Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Re-selection of MP - Another fine mess.

Thirsk and Malton re-selection.
Looking at the leaked report it looks as though the local Association has made a bit of a mess of the re-selection process, but it does raise a number of points:
a) What were the Area and Regional officers doing when the Association changed its rules at the Extraordinary General Meeting?
b) Did they make the Association aware that the rule changes were in breach of the Party's constitution?
c) Why didn't Anne McIntosh reply to the Executive Council?   Does the Party's Constitution need amending so that there is a time limit for reply in these circumstances?
d) Why is the Internal Inquiry Report secret?   After all they were working in a semi-judicial capacity.   Justice should be seen to be done.
e)Why has no reply been sent to the Association Chairman?   Common courtesy demands a reply should be sent.

The following report appeared in the Yorkshire Post on 27th January:

A SECRET Conservative Party report has revealed serious allegations of dirty tricks and subterfuge within a North Yorkshire Conservative association as local party bosses try to force out the region’s only female Tory MP.
The Yorkshire Post can reveal Conservative Party chairman Lord Feldman ordered an internal inquiry into allegations of wrongdoing at the Thirsk and Malton Conservative Association, whose leadership is involved in a long-running de-selection battle with the sitting MP, Anne McIntosh.
The inquiry’s findings, suppressed by the party but published today for the first time, conclude that local Tory leaders broke party rules by co-opting a large number of new appointees onto the Thirsk and Malton association’s executive board, shortly before a crunch meeting last year where it voted not to re-select Miss McIntosh as Tory candidate for the 2015 general election.
Supporters of Miss McIntosh privately described the affair as “our very own Falkirk” – a reference to the vote-rigging row which tore the Labour Party apart last year as it sought a new candidate for a safe seat in Scotland.
While there is no suggestion of any criminal activity, the report is heavily critical of the Thirsk and Malton association and its chairman, retired Army Major and racehorse owner Peter Steveney – a fierce opponent of Miss McIntosh. Mr Steveney and his associates were hauled in to Conservative Party headquarters for heated discussions in the wake of its findings. Their de-selection vote was judged “fundamentally flawed”.
“The association wrongly sought to re-configure the composition of its executive council in the manner it did,” the inquiry found in July 2013. “The constitution of the party makes no provision for such arrangements, or empowers an association to do so.”
The report found the newly-appointed members of the executive “were clearly co-options by any other name”.
It said the rules broken were specifically designed “to prevent an unrepresentative takeover of an executive council”.
It also criticised a letter Mr Steveney subsequently wrote to party members as “unhelpful and detrimental to Miss McIntosh’s position, and unfair to her”.
Mr Steveney rebuts the report’s findings, however, describing them as “totally one-sided”. He insists he acted within party rules and has demanded an apology from Lord Feldman.
Thirsk and Malton remains a true-blue Conservative heartland and one of England’s most rural seats, with a Tory majority of more than 11,000.
The bitter dispute lays bare once more the disconnect between Conservative Party headquarters and its grassroots associations, as David Cameron’s attempts to modernise the party continue. Last May, just three weeks after ordering the inquiry into Thirsk and Malton, Lord Feldman – a tennis partner of Mr Cameron – was forced to publicly deny describing Tory associations as “all mad, swivel-eyed loons”.
Tory members given access to the secret report were warned any breach of confidentiality would lead to disciplinary action, and possible expulsion from the party.
However, the Yorkshire Post was able to download a copy from the website of an award-winning bed-and-breakfast in the North York Moors. Its owner, a prominent local Conservative and supporter of Miss McIntosh, removed the document yesterday afternoon.
“In the wider interests of the Conservative Party we decided not to take issue with the report at the time, but to get on and follow its recommendations,” Mr Steveney said last night.
“But I thought the report was a travesty. We wrote to the party asking for an apology in July, and They still have not replied.
“And that, I’m afraid, is absolutely typical of the way they ignore the voluntary party.”
The initial de-selection vote has now been declared null and void, and a ballot of local party members called instead, with a decision due on Friday. If Miss McIntosh is forced out, David Cameron will lose one of just three female Tory MPs covering the whole of the North of England.
Mr Cameron wants to increase the number of women Tory MPs from its current 16 per cent level – half that of Labour’s – but has been frustrated by the reluctance of local associations to select women candidates. Furthermore, four of his 2010 intake of female MPs have either resigned or announced they will not stand again.
Miss McIntosh’s supporters claim elements of her local association “never wanted” a female MP – part of the reason for the long-running whispering campaign against her. This is hotly denied by her opponents, who accuse her of being “impossible” to work with.
But in unguarded comments, one senior local party figure referred to the MP as “a silly little girl” and made clear the sort of candidate he would prefer.
“Let’s have an open selection and see who else would like to be MP,” he said. “We might get Boris (Johnson) – that would be rather fun, wouldn’t it? Or Nigel Farage?”
A more likely candidate than the Ukip leader could be Edward Legard, a local judge and Ryedale councillor. A Tory candidate in 2010, Coun Legard is on the party’s national list again – but has yet to declare which seat he will fight.
Earlier this month he was forced to deny his involvement in a letter-writing campaign against Miss McIntosh after his name appeared ‘by accident’ on an email sent to local newspapers.
The letter, signed by two prominent local Conservative businessmen, warned of the “poisonous” atmosphere within Thirsk and Malton Conservatives, and called on Miss McIntosh to be replaced.
Mr Legard could not be reached for comment last night.
Miss McIntosh also declined to comment, stating she would not “provide a running commentary”.

