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.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Questions for the Tory Party

Watch an extract from John Strafford's speech at the COPOV fringe meeting at the Tory Party conference on 2nd October held in Manchester's Great Hall.   CLICK HERE 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

COPOV Forum 21st October 2017

Do come to this Forum.   The time for Party reform is now.   For further details see EVENTS For TICKETS CLICK HERE 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Its time to bring democracy to the Tory Party.

The following article  by Robert Halfon MP was posted on the conservativehome web site today 27th September 2017

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

I remember growing up as a younger Tory member, going to various events, and hearing someone called John Strafford going on about democratising the Conservative Party. I used to think: “who is this crazy guy, this political obsessive, rabbiting on about obscure party mechanics, which few are interested in?’”
In recent times, I began to realise that, far from being a lunatic, John was quite sane…and it was perhaps us who closed our ears to what he was saying who were the crazy ones. For many years, he rightly predicted that a lack of democracy would lead to a loss of membership. He was right.
You don’t have to agree with every one of his prescriptions – and I don’t. I still think that a Prime Minister should be able to choose his or her own Party Chairman, for example. However, a little bit of common sense will tell you that in an age of ever-increasing consumer choice, if people join organisations, they want to be involved and have an active part in shaping that organisation.
Unfortunately for the Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn understands this in terms of the Labour Party. The 600,000 plus members that Labour now has are not all from the far left, (although those make a significant contingent), but also include people who are both attracted by a romantic view of socialism, and also know that, when they join their party, they can vote on party motions, vote for their representatives and have serious votes on policy. To those on the centre-left who argue that this just gives those on the hard-left a platform to take-over the party, that is somewhat defeatist. Are there really not a few hundred thousand, moderate social democrats – who could be persuaded to be involved and influence their party, with the right leadership and motivations?
In a similar way, a truly democratic, membership-based Conservative Party would be an important step in galvanising current members, and persuading existing members to join.
In practice, this would mean the whole of the Party Board, including the Chair of the National Convention elected by the membership, not the current system in which they are chosen by just a few senior people from each association. The same would apply to the directly-affiliated organisations such as the Conservative Policy Forum. The Board could produce an annual report, just as companies do to their shareholders, which would be adopted or rejected annually by all the members through a vote.
Conference too, should be radically democratised. Our party must move away from just the Politburo-style announcements (“tractor production in the Soviet Union has gone up by 50 per cent this year”). I remember going to conference during the time of Margaret Thatcher, when motions for conference would be selected by associations and debated. The Government of the day was still able to get their core messages across – and win elections.
Why not do the same now, with members voting online as to which ones are chosen for debate at both the Spring and Winter Conferences? In terms of selecting parliamentary candidates, this could continue to be done by primaries (although this can offer an unfair advantage to a well connected local candidate) – or an electoral college consisting of the local association members (60 per cent), the public (20 per cent) and CCHQ representation (20 per cent).
Of course, the first objection to democratisation is to point at Corbyn’s Labour and express concerns about ‘infiltration’, or about ‘undesirables’ elected to positions etc. As explained above, not only does this show a misunderstanding of what the 600,000 Labour members are all about, but even so, can be dealt with.
The answer is simple: paying a full membership fee of £25 would give a member full participatory rights, whilst less expensive fees could be charged for non-voting membership. There would of course be concession rates for certain groups on lower incomes, as there are at the moment. As a final check and balance, if it was felt that despite the financial safety net, infiltration, malpractice, reputational damage et al had occurred, the Prime Minister, Party Chairman, or the Board could have a final veto.
Democratisation of the Tory party is not the only solution to increasing our membership base. A proper national membership offering, rocket-boosting candidate bursaries, expenses for lower income members to get involved at senior level, a radical and simplified message and symbol (yes – the ladder of opportunity) that all Conservatives can unite behind, are just a few other things that could be done. But what is the point if, when Conservatives do finally get people to join, the latter realise they have no real say in making their new party one that really works for everyone?  They won’t remain members for long.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Conservative Party Democracy: what lessons from the General Election?

Join us at a fringe meeting at 9am on Monday 2nd October at The Great Hall, Town Hall, Albert Square, Manchester, M60 2LA.
David Campbell-Bannerman, MEP (Former Chairman, Conservatives for Britain)
John Strafford Chairman (COPOV)
Don Porter ( Former Chairman National Convention and Chairman of Conservative Voice)

There will be a vote at the meeting for a Party Chairman

Question & Answer session after the speeches

Come along and have your say!

Time for the Conservative Party to embrace democracy or face oblivion.


