From Simon Pearce 17th November
EXTRACTS FROM A SPEECH BY THERESA MAY FROM THE FRONT BENCH DURING THE DEBATE ON
THE SEX DISCRIMINATION (CANDIDATES) BILL ON 24TH OCTOBERThe Bill gives us and other parties the freedom from the threat of legal action and the freedom to take whatever form of positive action we choose. It is important that the Bill is permissive, not prescriptive. It does not introduce all-women shortlists, but takes the selection of candidates for election out of that part of employment law relating to sex discrimination....
...It is important that it is introduced early in the current Parliament to enable political parties to make decisions about their selection procedures. That applies especially in respect of the next general election, although other elections are coming along, such as those for the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and so on.
A number of measures can be taken. Before the last election, the Conservative party had a policy of encouraging our constituency associations to interview at least the same proportion of women as applied for the seat. We are now in the process of reconsidering our selection procedures to see what further measures need to be taken to ensure that women are not discriminated against in the selection process.
I wish to speak about a proposal that I have made, together with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire. I am pleased that my hon. Friend is present, as he has long been a champion
We propose a limited list that is more balanced between men and women, and which includes a proportion of candidates from ethnic minority communities. Such a balanced and limited list would enable associations to continue to have the freedom to select their own candidates, but from a candidates' list that is balanced between men and women. It has long been my contention that one of the measures that my party needs to take is to increase the number of women on our candidates' lists. A limited and balanced list would enable constituencies to choose from men and women in equal numbers....
...There is a candidates' list and associations have the freedom to choose from people whose names are on that list, but they cannot choose from outside it. Limited and balanced lists would therefore help to resolve inequalities. I think that the introduction of such lists is a positive measure that could well be adopted...
....my party is currently considering its selection procedure and concepts such as that of a limited and gender-balanced list from which associations can choose their candidates. The number of women on such a list would ensure that more women were selected to fight for seats....
...If we had a limited list, we could have a target number of seats. For example, we could have 100 seats, which were divided 50:50, so that we might be looking at getting 50 women into Parliament. We could approach the issue in that way, rather than having a target number of years, which might be more difficult to work with.
....it is important to show that the Conservative party is examining the kinds of positive action that can be taken to get more women selected without going down the route of all-women shortlists--positive action that a party would have the freedom to pursue under the provisions of the Bill.
I am not a practising Christian, in the strict definition of the term, so
you may find the formula of my words a little strange, even though,
hopefully, you will recognize the sentiments behind the words.
With the beginning yesterday of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, we find
ourselves, very possibly, at the threshold of the first world war of the
twenty first century -- a good time to pause and reflect why we are here,
and what we hope to accomplish.
The cause here is justice. The extrication, hopefully alive, of the
individuals responsible for the murder of some 5,000 innocent civilians, and
the punishment of all those who were accomplices in their actions.
Such extrication will, necessarily, involve collateral damage and casualties
-- and I think the English language could find no more cruelly antiseptic a
definition for the many lost souls that will be added to the 5,000 already
For myself, I am spending much time reflecting on those souls lost before
now. On the terror they must have felt before they died. And the anguish
still felt by those left behind.
In the coming days, I will find occasion to meditate upon the difficult
decisions that daily will be made by fathers and mothers as they find it
necessary to order others to their certain death. Daughters will lose
fathers; mothers, their sons.
The burden borne by leaders around the world will be heavy. I trust they
will have the fortitude to continue to make those decisions that will make
military action both decisive and as short-lived as possible.
I think about the many individuals who will give of their lives --
selflessly, and all in their own, certain belief that their's is a just
cause. And almost all of them fighting through fear, as they do so.
Let us hope that as the military action draws to a close, and it comes time
to re-structure the world's affairs, the leaders of the world bring wisdom
and vision to the decisions necessary for that realignment to be effective
Let us hope that they remember that the primary goal of such re-ordering is
to minimise the possibility of all of these horrors ever occurring again.
And let us also hope that they display sufficient magnanimity to realise
that the achievement of the latter will require acknowledgement of all the
'just causes' felt by all the different nations, races, creeds and religions
around the world, not just those held sacred by the United States.
A RESPONSE TO THE PAPER WHICH WAS PUBLISHED ON THE COPOV WEBSITE IN OCTOBER 2001 ENTITLED:
AN ELECTION WINNING CONSERVATIVE PARTY?
A careful study of this document persuaded me that the author doesn't think that the people who work in branches and constituency associations matter a jot. Why? Because this paper seems deliberately designed to offend the "grass-roots" and provoke them into rejecting it out of hand. This would be a pity because there is much merit in some of the ideas presented.
My main objection to the paper, as one who has worked in a number of constituency associations over the last 40+ years, is that the author doesn't show any understanding of how branches work or what motivates the unpaid, hard-working amateurs who do the job at "the grass roots". More of this later.
Before considering the paper in detail I would direct my reader's attention to the final section (9. The Summary). Five key Party needs are set out and I wouldn't quarrel with any of them. However, they did not emerge from the arguments in the paper. So I can only think that they guided - perhaps even stimulated - the author in his task. If so, why not state them at the beginning? In this way we could readily judge how well his proposed solutions would succeed.Turning to the nine sections of the paper, I use the author's numbering and titles and begin each section by quoting in italics the appropriate key Party needs:
1. Party Assets and 5. Party Financial Organisation
Party financial assets (to be) utilised to retain existing seats and win targeted seats. A cost effective Party organisation (is needed).
The surrender of party assets to the centre is proposed as a prerequisite for directing expenditure to the most needy areas, on the grounds that "only the Board could carry this out". This statement is not accompanied by any reasoned arguments and is not likely to persuade members of a Party that fought the last General Election on a policy of "Save the £" (and avoid handing over power to a remote and undemocratic body). It is also noticeable that the terms assets and resources are used interchangeably and the connotation is financial. But any organisation worth its salt cherishes its people-assets. So are we, grafters at the "coal-face", also to be directed to work for a central bureaucracy? Or is it assumed that we will obey whatever diktats come from CCO?
The author argues that handing over all financial responsibilities to the centre would cut out time wasted on financial matters and inter Party negotiations, and so would benefit everyone. This is like saying that the electorate would be better off all round if they agreed to surrender - for ever - their votes to the government of the day.
Before any decision is reached on this proposal, there must be detailed consideration of questions such as:
Assuming that the amount of money available is fixed, will it be used more wisely and effectively if it is allocated remotely by people without personal knowledge of all 600+ constituencies, or if it is under the control of the present "owners", who raised the money and have a vested interest in making it work?
Is it absolutely certain that the total amount of money available would not be diminished by this proposal? (I have known of branches which cheerfully raised funds but which would not release them to their own Constituency officers until they were promised that none of the monies would go to CCO.)Is there any discernible correlation between spending money and success at the ballot box? (If there is, instead of expensive advertising campaigns, we should have been directing available monies this way over the years.)
2. Agents and 4. Constituency Offices
Agent and professional office support (are needed) for all Constituencies.
There is no doubt that Agents are a valuable resource and that access to their expertise is vital to Conservatives in every constituency. It is also true that, if an Agent works solely for one constituency association, much of his - or her - time, energy and expertise will be frittered away on humdrum administrative work. But before any transfer of Agents takes place, it will be vital to look at the whole picture.
For example, the Agent must have time to provide a service to the MP (or parliamentary candidate) and for the two to build up a relationship of trust and mutual respect. In similar ways, the Agent has to help and understand the needs and abilities of local councillors, MEPs and the volunteers (officers and local activists of all kinds).
But more than that, the Agent has to be able to guide, stimulate and organise local officers and members into a reliable workforce which will turn out to canvass, put leaflets through letter boxes or stuff envelopes, etc. whenever and wherever it will help the Party.
What is more, the overwhelming majority of the effort which is deployed in even "strong, safe seats" is from volunteers. Good Agents can maximise their effectiveness, but they know that, if offended, volunteers will stop working hard for the Party. Without local know-how, effort and initiatives, the Agent lacks credibility and utility. Even if money was plentiful, it could not buy what the volunteers give freely.
So let us accept these premises:
The expertise of Agents must be exploited by careful husbanding;Factors that must influence any decision to change the present set up will include:
The Agent's managing/motivating role must be cherished and built into the time assessed as the minimum for each constituency;
The Conservative Party must be able to make available a reasonable allocation of this expertise and time to all constituencies.
Any plans to "share" Agents must not weaken in any way the important relationships with MP, officers, councillors and the like;The solution proposed in the paper is to put agents under central control and locate them in a number of strategic locations. This should be rejected out of hand. Instead guidance (which includes the factors listed above) should be issued. Then there should be local discussions to determine what sensible "sharing" can be arranged.
Great care must be taken to maintain the key role played by the Agent in the human organisation of the constituency association;
"Rich" constituency associations that can currently afford the costs of an Agent must be acknowledged as having "ownership" rights, and persuaded - not obliged - to "share";
When "sharing" is contemplated, the sizes of constituencies and communication problems must be recognised as overriding factors (time spent by Agents on travelling from place to place has no value).
3. Membership, 6. Branches, 7. Women and 8 CPF
Focussing the Party on membership recruitment and (engendering) a climate that encourages new members to become activists (are key needs).
In section 3, the author claims that currently branch officers are so preoccupied with the minutiae of running it and organising fund-raising events that they have little if any time for political matters. He goes on to argue that membership recruitment is neglected and, when new members do appear, they are alienated by what they find at branch level.
In section 6, it is proposed that branch committees should focus only on political matters and relegate fund-raising to others.
Sections 7 and 8 suggest that Women's groups are anachronistic and should be absorbed into the work of the branch committee, and so should CPF activities.
This really is throwing out the baby with the bath-water!
What the author has failed to appreciate is that each volunteer (member, branch officer or constituency worker) has his own image of what the Party offers to him and needs from him. Tell these volunteers that they are misguided and their self-selected efforts are not wanted, and they will stop working.
Any branch chairman worth his salt understands his activists and knows how to maximise their efforts. If - in spite of all positions being open to members of both sexes - a Women's section is wanted, encourage the ones who wish to have it, providing they produce results (political and/or financial). If the majority of branch members prefer social events (with a political element) to political debates let there be a CPF unit to serve the others. If a branch has discovered over the years how to set up local events that make serious money, don't discourage the organisers.
By all means encourage the routine recruitment of new members. But people, who join because they are fed up with the present Government, are unlikely to become permanently established in the Party or become local activists.
Canvassing at election times is the best way of identifying potential members and this obviously requires an active and well-organised workforce. "Cold calling" cannot be a routine activity, so the most fruitful approach is to have a very visible local branch that shows it is dynamic and worthwhile. Local events - including those that are entirely of a fund-raising nature - give potential members access to Conservatives and their thinking.From the centre it may seem that people become members because they are attracted by the leader, his policies and associates. This is - at best - only partially true. The effectiveness of the local MP, MEPs, County and District Councillors are of serious local interest and seem more relevant to the potential member than do handouts from Westminster or CCO. This is especially true when there is routine public dissent and backbiting in the Party which is featured endlessly on the media.
The author correctly identified the most serious membership problem: the present day activists are getting so old that replacements are needed urgently. Branches without new blood will soon cease to function. The problem is not entirely the fault of today's activists (although many have found comfortable roles and see no reason to change their ways). Newcomers would be welcomed if they would only come forward.
Some time ago I had a conversation with a young Conservative who belonged to an active university group. He - and his fellows - would have nothing to do with branches which were close by - or even based at his home. Why? Because these young people had decided - without any evidence so far as I could tell - that the branches were both exclusive and moribund. Sadly, I couldn't persuade him to infiltrate a branch with the objects of establishing a presence and eventually taking over the reins of power. I'm sure he would have been made very welcome. And even more certainly, I know that he would have been able to make a big contribution to the future success of the Conservative Party.
Having disagreed with most of the solutions proposed by the author of this paper, I feel I must close with some brief suggestions of my own on the subject of the recruitment of new members.
Firstly potential members need to be stimulated to join - by perceived failures by the Labour Government and by the successful presentation of the Conservative Party as being suitable for office: democratic, capable, united and armed with sensible, well-thought-out policies. There is a long way to go.
Secondly any new policies intended to change the present structure must not be imposed from the centre. The activists must be convinced that new ways are needed and they should be introduced gradually and build on what works now.
Thirdly - and most importantly - it is essential to find new Conservatives who have the talent, energy, time and abilities to take on the branch chairman's role. Such people will energise the officers and guide branch to new ways - such as making politics and the recruitment of new members their central activities. All senior Conservatives - especially those who are informed about the people in their areas - should be set to work identifying people of potential and persuading them to put their Party and the country before their personal convenience.
J W Clayton, 5 Old Brewery Yard, Market Place, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8AW
Tel: firstname.lastname@example.org E-mail:
(Active Conservative for more than 40 years. Currently Hon. Sec. Halesworth Branch of Suffolk Coastal Conservative Association. One time Vice Chairman (Finance) Central Suffolk & North Ipswich Conservative Association.)The following article appears in the current issue of "Crossbow" magazine.
Further Shaking Up Of The Hierarchy
John E. Strafford
First of all who should be entitled to be nominated for Leader?
In a recent Bow Group pamphlet "Who Really Governs Britain", Nirj Deva MEP stated that 55% of the legislation that affects Britain was initiated in the corridors of power in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is possible that at some point in the future the Party would want the Leader of the Party to be an MEP. This possibility should be catered for. A distinction can be made between the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the Parliamentary Party at Westminster. For a period in 1940 Neville Chamberlain was the Leader of the Party whilst Sir Winston Churchill was the Leader of the Parliamentary Party. For as long as the Party accepts Westminster as the most important political institution, the Leader of the Party and the Leader of the Parliamentary Party will be one and the same person. What is clear is that MEPs should have a greater role in the nomination process than they have at present. The House of Lords as one of the national political institutions should also have a role to play in nominating candidates.
The nominating process should be designed to produce a maximum short list of four candidates who would then be put to the whole Party on the basis of One Member One Vote.
Nomination of a candidate should be by 25MPs, 5 MEPs and 5 members of the House of Lords. Should this nominating process produce more than four candidates then a ballot of the Conservative MPs, MEPs and members of the House of Lords should be held with the top four members in the ballot going forward for election by the Party membership. The members of the Party would then be asked to vote by placing the candidates in order of preference. The candidate with the lowest number of votes would be eliminated and his/her votes redistributed in accordance with the second preference and so on until the top candidate had over 50% of the votes.
Many people thought that the length of the last Leadership campaign was far too long. It is proposed to reduce this so that ballot papers go out four weeks after nominations have been called for with the closing date for the election three weeks after the ballot papers are sent out.
The qualifying date for members to be eligible to vote in the ballot ought to be the date nominations are requested. It was reported by Central Office that due to the qualifying date being three months prior to nominations being requested, in the last election some 20-25,000 members were excluded from voting.
One area of the Constitution that needs clarification and simplification is membership. There are too many different categories of member. We should have a straight membership fee of £10.00 with a membership year running from 1st January to 31st December. The membership list at Conservative Central Office should be updated monthly.
There should be a clause in the Constitution stating that anybody that is a member of another political Party is automatically excluded from membership of the Conservative Party.
We ought to make it easier for members to vote by developing the possibilities of voting on the Internet and telephone voting with each member having their own unique pin number.
Finally the rules for election the Leader should be in the Party’s Constitution and not left in the hands of the 1922 Executive Committee. The Electoral College system for changing the Party’s constitution should be scrapped with changes determined at the Party Conference with a proviso that a major change could go to all the members of the Party. If 1,000 members of the Party requested a change through the Party’s secure web site then the change should be put to the Party Conference.If the Party adopts the above changes they would make the process of electing the Leader smoother and more democratic with changes to the Constitution easier. We should adopt them immediately.
The following paper was tabled at a meeting of Area Chairmen on 15th September: AN ELECTION WINNING CONSERVATIVE PARTY?
To win Westminster elections, the Party needs attractive policies and the right candidates. It must also have an organisation capable of effective campaigning.
Despite the reforms in 1998, Party organisation at Constituency level has remained the same for decades. Change is now urgently required. What was once a formidable fighting machine is no longer able to campaign effectively.
A main reason is that the Party’s financial, organisational and Agent strength is largely concentrated in strong, safe seats. These resources must be spread across the Party, so that all the seats that must be won if the Party is to regain power at Westminster receive the support they need.
Another reason! Most Party members are ageing and can no longer campaign. As a result, there were few able bodied activists available during the recent General Election. The present membership will age further, so without new members the situation can only get worse.
The Party must therefore focus on membership recruitment and turning new members into activists. Currently, new members whose motivation to join the Party is political interest, become rapidly alienated by Branch Committees whose agendas include fundraising, quotas, Branch accounting and other matters that have nothing to do with politics.
Such entrenched problems can only be resolved by radical organisational change, led by the new Party Leader and the Board. To prepare the Party for such major change, a process of widespread prior consultation is essential - similar to that leading up to the 1998 reforms.
Below are proposals to deal with the situation:-
1. Party assets.Party resources must be allocated where they are needed to win elections. Only the Board could carry this out, but to do so it must first control all the assets of the Party. This would require a single Party bank account with subsidiary accounts for Constituencies, instead of the thousands of Constituency and Branch accounts at present operated. All Party property would also come under the control of the Board.
Before Constituency assets are transferred to the Board, Constituencies would need to know how the Board proposes to exercise its new financial powers. A Party strategy plan would therefore have to be approved and subsequently monitored by the National Convention, before any change is finally agreed.
2. Agents.Currently, most Constituencies are without Agents and have no prospects of acquiring one. This is unsatisfactory, because to maximise the chances of winning elections, every Constituency needs Agent support. During the recent General Election, Constituency Officers and Candidates who had varying levels of experience and ability ran most campaigns. As a result, many campaigns in key seats were a shambles.
Quality Agents will only join or remain with the Party if paid the rate for what is a demanding job requiring high skill levels. Few if any Constituencies could afford Agents at the proper market rate. Each Agent therefore needs to be shared by a number of Constituencies. If this happened, every Constituency could enjoy Agent support.
For this to be practicable the many responsibilities of an Agent would need to be reduced to the key elements of campaigning, membership and acting as Agent at elections. The current Agents roles of Constituency finances, fundraising and other support would be dealt with in the ways outlined in point 4 below.
Field Operations would take over responsibility for the Agents in this shared situation. The department has been widely praised for its expertise and has the professional skills to get the best out of a national Agents network. The costs of Agents would be funded by CCO as part of a re-organisation of Party finances as outlined in point 5 below.
