Last week, Brandon Kenig, former President of the Kansas Young Republicans, travelled to the United Kingdom to participate in a study visit of the U.K. elections that was sponsored by our international branch, the Young Republican International Committee. He spent a little over a week gaining first-hand experience and in-depth knowledge of the U.K. election system.
Here’s Brandon’s thoughtful write-up of his experiences:
The United Kingdom has its first Conservative majority government in 23 years and Young Republicans from the US were part of the plan to achieve victory.I joined a small group of YRs in London to campaign for the Conservatives. The stakes were high: Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives had governed in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats for the past five years, and the polls showed that the Conservatives were set to lose seats, while Labour (the leftist party) and the Scottish National Party (supporting an independent Scotland) would gain seats, requiring the formation of another unstable coalition government or – worse yet – a minority government.
Brandon is on the right.Our group toured the Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters in London, witnessing the extraordinarily coordinated “War Room” operation, the centralized floor where researchers, bloggers, digital marketers, press watchers, and spin doctors all gathered to manage the campaigns for all 650 parliament seats and ensure the party’s message was disciplined and consistent.We jumped on a “battle bus” with other young Conservative Party activists to visit targeted marginal constituencies (where the result would be within a few hundre d votes either way).
London is not as far from Kansas as I thought: during the Conservative Party battle bus adventure, I met the national party chairman, who has visited Kansas City and Wichita. I also met with the Prime Minister’s adviser on entrepreneurship, who was familiar with KC due to the entrepreneurship research of the Kauffman Foundation, which he uses regularly to aid in crafting free market friendly policies that encourage innovation in the UK.
We campaigned hard in marginal constituencies throughout greater London, including Croydon, Brentford and Isleworth, and North Enfield, We knocked on doors, talked to voters, handed out literature and even stood outside of the some of the busiest train stations in London to hand out leaflets to voters during the peak evening traffic commutes.Most insightful was the opportunity to serve as a poll watcher (called “tellers” here in the UK). I tracked the voters arriving in and out of two polling places throughout the day and also monitored for any illegal electioneering and voter intimidation tactics, which was a concern at a few polling places.In the end, the polls could not have been more wrong: the Conservatives swept through England, gaining many seats, and also obtained their largest seat share in Wales since 1983. David Cameron will now have his first-ever majority in Parliament and be able to govern without concessions to the other parties for the first time in five years. This is a dramat ic and exciting (as well as unexpected) outcome in the UK’s most unpredictable election in more than a generation and I’m glad that we were able to contribute to the winning majority and help our friends here in the UK, doing our part to obtain the the first Conservative majority government in 23 years.P.S. Prior to my arrival the left-leaning Guardian newspaper ran a hit piece about our arrival to campaign for the Conservatives, and a Labour Member of Parliament (MP) claimed that we were involved in a “subversion of democracy.”
The YRNF has a long-standing relationship with Conservative Future, the youth component of the Conservative Party, through its membership in the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU), of which both of our organizations are founding members. Members of IYDU-affiliated organizations assist in coordinating international visits to help our members to learn about world politics and better equip the next generation of leaders to operate in a globalized world.
Recently, YRNF has participated in educational visits to a number of countries including Iraq, Lebanon, Georgia, Colombia, Russia, Poland, Morocco, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Denmark, Taiwan, Bosnia and Belarus. In the coming months, visits to Germany and Brazil are planned. YRNF has also hosted international guests at our own events and facilitated international volunteers to assist on Republican campaigns and as interns in Republican offices.
The UK election provided a fantastic opportunity for YRNF members to personally witness what has become a historic election, especially as we go into our own presidential election cycle here in the U.S. Visiting YRs were able to assist local Conservative party volunteers in campaigning in several different constituencies.