Conservative Diary

« Katy Taylor-Richards: CF needs some depoliticising | Main | Clare Hilley: Sri Lanka - The New Rwandan Crisis? »

10Q: The candidates' answers

I asked the candidates for CF Chairman and NME the following ten questions, made up from comments and emails from CF Diary readers. Click continue to see their answers...

1. Do you believe CF should continue in its present all-encompassing structure?
2. How would you ensure that more people put themselves forward for Area Chairman positions?
3. To those who are running their own blog, will you continue to do so if elected?
4. Name one failure of last year's Exec.
5. Name one achievement of last year's Exec.
6. What is your greatest weakness?
7. What do you uniquely offer?
8. Is getting officially involved in the NUS about fighting the good fight or is it a waste of time?
9. Do you support devoting time and money to apolitical community work?
10. What are your three favourite films?

1. Do you believe CF should continue in its present all-encompassing structure?

Matthew Richardson:
No, obviously an 18 year old student and a 29 year old City professional have almost nothing in common. That’s not to say that with a little care CF can’t impose its own “Chinese Wall” between students and young professionals.

Andrew Young: Yes. I've worked with 240 volunteers ages 16 to 29 for CF projects, training and working together, and it hasn't been a problem. Whilst we need to start specifically targeting the older age group, I don't believe in banning. CF's strength is in its flexibility, we shouldn't lose sight of that.

Craig Cox: CF should be more decentralised, with two focus groups on students and the 'working life' set. This would be more efficient, be more effective, and much more enjoyable for the people it is meant to represent. Branches should have more autonomy from the national team and I will do all I can to see this happen.

Gregory Stafford: No. CF should be clearly divided between students (16-21 approx) and young professionals (22-35 approx). This would mean that events and campaigning would be much more suitably focussed.

Karen Allen: I wouldn’t like to see CF officially segregated, I do think however that the organisation would serve better if we were to target more effectively in the events and training offered, which would ultimately attract more members. I would also like to see the upward age bracket expanded to 35.

Ranil Jayawardena: It is good that CF is joined up…but we must cater for all age groups through different events, policy groups etc.

Tim Aker: Until we get larger regional and local CF branches that can take on relative autonomy, yes.

Mark Clarke: Yes, but we need to make it work: a) The structure was created to provide scale to the organisation, b) The structure was created to enable us to move our students onto party membership more effectively when they graduate. We do need to have events targeted at distinct groups though.

Christian Walker: In principle yes but the next NME needs to decide if this is actually deliverable - we need to develop a basic working communication system supporting existing and new branches in the first instance.

Claire Palmer: Yes. CF should be a broad church, and applicable to every person under 30. We can embrace CWF / TRG to name 2 organisations and inform our members of them. Although the wide age group causes some problems, the question of how you would split the organisation causes more.

Patrick Sullivan: No. I want separate organizations representing Young Conservatives (aged 12-18), Conservative Students and another organization for Conservatives in employment (18-30).

Caroline Hunt: Yes but local branches and areas need the support to target the demographic that works for their area. Some branches take a flexible view towards the upper age of 30. We need to stop looking at one size fits all solutions for branches and areas. The age range gives this flexibility to branches.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards: Yes. I think that splitting the organisation would be completely unproductive. One of CF’s biggest problems is keeping people involved when they leave university and having separate organisations for, say, students and graduates wouldn’t help that

2. How would you ensure that more people put themselves forward for Area Chairman positions?

Matthew Richardson:
Advertise the positions more widely. Get more members in Areas. Make sure that out going Area Chairmen don’t leave the job hating the National Executive by making their job as easy as possible. Free chocolate bars for all Area Chairmen.

Andrew Young: As a national organisation we have broken down. Regionalisation is the key to repairing this. In Wales where they have a regional coordinator he can find ACs to fill the gaps. As regional strength/identity increases finding candidates is less of a problem.

Craig Cox: Standing for positions like Area-Chairman should not be forced upon anybody; it is an important role that shouldn't fall foul of elections for elections-sake. So it is important that we make people aware of the prestige such an office holds, and tell potential candidates about the positive aspects of the office.