3. MembershipBefore the Party can recruit large numbers of new members and enthuse these to become activists, a cultural change is needed. Currently, Branches are largely run as mini businesses. Each has a bank account, internal financial reporting and audited accounts. All of this occupies countless people hours and Constituency Agents, Organising Secretaries and other staff spend much of their time managing and co-ordinating this structure – time that could better be spent on political matters. Equally important, the structure alienates new members who join for political interest and fail to understand what these extraneous activities have to do with politics.
This fundraising culture is encouraged by the Party that recognises and rewards financial success as typified by Campaigning subscriptions, but paying scant regard to recognising achievements such as gaining new members. Yet fundraising and membership recruitment are totally compatible; the best way to fundraise is to recruit members. If each Branch recruited one new member each week, this could generate more income than the time and effort put into fund raising events. Furthermore, subscription income is repeated during subsequent years with minimal cost or effort.
The CCO membership department would support Constituency membership recruitment by identifying the best strategies to be followed and the materials to be used. For many years membership recruitment has been a significant failure because ‘membership drives’ have been one off spasmodic events. Instead, membership should become a continuous Constituency focus as well as a main method of fundraising.
4. Constituency OfficesThe cost of running the Party with Constituencies having individual offices and staff is no longer affordable or necessary with new technology. Meetings can equally well be held in local halls. Instead a number of offices, strategically located throughout the Country, are needed. Each would be a centre of excellence with modern technology, networking, mailing and printing equipment. Effective support would then be provided for all Constituencies.
A Manager would run each office, controlling the administrative work and personnel, including keeping the financial record of the Constituencies the office covers. Each office would employ someone with specialist fundraising expertise to support Constituency fundraising. The Manager would report to a committee of Constituency Chairman. All costs would be paid by CCO, who would agree local budgets.
This would create a lean and effective national structure that would reduce the cost of running the Party and release money that could be better utilised in winning elections.
5. Party Financial Organisation.The most cost effective and efficient way of controlling membership records and collecting subscriptions would be by using a central database and central collection. From these funds, CCO would pay the expenses of the new offices and Agents. Central members, that have caused friction between the Constituencies and CCO, would disappear. All members would be treated in the same way.
There would be no more Campaigning subscriptions or CCO loans, because all money would be under the control of the Board. This would cut out all the time spent by Constituencies and CCO on inter Party negotiations and money transfers.
Prior to introducing such change, CCO would need to assure Constituencies that they would be capable of implementing and running the new arrangements effectively. Therefore a new post of Party Financial Controller could be created, with responsibility to ensure that everything is operated competently and professionally.
6. Branches.Branch Committees should focus only on political matters - campaigning, membership and political discussion. It is these Committees that new members could join and hopefully find to their liking.
Fundraising would be dealt with separately within each Constituency, coming under the direct control of the Deputy Chairman – Fundraising and Membership, who would produce a Constituency fundraising budget. This would be met though Constituency fundraising events and local fundraising Committees - possibly existing Branch fundraising committees, plus new groupings.
Fundraising Committees would remit to the local Office the cheques and cash generated. There would be no Branch bank accounts and the roles of Branch Treasurer and Branch Deputy Chairman - Fundraising and Membership, would disappear. A vast amount of internal Party administration would then cease.
7. Women.It is an anachronism that women have a separate organisation within the Party. This makes the Party look very old fashioned to the modern women we need to attract.
This dilution of effort should ideally be rationalised. Everyone in the Party needs to be working to the same objectives - campaigning and increasing membership, within a totally integrated structure.
8. CPF.It is difficult for new members to understand why Constituencies have a separate section dealing with policy and why this does not form a part of Branch Committee agendas. The motivation for new members to join is political involvement and they expect policy matters to be within the mainstream of Branch activity.
Under the new Branch structure, separate Constituency CPF Committees would not be needed. Branch Committee agendas would include discussion of policy papers with feedback to the Deputy Chairman – Political, who would co-ordinate Constituency feedback to CCO
9. Summary.This paper illustrates an approach to how the Party can be transformed into a modern, integrated and tightly focussed organisation. There could be much support for such change, because many Area and Constituency Officers are concerned about the ineffectiveness of the present structure and face problems in delivering what is expected of them.
The key Party needs are:-· Party financial assets utilised to retain existing seats and
win targeted seats.· Agent and professional office support for all Constituencies.
· Focussing the Party on membership recruitment.
· A climate that encourages new members to become activists.
· A cost effective Party organisation.
Whatever actions are finally decided, it is essential that these core issues be addressed and resolved.
FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
BY A CONSERVATIVE
AN UNDIGNIFIED SCRAMBLE FOR VOTES
When I was 17 years old in 1964 I read Randolph Churchill’s book "The fight for the Tory leadership 1963". The book detailed the in fighting among the four contenders for the Premiership after Harold MacMillan’s retirement and how one of them, the 14th Earl of Home, eventually was the winner. The book was fascinating to read and fired my interest in politics. As a result of the contest when the Earl of Home somehow ‘emerged’ after the customary processes of consultation (described by the late Iain Macleod as a ‘magic circle’) it was decided that in future the parliamentary party in the House of Commons would elect the leader. When Sir Alec Douglas-Home (as the 14th Earl became) resigned in 1965, Edward Heath beat both Reginald Maudling and Enoch Powell in the subsequent election. That time, we were told, lessons had been learned and because the process was now open to the MPs, it would be more democratic. There would be no more 'quick’ fixes.
The current leadership election has been an unseemly spectacle in which a once great party of state and one of the oldest in a parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a laughing stock – and at a time when the Labour Government faces enormous problems both at home and overseas.
We have had grandees from both wings of the party – Thatcher, Hague and Tebbit from the right and Major, Heseltine and Rifkind from the left, squabbling in public and claiming that only their man can unite the party. In truth neither Kenneth Clarke nor Iain Duncan Smith can and, as a consequence, we face years and years in opposition. Whoever wins will do so in the knowledge that only one third of the parliamentary party in the House of Commons supports him and that a substantial minority of party members in the country voted for the other candidate. He has been handed a poisoned chalice.
It is quite obvious that whoever designed the rules for the election cannot have envisaged the present scenario where neither of the candidates has overwhelming support from any one section. It has been a complete disaster. A fiasco. We must have a wider choice in future and an election based on the transferable vote with candidates numbered in order of preference.
I write a fortnight before the actual result is known. It seems that Iain Duncan Smith is ahead but by an unknown margin. Many have thrown their weight behind him because he is a new face, not tainted by past failure, opposed to the Euro and further European integration. They fear that Kenneth Clarke is too ‘pro Euro’ and pro Euro at any cost. There would be an inevitable split. I understand their point of view.
I took the broader view and cast my vote accordingly. Clarke, to my way of thinking, would be more likely to broaden our appeal, more likely to win back Conservative voters who have defected to other parties or not voted ands also had the support of a few MPs who say they are ‘euro sceptic’. He also has held the highest offices, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary. He has also served as both Health and Education Secretary, areas of prime concern to many voters who support we need to win back.
The problem I had with Iain Duncan Smith was that his support appeared to come only from Eurosceptic right wingers which included one or two unsavoury characters (notably Edgar Griffin in Montgomery) – the ‘hang ‘em, flog ‘em Union Jack waving brigade. Sadly, this does not win elections. I liked some of IDS’s ideas on health and education, although I believe a '‘voucher'’system in education is unworkable and a theme which has previously been explored. I also felt that, man of integrity though he is, IDS’s appeal was based solely on ‘shoring up’ the current core support in the country (32% or so) – something which William Hague tried to no avail.
The strategy, in fact, cost us former so called ‘safe’ seats. In both Ludlow and Guildford we failed abysmally to get out our ‘core’ vote and on June 7 we polled fewer votes than in 1997 and handed both seats to the Liberal democrats. We would have held Ludlow if we had polled our 1997 vote and this would have been in a seat where the Labour vote dropped by 6,000 and the Liberal Democrats were able to pour in supporters from neighbouring Wyre Forest, a seat which they did not contest.
I don’t honestly think you can win a General Election as a Euro sceptic right winger (Margaret Thatcher being the exception which proves the rule). So, despite his many faults and for want of a wider choice, I plumped for Ken Clarke. There is no doubt that Europe (particularly the Euro) is a cancer within the party and this is preventing us functioning effectively as an opposition. I doubt whether this can happen until the referendum on the Euro has been fought and won by one side or the other. Although not in favour of the Euro or the single currency I nonetheless feel we should be playing a full part in Europe. We fought two World Wars, the second to prevent a totalitarian, racist regime of gangsters from enslaving the continent in an alien philosophy. There are still many in Germany today who worship at the shrine of Adolf Hitler and want a German dominated Europe. Surely we have to prevent this at all cost? Why must our party tear itself apart when there are more important things to worry about?
One of the greatest concerns must be the ‘narrowness’ of our own support. Most of our members are over 60 and we are, at present, unable to widen our base. We have very few agents and are unable to get our own supporters to the polls. The loss of five to six million voters is proof of that. In individual constituencies it is down by as much as 10,000 (for example: Torbay, 1987 – 28,000: 2001 – 18,000). The Liberal Democrats hold 52 seats in the present Parliament. No less than 50 have been gained from the Conservatives. Only two, Bermondsey and Chesterfield from Labour. Of the 50 only about five were ever held by Labour and these during the decade immediately after the Second World War. We would do well to heed Francis Maude’s warning that we could, if we are not careful, become the third party in British politics. We talk glibly saying: "Oh, the pendulum will eventually swing back to us. It always does." It certainly won’t if we don’t replace the members and voters who have passed away.
When I received my ballot paper there was enclosed with a letter from Sir Michael Spicer MP requesting a donation to Party funds. I regarded this as an impertinence and of no relevance whatsoever in the election of our leader. I understand that we were given millions by a few wealthy supporters to fight the General Election and are in surplus. Why should I, as a member of the Party, give a donation when I am not sent a copy of the annual accounts? Every member of a limited company, public or private, is entitled to such. Michael Heseltine’s words "We seem to be talking only to ourselves" are, alas, true. The Labour Government is in all sorts of trouble largely because it has raised expectations too high, claiming that all that is needed for the public services is more money raised from the taxpayer.
Within the last two days I have read about the biggest teaching crisis in 36 years (too few teachers entering the profession, low pay being the main grievance) and of patients being forced to wait hours on end on a hospital trolley until a bed becomes vacant. Both are in a way the result of state monopoly provisions, funded by the tax payer and free at the point of delivery. No one in his or her right mind wants to work in an inner city comprehensive where discipline is either lax or non existent, where political correctness is the norm and the pass rates at O’ and ‘A’ levels are absurdly high And sadly our expectations of what the NHS can provide are at odds with reality. If a Conservative Secretary of State had got up and said: "I’m sorry the NHS cannot provide all the operations needed, we are going to send patients abroad to be treated", he would by now have been hounded out of office with the words "Lack of sufficient funding, too much spent on administration" ringing in his ears.
Foot and mouth has broken out once again despite assurance to the contrary that it was under control and the Government’s contribution to the crisis in the countryside is to propose a further ban on fox hunting. In Northern Ireland the so-called peace process shudders to a halt and flounders on the delicate issue of policing. Arguments break out as to what is or is not in the Good Friday agreement. The Government seems to favour all things ‘green’ and I happen to believe rightly or wrongly that it is preparing to abandon the six counties of Ulster. Labour’s long term goal has always been a United Ireland. It hopes that mainland Britain will become sick of its involvement and that somehow Northern Ireland’s 400,000 or so Protestants will be cajoled into acceptance and resigned to their fate. Then the problem will be solved, hopefully without a civil war (much the same as the white minority in South Africa).
Our party has always been a pragmatic party and in many ways the world ‘Conservative’ does not mean very much. Progressive legislation introduced by Labour governments is seldom repealed, if ever. The NHS, creaking though it may be, is still funded centrally through taxation (much as it was in the 1950’s and 1960’s). Bills setting up the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament as well as the removal of hereditary peers from the House of Lords and the probable ban on fox hunting are unlikely to be overturned by a future Conservative administration (if there ever is one). Whoever leads the Party will have to do some clear, long term thinking. Labour, shorn of its socialism, is a timid beast but meddlesome and nannying, preferring to set up a whole host of committees to look into this and to look into that.
I despair when I read of a Minister in the present Government and earning about £80,000 a year, taking maternity pay. Of course she is entitled to it but whether she needs it is another matter. Frank Field MP tried to reform the system, pointing out its deficiencies, and was sacked for his pains.
Margaret Thatcher was able to win three successive General Election on the ‘divide and rule’ formula – a huge majority and a divided opposition. Exactly the same is happening today. Labour has an overwhelming majority of over 160 and 409 Members of Parliament whereas the main Opposition Parties can muster just 218 Members between them. This majority was achieved with 42% of the actual vote, 25% of those eligible to vote and the lowest turn out, 59%, since universal suffrage. This shows a disillusionment and a detachment from politics, particularly among young people.
The antics of our Party over the last four weeks, the mud slinging, the bitchiness and the settling of old scores will have done little to restore their faith in the democratic process and it is easy to see why. Until the Conservative Party starts listening, makes the necessary reforms in both policy and organisation, it will remain in opposition and be condemned to many years in the wilderness.
.Real Reform for the Conservative Party
By John Strafford
There were some spectacular failures.
- The creation of a Conservative Party Constitution
- The creation of a Party Board representative of the whole Party.
- National membership.
How do we change the failures into success? Set out below are the changes required.
- The Party is still undemocratic.
- We are still not "One Party".
- Participation by ordinary members of the Party in Party policy development is virtually zero.
- Communication to ordinary members is non existent.
- Motivation of Party workers has ceased.
The Board of the Conservative Party
The National Convention
- A Deputy Leader appointed by the Leader should undertake the political role of the Party Chairman, leaving the Party Chairman responsible for Party Organisation.
- The Party Chairman should be elected by and thus accountable to the entire membership of the Party.
- Voting in elections could be by use of the Internet or by telephone.
- An elected Treasurer should be responsible for the income and expenditure of the Party with a remit to balance the books.
- The Treasurer should present the accounts of the Party to the National Convention for their adoption.
- The Leader of the Conservative MEPs should be a member of the Board. The political institutions of Westminster and Local Government are represented on the Board – Europe is not. This must be rectified.
- The Party Vice Chairmen should be appointed by the Board and answerable to the Board.
- The Vice-Chairmen of the Party are at present appointed by the Leader. Their responsibilities cover Parliamentary Candidate Selection and Conservative Future amongst other important aspects of Organisation.
- The Party Vice Chairmen should each make a report to the National Convention.
The National Convention consists of approximately 1,000 people. It is too big to be an executive body and too small to be representative. It does not comply with the concept of "One Party". The National Convention should become a representative body of the whole Party.
- MPs and MEPs should be members of the Convention and encouraged to attend and speak
- All Conservative group Leaders of District, Borough, County Councils and Unitary Authorities should be members of the Convention.
- In addition to the Constituency Chairman each Constituency Association should be entitled to an extra representative to the Convention for every extra 500 members in excess of 500.
There should be a National Executive which would meet twice a year. Its function would be to take action in conjunction with the Party Board to maintain an effective organisation throughout the country. It would consist of
- The Party Board
- Members of the Executive of the 1922 Committee
- 1 MEP per Region
- Regional Co-ordinators
- Regional Treasurers
- Officers of the Conservative Councillors Association
- Leaders and Deputy Leaders of Conservative Groups of the Scottish, Welsh, and, if applicable, Northern Ireland Assemblies.
- Officers of the National Association of Agents
- Representatives of Recognised Bodies (Maximum 10)
- 10 co-options
The role of the Regions is to co-ordinate, communicate and motivate.
- Regional Co-ordinators should be elected by all the members in their Region.
- Twice a year meetings should be held in each Region to which all members of the Region are invited. The MPs and MEPs should attend these meetings for the Region. They should be socially motivating and politically inspirational.
- Regional Treasurers should be elected by all the members in their Region.
- Regional policy forums should be set up linking with the National Policy Forum. Any member living within the Region should be entitled to attend the Regional policy forum.
Conservative Policy Forum
- Areas should be scrapped as part of the formal structure of the Party. The professional Agents should be grouped under the Regions. Where Areas can demonstrate success they can continue on an informal basis.
Conservative Central Office
- The Regional Policy Forums should elect Two thirds of the Council of the Conservative Policy Forum.
- Each Department Shadow Cabinet Minister should set up a Policy Group which would produce "Green" papers on policy for discussion through the CPF discussion groups.
- After discussion and consultation the Policy Groups would produce a "White" paper which would then be put to National/Regional Forums.
- The National Forum would be open to any member of the Party.
- After approval by the National Forum and the relevant Parliamentary Party back bench committee the "White" paper would go to either the National Convention or the Party Conference for approval.
- The Party Leader would determine priorities.
- Central Office should service the whole Conservative Party and not be treated as the Leader’s private office.
By adopting the above proposals we would create a democratic Conservative Party, increased participation by ordinary members improved communication and greater motivation. A political Party for the 21st Century!
- Every two months each member of the Party should receive a newsletter explaining what the Party is doing. This could be expanded to include Regional and Constituency activities. It should be a two-way newsletter and not be afraid to include criticism in it.
- There should be an Ombudsman appointed by the Party Board to resolve disputes within the membership at grass roots level. The Ombudsman would report to the National Convention.
This article was published in the current edition of "Crossbow", the magazine of "The Bow Group"
Tory Leadership Rules
Sir Michael Spicer, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee said this week that the rules of the Leadership election worked well and do not need wholesale change. He said that only minor adjustments were required. Who is he kidding? Has he forgotten that 30,000 people voted in the contest when they were not even members, that 25,000 were not allowed to vote when they were members, that 11,500 ballot papers were issued after the first ballot papers went out, because people complained that they had not received a ballot paper, that the election went on for ever, that many Party members were denied the opportunity of voting for the candidate of their choice. All these, no doubt are minor matters to Sir Michael. As long as the Parliamentary Party can wheel and deal and do its stitch ups no change is required.
When oh when will the Party understand that it cannot be relied on to defend our democracy as long as it is incapable of making its own organisation democratic?
Votes for Companies
This week the Labour Government published a Bill that will give votes to Companies in the City of London. After centuries of fighting for the principle of one person one vote we now find a Labour Government once again perpetuating the undemocratic City of London. What has the Conservative Party to say on the matter? Nothing It supports Labour. No wonder both our main political paries are going down the pan in the view of the electorate.
Lord Kalms to be.
This week the Conservative Party appointed a new Treasurer - Sir Stanley Kalms. As every past Treasurer has ended up with a seat in the House of Lords no doubt a seat is already being warmed for Sir Stanley. We wish him well in his new position, but how much better it would be if he had been elected to it and was thus answerable to the members of the Party as to how the money raised was spent.
