Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Tory Tea Party - How the world sees us!

In recent months the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other international papers have published articles about the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.   The following article was  printed on  the Christian Science Monitor of Boston web site on July 22nd 2019: 

A Tory tea party? How fringe voters are reshaping British politics
·         By Simon Montlake Staff writer
A quarter-century of agitating at the grassroots of Britain’s oldest and most successful political party has taught John Strafford a few tricks.
Meet regularly but not too often. Budget modestly: Rent a cheap space and serve a simple lunch. And always pack a spare kettle for endless cups of tea, just in case.
On a recent Saturday morning, Mr. Strafford, a retired accountant and entrepreneur, set out four rows of chairs in a small church hall in this leafy London suburb of million-dollar houses and stalwart votes for the Conservative Party, of which Mr. Strafford is a lifelong member. His small group of party activists was gathering to discuss, among other matters, a national leadership contest: It is widely assumed the winner will be Boris Johnson, who is set to replace Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.
But Mr. Strafford and his allies are not content with merely voting for their next leader. They want a much greater say going forward in how the party is run and who stands for office, particularly in safe seats in the heartland for the Tories, a center-right party which has its roots in a 17th-century parliamentary faction and styles itself as the natural party of government. And when it comes to the defining issue of Brexit, that means purging Conservative members of Parliament who stand in the way of a hard break from Europe.
Mr. Strafford describes a long war of attrition between the party establishment and its corporate donors, and activists in towns and suburbs like this one. “Brexit brought it to a head. It was going to implode at some point,” he says.
That tension between the Tory base and the elite has echoes of the tea party revolt a decade ago that reshaped the GOP and blazed a path for Donald Trump’s presidency. Here, as in the U.S., the revolt is as much about culture and identity as it is about economic policy. And in Mr. Johnson, an Eton-educated populist who became the face of Brexit in the 2016 referendum, it may have found its man, a bridge between a Brexit-at-all-costs base and a flailing party establishment.
Crucially, Mr. Johnson is also seen as a vote-getter who can take on Labour, the party’s traditional left-wing foe, and the upstart Brexit Party that is snapping at its right flank. In May, the Brexit Party polled first in largely symbolic European Parliament elections; the Conservatives finished fifth.
For Jon Stanley, a fellow at the Bow Group, a right-wing think tank in London, the Conservatives have no choice but to embrace Brexit and stop trying to hold Remain voters.
“These two groups are now permanently aligned and if the Tories don’t choose the obvious group, which is the Leavers, it will be in trouble really, really fast,” he says.
“Do or die”
Around 160,000 Conservatives were eligible to vote in the month long run-off race between Mr. Johnson, a former foreign secretary and London mayor, and Jeremy Hunt, the current foreign secretary. Ms. May agreed to step down in May after failing to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union in March and being forced to negotiate a Brexit extension until Oct. 31.
Mr. Johnson has vowed that the U.K. will leave the EU on that date “do or die,” and embraced a no-deal Brexit in the event that the EU refuses, as it has done until now, to amend his predecessor’s contentious withdrawal agreement. Ms. May’s own government forecasts that a “hard Brexit” is likely to trigger a deep recession; many U.K. businesses have repeatedly urged Conservative leaders to abandon the threat.
But polling suggests that Conservative members, who are older, whiter, and less urban than the broad electorate, support a hard Brexit. Mr. Strafford says any economic setbacks, even a drop in living standards, would be justified by the freedom and liberty that a clean break from Europe affords. “This is a gut feeling among the British public,” he says.
This feeling is not shared, however, by Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general who since 1997 has represented the Beaconsfield constituency – in which Gerrards Cross lies – and has threatened to bring down any Conservative government that pursues a no-deal exit. Which is why Mr. Strafford and other disgruntled local members are trying to stop Mr. Grieve standing again as their candidate. He is one of several pro-Europe Tory members of Parliament, including current and former ministers, facing de-selection campaigns, though few have been as outspoken on Brexit as Mr. Grieve.
At the church hall meeting,  Mr. Strafford provides an update on their campaign and how they can keep up the pressure. “It’s critically important that we win this battle so that the voice of members is heard,” he says.
U.K. parties don’t hold primaries and the process of deselecting a sitting MP is complex. In the case of Mr. Grieve, who lost a no-confidence vote in March, the Beaconsfield Conservative association has asked him to reapply to stand in the next general election. Still, warns Mr. Strafford, that mechanism probably won’t work in time for a snap election.
Asked by a Monitor correspondent for a show of hands as to who would vote for Mr. Grieve as their candidate in such a scenario, none go up.
Older and whiter
In seats like Beaconsfield, a drop in the Conservative vote may not sink the party. But the rise of the Brexit Party, perhaps the closest analogue to the tea party, could prove disastrous for any Conservative leader trying to win a fresh mandate, particularly if Brexit is unfulfilled, as was shown in May when droves of Conservatives defected in the European parliamentary election.
“If we don’t come out they’ll stay with the Brexit Party, and then the Tory party becomes a rump,” warns Mr. Strafford.
Allies of Mr. Johnson have suggested that he could strike a one-off electoral pact with the Brexit Party in order to avoid splitting the anti-EU vote, as happened in a by-election in Peterborough in June that Labour held, despite only polling one-third of ballots cast.
Such a strategy is risky, though, since it would jettison moderate Conservative votes, say analysts. And it doubles down on the ideology of a base that is out of step with modern Britain in its preference for a no-compromise Brexit even if it wrecks the party and its brand.
Rory Stewart, a Conservative minister who ran as a centrist in the leadership race and failed to make the run-off, said in April that if the party advocates for a no-deal Brexit, “we’re saying goodbye to young people, goodbye to Remain voters, and goodbye to the center ground of British politics.”
Ahead of the leadership race the party’s membership has grown, but at 160,000 is a fraction of its post-war peak. As recently as 1970, it represented over 3% of the electorate and Conservative social clubs and events were a mainstay of town life. Now it is less than 0.4% of Britons.
The raw numbers may be less important than demographics; Conservative activists skew older and whiter, while their fervor for Brexit is failing to win over the next generation of voters.
“They’re increasingly locked out of urban Britain, which is younger and more multicultural,” says Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London who has surveyed the party’s membership.
He points out that an aging Tory base in prosperous towns finds it easier to dismiss as fear-mongering the forecasts of a no-deal Brexit recession. “They’ve got their house. They’ve got their pension. The state of the economy isn’t so much of a worry for them,” he says.
Maureen Holding, a Conservative councillor in the New Forest in southern England, says Mr. Johnson is the right leader for the party as he can speak to younger voters. Just as important, says Ms. Holding, who defended her seat in a May council election that saw a surge in votes for the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, he’s committed to leaving the EU on Oct. 31.
Asked about the economic disruption of such an act, Ms. Holding raises her chin. “We are Great Britain,” she says.

