Thursday, December 29, 2016

Party Review - the unanswered questions!

Article on 28th December 2016
The Party Review
Rob Semple,  Chairman of the National Conservative Convention
We can all agree that this has been a truly momentous year in politics. As we move into 2017, the Conservative Party has strong leadership and a clear sense of purpose. Whilst we look to the future, the Labour Party is — in contrast — divided, distracted, and out of touch.
The National Conservative Convention (NCC) met at the Conservative Party conference in October, and voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Party Review recommendations. For those not familiar with the NCC, it is the representative body of the Party’s membership. We should not be surprised by this support, as the recommendations were a direct product of 18 months of consultation and refinement, in which Party members participated in their thousands. This shows what can be achieved by listening to, and engaging with the members to ensure that it is they who drive change in the Party.
The decision to move towards central administration of membership is key to progress. It moves us in line with virtually all other UK-wide institutions, and will allow us the opportunity to deliver a better membership experience, with far greater emphasis placed on interaction between those who lead our Party and the members. It will also enable the Party to run far more effective national recruitment campaigns, whilst ensuring that members remain part of their local Associations.
By gaining approval for extending Association officer terms from three years to five years, and moving Association AGM dates from March to July, the Party is adapting to the new electoral cycle created by fixed-term parliaments.
We are already in the process of agreeing to the first Multiple Constituency Association trials. This voluntary initiative is, in addition to its many other benefits, one way we can look to adapt to constituency boundaries changing more frequently in light of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. The Government’s commitment to introducing fairer constituencies of equal electorate size is surely a principle that all Conservatives will support.
Revisions to the rules on the selection of local government candidates will be discussed by the Candidates Committee in January, as requested by the Convention, thus progressing a further important item in the Review.
The planned recruitment of apprentice campaign managers gives a clear indication that our focus will be on campaigning in the run up to 2020. By starting this initiative now, it allows us time to develop the necessary infrastructure across the country.
Finally, I know that the introduction of candidate bursaries, championed by the Party Chairman, has already been discussed. Our aim is to have the scheme in place for candidates standing in 2020. This shows our determination to make it easier for people from all walks of life to stand as a Conservative candidate.
At their core, these proposals will allow the Party to adapt to a changed political landscape. When it comes to fighting elections, our aim must always be to be as good as we can be.
Finally, may I use this opportunity to wish all ConservativeHome readers a very happy Christmas and New Year.

1)      “The National Conservative Convention (NCC) met at the Conservative Party conference in October, and voted overwhelmingly to endorse the Party Review recommendations”  -  No figures were given, only percentages so we do not know whether the vote was overwhelming of those eligible to vote.   Important when it comes to change the Party Constitution.

2)      The decision to move towards central administration of membership is key to progress”. – Nothing can happen on this until the membership details are sorted out.   There are clear differences between the details held in the constituencies and those held in CCHQ.   That is why there has to be a pilot scheme.   No information has been given on how far the pilot scheme has progressed.

3)      “By gaining approval for extending Association officer terms from three years to five years, and moving Association AGM dates from March to July, the Party is adapting to the new electoral cycle created by fixed-term parliaments”.  These changes will require alterations to the Party’s Constitution.   No date has been given for when these will be put to the Constitutional college in order to change the Constitution.
4)      “We are already in the process of agreeing to the first Multiple Constituency Association trials”.   Until the Boundaries Commission reports in 2018 no one will know exactly what the constituencies will be making up a grouping.   The Multiple Constituency Association must be ratified by a vote of the Party members in the constituencies comprising the proposed MCA

5)      “Revisions to the rules on the selection of local government candidates will be discussed by the Candidates Committee in January.”  - We have only had 18 months to sort this out!

6)      “The planned recruitment of apprentice campaign managers gives a clear indication that our focus will be on campaigning in the run up to 2020 ” – So how many have been recruited so far?

7)      Finally, I know that the introduction of candidate bursaries, championed by the Party Chairman, has already been discussed.” – So how many have been given so far?

So what has been achieved and implemented so far?   Err nothing!   Most of these changes are administrative adjustments and are sensible.   However the glaring problem of declining membership is not addressed and this will give the Party a major disadvantage in campaigning if not addressed before the next General Election.

Basically, the National Convention is no longer fit for purpose and the sooner it is abolished the better.   It is time we had an Annual General Meeting to which every member is invited and to which Officers are accountable to the membership.   Until this happens progress towards creating a Party fit for the 21st century will progress at a snail’s pace.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How bad can they get?