Wallies 11th November
John Reid MP - for making the most fatuous statement since action was started against Afghanistan. He said on "Breakfast with Frost" "The land mass actually affected by bombings in Afghanistan is 0.0002536%" So that's alright then. Unless of course you are standing on the 0.0002536% of land where the bomb drops. I wonder what percentage of the United Kingdom does Warrington or Enniskillen represent?
P.S We understand that the phrase was first used by Alistair Campbell but he was not daft enough to use it in public!
Lord Ali Ahmed - When asked on the "Despatches" programme why he was in the House of Lords he replied that he represented the ethnic minorities. Sadly this ludicrous statement was not challenged. How many members of the ethnic minorities voted for Lord Ahmed? Who is he accountable to? The truth of the matter is that he represents nobody but himself.
House of Lords Reform
So, where were the Conservative Party when the Labour Government brought forward their undemocratic proposals for reform. Instead of taking the initiative and calling for a wholly elected House of Lords, they came up with a mealy mouthed compromise. They should learn from history. When the Liberals put forward reforms in the nineteenth century Disraeli trumped them by being much more radical. The result was the Conservatives were returned to power and the 1867 Reform Act was passed. Disraeli went on to create the modern Conservative Party. Where oh where is todays Disraeli? Give him a goatee beard and put a curl on top of his head. Could it be..................?
The Peace Agreement
In Northern Ireland in the period 1st July to 26th October there were 126 shooting incidents and 179 bombings with 3 deaths(plus another one today November 11th), 62 casualties from the shootings and 33 paramilitary assaults. Who said there was a peace agreement? It is time this abuse of the English language was ended. The democratic fault lines cracked open last weekend as was predicted and it is no good David Trimble complaining that his members had acted in an undemocratic way. He signed an agreement that enshrined sectarianism into the constitution of Northern Ireland and gave a power of veto to a minority. If this is not undemocratic what is?
Sadly the Conservative party at Central Office supported all this. They should listen to their grass roots members in Northern Ireland, who have been proved right all along.
P.S. Why does David Trimble keep on getting star billing at Conservative Party Conferences? It is very demoralising for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland that believe in non-sectarian politics.
The Labour Party is about to choose a new Leader for the Scottish Parliament using the discredited electoral college system of election. Ordinary members of the Party should be demanding "One Member One Vote". I wonder if they will!
The Special Relationship
The United Kingdom has a closer relationship with the United States than any other nation. The RAF is the only air force outside the USAF that has flown the stealth bomber - an agreement made when Margaret Thatcher allowed American bombers to use UK bases for their attack on Libya. In view of this it is incumbent on us to constructively criticise their conduct of the fight against terrorism. This is what the Conservative Party should be doing. The bi-partisan approach should be scrapped. It was wrong in Northern Ireland and it is wrong in Afghanistan. In Northern Ireland we failed to highlight the democratic faults in the "Peace Agreement". Those faults are now beginning to show.
The National Conservative Convention
As stated on this web site there is to be a meeting of the National Conservative Convention on 24th November. "The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and consider the role of the voluntary Party and to consider various aspects of our organisation. An Agenda will be issued on arrival."
So Party members, you will not know what is to be discussed until you arrive at the meeting, so you will not be able to confer with your colleagues on the merits or not of the proposals. Your Constituency Chairman will take decisions on your behalf without having the opportunity to speak to his or her Executive Council. This is an utter disgrace and not the way to start the most important reform in the history of the Party. Get this wrong and we will cease to exist. We got it wrong last time and the result was a catastrophic defeat. This time the proposals should go to all Party members and all Party members should be invited to the meeting at which they will be discussed and agreed. There are some major changes being floated around.
P.S Leadership Election
One MP told me that between husband and wife they had received 6 ballot papers in the Leadership election. I thought this had been stamped out!
The United States has 21 B2 stealth bombers whose combined worth is $40 billion, which is double Afghanistan's entire GDP. Makes you think?
How much longer is the Conservative Party going to give unequivocal support to Tony Bliar? The mood of the country is starting to change.
Regionalisation by stealth!
Watch out for small self-appointed bodies that are promoting regional parliaments based on the EU regions. The North West regional assembly has one but its members refused to explain how the had come together, but surprise, surprise, their E mail address ends "gov.uk"
Liverpool Garston Update
Those of you who followed the events in Liverpool Garston will be interested to know that Barbara Poole is no longer employed by the Party.
When Alistair Cooke left Central Office the Party lost a great intellect. The old CPC disappeared and CPF was formed. CPF is now non existent. If Alistair was offered a decent salary Central Office might tempt him back. We need people of his calibre to form our new policies and involve all the Party in making them.
Now that we have a rolling Electoral Register should we be looking at its composition. At the moment there are no checks on registration. There are also no checks on who votes. In other countries an ID card is required to be shown before voting. Is it just a matter of time before there is a major scandal?. We came close to it in Hackney.
Only in Britain
- Only in Britain... can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
- Only in Britain... do supermarkets make sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
- Only in Britain... do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and DIET coke.
- Only in Britain... do banks leave both doors open and chain pens to the counters.
- Only in Britain... do we use the word "politics" to describe the process of Government. "Poli" in Latin meaning "many" and "tics" meaning "blood sucking creatures".
- Only in Britain... do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive and put our junk in the garage.
- Only in Britain do we buy hot dogs in packs of ten and buns in packs of eight.
- Only in Britain... do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.
Lord Ashcroft - A conversion?
At the Party conference Lord Ashcroft said to the Chairman of COPOV "I'm thinking of joining your organisation" Welcome Michael! If you really believe in democracy let us meet and start to make the Tory Party more democratic. Incidentally, we hear that you are to be made President of Conservative Future so that you can attend meetings of the National Convention. Who takes these decisions? Perhaps we can start with that.
Another Chief Executive?
We hear that David Prior is leaving Central Office at the end of October. We gather he suggested a replacement but this was rejected by the Board. The job of Chief Executive should be openly advertised and not palmed off to another MP. This should be a full time position and the job should be as the servant of the whole Party, not just the parliamentary Party.
The Chairman of the Party wrote to all representatives attending the Party Conference on 26th September saying "In recognition of international events,.....Organisers of Party events which are 'Black tie' affairs are asked to note that the dress code for these events should now be 'lounge suit.'
So what happens? The first event is the Agents dinner on Sunday night and what do they wear - Black tie. Common sense prevailed. Do not give in to these bloody terrorists. Good for the Agents.
William Hague suffered an image problem from the moment he was photographed in a baseball cap. We do not want the same problem with our new Leader. In which case why show a photograph of him in braces on the Party's web site? He looks like Gordon Gecko! We can do better than this.
The Final Take-over!
On 15th September a paper was presented to a meeting of Area Chairmen. The paper had the support of David prior (Chief Executive at Conservative Central Office). On a straw poll it had the support of a majority of Chairmen. The paper was not on the Agenda of the meeting. It will not be debated at the Party Conference because the entire Party Organisation debate has been scrapped. We understand that it will be tabled at a Special Meeting of the National Convention to be held on 24th November. Members of the Party Board were not aware of the proposals. They include the following:
- All Constituency Association and Branch Bank accounts will be taken over by the Party Board.
- All Constituency property to be controlled by the Party Board.
- All Agents to be controlled by Central Office.
- Constituency offices to be closed and a number of offices strategically located throughout the Country set up.
- All membership subscriptions would be collected centrally using a central database.
- There will be no loans from Constituencies to Central Office because all money would be under the control of the Party Board.
- It is an anachronism that women have a separate organisation within the Party. This dilution of effort should ideally be rationalised.
This paper is likely to be accepted because it is only a minority of Constituencies that have sizeable assets. Yet no where in the paper is there a single mention of democratic accountability. Millions of pounds will be transferred into the control of the Party Board.
No doubt when the transfer is complete the whole lot will be bundled together and auctioned off to the highest bidder with a peerage thrown in as a sweetener. Thus we will have witnessed the destruction of a once great political Party. Democracy will be the poorer. Only the grass roots can now prevent this take-over. It is time for them to take control of their Party and demand democratic accountability with the Chairman and Treasurer of the Party elected by and accountable to the membership. These changes will change the whole nature of the Party. They are too important to be left to the National Convention. They should only be implemented after a meeting to which all members are invited and at which amendments to the proposals can be tabled. The final result should then be put to the whole membership in s a secret ballot.
Assurances given, assurances taken away.
All members of the Party will have received a letter from Central Office appealing for funds. Were we not assured that Central Office would never do this without first contacting the Constituencies, giving them the opportunity to opt out?. How quickly assurances are thrown into the waste paper bin!
CONSERVATISM IN THE FUTURE
A PERSONAL SUBMISSION BY A LONG-SERVING MEMBER
There are two essential conditions to precipitate a change of government:
The existing government must have persuaded the electorate that they are too incompetent and too dangerous to remain in office.
The main opposition party must have convinced floating and other non-committed voters that it is ready for power, offers sensible and well-thought-out policies which will serve the nation well, and has the leadership and management expertise to put them into practice.
Only in these circumstances will the electorate abandon the devil they know.
Is this likely to happen at the next election? Or the one after? Let us consider the matter.
EUROPE IS A DEAD ISSUE
Our new leader - like a majority of Conservative members - is opposed to any closer links with the EU and is adamantly opposed to joining the euro. But until Duncan Smith leads the party in office, such beliefs are irrelevant.
Voters have been promised by Labour a referendum on the subject and this could happen in this parliament. If they choose to go ahead and obtain a mandate to join the euro during their time in office, the die is cast. The issue is decided.
But as long as Blair and company continue to await the right moment, all Eurosceptics (who are naïve enough to expect a fair campaign) can feel comfortable with the present party in government. Other "don't-yet-knows" can debate and discuss the matter at length and without time constraints. The debate centres on the currency and not the consequent surrenders of power. So what does the voter-in-the street focus upon?
Sterling is not important enough to most electors to attract large numbers to our Party. In general, people who travel and use foreign currencies are well aware of the reliable purchasing power of the US dollar and, up to now, the franc, the mark, etc. Unless it fails (in which case there will be no referendum), the euro will soon be familiar to and trusted by many. Other voters are concerned only with what the currency in their pockets will buy.
The ramifications of joining the euro are of vital importance although they have not, so far, been objectively and adequately examined and explained. But should the ordinary voter care about these aspects? When we consider casual reports about living standards in EU countries within the euro, are their people downtrodden and poverty-stricken? If we joined, would we, ordinary citizens, be better or worse off? It would seem that in areas such as education, health and housing, we (especially young people) might even benefit significantly from being absorbed into the EU. Voters may not care for the EU's bureaucratic and centralist approach to governance, and its attitudes concerning security and defence, but how many of us (who are basically selfish in arriving at our political decisions) care too much about these aspects?
Going into or staying out of Europe is not a General Election issue but is one which can only be settled by a referendum. Our new leader should focus his - and our - attention on other aspects. Firstly, though, he should announce that, once the Conservative Party is in power, there will be no enactment of any legislation or policy that will take us into or keep us permanently out of the EU until a binding referendum has been held.
Promising a referendum on Europe will allow the Conservative Party to concentrate on those policies and issues which the public at large see as relevant and vital.
Conservatives believe that, in general, individuals are better at dealing with their problems than are local, national or supra-national governments. But we must recognise that the majority of voters will put effective public services (NHS, education, defence, police, transport, etc.) before tax cuts. So we must convince the nation that we can provide better services more efficiently than "New Labour", and that they are unprincipled pragmatists.
The Labour Government, by pushing ahead with Public Private Partnership schemes, has accepted that management and organisational skills are not to be found readily in the public sector. After all, the Chancellor reduced the national debt and stressed the financial benefit for coming generations. PPP schemes do the exact opposite (avoiding capital expenditure now and committing future tax-payers to paying resultant dividends), so surely the Government would not have gone down that route unless ministers were convinced that only private expertise could make the schemes work efficiently. We should miss no opportunity to show the Left that their masters are unprincipled, and to trumpet to the nation that Labour may have adopted our policies for the sake of expediency, but they dare not express a belief in them.
New Conservative policies should be designed to satisfy the wishes of the nation in ways that stress free enterprise and put the individual before a remote bureaucracy. These policies must be practical, free of dogma and be simply stated.
GETTING BACK INTO POWER
The public has lost its fear of a Labour Government and – as yet – has no particular wish to get them out of office. When that time comes, as one day it will, the Conservative Party must be seen as the only attractive alternative: intelligent, experienced and - above all - ready for office.So its policies, which must be inclusive and not exclusive, must be well understood and widely approved. We must also present the image of a united and winning party. This means that all ability and experience is valued and deployed. The nation expects political parties to put all their talents at the disposal of the electorate and not to exclude people of imagination and stature because their faces don't fit. This point is addressed to all Conservative politicians: to those who are in power and are duty bound to seek out and make use of the best; and to dissenters – of any faction - who must accept that Conservatives will only achieve great things for the nation when in office. All of these people must put the future of the country before their personal beliefs and desires.
Two words describe the Agenda for the Party Conference - "Dull" and "Boring". No debates, no motions. Participation minimal. Is there any point in attending? You can speak for two minutes on "Our Party - Its Future". Froth and sound bite is all that we will hear. You can speak for one minute on "The Health of the Nation" or one minute on "Crisis in the Countryside" or even one minute on "Getting There: Transport - Public and Private Interest". There is not even enough time for froth in those.
If the Party hierarchy are so determined to dumb down the Conference why do they not hire a clapometer, then we can all go home and do something useful?. Oh for the days when at Conference there were motions with real debates and speakers had four minutes to put their points. Discussion, debate, information. These are the fuels which keep the engine of democracy going. In the Conservative Party of today the engine is running out of fuel. All we see is thick smoke.
Sadly, even the fringe looks threadbare. Where are the big names? Thank heavens the Wessex CPC are having a meeting with John Redwood MP at 5:45pm on Monday evening in St John's church.
With 55% of all our legislation now emanating from Brussels Europe does not even get a mention. Perhaps it will be included in "Britain and the World" although as that subject is being introduced by the Shadow International Development Secretary maybe Britain now qualifies for "Aid Relief".
There is a photograph of the "Party Board". What a pity they did not tell us what they have been doing other than attending a meeting at Middlethorpe Hall, York. I am sure accountability did not figure very high on their agenda!
Leadership Election Analysis
We are told that the total number of votes cast in the Leadership election was 256,797 amounting to 77.9% of the membership. This means that the total membership is 329,650. At the beginning of the election we were told that the total number of ballot papers issued was 318,000. From this can be seen that 11,650 ballot papers were issued during the campaign. This is a terrible indictment of the state of the membership lists. In addition there is anecdotal evidence that a number of members did not receive a ballot paper, particularly overseas members.
Just prior to the count we were told that the total number of votes cast was 259,139. This means that there were 2,342 spoilt papers.
The first action of the new Leader should be to set up an inquiry to look at membership and its administration and also to look at the ways in which the Leadership election process can be improved and made more democratic.
What the Media missed on membership
At the beginning of the Leadership campaign we were told that there were 318,000 members who would receive ballot papers.
On Thursday of this week we were told that so far "235,558 ballot papers have now been returned - equal to 72% of eligible members. Now you do not even need one of this Labour Government's devalued GCSEs in maths to be able to calculate that if 235,558 = 72% then 100% =327,000,i.e. an increase of 9,000. In other words since the election began a further 9,000 ballot papers have been issued.
According to David Prior (Acting Chairman), Central Office have received 3,000 complaints which they have dealt with, presumably by issuing ballot papers. What about the other 6,000? Did they just appear out of thin air? I think we should be told.
Once this election is over there must be a thorough inquiry into the way it has been run including the way Constituencies keep their membership lists.
The Missing Members
Each year every Constituency Association has to send to Central Office £1.00 for every paid up member it has. Is it possible that some Constituencies have understated their membership in order to avoid paying money to Central Office?
We have heard that Michael Portillo is so fed up with politics and has had so many tempting offers that he is considering applying for the Chiltern Hundreds. A touch of irony that the first test of the new Leader might be a by-election in Kensington and Chelsea.
Is "Blue Chip" getting out of date. There are some that say that the problems with membership are because Constituencies have had difficulty with it. Is it true that Microsoft no longer support it. Maybe this should be looked into.
Now that MPs have large expense allowances in order to employ more staff it is time they were put on training courses on how to employ people. Some of the stories one hears make your hair stand on end.
Membership and the Leadership election
Ron Reed, deputy chairman of Beckenham Conservative Association, which has 1,000 members, said his office received 23 complaints last week from Tory supporters. He was particularly angry that members who joined the Party in the run up to the general election had been told they had no say.
If in one week 2.3% of members complain then throughout the whole party this would amount to 7,000. Just 3 or 4 weeks of this and you have some thirty thousand complaints. Who said this was a minor matter?
Democracy at work
So successful has been the Leadership election, with all its faults that the meetings have been packed out. On occasions over one thousand people have attended a meeting. The London one was oversubscribed. Who said that the political meeting was dead? When there is real participation politics is alive and well. If only the politicians would realise this.September 11th
Who should be Leader of the Conservative Party? Result:
Michael Ancram 1%
Kenneth Clarke 36%
David Davis 16%
Iain Duncan Smith 12%
Michael Portillo 33%
None of these 2%
It is quite clear from the actual result that the supporters of Michael Portillo and David Davis overwhelmingly transferred their support to Iain Duncan Smith. If the membership of the Party had been allowed to vote for all the candidates on the basis of first and second preference etc. voting, Michael Portillo would have been Leader assuming he would have picked up reciprocal votes from Iain Duncan Smith and David Davis when they were eliminated from the election. It makes you think, does it not?
Not Such A Stark ChoiceA Research Brief from the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, by Will Phelan
Although many Conservatives feel they face an uncomfortably stark choice between the experienced and well-known but perhaps too pro-European Kenneth Clarke on the one hand and the less experienced and less well-known but reassuringly Eurosceptic Iain Duncan Smith on the other hand, the choice need not be as stark as they may fear. Both to reconcile principled Eurosceptics to a Clarke leadership and, vice versa, pro-Europeans to a Duncan Smith leadership, the Conservative Party should adopt a policy to put major treaties negotiated with other European Union member states to a referendum, in which party members and MPs would be free to campaign on either side. As well as helping the party towards a sensible middle road on Europe, this policy would increase democracy in the United Kingdom and help address the democratic deficit of the European Union.
Too Stark A Choice?
