Saturday, 23 March 2013

A good day at the Kent Area Conference.

I am finally home after an uplifting but exhausting day organising the Kent Conservative Conference. 

Steve Bell, National Vice President of the Conservative Convention, 
officially opens the conference.

200 booked and, despite the inclement weather, 170 attended.

It was our first Kent Area Conservative Conference at Tonbridge School. Nearly 200 members had booked to attend, and despite the inclement weather around 170 came. Attendees enjoyed a full day of speakers, debates and training.  We had sessions Britain's relationship with Europe (with MEPs Richard Ashworth, Marta Andreasen, Nirj Deva and Dan Hannan). Keeping Kent Conservative (with Paul Carter and Bob Neill MP) with the morning session closed by Greg Clark MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, outlining the road to 2015.

Left to right: Mark Reckless MP, Nirj Deva MEP, Richard Ashworth MEP
Andrew Sharpe (SE Region Chair), Dan Hannan MEP, Marta Andreasen MEP and me

During lunch most members attended one of three break-out sessions covering postal votes, local government and membership recruitment.

Happy delegates form an orderly queue for lunch!

The afternoon session opened with a wonderful double-act from two of the giants of the Tory Blogsphere; Iain Dale (LBC  Broadcaster and Blogger) and Tim Montgomerie (Editor of Conservative Home). This was followed by a Q&A session with members of the local, regional and national board and finally a rallying speech from Justin Tomlinson MP (Swindon North) on effective campaigning.

Despite the inclement weather,
around 170 delegates attended.

My personal highlights

  • Dan Hannan speaking to the heart of the Conservative Party on Britain's relationship with the EU
  • Marta Andreasen speaking about her sacking as EU Auditor for her refusal to remain silent over corrupt EU accounting practices and her subsequent election as a UKIP MEP and the reasons  she defected from UKIP and joined the Conservative Party
  • Getting almost two hundred local activists together and witnessing their enthusiasm and commitment, despite the national political climate.
  • The wonderful presentations by Iain Dale and Tim Montgomerie, who I admire greatly, and the enthusiasm for social media demonstrated by the audience.
  • The re-emergence of Kent Conservative Future, who were well represented at the conference, well done to the new Kent CF Chair Matt Boughton.
  • The fact that so many very senior Officers of the Party, including the national President Charles Heslop, National Vice President Steve Bell, Regional Chairman Andrew Sharpe and so many others made the effort to attend.
  • And Justin Tomlinson's great performance on campaigning, whose message echoed everything we have been doing for years in Kent and demonstrated how to keep winning in a marginal seat
Con Home Editor (and soon to be Times Comment Editor) Tim Montgomerie,
addresses Kent Conservatives. Iain Dale and I lurk in the shadows. 

I am now physically and mentally exhausted, but it was a good day and a job well done. It is very gratifying to see something you have created come to life. So many people expressed their thanks and support for what I tried to achieve, which was kind and generous.  Although I pulled things together, I couldn't have done so alone, in particular I am grateful to my assistant, Jon Botten, for his tremendous help and support.  To colleagues on the Kent Area Management Executive for their encouragement and faith in my abilities, to the speakers - many of whom traveled long distances and to the staff at Tonbridge School for their professionalism and organisation.

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