Yesterday I received a registration form for the Spring Forum.   That is the good news! At least there will be a Spring Forum next year.   Unfortunately the only information given is that it will be held on Friday 17th March and Saturday 18th March  in Cardiff and the Agenda for it will be sent out on Thursday 16th March. So the following questions remain unanswered:
1) What time does it start on the Friday? Do we need to stay overnight in Cardiff for an early start on the Friday?
2) What time does it finish on the Saturday?
3) Will the National Convention be meeting and if so at what time?

Simple basic questions which any event organiser knows are essential when advertising an event.   This is even more important this time because the Freedom Association are holding their conference the same weekend and many Conservatives will have already booked up to go to that.

It really is time for Conservative Central Office to get their act together - not a good start for the new Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin.   Incidentally where are we on the Party Review?   After vast expense it appears to have turned into a damp squib.   We will shortly let you know what we think the position is if we don't hear from CCHQ in the mean time.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies Forum

Join us for our end of year Forum. Debate and discuss Brexit, Autumn Statement, President Elect Donald Trump and much more.
Get your free political books.
We look forward to seeing you and bring a guest.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Judges should keep their nose out of the Parliamentary trough!

This article appeared on "The Daily Telegraph" web site 7th November 2016:

If Conservative MPs try to delay Article 50 they could be decapitated by their local parties!

It is the role of judges to uphold the law, so when the High Court issued instructions to Parliament what it must do about triggering Article 50 which law had been broken? If no law had been broken then the judges were interfering in the processes of Parliament – a clear breach of the separation of powers and why so many people are angry with the judges.   The case for the judges is that they were insisting on the sovereignty of Parliament, but it is for Parliament to determine its own sovereignty which it is perfectly capable of doing.
At any time the opposition parties in Parliament can put down a motion to amend, or delay the triggering of Article 50 subject to certain conditions.   Why have they not done so?   The reason is very simple – the potential consequences could be horrendous.   Just for one moment consider what would happen if the opposition tabled a motion to impose conditions on the triggering of Article 50 and it was actually passed - the Government would have no choice but to put down a motion of confidence and if that motion was lost the Queen would have to see if anyone could form a Government and if not there would have to be a General Election as Westminster is now murmuring.  
Such a General Election would be fought on the grounds of Parliament versus The People with the Conservative Party standing up for the rights of the people to have their democratic decision in the referendum of June 23rd implemented.   You do not need a psephologist to know which side the people would take.   The Liberal Democrats would be wiped out; the Labour Party would revert to a position not seen since 1931. UKIP would gain many seats in the North of England and the Tories would measure their majority in the hundreds.
So Parliament is sovereign.   The problem is not Parliamentary sovereignty but the fear that if it is exercised the consequences might be horrific for those that wish to exercise it.   The position is clear for the opposition parties but what about those in the Conservative Party who wish to delay or even oppose “Brexit”.   Might they be as so many Labour party members have threatened their own MPs deselected?
The feeling of many grass roots Conservatives is one of increasing anger at those who wish to frustrate the decision to leave the EU and at the same time stronger support for the Prime Minister for the stance she has taken.
Any Conservative MP who wishes to stand again for Parliament has to make a written application to his Constituency Executive Council.   The Executive Council will vote by secret ballot on whether they wish to re-adopt the MP.   The vast majority of Conservative Associations were pro-leave so any MP wishing to delay or oppose “Brexit” is likely to find opposition within their constituency and might not get a majority of their Executive Council to support them.   In this situation the MP can request a postal ballot of all the members of their Association or alternatively the MP can have their name added to the final list of candidates to be considered at a General Meeting of their Association.   Either way they would be vulnerable to defeat.
Traditionally Conservative Central Office has tended to give support to a sitting MP, but not always as Howard Flight discovered when he was ousted as an MP because of the threats CCHQ made to his Association. Central Office has extensive powers to pressurise an Association in its choice of candidates, in extreme cases threatening to put the Association into “support status” and imposing their own officers on to the Association, but perhaps in the case of an MP opposing Party policy they might not be so ready to come to their assistance.

The end result of all this is that our politics would change beyond recognition and if such change were to happen woe betide a House of Lords that tried to prevent “Brexit”   It would fall like a House of Cards when pushed by a House of Commons invigorated by MPs who had just fought a General Election on the side of the people and democracy.   The final lesson is that judges should keep their noses out of the parliamentary trough. That’s democracy!

Monday, October 31, 2016

We need an election to choose our Party Chairman

The following article was published on the conservativehome web site on October 30th. We should support this proposal 100%. I would only add a minor correction - Neville Chamberlain was Party Chairman in 1930-31 before becoming Party Leader.