Many of the greatest stories of myth and legend are stories of the starkest choice and consequence, where the absence of compromise increases the challenge of the tale. In his famous Choice, Hercules opted for the life of toil and achievement, rather than the pleasures of idleness. What the hero might have chosen if offered hard toil Monday to Friday, with weekends idle and a year off after college, the legend does not speculate. Paris chose to give the Golden Apple to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, rather than Athena or Hera, which brought him the love of Helen, and disaster for his city of Troy. The rules did not appear to allow him to offer a third of the fruit to each of these estimable ladies.
Members of the Conservative Party might feel that they have been offered a similarly stark choice in the leadership contest. Conservative Members of Parliament have narrowed the field to two: Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith. The one is a former Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer, indeed one of the most experienced candidates for the leadership of the party in its long history. He is a big man, hearty, strong-willed. It can be a pleasure to watch him cope robustly with difficult interviewers, such as Jeremy Paxman. Above all, opinion polls show that he is popular with those who have previously voted Conservative, but no longer do so. On the other hand, his views on the Euro, and the European Union more generally, differ from those of the majority of the party, which his opponent will not be shy in pointing out. Iain Duncan Smith has had an impressive career as an officer in the Scots Guards and in business. He is considered a success in his position of Shadow Defence Secretary. He has no ministerial experience, having spent the Major years as an active "Maastricht rebel", and his campaign has emphasised his Eurosceptic credentials. There is as yet no evidence of any wider affection among the public, although time may show otherwise by the next election.
The Conservative membership must therefore choose between a man of experience and popularity, but whose European policy does not sit well with those who spent the last election with "Save the Pound" signs in their front garden, and a man whose European policy is more in tune with theirs, but has yet to show popularity or effectiveness in government. In both cases, unfortunately, there may be those who object so strongly to their success that deep unhappiness or splits may not be avoided. Confronted with such a choice, after compromise candidates were eliminated in the earlier rounds of the contest, the membership of the party is understandably hesitating over to which of these grandes dames to award the Golden Apple.
What many of course would like would be some of Clarke and some of Duncan Smith - a Eurosceptic Kenneth Clarke, if you like. Such a hybrid would combine Ken’s many admirable qualities with that mild wariness toward the European project, and downright incredulity at Belgian federalists and their like, which many in the party (and the country) feel. Clarke has indeed recently emphasised his opposition to European federalism and his support for the sensible view that the governments of the nation states should continue to be the decision-makers in the European Union. He has emphasised his role in fighting some of Brussels’ wilder proposals while at the Treasury. For the future, he suggests that the party needs to tone down its "livid" language on Europe, and combine free speech for both pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics in the shadow cabinet with a recognition of the need for both wings of the party to move toward each other. He adds that the party needs to have a much wider range of attractive policies than those over which it fought the last election. This sort of argument seems to have been important in encouraging many Eurosceptic MPs and like-minded leading members of the party, such as Malcolm Rifkind, to support Clarke.
All this may be helpful, and offers a more attractive option for party members, but it is not yet enough to produce the Griffin-like hybrid creature many in the party desire. Such an ideal is not, however, going to materialise. The only person who could effect the necessary transformation would be Clarke himself. But his popularity stems in large part from his frank and straightforward nature and he is not going to change his views on Europe in order to win power. Any new policy on Europe for the Clarke campaign must continue to allow Ken to be Ken. The party therefore cannot have a "Eurosceptic Ken Clarke" as leader. Are party members then not facing the stark choice of the Judgement of Paris? If they choose Ken Clarke, those who feel strongly about Europe will not wish to support him, and may devote themselves to continual efforts to bring him down. If they choose Duncan Smith, unless the polling numbers improve, they may yet be enjoying the delights of opposition for a long while.
A Means to the Right Outcome
This article seeks to find a way of making the conservative leadership choice less unpalatable. It therefore proposes a method of separating the most significant questions of European policy from the choice of party leader.
Of course, both of the final two candidates would make very competent leaders of the party and the choice of candidate will depend on many issues beyond European policy (and indeed either, if successful, will need to work on many policies other than Europe if they want to get the Tories back into power). This article is however written from the point of view that the Conservative Party membership deserves the best set of choices possible and that the current set of candidates and policies could be improved on.
The key to the problem is to recognise that the split on Europe in the party is not related to the day-to-day business of discussions on European light bulb regulations and the like, but rather those big changes in the nature of the European Union which rise to constitutional significance. The answer is therefore for the party to promise that all future European treaties (the likes of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice) should be put to the people of the United Kingdom in a referendum before ratification. This proposal, if adopted by either candidate, will be attractive in the party leadership election and, vitally, will provide a way for the party leaders to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis both in opposition and in government. It would directly address concerns felt by many that European integration suffers from a lack of democratic input. It would also, not least, be good for Britain.
This paper first outlines the potential advantages for each of the candidates, and then considers the effect on European policy and British politics more generally.
For Clarke’s campaign, what is needed is a party policy which would take Clarke’s diagnosis of the party’s way forward – agreeing on the need to allow expression of divergent policies on Europe – and formalise it in a way which would be attractive enough to all sides to be acceptable, and yet robust enough to resist the strong forces which might try to overthrow it, if he is elected leader.
The proposal has many advantages for Clarke. It would reconcile many in the Conservative Party with his leadership because of their conviction that any significant steps toward further European integration would have to be approved by our mildly Eurosceptic public. A commitment to a referendum on European treaties would help make the party in Parliament leadable again. It may be the only way to avoid an internecine Maastricht-type parliamentary battle over the consideration of any future treaty. The policy would be that all Conservative MPs would support in parliament a treaty negotiated by a Conservative government, but (like all party members) they would be free to campaign on either side of the ensuing referendum. Just as with the Labour party in the 1970s, a referendum could be used to settle differences on Europe within the Parliamentary party. It would therefore address the question posed by commentators who wonder just how European policy would be conducted in a Clarke administration.
In short, just as the promised referendum on the Euro has permitted many anti-Euro Conservatives to support Clarke, so the policy proposed here would do the same for the future constitutional development of Britain’s place in Europe. If Clarke was elected leader, Eurosceptics could be sure of a strong role in the consideration of future European treaties, and would be secure in this without continuous plotting to challenge the party leadership. Clarke as leader would be free to voice his views on Europe, but would be constrained in his dealings by the real - but mild and non-dogmatic - scepticism of the British public. Eurosceptics would remain influential, but only to the degree that they were in tune with the public mood. Indeed preparations for any such referendum would occupy the energies of the most dedicated of Eurosceptics. For Clarke, this would be the sensible compromise on Europe through which both wings of the party would be able to move towards each other. And while the party would not be able to choose a "Eurosceptic Ken Clarke", it would be able to have both Ken Clarke and a democratic Euroscepticism. And this might be a popular choice.
For Duncan Smith, such a policy would also be beneficial, both in the leadership election and thereafter in opposition and in government. One of the most significant criticisms which has been made of Conservative European policy is that it is "extreme", and/or likely to be incompatible with Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. For Duncan Smith, a priority is to show that neither of these accusations is true. No party is helped at the hustings (or in the polls) by the accusation of extremism (no matter how unjustified), and the business community, which is the backbone of the Conservative Party in Britain, would never support a complete exit from the Union. With a policy of referenda on European treaties, both of these accusations could be comprehensively rejected. By definition, nothing favoured or rejected by a majority of the public can be held to be "extreme". A referendum would never support leaving the Union, not least because of the position of UK business as mentioned above. British business would also benefit from Britain’s strengthened bargaining position in negotiations.
In a strategic sense, Eurosceptics would also do well to build their criticism of the European project on a democratic basis. Arguments for the defence of "sovereignty", the concept of states as the legitimate units in international law and society, has insufficient resonance with the public to be effective. In short, legalistic critiques of the European Union have had little success. Democratic critiques are more likely to strike a cord with the public, and a referenda promise on new treaties would be a much more effective way to engage public opinion, not least with the possibility of a European "Constitution" on the agenda in the years ahead.
There is another reason why Duncan Smith would benefit from this policy. He too, like Clarke, but vice versa, needs to ensure that the Conservative Party remains a place where Pro-Europeans are welcome to give support and to make their careers. A policy of making European treaties subject to ratification by referenda would go a long way towards making the pro-European wing of the party (and those in the business community who support it) comfortable with European policy. It would not be party dogma but the will of the people which would decide European policy, and all would be able to play their part in shaping the people’s view. Thus this policy would allow the party to choose Duncan Smith and continue to be a place for Pro-Europeans. This might also be quite an attractive choice.
Beyond complementing the campaigns of both candidates, this policy would strengthen the British government – any British government – in its dealings in Brussels. In negotiation, weakness can be strength. It is widely believed that, for example, the Danes bargain effectively in Brussels on the big treaties because of their constitutional requirements for ratification by referendum. Just as the US administration says it cannot make negotiating concessions without endangering the likely agreement of Congress, so the British government would be able to point to public opinion as a reason for profitable intransigence when it was merited. With treaty ratification by referendum, certain of the wildest federal dreams of some in Brussels would be unlikely to ever come to fruition, and if the requirement for a referendum was put into law, and supported by public opinion, the Conservatives would be able to influence the shape of European integration even when out of power (just as they do at the moment on the question of whether to join the Euro).
In addition, such a policy would fit very well with the other proposals Clarke is putting forward (and which Duncan Smith should also adopt) to increase democracy and accountability within the United Kingdom. It is of a piece with ending Whitehall and No. 10’s disdain for Parliament, reversing the downgrading of Prime Minister’s Question Time and so on. Anyone reading the Irish Times in recent months can only have been impressed by how the Irish referendum process has resulted in a great deal of very informed debate. If this encourages more reading of European treaties, then despite Clarke’s well-known comments on the dubious merits of reading the Maastricht Treaty, this can only be a good thing (although it is likely to remain a minority pastime). A strong collection of democratising proposals, going much beyond those listed here, with the referendum pledge at its heart, would be very attractive to many both inside and outside the party. In fact it would be a vote winner, and put tremendous pressure on "control freak" Blair. It would show the Conservatives trust the people, and anchor the party at the centre ground of public opinion.
Disadvantages of the Proposal?
There are only two major arguments against. One is a general dislike for referenda as a method of government. But frankly, the time for that has passed in the United Kingdom. Referenda have become quite common now. On European policy, the principle is already accepted across the political spectrum for the question of membership of the Euro. Why should the question of a European "Constitution" not receive the same treatment? What is more, the classic dangers of referenda – the presentation of populist policies to an excited public opinion – are unlikely to occur with referenda on European treaties, which are hardly populist documents, and are not susceptible to loaded questions. The question would be whether the treaty should be ratified or not.
The second major argument against is that the UK would be unable to ratify any European treaties under such a proposal. But this is not right. The case of Denmark shows that even rather Eurosceptical publics can ratify treaties if they have been properly promoted by the government and the major interest groups. There is no reason to believe that this might not be true in the United Kingdom as well. The point is that some treaties could be ratified, where they have considerable support in (mildly Eurosceptic) British society, and that others, which lacked this support, would not. A treaty with the strong backing of British business, for example, would have every chance of success. So, depending on the details might a treaty, which expanded EU powers in some areas while reducing them in others. Not least, a treaty which addressed the many valid criticisms of the way the European Union currently works in terms of openness, accountability and democracy could be very popular. It is the democratic spirit of the referendum policy together with the uncertainty of the outcome of the appeal to the people which can make such a proposal acceptable policy to both pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics alike. It is a policy with new risks and opportunities for all parts of the party spectrum, and that, together with the partial separation of European policy from the choice of party leader, is its attraction. What is likely, moreover, is that any treaty negotiated under this procedure would be more respectful of British interests than one only considered by Parliament.
Both Kenneth Clarke and a democratic Euroscepticism? Iain Duncan Smith and a place for pro-Europeans? This is a much better set of choices for the party membership. Paris with his single and indivisible Golden Apple could only be jealous.
Will Phelan is a graduate student studying European politics. Email: email@example.comLiverpool Garston Update
27th August 2001
The following letter has been sent by Ivan Prosser to Brian Hanson:
Some time ago on C.O.P.O.V.'s web site there was a misquotation mistakenly introduced by Mr.John Strafford. Mr. Brian Hanson thought it sufficiently important to ask for a retraction and apology, which he has received.
It is ironic that as yet no retraction and apology has been received by me on account of a letter, written by Mrs. Wendy Powell, and produced to Mr. Hanson at a tribunal concerning the affairs of the Garston Conservative Association. This letter was written to an outside agency, The Yorkshire Building Society, concerning my wife and myself, which contained five deliberate lies. Some of these lies were repeated in a subsequent letter to the same organisation.
What was written about us by Mrs. Powell was deliberate and malicious. How much more important, therefore, to have her retract and apologise?
Also, the final report to the Board contained the mistaken remark that Mrs.Prosser had never been a member of the party. A letter to Mr. Hanson complaining about this was brushed aside as making no difference.
The last letter from the board signed by Mr. John Taylor, merely stated that the Party had spent a considerable amount of time considering these matters. In that case the time spent by the Party and by ourselves in preparing evidence for submission to the Board and to tribunals was utterly wasted.
Nothing has been done to alleviate the sense of injustice,anger and even bitterness over the way we have been treated. Obviously not all members warrant the implementation of democracy and decency to resolve injustice.
A VIEW FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
BY A CONSERVATIVE
A DIFFICULT CHOICE
So the field has been narrowed down to two and the next leader of our Party will be either Ken Clarke (the so called ‘big beast’ in the jungle) or Iain Duncan Smith (Iain who?). Both candidates have their merits and failings; one is an extreme Europhile, the other an extreme Eurosceptic. In the writer’s view neither can unite the Party and he would have much preferred to see a wider choice on the ballot paper – say four names to be numbered in order of the voter’s preference and then eliminated by means of the transferable vote.
Judging by the letters to the Daily Telegraph not only are our Members of Parliament divided, the grass roots are also. Some say they will leave the Party if Ken Clarke is elected and others will do the same if Iain Duncan Smith comes out on top. Oh for a return to the days of the ‘Magic Circle’ when after the due customary process of consultation our Leader somehow ‘emerged’ ! Of for the days when all the late Marquess of Salisbury had to do was to ask in his inimitable way each member of the Cabinet: "Well, it is Wab or Hawold?" (referring of course to RA. Butler and Harold MacMillan).
One thing, however, is certain. Anyone who thinks that whoever is elected will be able to achieve the 13% (yes, THIRTEEN per cent) swing needed to give us a working majority in 2005 or 2006 is, in my opinion, not living in the real world. Because at present we have only 166 seats it is going to take at least eight years (or two Parliaments) to get back into power.
The writer is old enough to remember the Conservative governments from 1951 to 1964. Labour was not able to achieve power because we accepted the Post War reforms of the Labour government (which included the National Health Service). ‘Butskellism’ (the economic policies of Hugh Gaitskell and R.A. Butler) were the order of the day; Labour was engaged in its own internal debate about the hydrogen bomb and unilateralism (remember Gaitskell’s "Fight, fight and fight again" speech). In MacMillan’s words: "we had never had it so good".
Exactly the same is happening today – in reverse. Labour has accepted diluted ‘Thatcherism’ and is pursuing the economic policies of ‘Clownism’ (i.e. those of Ken Clarke and Gordon Brown): we are having a constant debate about our future in Europe and are obsessed by the ‘Euro’ and have little to say on anything else. Prosperity abounds and Tony Blair is a younger version of Harold MacMillan (who, incidentally, was very popular during his first three years in office).
My concern is that many people in the Party do not see the dangers – I believe we risk being totally marginalised and becoming a ‘fringe’ issue Party concentrating solely on Europe. If we are not careful, we will be overtaken by the Liberal Democrats – they have already reeked havoc in many traditional Conservative seats and because they are fighters (and not tainted by recent office in government) they are difficult to dislodge – as our supporters in seats such as Weston Super Mare and Sutton & Cheam will tell you.
Europe and our future relationship with the countries on the Continent is important. But we would do better to consider how we can improve what is, at the moment, a bureaucratic, top heavy and ‘fat cat’ organisation. I doubt if the Government will go for a quick ‘yes’ vote in any referendum on the Euro – at present nearly 70% of the general public are opposed to entering a single currency and the Government – this Government in particular – will not want to risk a rejection of its declared policy. The election on June 7 showed that voters are far more concerned with other issues – schools, hospitals, pensions, transport etc. Have we nothing to say on any of these?
As one who is on the left of the Party, it would appear that (Europe excepted where I am not in favour of the Euro and have over the years become moderately Eurosceptic) Ken Clarke would be my natural choice. Life, alas, is snot so simple. If he was, in fact, Education Secretary when the decision was made to convert all those technical colleges and polytechnics into universities then it is black mark to Kenneth Clarke! If on Black Wednesday, September 16 1992, he was instrumental in urging the then Chancellor, Norman Lamont, to use up further reserves in a futile attempt to stay in the ERM, then double black mark to Kenneth Clarke! If he has never read the Maastricht Treaty and was totally ignorant of its provisions, then lazy Ken Clarke!
Yet he does come over as a decent sort of bloke and someone with whom you could share a pint in the local pub. He has a happy family life and is a good debater (he would certainly be the equal of Tony Blair in this respect) and he has the support of some of the Eurosceptic MPs. I hope he realises that major reforms have to be made within the Party and unless the Party can attract younger members and voters (who at the last election either voted for our opponents or just abstained) it will wither away. And reform does not mean allowing people to vote on the Internet or by computer or in the supermarket. The last election proved that we can get out our ‘core’vote (32%) but little else. Is Kenneth Clarke, the man who refused to compromise on Europe and who has publicly rubbished our period in Opposition from 1997 to 2001, the person to give us sight of the Promised Land?
The writer knows little of Iain Duncan Smith, the present ‘shadow Defence Secretary’. He is obviously very able, Eurosceptic in the extreme and a person who will never vote for a single currency. He is, I have no doubt, sincere but too much like William Hague (in appearance, if nothing else). The writer’s problem is that he is supported by a Mafia of ‘right wing’ weirdo’s – the Norman Tebbits and John Redwoods of this world – those who believe in ‘Thatcherism’ pure and simple. He might take us up a blind creek with no escape. I read Duncan Smith’s article in the Daily Telegraph . I liked what he said about the way he would take the fight to the Liberal Democrats and start challenging them in what were once Conservative strongholds – seats like Cheltenham, Torbay and Guildford. His ideas on health and education (where he thinks ‘vouchers’ could be an answer to failing state schools) should be closely examined to see whether they would be workable and should not be dismissed just because them come from a right winger. Despite the evident failings in the state education system and the difficulties in getting prompt treatment on the NHS the majority still embrace the concept of the state acting as a benevolent uncle and providing these services out of general taxation, free at the point of delivery. Tony Blair, even when he attempts a modest reform, faces the ire of his trade union masters who, as Duncan Smith might put it, seem firmly wedded to the ration book state of the 1940s.