1. STRONGER  ASSOCIATIONS, AND ONLY VOLUNTARY FEDERATIONS: That Associations and their members are the rock bed of the Conservative Party – they are the volunteers who devote huge time, resources and devotion to the party, through fair weather and foul, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors and supporting fundraising events.
Associations should be supported, strengthened, listened to and expanded; not be undermined, overruled, ignored or destroyed by an over centralised or autocratic party structure, or any forced immersion into more remote ‘federations’ or ‘super associations’ just to make up for falling membership, but only on a voluntary basis. We need to put individual members back at the centre of the party, and provide better reasons for members to join the party, which will make it easier to recruit and retain member, of all age groups - but particularly younger members.
The Party Constitution should be amended to put associations back at the centre of the party (before the 1998 Hague Constitution, the Conservative Party did not exist – it was associations). As the academic Bale notes, ‘the reforms also granted unprecedented rights to the centre to intervene in the affairs of associations deemed to be failing to meet specified ‘minimum criteria’ on membership, fund-raising and campaigning’.
The confusion over the roles of regional and area party officers and representatives should be resolved by scrapping regional party structures, which were a by-product of the 12 MEP (Member of the European Parliament) regions, which will cease to be relevant post Brexit in 2019. Instead Area organisations should be strengthened but not through Central Office place men, but by representatives of associations and by professional agents shared with or provided by associations in a bottom up rather than a top down approach.
On the youth side, the party has been beset by problems with its youth organisations over many years: notable was Party Chairman Lord Tebbit having to close down the FCS – the Federation of Conservative Students - in 1986 for an alleged ‘riot’ and article condemning Macmillan for war crimes, and the recent closure of the national executive of Conservative Future (CF) - which was founded in 1998 at the time of Hague’s constitutional reforms and which controversially blended the Young Conservatives, Conservative Collegiate Forum (which replaced FCS) and the National Association of Conservative Graduates together - after CF’s tragic suicide and bullying allegations.
It is suggested that young people be a vital part of strengthening local associations instead, with a return to the ‘Young Conservatives’ label and a rich social as well as political programme, but within local associations, with an age limit of 30 not the proposed 26 for CF, with officer positions at association or even branch level, an opportunity to be elected for a Board position(s), and also the establishment of a national ‘Conservative graduates and professionals’ organisation for networking and candidate recruitment with some party budget support.
2. AN ELECTED PARTY LEADER: The central right of party members under the 1998 Hague Constitution directly to elect the Leader of the Party must be restored and revamped. This in itself would help reenergise the Party, and give members a rationale for membership. A vote should always be held to appoint a new Leader.
The Leader of the Party should retain the responsibility for political campaigns, as this involves political decision making, though this should still be channeled via Conservative Campaign Headquarters in consultation with the elected Party Chairman as the voice of the members on campaigning. 
3. AN ELECTED PARTY CHAIRMAN: That the Party Chairman or Chairperson must be a representative of Conservative members and activists to the Prime Minister and Government, not be merely a representative or mouthpiece of the Prime Minister and Government to the party and its members. They should be elected on an annual basis by the whole membership, and should be accountable to members and not politicians.
They should be the voice of the membership and its views, not that of the Government, and they should have a decisive voice on whether a General Election is held or not. The elected Party Chairman would sit in Cabinet, but not be a Parliamentarian, preside over the Party Conference and be a key element in the Party’s Campaigns, for the General Election, local and other elections such as Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners. The elected Chairman post would take the place of the Chairman of the National Convention, whilst covering many of those important representative functions. They and their (elected) deputies would chair the Spring and October Party Conferences.
4. AN APPOINTED CHIEF EXECUTIVE (CEO): The Party’s political, and its executive and administrative functions should be split up, with the political functions overseen by the elected Party Chairman and the non-political by an appointed CEO. The CEO should be appointed on a professional basis with a CV to back it up, and not be just a party activist or volunteer. But they should be approved by a vote of the whole Board. The CEO should oversee functions such as funding, accounts, membership records and support for Campaigns and be selected on the basis of managerial and administrative ability, and conduct a thorough review of the functions and personnel of CCHQ. They would report to the Party Leader on a day to day basis, and to the entire membership on these functions at every Spring Conference, but not be elected as they are primarily a professional functionary
5. DIRECT ELECTIONS FOR DEPUTY/CO-CHAIRMEN OF THE PARTY AND BOARD MEMBERS: At present, too many individuals are appointed as Deputy or Vice Chairmen on the basis of personal contacts and favours, and later offered honours for their work. This is undemocratic, unaccountable, and is mysterious and untrustworthy to the membership, as well as those on the outside looking in.
Existing position holders should lose their titles, and all such appointments or re-appointments in future be made subject to a direct vote of the membership, possibly using e-voting, with the results being announced at Spring Conference. The Party Board should have 3 or 4 members delegated to the Board and be elected by the membership, with one being reserved for a youth representative. The representatives for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should normally be the Chairman of the national party but be subject also to election by the national membership.
6. REFORM OF PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE SELECTION AND A DIRECTLY ELECTED HEAD OF CANDIDATES ELECTED ANNUALLY: That the methods of candidate selection to date overseen by the central party have been wholly unacceptable: undemocratic, unaccountable, dictatorial, London centric and contemptuous of the associations.
Conservative Home’s analysis of candidate selection in 2017 by Mark Wallace concluded: “I have heard deep unhappiness from people whom I have never heard complain once in years of hard work and unfulfilled ambitions.  Put simply, a lot of candidates are angry – particularly, but not exclusively, those who were passed over. Time and again, I’ve heard the same argument: the process “makes a mockery of meritocracy”, it “has left me and many other Conservative activists doubting the very foundations of the organisation we have supported for decades”, “I feel sick and betrayed”, “what really kills is the kids [selected] who haven’t fought seats before…unproven ones”, CCHQ has exhibited “a lack of meritocracy and they have favourites”, and so on.”
Recently we have seen the Party centrally imposing candidates on local associations with no real discussion or consultation accompanied by threats to impose candidates unwanted by local associations and the threat of ‘special measures’ if these instructions are not followed.
This takes away a fundamental right for members of local associations to determine themselves which candidates they select – one of the most important rights members have and one that has a great bearing how much support a successful candidate obtains if activists are left angry or demoralised.
This will end. Under the new rules, a strict criteria for invoking ‘special measures’ will ensure that legally CCHQ is unable to abuse its use.
