Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Changing Membership Forever

The reason CF is a fantastic organisation is down to its members. Our strength lies with our activists who work tirelessly across the country and provide the backbone that the party needs, mostly with little or no reward. As CF Deputy Chairman, with the portfolio for membership it is my responsibility to make sure that our members are happy, engaged, and receive training that will let them reach their full potential. In order to achieve this I need to first work out why turnout was so low in the recent CF elections.

Here are a few facts:

- CF has a membership of approximately 15,000 as any person who joins the Conservative Party that is aged under 30 is automatically becomes a member of CF.
- In 2008 our membership consisted of 12,000 members, 9,000 ballots were sent out and only 768 members voted.

This year most activists were predicting an increase in turnout as CF had gained over 3,000 members since 2008. However as only 200 votes were cast overall this meant that turnout was lower than last time at a disappointing 1.2%

This is simply not adequate and as I start my term of office I am aiming to have a turnout of at least 10% in the next CF national election. 

After consulting with members across the country over the past few weeks these are the major reasons as to why I believe turnout was so low:

1)    CF members were not aware that there was a CF election
2)    CF members who wanted to vote did not receive a ballot paper
3)    CF members who received a ballot paper did not feel the election was relevant to them thus did not vote.
4)    CF members were not aware that they were part of CF so thought that the ballot paper that they received was not intended for them

I believe that the main problem with this election was that communication between CCHQ, local associations and branches was inadequate. Back in July CCHQ contacted every local association across the country and asked them to send them a list of all of their members aged 30 and under; the date that the member joined the association; the member’s DOB and address. Some associations sent this data to CCHQ straight away but others did not, which resulted in CF members being denied ballot papers if they had joined via their local association.

When the CF members in question contacted CCHQ about not receiving a ballot paper during the election period, CCHQ was slow in responding to their request or did not respond at all which resulted in CF members who wanted to vote in the election being denied the chance which is simply unsatisfactory.

My frustration at this current system is that if you want to join CF then there are three methods to do it. Firstly you can join via a CF branch at your college or university, through your local association or through the main CF website where you pay your subscription online. The major problem in joining through these three methods is that there is no central database list of our members. The only list that CCHQ have is of the members who joined via the CF website. They rely heavily on local associations and CF branches to send the data into CCHQ so that additional members can then be added to the list. However the majority of CF branches and local associations do not send this data into CCHQ so the CF members in question simply do not exist.

This current system has been in place for over ten years now and it is quite simply inadequate and unsatisfactory and I believe that a radical overhaul is necessary. I am currently in the process of working out with CCHQ how a member can only join using one method but equally ensuring that local associations and CF branches get to keep the subscription money that CF members bring.

The Regional Chairman for Wales Grant Tucker is helping me out with this process as Wales was the most disenfranchised region in the country which is unacceptable.

Another thing that has struck me is that how many CF members were not aware of CF or that we had an election. This should be overcome by having a centralised database with all of our members on as we will be able to send frequent updates about CF activity in their area. I attended the Future Conference that the National Convention hosted last Saturday and they are proposing changes to the structure of local associations which would include making sure that there is a CF Officer on every association executive. This would help us out further as CF members in local associations would be able to be kept updated through their local CF Officer.

Lastly, the majority of CF members tend to ignore CF elections as they feel that it is not relevant to them as they are not at university and are young professionals. In order to change their perception we need to build upon our relationships with outside organisations like City Future, CWF, TRG, The Bow Group, CWO and other Conservative and conservative leaning organisations to provide the training and opportunities that our CF members need.

Lastly if you would like to help me out with this process of changing our membership database then please contact me at: clare.hilley@conservativefuture.com

Campaigning during the May election in Sutton & Cheam

1 comment:

  1. I'm in full agreement with you. We need e-voting to be introduced for the next CF elections. There can be no mandate if someone is elected on a turnout of 1%.