News

We’re optimistic about the future, but the MSM must up its game

PRESS RELEASE – IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION

A survey conducted by Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the independent and informal industry network for over 435 professionals, reveals that its supporters are optimistic about the future of the sector (7.24 out of 10), with 99% in employment. The positive findings come as the Government looks to ease lockdown measures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This in spite of 62% feeling that the mainstream media (MSM) is not providing balanced and unbiased reporting. Bloomberg and the BBC ranked as the most trustworthy news brands while Al Jazeera and Russia Today ranked as the least trustworthy.

The group, which is marking one year since it was relaunched by its chair Katie Perrior and principal director Adam Honeysett-Watts, has been encouraging supporters – including 23 parliamentary patrons – to take part in its inaugural Census 2020. In addition to its industry patrons, a new tier of Tory peers and MPs – who have previously worked or have an interest in communications (public affairs, PR, policy, digital, marketing, events, journalism or publishing) – have recently signed-up. The team has also been widened to build out its offering to young conservatives and to get more women involved.

Survey respondents were largely positive about the Government’s original ‘Stay home’ message (4.49 out of 5). They scored all nine aspects of the daily press briefings, such as stage management and inviting the public to submit their questions, as effective; with the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognised as the most impressive performer. That said, there is little appetite for the conferences to become a permanent fixture. Further, supporters were invited to submit ideas for a new slogan or comment on the ‘Stay alert’ message. Of those who did, 69% proposed an alternative, which may have contributed to a lower score of 3.18 out of 5 for the Government’s overall strategy.

Turning to other topics. While 73% of participants benefited from flexible working and / or working from home (WFH) before the pandemic began, 90% will be advocating for this post-lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, supporters do not miss commuting to and from work (77%), and many used this available time to spend with the family and to ‘think’ more about their work. Professionals have adapted quite well to the changes with 44% saying they have been more productive, especially when it comes to producing written materials for both internal and external clients. 42% said they’re more active while 41% have reallocated earnings.

Katie Perrior, Chair of iNHouse Communications and a former Director of Communications at Number 10, said:

“Our supporters have risen to the challenges posed by the country’s response to the global pandemic. That aside, we’re a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships. Although the many technologies – for example, Microsoft Teams and Zoom – have worked much better than expected, they are no substitute for face-to-face. Survey respondents cited less time with colleagues (60%) and friends (45%) as reasons they like least about WFH. I too, look forward to seeing my colleagues and clients as well as family and friends, in-person, very soon.”

Adam Honeysett-Watts said:

“We spotted an opportunity to relaunch and grow CiC into a more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent resource, and the pandemic has shown how much one is needed. While industry networking is the main reason our supporters joined us and continue to be involved, there is appetite for us to offer more. That includes advertising job opportunities (63%), sharing industry news (61%), connecting with our parliamentary patrons (59%), widening blog content (55%) as well as offering careers advice and mentoring opportunities (50%). Many of these are already in the works, including the latter, where 72% of supporters cited interest in being mentors.”

Note to Editors

You can learn more about the survey and access all of the results here.

As covered by PRWeek.

CiC Census results & analysis

ABOUT THE SURVEY

The inaugural CiC Census launched on May 6, 2020, and ran for two weeks. It was promoted in our newsletter, on our website as well as via LinkedIn and Twitter. All supporters (429 at the time) were invited to participate, of whom 154 did (so, 36%). The average time taken to complete it was nine minutes lower than was indicated. These are the anonymised and aggregated survey results.

ABOUT YOU

1. Age

18-249.74%
25-3442.86%
35-4427.92%
45-5412.99%
55-645.84%
65 and over0.65%
94% of respondents are under 54 vs the average party member who, based on news reports, is 57 years old.

2. Gender

Female25.32%
Male74.68%
A quarter of respondents are female.

3. Ethnicity

White: English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British84.87%
White: Irish3.29%
Mixed / Multiple ethnic group: White and Asian2.63%
Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background1.97%
Asian / Asian British: Indian1.97%
Any other White background1.32%
Mixed / Multiple ethnic group: White and Black Caribbean1.32%
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British: African1.32%
Any other Black / African / Caribbean background0.66%
Other ethnic group: Arab0.66%
(Excluding those who preferred not to say) 85% of respondents are White British and Northern Irish.

ABOUT YOUR WORK

4. Where do you work – usually and for the most part?

London86.36%
Outside of London13.64%
86% of respondents work in London.

5. How would you categorise your employment – for the most part?

Agency / Consultancy40.26%
Corporate*21.43%
Not-for-profit / Charity*8.44%
Trade association*7.79%
Freelance6.49%
UK Parliament / Constituency5.19%
Other2.60%
Civil Service, including Number 101.95%
UK Government, including Number 101.95%
Retired1.30%
Unemployed1.30%
Think tank0.65%
The Conservative Party0.65%
Two-fifths of respondents work for a consultancy vs 38% in-house*. Employment is at 99%.

6. How would you categorise your role – usually and for the most part?

Public affairs / Government relations / Lobbying56.49%
Public relations / Media relations / Corporate communications / Financial PR27.92%
Other, including Member of Parliament or Peer6.49%
Digital communications / Social media5.84%
Marketing1.95%
Journalist0.65%
UK Parliament / Constituency0.65%
56% of respondents work in public affairs vs 28% in public relations.

7. How would you categorise your seniority in the industry?

Executive15.58%
Manager27.27%
Director / Head*44.81%
CEO / Director General*6.49%
Chairman / Non-Executive Director*1.30%
Other, including Member of Parliament or Peer4.55%
53% of respondents are director level and above*.

8. Have you been, are you or would you like to be a:

YesNoN/A
Special Adviser?66.67%32.61%0.72%
Member of Parliament?47.62%52.38%0.00%
Two-thirds of respondents have an interest in the SpAd career path.
Less than half think the same about being an MP.

ABOUT YOUR SUPPORT

9. When did you join us?

Before our relaunch in May 201937.01%
After our relaunch in May 201962.99%
About two-thirds of respondents have joined since our relaunch.

10. How did you discover us – in the first instance?

Colleague / Friend38.31%
Social media, including LinkedIn and Twitter31.82%
Ellwood Atfield17.53%
Word of mouth8.44%
News article e.g. ConservativeHome3.25%
Other0.65%
38% of respondents joined because of a colleague / friend vs 32% via social media.

11. Why did you join us?

Industry networking85.71%
Social aspect50.65%
Contribute ideas and content45.45%
Industry news34.42%
Business development31.82%
Stay relevant31.17%
Job opportunities24.68%
Receive newsletter20.13%
Other3.25%
Respondents cited industry networking (86%) and the social aspect (51%) as main reasons for joining us.

12. Are you interested in being:

YesNo
Mentored by another supporter?66.19%33.91%
A mentor to another supporter?72.22%27.78%
(Excluding those who don’t know) Almost three quarters of respondents are interested in becoming a mentor while two thirds are interested in being mentored.

13. How should we get more women involved?

[Separate analysis to follow.]

14. Would you or your firm be interested in learning more about:

YesNoDon’t know
Hosting and / or sponsoring an event for us?50.00%29.87%20.13%
Contributing and / or sponsoring content on our blog / in our newsletter?27.27%49.35%23.38%
(Excluding those who don’t know) Half of respondents and / or their firms are interested in hosting and / or sponsoring an event for us in the future. Please get in touch.

ABOUT OUR EVENTS

15. Since May 2019, we have organised three events with speakers:

  • Relaunch: Lord Black in conversation with Katie Perrior
  • Autumn: Kulveer Ranger in conversation with The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP
  • Spring: Industry panel with Sir Robbie Gibb, Paul Goodman and Professor Goodwin. How many of these did you:
One or moreNone
Sign-up for?57.52%42.48%
Attend?50.00%50.00%
50% of respondents have attended one or more of our networking events vs 58% who registered.

16. How could we improve our events?

[Separate analysis to follow.]

17. If you couldn’t attend any of our events, after RSVPing, what was the reason why?

Work commitment58.11%
Personal circumstance17.57%
Competing event10.81%
Other9.46%
Change of heart2.70%
Forgetfulness1.35%
(Excluding N/A) 76% of respondents were distracted by work and personal commitments.

18. As of right now, are you planning to attend:

YesNo
CiC Summer Reception 2020?78.22%21.78%
Conservative Party Conference 2020?81.03%18.97%
(Excluding those who don’t know) Fourth-fifths of respondents are still planning to attend party conference in Birmingham.

ABOUT OUR CONTENT

19. Do you:

YesNo
Read our newsletter?86.36%13.64%
Visit our website?50.65%49.35%
86% of respondents read our newsletter while 51% visit our new website.

20. How can we improve our newsletter and website?

[Separate analysis to follow.]

21. What would you like to be in the newsletter?

Event invitations80.52%
Job opportunities62.99%
Industry updates (summarised news)61.04%
Hear from our parliamentary patrons59.09%
Blog content54.55%
Careers advice50.00%
Mentoring opportunities50.00%
Hear from our industry patrons42.21%
Hear from our chair38.96%
Hear from our directors33.12%
Book reviews25.97%
Competitions / quizzes11.04%
Other2.60%
81% of respondents would like to receive invitations to events, but other factors are gaining traction.

ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT’S COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY AND MEDIA

22. How would you rate the UK Government’s Covid-19 communications strategy?

Mean average 3.18 out of 5. Average score.

23. How would you rate the original ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’ slogan?

Mean average 4.49 out of 5. Good score.

24. What, if at all, should the new slogan be?

[Separate analysis to follow.]