Friday, July 26, 2019

COPOV Summer evening party - 10th August

Come and join us and celebrate the new government.   At last we are on the road to Brexit.   See events

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Message from Boris Johnson MP

We have received the following message from Boris Johnson MP.   We accordingly give him our endorsement to be the Leader of the Conservative Party.

“I have strong support for the kind of requests that are being made by the followers of the Conservative Campaign for Democracy.  Reform of the Party Organisation is long overdue and this will be a priority if I am elected as Leader of the Party.  The idea of a Party Commission with a set deadline to come back with specific reforms is something I will look at seriously.  I am grateful to Conservative Campaign for Democracy for taking the initiative on this important issue.”

Friday, July 5, 2019

Which Political Party is more democratic - Brexit or Conservative?

Democracy: Brexit Party V. Conservative Party Constitutions

At the time the Brexit Party registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission it submitted its Constitution.  This has as yet not been implemented, e.g. you can only join the Party as a Supporter which at present does not appear in their Constitution.
We submitted to all the Leadership Candidates for the Conservative Party essential reforms needed by the Party if it is to avoid oblivion.  Boris Johnson has said that he will give a top priority to Party Reform.How does the Brexit Party compare?   The following were the essential points for reform of the Conservative Party:
Five Essential Reforms
1)      The National Convention should be replaced by an Annual General Meeting to which all Party members are invited.
2)      The Chairman of the Party Board, Deputy Chairman, Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee and Chairman of the Policy Forum should be elected by and accountable to Party members and present Annual reports to the Annual General Meeting.
3)      Constituency Associations should have the right to determine who their Parliamentary Candidate should be with due process and minimum interference by CCHQ, with safeguards for Constituencies where the membership is below a certain level.
4)      Motions for debate should be re-instated at the Party Conference and/or at the Spring Forum.
5)      The Party Constitution should be capable of being changed at a General Meeting of the Party by Party members on the basis of One Member One Vote with a 60% majority. The present minor changes to the Constitution have been under discussion for four years and nothing has happened.

