Brandon Lewis is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Great Yarmouth.
Though the weather might tell us otherwise, spring is just around the corner. And that means Conservative members and volunteers across the country gathering for Spring Forum. Today and tomorrow, our Party will come together to prepare for the year ahead. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our members and volunteers to meet one another, and to be thanked by MPs and Ministers for their hard work.
Because without our members, we wouldn’t be able to win elections. And that means we wouldn’t have been able to grow our economy for five years in a row, or deliver the lowest level of unemployment since 1975. Our members are the ones who knock on doors whatever the weather. They deliver our leaflets and spread our message online. And they do it because they share our values. They do it to leave a stronger, fairer country for the next generation.
That same passion is what motivated me to join the Conservative Party in my twenties. It’s what motivates me today. When I knocked on my first door, I never imagined that I would stand for public office. My goal was the same as everyone else’s: to win elections and build a brighter future. So membership is very close to my heart.
To be the Chairman of our Party is such an honour, and I will use it to strengthen our membership so we can become a stronger, more effective campaigning force. With local elections coming up on the 3rd of May, voters across the country will be considering which Party they want to run their local services, set their council tax, and make the improvements their local area needs. Spring Forum is a chance to build the strong foundations of a campaign machine that will see us into the local elections and beyond.
As an organisation, we’ve made a lot of progress since Sir Eric Pickles published his review of the 2017 General Election. We’ve already hired over 80 campaign managers – who are on the ground in constituencies across the country, helping local teams prepare for the next elections. And we’re in the process of administering our membership centrally to remove the burden from Conservative Associations of contacting people, chasing renewals and administering payments. With this reform, members will continue to belong to constituency associations, but it will let our constituency teams get on with the real task at hand: winning elections.
I also want to encourage more women and more of our supporters to join the party, and to put themselves forward as candidates. The Conservative Party is wonderfully diverse – and every part of it should be represented in local government and in Parliament.
This is more important than ever. We need people of all ages and all backgrounds spreading our message. Because we’re facing the most far-left Opposition in recent memory.
We also face a new challenge. On and offline, in campuses and constituencies across the country, far-left threats and intimidation are on the rise. This can be particularly tough on our younger members. But we will not be silenced by threats or intimidation. Free speech is a British value – and it’s fundamental to a free country. By hearing ideas we disagree with, we challenge our assumptions and form our opinions. So we must all make sure that Conservative voices are heard – even where they may not always be welcome.
At Spring Forum we will also be giving voice to those who have played an enormous part in bringing ideas and energy to the Party. We’re hosting our first ever Business Forum, bringing members, senior politicians and business leaders together – so they can share their unique insights and experience, and discuss how to take advantage of the business opportunities open to Britain.
We’re also hosting a Youth Conference for our members aged 25 and under. Our young members are the future of the Conservative Party. So it’s our duty to give them the support to engage in the national debate– and that we listen to their ideas.
I believe every one of us in the Conservative family has an active role to play in the future of our Party. And in the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to joining our members to spread the message about how we can build a Britain that is fit for the future.