Friday, December 22, 2017

A Conservative Philosophy

Some years ago a group of Conservative members put together their thoughts on Conservative Philosophy.   In the past five years these thoughts have had over 100,000 views on the Our Fight for Democracy web site.   At a time when the Conservative Party is searching for a narrative for its policies perhaps in framing legislation it should remind itself of what ordinary party members believe in!

A Conservative Philosophy

Inherent in and at the core of the Conservative Party’s philosophy is a belief in:

An economy based on:
Free markets and trade
Private ownership and enterprise
Monetary and fiscal probity
Gainful employment
Minimum intervention by the State
Low taxation

A society based on:
Patriotism and duty
Reciprocal rights and responsibilities
Respect for law and order
Equal educational opportunities

This philosophy:
Accommodates the view that each human being is an individual, answerable to and for him or herself and also a responsible citizen of the community
Allows that there are bound to be social and economic inequalities in life and that the strong have a duty to help the weak and encourage them to help themselves
Leads to policies that are justified by common-sense rather than doctrinaire theory

A philosophy is more a statement of belief in the nature of things than one of intent or action which, respectively, are the foundations of strategy and policy.   The perceived aim of the Conservative Party is to build a democratic society that is both prosperous and at ease with itself.   To achieve this aim the following objectives must be pursued by the Party:
Maintain itself as a national organisation supported by a broad section of the population from all walks of life
Uphold the rule of law and order and the concept of equality of all before the law
Create favourable conditions for the creation of wealth and thereby to sustain high levels of employment and living standards
Promote free enterprise, maximise choice and minimise regulation
Provide or enable the provision of high quality services in fields where the State must provide them
Control public expenditure within a balanced budget and with low levels of taxation
A foreign policy which is conducive to our National interest.
 Ensure the integrity and security of the realm

Friday, December 15, 2017

Last Chance to save the Conservative Party

Changes to the Conservative Party Constitution or How to give more power to the hierarchy
At a meeting of the National Convention held on 25th November in Birmingham the following changes to the Conservative Party Constitution were discussed and passed to be formally proposed at the next National Convention meeting on 16th March 2018.   About 100 members turned up on 25th November for this meeting out of the 1,000 members of the Convention.   For only the second time in the last fifteen years ordinary Party members were excluded from the Convention even as observers.
If these rule changes go through you may as well bring down the final curtain on the Conservative Party and on it will the written:
The Tory Party.   The End
1)        “Constituency Associations” are abolished.
In future we will just have “Associations” which will consist of one or more Constituency Associations.
This is a sad day.   For 150 years the Constituency Association has been the building block of the Conservative Party. No longer.   This is the management of decline.
2)      The Annual Meeting of the National Convention to be abolished.
Voting for Officers of the Convention will now be done “online”.   Officers will    give reports “online”
This means that there will be no hustings meeting at which the candidates will speak.   It also means that there cannot be questions to the candidates.   In the early days of the Convention a motion was passed calling for hustings at which the candidates were questioned.   The motion was passed overwhelmingly.   The Officers ignored it.   Now there is no chance.   Also no opportunity to question the Officers on their reports.   This is North Korean style democracy.
Why don’t they just abolish the National Convention and have an Annual General Meeting to which every member is invited and at which the Party Chairman is elected by the members?
3)      Selection of Candidates to be centrally controlled.
15.1 The selection of all candidates, including Parliamentary, Police Commissioners,    Elected Mayors and local government candidates shall follow a process in accordance with rules and guidance published from time to time by the Committee on Candidates of the Board of the Party (as established under Schedule 6 of the Party Constitution) 
 All further articles up to and including 15.2.5 to be removed
The entire section of the Constitution which spells out the way in which candidates are to be selected has been deleted.   All selection will now be determined by the Committee on Candidates which will also determine the procedures for selecting candidates.   So a small group of appointed people unaccountable to the membership will now determine all candidates.   This small group of unaccountable people will effectively decide who shall become a Conservative Member of Parliament and from them who will be in Government.   What happened to democracy?   This is disgraceful.   It shows complete contempt for the people.   What have we come to?
By adopting this proposal the last vestiges of any rights for Party members has been eliminated.   Now they have no rights at all!
4)      Conservative Policy Forum
Under the existing Constitution:
65 The Board shall appoint a Director of the Conservative Policy Forum whose responsibilities shall include the formation of a structure to co-ordinate the activities of the Political Deputy Chairmen of the Area Management Executives and Constituency Associations.  
This is to be replaced by:
65 The Board shall appoint a Director of the Conservative Policy Forum on the recommendation of the Chairman of the National Convention, whose responsibilities shall include co-ordinating the policy-related activities of the Associations and Area Management Executives.
Why should the Chairman of the National Convention recommend the Director of the Conservative Policy Forum – to increase his power or a nice bit of cronyism?  
66.3 Three representatives elected by the Political Deputy Chairmen of the Area Management Executives in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 5 .
This provision of the Constitution was never adhered to so instead of enforcing it what did they do? Delete it!   So now, every member of the Council of the Conservative Policy Forum is appointed.   Jobs for the boys!