On timing as well, because of CCHQ’s centralist control, many associations have also wanted to select early but have been unable to do so. Greater member control will mean this can be done according to the local association’s desired timetable.
The Party Candidates Committee and its supporting Department must be closed in its entirety, and officials such as Amanda Slater, Party Deputy Chairman and Co-Chairman of the Candidates Committee and Head of Candidates, Gareth Fox, be dismissed with immediate effect, with any honours such as MBEs or Baroness/Dame positions vetoed by the Party. Questions need to be asked at the alleged role of the Party Treasurer in Candidate Selection.
A new Candidates Department should be established separately and independently from CCHQ, importantly in a different office location such as Manchester, and be under the control of associations and the elected Chairman and elected Head of Candidates.
The new Head of Candidates should not be an obscure, unknown individual or be a Deputy/Vice Chairman of the Party and be elected annually. They should be elected on the basis of management ability, political judgement and professional experience, and conduct selections in a straightforward and transparent manner. The aim of Candidate Selection must no longer be to fill quotas or to promote personally favoured candidates or to keep the list to a small elite, but be simply to ensure that candidates are talented, well qualified and have no serious issues such as criminal records, unacceptable conduct or financial bankruptcy.
Parliamentary Assessment Boards (PABs) must be conducted professionally and transparently to clearly agreed and understood criteria, published publicly well in advance, and recognise merit by a simple scoring system. For example, points being awarded for fighting ‘no hope’ seats well, local council work, charity or voluntary work, media performance, speech performance. Instead of Pass and Fail for PABs, grades should be issued as Pass, Fail with chance to reapply following courses and further work in weaker areas, and Fail owing to serious criteria (such as the uncovering of unacceptable past conduct or personality issues separate to or in confirmation of other professional vetting processes).
Those failing PABs should have a right of appeal, be clearly shown how they can improve and be offered suitable remedial training in weaker areas, and the right to apply for one further PAB. Local Candidates for selection for their local seats only may be allowed with quick PABs held just for that purpose - but not over the telephone or Skype, but face to face in a proper manner.
It should also be the case that local associations should have more powers and a clearer mechanism to remove MPs who are not performing at all satisfactorily, or whose relationship with the association has seriously broken down (this does not refer to inevitable minor or character or policy differences but to major recurrent problems or seriously unacceptable behaviour to detriment of party or association).
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should draw from this central register of names but continue to operate their own independent lists mindful of national sensitivity and their appeal to national voters, but have a commonality of UK quality and very similar procedures to the UK, overseen by the nationally elected Party Chairman and Head of Candidates.
Local Associations should also be able to select their choice of local candidates for Parliamentary selection (With CCHQ vetting) and to go onto the selection shortlist for just that seat, rather than a central list of imposed candidates only for short listing. That would give local Associations a say and give local candidates a chance, as the PAB process and central list is inaccessible to some.
As regarding selecting local rather than Parliamentary candidates – for local council elections (district, borough, unitary), mayoral, Police & Crime Commissioner, assembly elections, there must be a wider involvement of whole associations, who should have the right to stand and to all vote on candidates, instead of a more insular and limited approach of association officers choosing local candidates. This again will help revitalise local associations and their branches.
7. MEMBERS TO BE ALLOWED TO INPUT MORE INTO POLICY MANIFESTO THROUGH A REVAMPED AND EXPANDED SPRING PARTY CONFERENCE,WITH AN ELECTED HEAD OF PARTY POLICY ELECTED ANNUALLY TO COLLATE AND REPRESENT MEMBERS’ VIEWS: The October Party Conference has become too remote from the members and activists, and too expensive for them to attend, leading in turn to very poor attendance by MPs, but is a proven money spinner for the party and a professional presentation platform, whilst Conservative Policy Forums are not as supported as well in the past
It is therefore proposed the Spring Conference, which has become a ‘grudge’ mandatory event with faltering attendance, be reinvigorated and expanded in importance and function to mirror ‘old style’ Party Conferences
Conservative activists should be encouraged to have proper debates, as used to happen at October Party Conferences, and be encouraged to put forward policy manifesto proposals here, including through motions agreed at association level and also through Conservative Policy Centre initiatives.
A proposed Head of Party Policy should be elected annually with the job of collating and representing the policy opinions of members but NOT to write election manifestos, but to be a key part of that manifesto team to help avoid the disastrous manifesto mistakes in the recent General Election, backed by the Party Chairman.
Unusually, Ministers would be here to listen and respond to members’ views, including impromptu speeches from the floor, and not be there to promote their own policies. Ministers would then take from the Spring Conference to propose their own policy platforms at the October Party Conference, which will remain primarily to sell party policies to the media, interest and business groups, similar to now.
The Spring Conference should be cheaper in terms of pass prices and accommodation for attendees, returning to venues such as Bournemouth and Harrogate, to encourage as much participation as possible by members of all ages and incomes.
8. PROFESSIONAL SERVICES SUPPORT: The associations must be offered professional support to market their events, meetings and activities, and to improve the membership ‘product offering’ – members need to see a point to paying their membership fees, and being able to choose the MP, help influence policies, attend party conferences at a reasonable cost, have a fair chance of candidate selection, and be involved in interesting political and social events for example, much of which has been lost.
The onus must be on building up associations through promoting and incentivising extra membership, more appealing events and more successful fundraising. Whilst most of this Declaration’s initiatives promote decentralisation of functions, it is suggested that membership be centralised along the lines of the National Trust for example, with efficient central records and administration of members, but with far better interaction with local associations.
9. WORKING FOR ALL UK PARTY CONSTITUTIONS TO BE DEMOCRATISED: It is unacceptable that all UK political party constitutions are so weak and limited as to be on a par legally with a golf club. This allows too much control at the centre and leads to frequent unjust treatment of members. We pledge to work with other parties on legislation for party constitutional changes and requirements to help democratise all parties and head off infiltration and takeovers from within such as by Momentum or by Militant in Labour.
10. IMPROVE THE MAKING AND DISSEMINATION OF PARTY RULES: Local associations are too often made subject to rules passed down from the centre from the Party Board without any true consultation, often leading to misunderstandings of what the rules are. Instead a framework of rules should be handed to each Association and each executive should be allowed to decide whether the rules are appropriate for them. This would help to make each Association or grouping autonomous, giving a real sense of ownership and belonging.


