Anna Firth is the Former Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservative Association and contested Canterbury at the 2019 general election. She is currently a district councillor and on the Board of the Conservative Environment Network.
Fourteen years ago I picked up the phone and rang my local Conservative office. I did not want to deliver leaflets, I did not want to go to meetings and I had never heard of a campaign day! I was simply outraged at the Labour Government’s policy on education, and I wanted to have my say. I was not even a party member, but I felt passionately we were heading in the wrong direction.
Sevenoaks had an excellent Policy Discussion Group, I joined, had fun, met like-minded people and signed up. Fourteen years on and I have served at almost all levels of our party from branch member to association chairman. I have campaigned in almost every national election, been elected to my local council three times, held cabinet responsibility and served as a parliamentary candidate in both the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
Put simply, the Conservative Policy Forum is one of the best recruitment tools our party has, and that is why I want to be its next Voluntary Director.
My vision is simple. Our party is at its best when it is diverse and open to all. The Conservative Policy Forum should be a home for anyone and everyone who wants to improve our party and its policies.
An 80-seat majority is a fabulous opportunity, but we need practical, effective and popular policies to deliver on our manifesto and take our country forward. Our best policies always come from our members, which is why it is vital we attract more people, especially more women and young people, into the CPF.
My mission is to grow the CPF from the bottom up, especially in our university towns and cities, and turn it into a strong campaigning and intellectual force to support our party and our majority. Crucially, I want to work with the Young Conservatives and the Conservative Women’s Organisation to make sure the voices of young people and women are at the forefront of all policy discussions.
Shaping the next manifesto is key. The CPF played a key role in shaping the 2019 manifesto, and we all benefitted as a result. Members have huge personal, professional and political experience, so making it as easy as possible to shape policy and then ensuring the best ideas are delivered straight to No.10 will be a key priority.
I have built up a huge network along the way from the Cabinet down, which I intend to use fully to get things done, grow membership, and make sure the voice of all members of the CPF is heard loud and clear right at the top of our party.
My detailed 9-point, 3-year plan for the CPF is available at www.annafirth.org.uk. However, in summary, if elected, my aims are:
1. Setting the policy agenda
There is no point in members spending hours contributing brilliant and original ideas unless those ideas are listened to. Ensuring that the views of members are delivered straight to number 10 and to the relevant minister will be my no.1 priority. Second, ensuring that there are high-level opportunities at party conference for members to discuss, debate and formulate new policy with other members and with ministers. Thirdly, I will establish CPF policy leads to deepen policy input and, fourthly, I will push to get the best contributions across the country published in a new CPF book – “VISION 2024”.
2. A CPF group in every Conservative constituency in the country
We have 365 Conservative MPs, but only circa 250 CPF groups. Our new northern seats present a massive opportunity to welcome new members into our party. I want to ensure that all constituencies with a Conservative MP have a CPF group to support, and I will work with anyone and everyone anywhere in the country who wants to set up a new group, whether it be online, traditional, association or community-led.
3. Growth and engagement
It is an absolute priority to attract more younger people, women and other groups into the CPF and I will work to set up CPF groups in every university. I will also work with the Conservative Women’s Organisation and all other Conservative groups to ensure we have the widest possible input into policy.
My experience, as an association chairman, fighting and leading three local election campaigns, and standing as a parliamentary candidate twice has shown me the value of a campaign built on solid policy foundations. It has also given me an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced by ordinary associations. I enjoy galvanizing teams of members and activists on-line and in person. Finally, as a former barrister, I am passionate about policy and I believe I have the breadth and depth of political experience to take the CPF forward.
Only senior members of the Party from the chairman upwards can vote in this election, but if you would like to support me please let your chairman or area officers know.