Archive 2004

Archive 2004
- Parliamentary Take-over - "We cannot negotiate with terrorists" - Impeach Tony Blair - Party Conference - Tony's Personal Reasons - By-Elections - Fox Hunting - Interference - Rules for a Leadership Election - Alternative Approach to the Rules - Reform of the Conservative Party Constitution - Party Membership - Wally of the Week - Party Conference - ***Star of the Week*** - The Sun's Harmful Rays - Lord Butler's Report - Party Democracy? - Party Board of Conservative Central Office - Directly Elected Prime Minister - more letters to "The Times" - Terminal Decline? - "The Times" Readers Reply - ***Stars of the Week*** - Directly Elected Prime Minister - Central Office Move - Trouble at the Top - Memoirs of Michael Ashcroft - Wally of the Week - How history might have been changed if? - MEPs for an Area - The EPP - What is going on Follow up(2) - ***Stars of the Week*** -Today COPOV, Tomorrow "The Times" - European President - Defining Democracy - ***Star*** and Wally of the Week - What is going on? Follow Up - Election Points - Surrey Heath Candidate Selection - Conservatives Direct - The Story the Media Missed - The Campaign - Weasel Words - The Ballot Paper - European Election - "Question Time" - Lying Libs - Unforeseen Consequences - Honours - Euro Election - How not to win friends - The "Today" programme - European Election Campaign - Conservatives after the War - Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison - Heartlands - European Election - European Constitution - Peerages - Proposals for the Party Conference - European Referendum - An evening with William Hague MP - Referendum on the European Constitution? - European Constitution - A Fair Electoral System? - Anti Terrorism Acts - Civic Partnership Act - A European Constitution? -Target Constituencies - Luton Airport - National Convention/Spring Forum - Primary Elections - Party Bulletin ***The Conservative Party*** - Disgraceful - Liverpool Conservative Clubs -  Lord Chancellor - Little Wally of the Week - Jonathan Aitken - Party Political Broadcasts - The "Today" programme - Candidate Selection - The Party Bulletin - Election for Party Leader - Elections in Iraq - More State Funding - Blame COPOV -   I Believe Feed Back - "I Believe" - Christmas Cards - Women Candidates - The Honours List again
September 26th
***Star of the Week*** - The audience of "Question Time".  They had more sense than all the panellists added together.
Parliamentary Take-over
Not long ago the Conservative Party Conference was controlled by the National Union (voluntary party), but in recent years the Parliamentary party has taken more and more control.   The end effect is that we have the worst conference of any of the political parties.   The process of take-over continues.   For the first time ever the Conference handbook contains no photograph of the Chairman or the President of the National Convention - both members of the voluntary party.   Indeed normally the President chairs the Conference but in the handbook no mention of this is made.
The parliamentary party will soon realise that without the volunteers there is no party.   Central Office believe that we do not need members, that we can be run the same way as the Republican Party in the United States.   Only one snag.   The United States Presidential election will cost $3 Billion.   Now where do they think we are going to get that kind of money?
We cannot negotiate with terrorists! 
Tell that to Tony Bliar, John Major and Margaret Thatcher who all negotiated with the IRA, and didn't Edward Heath negotiate with a female plane hi-jacker or does my memory fail me?
September 19th
***Star of the Week*** Dr. Liam Fox MP - for an excellent speech to the "Bow Group".   It was a shame that part was leaked to the press, but nothing was said that any sensible Conservative would disagree with.
Impeach Tony Blair?
Most commentators believe that the attempt to impeach the Prime Minister will fail."   Should that happen then Parliament could move an Act of Attainder against the Prime Minister. There is a precedent:
In 1641 the Earl of Strafford was charged with an Act of Impeachment.   After 17 days of debate the impeachment seemed likely to fail so an Act of Attainder was proposed, which simply decreed treason on the basis of a general presumption of guilt to which the King had to consent. Reluctantly the King did so, even after allowing his 11 year old son to plead for Strafford’s life in the House of Lords.
All to no avail Strafford was found guilty and beheaded. Cardinal Richelieu said of Strafford "The English Nation was so foolish that they would not let the wisest head among them stand on its own shoulders."
The Attainder was reversed in 1662 – a bit too late for Strafford. The minimum sentence for an Act of Attainder is loss of all civil rights – the maximum execution, although I am sure Tony Blair’s worst enemies would not wish the latter on him.
Party Conference
Have you got your pass for the Conservative Party Conference?   If not, don't bother.   It looks as if this will be the blandest conference ever.    Not a single motion for debate.   Maximum time for a contribution from the floor - two minutes.   All froth and no substance.   What happened to the promises to bring back the old style conference?
Tony's Personal Reasons
We have heard a lot this week about how Tony Bliar almost resigned during the summer for personal and family reasons.   Was it anything to do with his daughter and a trip to a London hospital?   Sadly the story will eventually all come out so why not pre empt the speculation and make a statement.   That will be the end of it.
In 1958 the marginal Conservative seat of Rochdale was lost in a by-election to Labour.   The Liberals came second with the Tories pushed into third place.    The Party Chairman at the time was Lord Hailsham.   He offered his resignation to Macmillan in a letter saying "There is something to be said for the rolling of heads when a knock like this comes, and I shall not complain if you select mine for the purpose."   Those were the days when words like "honour" did not come amiss when talking about politics.
Fox Hunting
The Prime Minister takes the United Kingdom into an illegal war and faces no consequences and no censure.
A group of protestors go onto the floor of the House of Commons to defend an oppressed minority knowing full well the consequences of their actions and prepared to accept those consequences.
Who commands the moral heights?
The Falmouth and Camborne Constituency Association recently had a special meeting to consider the de-selection of their parliamentary candidate Ashley Crossley who is gay.   Quite rightly the Party Leader and the Party Chairman wrote to the constituency to state unequivocally that there should be no discrimination in the Conservative Party.   However the Party Chairman overstepped the mark when he said "I am writing .... to make clear that Ashley Crossley is an excellent candidate who commands the full confidence of Conservative Central Office".   Is he going to say the same about every candidate in every selection and if not why not.?    This is a dangerous precedent.

12th September
***Stars of the Week*** Ken Clarke MP for a brilliant speech at the European Ideas Network Summer University about the Trans Atlantic partnership and the war in Iraq.
James Elles MEP - for his superb organisation of the European Ideas Network Summer University and Ideas Fair.   With speakers including Carl Bildt, Jose Maria Aznar, Angela Merkel, Edouard Balladur,Ana Palacio and Francis Fukuyama, this has become a major annual event.
Nobody is suggesting that there should be a Leadership election either now or after the General Election but there is always a possibility that one could be called at any time.   It is therefore important that the rules are in place for such an event.
At a meeting of COPOV held on 8th May 2004 the rules for a Leadership election were discussed. The following changes were agreed by the meeting:
The rules for deciding the procedure by which the 1922 Committee select candidates for submission for election shall be as determined by the Board after consultation with the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee.
Candidates must be nominated by at least 15% of Conservative Members of Parliament.
If there are more than four candidates then there should be an open ballot of Members of Parliament and the four candidates with the highest number of votes should be put to the entire membership of the Party for election.
If there are four or less candidates then all candidates should be put to the membership for election. The membership should put the candidates in their order of preference. The candidate with the least number of first votes should drop out and their second votes redistributed to the other candidates. The process should be repeated until such time as one candidate has over 50% of the votes, at which time such candidates should be declared the winner.
To get rid of a Leader the following process would apply:
(a) 33% of Conservative MPs would notify the Chief Whip that they wished to have a leadership election (The 33% figure is very high but it reflects the anger members felt about the way Duncan Smith was dismissed).
Once the 33% had been obtained an electoral college consisting of Conservative MPs, Conservative members of the House of Lords, Conservative MEPs, and Constituency Chairman would be convened.
There should then be a postal ballot of the electoral college on the question "Should there be a leadership election?"
If the answer to the above question by a majority is "Yes" then a Leadership election should be called.
The existing Leader would be perfectly entitled to stand in such an election
An Alternative Approach to the Rules.
The following is an alternative approach to the rules on a Leadership election but are not the official views of COPOV:
In a recent Bow Group pamphlet "Who Really Governs Britain", Nirj Deva MEP stated that 55% of the legislation that affects Britain was initiated in the corridors of power in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is possible that at some point in the future the Party would want the Leader of the Party to be an MEP or a member of the House of Lords. This possibility should be catered for. A distinction can be made between the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the Parliamentary Party at Westminster. For a period in 1940 Neville Chamberlain was the Leader of the Party whilst Sir Winston Churchill was the Leader of the Parliamentary Party. For as long as the Party accepts Westminster as the most important political institution, the Leader of the Party and the Leader of the Parliamentary Party will be one and the same person.
What is clear is that MEPs should have a greater role in the nomination process than they have at present. The House of Lords as one of the national political institutions should also have a role to play in nominating candidates.
If a distinction is made and we have both a Leader of the Party and a Leader of the Parliamentary Party then the rules for electing or dismissing the Leader of the Parliamentary Party would be decided by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons.
The nominating process for Leader of the Party should be designed to produce a maximum short list of four candidates who would then be put to the whole Party on the basis of One Member One Vote.
Nomination of a candidates should be by 25 MPs, five MEPs and five members of the House of Lords. Should this nominating process produce more than four candidates then a ballot of the Conservative MPs, MEPs and members of the House of Lords should be held with the top four members in the ballot going forward for election by the Party membership. The members of the Party would then be asked to vote by placing the candidates in order of preference. The candidates with the lowest number of votes would be eliminated and his/her votes redistributed in accordance with the second preference and so on until the top candidate had over 50% of the votes.
There should be an Annual General Meeting of the Party and this would take place at the start of the Party Conference. The Leader of the Party would be elected at the Annual General Meeting after a postal ballot of all members of the Party.
Nominations for the Leader of the Party should be invited four weeks before the Annual General Meeting with nominations closing three weeks before the Annual General Meeting.
The qualifying date for members to be eligible to vote in the ballot ought to be the date nominations are requested
We ought to make it easier for members to vote by developing the possibility of voting on the Internet and telephone voting with each member having their own unique pin number.
Finally the rules for election of the Leader of the Party should be in the Party’s Constitution and not left in the hands of the 1922 Executive Committee.
The Electoral College system for changing the Party’s constitution should be scrapped with changes determined at the Annual General Meeting. If 1,000 members of the Party requested a change through the Party’s secure web site then the change should be put to the Annual General Meeting
Note: If we accept the above suggestion we ought also to have the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Treasurer of the Party elected at the Annual General Meeting. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman would be responsible for the Party organisation. They should not serve more than five years.
The Leader of the Party should be strongly discouraged from resigning during the course of his year even if we have lost a General Election.