New composition of the Board: A Party Board for the 21st Century
The Board is the ultimate decision-making body of the Conservative Party. It is responsible for all operational matters including; fundraising, membership and candidates. It is made up of representatives from each section of the Party - the voluntary, political and professional.
It is proposed to amend the composition of the Party Board to provide a more streamlined and efficient method of decision-making. The Board will consist of:

Leader of the Conservative Party
Chairman of the Conservative Party (and Chairman of the Party Board) (elected)
Chief Executive of the Conservative Party (appointed)
Treasurer of the Conservative Party
Chairman of the Conservative Councillors’ Association
Chairman of the Scottish & Unionist Conservative Party
Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party
Chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party
Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament (until Brexit in 2019)                                                      
Chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers
Chairman of the 1922 Committee
Secretary to the Board
Head of Candidates (elected)
3 or 4 delegates representing the membership (elected) – one of which should be a youth representative
Co-opted members in attendance – 3-4 MPs
All other current positions will be closed.

New composition of the Candidates Committee
Recommended for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Elected Head of Candidates – Chairman of Candidates Committee
•           The Head of Candidates and Candidates Committee Chairman shall be the ultimate authority on the Candidates Committee; working closely with the Party Chairman (below), who should have overall responsibility for candidates. Their role will not be to grandstand or monitor candidates themselves, but will be to attract high quality candidates for associations based on merit not on social engineering of personal favouritism, to manage the administration and communications process efficiently, to oversee independent vetting agencies who vet candidates for criminal records, fraud, bankruptcy or other unsuitability, oversee fair and balanced Parliamentary Assessment Boards (PABs), and support associations fairly and without prejudice respecting the independence of their selections;
•           Only serving or past Chairmen of a parliamentary constituency Association are entitled to stand for this position;
•           Each candidate for the position of Chairman of the Candidates Committee must have a minimum of three years’ experience as an Association Chairman before they are eligible to stand;
•           Each candidate should also be able to demonstrate suitable professional skills in administration, human resources or management functions.
•           The Head of Candidates shall be responsible for establishing and disseminating fair, transparent and clear rules on candidate selection and criteria. The intention will be to find a rich variety of well qualified candidates with many different skills and experience and range of backgrounds, but built always on merit not on quotas or any form of discrimination;;

