Conservative Diary

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Christian Walker's Communications update

Christian_walkerSince my last update in January I have been busy on a number of projects which I am now able to feed back on below.  Being on the Executive continues to be both rewarding and infuriating in almost equal measures!  I continue to support on a daily basis anyone that has requested help and information and I am usually able to find positive resolutions.  Some of these outcomes also inform improved communication on a wider level for example policy forums – see below.  We have a number of new branches with individuals contacting me from areas where there have not been active branches for a long time.  These people are now pushing not always smoothly but with a determination to succeed.

I have continued to travel around although not as much I would have liked – remember if you need some extra support at an event from a member of the executive – just ask! 

There was a good response to the consultation, it closed at the end of February and it has taken a considerable amount of time to sort through the results before I was able to report back - I am not going to duplicate these results here.

Communication Strategy

When I took on communications in September, I took on a number of areas not previously covered by just one person.  There was a plethora of websites not all of which were up to date and some with very low ‘hits’ and there was certainly no logical communication plan.  I drafted the outlines of this in December and presented this to the Executive.  With the results of the consultation now in I am able to complete this with the benefit, perhaps being felt more by the next leadership team.

Website   

The website has long been a thorn in the side of CF, with updating the site being out of the control of the leadership team.  I had what I felt were realistic plans to create a basic, functional site acting as an official hub.  However due partly to CF finances this year and also the ability to find CCHQ ownership for the website this has been a challenge.  I have been banging the website drum for six months now and since February I have been working closely with Justine Greening and also (although not so closely) Francis Maude to address the website. 

I have learnt to compromise a little to achieve some realistic resolve.  I have gone page by page through the current site and listed the changes and I am pleased to announce that CF now has a dedicated line of support to update the website.  I know the basic updates are not great and are far from what many of us would like but it is a start and having dedicated lines of support is a huge step forward.  Besides its audience, perhaps the main people hit by the website problems has been the dedicated website writers.  The situation has been incredibly infuriating for all concerned but I know we are now heading out of the tunnel!

Policy Forum

During CF leadership team elections for a number of years the question of the executive taking political positions on areas of party policy has been a much debated issue.  I still stand by my view that the nature of the elected leadership team is to ensure the strategic smooth running of CF and lead campaigns to ensure the next government is Conservative.  However I have also felt that CF as a membership body did not communicate its views/opinions well enough with the wider party in terms of party policy.  The enabling of this is clearly the responsibility of the leadership team and has been neglected.

When I was a branch chairman I enquired about CF members getting involved in commenting/shaping party policy and I was reluctantly pointed in the direction of the local official forum.  While the three elderly gentlemen were very hospitable it was not the most engaging policy debate I have been to.  When I fed these thoughts back I was told CF was young and agile and we should be out delivering literature!  However we are able to do both and I know from the consultation and emails that I have received that many members agree.  I am now working with Lucy Lea to develop a route for members to establish there own policy forum and inform the development of party policy.  I hope this will be ready within the next month.

Bulletins

The issue of the bulletin is another hotly debated area.  From when we took office last year there has a two fold problem firstly with access to membership data and secondly dedicated CCHQ support to issue the bulletin.  To reduce the pressure of the latter issue and also in response to some requests it was issued monthly and has been sent out on that format since.  From February they have also been available on CF Diary.  In March these problems came to ahead in conjunction to technical problems as a result of the CCHQ move to Millbank.

Both Mark and I raised this as high as we could within the party to find resolve to this long standing problem and I am again pleased to announce this resolution.  From April we have a new line of support to issue the Bulletin.  Following the outcome of the consultation I would like to see it go back to fortnightly but we can tackle that in time when the monthly issuing is established again.  To clarify to those that think it is does not look great the reason the format of the Bulletin is due to the fact it needs to be opened by all PC formats – the current one is tried and tested thanks to Andrew Young.

Broader Membership

The membership database is now also progressing having been stalled while CCHQ moved – the new system is now approaching completion and for the first time (I really hope) a professional management of membership data within the party will be possible!

Review of Pledges

It is also always good not only to look forward but review the past.  I stood on five pledges last year and while we have three months left to run it is good to revisit these.

Firstly ‘More open structure’ (1)  from all the feed back and the consultation I know that getting responses to emails and telephone messages has dramatically improved this year – I have and continue to act as a point of contact for those not sure of who to ask.  This is the first executive to regularly update members through email and CF Diary on progress led largely by Matt Richardson’s pledge.

'Dedicated support’ (2), each area of CF has had support; no doubt someone will come out of the woodwork now that has not (!!) – Please do contact me or a member of the executive if you need support.  I continue to offer and give information/support daily.  Financial restrictions this year have meant we have not been available to sort out a handbook but during my quarterly call around to areas chairs I find they are doing great jobs with out one.

‘National Campaign’(3), I have not delivered on this to date, with my time spend on getting the basics sorted however I intend to push for this now we have resolved the website/bulletin issues.

In terms of ‘Logical Communication’ (4)I hope I have made progress.  I have outlined above issue resolve to date in relation to a number of issues and the creation of a communication strategy.  I also have made myself available to anyone needing support from directing their question to the right person within CCHQ to developing a newsletter template for a new branch.

The organising ‘Co-ordinated events’ (5) does not fall within my portfolio but as an executive we made the decision to concentrate on marginal seats - creating/supporting new branches and leaving events to Area Chairs.  However there have been exceptions for example the Executive Christmas Party organised by Karen that was arguably a success in an iconic location. 

Contact

Finally as usual please remember (many of you do not need reminding I know) if you have a question or issue that needs resolving please do not hesitate to contact me or copy me in so I can follow things up and ensure enquires are dealt with – [email protected]ure.com   

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