Patrick Sullivan: Why we need an election…to choose our Party Chairman
Patrick Sullivan is the CEO of the Parliament Street think tank, and was Research Director for a US Congressional campaign in 2012. @parlstreet
The Conservative Party still needs to have an internal election – just not the one it was expecting a few months ago.
This July, Theresa May became the first leader of the Conservative Party to have also been its chairman. As such, she has better insight into the workings of the party than any of its previous leaders – and greater appreciation of the role of its grassroots.
It is of no surprise, therefore, that May wanted an open leadership election, where the membership had its say. This sentiment, however, fell as a happy victim to her popularity with her parliamentary colleagues; it is rare for any party leader to have such a mandate from their peers. That confidence has been vindicated by the ease, grace, and tactical guile that May has brought to the premiership.
In stepping down as a leadership candidate, Andrea Leadsom acted in a noble fashion, and put her country first. She was, of course, correct in her reasoning for dropping out of the race: in a situation where over 60 per cent of the parliamentary party had expressed their preference for the leadership of Theresa May, it would have been near impossible for anybody but May to govern effectively.
Looking at the chaos the opposition is in over its leadership, we can see what levels of uncertainty and harm would have been caused if this had happened to the party of government. But the drawback in all this is that ordinary party members have been deprived of their say in directly influencing the party’s future direction. However, this need not necessarily be so. The unique circumstances we find ourselves in might make a leadership election impolitic, but there does remain a way for our new leader to give us an election.
During his recent leadership campaign, Liam Fox was bold enough to raise a radical idea, which has been gaining traction amongst many grassroots activists for some time now: a directly elected Party Chairman. This is a good idea for many reasons, and one that could solve several problems.
It is an inescapable fact that, in the years following David Cameron’s accession to the leadership, party membership fell from over 253,600 in 2005, to approximately 150,000 today. That is a precipitous drop in membership, and is not surprising, considering the lack of appreciation felt by rank and file members.
Since Theresa May has become Prime Minister, our membership has started to rise again. But we do not want this to be a flash in the pan. We need to find a way to empower those new or returning members, as well as rewarding our older members.
It has been a whole decade since party members were last directly consulted on the direction the party should take, when David Cameron asked party members to vote on his ‘Built to Last’ document. This is not to denigrate the hard work of organisations such as the Conservative Policy Forum, or the more recent party review – but as the numbers quite clearly show, those things are not enough. An active and enthusiastic membership is a boon for any party leader, but to achieve that, you have to engage that membership first.
As a past member of the National Conservative Convention, and a long-standing party activist, I am more than aware of the distance many associations and activists can feel from Conservative Central Office: they feel as though they are perceived as leafleting fodder during election time, and little else. This is especially true amongst younger members, and recent history has seemed to justify that perception. It is also common for a large number of associations to have an antagonistic view of Central Office, which they feel is there to impose things upon them, with little or no knowledge of the situation on the ground.
The current National Convention and Party Board structure has served the party well, but it still creates too much separation between the party membership and its machinery. An elected Party Chairman would give members a direct say in how the party is run, and give them someone who is accountable to them. Seasoned activists and local councillors should also be able to stand for this position, as well as MPs and peers – allowing activists the widest possible choice.
I understand that such a move on the part of any leader has its risks: that leader would, of course, be giving up a certain amount of control, and might sometimes end up with a Chairman not of their choosing. Those risks are, however, more than countered by the positives that a motivated activist base would bring – one feeling it enjoyed its leader’s faith and respect.
An elected Party Chairman would also help to increase the party’s distinct institutional identity and thinking, providing more continuity between different leaderships. Thus, it would also help to foster a more long-term approach towards cultivating the Conservative vote in the cities, the North, and so on.
The objective of moving towards an elected Party Chairman should be announced as soon as possible. As to the practicalities of bringing about such a change, it would need some careful implementation and embedding. I can think of no one who could better shepherd this future than the new Party Chairman, Patrick McLoughlin. From his earliest political outings challenging the far left in the National Union of Mineworkers, he has shown himself to be unafraid of entrenched interests. He came up through the grassroots and, at least to my anecdotal knowledge, his appointment was greeted with much cheer by party activists, who felt he could be their voice.

In her remarks after having become party leader, Theresa May spoke about giving people more control over their lives. Surely, it would be a great start if she began by giving members a greater say over their party, through the opportunity to elect our Party Chairman.

Friday, October 28, 2016

CCHQ - Will they ever learn?

The following article appeared on the conservativehome web site on 26th October 2016. It is an appalling story.   The Chairman of the Candidates Committee should be elected by the members of the Party at an Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.   At that AGM the Chairman should present an Annual Report followed by questions on the report. Transparency would ensure that decisions like the one illustrated do not happen again.