September 5th
***Star of the Week***Andrew Lansley MP for his cool human approach on the "Today" programme.
Alan Duncan MP  - for his excellent contribution and courage in promoting Conservatives for Kerry on "Talking Politics".   Why is this programme being taken off air until just before Christmas?
Digby Jones for speaking a lot of common sense on "Hardtalk"
BBC24 - This has become the best BBC channel.   Its discussion with Nick Gowing on Global terrorism was a great contribution to understanding.
"Newsnight" with Eddie Mair.   What a refreshing change from Kirstie Wark.   Sad how "Broadcasting House has deteriorated since Eddie Mair's departure.
All in all quite a good week for politics.
Conservative Party Constitution.
We show below the kind of changes required to the Conservative Party Constitution if it wants to get back into power.    These changes will be discussed at our meeting on 25th September (see Notice Board).    We will show the changes required to the Leadership rules next week.
The Party Reforms, which William Hague introduced in 1998, did not meet up to the vision, which he set out on becoming Leader in 1997. There have been some successes, but there have also been some spectacular failures
The Party is still undemocratic.
We are still not “One Party”.
Participation by ordinary members of the Party in Party policy development is virtually zero.
Communication to ordinary members is non-existent.
Motivation of Party workers has almost ceased.
We need to rebuild the Party from the “grass roots” upwards. This will require changes to the Party Constitution. The time to do this is immediately after the next General Election. We set out below some of the changes we think are necessary but welcome your views on these or any other ideas you may have. These are draft proposals.
The Board of the Conservative Party
The political role of the Party Chairman should be undertaken by the Leader’s appointed Deputy Leader, leaving the Party Chairman responsible for Party Organisation.
The Party Chairman and Treasurer should be elected by and thus accountable to the entire membership of the Party.
The Party Chairman should present an Annual Report on the party organisation to the National Convention.
The Treasurer should be responsible for the income and expenditure of the Party with a remit to balance the books.
The Treasurer should present the accounts of the Party to the National Convention for their adoption.
Fundraisers should be appointed by and accountable to the Treasurer.
The political institutions of Westminster and Local Government are represented on the Board – Europe is not.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be represented on the Board by their elected Chairmen.
The Leader of the Conservative MEPs should be a member of the Board.
The Vice Chairmen of the Party are at present appointed by the Leader. They should be elected by the members, and on the Party Board.
Party Vice Chairmen
There should be three Party Vice Chairmen elected by the National Convention. They should report to the Convention.
They should be responsible for Membership, Candidates and Party Conferences.
Membership matters should be dealt with by the Membership Committee and not by the Party Board.
Individual membership matters should be dealt with by an independent Party Ombudsman whose decision shall be final.
The Ethics and Integrity committee should be abolished.
Provision should be made in Parliamentary selections for local candidates to apply for selection.
The National Convention
The National Convention consists of approximately 1,000 people. It is too big to be an executive body and too small to be representative. It does not comply with the concept of “One Party”.
The National Convention should consist of all members of the Party.
The Party Constitution may be changed by 66% of those voting at the Convention.
National Executive
There should be a National Executive which would meet twice a year. Its function would be to take action in conjunction with the Party Board to maintain an effective organisation throughout the country. It would consist of
The Party Board
Members of the Executive of the 1922 Committee
1 MEP per Region
Regional Co-ordinators
Regional Treasurers
Officers of the Conservative Councillors Association
Leaders and Deputy Leaders of Conservative Groups of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland Assemblies.
10 co-options
The role of the Regions is to co-ordinate, communicate and motivate.
Regional Chairmen should be elected by all the members in their Region.
Twice a year meetings should be held in each Region to which all members of the Region are invited.
Regional Treasurers should be elected by all the members of their Region.
As part of the formal structure of the Party the Areas should be scrapped, although some Regions may wish to keep the Areas and can so do.
Conservative Policy Forum
The Chairman of the Policy Forum will be the Deputy Leader of the Party.
The Party Leader will determine the priorities of policies..
Two thirds of the Council of the Conservative Policy Forum should be elected by the National Executive.
Each Departmental Shadow Cabinet Minister should set up a Policy Group which would produce “Green” papers on policy for discussion through the CPF discussion groups.
After discussion and consultation the Policy Groups would produce a “White” paper which would then be put to a National Forum.
The National Forum would be open to any member of the Party.
After approval by the National Forum the “White” paper would go to the Party Conference for approval.
The “Recognised Organisations” should be part of the Policy Forum.
Constituency Associations
The Three year rule for Officers should be changed to Four years.
Each Constituency should have an elected Treasurer.
The Deputy Chairmen should not have their roles designated by the Constitution.
Every candidate in a Constituency election shall have access to the Association membership list.
Party Conference
Any member may attend the Party Conference.
Any member may propose a motion for the Party Conference - such motion to be put on the Party’s internet site.
By adopting the above proposals we would create a democratic Conservative Party, with increased participation by ordinary members, improved communication and greater motivation. A political Party for the 21st Century.

August 29th
***Star of the Week*** Michael Howard MP for standing up to George Bush.    The Tory Party can only benefit when it pursues the truth.
Party Membership
Getting accurate figures out of the Tory party on membership is more difficult than getting blood out of a stone, but perhaps the realities have been staring us in the face since the Party had to submit its accounts to the Electoral Commission.   For the first time in the Accounts of the Party to 31st December 2002 income was broken down showing "Membership Levy" and "Party Membership"
The Membership Levy up to 31st December 2003 was one pound per member.   We can assume that Party Membership is those subscriptions collected by Central Office.   At best the Party Membership would have a subscription of £15 (the minimum)   Working on this basis we get the following breakdown:
 31st December 200331st December 200231st March 2002
(a) Membership Levy£223,000£251,000£276,000
(b) Party Membership Fees£466,000£326,000£437,000
Constituency Membership233,000251,000276,000
Central Membership (b) /£1531,000  22,000  29,000
TOTAL MEMBERSHIP254,000273,000305,000
We know that at the time of the Leadership election in September 2001 the total membership was 327,000 so in just over two years membership declined by 73,000.
We hear that the National Membership Committee is no longer given membership figures.   No wonder.   After the General Election the Party has to change.   Without change it will die.    Next week we will show the kind of changes required. 
August 22
Wally of the Week, - David Miliband MP.   Is this man as stupid as he appears?   "A" levels have become totally useless.   The whole purpose of exams is to compare the results of one person against another, to find out who is best.   The way to do this is to restrict the pass level.    Until the 1980s the top 70% passed.   The rest failed.    It is time we went back to this method.   Otherwise after 20 years of continuous increase we will soon have 100% pass.   What the use is that?
Party Conference
At the Spring Convention the Party Chairman said that we were going to revert to the traditional style of Party conference.    We assumed this meant we were going to have motions for debate.    The "grass roots" are still waiting for the invitation to submit motions.   Mind you a lot of "grass roots" members find that the cost of attending conference is beyond them.   Not as expensive as attending the annual get together of the Regional and Area officers in Newport Pagnall.   They are being asked for £140.   Lord Woolton will be turning over in his grave.    We are going back to the Pre War Tory Party when money bought position.    Sad really. 
One of the items on the Newport Pagnall agenda is the Party's Constitution.   This is a last chance to get it right.    We either create a genuinely democratic Party or the Tories will kiss goodbye to holding office for a generation.
August 15th
*** Star of the Week*** The Conservative Party - for a brief moment this week the party came alive first of all with David Davis and then Michael Howard speaking about Law and Order and Bureaucracy.   Sadly it was only a brief spark in what has become a dull month for politics.   Nothing now until the end of the month.
The Suns Harmful Rays
This country is drowning in a sea of bureaucracy.   More and more people are being employed by the government and will have a vested interest in keeping it that way as the nation sinks down the plug hole.    We show below a letter from one of our major building contractors to a subcontractor. 
    "As part of our, and your, responsibility for Occupational Health and Safety at Work we must ensure those who are exposed to the suns harmful rays during work are sufficiently protected.
    It has come to our attention people currently working on the roof and balcony areas are being exposed and making no attempt to prevent ill health.   For your information the following rules must be adhered to :
        1.    Operatives must wear at least, a t-shirt under hi-vis jackets.
        2.    Sunprotection creams to be used where necessary.
        3.     Consideration should be given to people having to work for long                   periods outside i.e. dehydration/heat exhaustion."
So now we know.   Can I be present when the employer asks his hairy ***** building worker "Have you got your sun cream with You?   Next thing we know they will be spelling out what factor level it should be .   Has the World gone mad?   In the mean time the Chinese and Indian economies  are steaming ahead of Europe.   Is it any wonder?
Lord Butler's Report
Nobody put their hand out,Nobody took a bribe,
Nobody was compromised
By acts you could describe.
Nobody got away with it,
Nobody thought they could,
And all of them were honest men,
And all of them were good.
Nobody bought a cabinet,
Whatever you may hear,
And all of them were honest men,
And all were in the clear.
Nobody did a secret deal,
Nobody was for sale,
Nobody bent the rules at all,
And nobody went to jail,
And all of them were honest men,
As white as driven snow,
And all lived on a higher plane,
And shat on those below. 
With thanks to the late Roger Woddis