25. Which Cabinet minister has impressed you the most (at the podium and during interviews)?

Rishi Sunak54.25%
Boris Johnson15.03%
Matt Hancock13.07%
Michael Gove6.54%
Alok Sharma2.61%
Grant Shapps2.61%
Priti Patel2.61%
Dominic Raab1.31%
George Eustice0.65%
Other0.65%
Robert Jenrick0.65%
Gavin Williamson0.00%
Oliver Dowden0.00%
Respondents are most impressed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer over other cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister and Health Secretary follow behind. Two cabinet ministers received no votes. The Home Secretary was the only woman in the mix.

26. How would you rate these aspects of the daily press briefings? (Out of 5)

Weighted average
The visual look: setting, podiums, branding3.79
Inviting the public to ask questions3.70
Regularity of daily briefings3.54
Use of visual aides3.51
Simplicity of the messaging3.42
Variety of the spokespeople3.42
Duration of daily briefings3.34
Respondents were positive about all nine aspects of the daily press briefings. Visuals strongest, duration weakest (time-keeping an issue as per the comments).

27. Do you think Number 10 should host daily televised press briefings in the future?

Yes45.71%
No54.29%
(Excluding those who don’t know) While the daily press briefings have been largely successful, there is little appetite for them to become a permanent fixture akin to The White House.

28. Some polling indicates that trust in the mainstream media (MSM) is lower than before the pandemic. Overall, do you believe the MSM has provided balanced and unbiased reporting?

Yes38.31%
No61.69%
Almost two-thirds of respondents believe the MSM is failing to provide balanced and unbiased reporting.

29. How trustworthy are these news brands? (Out of 5)

Weighted average
Bloomberg3.78
BBC3.65
ITV3.50
Sky3.42
CNBC3.14
Channel 52.94
Channel 42.53
Al Jazeera2.45
Russia Today1.46
In terms of trustworthiness, half of the news brands received positive scores, with Bloomberg and the BBC leading the pack. Russia Today, by quite some margin, and Al Jazeera received the lowest eighted averages.

ABOUT THE FUTURE

30. Were you able to take advantage of flexible working or work from home schemes before the pandemic?

Yes72.73%
No27.27%
73% of respondents benefited from flexible working and / or working from home before the lockdown.

31. Will you be advocating for the same or more flexible working or working from home schemes after the pandemic?

Yes89.61%
No10.39%
Having made a success of it, 90% of respondents will be advocating for the same or more flexible working and / or working from home after the lockdown eases.

32. What did you like most about working from home?

No commute77.27%
Flexible working60.39%
Higher productivity43.51%
More time to be active41.56%
More money for other things40.91%
More time with family33.12%
Time to really think32.47%
Trust from my manager27.92%
Greater availability19.48%
Other4.55%
Not applicable1.30%
Respondents do not miss the commute, are taking advantage of flexible working and two-fifths are more productive.

33. What did you like least about working from home?

Less time with colleagues59.74%
Distinguishing between work / home58.44%
Less time with friends45.45%
Making a decent routine21.43%
Preferred my old routine16.23%
Juggling my family responsibilities15.58%
Less time with family9.09%
Other8.44%
Not applicable4.55%
Respondents are missing their colleagues and their friends, and three-fifths struggle to distinguish between work and home.

34. “I’m optimistic about the future of our sector.” Where do you stand on that position statement?

Mean average 7.24 out of 10. Good score.

ABOUT CiC

35. All things considered, do you feel being a supporter of us is worthwhile?

Yes97.40%
No2.60%
97% of respondents feel being a supporter of our network is worthwhile.

36. Right now, Conservatives in Communications is staffed by volunteers and is limited in the services it can provide. The cost of maintaining our website and platforms (Eventbrite, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey and WordPress etc), time, travel and very limited entertaining is covered by the staff themselves. Would you be willing to contribute a small annual amount to continue receiving added valued newsletters based on more options as in Q21?

Yes61.69%
No38.31%
62% of respondents would be willing to contribute a small annual amount to the upkeep of the network.

37. How much would you be willing to pay per annum?

Up to £2059.74%
Up to £2521.43%
Up to £309.09%
Up to £494.55%
Up to £352.6%
£50 or more2.6%
60% of respondents would be willing to contribute up to £20 per annum.

38. Please let us know about any other feedback you have.

[Separate analysis to follow.]

Covid-19 has given us a hybrid Parliament and a form of politics that forces us to adapt

GUEST POST: Fraser Raleigh is an Associate Director at Newington Communications and a former Conservative Special Adviser. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn

So much of politics takes place in the margins; politicians physically bumping into each other in the corridor, in the MPs-only tearoom, and in the division lobbies.

It’s not just backbenchers; an industrious minister can often achieve far more huddled with a colleague before or after some dry Cabinet sub-committee than in the meeting itself.

All those chance encounters and snatched conversations are out for as long as the new ways of working are in.

MPs have accepted those ways of working to ensure scrutiny of the Government without risking the health of those who have to be in Westminster, and have adapted well to meetings on Zoom instead of in Portcullis House.

While the new proceedings are working well enough, whenever you change the nature of Parliament you change the nature of the politics that takes place within it.

We last saw this after the expenses scandal.

