.
  • We should donate.
  • We should be kind to each other.
  • And, we should solve more of our problems ourselves: rather than demanding that others do the heavy lifting.

Lord Feldman’s Party Review is much to the good. It is hugely needed. It is serious. It is timely. But we should not imagine that it will result in a central campaign machine so awe-inspiringly efficacious – so automatically lethal – that we will all be free to sip Pina Coladas on the sidelines, while an almighty Facebook-message-targetothon squeezes millions of votes automatically into the Conservative column. Quite the opposite. We will need more leaders and organisers in the future, if only to replace those who are retiring today.

We will need a bigger Conservative movement: in other words, and I believe we should build it using the only economic system that really works – private enterprise.

Take Conservative Friends of Israel, for example. Stuart Polak has spent the better part of his lifetime building it up to run educational projects – and it is wonderful to see that he will soon be awarded a peerage for his efforts.

ConservativeHome is another good example. A blog like this – for obvious reasons – could never be financed from central campaign funds. And yet it exists. Thank goodness!

There are many other examples: the Conservative Christian Fellowship, the Margaret Thatcher Centre, British Tamil Conservatives, the United and Cecil Club, Women to Win, and others. But the principle is this: the basic Conservative argument never changes, and it always needs to be made anew – in person – to every new generation. Therefore, we should all contribute in our own small way to building a broader national movement, even if all we can spare is chipping in a few quid to our local Association.

For the doubters out there, consider this magnificent call-to-arms from The Conservative Clubs Gazette, in November 1935:

“Conservative Clubmen are not likely to forget what the last Socialist Administration cost them in the way of additional taxation and the imposition of burdens… The Socialist [Labour] Party is now full of tub-thumpers, faddists, and teetotal cranks… It is of paramount importance therefore that candidates should be returned who can be relied upon to see that justice is done to us. These are not to be found in the ranks of Liberals or Socialists!”

Glorious stuff. And quite right too.

The membership of Conservative clubs was then around half a million strong, in 1935. Half a million! These were independent businesses, co-operating freely, building up a Conservative movement across the country – and sending large delegations to Party Conference every year. British voters came for the cheap beer, but stayed (occasionally) for the politics. And they were all privately run. An inspiring thought.

24 comments for: Paul Abbott: The Party has duties to us – and we have duties to the Party too

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