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John Moorcraft: Improving CF – What Would You Do?

Although both habitually and callously mocked by my non-scholarly peers for undertaking research into the young conservative movement (some of the words they use are extremely discourteous…) I can honestly say I am extremely proud of my work.  I have found researching aspects of the historical and contemporary UK young conservative movement surprisingly enjoyable on occasion and, whilst this may be a somewhat optimistic aspiration, I sincerely hope my work, should it ever be published, helps to destroy once and for all some of the erroneous and offensive stereotypes associated with the social characteristics and political viewpoints of young conservatives.   

However, perhaps somewhat inevitably given my inexperience at undertaking comprehensive empirical academic research, I have made some mistakes at all stages of my project and, if I could restart over, I would unquestionably have done numerous things differently. For example, whilst my decision to become active as a co-opted member of my local branch exec can be academically justified, I perhaps should have tried harder to resist my natural inclination to get involved and instead devoted all my attention to my doctoral thesis.  However, whilst it is far from the imperfection associated with my research project that will be investigated particularly stringently during my viva, the mistake which most frustrates me personally concerns the omission of a question that was originally included when undertaking my pilot survey which read as follows… 

Please complete the following sentence using the space provided.

"The one thing I believe would most improve Conservative Future as an organisation is…"

Now, as one may perhaps anticipate given the open ended nature of the question, I received a startling array of answers from those participating in my pilot survey, ranging from the protracted and scholarly through to the succinct and comical.  For example, one participant wrote with considerable eloquence across two pages (ignoring my plea to use the space provided…) about the virtues of reintroducing a regional electoral system into the young conservative movement  (1 Exec member from the North West, 1 from The South East, a couple from London and so on…).  Another participant emphasised the benefits of allowing local and regional branches to exclusively undertake the organisation of political and social events (believing CF Exec focus should be elsewhere – where exactly was never stated); something which contradicted the demands of those who answered the question by suggesting they would like to see more nationally organised events for Working Life members. This latter response in itself was dismissed by some participants who suggested the biggest way to improve CF would be to refocus resources and attention away from Working Life and back towards Student Life; something which could be achieved by encouraging the election of CF Sabbatical Officers and redoubling (or “requadrupling” as one put it) the amount of effort invested into NUS elections.  For others, the biggest way CF could be improved was through boycotting the NUS completely and instead reallocating all resources into putting on more general events of appeal to everybody and getting Conservative Party candidates elected. Some respondents participating towards the end of the pilot survey suggested extending the marginal seats initiative should be a priority, whilst others stressed the importance of sorting out the administrative and communication side of CF (in particular the official website; but issues such as a single CF Exec blog, the employment of additional staff at CCHQ to assist the National Organiser and more regular CF Bulletins also got a mention). Finally, one suspects the handful of individuals who answered the question with “abolishing it and bringing back the YC’s and FCS” did so with their tongue only partially in their cheek, whilst one can only wonder what motivated the individual who put “bringing back the Miss YC Competitions” to articulate that particular response!   

Despite the interesting nature of the responses received to this question throughout my pilot survey, I decided not to include it in the final version of my questionnaire on the premise analysing the answers would have taken up a considerable amount of both time (to code everything correctly) and words (which are a scarce commodity in my thesis and not a single one can be wasted). 

However, the decision to omit this particular question is one I now regret.   

Therefore, in an attempt to rectify my oversight, I turn to both the readership of CF Diary and my personal blog to outline what they believe to be the one thing which could be done to most improve CF as an organisation.  Do you agree with some of the ideas already outlined and think that changing the CF election system, allowing branches to organise all events, holding more working life events, having more NUS involvement, having less NUS involvement, extending the marginal seats initiative or abolishing the whole caboodle and starting afresh is the best way to improve the young conservative movement. Perhaps you agree with me (and it has to be said a considerable number of participants) and think that improving communication between the CF Exec and the grassroots membership by overhauling (or at least regularly updating) the official CF website and sorting out the CF Bulletin would make things much better.  Or maybe something that hasn’t already been mentioned is what you most like to see happen, such as increased funding for the organisation, running more ideologically motivated events, bringing back supper clubs (surely not), running more campaign days, holding a CF National Conference, holding a Student Life Conference, reintroducing National Weekend, improving freshers packs, bringing back BLAST days or seeing closer co-operation with other young conservative groups throughout the UK, Europe and the world…

Whatever the one thing that you believe would most improve CF as an organisation is, please do let me know by either leaving a comment in the appropriate section below or emailing me.  Not only will you have the satisfaction of knowing you have assisted me in putting right a wrong of my thesis as it currently stands  (you might even see you name in print in due course…), you will also send a message to those considering a stab at the CF Exec next time the elections come round…


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