Thursday, 30 November 2006

Harlow v Worcester

Tonight we have 2 marginal seats inaugaral events, 1 in Harlow (Karen Allen and myself in the blue corner!), and 1 in Worcester (Matt Richardson and Mark Clarke also in the blue corner!). We are also very grateful to James Dinsdale and Ann-Marie Bray for their respective help in these seats.

Both PPCs have been delighted so far with the efforts that National CF have made to build a branch in their seat.
"The offer from Conservative Future to help set up a branch has been hugely appreciated therefore and the help that CF members have already provided in supporting our canvassing and campaigning has been invaluable" - Robin Walker, Worcester PPC
"Having an active CF branch will be essential to winning the campaign in
Harlow... I have very much welcomed the support I have been getting from
National CF" - Rob Halfon, PPC Harlow


I will be attending Yates' wine bar in Harlow to meet with our new and existing members there. Karen is travelling down early and will be flyering the station alongwith the Association Chairman to capture people as they return from work, and I will be joining them a little later on. Please do come down (particularly if you are from Harlow / the surrounding area).

If you are interested in either Harlow, or Worcester, or any other marginal seats branch please drop me an e-mail.

DATE CHANGE: Loughborough CF event will be moved back to the new year owing to a recent date clash. Also, the Association are sending out youth surveys (which have been slightly delayed) to which we expect to get a good response, and more potential members.

IYDU Launch Evening

Last night I attended the IYDU launch which was held at Australia House, down on Aldwych / The Strand. It was fantastic to see so many people there from a number of different countries: Georgia, US, Sweden, Australia to name just a few. The party was still in full swing when I headed off early at about 8.30pm for a well deserved early night.

David Cameron gave a speech indicating the five things that he thought was important for renewing Conservative parties. These included embracing new technology, leading on issues, the environment, amongst others. The delegates seemed in good spirits, and looking forward to a number of exciting trips and events to come. I understand that they are visiting Parliament this afternoon with Greg Hands MP. There are also discussion on Zimbabwe and Belarus (two of the Freedom Forum countries).

To keep updated look at the details on their blog.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

IYDU Council Meeting

London is hosting the Council Meeting of the IYDU (International Young Democratic Union) which starts today. IYDU is a global alliance of 80 centre right political youth organisations from 50 countries, united by a common desire for greater freedom and less government, and a shared commitment to fight socialism.

With the largest attendance (as I understand it) for a Council meeting, with over 250 delegates registered, this looks set to be a great opportunity to meet and network with leading young politicians from around the world. Not only is a great networking event, but also a great opportunity to share ideas and learn from the ways that other politicians in other countries do things. Delegates will have the opportunity to visit Parliament as well as undertaking training over the course of the three days.

The theme for the conference is 'renewing Conservative parties' and it is perhaps therefore hardly surprising to hear that David Cameron MP is one of the guests of honour, launching the event at Australia House this evening. Lady Thatcher is also due to address delegates on Friday evening, and will no doubt have been an inspiration to Conservatives around the world, and not just those of us in the UK.

A special blog reporting all the latest news on the IYDU events in London from 29 November to 3 December 2006 has been launched.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

CWF Night of Glory

I write this e-mail at 01.25am having just got back from the CWF dinner. It was a fabulous night with great company, great speeches, great food, and great wine! Oh yes, and I got to meet Maggie (as did many others!). In her true style when I had the chance to mention about my Dad's former job she said "well do thank him for everything that he did" - fabulous!

I have to say that normally at this time of the night I would be heading on somewhere and disregarding tomorrow's hangover. Many thanks to Gemma and James for getting me to leave at a sensible hour. I know that I (and my client) will much appreciate it early tomorrow.

Amongst other fantastic attendees, some of the highlights for me were Lord Ashcroft (and his very individual form of saying hello! ;-)), Mark Clarke (who kindly hosted the CF reception for about 80 members), Angela Watkinson (my former MP until I moved! Not connected), as well as the 28 guests that joined Karen Allen, and myself on the 3 tables that we had organised (well done Karen!). Liam Fox (the speaker at the first CF event I attended) did an excellent speech, followed by a vote of thanks from Howard Flight. Conor Burns did a great job on the auction with the portrait of Baroness Thatcher exceeding seven thousand pounds.