Alex Story: I’m a dedicated Conservative but CCHQ has allowed an administrative cock-up to end my career
Of all the many ways a political career can become unstuck, “monumental administrative cock-up” was not the one I expected.
Following Lord Kirkhope’s elevation to the House of Lords, I was invited by the returning officer to take up his place as MEP. We gained nearly a quarter of a million votes in the 2014 European election, and naturally I accepted. What has happened since would be farcical were it not so dispiriting.
Through rumours and backchannels for the past few weeks I have been told, off the record, that elements within the party were not disposed to support me. The reason given: I am no longer on the candidates’ list for forthcoming elections, having been removed after a perceived poor performance at last year’s general election. Quite why this is relevant to an election two years ago has never been explained. Moreover, I believed I had worked rather effectively in 2015, stepping into a constituency at the last minute.
I asked the chairman to see my candidate performance report. Here is a flavour:
“He is a larger than life character and became hugely popular with members and other supporters. He seized a lacklustre campaign and brought it to live almost single handedly… He worked enormously hard in the run up to the election and the result was no reflection on him … We were particularly impressed that he raised enough donations himself in just a few weeks to pay for the entire campaign. And he still found time to support a sitting Conservative MP in Pudsey who was defending a very marginal seat.”
As well as the verbal report, the feedback consists of marks from one to five rating the candidate’s performance. I was pleased to see that I had scored fours and fives. “Overall mark is 4 purely on basis of the lack of time we had to make a proper judgement of his abilities. It was a 5 for effort and energy.”
If you think this is dubious grounds for removal from the list, you won’t when I tell you that the small-print explains that a score of 1 is excellent, and 5 is poor. The way my scores were allocated was a mistake, and one for which I bear the person who filled the form in no malice. We all make mistakes: the mark of our character is determined by what we do about them.
At this point my story goes from muddle to travesty. Obviously I have brought this to the attention of CCHQ, but they have proved remarkably intransigent. Not once have they commented back to me; I have once again had to rely on a friend-of-a-friend to transmit the news that they are not minded to change my ranking. CCHQ have now reasoned that while an error may have been made on this form I did not apply myself more fully to campaigning in neighbouring Pudsey, too; “but you didn’t hear that from me” is the way most of these conversations end.
I think perhaps CCHQ do not know that only a month prior to the campaign my daughter was born. My eldest son is disabled and needs continual care; the necessities of a very young family meant I could not be everywhere at once.
And so the drip, drip of back-channel rumours has continued. It is hard to explain how much pressure can be brought to bear by a party machinery unwilling to admit to a simple mistake, and determined to stick its course whatever the reason. It’s easy to forget that those around you are caught up in it, too. Two weeks ago my wife, out of the blue, had a heart attack. She was wonderfully cared for by the doctors in London where she was operated on, and she’s now recuperating at home. Naturally, I have been at her side rather than lobbying my case.
Yesterday, finally, my first official communication with the party. A curt letter from the nominating officer (who must certify my position as MEP) – he has checked the list and could not provide a certificate because I was no longer on it.
Where did I go wrong? Should I have pursued an internship years ago, I wonder, instead of competing for Great Britain at the Olympic Games? Perhaps I should have spent more time in Westminster – instead I chose the less fashionable route of pounding the streets of Yorkshire for three general elections. Is Cambridge University so out of fashion? Should I have solicited more support from the Party Board when, instead, I assumed the overwhelming support of the Yorkshire party and electorate who chose me was what counted?
My unwavering commitment to the Conservative cause comes, at its heart, from a belief in basic decency, in fairness, in justice, and in an equal chance for all.
It is a faith that is being sorely tested.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservative Party

Read the following article in The Irish News:
15 October, 2016
14 October, 2016 01:00