Gregory Stafford: You give the Areas more autonomy and money from the National CF pot.

Karen Allen: A difficult task, but obviously a very important one. I think if the vacant positions were actually advertised then more people would come forward. I think the NME needs to play a vital role too in offering and providing support to would be Chairmen.

Ranil Jayawardena: Ensure that, as Mark Clarke has said, branches are active in target seats – and then the NME should seek out a Branch Chairman to take on the broader responsibility.

Tim Aker: Hold the area elections at different times to NME/Chairman elections and advertise them better.

Mark Clarke: Start at the bottom. We need to have more branches and more members. Look at London West. The Area Chairman roles there are not merely filled but heavily contested with four people this time fighting it out – that’s because we have a strong grassroots organisation in West London.

Christian Walker: The new NME needs to have greater contact within areas and know what the issues facing branches there. We need to encourage branch chairs in those areas to take the next step ensuring they have the support they need.

Claire Palmer: Identify people (through contacts, RCDs, CDs, advertising on CF bulletin) and encourage them to stand. Also, we need to make sure that we support our Area Chairman so that they do a good job, and see the point in the role.

Patrick Sullivan: Better publicity of these elections, many people only heard about these elections after the date for nominations closed.

Caroline Hunt: I think we really need to work at a national level to identify good, hard working candidates for Area Chairmen and push them forward. We need to find people willing and able to do the job and encouarge them to put themselves forward.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards: Firstly, by having new branches which provide the people likely to apply, and secondly, the National Exec sometimes needs to approach people who might not have thought about standing and giving them the encouragement to do so

3. To those who are running their own blog, will you continue to do so if elected?

Matthew Richardson: I’ve been running my website for 3 years and I plan to continue running it for ever. It’s not strictly a blog but if sufficient demand exists I will add a CF section. Please check it out.

Andrew Young: It's a campaign pledge. An exec blog would be the final link in CF Net.

Craig Cox: A blog is an incredibly efficient way of keeping in touch with people, and so it would be madness not to carry on running the blog. Even when on holidays across the other side of the world!

Gregory Stafford: I don't have a blog and I never will. I can't see the point in them for CF. A website is a valuable tool for communicating but a blog is usually the musings of an individual.

Karen Allen: Yes. I am going to continue with my blog, even if I don’t get elected. It’s really quite addictive and I’ve enjoyed the interaction.

Ranil Jayawardena: I don’t think a blog is for me to be honest! I don’t have one, but I will update my website regularly and will always be contactable.

Tim Aker: Yes.

Mark Clarke: Yes. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s an effective and efficient way of communicating with members but we should not rely on it exclusively. I have particularly enjoyed the fact that the Chinese Government have banned access to my blog - I must be doing and saying something right.

Christian Walker: I do not have a blog at present but if elected I will continue to contribute to CF Diary – communication and information exchange is critical. As a member, if the NME fail to deliver I would like to know if there was a good reason!

Claire Palmer: Probably not - I will focus on getting stuff done, and I have a full time job as well to do! However, I have quite enjoyed it and could be tempted to make postings, but I can't promise.

Patrick Sullivan: If I win, I will set up a blog to ensure that I am accountable to party members for all that I do.

Caroline Hunt: I started my blog this time last year when I was running for my second term on the national executive. The frequency of my posting varies but I think the fact that I've updated it at least once a month for the last year shows a certain dedication. I will definitely keep it up next year.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards: Yes – accountability is important.

4. Name one failure of last year's Exec

Matthew Richardson: It’s always bad form to criticise the previous incumbents of an office one wishes to hold. However I would argue that the fact many Area Chairman positions remain vacant at the end of the executive year is their biggest failing.

Andrew Young: Legacy. Most of the hard work was for short term gains, as a result, few things will endure beyond the next election. The NME has a duty to put in place the basis for future growth, see answer 5.

Craig Cox: One big failure was it's inability to provide more resources to new and upcoming branches, especially in constituency associations. If they could have achieved that we would have been much more able to fight target seats that could have swung the general election.

