I’m glad to hear that Conservative MPs are likely to get a vote on any coalition deal that might be necessary after the next election. That’s at least how I read your answer to the question posed by my Times colleagues Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson. May I encourage the party to go further and also give all paid-up members a vote? Because a) they deserve one, and b) they can be trusted with one…
- Over the next few months tens of thousands of party members will give an enormous amount of time to the party’s candidates and ground war. They’ll give up weekends. They’ll go out on evenings after busy days at work to deliver leaflets and knock on doors. Some will use their annual holiday entitlements for campaigning. Other less mobile members will also be doing their bit. Stuffing envelopes. Processing questionnaires. Staffing call centres. Many members will write large cheques to local associations. They’ll do all of this without hope or expectation of any personal gain. They’ll be doing it all because they love their country and want her to have a Conservative prime minister and cabinet.
- Some people in the press – and a few too many near the top of the Conservative Party who should know better – would hate the idea of the Tory grassroots having any say in the future government of the country. We know that the caricature of party members is grossly unfair. Rather than being backwards in their social attitudes the bluest of blue Tory Associations keep choosing women candidates, gay candidates and candidates from ethnic backgrounds. ON MERIT! If you look at the ratio of “diversity” candidates actually selected versus the percentage of “diversity” candidates who actually apply to be on the PPC list the party is taking giant strides forward and all without the unmeritocratic measures deployed by Labour. The political views of party members are also much more mainstream than most outsiders might believe. A large majority of Tory members reject a pact with UKIP in the regular ConHome surveys. They are not obsessed with tax cuts but put faster deficit reduction before, for example, a cut in the 40p tax band. More members think students should be excluded from the immigration target than included.
There is another reason why I hope you and David Cameron will think about this extension of party democracy. One of the reasons that Nick Clegg has not suffered defections or other big wobbles during this parliament was that he consulted his whole party on the Coalition Agreement. He explained what he was doing and then they endorsed his deal with Mr Cameron. Democratically. Because of that “buy in” they’ve held together much more happily than if there never had been a consultation. David Cameron could enjoy a happier second term if his programme for government is similarly endorsed. Given the party membership’s record of loyalty to previous leaders I would even predict that the grassroots are more likely to endorse any deal proposed by the prime minister than the parliamentary party.
I’d be grateful for your thoughts,
With best wishes, Tim
PS I’m also fed up of being told by Liberal Democrats that their party is more democratic than ours!