It is fantastic to join the Conservative Progress Team as the South of England Coordinator.
I am an Essex-based Conservative Councillor on Epping Forest District Council, where I am currently the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community. I am also Deputy Chairman Political of my local Association in Epping Forest. I stood as a Parliamentary Candidate in Hull North in the last General Election, which was a brilliant experience, and a real learning curve, providing me with a different perspective on fighting an election and managing a campaign in a traditionally ‘safe’ Labour seat.
I am an enthusiastic Campaigner, who has fought elections in good times and bad. I am passionate about providing a strong Conservative voice on the ground, from knocking on doors, to sharing key messages in political literature and social media posts.
As an activist, first and foremost, I understand the value of building the Conservative supporter base. We should support those who wish to participate in Conservative politics at all levels – whether that be through engaging in national debate or local activism. Conservative Progress helps to equip people with the skills they need and builds the confidence of party volunteers. I am excited to help grow the role of the Organisations in the South of England and work to help Conservative Progress become the home of activists old and new.
In my role as South of England Coordinator, I would like to help identify new campaigners for the party, from a range of different backgrounds. Ensuring the Conservative Party continue to attract energetic individuals and fresh ideas, building future leaders through its activist base. Therefore, the role of organisations like Conservative Progress is providing engaging events and content is central to gauging their attention.
I hope that Conservative Progress can provide a platform to prominent Conservative Thinkers in the region and beyond which inspire people's interest.
Conservative Progress has a key role to play in developing the next generation of activists in the South of England. Localised training will support people as they venture out on the doorstep, helping them feel confident in their ability to effectively communicate with potential voters. One key step to take is to ensure volunteers are prepared with the correct political messages and local knowledge.
The South of England, in general, is traditionally a more Conservative area, however, I believe it is essential that Conservative Progress provide campaign support to the areas in the region which are dotted red or yellow or are vulnerable to attack. Conservative Progress has a key role in working with local activists to provide appropriate training to help them to instigate 21st-century campaigns and help maintain and increase the sea of blue.
The danger of being in safe Conservative terrain is that this can lead to complacency or a lack of understanding of how to fight a more marginal campaign. This is particularly relevant when looking to secure or win local authority seats. Further to this, incumbents need to enhance their image and continue to communicate all year round, not just during elections - this is where Conservative Progress can provide support.
Another focus in my role will be to help enable associations and their members to modernise. The Coronavirus crisis has shown the importance of the Associations and Political Representatives grasping new technology, from digital campaigning to online meetings. Conservative Progress can help to lay the foundations for a modern party which is fit for the future, through online training and information.
I am looking forward to playing an active role in the Conservative Progress team and working with people in the South of England to establish a strong presence for the organisation in the region, both in-person (when lockdown permits) and online.Conservative Progress has a vital role to play in helping to build an effective Conservative activist base in the region, which will provide a fighting force for future elections and inspire future leaders.
Holly Whitbread, South of England Coordinator for Conservative Progress and Councillor, Epping Forest