Recently, I was asked by James to take on a more operational role within CFAF so wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to those that may not know me, and also talk more about my experiences and what I’m hoping to achieve with the organisation over the next 12 months.
I attended the first CFAF event, the launch, which was held on Great College Street. The then defence secretary- Gavin Williamson, was the guest speaker at what was a packed drinks reception. I found myself speaking to James Cleverly MP, Gen Sir Richard Barrons and James Gray MP as well as meeting up with friends, being introduced to people on the candidates list and some impressive individuals from the Defence Industry. I missed the Carlton Club panel debate but made it to the Battle of Britain Anniversary BBQ, raising funds for the British Legion, and hearing Iain Duncan Smith talk about his father’s experiences as a pilot during the Second World War. Following this and sensing an imminent general election, CFAF went on a war footing throughout the summer, organising action days across the country – I joined the team in Enfield Southgate, one of the few seats we sadly didn’t manage to win back. The election campaign was ferocious for the organisation, who mobilised activists across the country and helped out in some way in fourteen constituencies. CFAF contributed small financial donations as well thanks to the generosity of our patrons and friends in the previous months. The fundraiser, in February at which both Penny Mordaunt MP and Shaun Bailey attended along with a crop of the latest intake, helped to replenish some funds ready for the next campaign, whenever that is (hopefully not for a while!).
Having attended so many events, really enjoyed the atmosphere and the chance to meet and chat to some of the fascinating speakers James and I agreed that it would benefit the organisation if I came on board in an operational capacity to help organise and run events, formalise some of the processes and share some of the workload. With that in mind I want to take this opportunity to share my vision for CFAF and the ways in which we can build on the work that has already been done over the last 18 months.
Post COVID, our aim is to 4 main events across the year which will be organised centrally by James and I (with the ever ready help of Lewis, Nic, Tony, Rabinder and many others who have been instrumental). With our Conference Event looking to be online or indeed, cancelled for this year we will be kicking things off with a Christmas drinks event. Then in February/March time will then see the return of our key fundraiser event. Summer 2021 looks to be an exciting one as following the local government and Mayor of London Campaigns will host another panel discussion before gearing up for the 2021 Conservative Party Conference Event. At the last one over 170 people attended to meet and hear Ben Wallace MP, the Secretary of State for Defence ; my aim is to make each event bigger and/or better than the previous year’s.
With that expansion in mind, another goal of mine is to expand CFAF out to the regions with the end goal being to create a local activist base, thus enabling us to have a strong and consistent campaigning presence across the country. Using our network we should also be able to start running or being connected with satellite events in the regions, to avoid being overly London focused.
It’s also important to highlight the fantastic sponsors, including the likes of Capita, Airbus and Amey who have and hopefully will continue to sponsor our events, that have been fundamental in making CFAF viable. We are hoping to partner with Adarga on our Christmas event this year. It’s my aim to maintain our relationships and build others so that we can continue to provide top level events and build a fighting fund to help candidates in the future.
I am really excited about the challenges ahead and look forward to meeting many of you at events over the coming year.
Sean Howlett, CFAF Operations