There is no getting around it, this has been a crap year. All of us have missed loved ones, missed birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, concerts, conferences and of course, missed the chance to say goodbye to those sadly taken from us.
And all of us yearn for the days when we can meet and mingle again – literally rub shoulders with friends, colleagues and fellow campaigners.
But if there is one positive to take from this year of doom and gloom, it is how quickly and readily we have embraced technology and how this has allowed us, somewhat counterintuitively, to become more connected.
Take the Young Conservatives. I have been Conservative Vice Chairman for Youth since August 2019. In the time between then and March this year, it was my ambition to get ‘out of London’, hear the views of members, meet our activists, wherever in the country they might be. As a former YC myself, who grew up and studied in the North East of Scotland, I always felt London was *very* far away and felt the party did not do enough to reach out to its young membership, scattered, as it was and is, across the whole country.
And yet, time and again, either because of time constraints, cost limitations or the small matter of a General Election, these meetings kept being pushed back or postponed.
But in week 3 of lockdown, in April this year, I decided to host a Zoom chat with a group of YC Chairs from across the country- in order to keep in touch and encourage them to continue engaging with their members and friends in our branches across the country. Little did I know how successful that meeting would be and what it would lead to.
Having had so much interest, we decided to organise a few more sessions where I could take questions, address the issues, discuss ideas with people who I really believe are the best in our Party- the people who walk the walk as well as talk the talk, our young members. But after the third session, Scott Grace, the brilliant and dedicated guy in charge of all things YC in CCHQ (who does the work I take credit for), and I decided to shake things up- to invite Cabinet Ministers on, to get MPs engaged, to bring the people running our party and our country, together with YCs in a way that had never happened before.
So far, Matt Hancock, Amanda Milling, Jacob Rees Mogg, Nigel Huddleston and Tom Tugendhat are among some of the names that have appeared in our “YC Series”, with more to come!
At conference, we expanded the idea to bring some of the new 2019 intake on and introduce them, with Dehenna Davison, Jonathan Gullis and Nicola Richards engaging (or rather, enduring) a talk show style event with me quizzing them and putting to them questions already submitted by our members.
Never before have we utilised technology as much as we have this year. Never before has CCHQ been as engaged and in touch with the party’s young membership.
Now, we have a lot to do. Our next project is to get better (and let’s face it, it needs to be much better) at social media…and for that I’m going to be asking our YCs for help (I’m 33 now so it is very much time for a new generation to lead on that one). But we have come so far. We have embraced technology, we have reached out to our party. We are no longer afraid of digital engagement. We need to continue to use it to strengthen the links between Westminster and the wider party.
And so next year, when we will join together at events and conferences once more, I hope we don’t forget the lessons of the lockdown. I hope we stay connected. I hope that one of the legacies of lockdown, for our party, will be a continued use of technology to make everyone, no matter where they are, be it Aberdeen or Aberystwyth feel as much a part of our great organisation as someone sitting in SW1. That is surely what we want. One Nation. One Party. Connected.