I joined the Conservative Party in 1998 at the age of 18 and became an active member of the Lancaster University Conservative Future branch, being elected as Secretary, Vice-Chairman (Political) and Chairman over my three years of study.
I was the Chairman during the 2001 General Election, in which Steve Barclay stood as the Conservative Candidate for Lancaster & Wyre. Over the three year period prior to the election I was part of a team which ran an increasingly intensive leafleting and canvassing campaign, and on Election Day I ran a Get-Out-The-Vote team targeting pledges. I was present at the count when in the early hours of the morning we learnt the devastating news that Steve had lost by just 400 votes, an early lesson in how important every single vote is and to never leave any stone unturned during election campaigns.
Nevertheless, during my time as Chairman, the Lancaster University branch won the national award for the Best Conservative Future Branch. Steve Barclay went on to be elected as Member of Parliament for North East Cambridgeshire.
I was also the Conservative Future representative for North & East Yorkshire (my home area) in 2001-2002.
After finishing my Masters Degree I moved to London and worked as an advisor to Andrew Rosindell MP, during which time I lived in his constituency of Romford and supported a range of local campaigns.
From 2004 I was the Constituency & Campaigns Manager at the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative Association and in the 2005 General Election I jointly managed Greg Hands’ campaign.
This involved organising distribution networks, canvassing teams and schedules; creating targeted campaigns using Bluechip and Voter-Vault (which I think have since been superseded); managing volunteers and interns; writing and designing newsletter and leaflets; writing personalised letters to constituents regarding their issues of concern dealing with the electoral services department and handling issues of electoral law such as registering donations; and being the central coordinator for Get-Out-The-Vote on election day.
In the election, Greg Hands was elected with an increased vote share by 5.6% (compared to a national increase of 0.7%); whilst the Labour to Conservative swing was 7.3% (compared to a national 3.2%).
The following year the association was also able to build on these foundations to win fifteen seats from Labour and take control of the council for the first time since 1971. I also managed the campaigns for the 2004 European Elections in this area, and a local council by-election after the 2005 General Election.
During my time at the association, we won the national award for the Best Association Chairman. Greg Hands MP went on to become a Shadow Treasury Minister, PPS to Rt Hon George Osborne MP and a Government Whip.
In 2006 a change of jobs led to a move to Reading in Berkshire, where I joined the local association and became a committee member.
In 2007 I stood as a council candidate in Reading, fighting the main town centre ward which has always been a Labour stronghold and was represented by three council cabinet members. On election day I came within 90 votes of winning the seat, with the highest percentage of the vote ever achieved in that ward over twenty years and eighteen elections. I increased the Conservative vote in the ward by 8% (compared to a Borough-wide increase of 3.4%); and secured a swing of 5.5% (compared to a Borough-wide swing of 2.3%).
During the campaign I ran targeted canvassing and highlighted specific localised issues. For example, I called for the Labour Council to tidy up the town’s canal and motivated local residents to support this issue, which gained prominence on the local radio and in the local newspaper. I also campaigned against graffiti in the town and challenged the relevant Cabinet Member at an open council meeting. Neither of these issues were particularly party political but they did matter to local residents and I was able to show that their current councillors had done little to resolve the problems. Again, this issue was covered by local media.
I also campaigned in Reading Borough during other elections during this period including the 2009 European Election, and sat on the Reading Campaign Committee for the 2010 General Election, which succeeded in delivering the town two Conservative MPs - Rob Wilson and Alok Sharma.