1)      The Brexit Party will have an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited.   They will not have a National Convention which is a barrier to communication between the Party hierarchy and the membership.   Brexit Party is more democratic.
2)      The Party Board in both parties are unelected and thus unaccountable to the Party membership.   However in the Brexit Party the Board members have to present reports to their Annual General Meeting.   Both parties are undemocratic but there is an element of accountability in the Brexit Party.  
3)      Both parties have very centralised systems for candidate selection.  It will be interesting to see how they change, if they change.   Both parties are undemocratic.
4)      The Brexit Party will have motions for debate at its Party conference.   The Conservative Party does not.   Brexit Party is more democratic.
5)      Changing the Party Constitution is long and convoluted in the Conservative Party and ordinary members have no say.  The Brexit Party looks to be more democratic in that changes to its constitution will be put to all members in a ballot.   However it looks very difficult to propose changes.  There is a typing error in the submission which reads as follows:
b) at the request of 200 or more properly constituted and duly registered the cost of the ballot.
 This doesn’t make sense.   I presume it means that 200 Constituency Associations have to propose a change and pay for the ballot?   On balance the Brexit Party is more democratic.

Both Parties are effectively dictatorships rather than democratic organisations.   The members of the Conservative Party have no say in getting rid of their Leader and only get a limited say in the election of their Leader.   The Brexit Party elect their Leader on the basis of one member one vote but ordinary members have no means of getting rid of their Leader, although the Leader is elected for a fixed term of four years and then comes up for re-election.
The democratic fault lines in the Brexit Party, as in the Labour and Conservative parties are that they are undemocratic organisations increasingly reliant on big donations.   As with all parties big donors want influence and a say.   If the Brexit Party can avoid this, once it is set up and running it will have a major advantage over Labour and Conservative parties.
The Brexit Party is attracting the votes of large numbers of Conservative members.   When they find that they have a bigger voice in the Brexit Party than in the Conservative Party they may well decide that the Brexit Party is for them.   Unless the Conservative Party embraces radical reform as outlined above it is doomed to oblivion. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Boris backs Party Reform

“I have strong support for the kind of requests that are being made by the followers of the excellent Conservative Voice organisation.  Reform of the Party Organisation is long overdue and this will be a priority if I am elected as Leader of the Party.  The idea of a Party Commission with a set deadline to come back with specific reforms has my full support.  I am grateful to Conservative Voice for taking the initiative on this important issue.”


Here are the Conservative Voice proposals:

We are clear that regardless of who becomes our next leader and Prime Minister, Party reform should be at the very top of their priority list. The case is clear, and we are pleased to outline the following points as a manifesto for change:

  1. The Chairman of the Party Board should be elected by the membership. The Party Chairman is a separate role chosen by the Party Leader. The Party Board Chairman should focus on organisation, The Party Chairman, on policy
  2. A new organisation of senior volunteers should be created to bring together Regional and Area Chairmen, Women and Young Voters. This body should meet regularly with the Parliamentary Party
  3. The Sunday of Party Conference should become ‘Members’ Day’ where motions are accepted from Associations across the country and debated with the relevant Ministerial teams
  4. An AGM should be held to include all parts of the Party where real decisions are taken and implemented
  5. All Board Committees should be led by an elected volunteer. In particular, there needs to be greater involvement of volunteers in the selection of the Chairman of the Candidates Committee. Also. there should be no dilution in the involvement of members in the selection of their local and national candidates. This will be an essential component in the fabric of our Party moving forward
  6. A different and far more positive style of communicating and engaging with potential supporters is required
  7. A robust Awards & Recognition strategy should be introduced across the Party to include activists, members, professionals and Parliamentary colleagues

Trusting the electorate to make decisions about policy issues must be matched by trusting members to have a greater say in the running of The Party.

Conservative Voice is calling on both leadership contenders to commit to a strategic plan to take these points forward with clear timescales and accountabilities. Specifically, the new Party Leader should establish a Party Commission to take this agenda forward.  

An election is coming, sooner or later, and if we’re going to win, we need to seriously reboot and regrow our Party. If we don’t we could be handing the keys to No.10 to a communist. The stakes are simply to high to fail.