Sam Frost, co-founder of Reignite, worked as Head of Digital for UKIP in 2014 and as digital strategist at Vote Leave in 2016.
It was a Conservative Councillor from Canterbury who said to me: “finally, light at the end of the tunnel” after travelling four hours to attend Reignites first digital training day for activists last November.
That feedback didn’t just validate the weeks that we’d spent planning. It also showed up just how little support activists across the country are receiving from CCHQ.
Having campaigned in the 2017 General Election, this was something that Anne Sutherland and I were aware of. Last year, in the midst of disappointment at the result and concern for the future of our country, we set up Ready for Rees-Mogg. What initially started as a Facebook page with a couple of posts ended up attracting thousands of “Likes” overnight. In just a matter of weeks we had amassed thousands of supporters, hundreds of volunteers – and were covered across the media.
As much as we love Rees-Mogg and believe that he’d make a great Conservative leader, we’re also aware that the problem with conservative politics goes much deeper than who that leader is. We need a vision that inspires a new generation of people to support the principles that made this country the greatest on earth.
It has been almost three years since the demise of Conservative Future. In that time, university students haven’t heard from the Party, while Labour and Momentum have been able to monopolise and challenge free speech on university campuses. Tory societies have had to forge their own path without central support.
That’s why we launched Reignite in October last year, on the weekend of party conference. In a matter of days more than 10,000 people registered their support. Reignite isn’t about changing the leadership: it’s about re-engaging supporters, inspiring a new generation of conservatives and reaching out to those who feel like the party has left them behind.
Reignite will focus on three core activities: digital activism, on the ground campaigning, and recruiting and training grassroots activists. In just four months, we’ve hit an impressive 85,000 registered supporters. That makes us the largest conservative campaign group in the country – beating other organisations that have been around for more than a decade.
Last weekend, we held our very first campaign day, with Jacob Rees-Mogg in his constituency. Twenty-five Reignite activists turned out to help deliver the local Conservative newspaper. One young activist told me of his frustration at CCHQ’s refusal to connect young activists: it was stopping him from getting involved with his local party. Others said they had attempted to setup a youth group in Wales and were told to stop by the Welsh party HQ.
Momentum’s relentless door knocking and leaflet delivering just proves how important a well organised youth movement and ground campaign is to winning an election. Reignite plans to fix this by supporting emerging organisations, such as the one setup by young Welsh activists. These committed activists are the future of the Party, willing to promote a conservative message locally and on their campuses. They are out and proud Tories, looking to make a positive impact. Supporting other groups won’t be a one-size-fits-all. It could include financial support, strategic guidance or online amplification.
Our digital training gives participants an insight into how we run Ready for Rees-Mogg and Reignite, including the theory and practicalities behind that. Mike Rouse, who helped to establish David Cameron’s online presence, has a hand in planning and deliver the training. From Facebook ads to email marketing, our training offers a comprehensive look into the strategy behind a successful digital campaign.
Rather than creating our own local groups like Momentum, we plan to work with Conservative associations and branches to build a permanent infrastructure, giving voice to the principles of less government and greater freedom.
Part of this drive will be our activist toolkit, a custom-build platform that we hope will change the way we progress from digital activism into real-world action. It will be the bridge between Reignite and local groups, allowing for greater participation from those who wouldn’t normally seek to engage with their local party. Our ambitious plan will help activists get involved in campaign days and connect with other young supporters.
We want as many people as possible to get involved and become active supporters: we have no paid membership, instead relying on optional donations from our supporters.
So whether you’re a university student looking for help on campus, an Association officer looking for digital training or a local activist looking to start the conservative fightback – we want to support you.
To help us become a force for lasting change within the Conservative Party, join Reignite for free today by clicking here.