TBG can today reveal the Andrew Thorpe-Apps is the second candidate who was rumoured to be in the running for Conservative Future (CF) Eastern Chairman. Today tbg confirms Thorpe-Apps' candidacy in an exclusive Q&A where Andrew sets out his vision for CF East.
What was for breakfast?
"I start the day with a bowl of Scott’s Porage Oats. I’m not one of these trendy low-fat yoghurt types."
TBG heard last week that you are the second candidate interested in the Eastern Region Leadership role, is there any truth to this?
"Yes, I’ve submitted an application for the role. I would have preferred a proper election as I believe it should be for Eastern CFers to decide, rather than a behind-doors appointment. But I’m happy that the vacancy is finally going to be filled. I put my name forward because, as the local elections showed, UKIP are particularly strong in the East. CF will need decisive leadership to enable the youth wing to make a difference in 2014 and 2015."
What would you like to achieve as Eastern CF Chairman?
"If elected, my immediate priority would be liaising with Regional Branch members to make sure the focus is on strategy, campaigning and increasing our membership. I will dedicate a certain number of hours each month to meeting members across the region. Some of my major plans are as follows:"
- "Regular strategy/action meetings – Meetings (either face-to-face or using social media) to discuss election and campaign strategy with Branch Chairmen across the region. This will allow for ideas and knowledge to be shared.
- Election target map – Drawing on my previous work at CCHQ, I shall create an interactive online map – specifically tailored for the Eastern Region – showing marginal seats, using data from previous election results. This will be accessible by all Branch Chairmen in the region and shall allow for targeted campaigning in both 2014 and 2015.
- Leading on charitable projects – I want to see Conservative Future leading the way when it comes to fundraising for worthy causes in the community. This plays into the Big Society. I will use my experience volunteering at the CAB and FRU (an organisation providing free legal advice) to encourage CF members to take part in similar activities. This will benefit the image of the Party in general.
- Greater financial independence - More focus on organising fundraising events so that CF Branches have their own funds for future activities, without being wholly reliant on Constituency Associations.
- Regular update bulletins – I shall send out regular email updates to members in the region, informing them of upcoming events and policy issues.
- Joint ventures – I shall get in contact with other youth organisations in the region, an example being Young Farmers, and put forward the possibility of holding joint events. This would consequently mean that more high-profile guest speakers could be invited to branch meetings, and in turn this would encourage more people to join.
- Universities as a key to recruitment – University Branches are crucial in the Party’s bid to attract more young members. Supporting ‘fresher fare’ events across the region will therefore be a priority.
- Setting up new branches – I shall look out for opportunities to open new CF Branches. I have already set to work on establishing a branch in Chelmsford, Essex."
Do you think you have a good chance against your probable opponent Braintree Councillor Stephen Canning?
"I hope Stephen Canning does decide to stand. As a fellow Essex man, I supported Stephen in his recent bid for Deputy Chairman.
"In many ways, I am an outsider. I am relatively new to CF. I’m not up with the ins and outs of the London CF hierarchy. I also have no ambitions for an eventual role on the National Executive. For me, the role of Eastern Regional Chairman is not a stepping stone to ‘bigger things’ – it is my sole focus. My aim is to speak for the vast majority of young Conservatives – students and professionals alike – and create a strong team of activists across the East.
"Despite being a relative newcomer, I’ve had experience working in the Chairman’s Office at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, working alongside Grant Shapps MP. An interactive online campaign map I created at CCHQ was subsequently presented to Cabinet. I telecanvassed at CCHQ for the Eastleigh by-election, and gave up weekends and evenings to canvas and deliver leaflets during the local elections.
"My view is that the Eastern Region will need strong leadership over the next two years given that we have the European elections coming up in 2014 and the general election in 2015. The Regional Chairman will need to focus on strategy and be able to send out a clear message on matters such as Europe, immigration and equal marriage – issues on which UKIP seek to attract votes. I believe that I can deliver this."
Fav fizzy pop beverage?
"Don’t drink much pop these days. I do love a cool pint of English cider though."
How do you feel the new Tory Youth National Executive is getting on?
"It’s too early to comment, but I have a lot of confidence in the new National Executive. I know that Sarah-Jane Sewell and Rob Manning are both incredibly committed activists. I also believe that Oliver Cooper will give us strong leadership, which will be vital over the next couple of years.
"As long as the National Executive focuses on the main task at hand – supporting the main Party and campaigning for a Conservative majority in 2015 – they will have my support."
Do you think UKIP might seriously affect Tory chances in the East, especially after UKIP activists told TBG they are now basically targeting parts of the country with weak political leadership?
"If we are complacent about UKIP, it will come back to bite us at future elections. I don’t agree that they can be brushed aside as simply a ‘protest vote’. When I was at the local election count in Chelmsford, I saw the UKIP surge at first hand. They now have Councillors across the Eastern Region, and even form the official opposition in Norfolk.
"I don’t want the Conservative Party to respond by lurching to the right, but I do want us to listen to the concerns of people on the doorstep. If we say we’re in favour of ‘localism’, let’s prove it.
"UKIP can be defeated more easily than most people realise. UKIP’s main concern is the EU. But when I speak to people, the EU is rarely mentioned. Instead, people are concerned about immigration, unemployment and the cost of living. The Conservative Party has strong policies in these areas, and it is our duty to explain this. Positive and constructive arguments will beat UKIP’s negative scaremongering every time.
"UKIP will certainly be targeting the Eastern Region. That is why we can’t afford to sit back and be complacent. Everything we do should be geared toward the upcoming elections. Signing up new members, taking part in charitable fundraising, holding a range of debates – these are the things we should be focusing on, even in the smallest Branches.
"Despite what I’ve read over recent months, I don’t agree that the previous Eastern Chairman was a ‘weak’ leader. But the political landscape has changed dramatically, presenting new challenges for Conservatives. What worked last year will not be suitable in 2013 or 2014. In the East we need activism, not managerialism."
E.U. – In or Out?
"I believe that European nations are stronger when they work together. It’s difficult to see how Britain, France or Germany can compete with the rising BRIC countries on their own. It is also crucial that Britain retains access to the Single Market. The reality is that the Single Market cannot function properly without some degree of political integration.
"UKIP often cite Norway in arguing that we can leave the EU and remain part of the Single Market. Whilst this is true, we would continue to have to make contributions to the EU budget, we would be bound by the majority of Common Market Regulations, and we would have no voice at the table. So, for pragmatic reasons, I support British membership of the EU.
"That said, I also support having a referendum on EU membership. In my opinion, the EU is falling short of its potential and needs reform. It has become too bureaucratic and intrudes on too many aspect of daily life. So we should see this as an opportunity to change the EU and get it serving our interests better."