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Bristol hustings review

The first hustings of the year was held today in Bristol (photos to follow). Simon Iles of Bristol Uni offers this report:

A number of the candidates for both the post of Conservative Future National Chairman and the National Executive took part in a hustings event at Westfield Park, the Bristol Conservatives headquarters, on the 27th January.

Chairman candidates Matthew Richardson, Michael Rock and Daryl Williams were present alongside National Executive hopefuls Steve Ricketts, Owen Meredith, Matt Lewis, Anastasia Beaumont-Bott, Christian May and Patrick Sullivan, while Anne-Marie Bray provided a written statement in her absence.

A healthy attendance of 40 people watched on as each candidate was given time to outline their plans to take Conservative Future forward. Many of the candidates noted how, from humble beginnings of small contingents, Conservative Future has evolved, whilst maintaining that there is still work to do. One of the major themes that emerged was communication both within the party and within the wider political sphere. Anastasia Beaumont-Bott told the packed room, “What we have to do is talk – Let’s be friends and not numbers.” 

Another key issue for the candidates was expanding and improving Conservative Future by building up from a strong network of local branches. Matthew Richardson noted the importance of campaigning, as well as calling for a larger focus on the “provinces” outside of London, while Owen Meredith noted plans to ensure that student members of Conservative Future graduating and leaving home are “absorbed into their new branch and are not lost in the system.” Chairman candidate Michael Rock felt that “CF should be at universities, colleges and sixth forms, breaking down every barrier that’s stopping us from expanding.”

The competing candidates were also keen to build upon the diverse nature of Conservative Future as an organisation, hoping to improve upon both the social and political activities currently offered. Matthew Lewis urged an acceptance that “CF is different things to different people”, while adding that “what we need is a CF where everyone feels connected to the national structure.” Patrick Sullivan felt that CF events could have “a magnet effect - Yes it’s a Tory event, but it’s fun. I want outreach, tell your friends about the party.” Daryl Williams, one of the candidates for national CF Chairman, said “My aim, as it was when I joined the party ten years ago is to get the party back into power… I want you to share in my vision, so we can make it our vision for the future.” Steve Ricketts echoed those sentiments in summing up his ethos for Conservative Future: “We are the future of the country. Let’s get together and make a difference.”

These political aims were certainly not lost on the enthusiastic Conservative Future members in the audience, who engaged the candidates in a question and answer session following the main speeches.

Nicolas Webb, Chairman of Bristol and Gloucester Conservative Future, hailed the event as a great success, both in the pleasing turnout and the competitive, but positively-natured debates between the different candidates. National Executive applicant Christian May illustrated the growing optimism within both Conservative Future and in the party as a whole: “We must not sound pessimistic – I look forward, with passion, to when David Cameron becomes Prime Minister.” It is clear from these hustings that candidates and members alike are united in that aim as well as in acceptance of what needs to be done to achieve it.

Do add your own thoughts on the event if you were there...

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