This day last year, we were looking over our screens and waiting to press send on our introductory message to launch YCN. It was a big moment for us, we had poured over a month’s worth of preparation into this – and now it was make or break time.
But the one thing we all felt very confident about was the purpose of our new organisation. The excitement of the 2019 Party Conference, all these different events still stuck with those of us that had been there, all these different opportunities to network, meet new people and find other Young Conservatives, who we could discuss our opinions with openly. Being able to meet leaders within our party, and ask them questions about policy and politics.
Luckily for Young Conservatives, the end of conference rolled on pretty well to the 2019 General Election – which provided its own excitement. But after we got our fabulous result, and Brexit was finally done there was very little going on, especially for Young Conservatives.
It turned out that many Young Conservatives, who didn’t have active associations, YC Branches or University associations felt like they were missing out on the opportunity to network, socialise and discuss important issues with thought provoking guests.
It was quickly realised what was needed was some sort of central organisation that was able to provide these opportunities, and make them accessible to as many people as possible across our party. It needed to be set up in a way that made sure it was genuinely inclusive, cared for it’s community and meaningfully engaged with its members and allowed members to openly and candidly question those who had made such wide reaching decisions that had impacted young people in so many ways.
Thus, the idea for YCN was born, with the founding principles of Inclusion, Community and Engagement. We’d drive these values through our regular events, that gave members the opportunity to discuss, network and ask thoughtful questions to interesting guests. Unfortunately, there was one small problem, COVID, this prevented us from hosting the in-person events we had originally wanted. Thankfully, we were able to use Zoom until everything gets back to normal “in a few months” (one year on, and normal is yet to return). This may not be ideal but Zoom has allowed us to host such a diverse range of guests and ensure that all members, from across the country, could take part.
At the core of our founding principles are three critical roles, membership engagement, event management and outreach.
So now you know our origin, let’s return to our launch. We had finally hit send, and we were getting people’s first impressions of YCN – which were quite interesting at the time. We had many YCs who were excited about this fresh new opportunity and wanted to sign up and we had over one hundred members in less than a week!
This was not a path that hadn’t been trodden before. We were quickly reminded of this. Many groups had previously set out with bold ideas, each to contribute in their own way to our community, but fizzled out with time. We were determined to ensure that YCN did not follow suit and we set out to quickly make our mark. We could not have asked for a better launch. Having gained one hundred members within our first week, we began planning our first events.
No matter how many plans you make, arranging your first events as a fresh organisation requires the generosity and faith of others. We were so lucky to have received this in an abundance. The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, took a chance on us and joined us for an open Q&A on topics from the reopening of the economy to the protests in Hong Kong.
The generosity of Tom was quickly matched by Andrea Leadsom MP and within a month of launching, we were beginning to host and arrange events that we had only ever dreamed of being able to host.
Looking back on this, our format for events may not have changed but we have learnt so much and grown far more confident in hosting such brilliant guests. No matter how many events we find ourselves hosting, the excitement will never fade, the privilege of being able to provide these opportunities will never change, and our enthusiasm to host our events will never falter. The past year has been an absolute honour.
Then came September, one of our most memorable months. September marked the first time we had the distinct honour of being able to host a Cabinet Member. The Secretary of State for International Trade joined us from the House of Commons for an evening on all things trade. In between the votes and the cameo by James Cleverly, we were privileged to have heard about the bold plans by the Department for International Trade when it came to forging our post-Brexit future.
The brilliance of Liz was followed by the incredibly knowledgeable Jeremy Hunt MP. Jeremy was unafraid to answer the most rigorous and challenging of questions. We will always be grateful to Liz and Jeremy for their support.
We are proud of what we have achieved this year. One year on from when we set out as a group of Young Conservatives, wanting to contribute to our party, we have exceeded even our own dreams.
We have hosted twenty one events, twenty three unique guests. These guests include, four Cabinet members, four former Cabinet members, two candidates for the leadership of our party, two select committee chairs, two vice-chairs of the party, and one former leader. Each and every guest has been candid, engaging, and incredibly generous in their support. From Tom Tugendhat joining us for our first ever event to Liz Truss answering our questions whilst walking through the Division Lobbies, to Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Rahima Mahmut joining us for a moving conversation about the genocide of the Uighur people. We could not be more grateful to all of our guests for taking the time and the chance on us as an organisation.
The past three months have been an incredibly exciting time for us and we are so proud of the role we have been able to play in supporting our Party and some of our fantastic candidates ahead of the elections on 6th May. We showcased thirty seven spectacular candidates, hosted a local Government panel with the brilliantly engaging and knowledgeable guests of Nickie Aiken MP, Cllr Mario Creatura, and Laura Evans, we hosted our amazing candidate for London Mayor, Shaun Bailey AM, for a discussion on his vision for London, and we arranged three campaign days across the country.
The largest thank you must go to you, our members and the wider YC community, for your support in our first year. What we have achieved has been down to your support and willingness to join our events and ask such thoughtful and challenging questions to decision makers.
We hope that you feel welcome at YCN, and that you want to get involved! So please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to be part of this journey, we’ve got so much planned for the year to come and there is always room for more members. We are beginning to plan in person events and hopefully, before long, we will get to meet you and thank you for all your support so far.