5) Area Councils
The Constitution states:
4 Any member of an Association within an Area may stand for election within that Area to the Area Management Executive provided they are proposed and seconded by members of an Area Council in the Area in which they are standing for election.
5 The election shall take place at the meeting of the Area Council.  The election shall be by secret ballot.  The Returning Officer shall be a member of the professional staff of the Party, nominated for the purpose by the Board.
The only problem is that there is no requirement for members to be told when the date of the meeting of the Area Council is or indeed who are members of it, so they have become self perpetuating oligarchies.
6)      National Convention
The existing Constitution states that:
5 Any nominee for any such office or post referred to in Paragraph 2.2 herein shall have been a Member of the National Convention for not less than two years.
This is now replaced by:
5 Any nominee for any such office or post referred to in Paragraph 2.2 herein shall have been a Member of the National Convention for not less than the two years preceding the date of close of nominations.
So you cannot stand for office until you are in the third year as a member and are currently a member   The effect of this is that none of the officers will have any long term historical knowledge of the workings of the Convention
6 Any nominee for the office of President shall have been an elected member of the Board for one year.
This is changed to:
6 Any nominee for the office of President shall have been an elected member of the Board for one year preceding the date of close of nominations.
Same comment as above

It is time for the Conservative Members of Parliament to stop being so supine and get off sitting on their hands and oppose these changes.   If they don’t, then at the next General Election the only activists left in their constituencies will be themselves!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Eric Pickles General Election Review

