Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Campaign for Conservative Democracy Forum 7th September

Come and join us on the 7th September for lively discussion on Brexit, De-selection of MPs and other issues.   See events for more details 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Do local Associations have the power not to re-select their Conservative MP?

The following article has been published today on the Conservativehome web site.   Please see the site for the many comments on the article.

The Grieve case raises a question. Do local Associations have the power not to reselect their Conservative MP?

John Strafford is Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.
Before the present Conservative Party constitution was adopted in 1998 Constituency Associations were virtually autonomous.  Is this still the case?
In July last year, Dominic Grieve, our local MP, made a long speech about Brexit. Despite him previously having declared that he would abide by the result of the EU referendum, and having voted in favour of the moving of Article 50, it had become obvious that he was determined to do everything possible to stop us leaving.
In the light of this development, I lost all confidence in him as my MP and started to collect the names of other members of Beaconsfield Conservatice Association who felt the same, and no longer wished him to be our candidate at the next general election.
On February 27th, I gave a written motion of no confidence in Dominic Grieve to the Chairman of the Association. On March 4th, I was told that the motion was invalid since I was no longer a member of the Conservative Party – after 56 years of membership.
By the time I had sorted the matter out, and obtained a membership card from CCHQ, the agenda for the Association’s Annual General Meeting had been published and my motion of “no confidence” had been replaced by a motion of “confidence”. (Incidentally my membership card was dated before the date when I submitted the motion – thus starting the many attempts to prevent me and others from speaking out.)
When the AGM duly took place on March 29th, Grieve lost that vote of confidence by 182 votes to 131. He then made it clear that he would ignore the vote.
In view of his reaction, 60 members of the Association presented a petition requesting a Special General Meeting of the Association to the Secretary of the Executive Council in accordance with Schedule 7, clause 10.1.2 of the Party’s Constitution which states:
“10: Special General Meetings
10.1.2 upon a petition signed by not less than fifty members of the Association or 10% of the total membership of the Association for the previous year (whichever is less) sent to the Secretary of the Executive Council of the Association requesting him to convene such a meeting;
10.1.3 Notice of the Special General Meeting shall be given to every member of the Association. The business of the meeting shall be stated in the notice convening it and no other business shall be discussed.
There is no restriction on what business may be brought forward to Special General Meetings. The petition was duly presented to the Secretary of the Executive Council on May 9th, and read as follows:
“Under Schedule 7, clause 10.1.2 of the Constitution of the Conservative Party we, the undersigned, being members of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association petition you to convene a Special General Meeting of members of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association in order that the following business shall be conducted:
“The Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association at its Annual General Meeting on 29th March 2019 did not express full confidence in the Rt. Hon Dominic Grieve MP.
We therefore resolve that: he should not be the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for the constituency of Beaconsfield at the next general election and the Association should immediately start the process of selecting a new candidate”.
The petition was rejected by the Chairman of the Association on the grounds that it was ultra vires, and that any such motion should follow the procedures of the Executive Council.
I understand that this was the view expressed to the Chairman of the Association by CCCHQ. Who decided it was Ultra Vires and on what grounds? Was the decision made by the Party Board and if not, under what authority was the decision made?
I would point out that Schedule 7 Clause 6.5 of the Party’s Constitution states as follows:
6.5 The Executive Council shall have the following powers and responsibilities:
6.5.1 The Executive Council shall have the power (subject to any resolutions of the Association made at an Annual General Meeting or a Special General Meeting) to deal with all matters affecting the Association and its membership, and to exercise control over all ward and polling district Branches and specialist committees or groups.
A motion at a Special General Meeting overrides the actions of the Executive Council. Subsequent to the amendment to the Representation of the Peoples Act passed in 2006, there is no requirement to hold an adoption meeting for the parliamentary candidate. This had previouly provided the opportunity for every member of an Association to vote for or against the adoption in question. A number of constituencies, including Beaconsfield, did not hold an adoption meeting at the last general election.
If our petition is to be rejected, it follows that it is possible for a sitting Conservative MP to be re-adopted without the agreement of the majority of the members of their Association.
The Party Board has been asked to instruct the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association to proceed with a Special General Meeting as was petitioned for, or give detailed reasons as to why it is not allowed. The Chairman of the Party Board was written to on May 24th, but no reply has been received.
After the motion which had been put forward was rejected, it was decided to go ahead with the Special General Meeting, and the Chairman of the Association tabled the following motion:
“That this Association instructs the Executive Council to now request our sitting Member of Parliament to make a written application to seek his re-adoption as our Parliamentary Candidate for the next General Election”.
An amendment was proposed to the motion to insert after application “within 14 days”. This amendment was rejected by the Chairman as once again being Ultra Vires, apparently also at the behest of CCHQ. Yet as we have seen earlier, a Special General Meeting overrides the Executive Council. The same question arises: who issued this instruction, and how was the amendment Ultra Vires?
The un-amended motion was carried by 140 votes to 120. Grieve has again decided to ignore it.
If the right of Party members to determine who their candidate should be at general election has now been taken away, what rights are left?
A general election could well be imminent, which is why this issue should be resolved now. It would be a travesty of fairness, democracy and justice if sitting Conservative MPs went forward as Parliamentary Candidates without the support of a majority of their Association members.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Tory Tea Party - How the world sees us!