Select Committees became relevant, capable of setting the news agenda with high-profile Chairs elected by all MPs and evidence sessions people actually wanted to tune in to. Campaigning backbenchers saw new routes to push their causes through debate slots that they – not the Government – controlled, and online petitions opened up greater public involvement in what Parliament debates.

The type of person coming into Parliament changed and, with the later introduction of recall, even the person themselves occasionally changed mid-Parliament.

It will be up to MPs whether to keep any of the more radical changes, such as electronic voting, that have been pitched to them as temporary, but there will certainly be other opportunities for longer-term innovation.

Select Committees – already early adopters of technology before the crisis – lend themselves to more creative scrutiny, with witnesses perhaps appearing virtually at shorter notice, or Committee visits being livestreamed.

The political agenda, too, will change as society reassesses what it collectively values, and politicians try to anticipate the public mood.

Debates on issues as varied as supply chain resilience, broadband and 5G, social care, and the future of the BBC will be shaped by the public’s experience of the crisis and politicians’ response.

Engagement has clearly changed, too, as social distancing takes away opportunities to build relationships in the way we have become accustomed to.

As we get used to working without that face-to-face contact, it will be more important than ever to prioritise arguments that anticipate and respond to the changed political agenda and demand attention at a time when MPs and ministers have far less bandwidth.

We don’t yet know what permanent changes we will be left with, but we can be sure that whenever it is safe for MPs to go back to bumping into each other they will be doing so in a Parliament – and a political environment – that is different to the ones they left.

If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.

This piece was written for PRWeek.

The art of simple messaging

GUEST POST: Callum Attew is a Senior Account Executive at ENGINE MHP. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn

Has the Government been an effective communicator throughout the pandemic? 

The original slogan deployed by Her Majesty’s Government – in response to the coronavirus pandemic – reached every household across all four UK nations. It’s a clear message that conveyed a sense of urgency. It also instilled a sense of duty among the public; that, in order to protect our loved ones, as well as our much treasured NHS, everyone must play their part. 

With Google data (April 5, 2020) showing that retail and recreation movement had fallen by 82% compared to the baseline, it was apparent that the language – leveraged across all advertising channels and lecterns at the daily press briefings – really resonated with the British people. 

Now, we’ve seen this messaging logic before – it’s nothing new. “Get Brexit done” and “Take back control” spring to mind as recent examples of how the ‘rule of three’ has been used to condense seemingly complex issues into digestible pledges. It’s a tried and tested formula that delivers solid results.

As we move through this crisis, and as the strategy to defeat the virus becomes convoluted, there is potential for messaging to become muddied. Indeed, if a slogan is mistaken as a substitute for detail, then the frailties of the communications strategy will be laid bare for all to see.  

When the Government unveiled its new slogan, instructing the British public to “Stay alert, control the virus, save lives”, there was an initial sense of confusion, among the media at least, as to what it wanted the public to do. While it appeared that the clarity of the initial message had been lost, it would’ve been naïve to suggest that the Government had lost control of the messaging. Indeed, as the strategy shifts, it would be detrimental to its success for the message to remain static. 

The Prime Minister’s ‘Address to the Nation’ on Sunday evening, where a new slogan was given its debut, may have initially left the public wanting details to the questions that it raised. However, from a communications perspective it was vital. In pivotal moments in the nation’s history, it is incumbent on any prime minister to go to the people and explain the situation that the country finds itself in and outline how the government intends to guide them through it. This was one of those moments. 

The changes to the strategy had to be understood by everyone – from the 18-year-old in Newcastle, wanting to meet-up with friends, to the 80-year-old grandmother in Nuneaton, who wants to hug her grandchildren. 

This is where building on the Prime Minister’s statement, and the supplementary documents provided by the Government, is vital in providing clarity – in this sense, the messenger becomes just as important as the message. 

On Monday, the Prime Minister was once again flanked by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance at the daily press briefing. The public needed reassurance that what is being asked of them is in their best interests and will not compromise their health. Scientific experts are the individuals best placed to provide this message and earn trust.   

The Government is also placing a large degree of trust in the public to take note of the subtle changes to the lockdown period and to respect what is being asked of them when it comes to social distancing initiatives. And, in order to ‘Stay alert’, a large degree of common sense is at play – it would be over fastidious to expect a handbook with a Q&A of every single possible situation that may arise, and such a thing would call into question the relationship between citizen and state. 

So, in answer to the original question – yes, at times government messaging has been incredibly effective. Though, let’s not forget that it has come up against its challenges. Now, as individual UK nations seek to implement different measures, the message is at risk of being confused. Clarity and direction need to be at the heart of future communications. Discipline of message cannot be lost. The health of the nation depends on it. 

I look forward to seeing the results of the CiC Census 2020, but these are my initial thoughts!

If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.

This piece was written for our website.

Networking – the key to success

Lionel Zetter is Patron of Conservatives in Communications

Conservatives in Communications is open to all communicators who identify with the aims and values of the UK Conservative Party. Its chair, directors, patrons and supporters include politicians and journalists as well as communications professionals from every branch of that broad discipline.