•           The Head of Candidates/Chairman will be elected by secret ballot at a meeting of all members at the Spring Conference, based on their plan for attracting, vetting and training candidates, and on hustings;
•           The election for this position will take place every two years, at the Spring  Conference, and must coincide with the drawing up of the new style Approved Candidates List;
•           The successful candidate must serve the full two year term, but in the event that he/she is unable to serve a full term, a by-election will take place, and the same process will be followed;
•           No person can serve for more than three terms;

Party Chairman
•           The Party Chairman will be directly elected by the entire registered membership every two years at the Spring Conference based on their manifestos sent at least a month in advance, and on hustings. Though attending Cabinet, they will represent the party membership to the Government and not the Government or Prime Minister to party members, and must be consulted on whether to hold a General Election or not;
•           He/she sits on the Candidate Committee to convey the views and criteria required by the Party members, particularly those of association Chairmen, officers and activists and not that of the Government of HM Opposition;
•           Whether in Government or Opposition, the Party must be supported by the best available talent who can act as Government or Shadow Ministers, and it is the Chairman’s responsibility to work with the Head of Candidates to find it.

Chairman of the 1922 Committee
•           He/she will represent the Party in the House of Commons in the selection of candidates;
•           Candidates successfully elected to the House will be expected to work with their new colleagues in the Parliamentary Party, so it is right that backbenchers are represented in the search for the right candidate.

Chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers
•           He/she will represent the Party in the House of Lords in the selection of candidates;
•           His/her previous experience in politics will help the Committee identify the standard required of candidates to maintain a high calibre of Lords, MPs and candidates across the country.

Head of Candidates Support staff
•           The Head of Candidates/Chairman will be supported by two full time paid staff who are not members of the Committee, but employed to execute its wishes. They are answerable to him/her. As an important statement of independence from the central office, these staff will work from their own separate office outside of London, doubling up at an area office such as Manchester or Birmingham.
•           Ideally, they will be employed owing to a professional career in the recruitment sector to improve the vetting and development of candidates selected to join the list.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

COPOV Forum 9th September.

Do come to this Forum. Party Reform, Brexit and Donald Trump among items for discussion. For further details see Events

Monday, August 14, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Conservative Party members - Time for action!

The following article appeared on the web site on 14th July.   Now is the time for ordinary Party members to demand a democratic Conservative Party with an Annual General Meeting at which the officers of the Party are elected.   Please pass this information on to all Party members. Share it on Facebook and Twitter and push for it at any meetings you may attend.

Pickles and Brady to conduct Party’s inquiry into the general election campaign

By Henry Hill
With the Government’s immediate position apparently stabilised, the Conservative Party appears to be getting down to the business of learning how the g eneral election went so horribly wrong.
Sir Eric Pickles, who served as Party Chairman in the run-up to the 2010 election, has been appointed to lead a ‘Review Board’. This will take evidence from sitting and defeated MPs as well as candidates, volunteers, Party staff, and others.
Joining Sir Eric will be Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee who will represent the parliamentary party, and Rob Semple, the Chairman of the National Convention, who will represent the grassroots.
Party members will also be invited to complete an online survey, and both Patrick McLoughlin, the Party Chairman, and Amanda Sater, his deputy, will apparently spend the summer touring the country, to take first-hand contributions from local members and associations.
The review will be put together by Sir Mick Davis, the new Chief Executive, and presented to members at the meeting of the National Convention at this year’s Conference.
June marked the moment when a lot of complacent assumptions about the Conservative Party’s election machine, not to mention much of the external support it had come to rely on, came crashing to earth. With no guarantee that this Parliament will last the distance – Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionists effectively expires in 2019 – the Party has no time to waste in rebuilding its campaigning wing.
It’s therefore welcome that senior figures from outside CCHQ have been given such senior roles in the inquiry: with the campaign hierarchy under the microscope it’s important that the inquisitors are independent, and able to inspect the machine without fear or favour.
We suspect that they will find no shortage of expert testimony from the ranks of MPs and grassroots members alike – submissions can be sent to We look forward with great interest to their findings.

Friday, July 7, 2017

COPOV Forum 22nd July 2017

Members of the Conservative Party make your voice heard.   Come to the next Forum on 22nd July. Details in Events   What did you think of the General Election campaign?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Conservative Complacency and Incompetence in the General Election

John Strafford

On 1st May 2017 I wrote an article for the ConservativeHome web site warning the Conservative Party not to be complacent about the coming General Election.   At the time the press were forecasting a 200 seat majority.   Opinion polls were showing the Conservative Party on 50%.   What I had not factored into my warning was incompetence. The result in the election was disastrous for the Party.   So what went wrong?

