What year 2012 has been! We have had a change of faces in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent and Oxfordshire with new Area Chairmen in place; James Caldecourt, Luke Franks, Matt Boughton and Skye Harrison-Evans have taken up the Area Chairmen positions respectively. I am thrilled to have welcomed all of the new Area Chairmen to their positions; none had previously been Area Chairmen but I can certainly say, without exception, that all of them have taken the role on with fantastic professionalism and I am sure that 2013 will bring some great developments in all of the Areas. Ben Corbridge in Hampshire continues to take Hampshire CF to unprecedented levels of branch engagement and is a fantastic deputy Regional Chairman alongside his National duties. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the Regional Management Committee for their hard work. 2012 has certainly laid the foundation for a great 2013.
There also has to be a special mention for James Butcher in Sussex. When James took over Sussex CF I think it would be fair to say that, whilst there was a skeletal presence, there was not an active engagement with CF. Throughout 2012 I have been continually impressed with the way in which Sussex CF has grown both on a local level and in Universities. It is a fine balance to achieve but there is no doubt that as a result of James’ leadership and his team, Sussex CF is going to be the backbone to many an election to come and will continue with the active social calendar that I know the members enjoy.
We were preoccupied this year with the PCC elections, this was the first chance for CF in the South East to truly take hold and offer meaningful support to the campaign across the region. Particular thanks have been voiced to Surrey CF and Sussex CF who were both crucial in supporting Julie and Katy, their respective candidates. We won the election in Thames Valley (Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire) as well as Sussex but sadly lost Surrey, Kent and Hampshire despite some excellent candidates and dedicated activists. If there has been one ‘take home’ message for me from 2012 it is this: the members of South East CF are more willing than ever to engage in CF activity. Whether it is campaigning, socialising or fundraising, we have seen a ground swell in sell out events, tens of members turning up to campaign in all corners of the Region and an unparalleled level of engagement with Association events. Thank you to each of those who have been so vital in building, developing and pushing South East CF forward.
So, 2013.....it is going to be a testing but equally rewarding year.
In May we have the local elections to look forward to. I have already heard of multiple CF candidates running and I am delighted to see that they are not just paper candidates. CF have an awesome opportunity here to show the Party one of our great attributes: nurturing and engaging with the Conservative politicians of tomorrow. I am sure that come May we will sit back and look at how well we have done in the elections with CF members being elected to Council positions across the Region. Where members are not standing I am sure that they will be actively out campaigning to retain Conservative held seats and gain opposition seats.
It would be remise of me not to mention the CF elections in the first part of 2012. History tells us that CF national elections can all too frequently end up being a bitter battle which divides more than unites our organisation. I really do encourage everyone to get involved but let’s do so in the professional spirit which has been built within the Region this year and under Ben Howlett as since he took over as National Chairman nearly three years ago. Whether you want to stand for a position, attend a husting or simply vote, I really do encourage you to get involved. The CF elections tend to be the highlight of debate within CF as to the direction the organisation should take.
The elections are held for Regional Chairmen and the National positions. It is no secret that I intend to stand for re-election as South East Regional Chairman but I would like to take this opportunity to affirm that I am not going for National Chairman, despite some of the rumours! The job in the South East is not finished and I am massively looking forward to steering South East CF through 2013. Not least will this come by entrenching the new Area Chairmen and helping them deliver excellence and achieve their goals. I have recently had to field the question as to why we have such an inexperienced team. The team is not inexperienced, yes there is new blood in the Area Chairmen which have been newly elected in 2012 but with new faces comes new ideas, new energy and new dedication.
I hope that you all had a lovely Christmas and that 2013 holds some fantastic things for each and every one of you. As ever, my contact details are below should you have any questions or want more information on how to get involved.