At the Conservative Party Conference whenever criticism was raised about the Tories performance in the General Election we were told “Don’t worry it is all covered in the “Pickles Review”.   So was it?
First of all the review did not go into any deep analysis as to the conduct of the election unlike the Conservativehome review.   It came up with 126 recommendations 90% of which were froth and hope.   Who will take responsibility for seeing the implementation of these recommendations?   In response to this question by a member of the Party Board, Pickles answer was “The Party Board”   Don’t hold your breath when you see the entire review kicked into the long grass.  So what were the most important recommendations?
3          A Manifesto Committee should be established and, in Government, consist of the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Party Chairman/Chief Executive, Chief Whip and up to three others appointed by the Prime Minister.   In opposition it should consist of the equivalent office holders.
This is an improvement on what happened in the Election but where is the input from the 1922 Committee or the voluntary party?   They can make suggestions but no say in the final draft.
29        As is the usual practice, the Prime Minister/Leader shall appoint the Party Chairman and the Party Board shall appoint the Party’s Chief Executive/Chief Operating Officer.
In a modern democratic Party fit for the 21st Century the Party Chairman should be elected by and accountable to the Party membership.
30        The Party Chairman shall be in charge of all election campaigns.   Part of that function can be delegated (e.g. local government elections, the day to day conduct of a General Election campaign and by elections).
Until this last election we always thought the Chairman was in charge including the day to day conduct of the campaign.
31        The Party Chairman may appoint, after consulting the Party’s Chief Executive, a Party professional(s)/consultant(s) to run any part or the whole of the campaign.   Notice of the appointment shall be given in writing by the Party Chairman to the Prime Minister/Leader of the Party, the Chairman of the 1922 committee and the elected Chairman of the National Convention.
If Conservative Campaign Headquarters is incapable of running a campaign what is the point of it?   Consultants walk away with a fat fee and are totally unaccountable for the result.   The £4.5 million spent on consultants in the 2017 General Election would have been better spent on the training and employment of professional agents in the constituencies.  
52        The Party should appoint a Vice-Chairman for Diverse Communities, and should consider that person being represented on the Party Board.   The Vice-Chairman for diverse Communities should work with the Outreach Department to contact the different communities that will keep the Party nationally and locally in touch.
Who is “The Party” which is going to do the appointing?   Who is this Vice-Chairman accountable to?   How long is the appointment?   Why should they be on the Party Board?
56        The Party should actively encourage parliamentary and council candidates from diverse communities, and ensure through our training programmes that such potential candidates get priority.
Why should these candidates get priority and who decides on the priority?   Merit should be the criteria for candidate selection.
66        Training and development should become a key function of CCHQ.   The Head of Training should be a Director level appointment, and supported by a team to deliver on training along with the Vice-Chairman of Training.
Who is the Vice-Chairman of Training?   Who is he/she accountable to?   Why do we need all these unelected, unaccountable Vice-Chairmen?   Are these just jobs for the boys?
70        The Party will establish a career path for long-term field employment within the Conservative Party, which will include a professional qualification in electoral law, regular training, and programmes in campaigning and personal development.
At last a sensible proposal, but didn’t we use to have this?   Should this not be part of the remit of the Head of Training?
The General Election showed that there is a clear campaigning deficiency in many parts of the country which needs to be urgently addressed.   Put simply the Party needs to rapidly upscale its presence on the ground with more members and volunteers involved in campaigning both between and at election time.   Priority should be given to target seats, both attack and defence.
To be a viable campaigning force our activist base must become more balanced in age grouping, attracting new and younger members who are both engaged and trained in election activity.
So what are they going to do about this?   Let’s see!
105      The Party needs to better value volunteers, and a successor to Team 2015 needs to be developed by CCHQ and put in place by 2018 local elections.   This should include Head of Volunteer Mobilisation with authority to implement the research on what drives people to join, get and stay involved with the party.
What does “better value volunteers” mean?    We need a successor to Team 2015, but this is just a sticking plaster rather than a cure for the problem.   The 2018 local elections are in 6 months time so what has been done to get this implemented?
106      CCHQ in conjunction with the Voluntary Party, to launch a volunteer and membership drive, backed up with research, on what drives people to join, get and stay involved in Party politics.
Absolutely necessary, but what are you going to offer to new members – no rights, no involvement in the running of the Party organisation, no involvement in determining policy, no democratic accountability – just the same old deference that has failed abysmally.
107      Associations to be offered a capacity assessment by the Head of Volunteer Mobilisation appointed under recommendation 105, and to jointly agree phased and realistic targets for volunteer and activist recruitment.   An incentive scheme should be agreed to strengthen the partnership between CCHQ and local Associations.
With over 300 Constituency Associations with less than 100 members and less than 10 activists what kind of target are you going to set?   What kind of “incentive scheme” to “strengthen the partnership between CCHQ and local Associations”?   The only one that would work is to make those responsible for CCHQ democratically accountable to the party members.
108      The Party Board should commission an annual report from every seat on the levels of volunteers, activists and resources.   The Board shall receive support from CCHQ to produce this report where it is needed.
The question is “What will they do about it?
109      The implementation of central administration of party membership must remain a priority and this must be supported by a sufficiently resourced Membership Department at CCHQ.
We have been talking about this for years.   When will it happen and will it be properly linked with the Constituency Associations?

