There has been a lot of criticism over the last few week of CF Chairman Ben Howlett and his handling of particular incidents within the organisation. I have no real interest in attacking Ben or in speaking up in defence of him. The problem I wish to address is broader.
CF needs to do its part in addressing the serious defections happening in the party’s grassroots. Whilst defections on Twitter and Facebook and running commentary regarding them are often portrayed as melodramatic and inconsequential there is a growing amount of young activists switching side. Youth are most often portrayed as the most loyal of activists; they’re the ones who deliver the leaflets, hand out the flyers, canvass the doors and do the ‘grunt’ work during an election campaign. Whilst this is not always the case and young people do sometimes switch allegiance, CF is facing a more worrying trend. The members who are defecting are not simply changing their view. These members are sticking rigidly to their view and are punishing CF for not doing the same.
I consider myself to be a liberal Conservative but I am worried by the increasing amount of rhetoric about an alienated right. The right wing of our group (and I’m talking about CF here, not the main Party) feel that the current Government do not represent them fully. They’re worried, rightly so, about the liberalism in cabinet and the One-Nation view conquering the party. Equally, the libertarian wing of our party see issues such as privacy and are fleeing for the freedom-loving arms of UKIP and, in some cases, the Liberal Democrats.
These people should not be ignored and they certainly should not be criticised. These are the young people who are struggling to see why their youth grouping is not pushing and pressuring their own Government, who they help to get elected, to represent their view. Whether on the left of the party or on the right, they’re worried that CF is not pulling its weight. Hence the critique of Ben having stepped up a notch.
However the solution to this serious feeling of disfranchisement is not to attack our Chairman or to publicly call for his resignation. CF needs to help Ben feel that he can openly challenge the Government where we feel he is going wrong. CF and its leadership should not be pushing the cabinet agenda and ought to feel strong enough to declare our position, as varied as they come, to the upper echelons. If we are serious of fighting to win in 2015 and we’re serious about having a true Conservative government, CF needs to be empowered to its part.
So rally around our Chairman and send the message that we’re giving him the power and voice so say what we’re all thinking.