CWF has done a fantastic job at keeping the Conservative party real, and reminding us of our core values and principles. While many of us do not forget, it is vital for the new blood coming through our ranks to have something so principled to turn to. And what is even more fabulous is that this is 'the Right' doing something, and doing it with a friendly atmosphere and vibe. It is amazing what a difference it makes compared to what I (personally) experienced a few years ago. Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't matter what side politics someone is, I would far rather spend a few minutes / hours / years with someone who is pleasant and friendly than someone who is hostile and unwelcoming but agrees with my views. CWF is no longer part of the nasty party!

Many congratulations to the CWF executive but particularly to Laura Clark and Dan Hinton for their fabulous organisation, and to Kelly Ostler, James Cutts, Alex Williams, Joolz as well as the many others (Dan Hamilton, Andre Walker... sure I've missed someone / many helpers so sorry!) . I am looking forward to returning next year with at least 5 tables between us!

Monday, 27 November 2006

CF @ CWF

Tonight is the CWF President's Dinner which looks set to be a lavish and grand affair. Most exciting of all is that the key guest is The Right Honorouble Baroness Thatcher, who has assured the organisers that she will attend the reception and meet as many of the guests as possible.

I am really looking forward to meeting Maggie, particularly as I have never had the opportunity to do so before. I was lucky enough when growing up that my Dad worked in the Diplomatic Protection section of the Metropolitan Police and from when I was 2 until I was about 10 or 11 used to work at Downing Street (it might even be him in the background of this photo!), and also in Dulwich. Accordingly we used to get a Christmas card from her every year! When we had to write to a famous person (I was about 6 at this stage) I decided to write to her, as I had been so inspired by her and what she had done.

I understand that there are approximately 100 CF members attending the dinner, and so Mark Clarke, CF Chairman has offered to sponsor a reception for CF members. This will take place in the Opal Room from 6pm, with the CWF reception starting at 7pm. Unfortunately I can't enjoy myself too much tonight or be too hungover tomorrow as I have my first ever appearance at the Old Bailey tomorrow for a bail application. Although it is no different to making a bail application in a Crown Court, the mere fact that it is in the Central Criminal Court, which has so much history, and has seen so many great advocates is very exciting, and a tiny bit daunting.

CF Women's Conference Success

Yesterday I travelled back from Plymouth (having had about 2 hours sleep after my charity ball the night before) to attend the CF Women's Training Conference at CCHQ. When I arrived the day was in full flow, and the delegates were about to break for lunch. During the morning they had heard from Jonathan Isaby, Esther McVey and Iain Dale, and all seemed suitably motivated and informed.

After lunch, we handed over to Justine Greening, Ian Oakley (new PPC for Watford - good luck), and Stephen Castle to talk about being a PPC and being a councillor, what options were available, and what steps they would need to take to get there. Later on they were subjected to Mark and myself (separately) and also heard from Mary McLeod about being involved in an association - although K&C is a fairly atypical assocation I suppose!

The day was wrapped up by the main organiser - Jenni Hibbert. Jenni had done a fantastic job of pulling the event together and implementing Mark's idea and vision, to deliver something practical and inspirational. After this success, I am sure Mark's successor will be asking her to arrange something similar next year!

As with all CF events, the social side is as important as the training and the delegates stayed for drinks and dinner, with a few boys coming along to join us at this stage. Sheila Gunn gave us a speech after dinner describing her views of the Conservative Party, talking about why it is we get involved in politics as well as some entertaining John Major annecdotes.

The feedback received so far has been positive, although I am sure there are some suggestions for how to make the event even better than it was.

See Mark's blog for some lovely pictures of the day! There were 25-30 delegates, and a number of other people who popped in (including Caroline Hunt). This seemed to be a perfect number as the day was able to be fully interactive and a number of the delegates were attending their first CF event, and certainly their first CF conference.