So there we are.   NERO fiddles at CCHQ whilst the Party flows down the Thames.   What a tragedy!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mulled Wine and Mince Pies Forum - December 16th

Do come to the next Forum meeting.  With major changes to the Conservative Party Constitution it is essentialthat the voice of the grass roots is heard.   Further details on the EVENTS page

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Changes to the Conservative Party Constitution

    They are at it again. Next Saturday 25th November there is a meeting of the National Convention in Birmingham to discuss changes to the Party Constitution. For only the second time in the last fifteen years ordinary Party members are excluded. The original notice sent out by Ian Sanderson as "Head of the Voluntary Party" states that "the meeting is only open to members of the National Convention". Incidentally who appointed Ian Sanderson "Head of the Voluntary Party? I always thought that that was the Chairman of the National Convention! Will they ever learn? I doubt it, whilst ever they are unaccountable to the Party membership.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Code of Conduct for Conservative Party Representatives.

The Tory Party has issued the following Code of Conduct (see below).   I would comment as follows:
General points:
1)      Criminal behaviour should be dealt with by the police.   Any confidential hotline should be manned by a solicitor who can tell the caller whether their complaint falls into this category.   If so, the party should have no further dealings in the matter.
2)      All political parties have agreed a grievance procedure for complaints by employees of MPs.   We await the details of this.  It would not be right for two separate bodies to be looking at the same complaint so these matters should be left to the all party group.   If an employee makes a complaint against their employer the relationship has broken down.   This needs to be taken into account in the procedures.
3)      Harassment, and in particular sexual harassment is hard to define.   One person’s bad joke is another person’s harassment!   Is flirting abolished?   Douglas Hurd married his Secretary, William Hague married a civil servant in his department.   At some stage propositions were made.   If they had been turned down could a claim for sexual harassment be made?
4)      We have already seen examples of using the code for the furtherance of political ambition.
5)      No Member of Parliament should have the whip suspended unless they have been criminally charged.   It is a fundamental part of British justice that you are innocent until proved guilty.
6)      Naming someone against whom an allegation has been made, before the outcome of the process is against natural justice because much damage can be done where a person is innocent.
Detailed points:
1)      “inappropriate behaviour” is subjective so should not be included in the “Purpose
2)      Under “Integrity” should not “The Conservative Party” be added to “material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
3)      “Honesty”   What is truth?   Experience of the referendum campaign shows that people define truth in many ways. I am afraid it is subjective so should be dropped.
4)      Complaints @conservatives .com and 020 7984 8050   Who will have access to these and how will access be controlled?
5)      Stage 2   The Party Chairman appoints a panel, but the Party Chairman is unelected and unaccountable to the members of the Party and is only accountable to the Leader.   This could produce a conflict of interest if there is criticism of the panel and its operation.
6)      Stage 3 “a complaint under the Code of Conduct will be provided with Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure to be adopted at the hearing.   What are these Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure?   If they are different for each case who will draw them up?
7)      Stage  3 If there is an appeal the Individual Member Review Committee…….under a process determined by it and whose decision is final.   So they determine the process!   This is hardly a situation of natural justice.
8)      ANNEX: INTERPRETATION  Harassment   The definition of harassment is subjective.   What is worse, having defined what categories are involved it then says “Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories “   This will lead to huge problems.
9)      ANNEX: “victimisation” “Victimisation may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way, or may act in such a way.”   Believed by whom?  This is so vague the lawyers will have a field day.

10)  ANNEX: Bullying”.   This clause is subjective and seems to include criminal acts i.e. physical bullying. Dangerous!

