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Ben Howlett: Two years of progress for ConservativeFuture

Howlett benBen Howlett is National Chairman of Conservative Future. Follow Ben on Twitter.

This October marks the second anniversary of my election as National Chairman of Conservative Future.  I want to take this opportunity to let members know what has happened, what is to come and also to explain why I believe that CF is the strongest of the political youth wings.

This year’s Freshers’ Fair campaign is at an end.  Last year CF branches across the UK signed up around 6,000 new supporters; this year results have now come in and show no drop in new recruits nationally. That makes CF by far the most popular political youth wing on campuses as well as holding the title of the largest youth wing of any political party in the UK.  

Conservative Future has got a strong narrative, a narrative of aspiration.  Those who get involved with us on campus see us as an organisation that gives them the opportunity to campaign on issues such as improving the quality of vocational education and increasing the number of apprenticeships for young people.  Those that do our organisation down consider this to be a fabrication; however no one can doubt the continued growth of our organisation as a result of this stand.  

For those that don’t know, Conservative Future has grown from 200 branches in 2010 to 380 branches in 2012.  We helped ensure a No vote in the AV Referendum, we were integral to helping Boris get re-elected as Mayor of London for a historic second term and we have got even more councillors elected in by-elections across the UK.  Conservative Future has got so large as an organisation we are branching out to truly represent members and what they want out of a vibrant youth organisation.  We have set up the CF Policy Forum, for members to have their say on policy issues, CF Postgrads and CF Young Professionals to grow enthusiasm around our 20+ members,  One of the key successes however has been the launch of CF Women which has held various events and campaigns to help train and debate issues that affect women within the party and in the world of business. Without an underlying narrative of aspiration underpinning us as an organisation we could not have achieved what we have. 

As the son of a former shopkeeper and someone whose mother is disabled, I was tremendously pleased with the Prime Minister’s narrative of aspiration at Conservative Party Conference.  My mum and dad worked incredibly hard to get my brother and I into university as a result of the cultural shifts that Mrs Thatcher spearheaded and championed in the 1980s.  Thatcher inspired a sense of aspiration among millions of people across Britain.  She believed those who did not have the opportunity to own their own homes, or send their children to university should have that chance. I am absolutely delighted that this narrative has resonated across branches, campuses and members across the UK.  

An apprentice recently came along to an event very keen to set up a CF branch in Bedfordshire.  He became involved with CF because he saw that CF was no longer characterised by old stereotypes.  He was on an apprenticeship course because of the funding this Government has provided.  I also recently heard from one of the growing number of young woman who are wanting to get involved with CF.  She got in touch with me the other day because of the social action projects CF members are supporting in South East London. Conservative Future is a highly meritocratic organisation and one which encourages people who work hard to go far.  If you roll up your sleeves, campaign, fundraise and organise community social action projects, the respect you have as a member ensures you go far.

Over the coming months we will be campaigning hard for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections, the upcoming Parliamentary by-elections, in particular Corby & East Northamptonshire, and we will be fighting to keep the Union together. We have an event planned to encourage more young people to become councillors, as well as training days, social events and receptions.  If anyone thinks that CF will become quiet as we get close to the CF elections, they are going to be proven wrong.  If you want to find out more about our events etc please sign up to the CF National mailing list.

I hope that whoever takes over from me as National Chairman in March 2013 continues with those underlying principles of meritocracy.  Members deserve better than to allow CF to go back to small cliques of the past.  We are one Party with the core aim of getting David Cameron back into Number 10 in 2015 with an overall majority.  We have a fantastically positive narrative.  So if you, as a member, ever have anyone on their campus tell you that Conservative Future is a lefty caricature, proudly reply back and say "we are the party of aspiration and I have helped contribute to that achievement."  That's the party we are in 2012 and that’s the Party I'm proud to be a part of.


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