THERE is growing disquiet among Tory activists in Northern Ireland over the party's increasingly cosy relationship with the DUP.
The concerns of rank and file NI Conservative members are to be raised formally at a forthcoming board meeting at Conservative Party HQ in London.
One NI Conservative councillor has said he acknowledges the need for additional support at Westminster but is unhappy with the emerging informal coalition between the Tories and DUP.
Causeway Coast and Glens councillor David Harding said: "I fully understand the pragmatic political realities but I'm genuinely concerned that the nature of the DUP's political aspirations, and its views on social issues in particular, are not fully understood within Conservative Party headquarters."
A significant number of activists are said to have voiced misgivings about last week's DUP 'champagne reception' at the Tory conference in Birmingham and plans by Secretary of State James Brokenshire to attend a party fundraiser later this month alongside First Minister Arlene Foster.
They maintain that the DUP is an opposition party and that Conservatives in Britain would not welcome a similar alliance with UKIP.
The Irish News revealed on Wednesday that Mr Brokenshire had pulled out of the £30-a-head business breakfast following criticism from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
The concern of the NI Conservatives centres on a growing level of co-operation between Westminster's largest party and its Stormont counterpart. The Tories' comparatively slim 16-seat Westminster majority means they may be forced to rely on the support of DUP MPs in the future.
At last week's reception in Birmingham DUP leader Arlene Foster acknowledged that there were "some synergies" between the two parties and earlier this week Sammy Wilson signalled his party's support for Theresa May's plans for grammar school reforms.
The East Antrim MP urged the prime minister to ignore the "barrage of criticism" aimed at her desire to roll out a new generation of selective schools.
On Wednesday DUP MPs backed the Conservatives in a Westminster vote on the Brexit negotiations.
But the concerns of the NI Conservatives about the two parties' increasingly close relationship are to be formally raised by regional chairman Alan Dunlop, at the party's next board meeting on October 31.
Tory commentator John Strafford said it was "totally wrong" for the a Conservative minister to address a DUP reception
Leading Tory commentator John Strafford, who was central in establishing the Conservatives' regional arm in the late 1980s, told The Irish News he was "very happy" for the DUP to support Tory policy but insisted they were an "opposition party".
"When you're in government with a majority then they (the DUP) are real opposition and should be treated as such, which is why I believe it would wholly inappropriate for a Conservative government minister to go to a DUP fundraiser," he said.
"I'm not surprised James Brokenshire pulled out, though in his defence he's fairly new to the job and perhaps doesn't understand all the nuances that there are in Northern Ireland."
Mr Strafford said he was "very uncomfortable" with Mr Brokenshire speaking at last week's DUP reception in Birmingham and said it was "totally wrong" for other parties to hold events at the Conservative conference.
14 October, 2016 01:00 News

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

COPOV Forum 29th October

Do come to the COPOV Forum on the 29th October. Hear the latest on the Party Review. Debate and discussion on the latest topics. We look forward to seeing you. For further details look at events.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

From the Grass Roots - Brexit


(The author is a member of the Conservative Party.   The views expressed are personal ones and should not be interpreted as the views of COPOV or of any of its other members)


It is now nearly three months since the British public voted to leave the European Union albeit by a margin of less than 4%.  As one who had voted ‘Remain’ I was somewhat surprised by the outcome but not that disappointed as my ‘Remain’ vote had been cast with no great conviction and only on the principle of ‘better the devil you know that the devil you don’t’. I was never really enthusiastic about economic, monetary and political union and the retention of the pound as a currency was one thing I think the Blair government got right. The loss of sovereignty and the continued mass migration to the United Kingdom from other European countries obviously had a big impact on those who voted ‘Leave’  and no effective answer to these concerns was given by the ‘Remain’ camp. Coupled with the extraordinary claim made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that if we left the European Union each family would be £4300 worse off each year only served to confirm the suspicion that the figures could not actually be verified and were being used as a scaremongering tactic.

From the outset it was quite clear that the losing side would cry ‘foul’ and not accept the result. So it has proved. The ‘Remain’ camp talks about having a second referendum; that it is not binding on Parliament but only advisory. It has even been claimed in some quarters that because 28% or so of the electorate did not vote at all they must be satisfied with the ‘status quo’ and thus support remaining in. Another absurdity is this statement from a voter: ‘I wanted to remain in but as I thought ‘Remain’ would win I voted ‘Leave’.  What part of Brexit do these people NOT understand?  Many on the ‘Remain’ side are now banking on a ‘fudged’ renegotiation of the minor concession David Cameron gained last March.  Others are hoping that the conditions for leaving the European Union will be so complex and difficult that in the end the government will weakly cave in and concede that ‘Remain’ is the only realistic option. For the writer the most depressing indictment is that many in the ‘Remain’ camp believe that those voting ‘Leave’ were stupid, did not really understand the issues because they were elderly and had by voting as they did somehow robbed our young people of their future. They need to be reminded that our parents and grandparents fought in two world wars to secure the freedoms we now have and enjoy today. From May 1940 to June 1941 this country and its then empire (assisted by the lend=lease arrangements with the United States of America) stood alone against Nazi aggression and fascist aggression. The original Common Market came about in the mid nineteen fifties so as to prevent France and Germany going to war with each other again. After the United Kingdom joined the then Common Market in 1973 the subsequent referendum in 1975 confirmed our intention to remain within a block of nations trading freely with each other. Economic, monetary and political union were, as far as the writer remembers, seldom if ever discussed or fully explained. It saddens the writer that these days so many are ready to belittle the achievements of the United Kingdom over the centuries and regard themselves primarily as European rather than British.  BREXIT MUST MEAN BREXIT.  Surely it is better to have a complete break and not to get involved in a messy compromise over the single market and border controls?