Purpose of this Code of Conduct
 To set out the minimum standards of behaviour expected from anyone representing the Party as an elected or appointed official or office-holder.
 To support equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and the absence of any and all inappropriate behaviour, in all aspects of the Party’s activities.
This Code of Conduct sets out the framework of behaviour expected of those Party representatives (listed under ‘Who is the Code of Conduct for?’ below), who are required as a strict condition of their ongoing representation of the Party, membership of, engagement with and/or (in the case of any organisation which is formally recognised by the Party) recognition by the Party, to adhere to this Code of Conduct in their activities representing the Party.
Who is the code of conduct for?
This Code of Conduct is for anyone who formally represents the Party as an elected or appointed official. This includes, but is not limited to: Members of Parliament, Peers, Members of the European Parliament, Members of the Scottish Parliament, Members of the Welsh Assembly, Members of the Greater London Assembly, Police & Crime Commissioners, elected Mayors, Councillors and Association, area, regional, and national Party officers. This Code of Conduct will be presented to the Party Board, which will consider the views of each of these categories of Party representatives, at its meeting in November 2017 with a view to its formal adoption, and will be the process followed until then.
What standards are expected of individuals covered by this Code?
They should:
 follow the Seven Principles of Public Life established by Lord Nolan and the Committee on Standards in Public Life:
1. Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
2. Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
3. Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
4. Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
5. Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
6. Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful.
7. Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs;
 lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance;
 treat others with civility, courtesy and respect;
 act with honesty and probity and in a manner which upholds the reputation and values of the Conservative Party. Such duty is fundamental. Conduct which the public may reasonably perceive as undermining a representative’s honesty and probity is likely to diminish trust and confidence placed in them, and the Party, by the public;
 not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others (see further the interpretation annex);
 take reasonable steps to ensure that people who wish to raise concerns about bullying, discrimination, harassment and/or victimisation by others feel able to do so, and know how to follow the complaints procedure set out in this Code;
 co-operate fully with any process set down by the Party Board should a grievance process be instigated.
This Code will be made publicly available on the Conservative Party website.
If any individuals wish to make a formal complaint against elected representatives or officers of the Party they should email Alternatively, they can call our confidential hotline on 020 7984 8050.
There may be instances where an individual feels able to raise the problem informally with the person responsible and explain clearly to them that their behaviour is not welcome or makes them uncomfortable. If informal steps are not appropriate or have been unsuccessful, then the following formal procedure may apply.
When we receive a formal complaint, we will investigate it in a timely and confidential manner. The investigation will be conducted by someone with appropriate experience and no prior involvement in the complaint. The investigation should be thorough, impartial and objective, and carried out with sensitivity and due respect for the rights of all parties concerned.
The following process will be adopted in so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so:
Stage 1: We will obtain written statements from the complainant and notify the respondent(s) that a complaint has been made about them. The respondent will be given the opportunity to provide any evidence or details that will help to establish their position. It may be necessary to interview witnesses to any of the incidents mentioned in the complaint. If so, the importance of confidentiality will be emphasised to them.
Stage 2: A panel consisting of no fewer than three people, appointed by the Party Chairman, will examine the complaint and evidence gathered. This must include representation of both the voluntary and professional Party alongside at least one independent person. If the complaint regards a Member of Parliament, the panel must include at least one person nominated by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee.
 If there is an allegation of criminal wrongdoing, we will strongly advise the complainant to report this to the relevant authority as soon as practicable. In certain instances, we may have a duty to contact the relevant authority directly.
 The panel will collectively determine whether the complaint warrants further investigation and/or whether there is a potential breach of the Conservative Party’s Code of Conduct, or whether it is vexatious or malicious;
 If it is agreed that the Code of Conduct has not been breached, and the complaint does not warrant further investigation by the Party, then the complainant will receive written notification of this, explaining the decision.
 If it is agreed that the Code of Conduct may have been breached, the process will move to Stage 3.
 Records of meetings and decisions will be kept for a minimum of 5 years or as required by law.
Stage 3: The panel established under Stage 2 will examine further the complaint and evidence gathered.
 The panel will provide their findings to the Party Chairman, recommending the appropriate level of the Party at which the complaint should be resolved and/or dealt with according to the Party’s Constitution, and will continue to monitor the complaint to its conclusion.
 If the panel cannot agree collectively on its findings, the dissenting views must be presented as well as the majority view.
 If appropriate, the complaint may then be referred by the Chairman to the Leader and/or to the Board of the Conservative Party, who shall take such action as they see fit. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, suspension of membership or expulsion from the Party.
 Any hearing of any panel or body established to hear a complaint under the Code of Conduct will be provided with Terms of Reference and Notes on Procedure to be adopted at the hearing. The panel will be obliged to consider an application on behalf of the respondent for the matter to be dismissed on the grounds that the complainant’s case is vexatious or malicious, or for any other reason. In considering such an application for dismissal, the panel may seek qualified legal advice.
 Any removal of rights of membership will only be made after due considerations of natural justice.
 Schedule 6 (23) of the Constitution of the Conservative Party provides for an appeal process in the event of the Board of the Party determining that an individual should be suspended or expelled from membership of the Party. Any member whose membership is suspended, withdrawn or refused by the Board of the Party has 28 days to lodge an appeal to the Individual Member Review Committee which shall exist for the purpose of hearing such appeals under a process determined by it and whose decision shall be final.
 Records of meetings and decisions will be kept for a minimum of 5 years or as required by law.
In no way should anything in this Code interfere with an elected representative carrying out his or her duties and exercising his or her judgement in relation to his or her work, nor to any individual’s right to a private life within the law.
Discrimination includes victimising or harassing any other person because of race (including colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship), sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity status.
Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive situation or environment for them. A single incident can amount to harassment.
Harassment may involve conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment), or it may be related to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories.
Victimisation provisions protect certain individuals who do (or might do) acts such as bringing discrimination claims, complaining about harassment, or getting involved in some way with another complaint (such as giving evidence). Victimisation may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way, or may act in such a way.
Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority, but can include both personal strength, influence and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

