Dr David Jeffery is a Lecturer in British Politics at the University of Liverpool.
I will never forget the moment the 2019 general election exit poll was released. After a 4am dawn raid and weeks of hard slog, we cheered so much we had to pull the car over.
We’d campaigned right across the West Midlands and beyond: in West Bromwich West and East, Crewe and Nantwich, Mansfield, and Derby North, as well as our home association of Aldridge-Brownhills. We saw the red wall crumble.
Now, with our 80-seat majority, we have a Conservative Government that can get things done – and it is vital that Conservative Party members are able to shape the agenda. That’s why the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) is so important, and why I’m standing to be the its Voluntary Director.
I’m not standing to offer buzzwords or empty campaign slogans – I’m offering three solid policies which you can judge me on.
Policy One: I will take up John Penrose’s call to make CPF the Conservative Party’s internal think-tank.
We know our 191,000 members are clever (they are Conservatives, after all!) but too often we rely on them to do the grunt work of elections and not much else. CPF is a brilliant way of harnessing the knowledge, experience and insight our members have and use it to affect real-world change.
As the party’s internal think-tank, members should also have a role in drafting policy, so I will spearhead an initiative whereby CPF branches work with backbench MPs to crowdsource private members’ bills.
I will also lobby for elected politicians at all levels to trust our members and submit more policy proposals to CPF for debate – including our metro-mayors, PCCs, local councillors, and mayors.
Policy Two: I will ensure CPF is at the forefront of the conversation of how we maintain our 80-seat majority.
The red wall crumbled partly because of dissatisfaction with local politics and local conditions, and the CPF is uniquely placed to use the local knowledge of local members to produce local solutions to local problems.
To that end, CPF branches should be trusted to help draft or review manifestos for local and metro-mayoral elections. I will also support CPF branches in engaging with calls for evidence from devolved, city-region, and local authority levels.
Policy Three: I will push for a much deeper level of engagement with Conservative branches, Young Conservatives, and other groups.
CPF is a great gateway drug to activism: my own academic research shows that groups like CPF help people feel like they are part of a community of like-minded people and thus are more likely to formally join the Party and campaign, especially in seats where the prospect of electoral victory is distant.
So, I will increase the number of CPF branches. I promise to visit and support any association that wants to set up a CPF branch, wherever in the country it is. I will also boost the number of CPF events, personally support existing Association and Area conferences that want to embed CPF events in their programmes, and push for more debates at the annual Party Conference, under the CPF banner, on issues chosen by our members.
I’m not going to use this platform for myself or any political or parliamentary aspirations – I love the job I have.
My vision for CPF over the next three years is a bold one and it will take a lot of hard work, but I’ve never shied away from a challenge – I am, after all, a Tory from Liverpool who works in academia. But that means I know what it’s like to fight, to campaign in no-hope seats, to be overlooked and not heard. I want to use CPF to give a voice to as many members as possible.
The Voluntary Director is elected at the National Convention. If you believe in a CPF which can harness the intellectual energy within the party to make a difference to our country and our communities, which brings people into the party and gets them onto the doorstep, and which is constantly looking for new, exciting ways to influence the Party, then please vote for me.
And if you don’t have a vote, let your Association Chair and your Area and Regional officers know that you support my vision for CPF.