August 8th
*** Star of the Week*** - BBC News 24 for putting "Hardtalk" on at 9.30pm on Saturday night.   This excellent programme deserves to be shown at a sensible time.
Party Democracy?
We have heard a disturbing report about the Party hierarchy interfering in a internal Party election.   Words like "loyalty" "Leader" "finished" have been bandied about but perhaps more important "ignore the rules".   Above constituency level democracy in the Conservative Party has always been threadbare but we hoped that the Hague reforms were the start of a new approach.   It seems not.
Party Board of Conservative Central Office
Last week we pointed out the change of name of the Party Board to the above.   Throughout its history Central Office was the office of the Leader of the Party.   As such it was recognised by the Inland Revenue.   The Conservative Party did not exist.   There was the National Union and there was the Parliamentary Party and there was Central Office.    The only time they came together was at the Party Meeting which took place when there was a new Leader, but as nobody knew who called this meeting or who was entitled to attend, it was deemed by the Courts in the early 1980s that the Conservative Party did not exist.   It was not even an Unincorporated Association.
William Hague introduced the Party reforms in 1998 to change all that.   A Party Constitution was created incorporating all parts of the Party.   We were told that now we were "One Party".    There was one snag.   Central Office had accumulated tax losses.    If it was incorporated into the new body it might lose these losses.    Another difficulty was that the building at 32 Smith Square was owned by one of the "River" companies and controlled by The 1949 Conservative & Unionist Trust and if this was all brought into the Party tax might be payable.     So, it was agreed with the Inland Revenue that in spite of the apparent change, all would continue as before.
The culture of secrecy continues.    Until the Conservative Party realises that in this democratic age transparency is part of modern democracy the Party will continue to struggle in the polls.    Make the Party transparent, cut out these complicated tax obfuscation, make it democratic.   These are the ingredients for future electoral success.    After the next General Election the Party will have its last chance to reform.   It must take it. 
Directly Elected Prime Minister - More letters in "The Times".
We show below more letters in "The Times" on this important subject together with a response from the Chairman of COPOV:
Response from the Chairman of COPOV
In arguing against the proposal to directly elect the British Prime Minister your correspondents raise points which need to be answered. Mr James Macdonald states that "Direct election would give rise to a wide spectrum of applicants, not all estimable" (letter 29 July). Democracy is about choice and it is up to the people to decide who is or is not estimable. He then complains that "a fixed term brings governmental paralysis in the last quarter while campaigning goes ahead for the next." Isn’t that exactly what is happening in the UK at the moment at a time when a general election may be a year or more away? His final point is a general acceptance of the party machines grinding out leaders. As our two main political parties are essentially oligarchies – Labour run by the Trade Unions and Conservatives by wealthy individuals – is it really acceptable in a modern democracy that the British Prime Minister should be selected by these small groups of people?
Mr Sydney Perera states that the Prime Minister is accountable to the nation through parliament (letter, 29 July). That, of course, is the theory. In practice what does it mean? The House of Lords is mainly an appointed body and any attempt to control the executive can be over ridden by adding further appointees or implementing the Parliament Act. It is a toothless talking shop even if at times its words contain great wisdom.
The House of Commons could and should hold the Prime Minister accountable but continuously fails to do so, perhaps because the Prime Minister exercises such huge powers of patronage – over 100 MPs owe their appointment and salary as Ministers to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints the government whips who in turn choose the chairmen and members of select committees. Promotion, position, overseas trips, appointment to outside bodies like the European Commission – all rest in the hands of the Prime Minister.
When the political party in power also has a large majority in the House of Commons, the power of the Prime Minister is almost unlimited.
If Parliament refuses to hold the Prime Minister accountable then the people must – that is why we should have a directly elected Prime Minister.

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August 1st
Terminal Decline?
    In 1994 the Chairman of COPOV presented a paper to John Major saying that if the Conservative Party did not change it faced terminal decline.   In the ten years since membership has halved, we are still flat lining in the opinion polls and our financial situation is worsening.   We could stop this but we haven't.    William Hague tried to but failed.   It is too late to do anything before a General Election but we should be ready to take action immediately the Election is over.
    This month the Party published it's Annual Report and Financial Statements.   There are some subtle but important changes.   "The Board of the Conservative Party" has now become "The Board of Conservative Central Office".   Why?    No explanation has been offered.   Has the Party Constitution been changed?   This is a set back from the whole concept of "One Party".
    The financial position of the Party does not look very healthy.   We have a deficit of £2.415 million for the year to 31st December 2003.   This is after we have received State funding of £4.144 million.   The net assets of the Party amounted to £1.284 million and we see from the Accounts that in the year to 31st December 2004 no less than £11.411 million of creditors is due to be repaid - an amount higher that the total income of the Party in 2003.   When high level delegations go off to Hong Kong you know the Party is short of cash.   Since 1998 the Conservative Party has received over £20 million in State Funding, a bit ironic for a Party which says it opposes State Funding.   Without it the Party would by now have a deficit in Net Assets of nearly £19 million.   We set out below the Total Income of the Party excluding State Funding.
                                                            £ Millions
        Year to 31st March 2001                 27.659
        Year to 31st March 2002                 19.756
        Year to 31st December 2002           11.958
        Year to 31st December 2003             9.475
    The Party is hoping to break even this year, but does this take account of the increased costs of moving out of Central Office where the Party only paid a peppercorn rent?   Will the Party have sufficient funds to fight a General Election?
     Oh! for the days when the Party was so wealthy that it could finance Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) to buy the Daily Express.   Not only this but at the same time it financed the purchase of "The Observer" in order to get friendly coverage.
    For the Conservative Party to survive it has to embrace democracy within it's own ranks.   It needs to rebuild the Party from the "grass roots" upwards.   It is approaching the edge of the precipice.   In the next two years it needs to act.    It is no consolation that the Labour Party is headed in the same direction and when it loses power it will face the same problem for the same reasons.    Both Parties are run by oligarchies.   Today the people believe in democracy.
"The Times" Readers Reply
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25th July
***Star of the Week*** Lord Tom King for his statesmanlike contribution to the discussion on the Butler Report on "Newsnight"   Mathew Parris for an excellent article in "The Times" about Tony Bliar.
"The Week in Westminster"programme on BBC Radio 4 at 11am on Saturday morning.   This was a superb programme with professional commentators.  
Directly Elected Prime Minister
The Following letter was published in "The Times  on July 22nd:
The Editor, 18th July 2004
The Times,
You state (leading article, July 16), "This is not a debate about whether the British Prime Minister is now more "Presidential", but whether he is accountable." Tony Blair is accountable to the people of his constituency of Sedgefield who elected him as their Member of Parliament, and he is accountable to the members of the Labour Party that made him their Leader.
The British Prime Minister is the political voice of the nation but he is not accountable to the nation.
It is time for the Prime Minister to be directly elected by the people for a fixed term. Our democracy would be enhanced by doing so.
Yours faithfully,
Central Office move
This weekend Central Office are moving into their new premises in Victoria Street.   The open plan space in their new premises is very tight compared to rabbit warren Smith Square.   Money has been spent on giving each person flat screens for their computers (more on this next week), but the biggest mistake is that each employee has only been allocated one drawer in a filing cabinet for all their files.   Much historical record and experience is about to be chucked out.
Trouble at the Top
We hear rumours that Richard Stephenson (President of the National Convention) was banned from the last two meetings of the Party Board and there was even consideration given as to whether he should be allowed to chair the Party Conference.   Is it true?   I think we should be told!    Stephenson was elected by the members of the National Convention.    Only the Convention has the authority to rescind that election so on whose authority was he banned?
Memoirs of Michael Ashcroft
We see in the "Evening Standard" that Lord Ashcroft is writing a book about his battle with "The Times"   Perhaps he will justify why the Treasurer of the Party is appointed and not elected and thus accountable to Party members. See Archive 99

18th July
Wally of the Week - Sadly - Michael Howard MP qualifies this week for saying he would not have supported the motion on the Iraq war but nevertheless he supported the war.   By taking this position he has upset those in favour of the war and those who were against it.   By supporting regime change he has lined himself up with the American neo-cons.   The Party is beginning to drift.   Time for a wake up call.
How history might have been changed if?
Much is made about how Tony Bliar fought his first election campaign in by-election in Beaconsfield in 1982.    Beaconsfield had 286 candidates for selection as the Conservative candidate.    They eventually chose Tim Smith.   Included in the list of 286 were the following:
John Major
Michael Howard
Ann Widdecombe
Michael Portillo
Alan Clark
Steve Norris
Neil Hamilton
How history might have been changed if?    Still, it is an encouragement to all candidates to keep at it even if you are turned down by a constituency.
MEPs for an Area
There is currently an argument going on in the Southern Region about whether the region should be divided up with a Conservative MEP being allocated a particular area.   The number of Conservative MEPs was reduced to four in the recent election.   We think it is essential that each MEP looks after a particular area.   The idea that all four should look after Southern Region as a whole is ludicrous.  It stretches from Kent to Milton Keynes to the New Forest.
Daniel Hannan MEP has written to all Constituency Chairmen asking their views on whether the Conservative Party should be linked with the European People's Party which is a Federalist organisation.    What has not been pointed out is that the Conservative Party is linked with the European Democrats which is affiliated to the EPP.   The European Democrats are not Federalists.
The MEPs included in their manifesto that they would link up with the European Democrats.   We should not break a manifesto commitment lightly.  
What is going on? Follow up(2)
Sir David Omand is personal adviser to Tony Bliar on intelligence matters. (see below).

