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.