From the Grass Roots

(The following article has been written by a member of COPOV and is a personal reflection on the current political situation and does not necessarily reflect the view of other COPOV members)

The party conference season is over and it is back to business as usual. In the last eighteen or so months everything has changed and nothing, it seems, is better.  I am profoundly depressed and frightened by what the future holds.  A referendum campaign which has split the country in two setting family members against other family members,  a USA President totally out of his depth and who seems to think that shouting slogans such as ‘Rocket Man’ is going to solve anything, a tin pot dictator in a far away country threatening the world with nuclear weapons, the major opposition party in the U K now led by a group of M P s who worship the doctrines of Karl Marx and a government in office but not power led by people who voted ‘Remain’ in the referendum and who have no idea as to how to implement ‘Brexit’ effectively.  The ‘botched’ general election campaign has given the Labour leadership a spring in its step and credence to an ideology that has enslaved and murdered millions over the last hundred years.  That is unforgivable and we must take full share of the blame.  Yet our party has been dying for the last forty or so years. I would contend that the last real general election win was in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher formed her first administration. Each win since -four outright (1983, 1987, 1992, 2015) and two biggest party (2010, 2017) – is the result of special circumstances surrounding that particular general election.  The 1982 Falklands War rescued Margaret Thatcher whose economic policies the previous year had been castigated by 364 leading economists. The rise of the SDP / Liberal Alliance in both 1983 and 1987 split the parties of the left leading to easy victories for our party.  The result in 1992 after a recession was probably ‘touch and go’ with Neil Kinnock’s disastrous Sheffield Rally speech in which he looked more like a circus ringmaster than a Prime Minister in waiting tipping the balance in John Major’s favour.
The vagaries of the first past the post system however meant that John Major’s overall majority was only 21 even though the party polled 14 million votes, its highest ever. Since then it has been downhill all the way. After thirteen years in opposition so called modernisation and a financial crisis in 2008 we still could not win outright in 2010; in 2015 only the complete annihilation of our former Liberal Democrat coalition partners gave us an overall majority (we actually lost two seats overall to Labour). But nothing was more disastrous than 2017 when an unnecessary general election was called by the Prime Minister and an opinion poll lead of 15 to 20 points was needlessly thrown away.

