Tom Spiller: Why I’m standing to be Chairman of the National Convention

3 Jul

Tom Spiller is the former President of the Conservative National Convention and chaired the 2017 party conference.

I am honoured to have been nominated as a candidate to be Chairman of the National Convention. There is a problem though – too few people have even heard of the Convention. This has long been an issue, so last summer, I produced a webinar to try to raise awareness of the institution, its history and its work.

Let me tell you a bit about my background and why I want to serve in this important role.

I caught the politics bug back home in Nottingham when I was 16 and have been hooked ever since. I have done pretty much every voluntary job but never put myself forward for election to Parliament, and do not want to be an MP. For the last two decades I have immersed myself in political campaigning because I believe in the cause.

I served as Vice-President and President of the National Convention during the critical Brexit years from 2016 to 2019. It was certainly an interesting time! I am no child of summer – I have experience of operating at that level in a challenging environment.

My wife and I have two young children, aged 3 and 1. I have always believed we need a range of representation in our Party and have (I hope) successfully managed a happy family life, career and my role as an activist. I am part of that hard-to-reach demographic which is so often in short supply in our Associations. I know first-hand the struggles that working men and women of my generation face.

I am a lawyer by trade and work in the City. It is a job that requires advocacy skills, high levels of organisation, the ability to operate under pressure, diplomacy and the ability to assimilate large amounts of information about new topics on a daily basis. I hope these qualities stand me in good stead.

So what do I want to do as Convention Chairman?

Our party is made up of three parts – publicly elected, professional and voluntary.

The voluntary part is vital, it is the lifeblood that drives the heart of our party. Goodwill is the fuel that keeps us going and motivates us to give our free time to this cause in return for nothing other than the satisfaction of doing what we feel is right.

I want to establish a stand-alone annual event which thanks rank-and-file activists for their hard work to nurture goodwill. It will be called the Activist Awards and will also serve as a showcase for best campaigning practice.

A key ingredient of the vital goodwill I refer to is respect. We must restore respect so that all three parts of the party remain in balance during these politically turbulent times.

One sphere in which I want to restore respect is in relation to Parliamentary selection. We must now see an expansion of the selection rights of members. There can be no side-lining of members in selection processes, or railroading them into making choices that they haven’t been properly consulted on.

Now is the time to make these changes because, as we all know, a significant amount of goodwill is necessary to navigate the upcoming Parliamentary boundary changes, and to get match fit for the next general election, whenever that may come.

To get match fit we also need a proper, rigorous focus on training.

This is something I was passionate about during my time on the Board; I ran the regular, over-subscribed, ‘Behind the Scenes’ events series at CCHQ. Training is something that I have stayed focussed on through my work at Conservative Progress in recent years. One of the events I am particularly proud of was my first-of-its-kind, peer-to-peer familiarisation webinar for first-time Association Chairs that I produced last year.

If you elect me I will re-double my efforts on this front so that our activists will always have the support they need.

To be clear, I don’t want to put just on any old, bland events! They must be practical in focus, easy to understand, and above all they must feature a mix of expertise from the professional and voluntary party alike. One past event I am particularly proud of is the webinar that I produced shortly before the May 2021 local elections, which featured advice from, amongst others, grass roots hero Mayor Ben Houchen, who I am pleased to say has endorsed my candidacy.

How will I set the training agenda?

By asking you what you need, as I did in my Covid support survey at the start of this year. I want to keep on undertaking exercises like these, but on a much larger scale!

It is not just the sphere of training where I will ask your views before making decisions. I will do it whenever a matter of significance arises.

The voluntary party needs the Chairman of the National Convention to be its champion. I believe I have the experience and skills to do this. I have shown in my time on the Board that I am committed to the party and our shared beliefs.

I hope Convention members will consider giving me their support and look forward to speaking to as many as possible over the coming weeks. If you would like to get in touch with me to arrange a time to speak please fill out the form on my website: www.tomspiller.co.uk.

Luke Springthorpe and Alan O’Kelly: If you cherish the United Kingdom, join the #LoveOurUnion campaign

30 Nov

Luke Springthorpe is Executive Director, and Alan O’Kelly is Director of Operations, at Conservative Progress.

