Andrew Stephenson is Conservative Party Chairman and MP for Pendle.
As we approach the halfway point of this leadership election process with our sixth hustings of twelve in Cheltenham today, I’ve been delighted with the overwhelming response we’ve had from our members so far.
Our first hustings in Leeds sold out in just three days and our second one in Exeter in just four. Well over 5000 members have attended our first five hustings and to date nearly 17,000 hustings tickets have already been sold. Thousands more members have tuned in online and hundreds of members of the media have also attended.
We are close to selling-out on all the remaining hustings so I urge members who haven’t got a ticket yet and would like to attend to book remaining places now.
We decided it was important to take these hustings across the country and all four nations of the UK, and these strong ticket sale numbers show why.
I certainly enjoyed seeing Leeds United’s stadium up close at Elland Road, and I hope our members enjoyed the glorious sunshine by the seaside in Eastbourne last week.
Our decision to introduce a £5 ticket charge for this hustings programme has also proved justified. Drop-out rates have been massively reduced compared to 2019 and we have had bursting full venues at every hustings so far.
Members have asked probing questions but given each candidate a fair and respectful hearing, showing our Party at its best.
Next week we’ll be taking our hustings to Scotland and Northern Ireland, and at a time of fresh calls from nationalists for the break-up our United Kingdom, I will be particularly banging the drum for the importance and strength of our Union, the most successful political union in history.
As a Party we have recently opened two new offices in Wales, one in Abergele in North Wales and a new larger office in Cardiff, and have invested in our infrastructure in Scotland. We must always remain the Conservative and Unionist Party.
Our party membership is up since the start of the year and I am urging colleagues and associations to use the current focus on our leadership election to launch fresh recruitment drives, renewals and contacting lapsed members. Our members are our ground troops when it comes to fighting a general election and I want our ground game to be as strong as possible when that next general election comes.
For whoever wins this leadership contest, we must continue to build our election preparations. We are already recruiting new campaign managers, recently reopened the candidates list, and working with associations and MPs are delivering 2.2 million leaflets in 80 key seats.
Our numbers for our upcoming Party Conference in Birmingham are also looking strong, and we on course for one of our largest Conferences. There is still time to buy your ticket here.
Since becoming Party Chairman little more than a month ago, while my priority has been on organising our leadership hustings and vote, I have also managed to visit 26 constituencies across the country. From West Brom to Winchester, St Ives to Stoke-on-Trent, Durham to Dudley, I have found our members and Party in good voice and good strength.
And what I’ve also found is whichever candidate they are backing, our activists are ready and keen to come together, unite behind a new leader and get to work on taking the fight to Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Together we can win that next general election, and an historic fifth term.
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