At the start of 2020 though, the situation is much more favourable. We are now able to make progress on Brexit and we enjoy unprecedented electoral success in traditionally Labour supporting areas. December saw us introduced a new generation of blue-collar Conservative MPs to Westminster, MPs that reflect our new electorate; one that we must work hard to retain.
However, one of the Prime Minister’s least discussed successes has been how membership has been re-ignited south of the border. The number of card-carrying members has skyrocketed in recent months; an indication that an increasing number of people feel at home with the Conservatives.
Since I launched my bid to be the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives, I have promoted my sincerely held belief in leading a blue-collar revolution, I want re-invigorating and aspirational policies that will help improve the lives of working people across Scotland and help them to succeed. I have been overwhelmed by the positive messages I have received and feel personally hopeful that we now have the opportunity to shape the party into a driving force for good.
I am shaped by my life experience. Being a nurse, businesswoman, charity worker, and working mother. I know that real life experience matters when you are reaching out to voters who still feel like they cannot vote for us.
However, I also know that I cannot do this on my own. It is our grassroots members and activists across the country who do the hard work in their community to champion our values and our beliefs. They are the people who win us elections and without their contribution, we would not be the official opposition in Scotland today.
Yet over the last few years, our membership have been increasingly left behind and we have not provided reasons to get involved.
If our party is going to strengthen its relationship with the voters and win in 2021 then it is essential that we energise, motivate and mobilise our grassroots.
To give members a flavor of what to expect if you elect me as the next leader of the Scottish Conservatives These are some steps I would want us to look at to empower our activists, respect our local associations and give back control to our membership.
1. Localism: devolving powers from the party centre back to local associations. We need to hone the relationship between our local associations and the central party, to ensure we can best draw upon the wealth of talent in our associations and support our local councillors.
2. Empowerment: I want to see our associations empowered and trusted to run their own affairs so that the establishment supports associations, not the other way around.
3. Policy: we will give our members a real voice in setting policy. Not only will I re-invigorate policy forums across the country but also we will hold a special policy convention this year to kick start our blue-collar revolution.
4. Review: If elected, I will commit to a full review of the party’s structure and look at how we can improve or reform existing arrangements to build on the professionalisation and ensure accountability.
5. Party Management Board: To ensure that the Party’s management board keeps its finger on the pulse of our membership and that it makes sound long term decisions I will widen the board to include places for an MSP elected by their group, an MP elected by their group, and a councillor elected by councillors. The party board is not the leader’s board. My changes will make the board work for the membership.
6.Deputy leader: Our MSP group and MP group can find themselves working in separate silos when instead we should be more collaborative and collegiate. If we are to be successful, we need to make sure we coordinate the efforts of all our elected representatives at all levels. I will proactively ensure better lines of communication between both Parliamentary groups, as well as those in local government, and to bring us together as one team I shall appoint my deputy leader from our MP group in the House of Commons.
8. Councillors: We need to offer councillors as much as support as possible. While a good start has been made, if we are serious about capitalising on our success in 2017, and building a strong foundation for 2022, we need to join up our teams in the Scottish Parliament and in local councils in a more effective manner.
I am running for leadership because I believe the Party members must feel that their membership is meaningful and choosing your leader and having a say in how the party works is fundamental to that. After all, it’s your party. Come join me.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP is running for the leadership of the Scottish Conservative Party.