Monday, January 7, 2019

BCCA member replies to Dominic Grieve MP's Christmas message.

Dominic Grieve MP chose to say in his Christmas message to members: “My preference remains that we should return to the electorate to consult them as to whether or not we should leave on the terms offered or give them the option of expressing a desire to remain in the EU if that is their opinion”.

A Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association member replies as follows:

Dominic, many thanks for your Christmas message and I wish you and your family the same and best wishes for 2019.

As you say there are some great challenges ahead this year and beyond which require sound judgment from our lawmakers. I concur that this requires constructive debate including on our future beyond the EU.

However, I sense in your words an inference that it is the other half of the debate that has to be more reasonable? And yet I am afraid that the divisiveness that you seek to address will not be healed if the result of the referendum is not respected. In fact, the resulting democratic deficit will cause irreparable fissures in not just politics but society itself.

Firstly, you talk of  respecting the original referendum but returning to the electorate on the deal?
Surely, if this were the case you would be proposing a second vote between the PM’s deal and leaving without one?

If the PM’s deal is what you and many others say it is, how can the argument be between that and Remaining? There is nothing on such a ballot paper that can possibly appeal to those who wish to Leave and if this were to happen there would quite rightly be indignation and more.

As I have mentioned before, people do not like being taken for fools. The idea that the original question was abstract is a false one; people knew full well and listened hard to the warnings.
They are also aware that we have acted as supplicants in these negotiations and that the facts have not changed, simply the will of our political class to attempt to achieve a result. You yourself admitted at the BCCA AGM this year that the NI issue had been deliberately politicised.

As we approach March 29th there are two things that need to happen. We need to ramp up preparations, belatedly, for leaving without a deal. Secondly, we need to ensure the PM’s deal, which does not deliver a departure and hobbles our negotiating position, does not pass into law in its present form.

Apart from the recent political ructions in Europe, it should be noted that as the ECB announces the end of QE at the end of the year, this is happening at a time when the Eurozone, including Germany, is showing rapid signs of a slowdown (it is more exposed to cyclical slowdown than the service based UK economy). After a monetary stimulus of €1.7trillion, the ECB has very little to show for it. PMI’s are falling hard, Unemployment, particularly amongst the young remains very high, deficit spending is rising, the number of large zombie companies is at 9% and rising, bank NPLs still represent 5.1% of total loans and banks are under capitalised. The Federal Budget that is needed to stave off a Eurozone crisis is proving impossible to deliver.

If ever there were a time to walk away in order to get a sensible deal this is it. But in any case as has been shown by no deal preparations on both sides, the worst of fears will not occur. Planes will fly point-to-point (as they always would under Open Skies). There will be reciprocity in facilitating truck movements and at passport control. The Mayor of Calais has made supporting statements. Side deals are being done to ensure EU entities have vital access to the City. And so the list will grow as we approach the deadline.

Most importantly the Irish are not planning to erect any structures at the border. As anyone who has read WTO documentation, including the recently introduced TFA, will know, a hard border is not a physical border but a line on a map for fiscal purposes.....something that already exists.

In summary, I cannot support your contention that a second referendum, between the PM’s deal and Remaining, respects the democratic process. Neither of these choices delivers on the referendum result, the manifesto or the result of the general election. The facts have not changed, only the political will and leadership to do as promised and this will not go unnoticed.
Most importantly, it will not be a route to heal the divide, it will assuredly focus it more sharply.
I therefore wish to register my strong opposition to your support for a second referendum.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Proposed Changes to the Conservative Party Constitution

Proposed Changes to the Conservative Party Constitution – December 8th 2018

The following changes to the Party’s Constitution are being proposed at a meeting of the National Convention on Saturday December 8th 2018:
1)      “Candidates Committee to establish Approved Lists for Welsh and Northern Irish Assembly Members, Police & Crime Commissioners and Elected Mayors.”

The Candidates Committee is wholly appointed, unelected and unaccountable to party members. This is a further tightening of central control of the Conservative Party.   Since this central control was established after the new Constitution of the Party was `one with an overall majority.   In the same period before this centralisation there were five General Elections of which the Party won four. Q.E.D.

2)      Removal of Past Area and Regional Chairmen from National Convention.

Historical knowledge of the Convention will be lost.   Why reduce the size of the Convention?

3)      “A Volunteer to be known as “The Voluntary Political Director of the Conservative policy Forum” shall be elected by the National Conservative Convention, for a term of three years.   Their responsibilities shall include co-ordination of the policy-related activities of the Associations, Areas and Regions.”

