Conservative Diary

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Mark Clarke: What can we learn from other centre-right parties?

Mark_clarke2 Mark is standing for CF Chairman

It’s not often that a Conservative says we can learn from the French. But CF can and should look at what is happening in France now and see the sort of organisation that we should become…

So firstly the facts. The youth wing of the centre-right UMP party have just had their youth conference. At this conference they elected their new leadership on a 60% election turnout. Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading light leader of the right went and addressed them and used the opportunity to launch his election bid for President. His addressed was received by over 6,000 young UMP delegates. The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin also attended.

Now let us compare with the CF here in the UK:

Conference Attendance: CF had two National youth conferences this year. Each was attended by around 60 people so a total of 120 delegates. The French UMP was attended by over 6,000 delegates.

CF Election turnout: Last year’s CF election had a turnout of around 3% (based on around 500 leadership ballots from a declared membership of 15,000). I hope that this year will be higher but will we match the French UMP youth wing with a turn-out of over 62%?

Senior Party Interest:
No contender for the Conservative Party leadership integrated CF into their leadership bid. By contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy launched his at the UMP youth conference. In addition, Dominic de Villepin, the French Prime Minister, also attended their conference.

I think it is clear that we have some way to go… I have spoken elsewhere about the success of the Republican Party in the US – particularly in relation to Social Action Programmes. CF needs to have a leadership which is honest and open enough to look overseas to find solutions which might improve our own organisation – understanding always the uniquely British nature of our Party.

I learned the benefit of this approach working for a variety of multi-national companies. If I am elected Chairman, I will set up a working party to understand from our French and US friends what they do and how they do well. I will also work more closely with the International Youth Democratic Union to share best practice. We will publish these conclusions and their recommendations – and I hope that members of this CF diary will debate them. Afterwards we will make any necessary changes.

Can we make all the changes next year? No. But we can probably get some quick wins and new ideas to bring over and give our members a stronger vision of the organisation we want to create.

In the meantime, please can I encourage all of you to look at the UMP youth website and the Young Republicans Website and be inspired at what we could create here in the UK. I would also welcome any platform pieces from other CF members on this important topic. 


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