Gregory Stafford: Not holding a meeting of Area Chairman.

Karen Allen: I would pin-point communications. This is an area I think I am particularly strong in due to my work background. We need more regular and targeted communication across the country.

Ranil Jayawardena: Two things: The student annual ‘training conference’ wasn’t good enough…in terms of attendance or content. Also, no long term strategy has really been implemented to get CF of the state it is now!

Tim Aker: Lack of political purpose.

Mark Clarke: No. My excellent campaign team are always reminding me of Ronald Reagan’s dictum, ‘Never speak ill of a fellow Conservative’.

Christian Walker: Communication especially with Area Chairs.

Claire Palmer: Communication - we actually did some good stuff last year, but no-one heard about it.

Patrick Sullivan: It ran a poor campaign for the NUS Presidency with our candidate telling people to vote for someone else.

Caroline Hunt: Communication. It's been a real issue this year that we tried but did not succeed to address. We need a constant line of contact between the national chairman, the executive, the area chairmen and the branch chairmen so that problems can be filtered up and solutions filtered down.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards: The lack of a strategy to communicate to and train Area Chairman and the lack of clear leadership / long term strategy.

5. Name one achievement of last year's Exec

Matthew Richardson: There can be no doubt that the success of the year has been the working life conference. It has shown that CF can play to the young professional “market” as much as it can to students. It must be repeated.

Andrew Young: CF Support, the umbrella term for the writers, CF TV and CF Net team. Hopefully this will be the start of a change towards the centre acting as support for the regions as opposed to the reverse.

Craig Cox: The wide variety of events held by last years Exec was a credit to them all. Although they were slightly London-centric and poorly publicised, they showed how vivacious and diverse some of our events can be and I hope this is something CF can continue to do.

Gregory Stafford: Some great campaigning during the Local Elections.

Karen Allen: I think it has to be the events, culminating in the Loughborough Conference, we need to continue attracting new members. I was really pleased to speak to people at some of the events this year who had never been to any Conservative or political event before.

Ranil Jayawardena: From what I have heard, the Working Life Conference.

Tim Aker: I can't.

Mark Clarke: The Working Life Conference. That’s why I’m proud I was a member of Claire Palmer’s team which delivered it. I’m particularly pleased it was held in Loughborough and so enabled delegates to help out in a marginal seat on the morning afterwards.

Christian Walker: CF Television.

Claire Palmer: More working life people - hugely successful Working Life conference involving a wider team than the Exec, and delivering 5,000 leaflets in a target seat. New members, New MPs - a number of new members are now thinking of standing for Council, and coming to Party Conference for the first time.

Patrick Sullivan: It did not interfere with what we were doing at Nottingham.

Caroline Hunt: The 2006 local elections. We organised campaign days all around the country and had fantastic victories. We now have plenty more CF age councillors in the country with nine in Hammersmith and Fulham alone!

Jonathan Ash-Edwards:
The Working Life conference, large numbers of CF campaign days for the local elections and the CFTV project.

6. What is your greatest weakness?

Matthew Richardson: A blonde with a pretty smile.

Andrew Young: Time. The other two Chairman candidates have a four-month head start, making that up is going to be hard work.

Craig Cox: Being able to make friends with young Liberal Democrats.

Gregory Stafford: Sugar.

Karen Allen: Probably my impatience. I’m always keen to get things moving ahead and to keep plugging away. I like to see things happen. I appreciate that improving CF is going to take time, but I’d want to be involved with improvements that could be carried beyond the incumbent year.

Ranil Jayawardena: With due respect, it is not for me to judge!

Tim Aker: Brevity

Mark Clarke: I have plenty but I’m not about to give ammunition to the Labour leaning bloggers out there.

Christian Walker: I do not think you can have a great weakness! What irritates me about myself is my determination – some times I would like to be like some people (not all) that give up and go away after being knocked back on course for an easy life!

Claire Palmer: CF related: designing websites. In life: chocolate.

Patrick Sullivan: I like pie.

