Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe are co-founders of Conservative Progress.
The days of political consensus and coalescence around the centre-right are over, and politics in this country has once more descended into a battle of competing political philosophies.
Conservatism is under threat in the face of an insurgent, populist, pseudo-communist Labour movement, funded by trade unions and willing to promise the earth in order to gain power.
Before we can compete against that, we first need to define ourselves, and articulate what Conservatism, and being a Conservative, is all about. Now, more than ever, we need to make the case for Conservatism at its most base level – we need a Conservative Renaissance.
Conservative Progress has led the charge over the past year, working to rebuild a true grassroots network of activists and thinkers who can help define this message, and then deliver it to the public.
We’ve held a series of events, including two marquee conferences last year, attended by 200 and 300 people, with speakers including Michael Howard, Andrew Mitchell, Greg Hands, Oliver Letwin and Gavin Barwell, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister.
We’ve heard first-hand stories from people at the centre of government and have engaged with leading policy thinkers. We recently launched our Policy Unit, and are presently working on an extensive set of policy proposals, which we hope to release early next year.
For us though, the renaissance needs to go further than winning the battle of ideas – we need to develop a mechanism for spreading the message, and train, energise, and mobilise a new generation of activists. We have put ourselves at the forefront of meeting this challenge.
Over the past year, we have trained over 100 activists across London in skills ranging from effective canvassing and digital campaigning to public speaking and engagement, and we have plans to extend to other regions over the coming months.
We have worked directly with local campaigns in London ahead of the local elections, helping them to deliver their local messages across digital media, and we have run a series of campaign days in support of council candidates across the Capital.
Our own digital footprint is also forecast to organically “reach” about two million people via Facebook this year, and our Facebook page is the fastest growing of any Conservative aligned organisation. That’s content that is free to post, with no paid posts, thanks to it being shared on to peoples’ timelines and individual groups. This is what the left were able to do to good effect in the 2017 general election, and the right needs to be able to emulate this if we are to be able to articulate our retail offer to a generation that accesses the bulk of their information, and forms their opinions based on online content.
May 12th, however, will represent the next leap forward as we gear up for our biggest year yet. We’re hosting a huge conference for over 300 people devoted to discussing the ideas that will form the backbone of the “Conservative Renaissance”, and we are delighted that two fantastic Secretaries of State, Gavin Williamson and Penny Mordaunt, will be joining us, as will James Cleverly.
But it’s also about providing a platform to the grassroots. That’s why we’re having a members motion where attendees can take to the main stage and debate whether the UK should remain in the Customs Union or not. We see it as our role to energise the grassroots and facilitate the debate that needs to happen within our movement, because it’s increasingly clear to us that the politics of simply broadcasting a message to your audience won’t cut it any more. People – especially activists – expect to be engaged and to be heard.
The scale of our upcoming conference on May 12th, and the calibre of our speakers, is a testament to how far our organisation has come since we established it in late 2016, and we have even bigger plans for the coming year. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, we’d love to hear from you.