However, given the political connection it is not surprising that public affairs professionals make up a substantial proportion of the CiC membership. Public affairs – or lobbying – is often regarded by outsiders as being some sort of dark and mysterious art. In reality, it is a straight-forward trade, with few secrets, but also few short-cuts.

I have worked in public affairs for 40 years, at large and small consultancies, in-house and as a freelancer. Sometimes, I am asked if there is a secret to the (admittedly modest) success I’ve enjoyed. My response is always that there is no secret, but there is a key. That key is relationships.

But, relationships have to be instigated and established, and then constantly nurtured. And that takes time. Because instigating and then establishing and then deepening relationships can only be done through networking – often outside of office hours.

So, over the course of my career, I’ve joined every trade and professional body I can, and used every networking opportunity that presents itself. Apart from Conservatives in Communications (which I helped to set up), I’ve joined (and sometimes headed) the CIPR, Government Affairs Group, PRCA and The Enterprise Forum. On top of these formal bodies, I have also supported and attended events ranging from PubAffairs Networking to (back in the day) Village Drinks. Then, of course, there are the party conferences – every networkers’ wet dream!

I did all this because I enjoy socialising, and let’s be honest – I also enjoy the occasional drink. But more than that, way more than that, attending networking events enables you to make new contacts and reinforce relationships. They help you to break out of the echo chamber and talk to people with different political views and colleagues from different communications disciplines. They enable you to promote your own views, but even more importantly, to listen to and argue with people from different backgrounds who hold divergent views. And, if you decide to write a book (plug alert), such as Lobbying, the Art of Political Persuasion, networking will help you to persuade people to contribute passages to the book – and maybe even to buy a copy!

So, if you want to get on in the wonderful overlapping worlds of politics and communications, my advice is to network like crazy, and to cherish and nurture the relationships that flow from those varying events.

And, if you are a Conservative and work in communications – I’m sure that you know what to do…

This piece was written for our website.

CiC Census 2020

Today, we are pleased to launch our inaugural network survey – Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020 – and invite all supporters to participate! This is your once-a-year opportunity to provide feedback, so we can better serve you and add more value going forward.

ONLY SUPPORTERS CAN PARTICIPATE. CHECK EMAIL FOR LINK

As you will know, we are an independent and informal industry network that presents like-minded individuals with the opportunity to mingle, gossip and share ideas, and, where appropriate, provide sector expertise to the Party machine.

We relaunched in 2019 – with a new chair and directors, a website and some social media – and our mission is to be more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent than in previous years. Please do take a moment to review what we consider to be our top 10 achievements to date:

  • Rebuilt the network to 400 professionals, from a real variety of backgrounds
  • Expanded our pool of industry patrons and directors
  • Created 19 parliamentary patrons (that’s one peer and 18 MPs – a majority from the 2019 intake)
  • Brought on board someone to support and develop Young Tories in Comms
  • Organised and invited you to three networking receptions in Westminster and outside the bubble, with the home secretary and two former directors of communications at No.10
  • Partnered with BECG, Ellwood Atfield and Kekst CNC to sponsor and host those occasions, so that we have zero debt
  • Campaigned for several supporters, of whom six were elected MPs
  • Published and promoted 24 blog posts – from the team and our supporters – several of which have been republished on conservative news sites
  • Circulated regular e-newsletters and migrated database from Google over to MailChimp
  • Grown our social community on LinkedIn and Twitter. Remember to follow us!

This survey should take you no longer than 10 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous – we will not know who’s provided which answers. Deadline: 5pm on Wednesday, May 20.

While all the raw data and copy will remain internal, by participating in this survey you agree to us publicising – on an aggregated basis – any, and all, findings.

Best wishes,

Adam, Aisha and Alec

P.S. Check out Adam’s latest blog post on getting more women involved!

“Tories in Comms has accomplished a lot in 12 months and I believe it has a bright future; adding value to supporters’ professional and personal lives. Based on the conversations I’ve had, there is real appetite to do even more – we just need to agree on the priorities. This survey presents the perfect opportunity to do just that. Thanks in advance for your contribution!”

–Katie Perrior, Chair of iNHouse Communications and CiC

“I’ve been a supporter of Tories in Comms for several years and was grateful for your support during the general election campaign. I would recommend the group to all conservatives in communications, so that they benefit from the networking and business development opportunities as well as the chance to contribute ideas and content via its blog and newsletter.”

–Theo Clarke MP, Patron and an early Supporter of CiC

Tories in Comms marks first anniversary since relaunch

Invites supporters to complete inaugural survey, including reaction to Covid-19 strategy

Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the independent and informal industry network for professionals, marks one year since the group was relaunched.

The network now boasts almost 400 supporters from a variety of backgrounds. Iain Anderson and Kulveer Ranger are among those providing business expertise as industry patrons, while circa 20 peers and MPs – largely from the 2010, 2015 and 2019 intakes – form a new tier of parliamentary patrons who represent a number of different interests.

