The results have just been announced of the election of the officers of the Conservative National Convention. I’ve published the full details below, but two things to note initially: Dinah Glover, the London East chairman who effectively weaponised the Convention to help unseat Theresa May, came within 25 votes of a Vice President spot; and despite there being three female VP candidates in a field of seven, all three VP slots have gone to men, despite Julie Iles’ case for more female representation at senior levels of the voluntary party.
Here are the details:
Chairman: Mr Andrew Sharpe OBE (Elected Unopposed)
President: Pamela Hall (Elected Unopposed)
Linda Arkley 117
Peter Booth 198
Andrew Colborne-Baber 224
Jim Cooper 123
Dinah Glover 170
Julie Iles 171
James Pearson 195
Andrew Sharpe OBE is elected Chairman of the National Convention;
Pamela Hall is elected President of the National Convention; and that
Peter Booth, Andrew Colborne-Baber and James Pearson are elected as Vice Presidents of the National Convention.
Yesterday’s announcement of a relaxation of the immigration rules for scientists from around the world was noteworthy for two reasons.
First, because it’s a good idea, long overdue and likely to be popular.
Second, because of how the message was delivered.
There was a press release, and an accompanying evening news package by the BBC, filmed on a Prime Ministerial visit to a fusion power research centre in Oxfordshire. But before either of those went out, the actual announcement took place online, in a Facebook Live broadcast by Boris Johnson.
The video itself was short, hitting key messages on police and NHS spending before trailing the headline news, leaving the detail for the official release shortly afterwards. The fairly simple set contained a few nods to his fans (and detractors) The flag, the ministerial red box (rapped pointedly when he spoke of getting to work) and, nestled away at the back, a red bus.
No, not that red bus. Nor the now-famous red buses built out of painted wine boxes. Rather a red, double-decker, London bus featuring the Back Boris 2008 logo – a memento of the mayoralty which influenced him so much, placed carefully where a TV had stood earlier in the day.
It’s the use of this video as the first point of announcement for an important policy that is particularly significant. It’s no secret that some political broadcasters have at times been a bit antagonistic, and that there are some tensions in the relationship already. More generally, what every politician really desires is an opportunity to communicate their message directly to voters without edit, limit or interpretation.
Breaking news through a social media broadcast, unfiltered, therefore makes sense. Between Facebook and Twitter this clip was seen by at least 450,000 people throughout the course of the evening, which isn’t bad given there was no pre-publicity to warn the audience in advance. My understanding is that this is a first experiment, and there will be more such broadcasts from the Prime Minister, the audience of which will be closely studied in Downing Street.
In an age which values authenticity, this is an approach with potential, particularly for this Prime Minister. Johnson opens with an invitation, the emphasis on the personal nature of the conversation and the privileged access being offered to viewers: “I’m speaking to you live from my desk in Downing Street”. He has built his career on being distinctive, engaging and entertaining; he’s the Government’s most notable media asset. It would be madness to lock that away behind bland scripts and anonymised official statements.
Previous examples of leaders seeking such direct communication with voters spring to mind, some more successful than others. Stanley Baldwin, the UK’s earliest adopter of broadcasting as a political tool; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous ‘fireside chats’; Harold Wilson’s sometimes ill-advised penchant for television (complete with the affectation of a pipe); Ronald Reagan’s extraordinary run of over 1,000 daily radio commentaries on current affairs prior to becoming President. David Cameron, of course, had WebCameron – sometimes a bit stagey, but always more at ease than Gordon Brown’s rictus efforts at YouTube. There are lessons from each, and all underscore that no politician can afford to stand still while the media changes around him.
It’s encouraging to see the Prime Minister’s team exploring and trying out new ways to cut through to the electorate. Making sure they maintain message discipline while allowing his personality to show will be the key. Relax it too much and it loses its bite; structure it too closely and it risks looking like a hostage video, turning off fans who want to feel they are seeing their Prime Minister as he really is. Get it right, and these broadcasts could have a really big impact.
We normally confine updates on ConservativeHome’s traffic and readership to an end-of-year update, but today marks a sufficiently remarkable milestone that it’s worth noting in itself.
After several years of repeatedly record-breaking readership figures, 2019 has exceeded even those past performances.
In the year to date, ConservativeHome has now had more unique readers (1,997,032) and more pageviews (over 15.9 million) than the site received in the whole of 2018 – that’s a full year’s traffic in a little over seven months.
We’re currently on 8,700,355 visits to the site, too, which is just 2.4 per cent shy of the entire 2019 total, so it seems that record will also be eclipsed soon.
That’s a huge credit to my colleagues, and all our columnists and contributors, but also to our readers – longstanding and newfound – for their continued interest in and support for ConservativeHome.
The third and final finding from this month’s ConservativeHome survey of Party members is not very surprising, but important nonetheless.
Over 72 per cent of respondents answered “Yes” to the question “Do you believe that the UK will leave the EU by 31st October 2019?”
We knew that the majority of Tory members voted Leave, that around six in ten voted for the Brexit Party in the EU elections, and that a clear majority voted for Boris Johnson as Conservative leader. We also know that they are feeling fairly optimistic about the next election, since the change of Prime Minister, and newly positive about his Cabinet.
On that basis, you’d expect a high degree of belief in and agreement with Boris’s pledge to deliver Brexit by the end of October among Tory members. The challenge, of course, comes in ensuring the promise – and thereby this weight of expectation – is fulfilled. Fail that test, and every other positive number will tumble with it.