I warned in my article that the Boundaries Commission proposals were not yet law, thus giving the Labour Party a twenty seat advantage.   The Election result showed that the Conservatives lost thirteen seats.   If they had waited they would have had a majority!

I warned that the Labour Party had a financial war chest so couldn’t be outspent by the Conservatives.   It would appear that Labour spent their money more wisely.   The Tories poured a million pounds into advertisements attacking Jeremy Corbyn on Facebook, whereas for a fraction of the money Labour persuaded their members to share positive messages about Labour.   Negative campaigning harms not only the victims but also harms those perpetrating it.

I warned that the opinion polls would move in Labour’s favour and Labour would then claim momentum.  Exactly that happened.

I warned that at some point there would be some bad news and the Conservatives would get terrible publicity.   I didn’t expect the bad news would come as a result of the launch of the Conservative manifesto.   It was an appalling document with hardly any positive points in it and the presentation was abysmal.   Instead of saying Winter Fuel Allowance was to be mean tested why didn’t it just say that it would be taxed in the same way the Old Age Pension is taxed.   The poor would get it in full and the rich would lose some of it. That is fair.   The case on Social Care went by default because instead of saying how much we had increased the amount people would be able to keep we did not include a cap on how much people would have to pay.   A Free Vote on fox hunting was promised which we know a large number of people oppose.   Why antagonise them by putting it in our manifesto?   These stupid errors would not have occurred if there had been a wide involvement in drawing up the manifesto.   In the past, the Cabinet, Back Benchers and even some members of the voluntary party have been involved.   It is the wisdom of the crowd.
The General Election was announced on the 18th April.   Two days later the following announcements were made by Conservative Central Office to parliamentary candidates:
We will not be advertising seats, due to time constraints.  Each Conservative-held seat and opposition-held Target seat that is selecting will be given a shortlist of three candidates to put to a General Meeting of the Association. There will be consultation between the Candidates team and the Officers of the Association in drawing up the list.
In the case of the remaining seats that are not targets, the Chairman of the Party and Chairman of the National Conservative Convention will be appointing candidates after consultation with local officers.
This was totally contrary to the rules for selecting candidates and was only pushed through using the clause in the Party’s Constitution which gives the Party Board the power to do anything in the interests of the Conservative Party. This is a clear abuse of power and it was totally unnecessary.   With seven weeks to the General Election due process could and should have happened.   There was much complaint as the candidates list had been culled after the 2015 General Election and new candidates were barred.   Effectively only candidates chosen when David Cameron was Leader were allowed to take part.   This caused great resentment in a number of constituencies, which wanted a local candidate or a member of the European Parliament on their short list.   It is not a very good idea to upset your volunteers at the start of an election campaign.
            The campaign started as a very personal campaign with the emphasis on “Theresa May – strong and stable” and vicious personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.   The electorate does not like personal attacks.   I had an official communication from my MP, Dominic Grieve, which did not mention the Conservative Party once.   If you are going to make the campaign personal, it was a mistake for Theresa May to refuse to debate with Jeremy Corbyn on television.   This gave the impression of being afraid.  It highlighted the problem with a personal campaign.   There was no hope in the Conservative manifesto - nothing for people to look forward to.   No vision of the future.   Yet Labour’s manifesto contained a lot of hope and promises which the Conservatives failed to counter attack.   Our manifesto was the most miserable manifesto in my memory.
            In the week before Election Day the Prime Minister visited Slough.   I went to the meeting which was held in a large industrial unit which was “To Let”.   Only Party members were invited and about 400 turned up.   We had to wait in the rain for half an hour to get into the building.   The Party’s coach turned up and drove into the building and became the back drop for the speeches.   The Prime Minister walked in with Boris Johnson.   Boris took the platform and gave a five minute introduction to Theresa May.   All written down – no ad-lib.   Then Theresa May gave a speech of about 10-15 minutes all about “strong and stable”.   No questions. They both then departed leaving me thinking “What was that all about?”   Any Leader knows that on an occasion like this you wander round the crowd shaking hands, motivating the troops and giving them hope for the battle to come. 
            My constituency of Beaconsfield – one of the strongest constituencies in the country was asked to help in Slough (a Labour held seat with a 7,000 majority) and Harrow West (a Labour held seat with a 2,000 majority).   In 1979 I took 110 members from one branch of Beaconsfield to help in Watford.    This election the whole constituency struggled to get 25 members to help in Harrow West
            After leafleting in my own constituency I decided to go to Slough to help there.   When I was Constituency Chairman of Beaconsfield we paid for a full time Agent in Slough, gave other financial support, manned several committee rooms and polling stations on Election Day after carrying out a full canvas of the constituency.   We won the seat in 1987 and in 1992.   Unfortunately in 1997 Central Office wrote off Slough and we were sent elsewhere - big mistake!   It has deteriorated ever since and now has less than 100 members.
            I looked for the address of their committee room on their web site.   It was not there.   Eventually I got the address which was on a rundown industrial estate with hardly any parking. I arrived at approx. 6.30 pm and when I said I would bring the canvassing returns back to the office the two volunteers told me that the office was about to close and that the industrial estate locked its gates at 7pm.   I arranged to return the canvass sheets the next day.   The canvass sheets were provided by Central Office and included questions where you marked the answers out of ten.  Each elector had a sheet.   They would take at least ten minutes on each doorstep.   Great if you have 500 helpers in a by-election but totally impractical if you can number your helpers on one or at best two hands.   I asked how much of the constituency had been canvassed and was told 20%.   There was no way that canvassing would be completed by Election Day.   Feeling concerned at this I asked where the committee room would be on Election Day.   They did not know.   I then asked if the polling stations were being manned on Election Day. They didn’t know.   Next I asked if they had a list of helpers.   No they hadn't.   Tearing my hair out I then asked who was in charge – I was told it was a woman from Central Office based in Southampton.   We did our canvassing and returned the sheets the next day at 3.30pm.  The office was locked so we pushed them through the letter box.   The result in Slough was an increased Labour majority of 17,000.   I gave up.
            The day before the General Election I went to Harrow West arriving at 7pm. Once again the address was not on its web site.   On arrival I was told that the Harrow West committee room was closed but they were sharing a building with Harrow East which was open so I delivered leaflets for the Conservative MP Bob Blackman who got in with a majority of 2,000.
             On Election Day I returned to Harrow West to help in knocking up.   The knocking up sheet was excellent with lots of useful information, except it did not show the address of the polling station.   To my surprise I came across several strong Labour supporters, and then I noticed that in some cases the last contact with them was in 2012!    We not only were knocking up Conservatives but also Undecideds.   The Labour majority went up from 2,000 to 13,000.
            It seems all these constituencies were following Central Office instructions.   I am afraid to say that the clever clots in CCO have never fought a General Election on the ground.   The result was a disaster.   On Election Day party members were being directed to constituencies like Slough where there was no chance of us winning whereas constituencies which we lost were starved of people.  It is quite clear that Central Office did not have a clue as to what was happening.   At the same time Labour were pouring supporters into constituencies boosted by their membership of 550,000, (it has now increased to 700,000 since the election.)   Approximately one third of Labour canvassers had never canvassed before so were part of the huge increase in new members.
In my ConservativeHome article I warned about the dangers of only being capable of fighting marginal seats.   I said “So what and where are the marginal seats?   Some “guess work” will be required to decide where to put our resources but it is “guess work” and it could go horribly wrong.”   It did go horribly wrong.