Many of our supporters are attracted not only by Duncan Smith’s Euroscepticism but by the fact that he carries not baggage and is not tainted by the failures of 1992 to 1997. They point out that, like Tony Blair, he has a young family and that, like the Prime Minister, he has never held ministerial office. This misses the point. When Blair became Leader of the Labour Party in 1994, Neil Kinnock had already made major reforms (apart from ditching Clause 4) and we had already been in power for 15 years. We were having to raise taxes as a result of "Black Wednesday", were mired in ‘sleaze’ and had a small overall majority made worse by defections and by-election losses. Today’s scenario is totally differing and we have not even begun to make the necessary reforms.
And what of the supporters of the man many feel should also be on the ballot paper – one Michael Denzil Xavier Portillo? His campaign was badly managed from the start and he never recovered from his perceived liberal stance on sexual matters or from the hurtful taunts about his own childlessness. (No wonder we are called the ‘nasty’ party!). In some ways, Portillo is like Neil Kinnock in reverse – a right winger who was forced by circumstances and electoral defeat to modify his views and move to the centre ground. Portillo was the one who realised that change was needed throughout the Party right form the top to the bottom. But, unlike Kinnock, he has been prevented from carrying it through.
When one reads things such as:
"I had no tellers this time. They have all died since the last election"
"The average age of the ladies stuffing our envelopes was 81"
you know something is seriously wrong. (As the writer can confirm from his own constituency on June 7).
Politicians say they ignore opinion polls (but in fact they don’t). One such poll claimed that had Michael Portillo become Leader only 9% would have been more likely to vote Conservative and 33% less likely - minus 24%. Many probably felt that such a remarkable conversion had no credibility. In view of the fact that, in the final ballot, the Parliamentary Party was almost evenly split between the three candidates that no one was the overwhelming choice and that the third candidate was eliminated by just one vote, the rules for electing the Leader will surely have to be looked at again.
So assuming I get a voting paper, and with Central Office performing as it does these days one cannot always be sure, how will I cast my ballot?
Unhesitatingly for Kenneth Clarke if only on the principle: "Better the devil you know than the one you don’t". For those who say he is too much like Tony Blair, my answer is: "I would prefer the real model rather than the fake." Clarke is older, more experienced and in my view will connect better with those whose support we need in the country at large. I appreciate that it will be difficult because 80% of our membership, but not necessarily our voters, is Eurosceptic. But even though Clark is fully committed to the ‘Euro’ (and we all know where he stands on the matter) I believe he had the more flexible approach. His ratings with the uncommitted are plus 4% whereas Duncan Smith’s are minus 8%. I’m sure that with Kenneth Clarke as Leader there would be a possibility of a big gain in seats in 2005/2006. With Iain Duncan Smith I could not be so certain.
Because of all the hype, the ‘myth’ remains that between 1979 and 1987, the electorate voted for pure, unadulterated ‘Thatcherism’. They did no such thing. Margaret Thatcher’s victories (necessary though they were) were achieved over a discredited Labour Party in 1979 and over an almost evenly divided centre/left vote in 1983 and 1987. If Callaghan had gone to the country in October 1978 (before the winter of discontent) he might have conceivably won. And if he had, that would have been the end of Margaret Thatcher.
Those on the extreme right of the Party might also like to remember that in 1992, after a poll tax riot in 1990 and a deep recession, John Major polled the highest Conservative vote last century (over 14 million) but because of a good Labour showing in the crucial marginal seats had an overall majority of only 21 in a Parliament where the Eurosceptics were constantly bickering and moaning. (And where are the Tony Marlow’s and Teresa Gorman’s of this world now?)
So, of the two Clarke is, in my view the better bet and, would, if unsuccessful, pass the torch on to a younger colleague who has had Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet experience.
A pity, though, that both William Hague and Michael Portillo will be on the back benches during this Parliament. It says something about our plight when two former Cabinet Ministers, both in their 40’s have been rejected – one by the electorate at large and the other by the Parliamentary Party.
As Lady Bracknell said in "The Importance of being Earnest": "To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be a misfortune; to lose both is regarded as carelessness".
Membership and the Leadership election.
Earlier this week Steve Norris in that characteristic flamboyant style of his dismissed the anomalies of membership in the Leadership election as minor matters. Are they?
Eighteen months ago we were told by Conservative Central Office that Party membership was approaching 350,000. Now we are told that it is 318,000. In other words we have lost a net 32,000 members in eighteen months. The real position is much worse, because if the nominations for the Leadership election had been called for just four days later all those members that had paid a subscription in January 2000 but had not renewed would have been excluded from membership. It is safe to assume that this would have been at least another 30,000. For the last fifty years the Party has lost on average 50-60,000 members each and every year. So we have 30,000 people who are not members of the Party eligible to vote in the Leadership election.
If you joined the Party after March 28th 2001 even though you are a legitimate member of the Conservative Party you are not entitled to vote in the election. We have been told by Central Office that there are 20-25,000 members in this category.
So just looking at two categories we have some 50-55,000 people in these anomalous situations. This is a very high proportion of the 318,000 members entitled to vote. Who said the election is very democratic? Why Steve Norris. At the very least he ought to support a detailed look at this whole process after it is completed.
The Expulsion of Edgar Griffin
It has been announced publicly and on the Party's web site that The Board of the Party have expelled Edgar Griffin from membership of the Conservative Party for assisting the British National Party. If this is true it is quite right that he should be expelled, but has the Board had regard to the rules of natural justice? What the Board should have done is to immediately suspend the membership of Edgar Griffin and referred the matter to the Ethics and Integrity Committee in accordance with the Party's constitution. The Board should not act like a kangaroo court no matter what the provocation. This is setting a dangerous precedent.
August 19thPRESS RELEASE
CAMPAIGN FOR CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRACY
Release date: Tuesday, 21 August 2001.
Released by: John Strafford, Chairman,
DEMOCRACY, EUROPE and the LEADERSHIP ELECTION:
A PROPOSAL FOR BOTH LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES
The Campaign for Conservative Democracy today publishes a research brief arguing that both candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party should commit themselves to a policy of referenda for the ratification of major European Union treaties (the likes of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice). This will be particularly applicable to the forthcoming talks on a European "Constitution".
The paper’s author, Will Phelan, argues that this would benefit both leadership candidates: Ken Clarke, because it would reassure many of those attracted by his experience and character but who are hesitant to support him because of his views on Europe; Iain Duncan Smith, because a policy of referenda would anchor his criticisms of European integration in terms of democracy, rather than notions of legal sovereignty which are alien to public opinion.
A policy of referenda would also reinforce Britain’s negotiating position on European treaties, and, together with a range of other policies to improve democracy and accountability in the UK (and Europe), it would be a popular and centrist critique of the Labour government.
John Strafford, Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, said:
"This is a provocative paper which suggests a sensible and moderate policy on Europe. It would be a potential vote winner for either of the candidates. I have sent a copy of this paper to Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith, and I urge them to consider it carefully. I expect that they will be asked about it in the forthcoming regional hustings. If we can agree that we should have referendum on whether to adopt the Euro, there can be no reason why we should not have a referendum on future European treaties, particularly in light of plans for a future European "Constitution" ".
For further information, please contact:
John Strafford, Chairman, Campaign for Conservative Democracy:
Will Phelan, Paper author:
Security gone mad!
In order to attend a "hustings" meeting you have to supply name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and place of birth. Is this for security purposes, or is it because the establishment are terrified that the press might get into the meetings? At a recent Ken Clarke meeting nobody checked anything!
We have been told that the Party's membership is 318,000. Will we be told how many members have resigned as a result of them being told that they do not have a vote in the Leadership election.
Party Conference Motions
So once again we are denied the opportunity of putting motions to the Party Conference. Last year we were told it was because we were facing a General Election. This year we are told it is because we have just had a General Election(see below). How long are the members of the Conservative Party going to put up with this contemptuous approach. Only if we are prepared to have rigorous debate and discussion we we ever get back to power. Dumbing down democracy will only have one effect - a mass exodus of Party members to add to those many that have already left us. With the letter was sent an A4 sheet of paper on which you can put Conservative Philosophy. "Private Eye" would be proud of this!
Incidentally, under the Party's Constitution it states "Motions to a Party Conference shall be submitted to the Director of the Conservative Policy Forum..... The Director of the Conservative Policy Forum will,........, publish all motions properly made not less than fourteen clear days prior to the opening of a Party Conference" Another case of the Constitution being ignored?
Leadership Campaign Update:
Congratulations to Central Office -
for organising Regional Husting meetings. The pressure on them paid off, and well done to Lord Hodgson for raising it.
Around 20-25,000 members will not be able to vote in the Leadership election because they joined the Party after March 27th. Will we be told how many non members will be allowed to vote because they paid their subscription in January 2000, but have not renewed it?
Iain Duncan Smith
Why is Iain Duncan Smith avoiding a head to head debate with Kenneth Clarke on Radio 4s "Today" programme, and why is he insisting that the two contenders do not debate with each other at the hustings meetings?
What is he afraid of? I think we should be told.
During the suspension of the Campaign why was the IDS campaign sending out E mails?
Why is Kenneth Clarke's campaign urging MPs to write to their members at their own cost explaining why they are supporting him? Will these costs be treated as part of the campaign costs?
Why has the Southern Region Conservative Women's Committee sent out a letter from Kenneth Clarke but not one from Iain Duncan Smith? Who is bearing this cost? Shouldn't official bodies in the Conservative Party take a neutral position? If not Party funds are going to end up being used in the campaign.
Democracy - Tory Party Style
If you do not believe in democracy then tell the World that you are organising a democratic election for the Leader of the Party and then do the following:
- First of all restrict the number of candidates to two so that some members are denied the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, then
- Do not allow the candidates to debate with each other at Regional Hustings meetings, then
- Deny the candidates access to the membership lists so they cannot target their campaigns, then
- Allow the candidates to ban the media from the question and answer sessions at the meetings they do hold, so that members who cannot get to the meetings do not see the candidates under pressure, or facing hostile questions, then
- Allow some people whose membership subscriptions have lapsed to vote in the election, then
- Bar from voting some members because they signed up after March 28th 2001, then
- Confuse members by having two qualifying dates (see below)
Stalin would be proud of the way this election is being conducted.
Central Office confusion
What is the Qualifying date for members in order to vote in the Leadership election? According to the Membership department in a memo issued on 28th June the date is March 28th 2001. See extract below:
However, according to Mrs Sue Hawks of the IT department an URGENT letter to a constituency sent on the 20th July it is "28th June 2001. Cannot they make up their mind, or in the IT world does 28th June mean 28th March? I think we should be told.
So Ken Clarke is also banning the media from the question and answer sessions at his meetings, indeed in some cases they are banned from the whole meeting. It does not augur well for democracy in the Conservative Party when both candidates are scared of public exposure. How sad.
- Voting in the Leadership Election
Are we getting ourselves into a mess in the Leadership election? Consider the following:
(1) If you paid your subscription in January 2000 you are eligible to vote in the election, even if you have not renewed your subscription and so are no longer a member of the Conservative Party.
(2) If you paid your subscription in April 2001 and are thus a member of the Conservative Party you are not allowed to vote.
(3) If you paid a subscription of £30.00 for you and your wife in 2000 but reduced it to £20.00 in 2001 as you paid £100.00 to the fighting fund only you or your wife can vote but not both of you.
(4) If you paid a subscription of £10.00 in 1998 and reduced it to £5.00 in 1999 you are not entitled to vote, however under the amnesty that was declared by Jean Searle if you increased your subscription back to £10.00 in January 2000 you are entitled to vote.
(5) If you live in Scotland then the critical date for Founder membership is 1st November 1998 whereas in England Wales and Northern Ireland the critical date is 31st August 1998
(6) Of course if you are a Youth you pay £3.00, Unemployed £7.50 or a member of a Conservative Club £10.00. No doubt there are special rules if during the period between August 1998 and 28th March 2001 you changed categories.
(7) There are special rules for those paying by standing order. For example if you start paying £2.00 per month in December 2000 you will be eligible to vote even though at March 28th 2001 you will only have paid £8.00
Perhaps after the election we need to take another look at these complex rules. Why cannot the qualifying date be the date a Leader resigns, or the date nominations are asked for?
- Iain Duncan-Smith
Why are the media prevented from recording the question and answer sessions at Iain Duncan-Smith's meetings? Surely he is not scared of saying something unscripted?
One Member One Vote
A question was raised whether the first and second preference method of voting complied with One Member One Vote. (See letter to Sir Michael Spicer below.) We are assured on the highest authority that it does.
Was The Leadership Election Legal?
We have been advised by a prominent Barrister that the Party's Constitution does not give "the Executive of the 1922 Committee the power to exclude any candidate for the leadership from submission to the party, notwithstanding that the Parliamentary Party may have expressed their preferences in accordance with the rules determined by the 1922 Committee (in consultation with the Board)
As the administrative body responsible for the conduct of elections for leader, the 1922 Committee cannot assume power to determine any other matter other than the administrative rules for the conduct of elections. For example:
It cannot exclude from submission to the party at large, a candidate who has not secured a substantial endorsement from the Parliamentary Party.
"...choice of candidates..." is not to be the choice of the 1922 Committee. Choice is now to be exercised by Party members and Scottish Party members.
It cannot alter the substance of the Constitution - only the administrative rules for the conduct of elections for Leader."
Can anybody offer a second opinion or is this one more example of democracy being ignored.?
Sir Michael Spicer Replies
The Leadership Election 15th July
Letter sent to the Chairman of the 1922 committee:Sir Michael Spicer MP 14th July 2001
House of Commons,
London SW1A OAA.
Dear Sir Michael,
Many Party members are concerned about the ballot of Conservative MPs that will take place on Tuesday for the election of the Leader of the Party. It is now clear that the votes for all three candidates will be very close with no one candidate obtaining a majority of the votes.
It is also clear that many Party members will feel frustrated and disappointed if they are denied the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. 493 constituencies have no Conservative MP and have therefore been denied any voice in the process so far. A number of members have already threatened to resign from the Party if their candidate is eliminated on Tuesday. Potentially this disaffected group of members could be over 30% of the entire Party.
In these circumstances it seems that the right approach would be for all three candidates to be put to the membership. This could be done without a ballot on Tuesday or with the ballot on Tuesday being indicative only.
If all three candidates are put to the members of the Party then the members would be asked to show their 1st and 2nd preference votes. The candidate with the least number of 1st preference votes would have his 2nd preference votes redistributed to the other two candidates.
This approach would have the advantage of uniting the Party as it would be accepted by the Party as fair and would not have denied a substantial number of members the choice of voting for their preferred candidate. The other advantage is that it is wholly in accordance with the Party Constitution and could be adopted by a meeting of the Executive of the 1922 Committee on Monday or Tuesday morning. I am sure you are aware that there is nothing in the Party’s Constitution that says only two candidates should be put before the members.
We strongly urge you to adopt the above course of action as we fear that if we continue as at present great damage will be done to the Party and we believe that the Executive of the 1922 Committee has a responsibility to ensure that this does not happen.
JOHN E. STRAFFORD
CHAIRMANCopies: John Taylor(Acting Chairman), The candidates.
48 HOURS TO SAVE THE PARTY
The Campaign for Conservative Democracy are calling today for all three of the leadership candidates to be put to the entire membership of the Conservative Party in a postal ballot.
John Strafford, Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, has written to Sir Michael Spicer (Chairman of the Executive of the 1922 Committee) asking him to call a meeting of the Executive in order to change the rules and allow all three candidates to go forward
John Strafford said "Under the present system whereby one of the candidates will be eliminated on Tuesday, many members of the Party, perhaps over 30%, could be denied the dignity of voting for the candidate of their choice. These members will feel resentful and disappointed and many may resign their membership of the Party as a consequence." John Strafford asked all members of the Party to contact their Conservative MPs to demand that all three candidates are presented to them. In the 493 constituencies without a Conservative MP he asked that they contact John Taylor, the acting Chairman of the Party.
He went on "If all the candidates are put to the membership then this will unite the Party and the result would be accepted.
The MPs have a choice –
If only two candidates are put to the membership they will be signing the "Suicide Note" of the Conservative Party. If all three candidates are put to the membership they will "Save the Party" by being more democratic and it would unite the Party behind the new Leader."ENDS
NOTE TO EDITORS:
(1) Copy of letter to Sir Michael Spicer (See above)
(2) Copy of extract of relevant rules of the Conservative Party:
The relevant rules of the Conservative Party are as follows:
Election of leader
Upon the initiation of an election for a Leader, it shall be the duty of the 1922 Committee to present to the Party, as soon as reasonably practicable, a choice of candidates for election as Leader. The rules for deciding the procedure by which the1922 Committee selects candidates for submission for election shall be determined by the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee after consultation with the Board.5. If there is more than one candidate, the Leader shall be elected by the Party Members and Scottish Party Members by postal ballot on the basis of one member one vote.6. A candidate achieving more than 50% of the vote shall be declared elected Leader of the Party.8. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the rules for the conduct of the ballot or ballots of Party Members and Scottish Party Members shall be agreed by the Board and the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee.
FROM THE GRASS ROOTS
AFTER DEFEAT - WHERE NOW?
So we lost and lost disastrously, but every cloud has a silver lining and there is no reason why we cannot recover. We must learn the lessons of this crushing defeat. It may well take two Parliaments.
The main stumbling block appears to be Europe. The "Euro" and the forthcoming referendum (if it is ever held). There is no doubt that the Party is ‘split’ (like the Labour Party and possibly some Liberal Democrats). Our split is out in the open unlike that of the other Parties. And despite the efforts or Robin Cook (thank goodness he’s no longer Foreign Secretary), there are a number of prominent Eurosceptics in the Cabinet and they, of course, will make the final decision. It never ceases to amaze me how members of the present Government, including the Prime Minister, fought an election 18 years ago (1983) on a platform of complete withdrawal from the then Common Market. Their conversion must be one of the biggest somersaults in British history.
Our Party may not be able to come together until after any referendum. But everyone must realise that if a decision is made to join the Single Currency, it will be final and irrevocable. It will be no good saying, six months after joining, that we have made a mistake and now want no part of it. Michael Heseltine is surely right to say that those who favour joining should not be treated as ‘outcasts’ by the Party and that both sides should be able to campaign freely. In 1975, Harold Wilson’s Cabinet was ‘split’ with two thirds in favour of staying in and one third for coming out, and each faction campaigned accordingly. And this was from the Government!