Katie Perrior, chair of iNHouse Communications and a former Director of Communications at No.10, remains as figurehead of the group. Adam Honeysett-Watts – with the support of Aisha Vance-Cuthbert and Alec Zetter – manage day-to-day operations. Finley Morris was recently brought on to develop and drive its dedicated youth effort.

The network has organised a number of events in Westminster and off Fleet Street, including a Q&A with the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and a panel discussion about lessons learned from the general election campaign, featuring Sir Robbie Gibb, Professor Matthew Goodwin and Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome. BECG, Ellwood Atfield and Kekst CNC sponsored them.

In addition, the group has an active industry blog and circulates regular e-newsletters; the latest of which encourages supporters to participate in its inaugural survey: Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020. The census is being billed as a “once-a-year opportunity to provide feedback, so we can better serve you and add more value going forward.”

The survey comes at a critical time for the industry as professionals get to grip with Covid-19. It includes questions about the government’s communications strategy, current and future slogans, highly rated Cabinet ministers, future televised press briefings, trustworthiness of the media, flexible working and work from home (WFH) schemes, and an optimism tracker.

Adam Honeysett-Watts, Principal Director, said:

“We’ve made good progress towards our mission to be a more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent industry resource. That said, there is much more we could and should be doing – when it comes to getting more women involved – so, we look forward to analysing the results, determining priorities and acting on them over the next year.”

For more information, including how to sign-up for events, email us. The findings are expected to be published in late May.

On getting more women involved

Adam Honeysett-Watts is Principal Director of Conservatives in Communications

I’m biased towards women. There, I said it.

Some of the best people I’ve worked with are women. Some of the best people I’ve hired are women. Some of the best people who’ve managed me are women. Some of the best people I’ve campaigned for are women and, some of my best moments include developing networks* for women.

You’ll find great women throughout the history books. Take The Dream of Rome by Boris Johnson for instance. Here, he discusses how the Roman Empire achieved political and cultural unity in Europe, and compares it to the failure of the European Union to do the same. We’re introduced to one of the most prominent women in Rome’s history : Octavia the Younger (69–11 BC) was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, and the fourth wife of Mark Antony – who had an affair with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. She became a political adviser and negotiator between her husband and brother, and was respected and admired by contemporaries for her loyalty to Rome.

Fast forward two millennia and travel two thousand kilometres to when and where another woman had risen to the top. The Leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, was the first woman to be elected Prime Minister in the UK. During the 1975 Tory leadership election, she famously said this:

If you want anything done, ask a woman.

Now, I’m not going to argue with the Iron Lady! Last year, when I spotted an opportunity I worked with two women to get it done: Carol Freeman and I persuaded a former director of communications at No.10, Katie Perrior, to chair the network we wanted to relaunch – whose mission includes being more diverse. And, when Carol moved her family to the West Coast, I asked Aisha Vance-Cuthbert to step up.

Over 12 months, we’ve rebuilt Conservatives in Communications to almost 400 professionals, including 19 parliamentary patrons like Joy Morrissey, Nickie Aiken, Siobhan Baillie and Theo Clarke. We’ve hosted three events, including one with the Home Secretary Priti Patel. And, we’ve tasked individuals with establishing effective ways to improve diversity among our ranks.

That said, as of writing this, I guestimate only a quarter of our supporters are women. It’s clear to me and the whole team that we could and should be doing more – as a sector and a network – to encourage greater participation.

Next week, we will launch our inaugural survey – Conservatives in Communications (CiC) Census 2020 – an opportunity for supporters to give constructive feedback and make suggestions anonymously. I hope supporters take advantage of this, because, together, we can and will make a difference.

I look forward to seeing the final results and reading your comments, and to implementing the proposed recommendations. As a former board member, and adviser to the president, of UN Women UK, I’m going to practice what I preached then about equality and continue to encourage all genders to partake as agents of change.

* UN Women UK, DTCC Women’s Network in London and Conservatives in Communications

If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.

This piece was written for our website. I’ve opened up the comments section.

A lockdown readathon

Adam Honeysett-Watts is Principal Director of Conservatives in Communications

I’ve been badgering folks to read more during the lockdown and decided to document them here (c.5,350 pages so far).

The only sequence to the below is the order in which I finished them. This list combines non-fiction and fiction titles as well as political and non-political genres.

In terms of rankings, * shocking ***** superb. Thankfully, there were none of the former, because – as a general rule of thumb – I avoid not finishing a book.

For consistency, all links direct to publisher sites or Amazon. For availability, check with your independent bookseller before online retailers. Publisher information relates to the copies I own.