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 to Party members at an Annual General Meeting.    The Leader determines policy and priorities. He or she must take responsibility for the political aspects of the campaign.

Without radical change the Conservative Party will cease to exist as a membership organisation and if that happens, oblivion awaits the Party.   The Leader of the Party has to take radical action to change the structures of the Party to ensure this debacle does not happen again and if she doesn’t then we will have to get a Leader who will!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Party Reform -Time for Action Now!

Today I sent the following letter to Graham Brady (Chairman 1922 Committee) and Rob Semple (Chairman National Convention).   I hope all Party members will support these proposals.   They are essential to get the revival of the Party going.

Re: Party Reform

            The disappointing result of the General Election has demonstrated beyond doubt that urgent changes are needed in the structure of the Conservative Party.   I have never known such a badly organised campaign.   It showed the danger of too much power being held in too few hands and the ground campaign highlighted the severe deficiencies in our membership.
The main changes needed are:
  • Replacing the National Convention with an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited.
  • Party Chairman, One Deputy Chairman, Party Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee and the Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum to be elected.
  • Changing the way in which the Party’s Constitution can be altered.

            We must now start to reform the Party to make it more inclusive and for those running the organisation to be accountable.   I attach hereto some alterations to the Party Constitution to start this process, which I hope the 1922 Committee will endorse.   I am sending a copy of these proposals to Rob Semple (Chairman of the National Convention).

Detailed changes shown below:

