All of us yearn for the days when we can meet and mingle again - literally rub shoulders with friends and colleagues.
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, 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 the Conservative Party been as engaged and in touch with the party’s young membership.
Now, we have a lot to do. My next project is to get the Conservative Party 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. Like the rest of the country, we are no longer afraid of digital engagement.
Here in the constituency, my office and I have, from week one of the lockdown, been conducting surgeries and meetings over Zoom, Skype, whatsapp and the plain old fashioned telephone- showing that there need be no barrier between an MP and his constituents. So far we have conducted hundreds of calls and virtual meetings – and I hope made a palpable difference to peoples lives.
And so next year, when we will join together at events and conferences, when I can welcome you into my office once more, I hope we don’t forget the lessons of the lockdown. I hope we stay connected.
NATIONAL SECUITY AND INVESTMENT BILL COMMITTEE
This week I have been selected to sit on the Committee that will scrutinise a really important piece of legislation, the National Security and Investment Bill. This Bill will ensure that the government has the necessary powers to scrutinise and intervene in business transactions, such as takeovers, to protect national security, while providing businesses and investors with the certainty and transparency they need to do business in the UK.
On Tuesday we began taking evidence and it was a real privilege to hear, among other experts on the issue, from Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, on his views and whether this Bill would go far enough to achieve our aims of protecting national security whilst still encouraging inward investment.
We begin going through the Bill, line by line, next week.