WEEK TEN

20. Celsius 7/7 by Michael Gove

Weidenfeld & Nicolson | 2006 | Hardback | 160 pages

I only learned about this text having read Owen Bennett’s book on the man (see below). In writing ‘Celsius 7/7’, which describes how the West’s policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror, Gove names both Dominic Cummings and Douglas Murray among those whose conversations and ideas helped shape his thinking. Take: Succinct. Recommendation: ****

19. Michael Gove: A Man in a Hurry by Owen Bennett

Biteback | 2019 | Hardback | 432 pages

Ignoring the endless typos (I have never spotted so many typos in one book – did anyone proof it?), I really enjoyed reading this book. The author successfully combines old and fresh information to tell us the story about one of the most recognisable (and divisive) characters in British politics today. Take: Essential. Recommendation: **** (because of the typos)

WEEK NINE

18. The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry

Penguin | 2017 | Paperback | 160 pages

The celebrated artist and media personality Grayson Perry explores masculinity. In short, I think it is well written (and illustrated) – although it took me a while to get into it; however, I didn’t feel there was anything new and therefore, at best, it’s a conversation starter (perhaps that alone might be considered a success?) Take: Lacking. Recommendation: ***

17. Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos

Dangerous | 2017 | Hardback | 232 pages

Akin to ‘Campus Battlefield’, I’d heard mixed reviews about ‘Dangerous’ and all of the drama around its release just made me want to read it more. The reality, in my opinion, is that the contents of the book, while certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, are far less controversial than its publication (even boring in parts) – conservatives will largely agree with his message while liberals will largely disagree. Take: Provocative (in parts). Recommendation: ***

WEEK EIGHT

16. My Fellow Prisoners by Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Penguin | 2014 | Paperback | 96 pages

Described by The Economist as “the Kremlin’s leading critic-in-exile” (after eight years inside he now resides in London), this is a selection of brilliantly written essays about the author’s first hand accounts of prison life and the people he encountered. This is a clever and quick read, and more people should be made aware of it. Take: Gripping. Recommendation: ****

15. Campus Battlefield: How Conservatives Can Win the Battle on Campus and Why It Matters by Charlie Kirk

Post Hill Press | 2018 | Hardback | 160 pages

I’d read mixed reviews about this, but I purchased a copy anyhow, since I enjoyed ‘The MAGA Doctrine’ and wanted to see whether Charlie’s experiences resonated with my own university and young conservative days (I feel another blog is coming!) Bit pricey, considering how short the text is; however, there’s good intention and some decent content – if you ignore the partisan approach, marketing pitch and re-printings of his tweets! Take: Mixed. Recommendation: ***

WEEK SEVEN

14. The Wages of Spin by Bernard Ingham

John Murray | 2003 | Hardback | 272 pages

This week marks over three decades since Britain elected its first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Sir Bernard Ingham is a journalist and former civil servant, who served as the Iron Lady’s chief press secretary throughout her time in No10. We hear first-hand how spin-doctoring developed, from the man who is wrongly attributed with its invention! Take: Heavy. Recommendation: ***

13. The Dream of Rome by Boris Johnson

HarperCollins | 2007 | Paperback | 304 pages

Now shadow education minister, here, he discusses how the Roman Empire achieved political and cultural unity in Europe, and compares it to the failure of the European Union to do the same. Not usually one for historical books, this is both an authoritative and amusing study – with plenty of lessons for all of us – and I read it in a few sittings. Take: Splendid! Recommendation: ****

WEEK SIX

12. Positive Populism: Revolutionary Ideas to Rebuild Economic Security, Family, and Community in America by Steve Hilton

Penguin | 2018 | Hardback | 240 pages

Along with another Steve (Bannon) and Dominic Cummings, Hilton is one of the political mavericks of our age. Here – in a similar vein to his ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Britain’ (Conservative Party 2010 manifesto) – he begins with an ‘invitation for you to participate in the next revolution’ and puts forward interesting ideas on the economy, society and government. Take: Thoughtful. Recommendation: ****

11. Have I Got Views for You by Boris Johnson

HarperCollins | 2008 | Paperback | 448 pages            

Published just after he was elected as Mayor of London (first term), this is an anthology of some of his best articles for the Daily Telegraph – such as observations on British society and foreign affairs (including China) – coupled with several new hits. As with both ‘Friends, Voters, Countrymen’ and ‘The Churchill Factor’, this is an educational, entertaining and easy to read book. Take: Irresistible. Recommendation: ****

WEEK FIVE

10. Matteo Salvini: Italy, Europe and the New Right by Alessandro Franzi & Alessandro Madron

goWare | 2019 | Paperback | 104 pages

This is a map that seeks to answer one simple question: who is Matteo Salvini, really? As both vice-prime minister and minister of the interior (in 2018) the number of non-European illegal immigrants to land in Italy fell by 100,000, and – if current polls are to be believed and his digital and media strategy is anything to go by – he is on course to become their next prime minister. Take: Wanting (too brief). Recommendation: ***

9. Seventy Two Virgins by Boris Johnson

HarperCollins | 2005 | Paperback | 336 pages

Now shadow arts minister, this was his first novel to be published, thereby making him the third novelist – after Disraeli and Churchill – to become prime minister. In short, POTUS is set to address both Houses of Parliament while on live TV and there’s an Islamist terrorist plot to assassinate him – Roger Barlow, a hapless backbench MP, aims to foil the attack to distract from a scandal. Take: Rushed. Recommendation: ***

