Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector. He is a former Board Member of UN Women UK and is campaigning for Dame Eleanor Laing MP to become the first woman Conservative Commons Speaker.
You’ve seen the 1970s Saatchi & Saatchi advertisement. “It was a Conservative – Mrs. Pankhurst – who first led the fight for votes for women. It was the Conservatives who first gave all women the vote 50 years ago. It was a Conservative who was the first woman to sit in Parliament. It was the Conservatives who elected the first party leader…”
We can add to that. It was a Conservative who became
the first and second woman prime ministers.
Contrary to popular myth, there’s no convention that the Speakership passes from one side of the House to the other. Therefore, another Conservative milestone is achievable: on 4 November, MPs can – and should – elect Dame Eleanor Laing MP as the first woman Conservative Commons Speaker in 650 years.
The Mother of Parliaments is facing one of her biggest challenges in a century. Brexit is arguably the biggest issue to impact the UK since the Second World War, Suez crisis and invasion of the Falklands. What we need now is an experienced and impartial person in the chair to restore confidence in politics.
Dame Eleanor has an impressive record – as a lawyer, MP and Deputy Speaker for six years – and she has set out a clear vision for the role that will resonate: “We must show respect for each other in Parliament, respect for Parliamentary proceedings and scrutiny, and respect for democracy and the people.”
Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector.
I have written before about my early-life journey from picturesque Beverley – one of the North’s best-kept secrets (and where 59% of voters opted to leave the European Union) – to East Anglia (some 69% voted the same way) where, aged 18 I moved to study politics, including European culture and identity. It is a period of my story which made me develop an understanding for my fellow countrymen’s Euroscepticism.
Yet, sometime during the ensuing decade, I developed a healthy respect for the EU. I attribute this to working in the City and city breaks in European capitals. And so, in 2016, I joined the 79% of South Londoners in Lambeth by voting to remain in the EU. I understand, therefore, why some people, including fellow Tory Reform Group members, questioned my early support and subsequent enthusiasm for Boris Johnson – for he, perhaps more than anyone else involved, advocated for Vote Leave.
Let me set
out why I believe our end destination, under Johnson’s leadership, is more
important than the journeys we are on – and how I eventually arrived there.
relationship with the EU is quite complex. I believed, rightly so, that it is a
relationship of such complexity that it cannot be boiled down into one question
in a ballot. I also believed – and feared – that a vote on this issue had the
potential to split the Conservative Party and the country. Like George Osborne,
this was one of those rare occasions when I disagreed with David Cameron
because I couldn’t support the call for a referendum on the EU. However, when,
in 2015, the Tories unexpectedly achieved a majority, and with no coalition
partners to block one, a referendum became inevitable and the campaigns to
leave and remain began in earnest.
point, I decided to campaign for Conservatives IN. However, the campaign to remain
lost and the campaign to leave won. The EU referendum question, while
simplistic, was clear. We have since discovered
that though leave means quite different things to different people, the
decision to leave was made. As such, the discussion moved to how we
would build national consensus to deliver on the result of the referendum and
help move our country forward.
Except, that didn’t happen. Theresa May made virtually no effort to engage the 48%. This time, as a means of finding consensus, I subscribed to The New European and found myself agreeing with Conservatives for a People’s Vote albeit I prefer the slightly more accurate term ‘confirmatory ballot’. However, Parliament has voted against one and polling indicates that the people do not want one.
One constant throughout these past four years has been the failure of the remain and remoan camp to run an effective operation and win enough support.
There comes a time when we need to accept where we are and recognise the need to move forward and give businesses the certainty they are asking for. Brexit is an important issue, but it should not be an all-consuming and indefinite issue at the expense of other priorities which shape people’s lives. Driven by this pragmatism, it didn’t take much to throw my support behind Johnson – a two-term mayoral winner in Labour London – as the man to take responsibility, own this and make a go of it in the national interest. It is a pragmatism which TRG and other membership organisations should applaud. We need to leverage Johnson’s qualities to win for the nation and shape a better future for all – leavers and remainers alike. After we have reached destination Brexit, we need Johnson’s Conservatives to take on Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan and the remaining loony left. Our society should be about freedom, individual responsibility and community. It’s time to move on and move forward.
This piece was written for our website and has been republished byConservativeHome.com (‘I voted Remain and backed a second referendum. But here’s why I now back Johnson’ – September 10, 2019), The Commentator (‘Brexit: Different journeys, same end destination’ – August 27, 2019) and The Yorkshire Post (‘I voted Remain but now back Boris Johnson over Brexit’ – September 16, 2019). It was syndicated on BrexitCentral (September 10, 2019).
Having previously supported David Cameron and then Theresa May, I like to think I back winners – at least, in terms of those who reach the top. That said, while the former will be remembered for rescuing the economy – while giving people the power to marry who they love and an overdue say on Europe – the latter, much to my disappointment, has no real legacy. Johnson should avoid repeating that mistake.