In recent months the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other international papers have published articles about the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.   The following article was  printed on  the Christian Science Monitor of Boston web site on July 22nd 2019: 

A Tory tea party? How fringe voters are reshaping British politics
·         By Simon Montlake Staff writer
A quarter-century of agitating at the grassroots of Britain’s oldest and most successful political party has taught John Strafford a few tricks.
Meet regularly but not too often. Budget modestly: Rent a cheap space and serve a simple lunch. And always pack a spare kettle for endless cups of tea, just in case.
On a recent Saturday morning, Mr. Strafford, a retired accountant and entrepreneur, set out four rows of chairs in a small church hall in this leafy London suburb of million-dollar houses and stalwart votes for the Conservative Party, of which Mr. Strafford is a lifelong member. His small group of party activists was gathering to discuss, among other matters, a national leadership contest: It is widely assumed the winner will be Boris Johnson, who is set to replace Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
But Mr. Strafford and his allies are not content with merely voting for their next leader. They want a much greater say going forward in how the party is run and who stands for office, particularly in safe seats in the heartland for the Tories, a center-right party which has its roots in a 17th-century parliamentary faction and styles itself as the natural party of government. And when it comes to the defining issue of Brexit, that means purging Conservative members of Parliament who stand in the way of a hard break from Europe.
Mr. Strafford describes a long war of attrition between the party establishment and its corporate donors, and activists in towns and suburbs like this one. “Brexit brought it to a head. It was going to implode at some point,” he says.
That tension between the Tory base and the elite has echoes of the tea party revolt a decade ago that reshaped the GOP and blazed a path for Donald Trump’s presidency. Here, as in the U.S., the revolt is as much about culture and identity as it is about economic policy. And in Mr. Johnson, an Eton-educated populist who became the face of Brexit in the 2016 referendum, it may have found its man, a bridge between a Brexit-at-all-costs base and a flailing party establishment.
Crucially, Mr. Johnson is also seen as a vote-getter who can take on Labour, the party’s traditional left-wing foe, and the upstart Brexit Party that is snapping at its right flank. In May, the Brexit Party polled first in largely symbolic European Parliament elections; the Conservatives finished fifth.
For Jon Stanley, a fellow at the Bow Group, a right-wing think tank in London, the Conservatives have no choice but to embrace Brexit and stop trying to hold Remain voters.
“These two groups are now permanently aligned and if the Tories don’t choose the obvious group, which is the Leavers, it will be in trouble really, really fast,” he says.
“Do or die”
Around 160,000 Conservatives were eligible to vote in the month long run-off race between Mr. Johnson, a former foreign secretary and London mayor, and Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary. Ms. May agreed to step down in May after failing to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union in March and being forced to negotiate a Brexit extension until Oct. 31.
Mr. Johnson has vowed that the U.K. will leave the EU on that date “do or die,” and embraced a no-deal Brexit in the event that the EU refuses, as it has done until now, to amend his predecessor’s contentious withdrawal agreement. Ms. May’s own government forecasts that a “hard Brexit” is likely to trigger a deep recession; many U.K. businesses have repeatedly urged Conservative leaders to abandon the threat.
But polling suggests that Conservative members, who are older, whiter, and less urban than the broad electorate, support a hard Brexit. Mr. Strafford says any economic setbacks, even a drop in living standards, would be justified by the freedom and liberty that a clean break from Europe affords. “This is a gut feeling among the British public,” he says.
This feeling is not shared, however, by Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general who since 1997 has represented the Beaconsfield constituency – in which Gerrards Cross lies – and has threatened to bring down any Conservative government that pursues a no-deal exit. Which is why Mr. Strafford and other disgruntled local members are trying to stop Mr. Grieve standing again as their candidate. He is one of several pro-Europe Tory members of Parliament, including current and former ministers, facing de-selection campaigns, though few have been as outspoken on Brexit as Mr. Grieve.
At the church hall meeting,  Mr. Strafford provides an update on their campaign and how they can keep up the pressure. “It’s critically important that we win this battle so that the voice of members is heard,” he says.
U.K. parties don’t hold primaries and the process of deselecting a sitting MP is complex. In the case of Mr. Grieve, who lost a no-confidence vote in March, the Beaconsfield Conservative association has asked him to reapply to stand in the next general election. Still, warns Mr. Strafford, that mechanism probably won’t work in time for a snap election.
Asked by a Monitor correspondent for a show of hands as to who would vote for Mr. Grieve as their candidate in such a scenario, none go up.
Older and whiter
In seats like Beaconsfield, a drop in the Conservative vote may not sink the party. But the rise of the Brexit Party, perhaps the closest analogue to the tea party, could prove disastrous for any Conservative leader trying to win a fresh mandate, particularly if Brexit is unfulfilled, as was shown in May when droves of Conservatives defected in the European parliamentary election.
“If we don’t come out they’ll stay with the Brexit Party, and then the Tory party becomes a rump,” warns Mr. Strafford.
Allies of Mr. Johnson have suggested that he could strike a one-off electoral pact with the Brexit Party in order to avoid splitting the anti-EU vote, as happened in a by-election in Peterborough in June that Labour held, despite only polling one-third of ballots cast.
Such a strategy is risky, though, since it would jettison moderate Conservative votes, say analysts. And it doubles down on the ideology of a base that is out of step with modern Britain in its preference for a no-compromise Brexit even if it wrecks the party and its brand.
Rory Stewart, a Conservative minister who ran as a centrist in the leadership race and failed to make the run-off, said in April that if the party advocates for a no-deal Brexit, “we’re saying goodbye to young people, goodbye to Remain voters, and goodbye to the center ground of British politics.”
Ahead of the leadership race the party’s membership has grown, but at 160,000 is a fraction of its post-war peak. As recently as 1970, it represented over 3% of the electorate and Conservative social clubs and events were a mainstay of town life. Now it is less than 0.4% of Britons.
The raw numbers may be less important than demographics; Conservative activists skew older and whiter, while their fervor for Brexit is failing to win over the next generation of voters.
“They’re increasingly locked out of urban Britain, which is younger and more multicultural,” says Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London who has surveyed the party’s membership.
He points out that an aging Tory base in prosperous towns finds it easier to dismiss as fear-mongering the forecasts of a no-deal Brexit recession. “They’ve got their house. They’ve got their pension. The state of the economy isn’t so much of a worry for them,” he says.
Maureen Holding, a Conservative councillor in the New Forest in southern England, says Mr. Johnson is the right leader for the party as he can speak to younger voters. Just as important, says Ms. Holding, who defended her seat in a May council election that saw a surge in votes for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, he’s committed to leaving the EU on Oct. 31.
Asked about the economic disruption of such an act, Ms. Holding raises her chin. “We are Great Britain,” she says.

