Isaac Farnbank is Chairman of the Isle of Wight Young Conservatives, a student of King’s College London, and First Year Representative of King’s College Conservative Association
When I announced my intention to contest the Conservative nomination for Isle of Wight East – one of two ‘new’ Island seats created by the boundary commission – and published my vision for the constituency, I was under no illusion about the diversity of reactions I would receive. Indeed, I positively expected a mixture of amazement, derision, cynicism, dismissal, and interest. Why have I thrown my hat into what will surely be a competitive ring?
I am as much offering a coherent and comprehensive plan for the constituency as I am myself. As far as I can see, this is unprecedented at such an early stage in the process. It’s certainly the only vision outlined by any of the candidates to declare thus far.
Others have highlighted laudable campaigning efforts and claimed peripheral success. I applaud those efforts; all the talk and commentary in the world will not resolve inherent and structural issues.
I’m saddened and fed up with seeing our towns decline, local firms struggle, school standards stagnate, and our latent potential left so untouched and understated. The Isle of Wight is nominally part of the prosperous South East. Yet, we have some of the worst scores for deprivation, educational outcomes, and economic agency in the entire country. That’s why I’m prepared to take unconventional and audacious steps, not for myself, but for the sake of renewing the Island I call home. The Wight Way Forward is not a gimmick nor a political posture, it is an ambitious and actionable plan to engage fully with the persistent, inherent, and structural issues that so evidently shackle the living standards and welfare of residents.
It outlines, for example, a series of complementary measures to transform connectivity with the mainland. A persistent and historic issue of such importance to every aspect of Island life demands new and bolder ideas. That is precisely what The Wight Way Forward offers. Similarly, it also posits a radical but perfectly achievable plan to overhaul Island education and finally secure higher attainment. On the pressing issues faced by Islanders, I have worked to provide meaningful solutions.
Talk and petitions, by contrast, will not achieve the lasting liberalisation that is so needed to better our Island, whether concerning cross-Solent travel or economic regeneration and diversification. We don’t need a pressure group or ‘wanna-be politicians’, we need solutions and ambition. That is exactly what I have outlined.
What possible gain would there be in selecting another representative who would merely duplicate the work already done more than competently and proficiently by Bob Seely MP? This selection could be so much more. It could be the moment where we stop the rot and take the bold and, yes, audacious step to transform our expectations for the Island. Ours for the taking, if only we have the courage to seize it.
I understand the sentiments concerning my age and appreciate the pause this may give those who would otherwise be inclined to support me and my plan for Isle of Wight East. I also appreciate the scale of what I am asking members to do.
My challenge would be to, first, engage with The Wight Way Forward, setting aside who authored it, and contemplate your support, or otherwise, of that vision. Who is best placed to understand that fully, and be equipped for, and committed to, its delivery? Do we regard convention as more important than the Island’s renewal?
Second, ask yourself which other candidate has, or will, produce a distinct, unique and comprehensive vision and plan of action for regenerating our Island. Consider what motivates each candidate, is it a dream of becoming an MP for its own sake, or is it a moral response to lived and shared experiences?
Nor am I bereft of applicable experience. As a director of one of the Island’s largest businesses and employers, I know first hand the challenges facing Island firms and I am acutely aware of just what it takes to keep a successful show on the road. I’ve produced research briefs for the wider sector, collaborated with the charitable sector to formulate practical solutions to lesser-known problems, started and led community engagement projects in addition to regularly engaging with literally hundreds of people every day in my voluntary fulfilment of safety-critical roles.
My candidacy is also a result of persuasion from a diverse and extensive range of colleagues and figures both within and without the party. Encouragingly, the initial response to my announcement has also been mainly positive.
I’ve committed to leading by listening and that is exactly what I intend to do. I’m more than happy, therefore, to converse with those who may have these concerns.
One nation, one people, will never be truly realised unless the Conservative Party has the meaningful capacity to relate to and answer the issues, aspirations and expectations facing all sections of society. That means that a parliamentary party that reflects that society and one that balances varied experience with new thinking and genuine representativeness. The future electoral prospects and indeed the relevance of the party may depend upon it.
Success, Disraeli noted, was the child of audacity. Is my bid audacious? Evidently. Successful? That depends on how bold and ambitious my fellow IWCA members are prepared to be for the Island.