Despite holding a “once in a generation” (Alex Salmond’s words, not ours), the Scottish National Party are preparing to renew their demands for a second independence referendum.

Ever since the 2014 Scottiish referendum the SNP have run a concerted and aggressive campaign to re-run that referendum. This campaign has been marked by a specific attempt to turn neighbors against each other, setting up a narrative of Scotland versus England.

Alongside this has been an attempt to craft a narrative where Scotland is “different” from the rest of the Union, to such an extent where it cannot be governed by the same institutions. This has been all the more apparent with the emergency response to Covid, where there has at times been an almost farcical attempt to adopt virtually the same measures as England, but with the slightest of changes to the language used or categories for tiers.  The end result hasn’t been a more effective response, but confusion for people who travel between various parts of the UK, not to mention businesses reliant on clear and easy-to-understand legislation.

In Wales, too, there is an increased focus on the Union as the crisis has enflamed relations between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, and as advocates of independence square off with a growing anti-devolution movement.

As a result of this nationalist narrative, a recent YouGov poll indicated that 49 per cent were not concerned should Scotland leave the Union – the first time less than half of the population of England and Wales had indicated such a preference.

The nationalists have had the run of the airwaves for too long. Supporters of our United Kingdom, by contrast, are often much less loud about our own beliefs. It is less trendy – not to mention more difficult – to be enthusiastic about the status quo than the radical agenda offered by the separatists, even though the promises of the latter are illusory and it would inflict huge damage on both Scotland and the rest of the country.

It’s time for unionists to push back. Conservative Progress has set up the Love our Union (LoU) campaign, which seeks to highlight the deep political, cultural, and economic ties which bind the home nations together as well as cherished shared institutions such as the Armed Forces.We are building a grassroots campaign that will aim to highlight these benefits and discuss how we can strengthen our Union.

The highlight of the first phase of this campaign takes place today with our first annual #LoveOurUnion day. The Love our Union day will ask everyone who supports the Union to stand up and demonstrate this visibly, loudly and proudly.

Of course, with the times we are currently in, this will be a virtual event. But, all being well, we hope to host future Love Our Unions days with events & rallies across the country.

We are asking everyone to Tweet and to post on Facebook and Instagram with their support to get the #LoveOurUnion hashtag trending. We want to show in no uncertain terms that support for the United Kingdom – together – remains strong. We also want any waverers to understand why it’s worth fighting for and, in time, to join us as passionate advocates for this country and its future.

Over the course of the day, we will be tweeting out support from MPs, MSPs, and MSs in support of the Union. We have reached out to a range of organizations, including many of the Conservative Friends of groups, who will be also showing their support.

This will be our biggest event of this campaign to date, but over the last few months we have run a range of others exploring the future of the Union. The first event was our ‘Four Points’ event, with leaders of the voluntary party across the country and the Chair of the parliamentary Conservative Union Research Group, Robin Millar MP – as well as ConHome’s own Henry Hill!

Second was our ‘Love Our Union: Scotland’ event, with Douglas Ross MP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Third was our ‘Love Our Union: Wales’ event, which saw Paul Davies, the leader of the Tories in the Senedd, as well as Millar and Glyn Davies, the Welsh Conservative chairman, in conversation with guests.

In 2021, we will be moving the campaign up a gear, with more events focusing on the cultural, defence, and other ties that bind us together. We will be doing everything we can to support the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland and Wales ahead of elections in May. All of this will lead up to our annual conference, which will focus on the future of the Union and bring together hundreds of activists, politicians, and others to discuss how we can further strengthen the United Kingdom.

Both of us are excited about this campaign, and believe that together we can help demonstrate the huge support and emotional connection to the Union amongst the British people.

We would like to thank those who have already supported today by submitting quotes and videos, which we will be releasing during the day. We also look forward to thanking many more who we hope will tweet their own videos and messages during the day! Just don’t forget to use the #LoveOurUnion hashtag, as we will be emailing our 16,000 supporters with some of the highlights.