Wednesday, 23 January 2013
EXCLUSIVE: 'Let’s get CF out of the political playground'.
Oliver Cooper is a candidate for Conservative Future (CF) Chairman and has recently been subject to what he calls fabricated attack ads by his colleagues in the Tory Youth movement.
Writing for tbg, Oliver appeals to the Tory Youth over the use of attack ads, underhanded tactics and tells tbg he believes youth politics is so nasty because the stakes are low. Cooper says CF need to increase the stakes by becoming a "truly open organisation, not run by one gang in one pub in one city."
This year’s national CF election campaign has quickly become embittered. It’s always a sad state of affairs for any organisation if its elections become why your opponents deserve to lose, rather than why you deserve to win. That’s negative campaigning.
But there’s also been something more malevolent. Smears and ideas – including out-and-out fabrications of so-called ‘attack ads’ purporting to be from one campaign or another – are being used in place of ideas. Recent revelations that fake profiles have been used to hide the source of smears only exacerbates this.
It’s right that members look down on negative campaigning. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Conservative. Reagan always followed that advice; instead of lowering himself to attack back, it inspired him to bring people together even more.
Alas, the tone of this CF campaign is no mistake or exception. It’s the culmination of years of bickering, bitching, and backstabbing. It’s the culture of the clique. It’s also the culture of national CF and it needs to end.
No more attack blogs. No more Anonymous vs Anonymous comment wars. No more smears and lies and fake ads. All that playground politics puts off would-be members, as well as would-be leaders. It certainly diminishes CF in the eyes of the party and the public.
Youth politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low. National CF needs to increase the stakes by becoming a truly national, truly open organisation: not run by one gang in one pub in one city.
Instead of dishing dirt, we need to be discussing ideas. How to improve CF, our party, and our country. How do we make National CF relevant to its members across the country? How do we give members skills training more effectively? How do we win the battle of ideas on campus? How do we increase opportunities for members at home and abroad? Most importantly: how do we help Conservative candidates and Conservative ideas win?
When I proposed a few answers to these questions last month - opening up skills training by delivering more for free online, opening up events by having regional conferences, and opening up campaigning with more joined-up priorities - I received support from members across the country. Yet the CF inner circle launched an offensive to shut down constructive criticism. We need a national CF leadership that is open and transparent – driven by democracy, not controlled by a clique.
If you’d rather bicker and think of new ways to help CF members, why would members trust you or an organisation you run? CF needs to grow its base and fight Labour, not shrink its base by fighting each other. To do that, we need to get CF out of the political playground.
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