His final column for the Daily Telegraph, ‘Britain must fire-up its sense of mission’, was jam-packed with the kind of Merry England (or Merry UK) optimism that we experienced during the Cricket World Cup and that the whole country needs right now: “They went to the Moon 50 years ago. Surely today we can solve the logistical issues of the Irish border”. Quite right.
You’ve guessed it, I’m chuffed that Conservative MPs, media and members supported Johnson’s bid to become our Prime Minister. I’m looking forward to May handing him the keys to Number Ten and him batting for us after three, long years of doom and gloom. Sure, optimism isn’t everything – but it can set the tone. A detailed vision must be articulated and executed by a sound team.
Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), in the short term, we need to redefine our purpose, move forward with our global partners, unite the UK – and defeat Corbynism.
Mid-term, we should invest further in our national security and technology, improving education and life chances and encouraging greater participation in culture and sport, as well as boosting home ownership. Plus the odd tax cut here and there would be well-advised.
However, we must not put off having debates – for fear of offending – about controlling immigration and legalising drugs, and about funding for health and social care, as well as protecting the environment, for these issues matter and will matter even more in the future.
We should also avoid the temptation to ban political expression, alternative media and sugary foods, and celebrate instead free speech, press freedom and the right to choose.
Again, I look forward to Johnson peddling optimism and hope that people get behind him, because, ultimately, he will write our next chapter – and if we jump onboard and provide support, much more can be achieved by us all working together.
Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the
financial technology sector
On Wednesday, a group of storytellers – who just so happen to be Conservative supporters – met at the Ellwood Atfield Gallery in Smith Square to hear from Katie Perrior about her time in Number 10, and to explore the purpose of, and indeed future for, the Party.
Perrior served as Theresa May’s PR chief right up until when the
2017 election was called (when May was 24 points up in the national polls). And
a fascinating story and exchange of ideas it was for the 100 or so guests –
in-house and agency PR and public affairs specialists plus current and former
special advisors and CCHQ staffers – who turned up for the relaunch of Conservatives in Communications, which Perrior
I won’t spill the beans on what was said, but I do want to share
some brief thoughts, based on my experiences, as a way of demonstrating the
value that those of us in this network can bring to future leadership campaigns
and potentially in government.
I was born in Beverley and grew up in Hull, listening to the
band Beautiful South. At just six years of age, my mum died of breast cancer,
and shortly after my sixteenth birthday while finishing my GCSEs I became an
orphan when my dad passed away suddenly. I knew I had a stark choice: to
sink or swim. I chose to study – to pursue a career, and to work weekends – so
that I could afford to live.
After a much-needed move away from home and positive three years
at the University of East Anglia, I jumped on a train to the Beautiful South
and began searching for full-time employment – just as signs of a global
financial crisis were beginning to emerge. I settled for a life in PR,
enhancing the perception of the finance sector and promoting the technology
needed to progress it.
Why am I telling you this? The backdrop was an unpopular Tory
government under John Major, followed by years in the political wilderness for
the Conservatives. And all because of a failure by a succession of people to
tell the Tory story of aspiration and opportunity that I knew existed.
In short, the Party didn’t have a convincing narrative and
failed to connect with the British electorate which resulted in three
consecutive victories for Tony Blair.
Despite the nationalisation of Northern Rock and RBS, and
everything else that was happening, David Cameron was unable to secure a
majority and ended up forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Whatever
your thoughts about those years in power (and mine are positive), there’s no
doubt in my mind that George Osborne’s management of the economy, together with
strategic and disciplined messaging, helped the Tories to victory in 2015: it
was all about, and I apologise in advance, that Long Term Economic Plan.
Confidence in the economy picked up, businesses performed well,
and as a result hired new staff, from which I and others subsequently
benefited. Fast forward four years and, wow, has the situation reversed.
Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), there’s no
doubt in my mind that Brexit is consuming everyone’s time and preventing us
from getting on with more important things – and articulating that work.
As the leadership contenders begin to set out their stalls, let’s
judge their ability to tell the Tory story – and during that process, where
it’s required, I’m sure you’ll see the influence of Conservatives in
Conservatives in Communications (CiC), the industry network that brings together senior Tory PR specialists, has relaunched under the chairmanship of Katie Perrior.
Industry stalwarts Lord Black, Kevin Bell and Lionel Zetter –
all of whom have been involved in CiC since it was established in 2011 to
support the Party – have agreed to be patrons.
PR director Adam Honeysett-Watts and Westminster recruiter Carol Freeman are supporting the effort, including an event yesterday at the Ellwood Atfield Gallery in Smith Square.
Lord Black, deputy chairman of Telegraph Media Group, moderated an audience Q&A with Perrior – who worked as Director of Communications to Prime Minister Theresa May before returning to iNHouse Communications.
Among the 100 guests were industry and association campaign
leads, agency partners and colleagues, as well as current and former special
advisors and staffers.
“The Conservative Party would be wise to tap into this talent
pool, and leverage the network as it seeks to shape and tell its story to the