Nominations close today in the election for chairman of the National Conservative Convention, the person who is the most senior volunteer in the Conservative Party, with a seat on the Party Board - a body of which that person is also deputy chairman.
Three candidates are being nominated to succeed Don Porter in that role:
- Sir Graham Bright
- Jeremy Middleton
- Simon Mort
The 850 or so members of the Convention will on Wednesday be posted ballot papers which they can either fill in and post or retain until the hustings at the Spring Forum in Cheltenham, after which the count will take place.
Several people have asked in comments who these 850 people are. They are as follows:
The Chairman of each Constituency Association within England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (or a Deputy);
The representatives elected by party members to serve on the Board of the Party, the Scottish Executive of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and the Board of the Welsh Conservative Party;
Members of the Area Management Executives;
Regional and Deputy Regional Chairmen;
42 CF Representatives and 42 Representatives of the Conservative Womens’ Organisation;
The 3 past Presidents of the Convention;
The 2 immediate past Chairmen of the Convention;
The immediate past Area Chairmen for one year only;
The immediate past Regional Chairmen for one year only.
ConservativeHome invited each of the candidates to provide a brief biography, contact details and complete in 150 words or less the phrase "I want to be chairman of the National Conservative Convention because..." and we publish their responses here.
We also posed ten questions based on the responses received to our invitation for questions last week. The candidates' answer to the first question, asking why they are best suited to be the voice of the grassroots, is below and the remaining answers will be published in several tranches today and tomorrow. The first tranche is here, the second is here and the third is here.
Biography: I have been National Young Conservative Vice-Chairman, CPC Regional Chairman, a Borough Councillor and Group Leader as well as a County Councillor and was M.P. for Luton East then Luton South for 18 years. I was PPS to the Prime Minister, Sir John Major, for 4 years, Vice-Chairman of the Party for 3 years, Area Chairman for Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and at present, Chairman of the Eastern Region.
"I want to be Chairman of the National Conservative Convention because... I believe the volunteer in the Party must have more influence and more say in the Party organisation as well as more input to policy. Colleagues are supporting me because they feel that I have the authority and respect of both the political and professional sides of the Party to be listened to and get the voluntary view over at all levels and at all times."
Biography: Currently President of the National Convention, Jeremy was first elected to the Party Board in March 2005, serving as Chairman of the Membership committee in 2006-2007 (when he introduced the membership reforms abolishing Central Membership and establishing the per member levy) and was Party Conference Chairman in Newcastle/Gateshead and Birmingham in 2008. Married with three children, he is an entrepreneur with interests in a range of businesses in the North East, where he was a parliamentary candidate in 1997 in Newcastle East and Wallsend, in the 2004 European Election in the North East, and in the 2004 Hartlepool By Election; he was Constituency Chairman in Newcastle East between 1995 and 1998, and active in the “North East says NO” Campaign against the Regional Assembly.
"I want to be Chairman of the National Conservative Convention because... I believe we are at a crossroads for the Voluntary Party and I believe I am the right man to make sure the Voluntary party grows in scale and influence. I believe we need to unite with our Parliamentary and Professional colleagues to build a modern, outward looking, campaigning machine. I want people to see our party as active, vibrant and growing. The alternative is to accept a slow decline, where the Voluntary Party turns inwards and becomes ever more shrill about our declining status. If elected my intention is that we take even more responsibility for our party, that we find new ways to reach out to a wider range of people and that we challenge ourselves to once again become a growing movement."
Biography: Half-Welsh half-English, grew up in farming family; Regular Army office (9th/12th Royal Lancers); founder of successful international consultancy business; author of five books and countless articles on management written communications.
"I want to be Chairman of the National Conservative Convention because... I want to put the Voluntary Party back centre-stage where it belongs. I will vigorously resist attempts to marginalise the Voluntary Party. The Voluntary Party are the Party."
Question: Why does your experience make you best suited to be the party's most senior volunteer, the voice of the grassroots?
Sir Graham Bright: I first joined the Party in Thurrock, a very tough seat, as a Young Conservative and then became a Branch and an Association Officer. One had to fight all the way. I developed myself along with a good team to be a winner. I won a Borough Council seat from Labour. I won an Essex County seat from Labour and I went on to win Luton East from Labour. I held the seat when it changed name to Luton South, for 18 years with just a small band of enthusiastic volunteers. I have been an active volunteer at Branch, Area, Regional and National level. I have never forgotten my roots, which is why having lost my Parliamentary seat in 1997, I returned firstly as Area and then as Regional Chairman as I felt the answer to winning a General Election was a strong and enthusiastic voluntary Party membership.
Jeremy Middleton: I combine experience at every level in the Party built over the last 30 years with an understanding of the challenges we face, having been on the Board for the last 4 years. I have been a street campaigner in some of our toughest areas in the North East of England over a prolonged period. I am very aware of the huge effort and foot slogging required to win seats in some of the areas where we most need to. However, I also have experience developing and implementing new ideas to improve the Party organisation. For example, I championed a review of our organisation in the North of England and proposed the creation of Volunteer led Boards in the North bringing together all wings of the Party including professionals, parliamentarians and fundraisers as well as Volunteers. This has led to a dramatic improvement in our fundraising, level of professional support, campaigning capability and ultimately polling support in the North.
Simon Mort: I believe that I have the best spread of relevant experience and EXPERIENCE MATTERS. I have done just about every job which it is possible for a volunteer to do between Branch Chairman and Conference Chairman; when on the Party Board I had a 100% attendance record; I have sat on a District Council (including Deputy Group Leader) and thus understand Councillors; and I have stood as a candidate in all four levels of election - Europe, Westminster, county and district - and thus understand very well the relationship between candidates and volunteers. Experienced volunteers tell me that I will be the most robust in standing up for the Voluntary Party and I am geographically well placed to deliver, living in the South Midlands, two miles off the motorway network and thus able to get to most constituencies in little over two hours. I can also get to CCHQ for sudden meetings at antisocial hours (One former Chairman was keen on meetings “7 o’clock tomorrow morning”: we do not all live within the Division Bell!)
As I stated above, repsonses to the other questions - covering, amongst other things, candidate selection, the role of the membership in policy-making and the role of ConservativeHome in communication with the grassroots - will be published later today and tomorrow.
On behalf of all ConservativeHome readers, can I thank all three candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.