The Conservative Party said it would not comment on a leaked report.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SE Cambridgeshire Tories sweep mess under the carpet.

The South East Cambridgeshire Tories have voted to sweep the mess they made of the selection of their parliamentary candidate under the carpet and Tory Central Office have washed their hands of it.   No one has denied the facts of the case so we can only assume that they are correct, so why haven't the Tories re-run the selection process?   Disgraceful conduct has been piled on disgraceful conduct.   The officers of the local Association should resign.   They couldn't run a whelk stall, let alone a campaigning organisation. 

The following is as reported in the Independent on Sunday 12th January 2014:

Lucy Frazer, a barrister, was "reaffirmed" as Conservative candidate for South East Cambridgeshire on Friday despite claims that she had been beaten in an open primary by another woman, Heidi Allen, last month.
Despite calls for the local party to rerun the vote, the South East Cambridgeshire Conservative association voted to "reaffirm" Ms Frazer as their candidate. Her Labour opponent claimed it would always be suspected Mrs Frazer was the "second-choice" candidate for the constituency. The decision to appoint her also undermines the legitimacy of the open primary process, which Mr Cameron has held up as an example of his party's effort to rebuild trust in politics.
Although Conservative headquarters were insisting the vote was a matter for the local party, the selection of Mrs Frazer has ramifications for the Prime Minister because he is under pressure to increase the number of Tory women in Parliament. Only a third of candidates selected for key target seats in 2015 so far are female. While both contenders for the seat were female, lingering doubts about Mrs Frazer's selection will overshadow the quest to increase the tally of women.
Last month, South East Cambridgeshire Conservatives held an open primary, in which anyone, rather than only members of the party, can cast their vote, to replace the current MP James Paice, who is retiring. In the final run-off, Ms Allen, an astrophysicist and St Albans district councillor, was beaten by Mrs Frazer by 84 votes to 48. But the controversy erupted last week amid claims that Ms Allen's result was far lower than had been expected. When a local party official took the ballot papers home for an informal recount, the result was wrong, it was alleged, and 23 votes for Ms Allen had been mistakenly awarded to Mrs Frazer.
Because the official had taken the ballot papers home, the local association's president Brian Ashton deemed the entire count invalid, and an emergency meeting was called, amid demands for a recount.
Steve Tierney, a Wisbech Conservative town councillor, wrote on the Conservative Home website: "What a mess! Seems bizarre it could even happen. Every count I've ever seen has been scrupulous."
Yet on Friday evening, at a stormy meeting in Ely, the local association voted to reaffirm Mrs Frazer in the interests of "party unity", according to the local newspaper, the Wisbech Standard.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters refused to comment on the dispute, saying only: "This was a local association matter that has now been resolved by them." It is believed the local association will put out a statement this weekend.
Mrs Frazer, a graduate of Cambridge University, is a QC, state school governor and a mentor for children from low-income families. She has two children with her husband, David. After her selection in December she said she was "thrilled", adding: I hope to bring my experience of working with a wide range of businesses to increase growth. I am interested in improving state education in the constituency and the road and rail infrastructure. I am looking forward to working with and for everyone in the constituency."

She could not be contacted for comment last night.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How bad can the Conservative Party organisation get?