Friday, 24 November 2006

News From the Bay

I am sat in an internet cafe in windy Torbay the day after the first Torbay CF event on our marginal seats initiative. I was joined by 9 Tories in the Devon Dumpling including the PPC Marcus Wood. Ranil and Christian from the exec made 5 hour round trip journeys to join us - and deserve a huge pat on the back for that.

We ended up entering the quiz and having a laugh playing Quiz bingo - each sheet has the numbers in different places. Once you've completed the quiz the answers are read out in a random order (a bit like the numbers in bingo) and whoever gets five answers in a line correct wins! Unfortunately it wasn't to be for us and the winner came in after about 8 answers I'm sure it was a fix.

Torbay has a number of active CF members, including the fabulous Hannah Dennison, who has just turned 18 but keeps some of the boys in order! They seemed really grateful that someone from London / National CF had made the effort to come down and visit them, and all of the members who attended went away enthused and saying that they will bring a new member (at least) each to the next event. In my experience, this is a great way to grow a CF branch, and to make sure that it remains friendly and active.

Perhaps the most random parts of the night were (in no particular order) ... Meeting a girl in the toilet and chatting about the quiz, life etc, and that I had come down from London. When she asked why I was there, i told her I was a tory and was here with the PPC and some other young people. She came over to meet Marcus, and even surrendered her e-mail address - another recruitment! Having had a fun (and loud night) I got asked by the quiz master to be Dolly the Dealer. I was relieved to discover that this was nothing to do with sheep but merely to be the ('glamorous'!?) assistant in a version of Play Your Cards Right. This saw the whole pub being told that I was there as a Conservative from London, and we managed to point out Marcus to the patrons. A number of them wandered round for a closer look later and he had a chat with a couple of people. So all in all a successful night, and a great place to start from, with the next event hopefully being bigger and better.

Today I am meeting the Leader of the Council, and if he has time, the new Conservative Mayor of Torbay, so hopefull we can make some more links and increase the profile of young Conservatives in the area.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Off to Torbay

Today I am setting off on the 1.05 train down to Torbay for the first CF event down there and our first Marginal Seats initiative event.

Exciting stuff and I am really looking forward to my visit to the seaside - bucket and spade packed! I will try and find an internet cafe when I am there, and update you on how it went. Don't forget if you live in or have any contacts in any of the seats that we are doing, then drop me a line at clairepalmer@conservativefuture.com.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Places for Women's Conference / CWF dinner

As Mark has mentioned with all the details, Saturday is our very first Women's conference, which is to be held in London. We have a number of delegates signed up, but don't worry if you haven't signed up yet, places are still available. Please drop me a line: clairepalmer@conservativefuture.com, and I can send further details, alongwith the form to complete.

If you are not a woman, or are a woman that can't make the training sessions in the day, we are having drinks from 5pm-7pm and then dinner from 7pm, each of these parts of the day can be paid for separately. Boys - we have a ratio of approximately 3:1 female to male for the dinner at the moment! Let me know.

Karen has got together 2 tables for the CWF dinner this Monday with Baroness Thatcher and Liam Fox, and we are nearly at full capacity for a third table. If you can get a bank transfer done by Friday, there is still space left (approx 3 tickets). The event is otherwise sold out. Please e-mail karenallen2@yahoo.co.uk if you would like a ticket. They are £90 for CF members and £125 for CWF associate members.

18 Doughty Street Debut

Having not watched 18 Doughty Street before myself, I wasn't really sure how many people would tune in between 10pm and midnight on a Tuesday night, particularly when 2 of the guests were the CF Chairman and Deputy Chairman. I was pleasantly surprised - there was a pretty frequent stream of comments and interaction - through both MSN messenger and on the e-mail. The 50p charge for texts may have been why no text messages come through - not that I saw Zoe or Iain with a mobile phone at any stage.
The show that we had been asked to be on was 2 separate shows - firstly, Vox Politix: a general discussion of issues picked by the Presenters from the news of the last few days, and secondly the end of the day show which focussed on the next day paper's. Having had a discussion over the recent ITV / Sky / Murdoch issue and whether it was anti-competitive, and what should be done, it was rather ironic that the only newspapers that made it to the sofas were the Times and the Sun.
I managed to get a couple of plugs for CF in, and Zoe asked about what was going on at the moment. Clearly top of my priorities are our marginal seats branch creation programme, and we plugged the four events already in the diary for the next couple of weeks: Loughborough, Torbay, Worcester and Harlow.
From the comments so far, it seems to have gone alright, although I was pretty tired before we started (having gone straight from work), which might have explained why I was much quieter than usual (see Mark's blog!). I have to say that if I was tired to start with, I was exhausted after. Comments / feedback gratefully received.
Note: I've just had someone contact me to see that they can't find the show on the web page. I understand that 18 Doughty Street are having some problems with uploading previous shows, but that it should be up later today / tomorrow. But I am sure you have far better things to do with your time than watch Mark and me on internet TV.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

