The reinvigoration of Conservatives Abroad under Gary Streeter MP. Serious money has been raised to promote the ‘don’t leave your vote at home’
campaign. This campaign could make a real difference in marginal seats.
A new party conference organisation unit has been established.
Although the manner in which this was done was not as transparent as
might have been ideal, it will almost certainly increase the party’s
share of Conference revenues.
The Northern Board has been established under William Hague. It has yet
to deliver much but Michael Bates – its effective CEO – has the
capacity and skills to succeed if he is properly resourced. All money raised in a region now stays within the region. Yorkshire has, for example, already doubled its fundraising rate because the reward-to-effort link has been restored. The nationwide Party Board now meets outside of London at least twice a year.
Bolton, Leeds, Coleshill and Nottingham have all hosted meetings
in recent times.
The establishment of the Shadow City Ministers concept
where shadow cabinet members ‘look after’ specific cities to help advance
the party’s campaigning and profile in areas where the Tories have been
absent for too long. Alan Duncan, Newcastle and Chris Grayling,
Liverpool as well as Francis himself, Wolverhampton have been
particularly energetic in their shadowing roles. The moves of the
annual Party Conference to Manchester and to Birmingham are part of his
new urban focus (although I’ll personally miss Bournemouth!).
There has been a professionalisation of CCHQ management. A new Finance Director and a first Procurement Director have produced much greater budgetary discipline and many savings. All staff now have uniform contracts.
The bad old CCHQ habits of large redundancy payments for unwanted staff have been ended. In 2005 over £400,000 was, I understand, paid out in redundancies. That figure dropped to well below £50,000 last year. A drop is normal in an non-election year but this is a big improvement over recent times. The completion of the sale of 32 Smith Square has also stabilised party finances.
The decision to scrap the Chairman’s car and driver will fund two regional press officers.
I also hear good things about the party’s by-election operation. In 36 to 48 hours we’ll have a better idea as to whether those good things are real or not.
Francis Maude and his very able Chief of Staff, James McGrath, deserve real credit for all of these gains. My personal hope is that the party will find a way of keeping James within its ranks. He has political intelligence and experience the party needs. The pain of the A-list process, in particular, and persistent unpopularity among many sections of the grassroots mean that David Cameron was right to move Francis Maude but his accomplishments are a good inheritance for Caroline Spelman.