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.