Thursday, 3 January 2013

EXCLUSIVE: The Dom launches into CF race.

Brutally honest analysis from McDonough

Dominic McDonough was last on the Tory Youth national scene when he took on Ben Howlett in the 2011 CF elections with a vigorous professional campaign with serious ideas for Conservative Future as reported by tbg throughout.

In an exclusive article for theblueguerilla seasoned political activist Dominic McDonough gives us his no-nonsense opinions on the upcoming CF election and on the candidates officially standing to become Conservative Future National Chairman this time around.

Is it really that time again? Has is really been a year since only 629 people out of an organisation with over 15,000 members got ballot papers?

Like Christmas, CF Elections come round quickly, have a ton of hype, cost certain people a fortune and we all usually end up pretty disappointed.

This year is a big year for CF. Many are calling it a fresh start, some are calling the CF chairman role “one of the most difficult positions in politics”, but everyone agrees that the next chairman needs to ensure that CF is a truly national organisation, one that is united and an effective fighting force ready for 2014 and the big one in 2015.

Activists are demanding a chairman who really understands the regions and doesn’t simply retreat to London as soon as the election is over.

What all potential candidates must remember is that this election is not about them, it is about CF and the grass roots members who make it what it is. A chairman must represent every member, every area and be willing to push the Conservative message even in the most un-conservative of places.

With this in mind I decided to have a look at the candidates so far and share my thoughts on what they could bring to CF, along with unearthing some possible weaknesses which could stop their campaigns reaching fruition.

First up is Paul Holmes.

Paul has a very slick website, some great pictures and some strong ideas. What the campaign lacks is personality. So far the campaign seems very cold and out of reach to normal CF members. The website is slightly too professional, looking like someone running to become a PCC, not someone running to lead an organisation that focuses on grass roots activism. The campaign in general is also very military in its delivery. Unfortunately it will not sit well with regional CF members as it looks like the same old London centric, drinks in the red lion, never been North of Watford attitude that they are sick of.

Another setback is popularity, the usual comment about Paul has been “who”. He does not appear to be well known in the organisation, this a major setback and one which must be remedied. People elect people who show passion, who put the hours in and who don't just turn up at election time. An easy way to prove his history would be a few pictures of campaign days etc, simple.

In CF elections the winner has always been those who have reached out both to the regions and London. In my own campaign I lost because I did not engage enough with the London members. You cannot have one or the other and Paul must do all he can to travel to every part of the CF nation.

Having said that the campaign really does have some good points with a professional manifesto which includes some great ideas for taking CF forward. Paul's image would also be perfect for a CF desperate to shake off the “Tory boy” label. He is a professional looking guy, young, energetic and from a humble background.

Having also been a local councillor, Paul will also value the role CF can play at local election as well as having campaign management experience.

My advice to him would be 'Think big but not too big'. At the moment the campaign seems to be forgetting that it's about CF and its members.

Overall Paul is in a good position but not great. He has started strongly but accusations of lying and the rumour regarding the abolition of Regional Chairmen has hurt the campaign.

Paul can win, but a steady hand is needed.

Next up is Oliver Cooper.

No one in CF would ever say “Ollie who?”, he is well know throughout the organisation and throughout the country. This gives him an instant advantage over other candidates who will no doubt be travelling across the country trying to drum up support.

Olivers' popularity stretches across the party, having friends and supporters on the left and right of the party. Unfortunately having many friends and supporters can sometimes mean having just as many enemies when it comes to politics. His name has already been mentioned in the Daily Mail in regard to these elections and he is well known for attracting press attention, along with criticism. He will undoubtedly be seen as the “right wing” candidate in the election though, drawing criticism from certain sections and will no doubt take a lot of flack. This could derail a campaign and he must handle his responses sensibly.

Oliver would be a very different chairman to Ben Howlett. Oliver would not shy away from speaking out against government policy and more than likely want CF to have individual campaigns alongside campaigning for the party. While I agree with this approach entirely, I pushed for this in my campaign last year, I understand that many members do not. Many feel that the focus must be on bringing CF together and making it a stronger organisation. Many also fear a rift with central office could be unhelpful.

Oliver is a seasoned campaigner, always known to work hard for the party and get stuck into any campaign, no matter how 'untrendy'. That is to be highly commended.

Overall I think Oliver Cooper could have a strong campaign but must hit the ground running. He has entered the fight slightly late compared to Holmes and cannot win an election on reputation alone. He needs to publish a manifesto quickly and handle criticism well. If he takes the regional vote which he, along with James Deighton, are best placed to then he will in a very strong position.

Having met Ollie, I've always found him to be a really nice guy, confident and proud of his politics as well as being a believer in the grass roots. Chairman material? We shall see.

With the right manifesto, his grass roots contacts and a good communications strategy, he could take victory.

Finally James Deighton has thrown his hat into the ring.

The seasoned CF activist is promising to “create a CF where members respect each others views”, just how he intends to do this has not been revealed, in an organisation that thrives on division this will be difficult.

