Julie Iles is a Conservative Party activist, county councillor, and President of the Conservative Women’s Organisation.

When the ballot for the leadership contest closes on Monday July 22nd another important vote is open to members of the National Conservative Convention.

These are the members who serve at Regional and Area level and those who hold office as Chairman of their constituency association. They will vote for a team who will represent the grassroots party at the national level.

I am honoured to have been nominated as a candidate for one of the three VP positions. I see the National Convention as the link between associations, CCHQ professional staff, campaigners working in the field, and our Members of Parliament.

Like many others I’ve been a foot soldier for many years and I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve spent knocking on doors and talking to local people to understand their issues and concerns. I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country to support council elections, parliamentary elections and by-elections and referendums.

I have served as an officer at all levels of our Party, starting from branch committee through to association and to area as Deputy Chairman Political and Campaigning, and in March of this year to National Chairman for the Conservative Women’s Organisation (CWO).

I have a track record in the business sector, selling high-value technology solutions and working as a trusted adviser alongside board executives of well-known companies. It was my commitment to voluntary service which brought me into politics – I served as a magistrate for ten years. I was elected to county council in 2017 and I am now the cabinet member for all-age learning (which includes schools, special education needs, and disabilities and adult learning).

I think I am unique amongst those standing for election in that I’ve worked in Parliament to establish the office of one of our newly-elected MPs in the period following the 2015 election, and until the end of last year I was an Area Campaign Manager at CCHQ. That gives me the best experience to strengthen the links across the voluntary, professional and parliamentary party –because we are more effective when we work as a team.

The leadership and parliamentarians need that connection with the grassroots party. Successful manifestos are built on local knowledge of local issues. CCHQ can provide the latest software programmes and campaigning techniques, but it’s the army of volunteers who are needed to take that out on the doorstep. In the campaigns where we have campaign managers working locally we are successful.

So my commitment is to:

  • Stand up for the voluntary party so that our views are heard, our activists are supported and recognised for their hard work, and we are organised to campaign effectively and deliver success at the ballot box.
  • Improve communication between associations and CCHQ, which will strengthen the link between our committed volunteers and the hard-working professional staff.
  • Lead from the front on campaigning and training our councillors, candidates and volunteers in the use of the latest techniques including digital communications.
  • Spread best practice around fundraising, resource-sharing, and grouping of associations to make efficient use of volunteers, staff, and premises. Area and regional executives should be strengthened to support these arrangements.
  • Work hard to define our policies and communicate our values so that we build our membership base across all age groups, sexes, backgrounds, and parts of the country, so that we are elected to govern the nation and keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Number 10.

To that last point, dependent on which statistics you read, more than half our population are women. Reports from the general election 2017 suggested a “youthquake” voting for Corbyn. It wasn’t that simple.

There was a much bigger swing away from the Conservatives in young women that there was in young men. Women in other age groups also didn’t vote for us. That’s why I’ve made a point of working with Flick Drummond, the Voluntary Party Director for Conservative Policy Forum, so that we have women involved in policy making. Groups from the Conservative Women’s Organisation are now working with CPF in the regions because they want to help shape policy.

Margaret Thatcher didn’t win her majority without the support of women, and if they voted for us now in the same numbers as they did then we would have a comfortable majority.

We don’t need all-women shortlists or preferential treatment, we just need to look like the people we want to represent and make sure that we are taking action on the things that concern them. That includes putting more women, as well as people of different ages and from different backgrounds and parts of the country, on our own Party Board.