11th July
***Stars of the Week*** Oliver Letwin MP - for a measured contribution on "Newsnight"
Dominic Grieve MP for and excellent contribution about freedom of speech on the "Today" programme.
BBC News 24 Hardtalk Programme - Tim Sebastian and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones on the Butler report.   This was an excellent programme- two professionals at work.    Why is this programme so late at night?   Tim Sebastian is becoming the best political interviewer on television.
Today COPOV, Tomorrow "The Times"
On 13th June we published the following:
When asked by Jim Naughtie on the "Today" programme "Do you intend to lead the Labour Party into the next election Tony Bliar responded "It is up to the British people to elect the Government".    Does he not know that the British people only elect Members of Parliament.   Does he not know that it is Labour Party members that elect the Leader of the Labour Party.  
On 4th July we published the following:
Tony Blair, who cast his vote on behalf of the British people was elected by the voters in his constituency of Sedgefield to represent them in the House of Commons.   He was elected by the Labour Party to be their Leader.    If he is going to act in a Presidential manner representing the British people should not the entire British electorate have a say?   It is now time that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was elected by the people of the United Kingdom.   The days of oligarchy and Royal prerogatives are over.
In "The Times" on 7th July
Alice Miles quoted an interview Tony Bliar gave to the Daily Mirror: "And whether I am Prime Minister after the next election is ultimately a decision for the British people.
Even this isn't true.   It is ultimately a decision not for the British people, but for the Labour Party.   Voters choose MPs, MPs and party members choose party leaders.   When Blair stands for Parliament at the next election, the voters of Sedgefield will be electing him to serve as their MP for five years.   In a parliamentary democracy, which Britain still is, just, the choice of prime minister is an entirely different question and not one in the voter's gift.    We do not elect a prime minister."
Great Alice.   Why didn't you go on to say that the British Prime Minister should be elected by all the people?   Grasp the nettle Alice.   Stand up for democracy.

4 July
European President
This week the President of the European Commission was selected by unanimous vote of the Heads of Government of the European Council meeting behind closed doors.   We have learnt that we cannot have a British President because we are not a member of the Euro zone.   This condition was made by Jaques Chirac.    He also stated that the President had to speak good French.
All this might not matter if the European Commission was like the British Civil Service and their actions were accountable to elected politicians, but it isn't.   The Commission exercises power.   It is the sole body in the European Union that can bring forward legislation.   In other words it sets, and in effect controls the Agenda.   The President decides what jobs the other unelected Commissioners do.   This all powerful body is an oligarchy unaccountable to the people.   What should be done?
Ideally, its powers should be taken away, but as this is unlikely to happen then it should be democratic.   The Europhiles will argue that it is because it is elected politicians that take the decision.   Putting aside for one moment the case that in representative politics transparency is essential how democratic is it?   Democracy is the process by which you determine the will of the majority.   Tony Blair, who cast his vote on behalf of the British people was elected by the voters in his constituency of Sedgefield to represent them in the House of Commons.   He was elected by the Labour Party to be their Leader.    If he is going to act in a Presidential manner representing the British people should not the entire British electorate have a say?   It is now time that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was elected by the people of the United Kingdom.   The days of oligarchy and Royal prerogatives are over.
Another alternative would be to have the President of the Commission and the Commissioners elected by the peoples of Europe.   They would have to issue manifestos saying what they would do if elected.   They would be accountable to the people.   Perhaps we might get a very different European Union if we did this.   We might even get more people voting in elections.    What is for sure is that we would have democracy instead of oligarchy.    That can't be bad so lets just do it!
Defining Democracy
How many times do you hear politicians talking about democracy.   Next time ask them what they mean.  They will either answer with meaningless concepts or "rule by the people."   We show below our definition of democracy.   Judge politicians and our Institutions accordingly.
Democracy is a system of government in which the people exercise power directly, or indirectly through their representatives, by a process in which the will of the majority is determined. In determining the will of the majority, all people, regardless of sex, race or creed, are able to participate - each person having a vote of equal value and their vote is by way of a secret ballot without the fear of intimidation or violence.

June 27th
***Star*** of the Week - Andrew Lansley MP for putting up a brave performance on "Newsnight" defending the stupid error by Michael Howard in not checking his facts in the letter he received about the Health Service.
Wally of the Week - The BBC for cancelling the "This Week" programme due to the England match over running.   Why did they not cancel the ridiculous American film instead?
What is Going On?   The Follow Up.
I have now had confirmed all aspects of the story below, except that the House of Commons was evacuated on 14th June.   A correction has been made.   Was there a terrorist threat to the House of Commons?    We should be told.   Information is power and those in power love to keep information secret, but in an open democratic society it has no place.
Election Points
  • In the election for Mayor of London Ken Livingston received 685,541 first preference votes and 142,839 second preference votes.    There were 385,952 rejected votes.   Either the electorate were stupid (we don't think so) or the ballot paper confusing or a large number of people did not want to vote for any of the candidates.   Was there an outcry?    No.
  • In the European Election a vote in Luxembourg was valued at ten times the value of a vote in the United Kingdom.   Luxembourg has one MEP for every 75,000 population.   The United Kingdom has one MEP for every 750,000 population.
  • In the local elections Labour received 26% of the vote.   The Liberal Democrats received 29%.   If this was repeated in a General Election Labour would get 242 seats in Parliament.   The Liberal Democrats would get 76.
I thought we lived in a democracy.    How long are the British people going to put up with this charade?

June 20th
Star of the Week - Michael Portillo MP - For pointing out that the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland on the "This Week" programme, something commentators often forget.
Wallies of the Week - Neil Kinnock for lying on the "Today " programme about Europe.   He stated that we would lose 3 million jobs if we pulled out.  It is liars like Kinnock that give politics a bad name.
Another Wally - Mark Mardell - Once again he played the buffoon on the "This Week" programme.    His credibility as a serious political commentator diminishes with each clownish performance.
What is going on?
On 7th June the Chairman of COPOV received the following e mail:
Dear John,
This evening , I saw an interesting post on an Internet discussion group.   A person posted a message claiming to have heard from a friend at the BBC.   Supposedly, this friend told him that the BBC was in uproar.   A lot of stress and rushing around.  Hush, hush and all that.    Apparently, they were working on a story with National Security implications.
The top brass aren't talking but the friend went to the top floor and by speaking to the secretaries came away with three names.    The names were Wilkinson, Grieve and Ormond.   Those names didn't mean anything to him, however.
I spent some time poking around the Net and happened on your site - which, as it happens, is one of the few sites on the Net that has a page that contains all three names.   That would be John Wilkinson, Dominic Grieve and Jocelyn Ormond.
I realise this may come to absolutely nothing bit I was curious as to whether you might have an idea of what the BBC was up to.?
I received a similar e mail a short while later adding to the above and stating that a D notice (the suppression of a news story in the UK which may be damaging to National Security) had been issued,
I ignored the e mails, but then I heard that a person I know that works on politics at the BBC during the week had been put on standby for the following weekend (12/13th June) for a break in a major news story.   I began to get curious.   Nothing happened.
On the 14th June John Wilkinson MP, Dominic Grieve MP and Lady Herman MP all spoke in a House of Commons debate.   The same day,   I am told the House of Commons for the first time ever was evacuated.   Did you see it on television, hear about it on the radio, see it in the newspapers?   No.   Neither did I.    What is going on?   If anybody can throw further light on these matters let me know.
Surrey Heath Candidate Selection
I hear that the selection of a parliamentary candidate for Surrey Heath is not going too smoothly.   Having deselected their Member of Parliament Central Office decided that they would take charge of the selection process, upsetting the Conservative Association in the process.
On top of this local candidates have discovered that there is no longer a process whereby they can apply for the seat by sending their CV to the Chairman of the Selection Committee.   This provision was deleted by the unelected Committee on Candidates in December 1999.   The effect of it is that every candidate has to be on the Approved List of Candidates even if they are only interested in their own Constituency.
Probably 95% of Conservative Party members still think that the local provisions still apply, but this kind of thing can happen when you have appointed committees that do not report back directly to the National Convention.    Time for more democracy in the Conservative Party.
Conservatives Direct
On Tuesday Michael Howard will launch Conservatives Direct.   We wish the initiative well.  
What is it?   It is "an on-line toolbox for getting-out-the-vote (GOTV) in elections.   The system works on a loyalty card system whereby "Players" get points for spreading the word and increasing Conservatives direct "membership".
Team players build up points to become Team Leaders.   Points can be redeemed at any time for gifts or saved up for larger gifts."
In fact it is just like "Nectar" points or "Green Shield" stamps - remember those.   Like all these kind of gimmicks there will be  flurry of activity and then it will slowly die and be forgotten.   What ever happened to Conservative Network?   Peta Buscombe got a peerage out of it but what else?
When will the Party understand that people that are interested in politics want to be genuinely involved in decision making and the development of policy.   That means making the Party more democratic.    Until that happens we will get  a gimmick a Parliament until of course the Party ceases to exist.