Caroline Hunt: Stuffed Crust Margherita's from Pizza Hut.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards:
I’ll leave that for the people who know me best to judge

7. What do you uniquely offer?

Matthew Richardson: All of the candidates are excellently qualified. Personally as someone who is just about to begin work as a barrister in London I feel that I am uniquely placed to note the differences between student life and young professional life.

Andrew Young: A radical change. We all seem to broadly agree what needs to be done. I'm proposing the entire system of how CF currently works should be changed (see answer 5).

Craig Cox: My dedication to my principles and work, and finding out the simplest solution to a problem. I am sure that throughout life we will be faced with tough decisions, and I am not sure that everybody will be able to keep a collected mindset; I hope and believe that I would be different to that.

Gregory Stafford: Only candidate who works full time for an MP who was the National YC Chairman. Vital experience is being passed on!!

Karen Allen: I think it has to be broad personability. By that, I mean I am good at communicating effectively to different groups of people, which I would attribute to my background.

Ranil Jayawardena: The drive and determination to working with others for the long term success of CF.

Tim Aker: A determination to re-politicise CF, bringing debate to the branches and promoting issue advocacy within CF.

Mark Clarke: A focused approach on building branches in marginal seats so that we make a strong contribution to winning at the next election. I believe that I uniquely bring a mix of a business experience, a CF background and senior party involvement which can help make this happen.

Christian Walker: A belief that the conservative party needs to go further in embracing feedback especially from CF and I believe I can push for this – it is a key way we can learn and move forward to win the next election.

Claire Palmer: I am the only candidate who was a university hooker (Dep.Ed: No, not that kind!)

Patrick Sullivan: Fresh Ideas and straight talking are some of my qualities. That is not to say that none of the other candidates share these qualities.

Caroline Hunt: A passion for Conservative Future. I love the organisation and will work my fingers to the bone to make it function as it should - a well run network of branches up and down the country. I've given plenty of blood, sweat and tears to CF over the last few years and I will happily give more.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards: Having been on the Exec this year, I have the advantage of knowing what worked and what didn’t and what is physically achievable in the next year

8. Is getting officially involved in the NUS about fighting the good fight or is it a waste of time?

Matthew Richardson: NUS is largely a money drain full of militant leftists. At university Greg Stafford and I successfully campaigned to disaffiliate our college from the NUS. If CF has any involvement in NUS it should be to assist other such campaigns.

Andrew Young: NUS is a waste of time, but if they're willing to pay to give our members a week at the seaside we might as well accept their generosity. The important student campaign is getting sabbatical officers elected to allow next year's student CF to start off stronger.

Craig Cox: We must attempt to get elected to the NUS because it has a gargantuan level of failings and we will not change this from shouting from the outside. I do, however, advocate a vastly decreased level of involvement; they do not offer a fair deal to Conservative students and certainly do not represent their views.

Gregory Stafford: NUS is a waste of time. However, CF should never be seen to shy away from an opportunity to make the views of conservatism known.

Karen Allen: I think there are many other areas where our energy could be better used.

Ranil Jayawardena: Currently it is a waste of time – it would be much more purposeful to ensure Tory delegates are elected in universities first – then we could work out who we want to get on to the Block of 12.

Tim Aker: The NUS and the socialists running it aren’t going to go away, so why should we surrender to them on ground we can easily take back?  You don’t give up a fight just because it may seem difficult.

Mark Clarke: Basically, it’s a waste of time. Success seems to be classified as putting a lot of time and effort into maybe winning one seat out of twelve on the NUS exec. This will then allow us to get out-voted as we unite a fairly pointless, but currently factionalised, organisation against the one Conservative.

Christian Walker: I read on CF Diary recently a comment that I endorse completely: if there are members that wish to fight to be on the NUS national board then we should support them all the way.

Claire Palmer: Personally it is not a big deal to me, and it would not be a priority. However I recognise that it is important to a number of our members, and so I am, of course, willing to let people get on and do it if they want. However it should not be to the detriment of good events, training, or branches in target seats.

Patrick Sullivan: If young people don’t see Conservatives standing up for them on campuses and in schools, then they will quite justifiably think why should we stand up for the Conservatives.

