Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From the Grass Roots

(The following article is written by a member of COPOV but does not necessarily reflect the views of COPOV’S Management Committee nor its members)


In a week or so I shall celebrate my 70th birthday but not for me a joyous occasion but simply a time to reflect on the past and in particular life as it was in my formative years during the late nineteen fifties and the decade of the nineteen sixties. The views, attitudes and opinions I held then have remained with me to this day. But the United Kingdom I knew then has changed beyond all recognition and in my view, biased as it is, not always for the better. In 1968 the Shadow Defence Secretary in an emotive speech for which got sacked from the Shadow Cabinet spoke in lurid language about the dangers of mass immigration and membership of a European super state. Yet I would be branded a fascist and racist were I to say in public that what he predicted has in fact come about. For this I blame the hard left whose intolerance of anybody’s view other than its own is shown in demonstrations, shouting, bullying and flag waving in many of our cities. How ironic it is that the German fascism of the nineteen twenties, thirties and early and mid forties contained the word ‘socialism’. Some years ago an eminent person (I forget who it was) gleefully stated: ‘We are now living in a post Christian era’.  At the time I was astonished at what he (or she) said but, judging by the events of the last fifteen or so years, I am beginning to think that person was right. Certainly Christian teaching in our schools has become marginalised. Understandable, I suppose, in a country that seemingly now believes multiculturalism is the norm. A country where the Heir to the throne wants to be regarded as the defender of faiths not The Faith i.e. Christianity and who, disregarding the tenets of the Church of which he will supposedly become Head, seems intent on making his divorced wife Queen. And this may well eventually happen because as the writer understands it the wife of the King automatically becomes Queen. Most intelligent people realise that this Princess Consort nonsense is exactly that: Nonsense. It has no constitutional significance at all.
The writer it has to be admitted is very pessimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. The seeds of disunity were sown nearly twenty years ago by the Blair government’s devolution programme. But then the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Conceived at a time when the Labour Party was riding high in Scotland with over fifty Westminster Members of Parliament it made the false assumption that setting up a Scottish Parliament would settle matters once and for all and that things could go on as normal with Labour relying on its Scottish fiefdom to deliver Labour governments at Westminster. But look at what has happened. At the 2015 General Election Labour was reduced to one (yes ONE) Westminster seat. In Holyrood the S N P reigns supreme with Nicola Sturgeon threatening to take Scotland out of the UK as a result of Brexit and making demands for a second referendum on the future of the union. Nationalism in Wales is not quite as strong a force as in Scotland and is most prevalent in the rural Welsh speaking parts of West and North Wales. There has been some success in the old mining valleys of South Wales but these have been few and far between and seats particularly at local elections switch between Labour and Plaid Cymru depending on whether you want British or Welsh socialism. At the last Assembly elections in 2016 Labour continues in government with 29 out of 60 seats and relies for its majority on keeping the sole Liberal Democrat member sweet. Proportional representation has meant that Labour continues to govern Wales indefinitely with about 38% of the vote. In the mining valleys many former Labour voters supported UKIP, the party thanks to the proportional system now having seven seats. Its leader would you believe is the disgraced former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton. The Conservatives will never win in Wales and although we can poll between 25% and 30% nationally this will never be enough as the three left wing parties (Labour, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru) will always combine to ensure this is so.
The writer’s pessimism is reinforced by what has happened in the recent elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Sinn Finn are now within one seat of the Democratic Unionist Party. So it is now only a matter of time before the Republicans/Nationalists obtain a majority. When this happens Westminster will be forced to concede a referendum on the future of the province and cessation will inevitably follow because as all Westminster governments have said in the past: Attachment to the United Kingdom is retained only as long as a majority wish it.
The writer has lived for forty two years under Conservative governments at Westminster and for 28 under Labour governments. Born at a time of rationing and the setting up of the welfare state under the post war Labour government (and in 1948 the establishment of the National Health Service) the writer contends that the social democratic model established then still remains largely intact today and that Conservative governments have in the main been willing participants. We spend billions and billions of taxpayer’s money on public services (and remember the government only has the money it raises from its citizens) and still it is not enough. The National Health Service, the Prisons, the Police, The Education Establishment, etc. all claim they are underfunded. From what the writer has seen there seems to be very little accountability for what is actually spent. And successive governments fail to tell the truth namely that for many understandable reasons only a certain percentage of the population pays tax to fund these public services and of those who do pay many feel they are paying too much or are not getting value for what they do pay. Labour’s solution is as it has always been: Pour a lot more money in and tax the rich. With a leader and shadow Chancellor who worship at the shrine of Marx how else could it be so?  The writer contends that if the Health Service is failing (and admittedly he has not had to wait eight hours on a hospital trolley until a bed is found and has not seen these failings first hand) it is because of costly unnecessary administrative reorganisations over the last seventy years and an inability to consider finance from any source other than out of general taxation. If other European countries have a better health record than ours it is because in most cases patients have some kind of insurance cover in addition.
