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How the Voluntary Party intends to grow and develop - the final, official plans in full

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 5 Earlier in the summer, Jeremy Middleton, the chairman of the National Conservative Convention, analysed the state of the voluntary party and wrote some draft proposals as to how to regenerate it.

He then spent several months consulting on those issues and in the mean time here on ConHome, Paul Goodman wrote a two part series (here and here) considering the state of the voluntary party and posing a number of questions about its future. Last week he summarised the responses to his pieces.

Now, in the last few days, we have seen the publication of Our Future - the final form of Jeremy Middleton's plans - as agreed by the National Conservative Convention and the Party Board.

In the covering letter he sent to activists with the document, he said that it had the objective of helping "to develop the Voluntary Party into an even more effective election winning machine and to reinforce the central role of the volunteers in the heart of our Party."

He took particular trouble to emphasise that power and authority "should rest at the lowest possible level in our Party" and that "we, the Volunteers, will be running Social Action and that it will be defined by us - by local people who want to be involved."

Below is his summary of the nine aims as contained in the document, but you should click here to download the full document in its entirety.

  1. To focus all Local Associations on campaigning in their communities. We will encourage all Associations to set up or continue Campaign Teams modelled on those in our target seats. In some cases this will just mean a continuation of “best practice” others will need to set up new teams. Where appropriate Associations may choose to form a joint Campaign Team with other Associations. These are local decisions.
  2. To grow our Membership. We are determined to measure it, to target it and to grow it. Conservative Headquarters will invest to help us recruit.
  3. To embrace Social Action. We will ask all Associations to encourage local Volunteers who want to be involved to join new Social Action Teams. This will attract new people to our Party. 
  4. To embrace Policy Discussion. We will form new Policy Discussion Groups that will reach out into our communities. We plan to create a two way flow of ideas between our communities and our Party. 
  5. To embrace localism. All decisions that can be taken locally will be taken locally. In particular we need great local leaders to hold responsibility for selecting local and parliamentary candidates (within the rules), for Party discipline, for Party organisation and for performance improvement. 
  6. To attract and involve new people with our Party. We will encourage Associations, Areas and Regions to co-opt people of talent to join the new campaign teams at every level. We must bind the new talent that has flocked to our target seat campaigns into our Associations and use our Parliamentarians and Councillors to help us find more people willing to contribute to political and social action.
  7. To expand the leadership of the Voluntary Party at all levels. We need to embrace all those with a stake in supporting the Party – we will encourage the Volunteers at Association, Area and Regional levels to invite Parliamentarians, Councillors and Treasurers to join their campaign teams and to participate in decision making as they have done in the best target seat campaigns. 
  8. To make the hierarchy in the Voluntary Party clearer. Areas will be encouraged to take responsibility for helping Associations as centres of best practice, and Areas and Regions will be encouraged to take on responsibility for improving performance. They will be encouraged to use the full powers of the Board to promote leadership and remove road blocks to reform, and to restructure the organisation in the best interest of the Party in their patch. We will empower our organisation from the bottom up. 
  9. To launch a new “Campaign Action Fund”modelled on the Target Seats fund. This will distribute “pump priming” funds to local Campaign Teams to facilitate a reorganisation, to find new supporters, or to back a social action project. This fund will be raised by the Voluntary Party, working in partnership with the Party Treasurers.


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