13th June
***Star of the Week*** Michael Howard MP for a good result in the local elections and for saying "It is nice to be in Strafford, oops, Trafford" when congratulating the Trafford Tories on their victory in the elections.   A Freudian slip?
Wally of the Week - Pretty Boy Douglas Alexander MP for his ridiculous defence of Tony Bliar over Iraq and its impact on the local election results.
Another Wally - Baroness Shirley Williams.    Why did "Newsnight" choose this old sourpuss to comment on Ronald Reagan's death.   He had not even been buried when she made her sour comments.   Doesn't she know that at times like this if you haven't something nice to say then say nothing.
The Story the Media Missed.
On the "Today " programme on Friday 11th June the chairman of the Conservative Party, Liam Fox was asked what would happen if Michael Howard went to Europe to renegotiate the position on the Common Fisheries policy amongst others and could not get agreement.    Liam responded that the Conservatives would introduce legislation in the House of Commons to change the position.    When asked if this was new He responded by saying No, Michael Howard had said so the previous day.   The "Today" programme perhaps did not realise the significance of what The Chairman was saying (They seem to have lost the fire in their belly recently.)
What would be the effect of introducing legislation in Parliament?   First of all it would mean that we would be in breach of the European Treaties, but secondly it would mean that we were re-establishing the sovereignty of the British people through Parliament.   Fascinating stuff, of huge significance.
But if this is the case why was this not made clear at the beginning of the European Election campaign?   It would have cut the ground from under UKIP's feet.   The lack of a follow through if renegotiations failed was the Achilles heel of the Conservative campaign.
This needs following up.   Shame that all our experts in the media seemed to miss it.
The Campaign
Once the Conservative Party starts on a course of action it is almost impossible to change.   They had decided to run a very low key campaign for the European elections, hardly any canvassing only calling on known Conservatives, no public meetings etc.   Within a week of the campaign starting it was clear that UKIP were making a big effort.   Did the Conservatives respond?   No!   In an election where every vote counts they were knocking up Conservatives without checking beforehand that they were not going to vote UKIP.   This is the first National campaign that I can remember that I never saw a single Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat sticker.   Lots of big UKIP ones, but none of the others.   This is the first time when in Gerrards Cross, which used to be the strongest Conservative branch in the Country there were no tellers at the Polling Station and no Committee room on election day.
If the Conservative Party is serious about trying to win the next General Election it had better get its organisation sorted out pronto.   the trouble is that the grass roots are now totally left out of the picture.   Beaconsfield used to help in Slough where there were elections.    Not this time.   Sad really.   We need to create a democratic Party in order to bring together and motivate our workers once again.    We are totally reliant on our Councillors for all the hard work.    Time for a new Party Constitution>
Weasel Words
When asked by Jim Naughtie on the "Today" programme "Do you intend to lead the Labour Party into the next election Tony Bliar responded "It is up to the British people to elect the Government".    Does he not know that the British people only elect Members of Parliament.   Does he not know that it is Labour Party members that elect the Leader of the Labour Party.   Of course he does but obfuscation has become his trade mark.

June 6th
- David Hockney for his brilliant defence of liberty and freedom on "Newsnight" defending the rights of a minority to smoke in public.   This was superb television.   Congratulations to "Newsnight".
The Ballot paper
Many people have complained about the complexity, length and size of the ballot paper for the elections on June 10th.    Expect a lot of spoilt papers.   Part of the reason for this is that in the European elections all the names of the candidates are being shown.    They are totally irrelevant, because under these undemocratic elections we cant vote for the individuals but only for their Party.
For example in Southern Region there are ten places to be obtained for a seat in the European Parliament so do we have ten votes?    No.   We only have one.   We are denied voting for the individuals so why are the names of the individuals shown?   To try and give the impression that you are voting for them.   Other countries in the European Union operate proportional representation with an open list where you can vote for the individuals.   Why are the British people denied this choice?   If you dislike the top people on the Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat lists there is nothing you can do to get rid of them.   It is a disgrace but do any of our major parties want to change this system?   Not really, because the system strengthens the Party as opposed to the individual and we wonder why people do not vote.    They are not stupid.   They realise they are being conned.
European Election
Why is it that whilst we are having a election to the European Parliament we see hardly anything of the candidate MEPs?    "Question Time" had a programme specifically on Europe, but out of the five guests only one was an MEP.   This issue gets to the heart of what is wrong.   The campaign is run by National politicians on National issues in spite of the fact that we are choosing representatives in the European Parliament.    The end result is power wielded in Europe by National politicians in the Council of Ministers for which they are not accountable to the electorate, and representatives in the European Parliament who have very little power, but in theory should be accountable.(see above)   What an almighty mess.
Why have the Conservatives not campaigned foe a democratic Europe and thus struck a chord with the British people?   Their current stance has no credibility.   The idea that you can go to Europe and tell them that you want various things repatriated back to the Nation States without threatening withdrawal is living in Alice in Wonderland.   There is not a single case of any item being repatriated to the Nation States once Brussels have got their sticky fingers on it.
The Conservatives will do well in the elections because Labour is so awful and they have allowed UKIP to steal their ground, but they could have done brilliantly.   Sad, it could have been so different.
"Question Time"
What a mix on "Question Time"    Zac Goldsmith was brilliant.   He will go far.   Liam Fox was cool and convincing.   Shirley Williams is clearly a has been..    Nick Brown looked as miserable as sin and as for Polly Toynbee - what planet does she live on?

May 30th
- Bernard Jenkin MP on "Newsnight" for a sterling attack on the shambles of postal voting.
Wally of the Week - Christopher Leslie MP - who put this schoolboy in charge of constitutional affairs?   His weak approach to postal voting on "Newsnight" made him look as though he was sitting there with his fingers crossed as he said all was well.    What a W!
Lying Libs
The Lib-Dems have some distinctive policies so why do they have to lie?   In their manifesto for the South East they say "If you want MEPs who don't turn up to crucial votes, and support the doubling of the Council Tax then vote Conservative on Thursday 10th June.   No wonder they have the reputation for being the most vicious liars in politics.   It will do them no good.
Unforeseen Consequences
All the three main Parties concentrated their efforts in the elections on the four areas with postal voting believing that the voters would have their ballot papers.   We now know they were wrong, but this has left the field open to UKIP.   It is no wonder that UKIP are doing well.    They are the only Party with a clear message and they are getting it over to the electorate.   The Labour Party faces wipe-out.   The Lib-Dems are concentrating on the Iraq war which will win them some votes.   The Conservatives are putting over a confused message by saying they want to be in Europe but are opposed in principle to a Constitution.   Who wants to be a member of a club with no rules?   Possibly the oligarchy that run the Party and yearn for the days when it had no rules.   They forget that in the fifty years after the war, when the Conservative Party did not have a Constitution it suffered continuous decline in its membership.   People like to know where they stand.

May 23rd
***Star of the Week*** - Nicholas Soames MP for flattening the weasel Mandelson on "Newsnight".   Incidentally "Newsnight" has got better now it has an Acting Editor.
John Major was refreshingly candid when he spoke to the select committee looking at the honours system.   I wonder if they asked him about private one to one meetings with wealthy potential donors?   It would be interesting to know how many of the big donors to our political parties have had a private one to one meeting with the Prime Minister or Leader of a Party prior to them making a donation?   Perhaps the question should be asked.
Euro Election
The Labour Party faces wipe out at the Euro Election, but the Tories should not assume a walk over.   Conservative strategy for the election seems to be softly,softly for fear of waking up Labour supporters, so public meetings are out.   There is some danger in this.   U.K.I.P is holding a series of public meetings and getting large numbers in attendance.    As we know the Lib Dems are pushing for the anti war vote.   After all a million people that went on the march want to register their protest.    This is fertile ground for the Lib Dems.  
    The end result of all this is that the Conservatives do better but U.K.I.P and the Lib Dems surprise everybody.    I hope Central Office realise what is going on and are preparing their counter attack.
How not to win friends
At a "Bow Group" meeting at 7.30pm last Wednesday Caroline Spellman MP was scheduled to address the Group about Local Government.
    She started her address by admonishing and berating those present for not being out canvassing.  She added that she was horrified that Battersea Conservatives were holding a reception on the terrace of the House of Commons when they should have been out canvassing also.   She went on about how busy she was because she had just been given an 85 page document on postal voting which she had to read because she was going to talk about it on the "Today" programme at 7am the next day.   In addition to which she was only there because her organising secretary had told her that she must come because she had previously let the Group down.
    Now, she had a valid point about canvassing but why is it that some professional politicians fail to understand that whereas they are getting very well remunerated for doing their job the activists are volunteers and need to be motivated.   She could have made her point in a positive way instead of adopting her Headmistress approach.   Incidentally her speech was pretty lightweight and having heard it I am sure the time spent listening to her would have been more fruitfully spent canvassing.
P.S I did not hear her on the "Today" programme, so maybe the time she spent reading the 85 page document could also have been spent more fruitfully canvassing.
The Today Programme.
As usual I listen each day to the "Today" programme, but one day this week I heard nothing.   It was only as it reached its end did I realise that I had not listened.   It was the day they had two women presenters, Sarah Montague and Carolyn Quinn.   Both are experienced but somehow do not carry "gravitas".  I was half waiting for a male voice which would tell me that a serious interview was about to be conducted.    Does this make me a male chauvinist pig?   Alternatively are we about to see a further drop in ratings for the programme.