A power grab by the Convention.   Why isn’t the Director elected by the Party membership?   Why is the election for three years?   Where is accountability if the person elected does nothing?   Who determines which candidates can stand for election?   An opportunity  to make the Party more democratic has been lost.

4)      “A Vice-Chairman to be appointed by the board on the recommendation of the chairman of the National Convention whose responsibilities shall include reporting to the board on the work of the CPF.”

More power of patronage given to the Chairman of the Convention!

5)      Schedule 3 Article 5 Nominees for officers of the National Convention to have been Convention members for the two preceding years.
Schedule 3 Article 6 Nominees for President must have been a current member of the Board at the time of nomination.

These enshrine “Gubbins Turn” into the Constitution. Why do they not trust the members of the Convention to take these matters into account when voting?

6)      Schedule 5 Article 14 Removal of the right to stand for more than one regional post as it can leave unfilled positions when using postal or online ballots.

Why is that?   So now if you stand as Regional Co-ordinator and lose you cannot also stand as Deputy Regional Co-ordinator?

7)      Schedule 6 Article 14 If an Association officer is removed by the Board, the replacement does not have to be a member of the Association or Area management Executive if the Board so decides.

More power to the Board, so they can just fly in a CCHQ apparatchik to take control!

8)      Rule 5.7 Removal of the right of Association Officers to be voting members of all committees and branches.

This reduces the powers of Association officers.   Bad move.

9)      Rule 13.3 Removal of Chairman’s casting vote to bring into line with selection rules.


10)  Schedule 1 Article 1.2 Clarify Definition of 1922 Committee

No information given as to what this definition will be?

11)  Schedule 6 Article 6 The Chairman of the Committee on Candidates (sub Committee of the Board) shall be nominated by the Chairman of the National Conservative Convention.

More patronage for the Chairman.   Why isn’t this position elected by and accountable to Party members?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Confidence Vote in Tory Party Leader - Time for Party members to have a say!

Last week I wrote to the Conservative Party Chairman.   I have not yet received a reply.
The letter is as follows:

Rt. Hon. Brandon Lewis, MP                                                                     5th November 2018
Chairman, The Party Board,
Conservative Campaign Headquarters,
4 Matthew Parker Street,

 Dear Brandon

Re: Election and De-Selection of the Conservative Party Leader

With reference to my letter of 20th August 2018 relating to the election of the Conservative Party Leader there has been continued speculation in the press about Conservative Members of Parliament triggering a vote of no confidence in the Party Leader.   In addition to the point I made in the letter that all candidates who have more than 20 MPs nominating them should be put to the members in a ballot, there are two further points which need consideration and action:

(1) The first point which arises relating to the election of the Leader is that on two occasions, i.e. Michael Howard and Theresa May the voluntary Party did not get a vote on the matter as there was only one candidate.   Under the present Party constitution Schedule 2 para.7 it states:

“In the event of there being only one valid nomination at the close of nominations prior to the first ballot being held by the Parliamentary Party for the election of the new Leader, the election of the nominee may if so ordered by the Board be ratified by a ballot of the Party Members and Scottish Party Members to be held within one month of the close of nomination”.

 I propose that in the above the following be deleted: “at the close of nominations prior to the first ballot being held by the Parliamentary Party” and “may if so ordered by the Board”
And insert after nominee “will

The effect of this change would be to ensure that in the event of only one nominee being put forward as Party Leader the Party members would be invited to endorse the nomination.   This process was used when William Hague was Leader.   It ensures that the Party as a whole is supporting the new Leader and acts as a unifying force.

(2) The second point is when the Chairman of the 1922 Committee receives the requisite number of letters expressing “no confidence” in the Leader.   At the moment this triggers a vote of the Parliamentary Party on the question of “confidence” in the Party Leader.

 The last time this happened was when Iain Duncan-Smith was Leader and he lost a vote of confidence by the Parliamentary Party.   There was considerable dissatisfaction at the time, in the voluntary Party, that the MPs had got rid of the Leader whom the voluntary Party had elected.   This was done on the grounds that the Leader could no longer count on the support of his parliamentary colleagues so his position was not sustainable.   We now know from the example of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party that it is perfectly possible to act as Leader of a Party even without the majority support of your fellow MPs.