We need to get on and trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty but only at a time suitable to us and when it is clearer as to what the future holds. Obviously we will need to reassess our trading position but there will be many countries, including some in the E U who will be glad to negotiate trade agreements with us. Freed from the shackles of the bureaucratic European Union who knows what the future might hold? And as the great American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in an entirely different context: ‘We have nothing to fear but fear it’.

The election of Theresa May as Prime Minister and leader of our party solely by Members of the House of Commons will again have brought into question the role of party members in the selection of the leader. When on the 24th June David Cameron announced his resignation as Prime Minister it became quite clear to the writer that we could not have three months of electioneering and jockeying for the position of leader and thus Prime Minister. It would have been completely impractical given the volatility of the markets and the uncertain future after the referendum vote.

While the result was conclusive the majority was not overwhelming. The sooner a new Prime Minister was in Number 10 the better. As a party member the writer was quite happy to leave it to the Members of Parliament who knew better the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. This is not to suggest that party members should have no say in the election of the leader but maybe different rules should apply when the party is in opposition. The Conservative Party loves to be in government and M P s will quickly remove leaders who have lost their confidence or who are not considered Prime Minister material – as Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and Iain Duncan Smith found out to their cost.

The question of restoring grammar schools has reared its ugly head and it caught the new Prime Minister ‘off guard’ at a recent Prime Minister’s Question Time.  If Margaret Thatcher was anything she was certainly a ‘conviction’ politician. If Theresa May believes that grammar schools should be restored in parts of the country then she should say so and not fudge the issue. She might be guided by her Chief of Staff who the writer understands went to a grammar school in Birmingham. The writer attended a famous grammar school in South Wales from 1958 to 1966. There were two streams ‘A’ and ‘B’ but the gulf between the two was enormous. The ‘B’ stream had the poorer teachers and many in the ‘B’ stream left with few Ordinary level subjects and some none at all. The writer is convinced that many of those who did not pass the eleven plus examination and thus went to the secondary school could have done as well, if not better, than many of our ‘B’ form collegues. Indeed a number of those who were transferred from the secondary school did very well and went on to study at university. It would be fair to say that in primary school everything was geared to the eleven plus examination and little was done to prepare those who were not fortunate to pass the exam for the wider world and a non grammar school education.

If grammar schools are to once again become part of the education system then it would seem important to lay down certain criteria.

a)      The parents in a particular area must overwhelmingly support it – say 75% on a turnout of 75%

b)      The parents must be made fully aware that some children might not get places

c)      Proper arrangements should be made for those pupils who do not get places; they should not be classed as failures but given as much opportunity to fully develop their skills and talents in other fields.

The most important thing is the child.  Every child has been given a talent and a good teacher will recognise this talent and try to develop it.  No two schools are exactly alike – whether they are public, grammar. comprehensive or church. The writer believes in diversity not conformity. Many of the writer’s friends who did not go to grammar school have been successful in their particular field and done well for themselves and their families. And they have skills that make the writer envious on times.

Finally some thoughts on David Cameron’s controversial resignation honours list. Despite the expenses scandal six years ago nothing much has really changed. Following the practice of previous Prime Ministers chums and cronies were as usual rewarded.  As well as Harold Wilson’s ‘lavender’ list from 1976 we have this gem from when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister and in July 1962 sacked one third of his cabinet.

On the resignation of Mr. Maclay as Secretary of State for Scotland.

‘You i.e. Macmillan would like to recommend him for a C H (Companion of Honour) Now and a Viscountcy later at a suitable time’

(‘Yes he agrees’ Macmillan wrote by the C.H. ‘Yes it’s yours at any time’ he (Macmillan) scribbled next to the proposed Maclay Viscountcy)

(Extract from ‘The Prime Ministers’ by Peter Hennessy Chapter 5 Page 76)  

In terms of balance Theresa May’s Cabinet is one of the best in the history of the modern Conservative Party. The overall parliamentary majority is very small but even the most pro EU fanatic on the government benches would be foolish to rock the boat at this critical time. Outside London every English region voted ‘Leave’ ,17 of the 22 Welsh counties voted ‘Leave’, I million people in Scotland voted ‘Leave’  and many in Northern Ireland also.  Theresa May has been given her mandate. She must act upon it.

19 September 2016

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

50,000 New Conservative members?

    Actually, most of them joined immediately after Brexit and before Theresa became Prime minster. Every Party Chairman talks about the number of new members that have joined. Interesting that what we have not heard is what our total membership is now. From my information it is about 150,000. In other words we have now recovered what we had lost prior to Brexit. Perhaps the Party Chairman could release membership figures on a regular basis. Transparency is the key to having a democratic Party.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

COPOV Forum 10th September

Do come to the next COPOV Forum for a lively discussion on topical events.  For the Agenda see the events page

Thursday, July 28, 2016

COPOV Barbecue

Do come to the COPOV Barbecue on August 13th in Beaconsfield. Details are shown under "Events" on right hand side.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Biggest Stitch up since the Bayeux tapestry?