May 16th
Michael Howard MP for a sterling performance at Prime Minister's Question Time.   Tony Bliar is on the run.   He sloped off with his tail between his legs.
European Election Campaign
Is anything happening?     We know that the Labour Party faces wipe-out, but with Labour not voting there is a danger that UKIP and the BNP will pick up a higher % of votes.    This would be a catastrophe for democracy.   Incidentally do not put any faith in UKIP defending democracy when Robert Kilroy Silk can be selected as one of their candidates without going through any kind of elected process.
Conservatives After the War Campaign
Exactly a year ago we published the following on the COPOV web site.   What a shame the Government did not act on our suggestions then.A majority of the people were against the war with Iraq, although naturally they completely supported our troops and continue to do so.   What should be done now?   We suggest the following:
  • All troops in Iraq should be placed under the command of the United Nations and they should be authorised to take whatever action is necessary if attacked.
  • Sanctions should be lifted immediately.
  • A programme should be formulated for holding free and fair elections in Iraq.
  • The United Nations should be reformed and a programme for reformation developed giving a higher standing to democratic nations.
  • A nation's representatives to the United Nations should be elected by the people of that nation.
  • The reconstruction of Iraq should be under the control of the United Nations.
May 9th
***Star of the Week*** Nicholas Soames MP for the dignified way he is handling the abuse of prisoners in Iraq.   He is a natural Minister of Defence.
Wally of the Week - Michael Portillo MP for sticking to support of the Iraq war on the "This Week" programme.   He said that there were 70,000 people working on the weapons of mass destruction programmes.   Michael, come back from fairyland.
Incidentally the "This Week" programme is now consistently one of the best political programmes on television, together with Guto Hari's "Straight Talk", "Head to Head", "Hard Talk".    These excellent programmes should be put on at 10.30pm on BBC2 instead of "Newsnight" which has become stale and boring.   Is George Entwhistle still editing it?
Abuse of prisoners of War at Abu Ghraib   prison
This abuse is the child of Guantanamo Bay, The Neocons, The Patriot Act, David Blunkett, The Anti Terrorism Act.   Every time we diminish Human Rights we move closer to the abuse of Human Rights and the destruction of freedom.   It is time for Conservatives everywhere to stand up and fight for liberty.
All Conservative members will have received a copy of the Conservative Party's magazine Heartlands published by the "Spectator" magazine.   It is professionally produced, a mini "Spectator" and better than its predecessors but what it is not is an internal Party magazine.   Virtually no communication with members in it.    Nothing about what is happening inside the Party.   It could be any old political magazine.   An opportunity wasted.   We look for better in the next issue.
European Election
A good launch - 24 hours of publicity - then nothing.   Has the Conservative Party gone to sleep?   Are there any meetings?   what is happening?   We have not even seen a copy of the manifesto.

May 2nd
***Stars of the Week*** The Conservative Party for a brilliant European Elections manifesto; sadly it did not get very much publicity.   Perhaps this was because the previous day Michael Howard made an important speech in a warehouse (Excel exhibition centre) apparently to nobody but himself in front of garish posters about Labour. When Saatchi & Saatchi are good they are very, very good but when they are bad they are bloody awful.   Whose crackpot idea was it to have the media follow Michael Howard around to make the same speech three times?
Liam Fox MP for asking the grass roots their views on what they would like to see at the Party Conference and also for giving e mail updates directly to the grass roots on what the Party is doing.(See COPOV's views below)
Mark Mardell - For listening to COPOV and giving a serious but witty presentation on the "This Week" programme.
"Wallies" of the week. Dame Pauline Neville Jones for her abysmal performance on "This Week".   Anyone would have thought she was advertising beefburgers and chips.   When will political programme editors get rid of the arty-farty types that ruin sensible political programmes?   Guto Hari presents an excellent programme on "News 24" with four people sitting around a table.    You can then concentrate on what is being said.   Neville-Jones would have been given a star for her performance in the studio after her presentation.    She is very bright.
Iain Duncan Smith - Why does he not just admit that he got it wrong on Iraq.   Iain you are flogging a dead horse.
European ConstitutionMichael Howard needs to drop his opposition to the very "idea" of a European Constitution.   He said again this week that "Nations have Constitutions" as though this was a bar to the European Union having a Constitution, but Michael so do golf clubs, so does the Conservative Party, so does the Women's Institute.   You sound silly when you say this.    Your Shadow Attorney General - Dominic Grieve MP when asked the same question replied that he could write a Constitution for Europe on the back of an envelope.    You should allow him to do so.   The people could then decide whether they want a democratic Union with power resting in the Nation States or a centralised Union controlled by an oligarchy.   Long term, democracy is the winning formula.
How sad that Iain Duncan Smith reverted back to the bad old days by giving peerages to the fat cat donors.   We thought this had ended.   It was made worse this time by not giving a peerage to John Taylor.    This is the first time that a Chairman of the National Convention (formerly the National Union Executive) has not received a peerage.   Disgraceful.    We congratulate Trish Morris on her elevation, but have to say that in terms of hard work on behalf of the Conservative Party John Taylor had a higher priority over all of those selected for a peerage.
Proposals for the Party Conference
With reference to your e mail of 22 April may I make the following comments
about the Party Conference:
1) Bring back the morning sessions and close the afternoon sessions at
2) Bearing in mind that this may be the last Conference before a General
Election, hold genuine debates with motions on areas where Party policy has
still to be developed e.g. The United Nations be more democratic.
Globalisation, GM foods etc.  Have top speakers For and Against.
3) We do not want guest speakers that are not members of the Party.
4) There should be a debate on Foreign Affairs.   There wasn't one at either
the last Conference or the Spring Forum.
5) Cut out the Question and Answer sessions.   All they do is produce froth.
6) Cut down the number of standing ovations.   They should not be organised,
but should be a response to an excellent speech.
 7) The Policy and Ideas discussions at the last Conference were excellent
but nobody knew about them.   If they are to be repeated they should be well
8) The Leader's reception for all attendees at last years Conference was
9) Shadow Minister's should be given at least 20 minutes for their speeches.
Anything less means froth.
10) Invite members to submit motions for debate to the Party's internet site
(This is what the Liberal Democrats do.)   It provides more involvement of
the members.
25th April
***Stars of the Week*** - This week has seen a galaxy of stars.   Here they are: Michael Howard MP for a superb performance at Prime Minister's Question Time.    David Owen and Malcolm Rifkind for putting a sensible case about the European Referendum on "Newsnight".    Similarly Richard Spring MP was equally convincing on "Radio 5 Live"   Dominic Grieve MP and Frederick Forsyth made brilliant speeches to the Beaconsfield Conservatives.   At this rate the Conservative Party is beginning to look at the probability of winning the next General Election.   What a turnaround in fortunes!   The Bow Group for its excellent book on "GoZones"   This is about the areas that all our politicians have forgotten.   It should be essential reading for all of them.   It will be launched this week at 7pm 27th April at the City Inn Hotel, 30 John Islip Street, SW1P 4DD(close to Millbaank Tower).  
Wallies of the Week - tb1_.gif (1421 bytes)Tony Bliar MP At Prime Ministers Questions he had that silly little embarrassed grin that says "Sorry teacher, I got the wrong answer.   Lord Heseltine On "Newsnight" he behaved like a petulant little boy that had lost his toy.    Grow up Michael, embrace democracy don't fight it.   As a member of John Major's government you agreed to a referendum on the single currency.   I do not recall you resigning over the issue, or was being Deputy Prime Minister more important?    Mark Mardell - One of the most enjoyable programmes on television is Andrew Neill's "This Week" except for the ridiculous way in which Mark Mardell dresses up in a comic costume to give his commentary on the week.   Mark, if you want to be a clown, join the Circus.   As Greg Dyke said "Either be serious or funny but don't try both at the same time."   House of Commons for agreeing to the ludicrous security screen at the cost of £1.3 million.   There are so many occasions on which MPs gather together it would be impossible to erect a security screen for all of them.    State Occasions in Westminster Abbey, Party Conferences - the list is endless. So why don't MPs concentrate on security at the entrance to the House of Commons and save the taxpayers a great deal of money?
European Referendum
This was great week for COPOV. In August 2002 we were the first body to call for a referendum on the European Constitution.    (See letter below).   In November 2002 we wrote to Michael Ancram to persuade him to make it Tory policy.(See letter below)   He listened and made it Party policy in January 2003.   The rest is history!
Letter published in "The Times"      August 30 2002
Jack Straw MP has called for a written constitution for the European Union (Report, August 28) and the Convention on the Future of Europe is in the process of drawing up such a constitution.   By defining what the European Union can or cannot do you also define what the United Kingdom can or cannot do.
Some 55% of legislation affecting the United Kingdom now emanates from Brussels. For the first time in our history we will effectively have a written constitution. Such a critical and historically important step must be put to the people of the United Kingdom in a referendum for their approval or disapproval. All political parties should commit themselves to this now.
Yours faithfully,

Letter to Michael Ancram MP
C. O. P. O. V.

The Rt. Hon. Michael Ancram QC, MP,                              12th November 02
House of Commons,
London SW1A OAA.
Dear Mr. Ancram,
At a meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy held on Saturday, 9th November 02 it was unanimously agreed that the Conservative Party should demand a referendum on the outcome of the Convention on the Future of Europe. We all felt that the ramifications of this Convention are so important and widespread regarding the constitution of the United Kingdom that the people should be consulted on this issue.
I do hope that you will agree with this and I was asked specifically to write to you about it. We think it is not only right that there should be a referendum but it would also be popular and the Conservative Party would benefit by putting the case for it to the people as its policy.
Yours sincerely,
18th April
***Star of the Week*** - Andrew Lansley MP for sensible, mature contributions on "Question Time".   He is a credit to the Tory Party.
An Evening with William Hague MP
This week the Chairman of COPOV went to a packed meeting of the William Hague road show in High Wycombe.   It was a good meeting but the first three quarters of an hour were spent by William Hague doing amusing anecdotes.   One began to feel that he was a stand up comic rather than a serious politician.   When he at last got on to serious politics he was very good.   One of the few politicians with vision.   15 minutes of anecdotes at the beginning would get the audience relaxed.
    Take a leaf out of Tony Benn's road show.   He is serious but throws in the odd anecdote.    The end result is that Tony Benn ends up with a standing ovation and William Hague did not.   That is the difference that experience makes.
P.S William you are needed on the Tory front bench.   With Europe raising its head Shadow Foreign Secretary would be the ideal job for you.   Take it!