18 Doughty Street

I am delighted to have been invited onto 18 Doughty Street tonight with Iain Dale. I will be on air from 10pm - midnight and understand that we will be discussing the news and politics in general at first, and then reviewing tomorrow's papers.

I am looking forward to seeing the facilities at 18 Doughty Street and meet some of the team who have pulled it together. It is a great idea, although I have to admit that I am not a regular viewer - when I am at a computer I tend to be working, e-mailing or blogging, but not necessarily progressed onto internet TV. It is fantastic that someone else has tapped into this expanding new technology.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Exec Meeting

Tonight was another CF Exec meeting extraordinaire held in the lovely CCHQ offices. Further details will follow in due course of the key decisions made.

Needless to say what is clear is that the whole Exec is working very hard, and coming together as a team. It is very difficult when there is a fresh team in any organisation especially when that change happens yearly, but we are making some significant steps of progress.

Special praise should go to Mark Clarke, our Chairman, who has been working extremely hard for CF since he has been elected, visiting many CF branches around the country and motivating individual exec members to perform to the best of their ability in their role.

As people get into their roles, we should see some significant progress in the run up to Christmas with events, campaigning, communication and branches in target seats around the country! If you have a burning issue or concern, or want to send us some praise, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at clairepalmer@conservativefuture.com.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Marginal Seats Update

My role on this year's executive aside from my role as Deputy Chairman is to look after the Marginal Seats initiative. We initially pulled together a list of 11 constituencies through identifying marginal seats ourselves, making sure we had a good geographical split, and discussing with the target seats team.

Requirements and Principles

A number of requirements were identified as ideals before running with a particular seat:
Local Association fully supportive of the plan
PPC already selected
Approval by Target Seats Team (Lord Ashcroft’s office)
No CF branch in existence

In addition we wanted to assist in growing a number of other CF branches whose existence was limited, or whose set up was very new. The list of seats that were identified to begin working with were as follows: Harlow, Loughborough, Worcester, Solihull, Pendle, Torbay, Aberconwy, Portsmouth North, Wirral West, Keighley, and Finchley and Golders Green.

We also had a number of key principles:
Work with a local Association not against them
Ensure that the local Association meet with basic requirements of a CF branch / model party rules
Have a keen PPC or similar figure in place to act in a leadership role
Work hand in hand with the Target Seats team
CF Leadership team to do the dirty work where required
Ensure the sustainability of the organisation
Publicise our success
Learn, learn, learn

Progress

So, how are we doing…? Well I am pleased to announce that we have agreed the procedure for over 75% of the seats, and are in the process of agreeing the procedure and timeline in the other seats. We have found that where there is no PPC, the process is much more difficult (learning point!).

Dates

We have dates set for events in four constituencies before Christmas – please add them to your diaries, and come along if you can:
Thursday 23rd November: TORBAY, PPC Marcus Wood. Venue Devon Dumpling, 7pm
Thursday 30th November: HARLOW, PPC Rob Halfon @ Yates’, Harlow Town Centre, 7pm
WORCESTER, PPC Robin Walker @ Deco, Crown Passage, 7.30pm
Tuesday 5th December: LOUGHBOROUGH, PPC Nicky Morgan@ Venue TBC, 7pm.

If you are a member in any of the target seats that we have selected, please get in touch by e-mailing me at clairepalmer@conservativefuture.com.

We are involving Area Chairman of CF in the process, and are always grateful for offers of help in any particular constituencies.