Listen to "The World Tonight" from ten minutes in.

Once again it appears that the Parliamentary Party have shafted the ordinary members. Democracy denied is democracy distorted. This whole system of electing a Leader is wrong. All candidates should have been put to the membership and they would vote on a preferential basis and the first candidate to get 50% would be elected. This way no one would ever know how many MPs supported which candidate.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Party Chairman and the Party Review.

Lord Feldman, the Chairman of the Conservative Party has announced that he will be stepping down as Chairman when David Cameron leaves Downing Street.   Cameron will go on 9th September, so we can expect a new party Chairman then.   Liam Fox has called for the Party Chairman to be directly elected by Party members.
In the circumstances the Party Review should be put on hold so that a much more fundamental review can be carried out.
 On 22nd April I wrote to Lord Feldman about the review a follows:

The Rt. Hon. The Lord Feldman of Elstree,
Chairman, The Conservative Party,
4 Matthew Parker Street,

 Dear Lord Feldman,

Party Review

            At a meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy held on 16th April the Party Review was discussed at some length.   I was asked to put the following questions to you:

1)      Some of the changes proposed will require alterations to the Party’s Constitution.   Will the changes be made in accordance with the Constitution or will some other process be adopted?

2)      Will there be any point in the process when ordinary members can propose amendments to any changes proposed or propose changes in their own right?

3)      The Review states on page 17: “The Membership Department, in consultation with senior volunteers will be able to award a finite number of Gold memberships to activists who have given outstanding service to the Party…….”   Will these awards be for life or for a finite period?

4)      Regarding an Association opting out from a proposed MCA (Multi Constituency Association) is there any Constituency Association in the country which currently fulfils all the functions outlined in Appendix 1?

5)      What is the proposed democratic structure of the proposed MCAs? Will the Officers be elected by all the members of the Constituencies comprising the MCA?

6)      Will the full time professional in each MCA be employed by the MCA or by Conservative Central Office?   Will the campaign manager be accountable to the Officers/members of the MCA or to Conservative Central Office?

7)      Who and by what process will the delegates? to the National Convention be decided by the MCA (page 39)?

8)      How are “small” changes to the Party Constitution to be made and how is “small” defined (page37)?

 One final point: the Spring National Convention is normally the meeting at which Officers of the Convention are elected.   This did not happen this year so unless there is an early meeting of the Convention there will be a clear breach of the Party Constitution.   What is the position on this?

            I look forward to hearing from you.              

                                                      Yours faithfully
                                                             John E. Strafford


Lord Feldman's office replied as follows:


So, once again questions unanswered.   Just pushes them into the long grass.  Another exaample of contempt for the grass roots!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Letter to Chairman of 1922 Committee

The following is an excellent letter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee from The Bow Group

Statement to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee:
Dear Mr. Graham Brady MP,
The Bow Group wishes to register our disappointment as to the schedule and form of the Conservative Party Leadership election.
As an organisation which has consistently argued for greater democratic engagement and grassroots involvement within the Conservative Party, we believe that a serious opportunity to address deep-rooted deficiencies has been missed.
Party members have witnessed their traditional roles of Parliamentary candidate selection slowly reduced, while Conference has become a scripted media event without real access for members to set an agenda or policy deliberation.
This has now been exacerbated in the same approach being taken towards the election highest position within the Party: the Leadership.
Whilst we understand there is a view that the nation's need for new leadership is pressing, we feel that an election should have been scheduled to conclude at the end of Conservative Party conference and that the decision should have been one solely for the membership, with the maximum number of candidates and widest debate possible placed before them.
It has been 11 years since members have been able to have a say on the Party leadership. We believe that the 1922 Committee decision and chosen Party process make it difficult for a candidate, popular with the wider membership but not necessarily as popular in Parliament, to stand a fair chance of being elected.
Ideological preferences are being compressed and ultimately discarded through this narrow process.
During the tenure of David Cameron's leadership the Conservative Party membership  has halved, with two severe scandals being linked to that decline.
There has been a growing feeling in the grassroots membership of the Party that there is a disconnect between the membership and leadership, and that power is increasingly conducted from the centre rather than the broad membership.
Under the current scheduled process the newly elected leader will lack the mandate of an appropriate and comprehensive election, which is likely to weaken their position before the membership, and the country.
Many members that have been dissatisfied with the direction of the Party in recent years will undoubtedly be watching this election with interest, as will those who have left the Party but would consider returning under the right circumstances.
Recent elections and events have demonstrated quite conclusively that the Conservative Party needs a large and committed membership to win elections and engage effectively with the nation.
We would therefore ask that serious consideration is given to extending the period of the election to include the Conservative Party Conference itself, and that the number of candidates to be placed before the membership is extended to at least four.
We would hope that consideration is also given to significant reform of the Conservative Party to place membership back at its core, and that candidate selection and the election of the Conservative Party Chairman is handed back to the membership.
We hope to work with the Conservative Party towards this end, and beyond the leadership election.
Yours sincerely,
The Bow Group