That Jeremy Corbyn, rejected by three quarters of his parliamentary party, should increase the Labour vote by 10% is no mean achievement. But how and why did this happen?  He offered hope – an end to austerity, the writing off of student debt, more resources for the NHS.etc.  We shot our own supporters in the foot with the ‘dementia’ tax, offered nothing new and completely failed to expose Labour’s irresponsible spending commitments which would ruin the country and would make a mockery of all the difficult financial decisions taken in the last seven years. As a country we are still spending 50 billion a year more than we raise in taxes and the debt interest is enormous.

That the general election would be fought simply on which party would be the better at delivering Brexit was a non starter; other issues were bound to crop up but the complete lack of any kind of strategy was fully exposed and was fully exploited by the other political parties.
Probably our biggest failure over the last twenty years has been trying to outsmart Labour on its own natural territory. Because we were reduced to 166 seats in the House of Commons in 1997 and Tony Blair was at the time the master of all he surveyed we assumed that the only way back was to court progressiveness. Hence we readily accepted at one of our party conferences our Chairman telling us we were a ‘nasty’ party (this comment alone giving ammunition to our political opponents should have disqualified her from the highest office) and we had to do something about it. I have voted Conservative all my life and I certainly don’t regard myself as nasty; quite the opposite in fact.

Nastiness is not confined to any one particular party as the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton showed. But we took it as gospel and alienated a lot of voters who would you believe are conservatives with a small ‘c’.  Brexit happened partly because millions of Labour voters in the north of England and the Midlands were unwilling to be part of a European super state whose leaders appear to be accountable to no one but themselves, wanted control over who comes into this country and the problems excess immigration can cause in the fields of housing, education and health, and laws made in the United Kingdom Parliament and interpreted by U. K. Judges.  And instead of being called patriots they are labelled racists, out of touch etc. Yet we were warned fifty years ago as to what might happen by a politician now long dead; a politician who changed parties and whose name is, simply due to political correctness, unmentionable and erased from history .Yet he was one of the most brilliant scholars of his time, was a Cambridge don, rose to the rank of Brigadier in the Second World War, and was for one year a Member of the Cabinet. We have allowed what is known as ‘cultural Marxism’ - the idea that the white population- in particular white males- are oppressors of other races, that heterosexual marriage and the procreation of children is not to be encouraged, and that religion and in particular the Christian religion is as Karl Marx said the opiate of the people – to manifest itself in various ways and have done little or nothing to combat it.  The left has had a field day but like everything else the left is never satisfied. You could spend 200 billion on the NHS and the left would still want more.   In 1987 Neil Kinnock thought he had seen off the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party yet it was only sleeping and in 2017 has reared its ugly head in the form of Momentum. It says something about the current state of the party that Tony Blair the most successful Labour leader at winning elections in its 117 year history is now regarded as a pariah and a traitorous war mongerer by the  members of the party he led for thirteen years.

