Paul Holmes was defeated by Oliver Cooper recently for the top job at Conservative Future (CF). In an exclusive Q&A with tbg Paul is magnanimous in defeat and highlights affordability as an issue for some young Tory members who have financial constraints to run nation-wide campaigns.
Holmes also reveals his thoughts on the recent Tory Youth national elections, his future plans and sensationally calls on the leader of the former council for which he was a councillor in the City of Southampton to resign over misleading the public.
What was for breakfast?
This morning it was a cup of black coffee and a bagel with cream cheese! Normally I don’t eat breakfast.
On reflection what are your thoughts on the recent CF National Chairman election race?
I am greatly appreciative of the support that I received and polled a great number of votes compared to the elections fought in previous years. It was a good campaign to be a part of and I had a very loyal and hardworking campaign manager.
If I am honest, I wish the race could have been a cleaner fight and one that focused on the issues 100% of the time. But overall I think the membership was presented with a fair choice of candidates and a firm choice of what direction they wanted CF to go in.
James and Oliver and I had a decent relationship during the campaign and all three of us wanted to do the best for CF that we could. CF is at a cross roads, leading up to the 2014 and 2015 elections it needs to rapidly draw plans together to make sure we have as bigger presence as possible to help as many candidates as possible. I look forward to seeing those plans.
Did you think you could beat Oliver Cooper?
I campaigned to win and did think that I could beat Oliver Cooper, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have ran! But Oliver had a lot more time than I to tour the country and meet as many activists as possible. I travelled to Durham, Leeds, Epsom and vast parts of London but this clearly wasn’t enough.
How Oliver afforded the train fares I do not know! I think one of the things that needs to be addressed is how candidates can be helped in affording to travel the country and meet as many people as possible, or future elections risk alienating others that are not in as fortunate position as others.
Would you say Oliver Cooper has hit the ground running?
I am sure we will see a whole raft of announcements and policies coming from Oliver when he officially takes over on May 6th after the handover period. I hope that we see his manifesto implemented and see his localism agenda delivered.
My number one emphasis was the creation of branches in the marginal seats, Oliver echoed this idea during the campaign and I hope we see that delivered too. If we are to win, we need healthy campaigns in all areas of the country. I think Oliver knows this and will deliver this in time to come.
Do you think Cooper will be a successful CF Chairman?
I have no reason to think that he won’t be. As we know the role of CF Chairman can be one where it is very hard to please the wider membership. I genuinely wish Oliver well in his term. As long as he speaks up for all members across the UK I think he will be fine.
Are you providing the official opposition camp in CF now?
I think that the membership is ready to unite behind Oliver as Chairman and I am ready to work with him to deliver the policies that are needed to strengthen the organisation. The election is over, Oliver won, I lost, it would be selfish and foolish to oppose him and split the organisation.
I will tell him where I think he is wrong and agree with him when he is right, but I will say it to him and him alone. As I said, I want to work with him to help CF succeed. My phone will always be on if I can help in anyway.
Will you be running for CF National Chairman next time around or do you have much bigger ambitions in politics?
Never say never and the election is quite a while away, but I think my time has come and gone. I ran a campaign that I was happy with and espoused a message of what I would do to make the organisation grow. I do have bigger political ambitions and will work on those in good time. Now I want to focus on my career and get back to community campaigning and helping the General Election fight in my constituency association.
What do you think to your political partner Charlotte Argyle’s appointment to CWF executive board?
I’m delighted. Charlotte is a fantastic campaigner and someone who really embodies the strides that Margaret Thatcher delivered in benefiting the UK. I am a huge fan of CWF and know that Charlotte will help it grow from strength to strength. Charlotte is a no nonsense girl who certainly taught me a thing or two during the campaign! If she is given a project, she will get it done!
Your hometown of Southampton, where you were a councillor for 4 years after defeating your Labour opponent, has an on-going scandal in which the Labour Council Leader has apologised for misleading the public. Do you think he should go?
All of this stems because a Cabinet Member resigned in protest at Government cuts, the Labour leader persuaded council officers, unbeknown to them, to put out a misleading statement citing ill health for the Cabinet Member’s resignation. An inquiry has taken place and the independent author of this inquiry has shown that Cllr Williams misled council officers, his colleagues and worse of all the public over the way in which his administration runs itself.
Politicians need to be transparent and clear to their electors. Cllr Williams was not and he should stand down. He has been found guilty of breaking the Council’s Code of Conduct. I am delighted that my old boss, Cllr Royston Smith has put down a confidence motion for the next full council meeting. Cllr Williams should do the decent thing and resign.
I imagine that when I was in the Cabinet as Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, if I had been found guilty of using my officers to put out misleading and untrue statements, he would be calling for my head, why is it any different for him?