Many of those who voted Labour on 7th June are not in favour of the ‘Euro’. But they did not consider it a top priority and were more concerned with things like the Health Service, schools, transport and housing. We placed far too much emphasis on Europe and we were not helped by Lady Thatcher’s interventions.
The whole Election was a bore and a complete ‘turn off’ even for those, such as myself, who are interested in politics. I did not watch any of the television debates or interviews and, from what I’ve read, our Party Election broadcasts were pretty dreadful. TheDaily Telegraph, a Conservative newspaper admittedly, gave me all the election news. I am a member of my local Association in the Vale of Glamorgan but I have yet to hear from any of the officers. In Cowbridge Town itself, I saw only seven posters – four Conservative, two Labour and one Liberal Democrat. When I went to vote, someone took my electoral number but as he (or she) was not wearing a rosette I could not tell to which Party they belonged. There were no cars with loudspeakers blaring: "Vote for Susie Inkin" and, as far as I could see, no attempt to ‘knock up’ supporters. The good thing was that our candidate fought a good campaign and succeeded in reducing the winning Labour MP’s majority from 10,500 to 4,700. The swing from Labour to Conservative was 4.6% which, it if had been repeated uniformly, would have given us 70 more seats. So my vote counted more than if I had remained in my previous and neighbouring Pontypridd constituency. Turn out fell sharply to 67%. But one would have been hard pressed to guess that an election was taking place.
One can see the problems our Party faces with a predominantly elderly membership. I received two leaflets from the Labour Party, one in an envelope marked ‘Electoral Communication’ with my computerised name, address and electoral number. From our Party, I had one leaflet pushed through my letter box. There is no doubt that we are failing to contact our present members and potential supporters and we must attract young people into the Party.
That over 40% of the electorate did not bother to vote and that only one in four actually supported the Government must give all Parties food for thought. Apathy was the winner in 2001. Those who voted were prepared to give Tony Blair and his team more time to deliver (and after only four years in office that is not surprising). Gordon Brown has proved a competent Chancellor (stealth taxes apart and to which I shall return later) and there has been no economic crisis which plagued previous Labour Governments.
The substantial drop in turn out suggests that many traditional Labour supporters withheld their support (probably believing that Labour has done more for its rich business supporters in the last four years) and many Conservatives stayed at home, unhappy with the harshness of our campaign, believing it to be too right wing and too extreme.
William Hague fought bravely against the odds but was probably right to resign In this day and age charisma and how you look on television matter more than anything. Hague was the subject of awful abuse about his image (as when interviewed by Jeremy Paxman). Perhaps the most hurtful was the jibe thrown two years ago by Tony Banks, the then Minister of Sport, who described Hague as a ‘foetus’. That was one of the most disgraceful remarks ever made by any politicians and may explain why Banks is not liked by many people. Such utterances are one of the reasons why many people are ‘turned off’ by politics and politicians.
The Party owed a great debt to William Hague who held the Party together after its most shattering defeat in 1997. In Tony Blair he was up against one of the most astute, media conscious politicians of the age and one who could always feel your pain. Hague’s good humour, his never failing optimism, his beliefs and core values, his love of Parliament and rigorous debate are attributes of which any politician would be proud. I’m sure he will be held in great affection by all sections of the Party – much in the same way as Sir Alec Douglas-Home was. There is no reason why he should not hold high office in a future Conservative administration. Persons of Hague’s talent should not be lost to the Party. At least he now has an opportunity for a period of rest and reflection and with his wife by his side will emerge the stronger for it.
Turning to the election results themselves, I think we need to get them into proper perspective. We were after all only 9.2% behind Labour, far better than some of the pools predicted. Our share of the total vote was 4% better than the Labour Party in its nadir year of 1983. Yet we finished with 43 seats less than they did that year (166 to 209). It is easy to see why. Labour has far more ‘safe’ seats than us – it has huge majorities in mining and inner city areas. Hence it can withstand huge ‘swings’ better. A 40% majority means that even a swing of 10% to us would still leave it a Labour seat with a 20% majority. Also the Conservatives are caught in a classic ‘pincer’ movement when, with only a moderate Tory majority, Liberal Democrat or Labour voters transfer in huge numbers to the Party that can beat us. This happened in Teignbridge this time round. The Conservative % actually increased from 39.2% to 39.3% compared with 1997, but the Labour % dropped from 18% to 12.4% and these votes were picked up by the Liberal Democrats who, consequently, won the seat. The result in neighbouring Torbay was even more disastrous. A Liberal Democrat majority of 12 increased to over 6,700. But why, oh why, was the Conservative Leader of Torbay Council allowed to go and fight a safe Labour seat in Merthyr Tydfil? (according to the local press). Should he have not been using all his efforts to win back the Devon constituency? We should not forget that, even at this election, when we lost seats to the Liberal Democrats, we did pick up two seats from them – Taunton and the Isle of Wight. In many seats there were small ‘swings’ to us but insufficient to give us any more seats, and we hold more seats with 50% of the vote than in 1997. There are still many Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginals and many Conservative/Labour marginals. But I do not deny that we do face an uphill task in 2005/2006. The Party needs to ask how Andrew Rossindell, winner in Romford, managed to achieve a 6,000 majority and a 9% swing to us (the biggest in the country)? Probably because he was local, well known and a hard worker in the constituency. There must be some lessons there. Professor Anthony King is surely right in saying that there is a percentage limit below which the Party will not fall (roughly 30%).
The pollsters must hang their heads (again) in shame. They confidently predicted a Labour lead of anything between 16% and 20% and in one bizarre case 26%. Some even suggested a 250+ majority for Labour.
The local elections in the shire counties were much better than those of the General Election. We gained overall control of a further six counties and threw three others into no overall control. We must continue to build up our local government base. Local councillors are the ‘backbone’ of any organisation and are responsible for spending money allotted by the Government. And, please, oh please, do not let the next Conservative Government anger councils by rate capping, poll taxes and general interference.
Labour managed to pull another rabbit out of the hat when it announced three days before polling the defection of former Treasury Minister and Conservative MP for Chichester, Anthony Nelson.
But it does show how the Labour Party has altered (and how we must do the same). A Party that can include millionaires like Shaun Woodward MP and Ivan Massow and at the same time retain the affection of Dennis Skinner MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP must be a coalition in the widest possible sense. In many ways, the Labour Party machine is responsible for the cynicism that many people feel today. When former Tory MPs are handed safe Labour seats and another former Tory MP is given a peerage in preference to many staunch Labour Party members who have given years of service for the cause in which they believe, many people feel contempt for the whole system.
A former General Secretary of the Labour Party in Wales, now dead, dismissed Tony Blair with the words ‘Liberal Tory’ and Leo Abse, the former Labour MP, complains of Blair’s ‘cult of personality’. But we are not loved and Jeffrey Archer’s recent trial has only served to remind people of Hague’s misjudgement in backing him as candidate for London Mayor and of the sleaze which corrupted the final years of John Major’s administration.
However, these are good times to be in Opposition. The move towards further European integration will continue apace and the Government faces a whole host of problems here at home. The election results in Northern Ireland have polarised the warring factions – contrary to what was promised in the Peace Agreement. The West and South of the Province now have Republican/Nationalist MPs (and we know Sinn Fein will not take its four seats at Westminster) whilst Unionism is confined to the North and East (and is shrinking all the time). We may laugh at Martin McGuinness but his prediction that Gerry Adams could, at some stage, become Northern Ireland’s First Minister in the not too distant future is far from fanciful. Sinn Fein are on the march and the Government (any Government) is powerless and can do little about it.
Here at home there are problems of recruitment in both Education and Health. We hear of people taking early retirement or leaving for better paid jobs elsewhere. There are transport problems, particularly in London. Tony Blair, much to the annoyance of the public sector unions, is talking about introducing private finance into both health and Education and if the reception accorded to Stephen Byers, the new Transport Secretary, as this week’s meeting of Union, is anything to go by, the Prime Minister is going to have his work cut out to placate these vested interests.
We have often seemed too harsh in our dealings with issues such as Health and Education. It is no good saying: "Private sector, great; public sector – bad". What matters is that our children are better educated and that hospital patients have the best treatment without having to wait a long time. The Government, in its desire to get a full second term, has ducked the hard choices. These will now have to be made and it will involve the shattering of some of Old Labour’s beliefs and principles.
At present the Government seems to believe that all these problems can be solved by simply pouring in more and more of the taxpayer’s money. If this does not work and the economy takes a downturn, then there will be what I would call a ‘crisis of expectation’. The Government has not ruled out changes in National Insurance contributions and it is easy to see why. It is going to need the money. The ‘Foot and Mouth’ crisis has not abated – I now read that Margaret Beckett, the new Rural Affairs Minister concedes matters should have been handled differently – and there will, no doubt, be compensation payments.
The meaning of the world ‘stealth taxes’ came home to me a month ago. As a self employed person, my weekly National Insurance stamp has, since April 2000, fallen from over £6 per week to £2 per week. I was delighted and pleased that the nice Mr. Gordon Brown had, through prudent management of the economy, done this. Little did I realise that what is called a National Insurance Surcharge, which was previously based on profits of over £7,000 or so, has now been reduced to the level of one’s basic Personal Allowance, in my case £4,385 and now starts at that point. This, I will have to find an extra £200 in January 2002 to make up for the ‘gain’ of £200 I have had through the lower weekly stamp.
Fortunately we do have time on our side and time to re-think our policies. More often than not, we seem to be out of tune with modern Britain and have been punished accordingly. Who would have thought that, 20 years after splitting with the Labour Party, the Gang of Four now have a Social Democrat Prime Minister with a second unassailable majority? People tend to forget that between 1945 and 2000 there were, in fact, four Labour Governments and four Labour Prime Ministers. The pendulum will eventually swing back to us but it will take time. There can be no ‘Quick Fix’.
Let us all heed the words of that great American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said at the height the Depression, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself".
Letter published in "The Times" - 12th JuneThe Editor, The Times 10th June 2001
1 Pennington Street,
London E98 1TA.
Sir Michael Latham is quite right in saying that the Conservative Party needs to rebuild from scratch (letter June 9, see also letter, June 11). The first opportunity that the party will get to start that rebuilding will be the election of the leader.
At present the parliamentary party decides which candidates should be put to the membership for election. In a democratic Party the whole Party including MPs and members should have the opportunity to vote for whichever candidate they wish.
The present system is a recipe for division, whereas a leader elected by the whole Party from an unrestricted choice would unite it.
By changing the election process the parliamentary party would demonstrate that it has abandoned the arrogance that has cost us two general elections
JOHN E. STRAFFORD
Did Amanda Platell sign a confidentiality agreement? If not why not? If so why did the Party not take out an injunction to stop her broadcast? (In the event it did not live up to the hype)
All the candidates in the Leadership election have web sites. That's good. However look at Ken Clarke's and there is no telephone number or a fax number. look at Michael Portillo's and try and send a fax to the number shown and you find that it is wrong. His correct one is shown on his letterhead. Are not politicians supposed to be good at communication?
House of Lords Reform
Is Ken Clarke backing down on House of Lords reform? We thought that he supported a wholly elected House of Lords. Have the vested interests got to him?
The total number of postal votes cast in Northern Ireland during the General election was 24,000 of which 15,000 were cast in Fermanagh. What was that about Vote Early, Vote Often? The Ulster Unionists lost the seat by 55 votes.
The Leadership Election 8th July
- One Member One Vote
Edward Mcmillan Scott(Leader of the Conservative MEPs) believes that the MEPs should be included in the select group that produce the short list for the Leadership election.
A Conservative front bench spokesman believes that the House of Lords should be included.
It is argued that Councillors should be included.
All this is reminiscent of the Hague reforms. All the vested interests fighting for their own position. This is why the reforms failed. The right approach is One Member One Vote for all members of the Party and all the candidates to be presented to them for election.
- Chairman of the 1922 committee
Sir Michael Spicer responds to the request for all the candidates to be put to the whole Party for election. See below.
Lord Ashcroft farewell dinner.
Did somebody say at the dinner "The most important thing for the Party to do is to get rid of constituency autonomy, even better get rid of the Constituency Associations and run everything from the Central Office."
Would Amanda Platell explain in her forthcoming TV programme why there was no follow up after the "12 days to Save the Pound" campaign was launched.
We hear that the network has been put "On ice" and the organiser has left Central Office. The Conservative Policy Forum has not functioned for months. What happened to the Summer School that we were promised? the Head of the Party's web site has left. Is it not time to reform the whole Party?
Election Turn out
It is said that the election turn out was the lowest since 1918. What is not pointed out is that in 1918 14% of the seats were not contested. If this was taken into account the turn out would have been 51% on a comparable basis. The lowest turn out ever! Have the politicians learnt anything from this? Judging from their decision to award themselves a pay increase in some cases in excess of the Salary Review Board recommendations the answer must be No.
Is it true that the foot and mouth virus was stolen from the Porton Down establishment in December 2000? I think we should be told.
The Leadership Election (1st July)
- The Party Board
We understand that the Party Board were so worried that only one name would be put forward to the membership that they sent specific instructions to the Executive of the 1922 committee saying that this would be unacceptable.
- Michael Ancram
It is reported that Michael Ancram has set up his campaign headquarters in the offices of Yellow M. Were they not the advertising campaign managers for the Conservative Party in the General election?
- Michael Portillo
We are told that Tim Yeo is writing to all the members of his Association telling them why he is supporting Michael Portillo. Who pays the costs of this.? Is it the local Association? I hope not, otherwise what about the other candidates? Will it come out of his parliamentary allowance? I hope not for this is not parliamentary business. Will it be paid out of Michael Portillo's campaign funds, or will it be paid by Tim Yeo. Interesting questions!
John Butterfill replies.
Of the three candidates for election to the chairmanship of the 1922 committee only John Butterfill has so far had the courtesy to reply. Unfortunately he does not understand the rules for election of the Leader. Under these rules it is possible for a candidate with only three votes by the parliamentary Party to go on to be elected by the membership as Leader. Precisely the problem he is trying to avoid by having the Parliamentary Party reduce the number of candidates to two.
The Leadership Election
- Open letter to the Chairman Elect of the Executive of the 1922 Committee.
Dear Chairman Elect,
On behalf of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy we would request that at the first meeting of the Executive of the 1922 Committee you put the following motion on to the Agenda:
"That to ensure that there is genuine democracy by which we determine the will of the majority of the members of the Conservative Party, all candidates for election as Leader of the Party should be put to all members of the Party for determination by secret ballot."
John E. Strafford
- Michael Ancram
This week Michael Ancram attended a meeting of the Party Board. We understand that the Board fixed the timetable for the election choosing the final date of the ballot in mid September, giving plenty of time for those candidates not so well known to build up their campaign. Why the Board should intervene at this stage when the responsibility for the election rests with the Executive of the 1922 Committee is a mystery. However two days after the meeting Michael Ancram announced that he was a candidate for the Leadership. Did he declare his interest at the Board meeting? I think we should be told.
- David Davis
David Davis states that he wants the whole parliamentary Conservative Party to be involved in the development of policy. Fine but what about the ordinary members of the Party? Are they still to be regarded as fodder to crawl out of the trenches at election time or are they going to be treated as equals in the Party and have an input into the development of policy? His statement sounds just a bit like the old parliamentary Party which treated the voluntary Party with contempt. There is still time for him to clarify his position and we hope, put the record straight.
- The lost votes!
If the Parliamentary Party persists in the present procedure for electing the Leader we already know that members of the Party that support two of the candidates will not be allowed the dignity of voting for the candidate of their choice. And this is called democracy?
- The Lost candidates!
There are many members of the Conservative Party that would like to choose a Leader elected to Parliament in 1997 so that there is a complete break from the past. Andrew Lansley has been named, but under the ridiculous system whereby the Parliamentary Party eliminate all candidates but one or two his chances are virtually nil of making the last round. The truth of the matter is that MPs first consideration is "What is in it for me?" and only the old lags know how to work the system to advantage. Once again the members of the Conservative Party will be deprived of voting for the candidate of their choice.
Election of Leader
Under the Party Constitution Schedule 2 para 3 it states "The rules for deciding the procedure by which the 1922 Committee selects candidates for submission for election shall be determined by the Executive of the 1922 committee after consultation with the Board". In view of this the 1922 committee executive at its first meeting should decide that all candidates for the election as Leader should be put directly to the members of the Party including MPs for election on the basis of One Member One Vote.
The Five Democratic TestsLetter published in "The Times" May 22 2001
1 Pennington Street,
London E98 1TA
The Labour Party states in its manifesto that five economic tests must be met before the United Kingdom joins the Euro. May I suggest that there are five tests of democratic accountability which must be met before there is any further integration into the European Union.
Democracy is the process by which you determine the will of the majority and in a representative democracy the people must have the ability through the ballot box to determine their representatives, with each person’s vote being of equal value. Information, transparency and debate are essential.
In order to meet these criteria the five tests are as follows:
1) If the Commission is to be part of the legislative process then the people of Europe should directly elect its members. If it is not to be part of that process, it should act like the Civil Service, under instruction from the Council of Ministers and have no formal powers.2) The Council of Ministers should meet and debate in open session.3) The closed party list system of proportional representation for election to the European Parliament must be abolished because it denies the people the ability to get rid of particular representatives. An electoral system must be chosen which meets the democratic criteria.4) Each Member of the European Parliament should represent a similar number of people.5) The meetings of the European Central Bank should be held in open session with the Council of Ministers or Parliament having the power to instruct or dismiss one or all of the directors of the Bank.
JOHN E. STRAFFORD
Can William Hague expel John Townend MP from the Conservative Party?
Lord Taylor called on William Hague to expel John Townend MP from the Conservative Party, "The Conservative Party cannot contain Townend and people like me", April 30), but William Hague does not have the power to do this. Under the Party’s Constitution, the Leader of the Party would have to refer the matter to the Ethics and Integrity Committee. They having "regard to the rules of natural justice" would report their determination to the Party Board. The Board may suspend membership whilst the matter is being determined.
Any person who is aggrieved by the determination of the Ethics and Integrity Committee shall have the right of appeal, and such determination shall not be implemented until the appeal has been finally disposed of.
In the case of John Townend MP and the question of expulsion it is highly unlikely that the process, taking account of natural justice, would be concluded before the General Election. In any case what would be the grounds for expulsion? Specifically under the Constitution "disagreement with the policies of the Party shall not constitute conduct likely to bring the Party into disrepute. The Ethics and Integrity Committee shall refuse to entertain any case which it considers to be based on policy disputes."