April 11th
***Stars of the Week*** - The sky is dark.   No stars are shining.   Where have they gone?
Wally of the Week - This has to be Geoff Hoon for his abysmal performance on the "Today" programme on 10th April.   Where did they dredge this man from?
Referendum on the European Constitution?
Last week Richard Spring MP wrote to "The Guardian" and demanded a referendum on the European Constitution (Letters, April 5) but there is a question mark against his statement "No constitution can be agreed without the unanimous approval of the EU member states".
Included in the Constitution is the following clause: "If, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing the Constitution, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council".
Does this mean that the Constitution may be implemented regardless of whether there is unanimous approval of the Member States, and if not what is the point of referring it to the European Council?
It is said that at the time John Major was having difficulty with getting the Maastricht Treaty through parliament he threatened to use the Royal prerogative to sign the Treaty.   A perfectly legal use of the prerogative, but also an example as to why the Royal prerogatives should be abolished.   Is Tony Bliar thinking along the same lines?

April 4th
***Stars of the Week*** - David Davis MP for a brilliant attack on the Labour Party highlighting their hypocrisy.
Michael Howard MP - for a great performance at Question Time.
Wallies of the Week - Tony Bliar MP - didn't he look uncomfortable at Question Time and even worse at his press conference.   He is losing it.
Ann Widdecombe MP - This is becoming a weekly event.   This week it was her injudicious remarks about the Tory Gay Summit.   Why cannot she belt up?
European Constitution
In his "Berlin" speech Michael Howard opposed the very idea of a European Constitution.   He is in danger of being hooked into an untenable position.   How can you call for a referendum on the proposed European Constitution if you oppose the principle of a Constitution in any event?.   How can you negotiate on something to which you are opposed in principle?   There is no need to oppose a democratic European Constitution in principle.   Michael should get off this hook sooner rather than later.    This issue needs to be thought through.
A Fair Electoral System?
The number of voters in Labour held seats is far lower than that in Conservative held seats.   This means that the Conservative Party needs a 11.5% lead in the popular vote in order to get the same number of seats as the Labour Party.   Our electoral system is beginning to stink!
Anti Terrorism Acts
548 people have been arrested under the Anti Terrorism Acts.   15 have been convicted.   It is time this anti-libertarian measure was repealed.
Civic Partnership Act 
We welcome the Civic Partnership Act for giving rights to gay couples, but why are the same rights not extended to heterosexual couples?    This is blatant discrimination which the Conservative Party should pledge to put right. 
March 28th
***Stars of the Week*** The Big Beasts - Lord Heseltine, Lord Tebbit, Michael Howard MP.   All have made a valuable contribution to the debate on the European Constitution.   Lord Heseltine spoke to the Conservative Group for Europe about Globalisation and the changing World Order.   His view was that Europe was the best vehicle to create the new World Order.   Lord Tebbit spoke about the Nation State and how that was the best vehicle.   Michael Howard gave a reasoned response to the European Constitution on the "Today" programme.   We now have a real debate about the future of the United Kingdom, a debate without rancour and it is the Conservative Party which is conducting that debate.   Well done.
Wallies of the Week - Jack Straw MP    Didn't he get ratty when interviewed about Libya on the "Today" programme?   He is beginning to lose it.
Ann Widdecombe MP talking about the woman imprisoned for not ensuring her child was at school.   Sometimes Ann, it is best to keep your mouth shut.
A European Constitution?
Should the Conservative Party oppose a European Constitution in principle?   This is the big question for the Party.    In his Berlin speech on 12th February Michael Howard stated that "British Conservatives oppose the proposed constitution.   We disagree with many of its contents, of course, but we also oppose the idea of having an EU constitution."   This clearly means that he is opposed to a European Constitution in principle.   If this is the case then he should propose that a future Conservative Government would put the question to the people if Tony Blair refuses to have a referendum.
There is a great deal of logic in supporting a democratic European Constitution.   There is an equal amount of logic in supporting the United Kingdom as a Nation State, not part of the European Union, but the European Union as is and as proposed in the draft Constitution is wholly undemocratic and we doubt whether the British people will put up with this situation indefinitely.    Decision time is approaching.
We understand that Michael Howard is having second thoughts on the question of opposition in principle to the proposed constitution.    Indeed on the "Today" programme he went out of his way to say that the Conservative Party opposed "This Constitution."   He also said that if Blair pushes it through parliament a future Conservative Government would want to renegotiate it.   This does not sound like someone who opposes the Constitution in principle.
If a decision has been taken by the Conservative Party to oppose a European Constitution in principle why is the Party currently consulting its members in the Conservative Policy Forum on the question "Do you agree that the Conservative Party is right to oppose the European Constitution in principle?   Either this is a cynical exercise about a decision which has already been taken or the Party is open to argument.   The closing date for replying to the question is 26th April.
A referendum on the proposed Constitution is one of the most important issues of our time and the Conservative Party can take credit for demanding it.   We would humbly point out that it was COPOV in a letter to "The Times" in August 2002 which first demanded a referendum on the Constitution.   We then campaigned for the Party to adopt it as its policy.    It did.   That shows the value of listening to the grassroots.    Good. 

21st March
***Star*** of the Week - Sir Peter Tapsell MP - For his wonderful speech at the Conservative History Group.   Nobody has a better collection of stories and anecdotes, well worth listening to.
Wally of the Week - Gisela Stuart MP - At a meeting of Policy Exchange (One of the best think tanks) this stupid woman tried to put forward the case that the European Union is democratic in spite of the fact that her own pamphlet published by the Fabian Society clearly shows how undemocratic it really is.   She wrote "Not once in the sixteen months I spent on the Convention (on the future of Europe) did representatives question whether deeper integration is what the people of Europe want, whether it serves their best interests or whether it provides the best basis for a sustainable structure for an expanding Union."   Like many MPs and academics she does not know the meaning of the word "democratic."
Target Constituencies
Lord Ashcroft has given the Conservative Party over £2,000,000 for target constituencies.   They have to apply to Central Office for assistance and put their case for financing.   Central Office decide and then get Lord Ashcroft's approval.   We hear that some constituencies are having difficulty getting their case heard, having had to make at least three submissions.    What is going on?   One of the problems that arises when gifts have conditions attached to them is that the lines of accountability become blurred.
March 14th
***Stars*** of the Week - North Down Conservative Supper Club.   The Chairman of COPOV had the privilege of addressing the North Down Conservatives this weekend.    The Conservatives in Northern Ireland are the most generous, hospitable Conservatives that you will find anywhere in the United Kingdom.   Ever since the Conservatives were formed in Northern Ireland 15 years ago they have managed under difficult circumstances to keep the Conservative flag flying.   For their first three years they received no help from Central Office.   They did not know that at the time John Major was secretly negotiating with the IRA.   Since 1992 the Conservative Party has been in the doldrums.   Now things are looking up for the first time in their existence
The Ulster Unionists are going down the plughole.   The Labour Party has been forced to accept members from Northern Ireland.   There is a golden opportunity to create non sectarian politics in this troubled part of the United Kingdom, which incidentally has the second lowest crime rate excluding the paramilitary beatings. of any part of the United Kingdom.
How sad then, that David Liddington MP - Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not seen fit to meet the Northern Ireland Conservatives.   Instead of just taking the advice of Jonathan Cane whose advice about cosying up to the Ulster Unionists has proved to be disastrously wrong he should get on the next plane to Northern Ireland and start a continuing dialogue with the Conservatives there.   One issue that needs resolving urgently is whether they put up a candidate for the European elections.
David it is time to pull your finger out and get going.
***Stars*** - Dominic Grieve and Helen Kennedy - for their constructive comments about Guantanamo Bay on "Newsnight"   Well done
Wally of the Week Beverly Hughes MP  What an arrogant grinning nincompoop this woman is.   Her performance on "Question Time" had to be seen to be believed.   She condemned the released prisoners from Guantanamo Bay because the were in Afghanistan without waiting for any explanation as to why they were there..
   Why did she not check that they were there on a humanitarian mission.   This Labour Government deserves to fall for the disgraceful way they have connived at the inhumanitarian treatment dished out to the prisoners in Guantanamo.   It makes one ashamed to be BRITISH.    Whatever happened to fairness and justice of which we were once so proud.
Luton Airport
This Airport reminds one of the motorway service stations of twenty years ago.    Dark scruffy left over meals not cleared away.   Smokers relegated to the furthest point in the Airport.   What a contrast to Belfast International Airport - clean sparkling and with special areas for smokers.