Caroline Hunt: Given those two choices - fighting the good fight. There will always be CF delegates at NUS conference and we cannot abandon them. It's about striking the right balance between taking the opportunities NUS offers us but not wasting time and resources that could be valuably used elsewhere.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards:
NUS is a waste of time and is increasingly nothing more than a discount card to most students. However, if people wish to stand then I don’t see why we should stop them.

9. Do you support devoting time and money to apolitical community work?

Matthew Richardson: Given that the Conservative Party lately has a reputation as the nasty party it wouldn’t hurt to get involved in some community projects. I think that it would send the message that the youth of the party are not evil.

Andrew Young: 'Issue' campaigns are part of the manifesto, showing people how Conservatives can make a difference is important. However, all CF work must be political at some level.

Craig Cox: I think that communities do best by local people doing their bit for their localities. My involvement in politics means that without doubt I must support communities - I certainly do in Horsham and Crawley- it would be immoral for people to think otherwise.

Gregory Stafford: Yes. I spend a lot of time doing work with community charities especially in my own Borough of Ealing. For example I teach sailing to disabled and/or disadvantaged children and I am on the Board of Governors for a local school.

Karen Allen: Absolutely. I am a firm believer in boasting social conscience and trying to improve quality of life, particularly for those less fortunate than ourselves. I think it’s such an important thing and I’m not sure I would describe it as apolitical.

Ranil Jayawardena: Yes. Blue Sky Foundation.

Tim Aker: In theory, yes, but it would depend on the work, my income and time I have free.

Mark Clarke: Yes, please see my article on it. Community work is not ‘apolitical’ - it is what politics is all about. Conservatives have a unique responsibility to get involved in Social Action because we cannot make the case for a smaller state unless we balloon the size of the voluntary sector to fill the gap.

Christian Walker: Absolutely – I think it needs to be carefully balanced and developed to ensure it is sustainable and not a gimmick but the electorate needs to see conservatives other than when they we are pushing leaflets at election time.

Claire Palmer: Yes. Although much more on the time side, and encouraging our members to get involved. I don't think it is necessarily something that CF money should be spent on. Certainly I am happy to personally spend my money, and encourage others to spend their own money.

Patrick Sullivan: Yes. Please read my article on Conservatives in the Community, for further details.

Caroline Hunt: Absolutely. See my blog for more information. But also I personally feel very strongly about it because community work gives people a much more direct way of getting involved in politics and in the problems that effect people on a day to day basis.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards:
Definitely yes.

10. What are your three favourite films?

Matthew Richardson: In reverse order: The Truman Show, Team America: World Police and the greatest film ever Ferris Bueller's Day Off. My full top ten films list can be found at this link along with a brief explanation of each film.

Andrew Young: Only three? No can do...

Craig Cox: Jarhead, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Anchorman (At the moment!).

Gregory Stafford: Zulu, A Bridge Too Far, Deep Blue Sea.

Karen Allen: 1. Crash. 2. Truly, Madly, Deeply. 3. Mystic River.

Ranil Jayawardena: Gladiator, Armageddon and Dr. No

Tim Aker: Zulu, Scarface, Alien.

Mark Clarke: It’s a Wonderful Life shows the power of the ordinary person to affect their community. Passport to Pimlico shows how people and politics are intensely localised but that our country is stronger when it works together. Star Wars - I’m a boy. I still want to be a Jedi who saves the Universe.

Christian Walker: Only three impossible - erm - Constant Gardener, Shawshank Redemption, 39 Steps (1970s version).

Claire Palmer: Gladiator, Lion King, Pretty woman (not connected to Q7!).

Patrick Sullivan: The Fountainhead, The Godfather Trilogy, Team America: World Police.

Caroline Hunt: Definitely the first time in ages anyone in CF has asked me about films. I lived with film students at university and it is one of my biggest passions in life. At this moment in time I would have to say Breakfast at Tiffanys, South Park: The Movie, The Usual Suspects.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards:
I’m not a great film watcher I’m afraid!


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.