         Europe has been the cancer at the heart of our party for nearly sixty years. If you read the history books it was only with great reluctance that Harold Macmillan’s 1961 Cabinet agreed to consider entry into what was then the Common Market. To facilitate this Macmillan could have chosen no greater believer in the European super state that his  chief negotiator Edward Heath who when he became Prime Minister in 1970 made sure by every means he could that Great Britain would eventually lose its sovereignty and become simply a province in a greater Europe. This was concealed from the general public but one only had to read the Treaty of Rome to see that this together with complete economic and monetary union was the plan. And every Conservative Prime Minister from Margaret Thatcher through to Theresa May has fallen on the European sword. It has nearly destroyed us. How can two former Chancellors, John Major and Kenneth Clarke, who want to remain in the European Union and two, Lords Lawson and Lamont, who want to leave the European Union, be in the same party?  No:  the decision to hold a Referendum however desirable was a way of papering over the cracks; a device to stop more Conservative voters deserting to UKIP. And when in the course of time the referendum was held and Leave won there was no adequate preparation for the outcome as the Establishment and the Civil Service were for Remain. And that is why we are in the current mess ; a minority government trying to negotiate its way out of a bureaucratic nightmare with a Prime Minister who refuses to say which way she would vote if the referendum were held now, a First Secretary and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who are at heart both Remainers, and  a Foreign Secretary whose ambition knows no bounds but who judging by his speech at the party conference, at least seemed to believe that there could be a bright future ahead outside the E. U.. And what kind of Brexit?  No one seems sure.  The European negotiators who know that when we leave there will be a financial hole to fill are determined to squeeze as much cash out of us as they can  They are placing all sorts of obstacles in our way and deliberately making life difficult.  I voted ‘Remain’ but with no real conviction (better to hold on to nurse for fear of something worse) but having seen what is going on and the intransigence from the Europeans I would vote Leave were there to be another referendum.  Of course having never dreamt that any country would be so foolish as to leave they are now being vindictive and petty and against a country which from May 1940 to June 1941 stood alone with its then Empire and American allies as a beacon of hope and freedom in a continent over run by one of the vilest tyrannies ever known to mankind.

I said at the beginning of this article that our party is dying. What then of the future? What is the point of being a Conservative if it is only to mimic the Labour party in the extension of state control over each and every one of us?  Who is making the case for lower taxes, free markets and dare I say it capitalism?  We seem more intent on not offending this group of people or that group of people than of making any attempt to build a property owning democracy based on conservative principles. And because we seem unable to do this we have lost a generation of younger people who out of desperation look upon Jeremy Corbyn as their saviour.  We have to find solutions and fast.   We need to use what young talent we have in the party to its fullest potential. It means giving a bigger say to people like Ben Houchen the new mayor of Teesside and to our younger Members of Parliament. It means less centralised control from Central Office; it means that local associations are given the right to choose their parliamentary candidates. It means that more people like Kemi Badenoch, the new Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden, are encouraged to join the party, to participate in policy discussion and formation... And to say why they support the Conservative Party.

We need to nail the lie that we are a party only for the rich. We have voters from all creeds and classes; our M P s are far more representative of the population as a whole than it has ever been. The Labour Party’s slogan ‘For the Many not the Few’ implies that our party is exactly the opposite. We never ever seem to question that assumption. We are too timid in defending our values. Too afraid to say what we believe.  The Corbynite luminary Laura Pidcock is filled with hatred for the Tories and our policies and made particular reference to the food banks in her constituency. Why has nobody taken her up on this? For everybody knows that a Corbyn government would be such a disaster that there would be plenty of banks with no food in them at all. And how many millions starved to death under Joseph Stalin in the USSR, a country so loved by the Pidcocks of this world.?

The clock is ticking and time is short.  Brexit will probably happen in some form or other. Hopefully the Remainers in our party would come on board and try to make it a success. The prospect of a Corbyn government should concentrate our minds wonderfully. The Labour Party policies would have far more scrutiny and surely we could not run such an abysmal election campaign as in 2017.

I cannot even bear to contemplate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister leading the nation’s mourning at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday morning. Yet that could possibly happen if our party cannot get its act together and quickly. Courage and vision seem in short supply but they are sorely needed now.  Who in our party can rise up to the challenge? Who is our new Winston Churchill?