Constitution of the Conservative Party – alterations

Page 3 Delete: PART V
            Insert: PART V
                        ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Page 3                         Delete: Schedule 3
                        Insert: Schedule 3
                        ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Page 6 12.1     Delete: “appointed by the Leader”
                        Insert: “elected at the Annual General Meeting”
Page 6 12.2.1 Delete: “Chairman of the National Conservative Convention”
                       Insert: “ elected at the Annual General Meeting”
Page 6  12.3    Delete: “National Conservative Convention (in addition to the Chairman of the  National Conservative Convention)”
                        Insert: “Annual General Meeting”
Page 6 12.9     Delete: “appointed by the Leader”
                        Insert: “elected at the Annual General Meeting”
Page 6 15        Delete “and shall be Secretary of the National Convention.”
Page 7 17.11   Delete: National Conservative Convention”
                        Insert: “Annual General Meeting”
Page 8 PART V
                        Delete: The whole of “PART V”
                        Insert: PART V
                                                THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
20 The Annual General Meeting of the Party shall be held before the end of
March each year, being within three months of the Party’s financial year, for
the following purposes:
20.1 To receive and adopt the audited accounts of the Party;
20.2 To receive and adopt the Party Report prepared by the Chairman of the Party
20.3 To receive and adopt the Report by the Chairman of the Candidates   Committee.
20.4 To receive and adopt the Report by the Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum.
21 The Annual General Meeting shall elect in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3 the following officers: President, Party Chairman, One Deputy Chairman, Party Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum.
22 The Annual General Meeting will also elect four further members to the Party Board in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 3
23 The Leader of the Party shall be invited to attend the Annual General Meeting.
Page 11 44 Delete “National Conservative Convention and on”
Page 13 63 Delete “National Conservative Convention”
                   Insert “Party Board”      
Page 14 66.1 Delete “appointed by the Leader”
                      Insert “elected at the Annual General Meeting”
Page 15 80.2 Delete “National Conservative Convention”
                      Insert “Party”
Page 16 80.3 Delete “the President for the time being of the National Conservative Convention”
                      Insert “the President of the Party”
Page 17 90    Delete
              91.1 Delete “Constitutional College voting”
                      Insert “Party in attendance and voting in General Meeting”
              91.2 Delete “Constitutional College eligible to vote”
                      Insert “Party in attendance and eligible to vote in General Meeting”
              92    Delete  
Page 20/21    Delete the whole of Schedule 3
                     Insert   Schedule 3
Annual General Meeting
1        A meeting of the Party shall take place annually, arrangements for such meetings     shall be organised and administered by the Party Board.
2        Not less than 56 days prior to the Annual Meeting, the Secretary of the Party Board shall communicate with all Party members by e-mail and by notice on the Party’s official web site.
2.1                      Giving notice of the date of the Annual Meeting
2.2                      Inviting nominations from the Party members for election of the President, Chairman, One Deputy Chairman, Party Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Forum and four members of the Party Board.
2.3                      Stating the date by which nominations must be returned, being not less than 28 clear days from the date of the notice, nor more than 21 clear days from the date of the Annual Meeting
2.4                      Stating the address to which the nominations must be returned.
3        Only those members of the Party that are fully paid up not less than 28 days prior to the Annual Meeting shall be entitled to vote.
4        Any nomination for any such office or post referred to in Paragraph 2.2 herein must be submitted  on Official Nomination papers signed by not less than twelve members of the Party together with a signed letter from the nominee accepting nomination.
5        Any nominee for any such office or post referred to in Paragraph 2.2 herein shall have been a Member of the Party for not less than two years.
6        Any nominee for the office of President shall have been an elected member of the Board for one year.
7        No member of the Party may hold office
7.1                      as one of the elected representatives of the Board (other than as President or    Chairman) for more than five consecutive years;
7.2                      as Chairman of the Party for more than five consecutive years;
7.3                      as President for more than one year.
8        At the Party’s Annual Meeting the members shall receive, prior to elections reports from the elected Officers referred to in Paragraph 2.2 herein, such Area Management Executives and Recognised Organisations as the Meeting shall determine.   The Meeting shall also consider any proposed changes to this Constitution in accordance with such procedure as the Meeting shall determine.
9        The Secretary of the Party Board shall act as Chief Returning Officer in any election at any Annual Meeting of the Party.
10    An Officer of the Party who is not standing for re-election shall assume the chairmanship of the Meeting during the election of Officers.   If all the Officers are standing for re-election, then the Secretary of the Party Board shall assume the chair.
11    Elections shall take place at the Annual Meeting of the Party and shall be held by secret ballot. Provision may be made at the discretion of the Party Board for voting to take place prior to the meeting.
12    Upon a petition signed by not less than sixty Constituency Chairmen to the Secretary of the Party Board the Chairman of the Party shall call an Extraordinary Meeting of the Party.
13    The Secretary of the Party Board shall give not less than 28 clear days notice of the Extraordinary Meeting by email to Party members and by notice on the Party’s web site together with an Agenda for the meeting.
14    Subject to the provisions of this Constitution the Board shall be advised of the rules governing the conduct of General Meetings and rules of Procedure to be adopted at the Meetings.
Page 22  1   Delete “ National Convention”
                     Insert “Party”
              5    Delete “National Convention”
                     Insert “Party”
              6.1 Delete “National Convention”
                     Insert  “Party”
              6.2 Delete
              6.3 Delete
              6.4 Delete     
Page 69 1.2 Delete “National Conservative Convention”
                     Insert “Annual Meeting of the Party”
              1.5 Delete
Page 71 1.1 Delete
              1.2 Delete “10,000”
                     Insert “1,000”
              2   Delete
              3   Delete
              4   Delete