Last year’s referendum on our future in the E U was bound to be divisive and with the result so close it is not surprising that the losers are pressing for a second referendum once the final terms have been agreed. The writer was on the losing side but having had time to reflect thinks it was probably the right decision. That said the writer has never been a fan of referendums as they only seem to reinforce entrenched positions.  Some fanatics were adopting the absurd position that because of all the English regions London was the only one to have voted ‘stay in’ the capital city could unilaterally declare its independence from the rest of the country. On the Conservative side the writer finds it astonishing that remainers like Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and John Major cannot seem to appreciate the concerns of those who wanted to leave and why : the eventual aim of total political and monetary union, the complete lack of accountability by the European Commission, the ‘fudging’ of entry terms for the poorer countries, the fact that European Law over rules British Law, the free movement of labour (which in effect means peoples) between countries whether desirable or otherwise, mass immigration and the continual and seemingly nonsensical directives from Brussels. ‘Why’ the writer wonders ‘should there be a United States of Europe?’ There is not a United States of Asia, a United States of Africa, a United States of South America. Even the United States of America is a Confederation of States with each individual state setting its own laws on things like sales taxes, voting rights and capital punishment. And while Donald Trump lost the popular vote in the recent U S A Presidential election he carried more states that Hillary Clinton and thus won in the Electoral College. And incidentally even though the population of the USA has probably increased by nearly 100 million in the last fifty years there are still only 435 Representatives in the House (unchanged for over fifty years) and two Senators for each state irrespective of population.
The writer began this article by regretting the demise of Christianity in this country and the clear moral principles as set out in the Bible. Islam with its teachings from the Koran is now the major religion in many of our English cities, both large and small. Many in this country are fearful for the future because Islam, as practised by the Jahid, is certainly not a peaceful religion. Yet there are many good, kind Moslems and the writer has witnessed this first hand. Forty five years ago when he was training as an accountant he had two young men of the Moslem faith working with him and you could not meet two nicer people. Terrorism, from whatever source, is a real threat in Europe and for the United Kingdom to have foiled thirteen possible such attacks in recent years is both alarming and disturbing.
The writer is concluding this article on Easter Sunday, the day which has for centuries and still  is today a day of joy for all Christians who continue to believe in the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ and the hope that one day He will come again in glory. Yet the world He supposedly came to save continues to be in turmoil. The Editorial in today’s Sunday Telegraph concluding with the words ‘We wish our readers and their families a very happy Easter’ seems far removed from reality when the front page headline reads :’Fears Kim has missile that could hit America’ and on page 12 ‘Scores of Syrian evacuees blown up in their buses by suicide van driver’.  Nearer to home there are still people in authority who are in denial about the EU referendum result last June and who will do their best either to derail the process or to ensure that any deal the Prime Minister might negotiate would be totally unacceptable so as to maintain the status quo. The writer just remembers the United Kingdom’s original application to join the EEC or Common Market as it was then called in 1961 to 1963. For Harold Macmillan Prime Minister at the time it was the last throw of the dice; Britain had been humiliated by the Suez fiasco and the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) never got off the ground. At the time the Labour Party was totalled opposed (although the 1966-1970 Labour government did reapply) as were some thirty Conservative MP s with another fifty to seventy having serious doubts. When the French President General Charles de Gaulle vetoed the original application in 1963 he was not convinced that the United Kingdom with its past ties to Empire and its historical links with the USA  would be suitable member. Looking back fifty or so years later the conclusion must surely be that the President was probably right.
The writer accepts that ever since the ending of the Second World War in 1945 the world has not been a happy place but we seemed to know which side we were on: The U S A with its NATO allies against the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies with most of the other countries classing themselves as ‘nonaligned’.  These days it seems things are much more fluid and moving in different directions.
We were guided by our parents and teachers, our parents giving us the stable family unit which is lacking in so many cases today. Our moral principles were based on biblical teaching. Society is more secular a situation which many on the left actively encourage. Many pride themselves on being atheists or agnostics.  The writer truly believes that the western Judeo Christian civilisation which has underpinned our society over the last two thousand years is in grave danger of collapse and eventual extinction so yes for him