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

COPOV Forum 9th July 2016

Do come to the COPOV Forum on 9th July.   See Events for details.
This is an opportunity to discuss politics at one of the most important times in our history.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Never in the field of Party organisation have members been treated with such contempt.

Last Saturday the Conservative Party held its Spring Forum and National Convention.   The venue was not disclosed to Party members until the day before, presumably on security grounds although there was a large demonstration outside the venue so security was not that great!
The Agenda for the Spring Forum was:

10.00 Start of AM Conference Sessions.
13.00 to 14.00 Lunch

That's it - no proper agenda at all.   So what did we get?

A speech from Boris Johnson
A speech from David Cameron
A speech from Theresa May
A Campaigning talk with questions.

So no political discussion, no debate, no standing orders for debate, no question and answer sessions with the politicians, and Cameron in his speech specifically agreed with Boris Johnson not to talk about Europe.   I do not recall any Spring Forum where there was no opportunity to discuss or even have a question and answer session on political issues.   This was the platform talking down to the members.   It used to be the members Forum held so that the Party hierarchy could hear the members views!

Then we come to the National Convention Agenda:

14.00 Meeting of the National Conservative Convention -
          The Party Review (Party members are welcome to attend). but not speak!
This consisted of three presentations at length by Lord Feldman followed by questions and answers.
This is the classic way to push things through without any votes.   The final result will be presented at the meeting of the National Convention in October so Party members are to be denied any say in the matter.   Items such as democracy, accountability, transparency are not covered in the review so will be absent from the proposals.
Some of the proposals are sensible, but others will be a disaster.   Nothing in them will increase membership, indeed some of them will undoubtedly hit membership.

Under the Party Constitution there has to be an Annual Meeting of the Convention.  Last year it was postponed due it is said because of the General Election, although members of the Convention had no say in the matter.   You might have thought that with this Convention we would revert back to the original practise. No! Not a word was said about the Annual Meeting, there were no elections, in spite of the Party's Constitution saying that no officer of the Convention can be on it for longer than three years.   All ignored.   Did any member of the Convention protest? No! They have been beaten into submission by the oligarchy running the Party.   So no opportunity to ask about bullying in the Party or transparency in the way the Party spends money at by-elections.
Where oh where are the Lord Wooltons who listened to "the little people" or Eric Chalkers who kept the Party organisation on its toes.   All gone!.   The National Convention is no longer fit for purpose and should be abolished.

Never in the field of Party organisation has so much contempt been shown for Party members.   Those running the Party should hang their heads in shame.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Don't make old people mad

A pensioner became very bored in retirement and decided to open a medical clinic.
He put a sign up outside that said:
"Pensioner's Clinic.  Get your treatment for £500.  If not cured get back £1,000."  
Doctor "Young", who was positive that this old pensioner didn't know beans about medicine, thought this would be a great opportunity to get £1,000 so he went to the pensioner's clinic.

Dr Young: "Pensioner, I have lost all taste in my mouth.  Can you please help me?"
Pensioner: "Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in Dr Young's mouth."

Dr. Young: Aaagh!! -- "This is Gasoline!"
Pensioner: "Congratulations!  You've got your taste back.  That will be £500."
Dr Young gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days figuring to recover his money.
Dr Young:  "I have lost my memory, I cannot remember anything."
Pensioner: "Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient's mouth."
Dr Young:  "Oh, no you don't,  -- that is Gasoline!"
Pensioner: "Congratulations!  You've got your memory back.  That will be £500."  
Dr. Young (after having lost £1000) leaves angrily and comes back after several more days.
Dr.Young: "My eyesight has become weak --- I can hardly see anything!!!!"
Pensioner: "Well, I don't have any medicine for that so here's your £1000 back."  (giving him a £10 note)
Dr. Young: "But this is only £10!" Pensioner"Congratulations! You got your vision back!  That will be £500.
Moral of story  -- Just because you're "Young" doesn't mean that you can outsmart an "old Pensioner".
Remember: Don't make old people mad.  We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to tick us off.