An expanded TUV seeking to shift up a gear at the weekend’s conference…

Richard Cairns is the vice chairman of TUV and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA. He is here to give us the low down on Saturday’s annual party conference:

 As Saturday approaches colleagues and I have been putting the finishing touches on our annual Party Conference. It is safe to say that every party wishes to learn from and build on their previous year’s conference, and TUV is no different. A conference needs to have identifiable themes, a core message and realise that it is truly one of the only times in a year where the focus will solely be on your party.

No pressure then!

While our conference is a chance for members and supporters to get together to celebrate achievements of the past 12 months and for the party to map out its vision for the next 12 months, it is also an opportunity for outside organisations to network with our party and promote any campaigns they are running.

With increased representation in Local Government, and with Jim Allister in the NI Assembly – TUV are making a mark.

So what will be happening at the TUV conference?

Having outgrown the Royal Hotel in Cookstown, we are moving to the Rosspark Hotel in Kells in the heartland of North Antrim where we had significant success in May. A conference venue is important, and I hope our choice of the Rosspark will be the start of a fruitful relationship.

TUV has had a growth in membership, growth in electoral representation and a feeling that our message is resonating more widely than ever before. In our morning session we will be hearing from some of our recently elected councillors.

Our poll topper from Bannside, Cllr Timothy Gaston, will be joined by councillors Donna Anderson and Stephen Cooper expressing their thoughts on a range of issues – from the cobbled together budget deal to the exiting of Childrens Heart Surgery from Northern Ireland; to the Haass related proposals to the Spotlight expenses scandal.

TUV has capable people throughout the party, and each of the three speakers will bring their own dynamic to the conference, and this will give them a platform to outline how TUV can make a difference.

Then, of course, is our Party Leader’s address. This will be what is picked up on broadcast media, and it is vitally important. Style is important in politics, but substance is still king. When Jim Allister talks, it is worth your while listening.

In our afternoon session we are marking the achievements of two of our most distinguished councillors, who both served their community from 1973 and will continue to serve them until April 2015. That is some achievement, and Alderman Jack McKee and Cllr Roy Gillespie of Larne Borough Council and Ballymena Borough Council respectively, deserve the recognition.

I am sure many people who have worked with and been helped by each of these two gentlemen over the years will want to thank them, and this will be the opportunity for TUV officers, members and supporters to express our gratitude.

‘Tackling Poor Government’ is our afternoon theme. TUV track record on this is second to none, but we are not alone in seeking to take it on. David Hoey from TaxPayers Alliance NI will be joining us to discuss waste in government and the role of TPA; journalist and commentator Alex Kane joins us to give a journalist’s perspective on Stormont; followed by our own Press Officer Sammy Morrison setting out the way forward for TUV.

Going into 2015 TUV is a growing presence. From our community representatives right up to through the party, we will be working hard in preparation for the next stages in the electoral cycle.

Richard is vice chairman of TUV; and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA.