Friday, December 8, 2017

Eric Pickles General Election Review

At the Conservative Party Conference whenever criticism was raised about the Tories performance in the General Election we were told “Don’t worry it is all covered in the “Pickles Review”.   So was it?
First of all the review did not go into any deep analysis as to the conduct of the election unlike the Conservativehome review.   It came up with 126 recommendations 90% of which were froth and hope.   Who will take responsibility for seeing the implementation of these recommendations?   In response to this question by a member of the Party Board, Pickles answer was “The Party Board”   Don’t hold your breath when you see the entire review kicked into the long grass.  So what were the most important recommendations?
3          A Manifesto Committee should be established and, in Government, consist of the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Party Chairman/Chief Executive, Chief Whip and up to three others appointed by the Prime Minister.   In opposition it should consist of the equivalent office holders.
This is an improvement on what happened in the Election but where is the input from the 1922 Committee or the voluntary party?   They can make suggestions but no say in the final draft.
29        As is the usual practice, the Prime Minister/Leader shall appoint the Party Chairman and the Party Board shall appoint the Party’s Chief Executive/Chief Operating Officer.
In a modern democratic Party fit for the 21st Century the Party Chairman should be elected by and accountable to the Party membership.
30        The Party Chairman shall be in charge of all election campaigns.   Part of that function can be delegated (e.g. local government elections, the day to day conduct of a General Election campaign and by elections).
Until this last election we always thought the Chairman was in charge including the day to day conduct of the campaign.
31        The Party Chairman may appoint, after consulting the Party’s Chief Executive, a Party professional(s)/consultant(s) to run any part or the whole of the campaign.   Notice of the appointment shall be given in writing by the Party Chairman to the Prime Minister/Leader of the Party, the Chairman of the 1922 committee and the elected Chairman of the National Convention.
If Conservative Campaign Headquarters is incapable of running a campaign what is the point of it?   Consultants walk away with a fat fee and are totally unaccountable for the result.   The £4.5 million spent on consultants in the 2017 General Election would have been better spent on the training and employment of professional agents in the constituencies.  
52        The Party should appoint a Vice-Chairman for Diverse Communities, and should consider that person being represented on the Party Board.   The Vice-Chairman for diverse Communities should work with the Outreach Department to contact the different communities that will keep the Party nationally and locally in touch.
Who is “The Party” which is going to do the appointing?   Who is this Vice-Chairman accountable to?   How long is the appointment?   Why should they be on the Party Board?
56        The Party should actively encourage parliamentary and council candidates from diverse communities, and ensure through our training programmes that such potential candidates get priority.
Why should these candidates get priority and who decides on the priority?   Merit should be the criteria for candidate selection.
66        Training and development should become a key function of CCHQ.   The Head of Training should be a Director level appointment, and supported by a team to deliver on training along with the Vice-Chairman of Training.
Who is the Vice-Chairman of Training?   Who is he/she accountable to?   Why do we need all these unelected, unaccountable Vice-Chairmen?   Are these just jobs for the boys?
70        The Party will establish a career path for long-term field employment within the Conservative Party, which will include a professional qualification in electoral law, regular training, and programmes in campaigning and personal development.
At last a sensible proposal, but didn’t we use to have this?   Should this not be part of the remit of the Head of Training?
The General Election showed that there is a clear campaigning deficiency in many parts of the country which needs to be urgently addressed.   Put simply the Party needs to rapidly upscale its presence on the ground with more members and volunteers involved in campaigning both between and at election time.   Priority should be given to target seats, both attack and defence.
To be a viable campaigning force our activist base must become more balanced in age grouping, attracting new and younger members who are both engaged and trained in election activity.
So what are they going to do about this?   Let’s see!
105      The Party needs to better value volunteers, and a successor to Team 2015 needs to be developed by CCHQ and put in place by 2018 local elections.   This should include Head of Volunteer Mobilisation with authority to implement the research on what drives people to join, get and stay involved with the party.
What does “better value volunteers” mean?    We need a successor to Team 2015, but this is just a sticking plaster rather than a cure for the problem.   The 2018 local elections are in 6 months time so what has been done to get this implemented?
106      CCHQ in conjunction with the Voluntary Party, to launch a volunteer and membership drive, backed up with research, on what drives people to join, get and stay involved in Party politics.
Absolutely necessary, but what are you going to offer to new members – no rights, no involvement in the running of the Party organisation, no involvement in determining policy, no democratic accountability – just the same old deference that has failed abysmally.
107      Associations to be offered a capacity assessment by the Head of Volunteer Mobilisation appointed under recommendation 105, and to jointly agree phased and realistic targets for volunteer and activist recruitment.   An incentive scheme should be agreed to strengthen the partnership between CCHQ and local Associations.
With over 300 Constituency Associations with less than 100 members and less than 10 activists what kind of target are you going to set?   What kind of “incentive scheme” to “strengthen the partnership between CCHQ and local Associations”?   The only one that would work is to make those responsible for CCHQ democratically accountable to the party members.
108      The Party Board should commission an annual report from every seat on the levels of volunteers, activists and resources.   The Board shall receive support from CCHQ to produce this report where it is needed.
The question is “What will they do about it?
109      The implementation of central administration of party membership must remain a priority and this must be supported by a sufficiently resourced Membership Department at CCHQ.
We have been talking about this for years.   When will it happen and will it be properly linked with the Constituency Associations?

So there we are.   NERO fiddles at CCHQ whilst the Party flows down the Thames.   What a tragedy!


Monday, December 4, 2017

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies Forum - December 16th

Do come to the next Forum meeting.  With major changes to the Conservative Party Constitution it is essentialthat the voice of the grass roots is heard.   Further details on the EVENTS page

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Changes to the Conservative Party Constitution

    They are at it again. Next Saturday 25th November there is a meeting of the National Convention in Birmingham to discuss changes to the Party Constitution. For only the second time in the last fifteen years ordinary Party members are excluded. The original notice sent out by Ian Sanderson as "Head of the Voluntary Party" states that "the meeting is only open to members of the National Convention". Incidentally who appointed Ian Sanderson "Head of the Voluntary Party? I always thought that that was the Chairman of the National Convention! Will they ever learn? I doubt it, whilst ever they are unaccountable to the Party membership.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Code of Conduct for Conservative Party Representatives.

The Tory Party has issued the following Code of Conduct (see below).   I would comment as follows:
General points:
1)      Criminal behaviour should be dealt with by the police.   Any confidential hotline should be manned by a solicitor who can tell the caller whether their complaint falls into this category.   If so, the party should have no further dealings in the matter.
2)      All political parties have agreed a grievance procedure for complaints by employees of MPs.   We await the details of this.  It would not be right for two separate bodies to be looking at the same complaint so these matters should be left to the all party group.   If an employee makes a complaint against their employer the relationship has broken down.   This needs to be taken into account in the procedures.
3)      Harassment, and in particular sexual harassment is hard to define.   One person’s bad joke is another person’s harassment!   Is flirting abolished?   Douglas Hurd married his Secretary, William Hague married a civil servant in his department.   At some stage propositions were made.   If they had been turned down could a claim for sexual harassment be made?
4)      We have already seen examples of using the code for the furtherance of political ambition.
5)      No Member of Parliament should have the whip suspended unless they have been criminally charged.   It is a fundamental part of British justice that you are innocent until proved guilty.
6)      Naming someone against whom an allegation has been made, before the outcome of the process is against natural justice because much damage can be done where a person is innocent.
Detailed points:
1)      “inappropriate behaviour” is subjective so should not be included in the “Purpose
2)      Under “Integrity” should not “The Conservative Party” be added to “material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
3)      “Honesty”   What is truth?   Experience of the referendum campaign shows that people define truth in many ways. I am afraid it is subjective so should be dropped.
4)      Complaints @conservatives .com and 020 7984 8050   Who will have access to these and how will access be controlled?
5)      Stage 2   The Party Chairman appoints a panel, but the Party Chairman is unelected and unaccountable to the members of the Party and is only accountable to the Leader.   This could produce a conflict of interest if there is criticism of the panel and its operation.
6)      Stage 3 “a complaint under the Code of Conduct will be provided with Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure to be adopted at the hearing.   What are these Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure?   If they are different for each case who will draw them up?
7)      Stage  3 If there is an appeal the Individual Member Review Committee…….under a process determined by it and whose decision is final.   So they determine the process!   This is hardly a situation of natural justice.
8)      ANNEX: INTERPRETATION  Harassment   The definition of harassment is subjective.   What is worse, having defined what categories are involved it then says “Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories “   This will lead to huge problems.
9)      ANNEX: “victimisation” “Victimisation may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way, or may act in such a way.”   Believed by whom?  This is so vague the lawyers will have a field day.

10)  ANNEX: Bullying”.   This clause is subjective and seems to include criminal acts i.e. physical bullying. Dangerous!

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CODE OF CONDUCT FOR CONSERVATIVE PARTY REPRESENTATIVES
PART 1: CODE OF CONDUCT
Purpose of this Code of Conduct
 To set out the minimum standards of behaviour expected from anyone representing the Party as an elected or appointed official or office-holder.
 To support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and the absence of any and all inappropriate behaviour, in all aspects of the Party’s activities.
This Code of Conduct sets out the framework of behaviour expected of those Party representatives (listed under ‘Who is the Code of Conduct for?’ below), who are required as a strict condition of their ongoing representation of the Party, membership of, engagement with and/or (in the case of any organisation which is formally recognised by the Party) recognition by the Party, to adhere to this Code of Conduct in their activities representing the Party.
Who is the code of conduct for?
This Code of Conduct is for anyone who formally represents the Party as an elected or appointed official. This includes, but is not limited to: Members of Parliament, Peers, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Scottish Parliament, Members of the Welsh Assembly, Members of the Greater London Assembly, Police & Crime Commissioners, elected Mayors, Councillors and Association, area, regional, and national Party officers. This Code of Conduct will be presented to the Party Board, which will consider the views of each of these categories of Party representatives, at its meeting in November 2017 with a view to its formal adoption, and will be the process followed until then.
What standards are expected of individuals covered by this Code?
They should:
 follow the Seven Principles of Public Life established by Lord Nolan and the Committee on Standards in Public Life:
1. Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
2. Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
3. Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
4. Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
5. Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
6. Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful.
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7. Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs;
 lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance;
 treat others with civility, courtesy and respect;
 act with honesty and probity and in a manner which upholds the reputation and values of the Conservative Party. Such duty is fundamental. Conduct which the public may reasonably perceive as undermining a representative’s honesty and probity is likely to diminish trust and confidence placed in them, and the Party, by the public;
 not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others (see further the interpretation annex);
 take reasonable steps to ensure that people who wish to raise concerns about bullying, discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation by others feel able to do so, and know how to follow the complaints procedure set out in this Code;
 co-operate fully with any process set down by the Party Board should a grievance process be instigated.
This Code will be made publicly available on the Conservative Party website.
PART 2: PROCEDURE FOR ALLEGED BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT
If any individuals wish to make a formal complaint against elected representatives or officers of the Party they should email complaints@conservatives.com. Alternatively, they can call our confidential hotline on 020 7984 8050.
There may be instances where an individual feels able to raise the problem informally with the person responsible and explain clearly to them that their behaviour is not welcome or makes them uncomfortable. If informal steps are not appropriate or have been unsuccessful, then the following formal procedure may apply.
When we receive a formal complaint, we will investigate it in a timely and confidential manner. The investigation will be conducted by someone with appropriate experience and no prior involvement in the complaint. The investigation should be thorough, impartial and objective, and carried out with sensitivity and due respect for the rights of all parties concerned.
The following process will be adopted in so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so:
Stage 1: We will obtain written statements from the complainant and notify the respondent(s) that a complaint has been made about them. The respondent will be given the opportunity to provide any evidence or details that will help to establish their position. It may be necessary to interview witnesses to any of the incidents mentioned in the complaint. If so, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised to them.
Stage 2: A panel consisting of no fewer than three people, appointed by the Party Chairman, will examine the complaint and evidence gathered. This must include representation of both the voluntary and professional Party alongside at least one independent person. If the complaint regards a Member of Parliament, the panel must include at least one person nominated by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee.
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 If there is an allegation of criminal wrongdoing, we will strongly advise the complainant to report this to the relevant authority as soon as practicable. In certain instances, we may have a duty to contact the relevant authority directly.
 The panel will collectively determine whether the complaint warrants further investigation and/or whether there is a potential breach of the Conservative Party’s Code of Conduct, or whether it is vexatious or malicious;
 If it is agreed that the Code of Conduct has not been breached, and the complaint does not warrant further investigation by the Party, then the complainant will receive written notification of this, explaining the decision.
 If it is agreed that the Code of Conduct may have been breached, the process will move to Stage 3.
 Records of meetings and decisions will be kept for a minimum of 5 years or as required by law.
Stage 3: The panel established under Stage 2 will examine further the complaint and evidence gathered.
 The panel will provide their findings to the Party Chairman, recommending the appropriate level of the Party at which the complaint should be resolved and/or dealt with according to the Party’s Constitution, and will continue to monitor the complaint to its conclusion.
 If the panel cannot agree collectively on its findings, the dissenting views must be presented as well as the majority view.
 If appropriate, the complaint may then be referred by the Chairman to the Leader and/or to the Board of the Conservative Party, who shall take such action as they see fit. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, suspension of membership or expulsion from the Party.
 Any hearing of any panel or body established to hear a complaint under the Code of Conduct will be provided with Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure to be adopted at the hearing. The panel will be obliged to consider an application on behalf of the respondent for the matter to be dismissed on the grounds that the complainant’s case is vexatious or malicious, or for any other reason. In considering such an application for dismissal, the panel may seek qualified legal advice.
 Any removal of rights of membership will only be made after due considerations of natural justice.
 Schedule 6 (23) of the Constitution of the Conservative Party provides for an appeal process in the event of the Board of the Party determining that an individual should be suspended or expelled from membership of the Party. Any member whose membership is suspended, withdrawn or refused by the Board of the Party has 28 days to lodge an appeal to the Individual Member Review Committee which shall exist for the purpose of hearing such appeals under a process determined by it and whose decision shall be final.
 Records of meetings and decisions will be kept for a minimum of 5 years or as required by law.
In no way should anything in this Code interfere with an elected representative carrying out his or her duties and exercising his or her judgement in relation to his or her work, nor to any individual’s right to a private life within the law.
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ANNEX: INTERPRETATION
Discrimination includes victimising or harassing any other person because of race (including colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship), sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity status.
Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive situation or environment for them. A single incident can amount to harassment.
Harassment may involve conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment), or it may be related to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories.
Victimisation provisions protect certain individuals who do (or might do) acts such as bringing discrimination claims, complaining about harassment, or getting involved in some way with another complaint (such as giving evidence). Victimisation may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way, or may act in such a way.
Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority, but can include both personal strength, influence and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

From the Grass Roots

(The following article has been written by a member of COPOV and is a personal reflection on the current political situation and does not necessarily reflect the view of other COPOV members)

The party conference season is over and it is back to business as usual. In the last eighteen or so months everything has changed and nothing, it seems, is better.  I am profoundly depressed and frightened by what the future holds.  A referendum campaign which has split the country in two setting family members against other family members,  a USA President totally out of his depth and who seems to think that shouting slogans such as ‘Rocket Man’ is going to solve anything, a tin pot dictator in a far away country threatening the world with nuclear weapons, the major opposition party in the U K now led by a group of M P s who worship the doctrines of Karl Marx and a government in office but not power led by people who voted ‘Remain’ in the referendum and who have no idea as to how to implement ‘Brexit’ effectively.  The ‘botched’ general election campaign has given the Labour leadership a spring in its step and credence to an ideology that has enslaved and murdered millions over the last hundred years.  That is unforgivable and we must take full share of the blame.  Yet our party has been dying for the last forty or so years. I would contend that the last real general election win was in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher formed her first administration. Each win since -four outright (1983, 1987, 1992, 2015) and two biggest party (2010, 2017) – is the result of special circumstances surrounding that particular general election.  The 1982 Falklands War rescued Margaret Thatcher whose economic policies the previous year had been castigated by 364 leading economists. The rise of the SDP / Liberal Alliance in both 1983 and 1987 split the parties of the left leading to easy victories for our party.  The result in 1992 after a recession was probably ‘touch and go’ with Neil Kinnock’s disastrous Sheffield Rally speech in which he looked more like a circus ringmaster than a Prime Minister in waiting tipping the balance in John Major’s favour.
The vagaries of the first past the post system however meant that John Major’s overall majority was only 21 even though the party polled 14 million votes, its highest ever. Since then it has been downhill all the way. After thirteen years in opposition so called modernisation and a financial crisis in 2008 we still could not win outright in 2010; in 2015 only the complete annihilation of our former Liberal Democrat coalition partners gave us an overall majority (we actually lost two seats overall to Labour). But nothing was more disastrous than 2017 when an unnecessary general election was called by the Prime Minister and an opinion poll lead of 15 to 20 points was needlessly thrown away.

That Jeremy Corbyn, rejected by three quarters of his parliamentary party, should increase the Labour vote by 10% is no mean achievement. But how and why did this happen?  He offered hope – an end to austerity, the writing off of student debt, more resources for the NHS.etc.  We shot our own supporters in the foot with the ‘dementia’ tax, offered nothing new and completely failed to expose Labour’s irresponsible spending commitments which would ruin the country and would make a mockery of all the difficult financial decisions taken in the last seven years. As a country we are still spending 50 billion a year more than we raise in taxes and the debt interest is enormous.

That the general election would be fought simply on which party would be the better at delivering Brexit was a non starter; other issues were bound to crop up but the complete lack of any kind of strategy was fully exposed and was fully exploited by the other political parties.
Probably our biggest failure over the last twenty years has been trying to outsmart Labour on its own natural territory. Because we were reduced to 166 seats in the House of Commons in 1997 and Tony Blair was at the time the master of all he surveyed we assumed that the only way back was to court progressiveness. Hence we readily accepted at one of our party conferences our Chairman telling us we were a ‘nasty’ party (this comment alone giving ammunition to our political opponents should have disqualified her from the highest office) and we had to do something about it. I have voted Conservative all my life and I certainly don’t regard myself as nasty; quite the opposite in fact.

Nastiness is not confined to any one particular party as the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton showed. But we took it as gospel and alienated a lot of voters who would you believe are conservatives with a small ‘c’.  Brexit happened partly because millions of Labour voters in the north of England and the Midlands were unwilling to be part of a European super state whose leaders appear to be accountable to no one but themselves, wanted control over who comes into this country and the problems excess immigration can cause in the fields of housing, education and health, and laws made in the United Kingdom Parliament and interpreted by U. K. Judges.  And instead of being called patriots they are labelled racists, out of touch etc. Yet we were warned fifty years ago as to what might happen by a politician now long dead; a politician who changed parties and whose name is, simply due to political correctness, unmentionable and erased from history .Yet he was one of the most brilliant scholars of his time, was a Cambridge don, rose to the rank of Brigadier in the Second World War, and was for one year a Member of the Cabinet. We have allowed what is known as ‘cultural Marxism’ - the idea that the white population- in particular white males- are oppressors of other races, that heterosexual marriage and the procreation of children is not to be encouraged, and that religion and in particular the Christian religion is as Karl Marx said the opiate of the people – to manifest itself in various ways and have done little or nothing to combat it.  The left has had a field day but like everything else the left is never satisfied. You could spend 200 billion on the NHS and the left would still want more.   In 1987 Neil Kinnock thought he had seen off the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party yet it was only sleeping and in 2017 has reared its ugly head in the form of Momentum. It says something about the current state of the party that Tony Blair the most successful Labour leader at winning elections in its 117 year history is now regarded as a pariah and a traitorous war mongerer by the  members of the party he led for thirteen years.

         Europe has been the cancer at the heart of our party for nearly sixty years. If you read the history books it was only with great reluctance that Harold Macmillan’s 1961 Cabinet agreed to consider entry into what was then the Common Market. To facilitate this Macmillan could have chosen no greater believer in the European super state that his  chief negotiator Edward Heath who when he became Prime Minister in 1970 made sure by every means he could that Great Britain would eventually lose its sovereignty and become simply a province in a greater Europe. This was concealed from the general public but one only had to read the Treaty of Rome to see that this together with complete economic and monetary union was the plan. And every Conservative Prime Minister from Margaret Thatcher through to Theresa May has fallen on the European sword. It has nearly destroyed us. How can two former Chancellors, John Major and Kenneth Clarke, who want to remain in the European Union and two, Lords Lawson and Lamont, who want to leave the European Union, be in the same party?  No:  the decision to hold a Referendum however desirable was a way of papering over the cracks; a device to stop more Conservative voters deserting to UKIP. And when in the course of time the referendum was held and Leave won there was no adequate preparation for the outcome as the Establishment and the Civil Service were for Remain. And that is why we are in the current mess ; a minority government trying to negotiate its way out of a bureaucratic nightmare with a Prime Minister who refuses to say which way she would vote if the referendum were held now, a First Secretary and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who are at heart both Remainers, and  a Foreign Secretary whose ambition knows no bounds but who judging by his speech at the party conference, at least seemed to believe that there could be a bright future ahead outside the E. U.. And what kind of Brexit?  No one seems sure.  The European negotiators who know that when we leave there will be a financial hole to fill are determined to squeeze as much cash out of us as they can  They are placing all sorts of obstacles in our way and deliberately making life difficult.  I voted ‘Remain’ but with no real conviction (better to hold on to nurse for fear of something worse) but having seen what is going on and the intransigence from the Europeans I would vote Leave were there to be another referendum.  Of course having never dreamt that any country would be so foolish as to leave they are now being vindictive and petty and against a country which from May 1940 to June 1941 stood alone with its then Empire and American allies as a beacon of hope and freedom in a continent over run by one of the vilest tyrannies ever known to mankind.

I said at the beginning of this article that our party is dying. What then of the future? What is the point of being a Conservative if it is only to mimic the Labour party in the extension of state control over each and every one of us?  Who is making the case for lower taxes, free markets and dare I say it capitalism?  We seem more intent on not offending this group of people or that group of people than of making any attempt to build a property owning democracy based on conservative principles. And because we seem unable to do this we have lost a generation of younger people who out of desperation look upon Jeremy Corbyn as their saviour.  We have to find solutions and fast.   We need to use what young talent we have in the party to its fullest potential. It means giving a bigger say to people like Ben Houchen the new mayor of Teesside and to our younger Members of Parliament. It means less centralised control from Central Office; it means that local associations are given the right to choose their parliamentary candidates. It means that more people like Kemi Badenoch, the new Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden, are encouraged to join the party, to participate in policy discussion and formation... And to say why they support the Conservative Party.

We need to nail the lie that we are a party only for the rich. We have voters from all creeds and classes; our M P s are far more representative of the population as a whole than it has ever been. The Labour Party’s slogan ‘For the Many not the Few’ implies that our party is exactly the opposite. We never ever seem to question that assumption. We are too timid in defending our values. Too afraid to say what we believe.  The Corbynite luminary Laura Pidcock is filled with hatred for the Tories and our policies and made particular reference to the food banks in her constituency. Why has nobody taken her up on this? For everybody knows that a Corbyn government would be such a disaster that there would be plenty of banks with no food in them at all. And how many millions starved to death under Joseph Stalin in the USSR, a country so loved by the Pidcocks of this world.?

The clock is ticking and time is short.  Brexit will probably happen in some form or other. Hopefully the Remainers in our party would come on board and try to make it a success. The prospect of a Corbyn government should concentrate our minds wonderfully. The Labour Party policies would have far more scrutiny and surely we could not run such an abysmal election campaign as in 2017.

I cannot even bear to contemplate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister leading the nation’s mourning at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday morning. Yet that could possibly happen if our party cannot get its act together and quickly. Courage and vision seem in short supply but they are sorely needed now.  Who in our party can rise up to the challenge? Who is our new Winston Churchill?




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Party Reform by Don Porter

The following speech was given by Don Porter on October 2nd at a fringe meeting at the Tory Party conference in Manchester Town Hall:





I am here today as someone who has given 48 years of my life to the Party.  Starting as a branch treasurer in Macclesfield, rising to National Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Board.  I have continued to work tirelessly for our Party co-founding Conservative Voice five years ago.  This is not a disruptive organisation.  I am not here today to disrupt.  It is in this spirit of service and loyalty that I am here today.

Let me at the outset declare my 100% support and loyalty to our Leader and Prime Minister.  When I chaired the Party Conference in Blackpool in 2002, Theresa May was Party Chairman.  I worked very closely with her and saw at first-hand her many qualities of hard work, commitment and saw her totally principled approach to all issues of the day.  It is time for the team to work together to help her win with the challenges that lie ahead. 

BUT: It is because I want to see her remain in Downing Street and not be replaced by Jeremy Corbyn that I strongly believe that the organisation around her is not fit for purpose and has to change.  Our leader deserves a far superior organisation.

We have to reverse the erosion of engagement in our Party.  Members and activists feel undervalued, ignored and under-utilised.  It is ironic that after years of privatising industry, pushing down decision-making within the NHS, creating free schools and giving parents choice and strongly supporting elected mayors that this engagement never extended to the running of our own Party.  We run the Party in a command and control style.  Trusting the electorate to make decisions locally must be matched by trusting our members to have a greater say in the running of our Party.

It is 30 years since we won a General Election with a real working majority.  Yet, we have continued to behave and organise as if our election machine and structure is the gold standard of campaigning.  Can you imagine if we were shareholders in a listed company where the dividend and share price had been going down for some time that those shareholders would have just passively observed the deterioration?

Real engagement is essential: I still remember with pride many years ago, as Constituency Chairman in Woking, being chosen to propose a Conference motion.  The Constituency spent weeks engaged in discussing motions for submission.  You saw them printed in the handbook.  You reported back after Conference on the reaction to the session.  This all made it worthwhile.  There was real interest and ownership.

Modernisation – During recent previous regimes, I never quite understood what this meant in terms of benefit to the Party organisation or to its performance.  One thing is certain, it is strange that it did not include increasing the influence of activists or members or in developing an external audience interested in politics.  Those activists and members raise money for both the National Party and keep the Party running year-round locally.  It is a na├»ve belief that a Party can be run entirely from the Centre.

What a tragedy when the Party destroyed the high quality professional agents.  Throughout the Country, they were a force for stability and action in the most difficult times.

In my view, the head office of any organisation be it a business, charity or political party, is also there to serve its internal customers. We are not there to be told what to do, when to do it, when it suits the Party administration.  CCHQ should treat activists and indeed Members of Parliament, as their customers, not its resource.

So, what are the priorities as far as I’m concerned? 

  • We need an elected Chairman of the Board of the Party. I think it is perfectly appropriate for the Leader of the day to select their own Political Party Chairman but the Board of the Party should be more about the future direction and strategy of the Party.  Over the 9 years that I served on the Party Board, I worked with nine Party Chairmen.  Many of those former Chairmen are amongst my closest political friends.  But, no-one can make long term decisions with such frequent changes

  • The members should have an involvement in how the Party spends the money that we contribute to the Party nationally.  All too often, some people choose to forget that we keep the Party running at a local level which requires around £30 million each year.

  • I fully support an AGM for the whole Party with real powers of decision-making.

  • The way that the candidates’ selection is undertaken needs to change radically and I look to an elected Chairman of the Candidates’ Committee.

  • All Board Committees should be led by an elected volunteer.

  • Membership should be made meaningful.  Why should anyone contribute £25 only to have access to the occasional selection of candidates?



  • We should be looking for greater autonomy for local associations, not to conform to what the Centre expects us to deliver.  On previous occasions, I have suggested a franchise approach for the structure of the Party.  Branches and Associations working and performing within a set of core parameters but with healthy local autonomy.

  • It would be good to return to a robust and effective awards and recognition programme for all parts of our Party to recognise achievement.

If we are THE Party of aspiration for our Country then we should be the organisation providing aspirations for our members and potential followers.

Trusting the electorate to make decisions about local issues must be matched by trusting our members and activists to have a greater say in the running of our Party. 

Let me close by referring to quotes from my work with organisations and businesses which I believe are relevant to our Party from leading business people:

·         “The real dampener on engagement is the soggy, cold blanket of centralised authority.”

·         “People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people.  That’s the new talent contract”.

·         “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace”.


Ladies and gentlemen, to win the next election we must first and now win inside our own Party.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tory Party and the General Election

The following is the speech given by John Strafford at the fringe meeting at the Tory Party conference on 2nd October 2017 organised by the Bruges Group and the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.  The meeting was held in the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall:


Good morning Conservative Party members.   Today you are the rocks on which we will start to build a democratic Conservative Party fit for the 21st century.
A party based on Conservative values of Freedom, Liberty, Democracy and Justice.
A party that believes in the rule of law
A party that believes in defence of the realm, sovereignty of the nation and free trade.
A party for the people!
For a political party to win a General Election it has to have the right policies which appeal to the electorate and it has to have the right presentation of those policies.
In the fifty years I have been a member of the Conservative Party I do not recall a more abysmal set of policies put before the electorate.
WHERE was the hope?
WHERE were the opportunities for young people?
WHERE was the vision for the future?
No wonder the result was disappointing.
The manifesto said we would “means test” the winter fuel allowance.
The  Manifesto announced a new policy on Social care.
Issues which affected our core voters.   Yet no details were given.
This calamity arose because just a few people drew up the manifesto.   Even the Cabinet didn’t see it.
Oh for the days of the party conferences when we had motions for debate and  a vote at the end of them, when Executive Councils debated those motions before submitting them to the conference. When all motions submitted were printed in the conference hand book.  When the media televised the debates in an open way.   Where were the joint meetings with the voluntary party and the parliamentary party working together to develop policy?    Why was the old CPC emasculated?   It is only through discussion and debate that policy can be developed and daft errors eliminated.   It involves party members.   They feel included in influencing the policies of their party.   It is time to bring them back.
Who took the decision to make this a personal campaign as though we were ashamed of the Conservative brand?   In my constituency of Beaconsfield I received an official party document which didn’t have the word “Conservative” on it anywhere!
But quite often the great British public cannot decide which party has the most attractive policies and it is in these circumstances that party organisation becomes critical.   In my fifty years membership of the Conservative Party I cannot recall a General Election that was so badly organised.   The party Chairman is responsible for organisation but where was he in the election?   I am told he was side lined.   Can you imagine Chris Patten in 1992 being side lined?   He probably forfeited his seat because he spent so much time on the National campaign.   Can you imagine Cecil Parkinson or Lord Tebbitt or Lord Thorneycroft being side lined?   No, the problem we face in this 21st century is that the Party Chairman is unelected and unaccountable to the membership of the Party.
WHO  took the decision to spend £4.5 million with an Australian consultant rather than spend it on the training and employment of professional agents in marginal seats?
WHO  took the decision to use algorithms to get out the votes out on Election Day which meant we were getting socialists out to vote?
WHO did not stand up for the voluntary Party when the decision was taken by the Party Board to ignore the Party’s constitution and impose candidates on the constituencies using the clause in the constitution which says that they can take any decision if they believe it is in the best interest of the Conservative Party, which incidentally makes the rest of the Party’s constitution not worth the paper it is written on.
And finally WHO took the decision to use a canvass return so long and complicated that most people abandoned it very quickly - a return devised by those with no knowledge of the strength of the Party in the constituencies?   At the Spring Forum we were told by these clever clots at Central Office that the traditional way of canvassing was useless.   How did we employ such people with so little knowledge of the Party?
Which brings me on to the membership of the Party?    When I joined the Party we had 2.5 million members.   Today it is about 100,000 and falling.   There are 300 constituencies with less than 100 members including some with Conservative MPs.   You cannot fight a National Campaign on the ground with that number of members and get out the vote.
The last national membership campaign was in 1988 which was the “Bulldog” campaign under Peter Brooke as Chairman.   By 1992 we had approximately half a million members.   This was the last General Election at which we were capable of fighting a ground campaign.   Every single Party Chairman since 1992 has seen our membership decline and done nothing about it.    If only they had been elected by and accountable to party members it is inconceivable that this would not have been a major issue. That is why we have to have an Annual General Meeting of all Party members at which the Party Chairman is elected.
To those that have said over the years that people were no longer interested in joining political parties just look at what the Labour Party has done. Their membership has increased to 600,000.   The income they have received from their membership is £14.5 million. Compare that to the Tory Party income from membership of £1.5 million or adding in constituency membership fees perhaps £3 million.
On Election Day volunteers were directed to help out in Slough which was a CCO target seat.   It had a Labour majority of 7,000.   This went up to 17,000 while in Oxford West and Abingdon a Conservative MP was losing her seat because volunteers were instructed not to go there.  North Oxford, a safe conservative seat next door to Oxford West and Abingdon were instructed to send all their volunteers to help in Coventry where you guessed it the Labour majority went up.   How can CCO have got it so wrong?
We have to radically change the way the Party is organised.   We have to increase our membership.   This can only be done by giving the members of the Party some power, a sense of involvement, let their views count, let them have some say in the development of policy, that those who are running the Party are elected by and accountable to the members of the Party.
Party organisation should be the responsibility of the Party Chairman.   He or she should control the campaign.   All consultants, special advisers etc should report to the Chairman and he or she should be answerable at an Annual General Meeting.   The Leader determines policy and priorities. He or she should take responsibility for the political aspects of the campaign.
One final thought. Anything can happen in politics.   We could have a General Election within the next couple of months.   The Labour Party have spent the summer campaigning. They are putting candidates into all their seats which have not got an MP, so what is the Conservative Party’s position?   We have the same Party Chairman who presided over this last debacle.   We have no candidates in position.  We have not set out a coherent vision of the future.   Lord help us if there is an election.

So it is time for us to trust our members.   Let us seize this moment.   Let the grass roots grow, the swallows soar; let us ride this rainbow of opportunity.   Out of the jaws of defeat we can ensure victory at the next General Election.   The alternative is oblivion!   Join with me and let us change the Conservative Party so that once again we can say that the Conservative Party is the best organised political party in the democratic world.