Recruitment

Each Executive member is involved in at least one seat, and we are in the process of recruiting for one person to be co-opted onto the Executive to deal specifically with the marginal seats plan. An advert was placed on Conservative Home, amongst other places, and we received a number of high quality applications for the role. Conor Burns and I interviewed the candidates at CCHQ this afternoon. We expect to have a decision, to put to the CF Executive for approval at the next meeting on Monday 20th November.

What will National CF do in these Target Seats?
The plan is for us to identify with the help of the PPC, Association Chairman, and CF Area Chairman existing and potential members, as well as recruiting new members. We will help by contacting these individuals and encouraging them along to the events. By having a social event we hope to enable people to meet others in their local area, and build up solid friendships, so that in the run up 2009 we will have effective campaigning forces in each of these target seats.

After running 2 social events, we will help select a CF committee, and work with them to put on a third event. Finally, to ensure the sustainability of the organisation, we will offer them training, and support to develop an initial six month plan, so that the branch will continue to grow and develop.

Once a team is in place, the CF Marginal Seats team will let the committee get on with running their own branch. However, we will not abandon them and will be on hand to provide advice and support.

In February 2006 we will identify the seats to be focussed on in the second wave. If anyone has any suggestions, please do drop me a line: clairepalmer@conservativefuture.com explaining why we should focus on your seat.

Conservative Home Awards

Last night I attended the inaugaral Conservative Home Awards held at the offices of Policy Exchange. A night to rival the Oscars, the purpose was to reward a number of Conservatives (and non-Conservatives) as voted for by Conservative Home, with input from its members.
A full list of award winners is available from Conservative Home. An amusing night, with a mix of useful and entirely useless information! My favourite parts include Matthew Parris, on accepting the award for Best Writing, showing the audience his rat bitten shirt that formerly belonged to Alan Duncan MP, and Jonathan Isaby's very good attempt at a William Hague voice in awarding the Taxcutters Award to Wandsworth Council, and finally Iain Duncan Smith's story of a recent encounter with a member of the public who wasn't sure if he was Tony Blair, that bloke Smith, or whether Blair was leading the Tories.

Wandsworth Council have done a fantastic job in consistently providing low council tax (14 consecutive years - lowest council tax in the country) but still offering fantastic services. Russell King who accepted the award on behalf of the Council was not slow in pointing out to the audience (including George Osborne) the benefits of such a system, and how to implement it through continuous improvement, and getting rid of Sir Humphrey! Other serious notes to take away include the very sensible comment of Richard Bacon MP (who exposed the Home Office's foreign prisoner scandal which led ultimately to Charles Clarke's resignation) that the Goverment makes far too many laws, and not enough scrutiny. Considering the laws in criminal justice (which I deal with every day) that have been introduced recently, this is certainly true. Finally, Iain Duncan-Smith had some very moving words of support and encouragement for the British Armed Forces, and the support that they not only need, but so clearly deserve.

Well done to Conservative Home for what they do - it is a constant source of political news (and gossip). As David Cameron said whilst to him it is sometimes infuriating, it is always good value.

Croydon CF Ball

On Friday night I joined several other secret agents for the Croydon Casino Royale ball. Everyone had made a real effort, with a number of 007 lookalikes! Clare Hilly and her team had done a fabulous job and had over 100 guests attending the Hilton Hotel in Croydon, where all of the tables were named after Bond films. Notable CF guests included Karen Allen from the Exec, and former CCHQ staff member, Richard Action Jackson. A number of students from Exeter university had also travelled to the dinner, after a day of training with Mark Clarke, CF Chairman.

Later on in the evening guests headed across to the casino to try their luck on the roulette and with poker - thankfully it wasn't strip poker! The jazz band kept us entertained, and the two professional dancer guests outshone everyone else on the dancefloor - Strictly Come Dancing, CF style!

Amazingly trains run through the night from East Croydon and I headed back into town on the 2.28am train!

New Blog Address

I am in the process of transferring over from http://claire.clairepalmer.net.

I hope to be up and running on this one soon.

Monday, 13 November 2006

Saracens Tame Tigers

For those of you that don't know, I am a big fan of Saracens rugby club, and a previous season ticket holder. I also have a lot of friends who are Leicester Tigers fans! I was therefore doubly pleased to see Saracens hold out with a win against Leicester today.

Saracens despite being ahead at half time 19 points to 6, managed to drop the lead to 22-16. When Leon Lloyd was sinbinned, we conceded the 10 points. That being said Leicester are so used to having a player sin binned, that they seem to play much better with 14 men. With Leicester piling on the pressure in the final minutes, Saracens gave away a number of penalties. Leicester's tap and go nearly paid off, but referee Roy Maybank judged that the ball was held up, and blew the final whistle. Relief was probably the best word to describe the Saracens' fans feelings.

Sunday, 12 November 2006


On Saturday I headed to Swindon to join approximately 30 CF activists for a day (and evening) of campaigning in Swindon. This was a great start for Matt Richardson in his role of campaigning, and he had done an excellent job of organising and marshaling the troops.


During the day we canvassed 400 households and delivered approximately 3,500 leaflets. I was joined by four of the applicants for the marginal seats role, in advance of their interviews which will be held tomorrow afternoon (Monday 13th), as well as an applicant for the media and marketing role.




Onto the evening, and after a quick refreshing pint, we were back out with "Take Me Home" leaflets to promote the initiative of the council run night bus. Having left most of our number in the bar folding the leaflets for use later in the evening, Dave Sammels and I headed out to visit 10 bars in 30 minutes to put the leaflets out for those early evening drinkers.


Matt and I headed back to London (a 3 1/2 hour journey thanks to engineering works) at about 9pm, leaving a happy PPC and feeling pleased with a successful campaign day. From Justin's feedback it appears that the leaflets were well received, and many punters were reading them as Justin and his Swindon mob continued to visit the town's many bars later that evening!
Look out on Conservative Home for details of our next campaign day. Many thanks to Justin and Matt for their hard work in pulling Saturday together.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Brokenshire appointed Shadow Minister for Home Affairs

I was delighted to see the news that James Brokenshire has been promoted to the Front Benches. James is a fantastic MP, an excellent campaigner, and one of the new intake that has already made a great impression. He is pictured above in Hornchurch Town Centre with David Davis, who visited the Hornchurch seat earlier this year to discuss crime and how it affects the local residents.

As part of the campaign team in Hornchurch that helped get James elected in 2005, I had the privilege to work along side him, and he is now a good friend. I wish James every bit of luck in his search for a new seat, as the Boundary Commission has abolished his seat for the next election. James deserves to be back in Parliament in 2009.

Other promotions are listed on Conservative Home. The new intake have supported a large number of CF events, particularly the New Members New MPs events that I arranged last year. We will be running some more of these next year, and are trying to arrange one outside London. It is great to see the new talent having more opportunities to get involved in important policy areas, and take on greater responsibility.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Victoria Cross Heroes

I was delighted to attend the Book Launch for Lord Aschroft's new book: Victoria Cross Heroes. He was joined by a number of leading players in the Conservative Party: David Davis, William Hague, and even David Cameron. However, more importantly the book has received wide support from families of recipients of the Victoria Cross, and a number of them had attended this evening.

The beauty of the VC is its simplicity and the fact that it is awarded solely on merit and for outstanding bravery in the presence of the enemy. The book is published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the Victoria Cross, having been introduced by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in January 1856. The first awards of the VC were published in the London Gazette on 24 February 1857. Lord Ashcroft now has the world's largest collection of VC's, which have been put into a trust. There are plans to put the whole collection on public display in London.

True courage is something that many aspire to but few achieve. The event, held at the Imperial War Museum, was inspiring, and humbling. VCs are largely given to ordinary people who have performed extraordinary acts of bravery. They are real heroes who more often that not sacrificed their lives in order that others survived. It is at times like these, and particularly with November 11th fast approaching that we remember how many men (and women) have given their lives for the protection of this country, and to protect others from losing their lives, or their liberty.

The book is now on general sale. Also, there will be a three part television series fronted by HRH the Prince of Wales (who also wrote the foreword to the book) starting on 18th or 19th November on Channel 5. Further details are available on www.victoriacrossheroes.com.