Friday, July 26, 2019

COPOV Summer evening party - 10th August

Come and join us and celebrate the new government.   At last we are on the road to Brexit.   See events

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Message from Boris Johnson MP

We have received the following message from Boris Johnson MP.   We accordingly give him our endorsement to be the Leader of the Conservative Party.

“I have strong support for the kind of requests that are being made by the followers of the Conservative Campaign for Democracy.  Reform of the Party Organisation is long overdue and this will be a priority if I am elected as Leader of the Party.  The idea of a Party Commission with a set deadline to come back with specific reforms is something I will look at seriously.  I am grateful to Conservative Campaign for Democracy for taking the initiative on this important issue.”

Friday, July 5, 2019

Which Political Party is more democratic - Brexit or Conservative?

Democracy: Brexit Party V. Conservative Party Constitutions

At the time the Brexit Party registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission it submitted its Constitution.  This has as yet not been implemented, e.g. you can only join the Party as a Supporter which at present does not appear in their Constitution.
We submitted to all the Leadership Candidates for the Conservative Party essential reforms needed by the Party if it is to avoid oblivion.  Boris Johnson has said that he will give a top priority to Party Reform.How does the Brexit Party compare?   The following were the essential points for reform of the Conservative Party:
Five Essential Reforms
1)      The National Convention should be replaced by an Annual General Meeting to which all Party members are invited.
2)      The Chairman of the Party Board, Deputy Chairman, Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee and Chairman of the Policy Forum should be elected by and accountable to Party members and present Annual reports to the Annual General Meeting.
3)      Constituency Associations should have the right to determine who their Parliamentary Candidate should be with due process and minimum interference by CCHQ, with safeguards for Constituencies where the membership is below a certain level.
4)      Motions for debate should be re-instated at the Party Conference and/or at the Spring Forum.
5)      The Party Constitution should be capable of being changed at a General Meeting of the Party by Party members on the basis of One Member One Vote with a 60% majority. The present minor changes to the Constitution have been under discussion for four years and nothing has happened.

