Jeremy Middleton reports back on a "united and determined" National Conservative Convention meeting in Manchester
The message from the National Convention meeting on the Sunday before conference was clear and simple. We face an immense task to wrest power from the Labour party… but we are determined to do it.
The National Convention consists of the 850 most senior volunteers and is, in effect, the parliament of the voluntary party. Motions were debated and passed approving plans to mount a campaign to get more people involved with the party, committing the National Convention officers to developing a renewed programme of training for volunteers, and to reviving the profile of the Policy Forum as a voice for the voluntary party.
The Voluntary Party also needs to have the best possible organisation, and at the Convention I published a new directory of the “National Volunteer Team”. The number of volunteers helping the party at a national level has increased across the summer so that we now have 75 senior volunteers working on jobs for the party nationally. This team means that the Voluntary Party gets more done, and gives the volunteers a greater voice at the heart of the party.
Convention members were taken through the General Election strategy by Stephen Gilbert, the party's Head of Field Campaigning. Stephen emphasised the size of the challenge - as the party needs the biggest electoral swing achieved by any opposition party since 1931. This is a sobering prospect, but those who heard him set out the political strategy were left feeling confident that our campaign is in the best possible hands.
Convention members were also delighted to hear from David Cameron and the Party Chairman, Eric Pickles. David promised that at the conference this week we would be addressing the country, not ourselves. We will be setting out a programme for government and showcasing a team that was ready for the very serious challenges the country faces. Unlike the Labour party, we will not duck the tough decisions that our country needs to take.
Eric paid tribute to the work of the volunteers, and highlighted the excellent support received from across the country in the successful Norwich North by-election. Eric took questions across a range of topics, giving straight answers in his typically direct and open style.
Members of the Convention were left in no doubt that we face a tough battle, and that no one can afford to be complacent. The work of the Voluntary Party will be pivotal if we are to achieve our goal of a Conservative government. However based on the mood of the Convention yesterday, the leadership of the Voluntary Party are determined to focus on the important things that will bring us success - unity, loyalty, and a single-minded focus on campaigning to win.