The case would, therefore, rest on John Townend’s use of language, but was his language illegal, i.e. incitement to violence. If so, then a criminal prosecution would be the appropriate course and if he was found guilty no doubt that would weigh heavily in the Committee’s determination, but were this not the case then expelling a member because you did not like what they said would be an attack on free speech – a fundamental principle which the Conservative Party has fought long and hard to preserve.
Overheard in the Committee Room
- "Do you know that the average age of the ladies stuffing the envelopes was 81"
- "All the tellers that I used at the polling station at the last election are now dead"
- "We cannot man every polling station because we no longer have the members"
Many polling stations were unmanned with the result that some people were called three or four times on election day even though they had voted in the morning. In some cases no attempt was made to find tellers. Our organisation needs a complete overhaul.
Lessons of the Election - A message to the Leader
- William Hague has got to show some anger. When people ask a particularly offensive question he should fire back at them and not just smile and laugh it off. By showing controlled political anger he will demonstrate that he feels passionately about his beliefs.
- It is no longer credible to keep on saying that we will keep the pound for the next parliament only. We do not say this in relation to any other policy. It is crunch time. We either risk losing some Europhile MPs or the Election. It is make your mind up time.
- Now that the result of the Election is beginning to revolve around Europe we must widen the argument on to the issue of freedom and democracy generally. This means "Five democratic tests for Europe". See "The Times" letters 22nd May. A Wholly elected House of Lords. A truly democratic Conservative Party. Democracy in Northern Ireland, we could start this one by William Hague going to Northern Ireland and giving support to the Conservative candidates there.
- The Conservatives should stop using smear tactics such as stating as fact that petrol under Labour will go up to £6.00 per gallon. The electorate are not stupid.
- In a similar vein we do not need to resort to these tactics by saying Labour will increase the tax rate to 50%. We know Labour use these tactics but the Conservative Party should be above this kind of thing.
- The Silent Ones - Members of the Shadow Cabinet that seem to be having a holiday. Andrew Mackay, Gary Streeter, Angela Browning. Where are they?
- Congratulations to Peter Ainsworth, David Amess and Anthony Steen for having the fastest response to E mails sent to them.
Church and Politics
Who authorised a Church of England Bishop to act as chairman and organiser
of The South West Convention to debate the merits of regional government for
the area and before the conference appear on Radio Four promoting the merits
of regional government?
Is the Church of England now officially promoting the break up of the United
Kingdom and will other clerics follow suit in organising regional
conventions to recommend referendums for directly elected assemblies?
of The South West Convention to debate the merits of regional government for
the area and before the conference appear on Radio Four promoting the merits
of regional government?
Is the Church of England now officially promoting the break up of the United
Kingdom and will other clerics follow suit in organising regional
conventions to recommend referendums for directly elected assemblies?
The Party Manifestos
The best manifesto by far, in terms of presentation is the Conservative's. In terms of detailed content and theme the Liberal Democrats come out top, although a lot of their ideas are crackpot.
The worst by far in terms of content, presentation and ideas is the Labour Party's. What a stroke of luck for them that the press ignored it for other matters.
The South East Development Agency is now developing partnership relations with regions around the World, starting with local representatives in East and West Coast USA and Japan; and so bureaucracy expands. Thank goodness the Conservatives are going to abolish these nightmares.
If a former MP standing for re election uses the designation MP on his/her web site is he/she breaking the law?
Question for the Electoral Commission
Many MPs used their expense allowance to create their web site. If they now use their web site for campaigning do they have to show the cost as an electoral expense, or return the money, or show the House of Commons as a donor?
The BBC news is showing its election coverage under the slogan "Vote 2001". This could be seen as an exhortation. Everybody knows that the Conservatives are likely to do better in an election with a low turnout. The BBC should stop showing this slogan and revert to the one used by "Newsnight" which is more neutral - "Election 2001"
William Hague "Make your Stamp"
We are told that in 1998 three bright young men at Central Office (Robbie Gibb, Michael Simmons and Andrew Cooper) told William Hague that to make his stamp on politics he should do three big things. They were
(a) Arrange a high profile expulsion from the Conservative Party. Did they have Jeffrey Archer in mind? It happened, but later, so no kudos to William, something he now regrets not doing?
(b) Resign from the Carlton Club over its ridiculous attitude to women. Has he renewed his subscription? Why does he not say "I am not prepared to be a member of such a club, and I hope no members of the Shadow Cabinet remain members and I hope that no Conservative MPs will remain members while it continues with this ridiculous attitude to women". If he did that how long do you think it would be before the Carlton changed its mind, and if it did not "Goodbye"
(c) Have a wholly elected House of Lords. This would demonstrate a belief in democracy, or is he afraid of the Tory peers? Put it in the Manifesto William!
Have I missed something?
On checking with the Electoral Commission I see that the Treasurer of the Conservative Party is now David Prior. What happened to Michael Ashcroft? That is the trouble with appointments. They come and go and the poor bloody members are none the wiser. If we cannot communicate with the Party membership what hope have we got of communicating with the electorate.April 29th
Tories Win General Election by Default!
Last week the Government announced that they had spent £62,000,000 on advertising. It is quite clear that a significant proportion of this is of direct benefit to the Labour Party. The expenditure has been referred to Sam Younger - the Chairman of the Electoral Commission. He took the view that as there were strict limits on how much the Government could spend during a referendum campaign similar criteria should apply in a General Election. In his view approximately 10% of the money spent by the Labour Government fell into the category of party political expenditure. On the basis of the first quarters expenditure of £62,000,000 the whole year expenditure would amount to £248,000,000. 10% of this amounts to £24,000,000. Unfortunately for the Labour Party the maximum that is allowed for them to spend in the General Election is £18,000,000. They have therefore already overspent by £6,ooo,ooo.
The Chairman of the Electoral Commission has decided that rather than declare the Election null and void, in view of this direct contempt of the law the Labour Party will be fined £6,000,000 and will not be allowed to spend any further money at all during the General Election campaign. As the Labour Party is all spin and no substance it is thought that without any advertising this will allow the Tory Party to sweep the board in the Election. If only!
Now that there are cases of suspected "foot and mouth" disease in humans will the Government enforce a cull of all human beings within 3 miles of any suspected cases?
When will the bumbling bureaucrats of the Bucks. County Council demolish the ridiculous road traffic pinch in Fulmer Road, Gerrards Cross. There have already been two accidents involving injury at this pinch. The residents did not want it in the first place. What has happened to democracy? The people of Buckinghamshire wanted the County to be abolished and a unitary authority at district level to be put in its place. Only the intervention of Lord Carrington stopped this from going ahead. Another reason for having an elected House of Lords!
British Justice - a partial victory.(2)
(See story below) On April 20th John Archibald the rapist was jailed for three years at Reading Crown Court. The Judge said that as a result of adverse press coverage no social services accommodation could be found for him.
To the media who picked this story up from this web site and to those that publicised the story "Thank you" The husband of the victim was threatened in court by the rapist's brother. Let us hope that the police take action to ensure that no further damage is done to the victim or her family.
Commission for Racial Equality
Is it not time that the Conservative Party promised to abolish this quango along with all the other quangos that have proliferated over the last few years. Nothing but trouble seems to emanate from the Commission. We should work on the basis that there is only one race and that is "The Human Race". All are equal.
A corrupt General Election?
Last year the "Representation of the People Act 2000" was passed. What does this Act do?
- We can all vote by post and there are effectively no controls on these postal votes. The notes on the new Act say "Postal votes should be treated as valid even if not returned in the official envelope or if the ballot paper and the Declaration of Identity are returned separately. You can obtain as many ballot papers as you like. You can have another ballot paper if you lose the first one.
- No proof of citizenship is required. No proof of residence is required either. The homeless can register by giving a park bench as their address.
- The Act allows people in mental institutions a vote. This contravenes an ancient principle of English law that those diagnosed as mentally ill cannot vote.
Charles Wardle MP has had the Conservative whip withdrawn for supporting an Independent candidate for the General Election. Quite right too. On the other hand Christopher Gill MP, whose membership of the Conservative Party has lapsed and who has stated that he will be addressing meetings of the United Kingdom Independence Party still has the Conservative whip. Why?
The Gravy Train adds more carriages
The Local Government Association Labour Group has recommended that school governors be paid £32.00 per day plus travel expenses, plus paid time off for up to six days per year. This is how the gravy train always starts. You start with modest allowances and then you end up with obscenely high payments. What ever happened to public service? It was strangled to death by Labour.
Why is it that when Labour are canvassing in areas where there is a strong Lib-Dem presence, not only do they ask which Party you will vote for but which Party is your second choice. Is this to determine which seats are to be targeted for tactical voting?
The Conservative Party has made sympathetic noises to IT consultants about IRS 35. Why doesn't it do something to help small Sub-contractors in the construction industry? For example many Sub-contractors spend days travelling around the country showing their CIS certificate in person to each Main contractor. We could introduce the Irish system which says "Where the Main Contractor undertakes to make all Relevant contract payments due to the Sub-contractor into the nominated bank account the Sub-contractor need not produce the tax certificate in person.
Occasionally one hears a story which makes one question your whole faith in British justice. The following is one such story. If you feel strongly about it contact your MP and ask him to take action.
John Archibald was convicted of raping a terminally ill woman in a Chalfont nursing home in November last year. Sentencing was adjourned for the fifth time on March 16th so that his defence team could prepare psychological reports which could result in Archibald being kept in the care of the social services. His defence counsel told the judge that a place was being looked for in a hostel where social services would be his guardian. Effectively Buckinghamshire County Council will be lumbered with looking after him in a house which seems a pretty strange punishment for such a serious crime.
The victim's family has been under enormous strain. The victim's mother was so shocked after reading court transcripts that she died from a heart attack. Archibald is due back at Reading Crown Court on April 20th for sentencing and an appeal against his conviction has been lodged with the High Court.
What message does this send to criminals and how do you console a victim in such a case?
Christopher Gill MP - Should he be kicked out?
Christopher Gill MP has announced that he is no longer a member of the Conservative Party. He states however that "I will continue to take the Conservative whip". Who does he think he is? How have Central Office reacted? A spokesman said "Chris Gill has not resigned the Conservative whip and as far as we're concerned he's still a Conservative MP. You do not have to be a member of the party to be an MP". Hasn't any body told Central Office that we now have a Party Constitution? It states under Schedule 6 section 3 "A Member of Parliament, Member of the European Parliament, Councillor or Member of a Regional Assembly or any candidate for any such office shall be a Party member."
After the debacle regarding Neil Hamilton MP we thought this had been sorted out. Christopher Gill MP should be unceremoniously kicked out of the Parliamentary Party forthwith.
Jack Straw MP - Labour efficiency.
On 2nd February Caroline Strafford wrote to the Home Secretary about the undermanning of Thames Valley Police. South Bucks. has had a spate of bank robberies and an appalling rape in recent times. There is therefore real concern in the community about the level of serious crime. The MP for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve asked Jack Straw if he would copy him in on the reply to Caroline Strafford. What has The Home Secretary's reaction been? So far he hasn't even acknowledged the letter, let alone replied to it. If he cannot do his job, he should resign, forthwith!
FROM THE GRASS ROOTS - April
"Will he? Won’t he?" This seems to be the burning topic of the day. I am, of course, referring to Tony Blair’s decision as to whether he should go for a General Election on Thursday, May 3 or postpone it until mid June or even October. This weekend is ‘D’ Day. Will he stick to his original intention (which with a year left of his mandate could only be for Party advantage and the convenience of New Labour) or will he try and resolve the ‘foot and mouth’ crisis which has been the most devastating blow to the farming and rural communities in the last 50 years? As I write (March 28) there are over 700 cases of ‘f & m’, large areas are under siege and a mass slaughter of animals whether infected or not is taking place. To quote the late Harold Macmillan again, a ‘little local difficulty’ has been overtaken by ‘events’. How Labour reacts and the measures it takes may well be the defining moment of the Blair Premiership. The omens are not good – many Labour MPs are unsympathetic to rural concerns and feel that farmers and those dependent on the farming industry should be treated in the same way as miners and steelworkers i.e. made redundant. To put it bluntly – they see farmers as rich, oversubsidised parasites in society. The crisis has meant that those making last month’s headlines are no longer in the limelight but for all that they still attract our attention. The rumours surrounding Keith Vaz will not abate and he is to be subject to another investigation. Geoffrey Robinson who may (or may not have received £200,000 as Chairman of one of the late Robert Maxwell’s companies is still in the news if only because the amount in question may have been the result of a ‘dodgy’ accounting method. (And, you can be sure, there are plenty of these). And what of Peter Mandelson? It now appears he may have been ‘hounded’ out of office because both Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell may have panicked before investigating the matter more thoroughly. However, it does seem that the subsequent enquiry may have been a ‘whitewash’ reminiscent more of American politics. Remember Richard Nixon’s "There can be no whitewash at the White House" in 1973 when the biggest ‘cover up’ in US history was taking place. Apart from the Chancellor’s ‘give away’ Budget the only thing of note has been the Lord Chancellor touting for donations to the Labour Party. And no apology will be forthcoming from the noble Lord who does not believe he has done anything wrong. (Perhaps the Lord Chancellor is a political figure, I don’t know).
Let me now turn to that forgotten part of the United Kingdom – Northern Ireland. In today’s paper I see the headline "Terrorists on the run go free". Apparently, this is in order to make the decommissioning of weapons more acceptable to the IRA. According to one Sinn Fein member it is a ‘step in the right direction’. It seems to me that all the British Government is doing is to ‘give, give, give’ all the time in the hope that something will turn up. The IRA would not regard them as terrorists anyway – more like freedom fighters. And the policy is driving more and more of the moderate Unionists into the hands of the extremists. David Trimble’s majorities in recent Ulster Unionist council meetings have been minuscule. The only thing the IRA (whether Real, Provisional or whatever) is interested in is getting the British out of Northern Ireland. Any compromise would be tantamount to surrender.
‘Race’ has always been a difficult problem for the Conservative Party and I note that William Hague has had to slap down one John Townend MP for making a speech extolling Anglo Saxon values (whatever these are). In the last 40 years we have welcomed to these shores many faces but mainly West Indians and Asians. In many cases they were given menial tasks to do (because we ourselves did not want to do them) and they brought with them their own culture and customs. They naturally wanted to live together in their own communities and amongst their own kith and kin. Who can blame them? If I were going to reside in another country I myself would want to mix with people with whom I had something in common. The problem has been of our own making – we let them live in poor quality housing in the inner cities and, as a consequence, ghettos of squalor were formed. When I first began my training I was supervised by two Asian gentlemen, a little older than me, who were themselves in the process of qualifying. And I can honestly say that they were two of the nicest people I have ever met and they helped me enormously. Under Mohammed Riaz’s supervision, I took my first trial balance and prepared my first set of accounts. I am all for being patriotic and believing in the values of your own country but the Conservative Party will do itself few favours if it ever plays the ‘race’ card – it will lose more votes than it gains and could never claim to be a Party for all the people (which has been its greatest strength over the last 200 years).
Every few weeks we read as to how badly the party is doing in the polls and to be prepared for another ‘wipe out’ in the General Election. It was good to note the recent result in a local council by-election in my ward:
Liberal Dem. 4%
Admittedly the turn out was very low – 30% but it was a ‘real’ result. When I went to vote there were plenty of Conservatives around, sporting their blue rosettes, and eager to take my electoral number. Incidentally this was the first time in 30 years voting Conservative that my chosen candidate had topped the poll, although in my former constituency the ‘ratepayer’ candidate, to whom I gave my support, often did. The Conservatives will, I think, run Labour fairly close in the General Election without actually winning the seat although if the council by-election ‘swing’ were to be repeated then it would change hands.
Two television programmes in the last week have attracted my attention. The first was the series on the ‘rise and fall of the middle classes’. As we all know the 1944 Butler Education Act provided free schooling for all children and that three types of school – grammar, secondary modern and technical – were introduced. The 11+ examination creamed off the top 20% and gave them grammar school places. But because the system was now open to clever working class children, it meant that many middle class children could not get into grammar school and many middle class parents were unable to accept the fact that their Rosemary was not as good as working class Jenny down the road. Hence many of the middle classes were enthusiasts for the comprehensive system. For many of the middle classes a good education was a step on the road not only to a good job but also to a higher social status. This was necessary if one was to compete with those who had gone to a public (i.e. private) school, left untouched by the 1944 Act. The programme was interesting because it examined people’s motives and the reasons by the parents had made certain choices for their child’s education, many admitting that they were taking advantage of a system which they themselves regarded as ‘divisive’ i.e. private education.
The second programme ‘Teachers’ shown on a Wednesday night with a repeat the following Monday is certainly not a programme for the prude. One could say it almost solely consists of the two s’s (sex and swearing). It led me to wonder and to conclude that in all probability the events portrayed were all too typical of an inner city comprehensive school where the teachers were almost as unruly as their pupils and where the word ‘discipline’ is totally alien. I ask myself whether we are in fact in the process of creating an ‘underclass’ who, despite all the talk of full employment, have no real chance of getting a worth-while, rewarding job and of playing their full part is society. Is their only reward going to be a state benefit handed out by an official from the Social Security Office?
Some say to me "Why do you support the Conservatives? They are the Party of the rich and powerful" As I have said in past articles it is as much ‘attitude’ as anything else. And over the centuries the Conservatives have had their fair share of reformers – William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury to name but two. Since the Second World War Conservative governments have continued to try and ensure that all sections of society have benefited from increased prosperity, but without the overweening power of state control and state interference. And I am a child of the Fifties and early Sixties when the Conservatives were in power.
The Conservatives, now we are out of office, have a great opportunity for radical thinking on a number of issues, including health and education. The fact that William Hague’s recent pronouncements on free schools have been rubbished by the Government shows we have touched a raw nerve. But would they be of any good in the ‘teachers’ scenario I have outlined above?
Whatever the outcome of the General Election (and we must accept that if we poll only 31% of the vote again it will be a bad, bad result) we must continue to broaden our base and to produce policies attractive and acceptable to an increasingly volatile electorate. I do not accept that because we may have seemingly lurched to the right we cannot be elected. The reasons are far more complex. We were in power for 18 consecutive years and have been in opposition for only four. Unlike previous Labour governments, the present one has not had to cope with an economic crisis. People have not forgotten the events of September 1992 when we were forced out of the ERM and used up a lot of our reserves in an attempt to stay in. We are still tainted by ‘sleaze’ and the memories of the slow and painful disintegration of John Major’s Government. Time is a great healer but as W.F Deedes pointed out in his recent column in the Daily Telegraph, after their great defeat in 1906 it was 10 years before the Conservatives joined the War Cabinet in 1916. We have no divine right to rule. After their great debacle in June 1983, who would have foreseen that 14 years later, Labour (and let’s forget the word ‘New’) would achieve a landslide and the biggest majority in its history?
