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