He, like Cooper, is well known in at a regional level although Cooper probably has the edge in popularity, especially in the Southern regions. James also lacks natural support from London and must travel around to raise his profile dramatically if he is to have any hope of victory.

James would be a steady hand and is seen as such. He is seen as the safe bet, working hard and sticking to the party line. Is this what CF wants? Unfortunately probably not. I feel that this election is looking for a chairman who is ready to revolutionise CF or at least help it to evolve into something better and more inclusive.

James is a great guy and he knows CF like the back of his hand. His passion will be his strength in this election and he must use his impressive track record to make people believe in him. His manifesto must also prove to people that he will not just be a 'business as usual' chairman. At the moment he does not appear to be a leader, he must change this.

At the moment many feel that James is simply in the race for self promotion, many enter the race for this reason, but I feel that if James presents a good manifesto, embraces social media and gives a couple of strong speeches/statements he might just be the surprise package.


James said...

Interesting analysis Dom but don't agree that Oliver Cooper is a popular figure amongst the right and left. Remember he was the one who lost Craig Cox (the right's candidate) the CF election against Chairman Hao as he nominated himself for both Chairman and Deputy. The right have never forgiven him for this and a lot of them will be voting for James Deighton over him, remembering this betrayal.

The left also dislike him as he is a libertarian and has views that align him to UKIP. He has frequently argued with them on a daily basis.

Paul Holmes is an interesting candidate and I would agree that he is not widely known but would not see this as a disadvantage as previous candidates have won before not being nationally known. His ideas seem original although he has upset Regional Chairman with his proposal of abolishing them.

My money's on James Deighton as he has built up a strong network of allies across the UK since being on the National Executive for the last two years. He is a dark horse and remember that no one expected him to win either election.

Anonymous said...

LOL- why would we listen to someone who lost against Howlett?

SaveCF said...

Dom provides exactly the reason why I will not be voting for Cooper. He would undermine the reputation our organisation has grown over the last few years since Clarke, Rock and Howe. Instead of an upward trend in membership he would preside over a divisive leadership that would alienate the Party Board and result in CF's demise and loss of budget.


Anonymous said...

"undermine the reputation our organization has grown" ?!?

What reputation? Outside of The Westminster bubble, CF has an weak reputation. External criticism is one thing but when hardly any members have a good word to say thats another. We are meant to be the politically active bunch, but when turnout is so abysmally low we have a real problem. CF may have a more friendly external image, but its flopped at the core.

Furthermore CF shouldn't just be leaflet fodder. In stifling debate and unquestionably following the party line CF will just be hollowed out just as the national party has been. We, as paid up Conservative Party members should be telling CCHQ what WE want - not the other way around.

Whoever engages with the regions (and i don't just mean turning up on a bus once in a while), promises to bump up participation as a priority and is willing to inject a bit of life and excitement into the movement has my vote.

At the moment its looking like Cooper.

Oliver Cooper said...

Aww, guys, thanks for taking such an interest in my relationship with CCHQ! In my job, I work with them on an almost daily basis. I've also worked with the international office for years, as well as maintained a good relationship with the press office. I think that relationship's an advantage to have when standing up for CF members.

If you'd like to know my views, they're all public - you can read my Twitter feed - and the only people 'I argue with on a daily basis' are UKIP, Labour, and the Lib Dems, not hard-working Conservative activists!

Jon said...

Deighton and Holmes are respectable candidates. However, Cooper has done himself no favours by publicly undermining Conservative Future's credibility in the national press.

Perhaps if Robinson decides to run he could offer a broader appeal across the entire membership, both inside and beyond London. Either way, it will be an interesting election to watch unfold.

Anonymous said...

No mention of the excellent Matt Robinson? A sound, competent guy with the right ideas for CF.

Jane said...

Pleased that finally Cooper's writing under his own name rather than a fake pseudonym.

Perhaps you could explain to all of us hard-working CF activists why you smeared and discredited us in your hysterical article in the DM:

Oliver Cooper said...

I've always written under my own, full name, "Jane" - and as you'll note, that article isn't in my name. It was written by someone else, who I don't know especially well; I had no knowledge of it and no involvement in it. If you'd like to know my views, you could read a recent article that - unlike the one you posted - I did write:

Voice of Honesty said...

This election is about trust and candidates should be judged on their honesty alone.
I have never forgiven Ollie for turning on Craig Cox and YBF to try and be Chairman.
Remember the Daily Mail article that endorsed him for Chairman and called CF a dead organization?
How anyone could smear CF so much is sickening. Insult to all of us.

If CF is dead then why do you want to run it Ollie?

Anonymous said...

Why did Ollie say CF is dead? Come on, you seem to be writing under your own name. So why do you want to run something you have spent years trying to undermine?

CCHQ Staffer said...

Would Oliver like to ask for a reference from Philippa Broom, the Director of the CCHQ International Office? She will tell you the truth about Oliver's real relationship with the international office...