To his credit William Hague has always believed it would be a long haul. It is a pity some of his colleagues do not have the same view. I only hope a sensible strategy is being adopted to recover some of the seats lost and (to quote Neil Kinnock!)
"1997! NEVER, EVER AGAIN!"
Constituency Fight Back
There are signs that some Constituency Associations are beginning to resent the control freak tendencies of Conservative Central Office. One Association is proposing to amend its rules at its Annual General Meeting as follows: "Each Branch shall elect officers who are PARTY MEMBERS paying their annual membership fee directly to this Association"
What about those members who pay directly to Central Office? Why are they being excluded? Is this not a breach of the Party's constitution?
Now is not the time to get involved in internal Party arguments, but immediately after the General Election there should be a comprehensive review of the Party Reforms. They clearly have not worked. Watch this web site!
All political Parties are now playing politics with the possible date of the General Election depending as to whether they see advantage or disadvantage in postponing the date from May 3rd. Is it not time that we had a fixed term between elections so that no undue advantage is given to the Party in power? Which Party Leader has the courage to propose it?
Out of Touch
A spokesman for the Prime Minister Tony Bliar said "polls would be held on May 3 as voters could cast postal votes and much canvassing was done on the phone. Nobody has told him that nearly everybody under the age of 45 has now got a mobile phone and has abandoned land lines, so telephone surveys are now skewed towards the elderly. We are surprised that the Labour Party did not realise this as they have allocated part of their advertising budget specifically to sending text messages to mobile phones. Has the Conservative Party done the same? The difficulty at the moment with mobile phones is that there is no comprehensive directory so there is an element of pot luck in whom you are contacting, but this could change!
We are continuously told by the media that people do not turn up to political meetings anymore. Imagine our surprise then when seeing an advertisement in the "Guardian" on Monday advertising a meeting on "E Politics" to be told on Tuesday morning that it was sold out!
The Institute of Chartered Accountants has taken an advertisement in the "House" magazine. Its new Secretary General has well and truly entered the political arena. I wonder if the members of this august Institute realise that according to the Secretary General the Institute has "long been committed to regionalisation."
"The creation of the Regional Development Agencies with their focus on regional economic development and improved competitiveness has been a step in the right direction."
"Chartered Accountants are dedicated to ensuring that the profession is able to build upon its strong relationships with regional government and local business forums."
To those Chartered Accountants that are opposed to the whole concept of more government this will all come as a surprise. Some of them think that it is a waste of money advertising in the "House " magazine and it might be better concentrating on being a profession rather than a political lobby group. The truth is that Chartered Accountants are now seen as over paid blood sucking leeches on industry and society. What a sad change has come over what at one time was a highly respected profession.
Hinduja Brothers and Wafic Said - the question to be asked.
Once again the power, money, influence and access storm clouds are gathering over the British political landscape. Much has been made about the intelligence services knowledge about the Hinduja brothers, but this knowledge was in the public domain. As long ago as 1993 the following was printed in a business magazine:
"Last year, the Hinduja family name was tainted with the whiff of scandal. Two of the clan's brothers appeared on a state prosecutor's report on the Bofors Scandal in which the eponymous Swedish weapons manufacturer stood accused of doling out bribes to secure £513 million Indian Army weapons contract.
Conservative Central Office has refused to confirm Hinduja donations to the Party, but Jeffrey Archer, the Conservative fund-raiser does recall them as "big givers" at Tory fund raising events."
The same magazine also talks about Wafic Said who was British Aerospace's agent in Saudi Arabia which was in the middle of the £60 billion Al Yamanah arms deal. It says "Everyone from the Saudi Royal family itself, to Wafic Said has denied giving money to the Tories. However in Middle Eastern political circles, almost without exception. senior people believe that the Tory Party has received funds - discreetly and indirectly - from the Saudis."
One of the mysteries of the 1980's was what happened to the commission on the Al Yamanah deal. Traditionally 10% commission was paid on arms deals.
There is no evidence that favours were purchased in these cases, but is it just coincidence that now the Labour Party is in power they appear to have the same contacts?. The question that should be asked is "What amounts of money have the Hinduja brothers and Wafic Said given to the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties and when was the money given"?
If there was genuine democratic accountability in our political parties perhaps we would already know the answer to the question.
Parliamentary Boundary Review
The Parliamentary Boundary Review is now sitting and the Quota for an English or Scottish constituency is 69,934. For a Welsh constituency it is 55,812. Why does your vote count for more if you live in Wales than if you live in England or Scotland? Those who wish to destroy democracy first of all distort it.
The National Spring Forum
This was a great weekend for the Conservative Party. By the Sunday morning everything came together and the workers left Harrogate uplifted, motivated and determined to win the General election. All is to play for. Well done to everybody involved. The following points and observations are minor in comparison to the overwhelming feeling that this weekend had been something rather special.
- Friday evening started the weekend in uplifting mood. For the first time ever the bars were full of MPs, MEPs, professionals and voluntary workers, all mixing together. This was truly "One Party" On previous occasions the Friday evening was pretty dull. Not this one. We should make this happen every time.
- Scrap the "One minute please sessions. These are not "quick fire" but more like "quick froth".
- Scrap the "summing up" session on Saturday afternoon. We have just heard it all so why repeat it?
- The coffee arrangements in the Conference centre were appalling. Huge queues in the middle of Saturday afternoon, no coffee at the end of the session and no coffee at the end of the Sunday session, just when many people want one before setting off for a long journey home.
- Michael Ashcroft never turned up so a Party Treasurer has still not chaired a session. No reason was given for his non appearance.
- The dinner was an unmitigated disaster. William Hague was not there. He should have been. Michael Portillo was observed working the tables and the bar afterwards.
- Richard Whiteley and a folk group with Michael Ancram were the entertainment. If we want to be entertained we will pay to see what we want. The whole thing reminded me of a school talent contest where because someone wants to make a fool of himself he gets cheered. Do not encourage them.
- The dinner used to be a semi formal occasion with speeches, some light hearted, some serious. It started to go downhill when Gyles Brandreth was the guest speaker. It is time to change it back. Why cannot they use this occasion to make presentations? It should be a highlight, not a low point. The location is also pretty disastrous. As one MP said "It is like eating in a National Car Park", and that just about sums it up! At £45.00 per ticket we can surely do better.
Row over policy on Northern Ireland.
For a long time the Party hierarchy have been totally out of touch in their approach to Northern Ireland. Nobody that believes in democracy can stand idly by and watch as the United Kingdom is broken up and democracy is discarded in Northern Ireland. It comes as no surprise that at last the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Area Council has written to Constituency Chairmen explaining what is happening in the Province. How sad that John Taylor has been pushed into replying on behalf of the very Establishment that has got it so wrong. We print the correspondence below in the confidence that once again, as in the past the "grass roots" of the Conservative Party will give their whole hearted backing to the brave Conservatives in Northern Ireland.
Candidates for election to the Party Board
The cat was well and truly put amongst the pigeons when the CVs of the candidates for election to the Party Board and National Vice President were sent out. The election is next Saturday in Harrogate. Richard Stephenson had on his CV testimonials from John Major MP, Steve Norris, and Baroness Blatch. There were complaints from the other candidates, but it was too late. What does this mean for future elections? Will we have a long list of MPs backing their own particular favourite? Why do we not, in any case have the MPs attending the National Convention in their own right? After all we are now one Party, aren't we? It is time the National Convention was given a thorough overhaul. At the moment it is a rubber stamp for the Establishment. After the General Election it will be time to genuinely reform the Conservative Party and make it truly democratic and one unified Party. The reforms so far are half-baked and have not worked.Update February 27th
Don Porter(one of the candidates for National Vice President), has asked us to point out that he is totally relaxed about Richard Stephenson having testimonials on his CV. At no stage has he objected to this and he believes that Richard is entitled to do what he has done. We are grateful to Don for putting the record straight and apologise to him for giving the misleading impression that all the other candidates objected. This is clearly not the case.
Don Porter(one of the candidates for National Vice President), has asked us to point out that he is totally relaxed about Richard Stephenson having testimonials on his CV. At no stage has he objected to this and he believes that Richard is entitled to do what he has done. We are grateful to Don for putting the record straight and apologise to him for giving the misleading impression that all the other candidates objected. This is clearly not the case.
The Spring Forum
Once again we have a meeting of the dumbed down Spring Forum. Not a single motion for debate! The maximum time anybody can speak is one minute. The Party hierarchy know that this means all will be froth and no substance. When will we ever learn? There is not a session on the Constitution, even though our democracy is being destroyed. What will we say to our children and grandchildren when they ask "What were you doing when freedom was lost"? Will our reply be "Playing One Minute Please at Harrogate."
One innovation is that for the first time in Conservative Party history The Party Treasurer will be chairing a session. Michael Portillo MP will be the speaker. If The Treasurer wishes to take a higher profile why do we not have a session on the Party's Accounts so that we can ask questions? Even more pertinent why don't we have an election for Treasurer? This is called democratic accountability. Something that the Party seems to be forgetting!
The Christian Right
Is the Conservative Party moving towards the Christian Right? The Conservative Christian Fellowship is a pressure group. If this is the case why are employees of the CCF based at Central Office? Are they making a contribution to CCO costs? What is the connection between CCF and the "Renewing One Nation" project? Is the Party funding CIF activities? Questions are beginning to be asked. Isn't it time for a full disclosure?
We are continuously being told that the U.K. is too vigorous in implementing European regulations and that other countries are slow in their implementation. If this is so why doesn't the Westminster Parliament pas a law saying that any European Regulation will only come into effect in the United Kingdom at such time as it has been implemented in 75% of the other countries in the European Union?
We are told that the Conservative Party raised £750,000 at the Winter ball. Congratulations! If you pay £90,000 for a weeks holiday on Michael Ashcroft's yacht does this have to be declared as a Party donation and if so does it count as a donation from Michael Ashcroft or from the person who paid the £90,000?
The IRA has 800 hand guns, 1000 rifles, 500 machine guns and 2.5 tons of semtex.We set out below the reduction in British forces in Northern Ireland. When will British politicians accept that decommissioning is a charade.
We have been informed that all Conservative candidates for the General Election have been requested to purchase the Election Fighting Kit at a cost of £5,000. Is this true and if it is whatever happened to the maximum donation by a candidate to the Party set by Lord Woolton at £100. A rule which Lord Woolton said changed the Party more than any other thing that he did and which gave the Party its first Trade Unionist MP.
National Convention Dinner
The guest speaker at the National Convention dinner will be Richard Whiteley. Just one of those things we have to suffer to be a member of the Conservative Party! Chin up!
European Parliamentary Question H-0949/00
by Caroline Jackson MEP
to the European Commission
Subject: UK VAT rate on church repairs
On November 8th 2000, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed in his pre-budget Statement to the House of Commons that he had asked the European Commission to reduce VAT from 17½% to 5% for repairs to churches.
Could the Commission confirm that such a decision would have to be taken by the Council of Finance Ministers on a proposal from the Commission, and can it indicate when it will submit such a proposal? Or can the Council alter the relevant annex to the 6th VAT Directive on its own initiative?
Mrs Caroline Jackson
The Honourable Member is correct in that the Paymaster General has recently written to the Commission suggesting that it should consider making early legislative proposals to include repairs, maintenance and improvements to listed places of worship in Annex H of the 6th VAT Directive, thereby making it possible for Member States to apply a reduced rate of VAT to such services.
The Honourable Member’s understanding is also correct in that any change to the 6th VAT Directive would have to be decided upon unanimously by the Council, where the Commission to propose such a change, and that Finance Ministers could not propose such an amendment on their own initiative.
The Commission can inform the Honourable Member that while it has every intention of reviewing the contents of Annex H of the 6thVAT Directive, this review will only take place after the evaluation of the current experiment on the application of the reduced rate for labour intensive services.
In this context, it should be noted that under the Commission’s original proposal for an experimental reduced rate for labour intensive services*, the repair and maintenance of historic buildings could have benefited from a reduced VAT rate, had Member States requested it.
However, the scope of the Commission’s original proposal was narrowed considerably by the Council by the definition of a limited list of sectors eligible for a reduced rate. In respect of the building sector, only the renovation and repair of private dwellings can qualify for the reduced rate. There is therefore no possibility in the short term for the United Kingdom to apply a VAT rate of 5% to repairs to churches.
* COM(1999)62 final – of 17.02.1999
Party Board Elections
It looks as though there will be a contested election this year for the three positions on the Party Board. The candidates are likely to be Caroline Able-Smith, Don Porter, David Jones and Dorothy Dunlop.
Dorothy, a former Mayor of Belfast is standing for the first time. If elected she will be the first representative from Northern Ireland, thus helping to ameliorate the disgraceful situation whereby Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where there is devolved government that is not represented on the Party Board. The big question for the other candidates is "Do they agree that the Conservative Party should wherever possible fight every seat in the United Kingdom?" For those already on the Board "How did they vote at the Board meeting on the 9th January when the Board decided that only three seats should be fought in Northern Ireland?"
Good luck Dorothy! If anybody wishes to help in her campaign please contact COPOV
Conservative Party Web Site
The content of the Conservative Party web site has deteriorated significantly since the last change. If you want to know anything about the Party do not bother to look at the web site. From the site you would think that the voluntary Party did not exist. There is no longer any information about the Conservative Womens Committee, Conservative Policy Forum, Conservative Christian Fellowship or any other part of the Party other than Conservative network and Conservative Future. There is no links page. How do you find out which are recognised Party organisations?
Look at the Party's Extranet site and the same applies. It is so out of date that the Annual accounts that it shows are those for the year ended 31st March 1999. Look up your candidate for the General Election and the map does not show Northern Ireland. It is as though this part of the United kingdom did not exist.
If the Party cannot get fundamentals like these web sites right, what hope has it got of organising an efficient election campaign?
Once again big donations to a political party are in the news. This time it is the £5,000,000 that the Conservative Party has received from Stuart Wheeler. This is one more nail in the coffin of Conservative democracy for two reasons.
The first is that whilst ever the Party continues to accept large donations it will perpetuate the oligarchy that runs the Party. This means that they will not have to go to the members of the Party for more money which the members would only cough up if the Party was more democratic and they had a real say in the way the Party was run.
The second reason is that large donations buy access and influence. We have already been told that Stuart Wheeler had a meeting with William Hague at which he put eight questions to him before deciding whether to part with his money. No ordinary member gets this privilege. Will we be told what the questions were? Mr Wheeler states that his donation has no strings attached, other than the fact that he wants to see that the money is spent effectively. Does this mean that Lord Ashcroft (Party Treasurer) will report to him on a monthly basis telling him what has been spent and what is going to be spent, and what happens if Mr. Wheeler does not like the answers he gets. Does he cut off the money? Is not this kind of accountability what the ordinary members of the Party have been asking for for years? Strange isn't it that if you have been subscribing to the Party all your life and tramping the streets in the wind and the rain you are treated with contempt by the Party hierarchy but cough up £5.000.000 and they will run to be accountable to you. Sad really!
Trimble's chicken run.
David Trimble is so sure that he will lose his seat at the General Election that he decided that he would rather fight South Belfast. The only problem was that when the sitting MP, Reverend Martin Smythe MP heard this he decided that now was not the right time to retire!
Candidates in Northern Ireland
Under the Conservative Party Constitution it states that "Its purpose is to sustain and promote within the Nation the objects and values of the Conservative Party". Why then did the Party Board decide at its meeting on January 8th that the Conservative Party would only contest Belfast East, North Down and East Antrim in Northern Ireland?. This is a clear breech of the Constitution. Would those members of the Board that do not support the Party fighting all seats throughout the United Kingdom wherever possible please resign?
Now that the Party has received £5,000,000 from Stuart Wheeler perhaps they can ensure that the Party fights all the seats in Northern Ireland.
Why were the Conservative candidates in Northern Ireland not invited to the dinner for all candidates to be held on the eve of the National Convention?
Mohamed Al Fayed
Did you know that Mohamed Al Fayed did not pay a penny of U.K. Income Tax between 1964 and 1989? Nice work if you can get it!
House of Lords reform.
At the Copov conference a ballot on House of Lords reform produced the following result:
Wakeham commission proposals 19%
A majority of members elected 48%
The whole house elected 33%
Isn't it time for the Conservative Party to announce that its policy is to have the whole house elected. This would throw the Labour Party on to the back foot for it would split many Labour back benchers from their Leadership. It would also help to establish the Conservative Party's democratic credentials.
Is it true that the Labour Party is proposing that MPs will be allowed to spend up to £5,000 of their parliamentary allowance on campaigning? Is this state funding by the back door? What is the Conservative Party's response? Once again we may see the parliamentary party increase it's power over the local association. What a far cry from the days when a Member of Parliament was only allowed to spend £50 in support of his/her association.
It is reported the The Party Chairman, Michael Ancram has told Party activists in Northern Ireland that they should not field candidates who are likely to lose their deposits. Is he adopting the same approach in England, Wales or Scotland? No! How can the Conservative Party claim to support the United Kingdom when it so clearly differentiates between the different nations making up the United Kingdom?. The Tories in Northern Ireland have valiantly kept the Union Jack flying in the Province with their non sectarian approach to politics. It is an utter disgrace that they do not have the full support of the Party Leadership.
GENEVA is the Communications centre at Conservative Central Office. It is doing great work. The Chairman of COPOV has pledged to help every Thursday evening at 7pm- 8pm. Why don't you volunteer? Your Party needs you. Turn up and we will go for a drink afterwards. Let us make Thursday evening "democracy" evening.
Maurice Cowling was Michael Portillo's tutor at Cambridge and the greatest influence on Portillo's view of politics. In Cowling's book "The Impact of Labour" he states "The political system consisted of fifty or sixty politicians in conscious tension with one another whose accepted authority constituted leadership". Today it is much less than fifty. How about twenty?
The interim Maxwell Fyfe report, endorsed by the 1948 Party Conference agreed that annual accounts be published. This was ignored until 1993 when Sir Norman Fowler published the Accounts in full. How sad therefore that in the latest set of Accounts less information is published than in the 1993 Accounts.
In 1949 an agent wrote of quota "we shall try to find it, but the shrewd heads controlling our finances will not only want to know what happened to the money, but they will indeed be asking for a voice in saying how the money will be spent before it is actually disbursed".
After 50 years the members of the Party are still waiting for that voice. There is still no democratic accountability in the Conservative Party.