                             The past was another country.  We did do things differently there.

1st April 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017

Essential reading for all Conservatives

The following article was published on the Conservativehome web site on 16th April 2017 :

Message for all Conservative Party members
By John Strafford
Did you know that at a meeting of the National Convention to be held on 1st July changes will be made to the Constitution of the Conservative Party?
Of course as an ordinary party member you will not have a vote on these changes.   Isn’t it time that you did have a vote?
Isn’t it time that the Conservative Party came into the 21st century and embraced democracy so that ordinary members have a say in the running of the party organisation instead of it just being left in the hands of the National Convention and Tory members of parliament?
At a meeting of the National Convention held on 18th March it was announced that changes to the party constitution would be proposed. These changes are necessary to extend the date when a Constituency Association has to have held its Annual General Meeting.   It is to be altered to 30th June.  Also the maximum term of office for Constituency officers is to be changed to five years.
As far as we are aware no Agenda was sent out for the meeting on the 18th March. Attendance was less than 100 out of the approximately 800 people entitled to attend and during the meeting a motion was put to have a minimum membership fee of £25.00 which was passed overwhelmingly.   This is no way to run an organisation.   The National Convention, which was set up to be the voice of the voluntary party but which has become a rubber stamp for the party hierarchy, is no longer fit for purpose and should be abolished.
The quality of our party organisation has deteriorated – the decline in membership is having a serious impact.
Conservative Party membership throughout the United Kingdom was estimated at 3.1 million in 1951, falling to 1.5 million by 1975 at the time of the Houghton Report into the financing of political parties. It continued to fall and went down to between 350,000 and 450,000 by 1996, according to estimates compiled by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a leading authority on Party organisation and finance. After the 1998 reorganisation of the Party, membership picked up a little, but by nowhere near as much as the Tories hoped. The total had fallen to 320,000 by 2003. When David Cameron became Leader in 2005 membership was 258,239. By the time of the 2015 General Election membership had fallen to 134,000.   290 Constituency Associations had fewer than 100 members. Only two Associations had over 1,000 members and just 50 had more than 500 members.

In 1959 there were 500 Conservative Party Agents. By 1994 this had fallen to 200. Today there are fewer than 40. At a time when modern technologies such as computers have necessitated a more professional organisation, the need for Party Agents is greater than ever. This loss has been hard for the Conservative Party to bear. Agents take care of legal requirements, but more importantly they are motivators and organisers. At election time their loss could be disastrous.   
Party organisation in many weaker constituencies is nonexistent. Some have effectively no Party organisation. Without radical change the Conservative Party as a Party of mass membership will cease to exist.   
To turn round this decline will take time but first of all we have to change the constitution.    The age of deference is dead.   Today people want to participate and that means voting either on decisions taken or voting for the people who take those decisions.   The Constitution of the Party should be changed as follows:
·          The Constitution of the Conservative Party to be capable of being amended or changed by the members of the Party at a General Meeting of the Party on the basis of one member, one vote provided that the amendment or change is approved by 66% of those members voting and not less than 50% of those present.
·         There should be an Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.
·         The officers of the Party (Chairman, Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee, Chairman of the Policy Forum) to be elected by the members of the Party at the Annual General Meeting and shall serve for no more than five years.
·         Annual reports by the officers shall be presented to the Annual General Meeting for adoption by the meeting.

I hope that every member of the National Convention and every Conservative MP will support these changes.   Let me know if you do.