It is quite clear from the Party’s constitution that the intention is for the members of the Party to elect the Leader.   It is therefore quite bizarre that the Leader can be dismissed by a vote of just the parliamentary Party.   I therefore propose that in the event of the Chairman of the 1922 Committee receiving the requisite number of letters expressing “no confidence “ in the Leader there should be a ballot of all party members asking them for a vote of confidence in the Leader. In the event that the Leader receives less than 50% votes in the ballot there should then be a Leadership election.

Now that we have centrally organised membership it should be relatively easy and inexpensive for members to be balloted on these issues by use of the internet. 

I reiterate the point I made in my letter of 20th August 2018 that it is time for the Party to embrace democracy and allow full participation by the membership.   Only by doing this can we look forward to our membership growing. Could you please put these proposals to the Party Board for action.

Finally, I would emphasize the point I made to you at the Party Conference.   In 1998 with the new constitution all power in the Party was centralised into CCHQ.   In the 20 years prior to 1998 there were five General Elections and we won four.   In the 20 years post 1998 there have been five General Elections and we have won one.   There has to be a lesson here!

Yours sincerely  

 John E. Strafford


Copy: Sir Graham Brady (Chairman 1922 Committee)

                                                                          20th August 2018

Rt. Hon. Brandon Lewis, MP
Chairman, The Party Board,
Conservative Campaign Headquarters,
4 Matthew Parker Street,

 Dear Brandon

Re: Proposed Changes to the Election of the Conservative Party Leader

There is much speculation that there will be a Leadership Election in the Conservative Party before the end of this Parliament.  One of the reasons for people to become members of the Party is that they can then participate in a Leadership election and yet in two out of the last four Leadership contests the members did not get a vote.   The Members of Parliament arranged that only one candidate was left to fight the election in 2003.   In 2016 we ended up with only one candidate and even in 2001 when the members got to vote the front runner was eliminated by one vote by the MPs.   In a modern political Party this is not acceptable.   The 1922 Committee should now change the rules so that all candidates who have more than 20 MPs nominating them will be put to the members in a ballot conducted on the Preferential Vote system of election, so that the winner will be the first candidate to get over 50% of the vote.

             This is the fair way to proceed and one advantage is that as all members participate there can be no division between the Parliamentary Party and the rest of the members as the figures as to how each part voted would not be known.

I am aware that under the Party Constitution the 1922 Committee is obliged to put two candidates forward for the members to vote on, but the Party Board has the power under Part IV section 17 of the Constitution “to do anything which in its opinion relates to the management and administration of the Party.”   It was under this clause that the entire section of the Constitution on the selection of parliamentary candidates was ignored at the General Election in 2017 so that CCHQ could impose candidates on the constituencies.                                                     

In 2016, when David Cameron resigned as Party Leader some 10,000 people joined the Party because they thought they would be able to vote in the subsequent Leadership election.   It is said that people are now joining the Party in anticipation of being able to participate in the next Leadership election.   I fear there will be mass resignations from the Party of its members if the MPs only put forward one candidate or stop a candidate who is popular with the members of the Party from b  eing included in the ballot.

It is time for the Party to embrace democracy and allow full participation by the membership.   Could you please put this proposal to the Party Board for their approval?

Yours sincerely

 John E. Strafford


Copy: Sir Graham Brady (Chairman 1922Committee)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ben Bradley MP - Brexit and Party Reform

A speech by Ben Bradley MP at a fringe meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy at the Tory Party Conference on 1st October 2018.   Ben is a former Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party. His speech was followed by the result of a vote to "Chuck Chequers"

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Could the United Kingdom become a Dictatorship and nobody notice?

Essential viewing for all those concerned about democracy in the Conservative Party and the United Kingdom.   A speech by John Strafford at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party Conference - 1st October 2018

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Copov Forum 6th October

For details of the COPOV Forum see Events   Do come to this post mortem on the Conservative Conference.   Lots to discuss!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Conservative Grass Roots views on Chequers!

At the COPOV barbecue in August Conservative members were asked their views on the "Chequers" proposals.   Here are their views.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Event: Why "Chequers" shows we need Conservative Party Reform!

Tel. No.           (h) 01494 730599                                                Beech Cottage

                                                15 North Drive

E mail                             Beaconsfield

                                                                                                    Bucks HP9 1TZ

                                                                                     19th September 2018

Fringe Meeting at Conservative Party Conference at 9 am on Monday 1st October

Speakers will include:

David Campbell-Bannerman MEP

John Strafford

Venue: Lyttelton Lecture Theatre,
             Birmingham & Midlands Institute,
             Margaret Street,
             B3 3BS

Come along and let us know your views on Party Reform.