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Matt Hartley: CF needs more contested elections

Matt_hartley_2 Matt Hartley is Chairman of University of Warwick CF and Deputy Chairman (Political) of Warwick & Leamington Conservatives

Conservative Future election time is upon us again, and after a lot of thought I decided to bite the bullet and stand for Area Chairman, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. So it was with some apprehension that I clicked refresh for the 20th time yesterday afternoon, to find out if my nomination form had gone through OK, who I would be standing against, how many candidates there would be….

The website was duly updated by the good people of Victoria Street, when I was disappointed to learn that out of the 44 CF Area positions in England and Wales, only 2 (including mine) are being contested. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as looking back there only seem to have ever been a handful of such elections. Last year the Area post in Staffordshire was one of two contested, and the victor won by 4 votes to 3. Hardly a sweeping mandate.

On the face of it the problem doesn’t seem that complex. More people need to stand, and more people need to vote. Many recent leading lights of Conservative Future have talked about making efforts to increase participation (especially outside London), but there seem to have been few results delivered – although I am pleased to see there will be a hustings outside London this year. A good start in increasing turnout in the elections would be to actually advertise them.

It may come as a surprise to some, but your ‘ordinary’, not particularly heavily involved or over-ambitious member of Conservative Future doesn’t check the website every day, as decent a site though it may have become in the past year, and to most people I’ve spoken to it has come as a complete surprise that there is an election being held at all. Even on, the instructions on how to stand and how to vote hardly screamed at you. CF elections should be a big event, and the organisation shouldn’t be frightened of a high turnout.

All CF members should be informed of the election, in writing. We all know how CCHQ loves to save money at the Post Office (after their reticence to post letters to candidates not included on the A-list top up), but some things are worth the expense. It would also be a good opportuntity to slip in ‘change of contact details’ forms, so that those who have the right to a ballot paper actually receive one.

Spending a little bit of money on the process might add some excitement and anticipation to the event, and would perhaps go some way towards drawing in some of the slightly less committed, slightly less politically ambitious and, to be frank, slightly more normal people that aren’t currently active, which can only be a good thing.

Conservative Future comes in for a lot of flack – much more than it probably deserves. But by any standard, the reality is that the organisation is a shadow of what it should be. Getting a grip on its own membership database and ensuring that its annual elections are transparent, well-advertised and well-contested are two huge positive steps that the new executive could take to reform the organisation - so it can be turned into the succesful, influential and indispensible asset that the Party needs it to be.


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