The following report is taken from the conservativehome.com web site of 7th January 2014.   If true it represents a new low point in Conservative Party organisation.   Why were scrutineers not present at the count?   Who will take responsibility for this calamity – the Party Chairman, responsible for Party organisation, - the officers of the National Convention, responsible for the voluntary Party – the Chairman of the Candidates Committee, responsible for candidates – the professional Head of Candidates?   Not on your nelly.   None of them will.   The Party Chairman, Chairman of Candidates Committee and Head of Candidates are all appointed, unelected and unaccountable to the members of the Conservative Party.   The officers of the National Convention are accountable to the Convention which has become a rubber stamp for the Party hierarchy.   When will we have a democratic Party in which those running it are accountable to the members?
Bearing in mind the cock up by the Labour Party in the selection of a candidate in Falkirk we now have a situation in which it has been demonstrated that our two main political parties are incapable of selecting candidates on a fundamental democratic basis.   Yet these organisations are determining who the people are that will in future be governing our country so what will the Electoral Commission do about this?   Sweet Fanny Adams, because it is terrified of interfering in the political parties in case they would decide to get rid of the Commission.   Our democracy is deep in sewerage and the smell is putrid.   When are the people going to start fighting back?
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www.conservativehome.com  7th January 2014
“Alleged vote counting error throws South East Cambridgeshire Open Primary result into doubt
A month ago we reported that Lucy Frazer had won the South East Cambridgeshire Open Primary.
There was some surprise at the time that Heidi Allen, a businesswoman who had been working the seat hard and was widely tipped as the favourite, had been pipped to the post – but ConHome commenters who were in the room put that down to an “off day” on her part.
Now, though, the result has been thrown into doubt. The Cambridge News reports concerns that there are allegations of a mistake in the count, reportedly discovered by “an activist who took the ballot papers home from the primary decided to recount them”.
The gist of the claims is that a pile of 25 ballots was mistakenly allocated to Frazer when in fact all but the top two votes were for Allen. With the final result coming in at 84 for Frazer and 48 for Allen, those 23 votes would be enough to change the result.
The difficulty in proving the claim is that the ballot papers were taken home before the person claims to have discovered the error. Had there been a recount on the night, it would have been a demonstrable mistake. Instead, the papers have been out of official supervision and in the hands of one person, which – while there are no allegations of wrongdoing that I can find – means this recount is unofficial.
It’s very important to note that this is no reflection on the Open Primary system; if the alleged error happened it’s a major mistake in a small count and a serious failure on the part of the returning officers, but it could have happened under any selection process.
The Cambridge News reports that Heidi Allen received 60 votes in the first two rounds of the primary, which does make it surprising that 12 of her voters would then abandon her in the final runoff – though it’s not impossible that tactical voting could have played a part.
The Association will meet on Friday, in the presence of Paul Mabbutt, the National Nominating Officer and Gareth Fox, the Conservative Party Head of Candidates, to consider what to do next.
Stuck in the middle of all this, of course, are the two would-be MPs and the voters of South East Cambridgeshire, all of whom are now in a horrible situation. It’s in all their interests that the matter is resolved swiftly, cleanly and publicly – which could very well mean a rerun of the Open Primary.

Comment by Coltheox 91p ·

I was present at the Open Primary on 7th December at Ely all day. There were some classic cock ups even before the massive mistake with the declaration at the end. When the first count started, much to my surprise, I noted that none of the candidates had a scrutineer present. Evidently, this was a ruling from Gareth Fox, who was at the meeting at that time. A classic Central Office cock-up ruling! There is nothing in the rules which says that you cannot have a scrutineer, and had the candidates had one each, we would not now be in this ridiculous position.
Secondly, at no time following any of the counts (of which there were three) were the candidates shown the result and asked if they would like a recount. That must happen, and is quite clearly stated in the rule book. Another classic cock-up!
After the final ballot, and the wrong result had been announced, we all drifted off home, and ballot papers were put in the care of a trusted person from another constituency with absolutely no axe to grind whatsoever. It was only by chance that it was discovered that a huge miscarriage of justice had taken place. To the person who discovered this mistake credit, there was no attempt to cover it up, and certain people were immediately informed.
Unbelievably, the Central Office appointed agent commented that it was a pity that the ballot papers were not shredded on finding out the mistake- that again would have broken all the rules, as it quite clearly states that the ballot papers must be kept for at least three months – but that’s Central Office for you! You couldn’t make it up!
The reason it has taken so long to come to light is that the powers that be have tried to cover it up, and not be open and honest. Even at this coming Friday’s meeting, the ‘Hard Men’ from Central Office are going to attend and try to bully us into accepting what everyone knows by now is a deeply flawed result.
I feel dreadfully sorry for the two candidates involved in this dog’s breakfast. It is none of their doing, and not their fault. The fault lies squarely with Central Office, who simply did not do what they should have done.
When the final ballot result was announced, why did no-one pick up the fact that despite polling over 60 votes in each of the previous two rounds, (62 in the first ballot, and 63 in the second) did that candidates vote suddenly fall by over 20% to 48 votes in the space of fifteen minutes? –Roughly the time between one ballot and the next. Again, basic election procedure was not followed.
The story is now out in the public domain, and in reality it should be. Trying to cover up such a mistake smacks of a level of crass ineptness, and puts our party on the same level as Labour in Scotland! Gerrymandering of the worst kind!
Remember, the selection procedure was an open primary. Those people, who were not party members, but mostly Conservatives, who attended that meeting are not allowed in to Friday’s meeting. It is members only. To confirm this blatantly wrong decision, as Central Office would wish and ‘encourage’ us to do, will be sending a dreadful message to all those non-members who did attend, give up their day, and vote in the open primary – and the message will be in the shape of two fingers!
The only way to resolve this mess is to re-run the whole procedure again. Yes, it’s a pain, but if certain people from Central Office had done what they are paid to do in the first place, we would not have to do this all again.
To retain the Conservative principles of democracy, justice, honesty, openness, free and fair elections and integrity there is no option but to start over again. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Conservative "grass roots" are beginning to get organised.

With 90 signatories the Conservative "grass roots" are at last starting to build up their strength.   No longer will they be the lap dog of the establishment.