Aisha Vance-Cuthbert is Co-Director of Conservatives in Communications and Head of Communications at a large housing association
This morning, in Dudley, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will unveil his taskforce ‘Project Speed’ – chaired by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – aimed at accelerating building and infrastructure projects to get the UK economy moving again as we slowly emerge from lockdown.
This move is welcomed by the construction industry, and those who are both directly and indirectly employed by the sector. However, what we need – in addition to schools, infrastructure and market sale / rent homes – are new social homes for the millions of people who are currently in expensive, temporary and often poor-quality accommodation.
The Government has already signalled that it understands and wants to solve the housing and homelessness crisis, which go hand-in-hand. For example, only last week, the Government announced an extra £105 million in funding to help keep rough sleepers off the streets.
The trouble is, as noble as this sounds, most councils have depleted the cash because of the lack of available social housing. For the most part, the only available option is to place people in expensive nightly-paid accommodation, hotels or bed and breakfasts. And this is exactly why the Government must invest in high quality social homes – to help tackle rough sleeping, solve the housing crisis and save the taxpayer millions.
There’s also a ‘levelling up’ argument. After the general election, I wrote an article for The Times Red Box on why building more social housing would reward millions of voters along the Red Wall. The Conservatives ‘borrowed’ millions of votes from Labour, giving them a significant, working majority.
Specifically, I highlighted a YouGov poll of undecided voters carried out on behalf of the National Housing Federation. It found that 80% of ‘Labour Leavers’ worry about their housing costs. It also found that housing matters more to ‘Labour Leavers’ than crime. In fact, they signalled that housing is the fourth most important issue after Brexit, the NHS and immigration.
I welcome the Government’s ambition to re-boot the economy; creating local jobs and supporting our public services. But, I hope that it will also include building more affordable homes. Building homes – of all tenures – will help kick-start the economy while, at the same time, protecting our public finances.
If you have ideas for the group or would like to get involved, please email us.
Katie Perrior is Chair, and Aisha Vance-Cuthbert and Laura Dunn are co-Directors of Conservatives in Communications
Once again, thank you for your continued support and to those who participated in the CiC Census 2020. The anonoymised and aggregated data is a helpful guide for everyone concerned.
As a reminder, we invited all supporters to weigh in and we received a strong response. In particular, we polled gender (25% of respondents are female) and invited everyone to suggest how we should get more women involved. We received plenty of comments (125 in total!), including some constructive feedback and ideas. We read each and every one.
Before we get underway, let’s remind ourselves about our group: Tories in Comms is an independent, voluntary and informal industry network for conservatives who work in our sector. While we have a role to play and take our responsibilities seriously, there are others who must take the lead.
For example, while it’s great that just over half of all MPs elected in 2019 were Conservative (365 of 650), it’s also disappointing that – just like our base – only one quarter of them are women (87 of 365). The Party must do more to improve this, and outfits such as the Conservative Women’s Organisation and Women2Win continue to play an important role.
Women are under-represented as senior leaders within the worlds of PR and PA. Other groups, such as Women in PA and Women in PR agree, and they too continue to make a difference; though businesses must do even more.
In a similar vein, the Party, businesses and network must do more to ensure the membership, workforce and base are ethnically diverse.
Let’s look at how we can improve things.
Us and you
Our core team is 50% female, including our chair and two directors. Laura is our women’s lead while Finley Morris is our lead on young people, including, yes, young women. Men have a role to play in encouraging gender parity.
We will continue to advertise all volunteer positions in our newsletter as well as on our website and social media.
There are several organisations doing an excellent job to encourage female participation. We don’t want to duplicate efforts, rather promote each other’s respective work.
Today, we’ve agreed to work closely with Women2Win and Women in PA, and we look forward to working together on future events and content. You will find them highlighted on our website.
Historically, our group was 100% focused on networking and there was a preference for after-work drink receptions. For the past 12 months, we’ve continued down that path with events on Wednesdays, 6-8pm. However, we recognise that format doesn’t suit everybody, especially women with children and/or those based outside London, and therefore we commit to hosting breakfast and lunch events. We will also look to vary our guest speakers and topics and virtual events. Where we can meet in-person, name tags will also be provided, and we’ll do whatever we can to make all our events welcoming and inclusive. While our Summer Reception has been cancelled and Conservative Party Conference is unlikely to go ahead as planned, we’ll do our very best to host face-to-face events soon.
Our commitment to female involvement has been there from the get-go. All three of our most recent events since our relaunch featured women: Lord Black hosted a Q&A with Katie, Kulveer Ranger hosted a Q&A with the Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and Katie chaired a panel on the 2019 election. We will continue to invite high profile women, including our parliamentary patrons like Baroness McIntosh as well as MPs Esther McVey, Joy Morrissey, Nickie Aiken, Siobhan Baillie and Theo Clarke, and we commit to having at least one female speaker at every CiC event.
All supporters are invited to submit content for our newsletter, and to be promoted on our website and social media, and we really encourage you to do so especially if you have something to add on this issue.
Mentoring and profiling
Almost three quarters of survey respondents are interested in becoming a mentor while two thirds are looking for a mentor. Throughout 2020, we will profile our female supporters. Watch this space for details of both of these ideas.
We don’t assume people know about Tories in Comms, so we’ll continue to promote the group, by partnering with organisations and leveraging social media.
We also encourage every supporter to invite one female friend or colleague to sign-up to the network and attend an event.
OUR 12-POINT PLAN
We will advertise all volunteer positions
We will work with our partners on events and content
We will host both breakfast and lunch events
We will vary up both speakers and topics
We will use nametags at events going forward
We will ensure our events are both welcoming and inclusive
We will continue to invite high profile women
We will strive for at least one female speaker per industry event
We will encourage women to submit content for our newsletter
We will launch our mentoring scheme
We will do more to promote the network and supporters
We will encourage supporters to encourage others to sign-up.
Our commitment is real, but we cannot do this on our own, so whether it’s encouraging your female friends and colleagues to join us or writing a piece for our e-newsletter, please do get involved. A final note to all our male supporters – thank you for everything you do which helps us progress and succeed. We’re fully aware that most of our career progression has been through decisions made by men and while we want to see more females in these leadership roles, we’re thankful for that support from our male colleagues over the years.
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
“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
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.com. 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.
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 Romeby 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:
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.