1)      The Brexit Party will have an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited.   They will not have a National Convention which is a barrier to communication between the Party hierarchy and the membership.   Brexit Party is more democratic.
2)      The Party Board in both parties are unelected and thus unaccountable to the Party membership.   However in the Brexit Party the Board members have to present reports to their Annual General Meeting.   Both parties are undemocratic but there is an element of accountability in the Brexit Party.  
3)      Both parties have very centralised systems for candidate selection.  It will be interesting to see how they change, if they change.   Both parties are undemocratic.
4)      The Brexit Party will have motions for debate at its Party conference.   The Conservative Party does not.   Brexit Party is more democratic.
5)      Changing the Party Constitution is long and convoluted in the Conservative Party and ordinary members have no say.  The Brexit Party looks to be more democratic in that changes to its constitution will be put to all members in a ballot.   However it looks very difficult to propose changes.  There is a typing error in the submission which reads as follows:
b) at the request of 200 or more properly constituted and duly registered the cost of the ballot.
 This doesn’t make sense.   I presume it means that 200 Constituency Associations have to propose a change and pay for the ballot?   On balance the Brexit Party is more democratic.

Both Parties are effectively dictatorships rather than democratic organisations.   The members of the Conservative Party have no say in getting rid of their Leader and only get a limited say in the election of their Leader.   The Brexit Party elect their Leader on the basis of one member one vote but ordinary members have no means of getting rid of their Leader, although the Leader is elected for a fixed term of four years and then comes up for re-election.
The democratic fault lines in the Brexit Party, as in the Labour and Conservative parties are that they are undemocratic organisations increasingly reliant on big donations.   As with all parties big donors want influence and a say.   If the Brexit Party can avoid this, once it is set up and running it will have a major advantage over Labour and Conservative parties.
The Brexit Party is attracting the votes of large numbers of Conservative members.   When they find that they have a bigger voice in the Brexit Party than in the Conservative Party they may well decide that the Brexit Party is for them.   Unless the Conservative Party embraces radical reform as outlined above it is doomed to oblivion. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Boris backs Party Reform

“I have strong support for the kind of requests that are being made by the followers of the excellent Conservative Voice organisation.  Reform of the Party Organisation is long overdue and this will be a priority if I am elected as Leader of the Party.  The idea of a Party Commission with a set deadline to come back with specific reforms has my full support.  I am grateful to Conservative Voice for taking the initiative on this important issue.”


Here are the Conservative Voice proposals:

We are clear that regardless of who becomes our next leader and Prime Minister, Party reform should be at the very top of their priority list. The case is clear, and we are pleased to outline the following points as a manifesto for change:

  1. The Chairman of the Party Board should be elected by the membership. The Party Chairman is a separate role chosen by the Party Leader. The Party Board Chairman should focus on organisation, The Party Chairman, on policy
  2. A new organisation of senior volunteers should be created to bring together Regional and Area Chairmen, Women and Young Voters. This body should meet regularly with the Parliamentary Party
  3. The Sunday of Party Conference should become ‘Members’ Day’ where motions are accepted from Associations across the country and debated with the relevant Ministerial teams
  4. An AGM should be held to include all parts of the Party where real decisions are taken and implemented
  5. All Board Committees should be led by an elected volunteer. In particular, there needs to be greater involvement of volunteers in the selection of the Chairman of the Candidates Committee. Also. there should be no dilution in the involvement of members in the selection of their local and national candidates. This will be an essential component in the fabric of our Party moving forward
  6. A different and far more positive style of communicating and engaging with potential supporters is required
  7. A robust Awards & Recognition strategy should be introduced across the Party to include activists, members, professionals and Parliamentary colleagues

Trusting the electorate to make decisions about policy issues must be matched by trusting members to have a greater say in the running of The Party.

Conservative Voice is calling on both leadership contenders to commit to a strategic plan to take these points forward with clear timescales and accountabilities. Specifically, the new Party Leader should establish a Party Commission to take this agenda forward.  

An election is coming, sooner or later, and if we’re going to win, we need to seriously reboot and regrow our Party. If we don’t we could be handing the keys to No.10 to a communist. The stakes are simply to high to fail.

Friday, June 28, 2019

COPOV Forum 13th July

Come and join us at the COPOV Forum on 13th July. Leadership Election, De-selection of MPs, Brexit, Party Reform, and much more.   Join in the debate.   For further details see Events

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Letter to all Conservative Party Leadership candidates 28th May 2019

4th June
A polite letter received from Tom Tugendhat MP:

Dear Mr Strafford

Thank you for your letter of 28 May suggesting that I might run for leadership. I am grateful to you for your generous comments, but have decided against taking this step. There are some splendid candidates, and I have decided to support Michael Gove.

Best wishes,


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Should the No. of Conservative Leadership Candidates be Capped?

I wrote the following letter to the Party Chairman in August 2018 with a copy to Sir Graham Brady MP:
                                                                                                     20th August 2018

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

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)