Put it this way, they had to get Howlett to go all the way to bloody Sydney because Cooper was not trusted enough to vote on behalf of CF at the IYDU Conference. Says a lot that Howlett was more respected than Cooper to vote out there, and Howlett was crap! HAHA Cooper is such a LOSER!

Anonymous said...

I am shocked that people think a professionally-looking website is a bad thing!

Seriously though, given CFs reputation is appalling, shouldn't members look to have a Chairman that night actually make the organisation stronger and respected throughout he party?

Labour Member said...

CF's reputation is not appalling, compare and contrast 3 years ago, would there have been a Downing Street reception if CF's reputation is crap? Really? I'm in Labour and we're really jealous of you guys! We never had one.

KentGirl said...

Not sure you guys are being that fair to Ollie. He never said anything in that newspaper article, it just talked about him and he has told me he knew nothing about it, as he said up there in the comments. I believe him. Yes he is maybe a bit rightwing, but at least we know where he stands. Same for Deighton. I like Holmes' website, but have never met him or even seen him tweet. Will he go to any events??

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Cooper was up late 1.12am

Anonymous said...

KentGirl I tweet all of the time on @pauljholmes.

I have been to a great deal of events and have more posted on my site. Hope to see you soon!

Anonymous said...

KentGirl, I tweet all of the time @pauljholmes so keep a look out and add me!


Anonymous said...

Coopers denial about the Daily Mail smears are not credible. It is entirely in character with his conduct and defines him.

Craig Cox was betrayed.

Anonymous said...

Cooper's smeared more people than a gynecologist!

Anonymous said...



Voice of Honesty said...

Funny how Ollie will not answer my question.

I repeat if CF is dead why do you want to run it?

Anonymous said...

"Having met Ollie, I've always found him to be a really nice guy, confident and proud of his politics as well as being a believer in the grass roots."

Having met Oliver Cooper myself, he seems like a nice guy at first then you realise he's only after your vote. He becomes a pain in the ass and talks down at you, particularly if he perceives you as less knowledgable and intelligent than himself. I've also noticed that he talks down at women, before he tries to get off with them. He's arrogant beyond belief for someone of so average in every respect. And his belief in the grassroots is only there for as long as he needs them. The only reason he's running, is to promote himself. He doesn't give a damn.

Anonymous said...

Remember the keys in the USA

Anonymous said...

Cooper a 'nice guy'? Have you met him?

Anonymous said...

Cooper couldn't give a rat's ass about the grassroots. He's just counting the days till UKIP and Young Independence is big enough to warrant his defection.

Anonymous said...

Voting Matt Robinson - the only down-to-earth candidate of the lot. He lacks the cliquey London-centric attitude too - bonus.

David Bean said...

A lot of nonsense is being posted here about that Daily Mail article. I know for a fact Alex Singleton wrote it by himself; he's one of my oldest friends, and he told me so himself - we were even laughing about the cat he'd put among the pigeons! As far as CF goes he's entitled to have an opinion, but for all he supports Ollie there's really no occasion to ask Ollie to account for it.

I'm supporting Oliver too, not because I think CF is doing a bad job already or I imagine he's never annoyed anyone in his life (I hope to goodness CF doesn't elect someone who hasn't), but because I think the combination of his experience, ideas and personality make him the right person for the job now. He's worth any number of votes.

Anonymous said...

David Bean, I can only assume that you are being sarcastic? if not, you've clearly never been to a CF event where he's also been...

Anonymous said...

I notice that everyone is running on a joint ticket but Mr Cooper. Does Mr Cooper need a friend? I suppose it wouldn't be the first time he's paid for it.

Anonymous said...

David Bean was the Conservative candidate for the local elections in Manchester where he championed the Liberal Democrat Cllr at a hustings saying they were "doing a great job" when he was up for election in that ward.

Yeah, really going to trust this guy! Another of Cooper's cronies

David Bean said...

Er, not so much, Anon. You're obviously misinformed, considering we were all standing for an open seat, and so the Lib Dem was at that time as much a councillor as I was. The reason we were having the hustings in the first place was that it was a by-election, brought about because the sitting councillor we were all running to replace had been tragically killed.

What I actually said was I felt based on their personal qualities any one of the candidates could have done a great job for the people of the ward, but I still believed people ought to vote for me based on the Conservative principles and policies I'd spent the debate outlining.

As that great conservative hero, Edmund Burke, once wrote, "Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom" - particularly under the tragic circumstances under which that election was being held.

Anonymous said...

Is Andrew Thorpe-Apps not standing then? I heard he was contemplating it.

Anonymous said...

The time is right for a candidate from outside London.

Howlett has done some good work steadying the ship and getting the party to take CF seriously again.

Someone from outside London would not be affected to the same degree by the constant sniping that has occurred over the last two years, nor the obsession with towing the party line that permeates politics in the South East.

Another candidate please!

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