Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How bad can the Conservative Party organisation get?

The following report is taken from the 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?
- -  - - - - - - - - - - - -  - - - -  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. 


  1. At the recent Tonbridge & Malling Open Primary ((where we counted 3 times the number of ballot papers as where counted in SE Cambs) I recruited a team of six counters, who were all Chairmen or Officers of neighbouring Associations. The ballot papers were first sorted into baskets, then counted and bundled into batches of 20. Once a counter had completed a bundle of 20, it was handed to another counter sitting opposite who checked all the votes were for the same candidate and confirmed there were 20 votes in each bundle. The total number of ballot papers were cross referenced against the number issued and the number of people in attendance.

    All of the above was implemented by me as Agent, approved by the Management Committee and by CCHQ. However, regardless of CCHQ having a senior member of staff present, there is no way that I would have countenanced any system which could have compromised the integrity of the result. And there is no way my Association Chairman and Management Committee would have allowed it either.

    I don't know the circumstances in SE Cambs so I will not comment, other than to say I am aghast that the Association Chairman did not approve the count process and insist on checks and balances to ensure the count was properly conducted.

    1. Andrew,
      If you were in charge of organisation at CCHQ these things would not happen. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to ensure that the procedure you adopted was used in every selection process.