I know well that the phrase "Liverpudlian Conservative" has practically been an oxymoron in recent decades so please indulge me for a moment as I try to explain how that is changing…
Like in other cities the Conservative Associations in the city amalgamated last year, coming under the impartial chairmanship of Mike Howarth. Liverpudlian Nadine Dorries MP wrote this fantastic, typically emotional article about that process, which provoked a lot of debate. Liverpool Conservatives now have a youthful home-grown Chairman in Tony Caldeira – the entrepreneur behind the Caldeira cushion empire, a full-time co-ordinator in Cllr Martyn Barber, and a very committed "Shadow Minister" in Chris Grayling MP who keeps close tabs on things day-to-day.
The association is now out of supported status and its first challenge is to put together a full-slate of local parliamentary candidates. Parachuting candidates in from out of the area like last time doesn’t give the impression that the city is being taken seriously. A huge conference centre will be completed on Kings Dock early next year so we could perhaps hold a Spring Forum there in the near future.
As well as developing the party’s operation, bridges are being built with members of the community who are outside of party politics. There have been some particularly successful meetings with local businessmen – the picture on the right shows Tony Caldeira and David Cameron with Everton FC’s Sir Phillip Carter – and with local charitable projects.
The most underreported speech at conference was given by Dave Sharples, a Christian youth worker in Liverpool who I did some work with in my teens. It was similar to Iain Duncan-Smith’s speech in that he spoke so passionately about the moral imperative to be the change in your community that a number of people cried and all gave him a standing ovation. Worth watching:
Paul Oginsky is another Liverpudlian youth worker who spoke on the main stage at conference (and a colleague of my father when he ran a youth centre in Kirkby). He’s the man behind Cameron’s National Citizenship service idea and you can ask him questions about the scheme today in our Interviews section.