WEEK FOUR

8. The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray

Bloomsbury | 2018 | Paperback | 384 pages

The Literary Review is spot on here: “Disagree passionately if you will, but you won’t regret reading it.” The author dares to tread where others have avoided like the plague – focusing on three traditionally sensitive topics – however, in my opinion, he does it all rather well; although, perhaps it could have been written with half as many words! Take: Passionate. Recommendation: ****

7. Friends, Voters, Countrymen: Jottings on the Stump by Boris Johnson

HarperCollins | 2002 | Paperback | 288 pages

Like ‘The Gatekeeper’ – albeit early on in his career – this memoir, of his campaign to become the MP for Henley and endorsed by Jeremy Paxman, is a must-read for any Tory candidate. It is both educational and entertaining, and reflective of his style for the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, including phrases that are now synonymous with him. Take: Delightful. Recommendation: ****

WEEK THREE

6. Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us by Donald Trump, Jr.

Center Street | 2019 | Hardback | 304 pages

This is a wide-ranging and colourful book – think Boris Johnson and Jeremy Clarkson on speed – that covers everything from his childhood to the present day and beyond. If you’ve seen some of his posts or follow Donald Trump, Jr. on social media and you’re (i) a conservative – you will love it, but if you’re (ii) anything else – I can’t really guarantee your reaction… Take: Refreshing. Recommendation: ****

5. The Gatekeeper by Kate Fall

HarperCollins | 2020 | Hardback | 272 pages

The Baroness was at the heart of David Cameron’s administration for over a decade. As one of the former prime minister’s most trusted advisors (deputy chief of staff), this is a must-read for any past, current and wannabe media or policy SpAd; it is full to the brim with snippets of information, including several new revelations. Take: Fascinating. Recommendation: *****

WEEK TWO

4. Find Me by André Aciman

Faber & Faber | 2019 | Hardback | 272 pages

Billed as the sequel to ‘Call Me by Your Name’, this novel focuses on three romances: that of Elio’s father and a younger woman, called Miranda; that of Elio and an older man, called Michel; and that of Elio and yes, Oliver! If you discovered the former, you should definitely read this; though a word of warning – manage your expectations. Take: Disappointing. Recommendation: ***

3. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Atlantic | 2009 | Paperback | 256 pages

Set in 1980s Italy – in fact, the film was directed about an hour from Salvini’s hometown of Milan – this real page-turner centres on the blossoming relationship between an intellectually precocious and curious teenager, Elio, and a visiting scholar, Oliver. It chronicles their summer romance and the 20 years that follow, which is developed in the sequel ‘Find Me’. Take: Stunning! Recommendation: *****

WEEK ONE

2. National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy by Roger Eatwell & Matthew Goodwin

Penguin | 2018 | Paperback | 384 pages

Professor Goodwin touched upon ‘national populism’ – the 21st century conundrum, including MAGA, that’s challenging mainstream politics – at the Conservatives in Communications Spring 2020 Reception. This text goes further – beyond lazy stereotypes of Brexit and Trump supporters – and looks at what is next: will Matteo Salvini become the next Prime Minister of Italy? Take: Forensic. Recommendation: ****

1. The MAGA Doctrine: The Only Ideas That Will Win the Future by Charlie Kirk

HarperCollins | 2020 | Hardback | 256 pages            

Love him or loathe him, Donald J. Trump is the 45th President of the United States (POTUS); but, how did we end up here? Turning Point USA’s founder-president sets out the ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) stall – the movement that brought Trump to the White House – and how he intends to win another term (clue: ‘Keep America Great’ is the new slogan). Take: Worthwhile. Recommendation: ***

If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.

This piece was written for our website.

Lionel’s pub quiz

Lionel Zetter, Patron, has put together a quiz for PRCA members / guests, and they invite Conservatives in Communications to participate.

  1. Who was the only post-war British prime minister who attended university not to have gone to Oxford? The Rt Hon Gordon Brown
  2. Name one sitting MP, other than Dominic Raab, who is a martial arts black belt. Shailesh Vara
  3. Other than Boris Johnson, who is the only other prime minister to have been born outside the UK? Andrew Bonar Law
  4. Which sitting MP has a quadruple barrelled surname? Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax
  5. Which school gives pupils a day off when a former pupil becomes prime minister? Eton College
  6. Which Labour frontbencher’s father was a tool-maker? Sir Keir Starmer
  7. Which Lib Dems first name was a hit for Derek and the Dominos? Layla Moran
  8. Which sitting MP is the only MP to have appeared on BBC’s ‘Top of the Pops’? Pete Wishart
  9. Which MP shares a name with a power station? Richard Drax
  10. Which hereditary peer and current government minister had previously founded (and then sold) his own public affairs consultancy? The Lord Bethell

Please email your answers to him before 5pm on Monday, April 27. Thanks in advance for your entries!