Mark Clarke is the Founder of the RoadTrip2015 campaign. Previously, he was PPC in Tooting in 2010.
This weekend is the last before the must-win Newark by election. We have a candidate with a strong campaigning record, and we have been working hard. The Prime Minister has repeatedly visited, as have the Cabinet and MPs. But we need more people to help deliver and canvass.
That is the purpose of the RoadTrip2015 day this Saturday to Newark. Coming from all over the country that morning, we will converge on Newark for 1pm and campaign all afternoon. Led by six Cabinet Ministers, we will canvass and deliver to the entire constituency. Afterwards, we will have a great night out in Nottingham.
The genesis of RoadTrip2015
This will be the sixth RoadTrip. I founded RoadTrip2015 after seeing in Tooting in 2010 how the unions bussed in hundreds of activists to swamp us. No association alone can compete with this. Afterwards I and others promised to do our part to ensure that no Conservative MP or candidate would stand alone. Inspired by Grant Shapps’ concept of Team2015, we wanted to create a campaign force that was fun, integrated members and non-members, supportive of the party but movement led – truly, a grassroots insurrection.
We had our first day in the West Midlands in Cannock Chase. In a swirling hailstorm we had 50 people out all day. We then went to Harlow and had 75 people helping Rob Halfon – who himself led the after-party until midnight. In the North West we had 80 people to assist Stephen Mosley in Chester and Mary Robinson in Cheadle – with MEP candidate Dan Hamilton and Sajjad Karim MEP leading the way. In Enfield we had 130 people out to help Nick de Bois – personally led by Grant Shapps.
The days have two campaigning sessions, followed by a sponsored bar, a free curry and drinks into the night. We facilitate accommodation, and we arrange transport for those travelling long distances. We want people’s time, not to make them pay to campaign.
Our team of activists have been assembling from across the UK on these key seats for the past five months, and over that time friendships have been forged and memories made. We have brought in hundreds of people to campaign, some for the first time, many of whom enjoy themselves so much on these days that they return again and again.
What started as ramshackle operation has now expanded to two dozen organisers across the country, with CF increasingly integrated, and Manchester and London hubs. Key in the beginning were Conservative warriors who provided generous seed funding – Alex Deane, of this parish; Kulveer Ranger, formerly of team Boris; Donal Blaney of Conservative Way Forward; and Patrick Sullivan of Parliament Street.
Integrating with Team2015
Now our operations are transformed by closer integration with Grant Shapps’ Team2015. As a long term volunteer, I was sceptical of the Team2015 database – until I used it. There are thousands of names of people willing to help and linked to seats. Grant, who always believed in what we were trying to do, ensured that we had the full support of Team2015 and CCHQ. We find that 25 per cent of our attendees come from that database.
Our volunteers run Facebook events and Eventbrites, make videos, run our Twitter account, and organise telephone sessions to activate people. We experiment to drive up turn out. For example, Grant suggested that we have MPs contact people before the day to thank them in advance for coming. This simple innovation converted our confirmed / actual attendance ratio from a respectable 70 per cent to an astonishing 95 per cent.
We are beating Labour at their own game. Their similar Three Seats Challenge has run the same number of days as us at an average of 50 activists vs our 80 activists. Naturally, as Conservatives, we work harder than Labour, doing four hours to their three – resulting in 1700 RoadTrip2015 campaigning man hours to Labour’s 800 campaigning man hours.
Our success is due to the blend of activists, movement leaders, CCHQ, Team2015, local associations and MPs all working together. We know it works – in Enfield we delivered the entire constituency and canvassed a whole ward.
Come to Newark!
Do you want to be a part of this movement? If so, join us, Grant Shapps and the hundreds of people signed up this Saturday to come to Newark. Afterwards, join Eric Pickles for the inaugural annual RoadTrip2015 dinner (a free curry) in nearby Nottingham. We will take care of your travel from cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and York.
Why not go further? Follow York Tories’ example and bring 15 people in a minibus. Echo Manchester CF and bring 20 people in five cars. Do what London Region and Syed Kamall are doing and put on a coach to bring 50 people. Copy Theodora Dickinson with her Oxford and Abingdon Facebook Newark event page. Replicate Parliament Street and bring your entire executive team. Or just do what Bristol University’s Marina Muttak is doing, offering anyone a lift in her car from Bristol.
Together, with the power and vibrancy of our whole Conservative movement, we can win in Newark – and have a great time doing so.