March 7th
***Stars*** of the Week - The Conservative Party.   The Spring Forum showed that it is back in business.   Six months ago the Party was so deep in the ditch that all you could see were the bubbles popping through the surface.   Now the Party is climbing out of the ditch.   Congratulations to all involved.
***Liam Fox MP - Party Chairman***    He deserved his two standing ovations not least for promising to give the Party conference "back to the members" and for scrapping the ridiculous "bucket" collection on the Sunday morning.    He also told the best joke of the conference, which I will not repeat here.
***The Bow Group*** for their fringe meeting on the "Inner Cities"   This was a brilliant analysis of the problems of the "Inner Cities" with some radical proposals for dealing with them.   They are publishing a paper on this in the coming month.  Watch out for it.   It is bound to have a great impact.    All political parties have ignored the "Inner Cities".    Now is the time for the Conservative Party to adopt some of these radical proposals.
The National Convention/Spring Forum
  • The National Convention was as dull as dishwater.   Thanks to Raymond Monbiot the Convention was opened up to all party members to attend, but even so the hall was only half full.   Why not make the Convention the Annual General Meeting of the party with every member invited and allowed to vote?
  • Sadly because of the dumbing down of the Spring Forum and the Party Conference we no longer see any passionate or "fire in the belly" speeches.   This must change and we are looking to Liam Fox to change it.
  • It was a mistake to have Michael Ancram give a speech on Foreign Affairs and the European Elections prior to Michael Howard's speech.    We expect the Leader to cover these important matters in his own speech.
  • We heard that the Conservative Party now has more women Councillors than any other Party.   Great - so much for political correctness.
  • Seen working the room - Who went round visiting every table at the Conference dinner?   Why, Lord Ashcroft.    This is usually done only by those that have just been elected or want to stay elected or want to be elected.   Lord Ashcroft is not elected so what is he campaigning for?.   Could it be that he will soon be throwing his weight behind proposals for elections in the Conservative Party?   We will keep you posted.
  • Congratulations to those that designed the "Cirque de Soleil" set at the Spring Forum.   What a pleasant change from some of the rubbish of the past
  • Best Meeting at the Forum was the debate on "Regionalisation" organised by the "Yorkshire Post"   A real debate with contributions from the floor.   What a pity we could not have had this in the Forum.
Primary Elections
COPOV has strongly objected to members of other political Parties participating in the process of selecting a Conservative Party candidate.   We therefore read the following with great interest and concluded that if other Associations follow the process outlined we would withdraw our objections.   Even so we would prefer only registered Conservative voters participated but if an Association wanted to extend it as Warrington South did we would not object.   We are most grateful to Chris Davenport for setting out the process in such detail.
I read with interest your concerns about the 'primary' system for the selection of candidates and, given that I was closely involved in the primary at Warrington South, I felt that my thoughts on the subject might be helpful.  My personal involvement with Warrington South began when, as PPC for Halton, I was co-opted to the WSCA officer team. My association ended when I became a ward chairman in another constituency, but I considered applying for the Warrington South seat when it was advertised. At this point, having been made redundant, I was, coincidentally, offered a job by a PR company which had already been contracted to provide PR support to the primary process.  This placed me in something of a dilemma. I was uncertain, at this early stage, how the primary would work and I was concerned at the obvious perils of the system, notably, interference by opposition parties and the production of a candidate by an open meeting who was even more superficial and useless than those often selected by Conservative Party members. In short; I had my doubts. On the other hand I was in the pleasurable situation, after more than 20 years as a voluntary activist, of being paid to work for the Conservative Party and I was bound to make the most of the primary. As time went on my misgivings genuinely evaporated.
In the first place, there was very little guidance (or interference) from CCO. The Association was allowed to get on with it and therefore practicality was very much to the fore. The selection committee, ADC and I all worked together to evolve the process, identify the likely problems and find ways to work around them. Where guidance was received it ensured that the process did comply with the rules of the Party. I would want to bring to your attention and that of your readers that although the excellent candidate we have now was selected from a short list of three by public meeting, the shortlist itself had been drawn up solely by Conservative Party members at an SGM, and the emergent final candidate was endorsed by a vote in which only Conservative Party members were allowed to participate. Had the meeting been hijacked by the opposition or had it otherwise produced a candidate unacceptable to the Conservative Party members present, they had the opportunity to reject its decision.
Moreover, I drafted a set or rules for the meeting, which was given to everyone who attended, which stated, among other things, that the chairman could suspend or close the meeting at any point and that any non-member could be asked to leave at any point. Thus, the Association was not bound to put any of the candidates before a hostile or otherwise compromised meeting. And, course, as a final safeguard, the Association is not bound to keep any PPC with which it finds it does not get on.
Please also note the point of the primary process. It is not merely a whim, nor was it in any way imposed on the Association (I have had discussion with another Association which voluntarily considered a primary and independently rejected it with no outside pressure in any direction). In the case of Warrington South, the idea was offered and accepted as a vehicle to enable the local Conservatives to seize the initiative in local media.
Warrington South is at the very tipping point in Parliament; whoever takes it at the next election will almost certainly form the next government. Unfortunately, the Conservative Association has, by a combination of missed opportunities, bad management and poor moral, allowed itself to slip into a distant third place in local government and is - or was - at a point where campaigning at any level had effectively ceased.
The primary gave us the opportunity to obtain extensive coverage in local, regional and national press and on regional television and radio. Our candidate exploded into local public consciousness and we were able to present the local Conservative Party as dynamic and inclusive at precisely the point at which, by coincidence, the local Labour Party was culling many of its councillors. We were the first to have an open primary and we undoubtedly benefited from novelty value. But as a Conservative supporter of long-standing - albeit with the commercial interest I have declared - I believe that the primary will prove to be worth several thousand votes at the next election. It has already resulted in a steady stream of new members, activists and financial donations.
And this is surely the most important point: it matters less how the candidate was selected than how they were seen to have been selected and the potential electorate advantages than can be gained. Warrington South needs a good showing at the next election if it is to remain in contention. I sincerely believe that after a third severe drubbing it would collapse as a serious political force, leaving the field permanently to Labour and the Lib Dems. To avoid this it needs to take a few risks. It is not alone in this. So let's stop being so precious and whinging about the rights and privileges of members who, frankly, have, in general, contributed by their inaction to digging the hole in which we find ourselves, and start thinking about what might actually win us back the respect of the electorate.
My advice for a Conservative Association considering a primary would be:
* It does not come cheap. A safe seat (whether Conservative or opposition) could probably spend the money better in other ways.
* It is hard work and requires more not less commitment from all members than an SGM.
* If you cannot get more people to attend a primary than would attend your SGM you risk looking foolish and wasting your money.
* Make sure that you have a strong and 'showy' chairman for the primary. A boring a badly conducted meeting will prove counterproductive.
* Make sure that your rules enable you to manage the meeting effectively and leave openings to ensure that you are not bound to accept the decision of a compromised meeting.
* See the primary as a beginning not an end; use it as springboard to launch your candidate.
Chris Davenport

February 29th
***Stars*** of the Week - Gavin Barwell for a barnstorming performance at the "Off the Loggers" weekend.    As Operations Director at Central Office he is making a huge impact.    The Party is much better for it.
Lord Feldman - Where does he get his energy from?   He was the driving force behind the "off the Loggers" weekend and highly successful it was.    the Conservative Party is taking all the right steps to once again become a feared electoral fighting machine.
Dominic Grieve MP - Shadow Attorney General.   His cool concise performance on "Newsnight"  talking about EU immigration was a credit to the Party.
Wallies of the Week
Tony Bliar MP - tb1_.gif (1421 bytes)  Did you see him cringe at his news conference when asked about Clare Short.?
Robert Sturdy MEP for defending the ludicrous sugar prices which we have to pay.    Sugar is priced at four times the world price and this idiot defended the rich East Anglian farmers when he should have been proposing a free market.    With friends like him in the Party who needs enemies?

Party Bulletin
We hear that the "Party Bulletin" is going to be brought back.   Hear, Hear. About time - see below.

February 22nd
***The Conservative Party*** For listening to the grass roots.   Three positive moves forward.
1)    All members of the Party can attend the National Convention.   COPOV raised this with Raymond Monbiot and he has responded.   Well done.
2) At last the one minute please sessions at the Spring Forum have been dropped.   They were just froth.
3) We are delighted that Alistair Cooke has been brought back into Central Office.   He was sorely missed at the last election.
Hopefully we will soon get motions for the Party Conference, although as the next Conference is likely to be the last before a general Election we do not expect them.   At least one motion should done with speakers from the floor having four minutes to speak.
Sadly once again the Foreign Affairs session at the Spring Forum has no speakers from the floor.   The same happened at the Party Conference.   This is not good enough.   Action required Central Office.   You are on a roll at the moment.   Keep it going!
Other ***Stars*** - Oliver Letwin MP.   What a smoothy he was on the the "Today" programme.
Tony Benn for a great performance on "Start the Week"   He was asked "Do you believe in the Lord my God?".   His reply was "I do not believe in any Lord."
He was then asked "Do you believe in the Kingdom of Heaven?"   No he replied "I am a Republican."
The Government is giving £12,000,000 to the Trade Unions to help them increase their membership.   The Trade Unions will then give back £6,000,000 to the Labour Party.   This is a total abuse of taxpayers money.   Of course the Trade Unions are beginning to flex their mussels, so they have to be bought off.
Liverpool Conservative Clubs
We keep hearing about the property position in various Liverpool Conservative Clubs.   What is going on?   It is time there was a full disclosure.

15 February
***Star of the Week*** Michael Howard MP for his speech on Europe.
***Lord Saatchi*** for his presentations of the Conservative Party, positive and good
***George Osborne MP*** for his performance on the "Today" programme and his appearance at the "Bow Group" meeting about media and communications.
"Wallies of the Week" The three proponents of a European Constitution at the "Intelligence" debate.   We do not need an MP from Bavaria, a Professor of politics from India and the German Ambassador to tell us about democracy.
Lord Chancellor
The office of Lord Chancellor needs reform if we believe in the separation of powers.   The European Convention on Human Rights demands this.   If we do not bring about reform sooner or later the Government will face a challenge in the Courts.   In addition to this it is quite clear that the Lord Chancellor is a political position.   Who can forget when Lord Irvine wrote to all budding judges asking them for donations to the Labour Party?   If that is not political what is.?
Th Conservative Party should recognise this.    It is barking up the wrong tree when it states that the office does not need reform.   Nobody dare state that we have some poor judges, but we do.    The last bastions of deference lie in the thrall to the judiciary and in the Conservative Party.   It is time both were changed.   The one slip that Michael Howard made was in too quickly accepting the "Hutton" report.    Deference let him down.   If he had waited a while he would have seen that the country did not believe "Hutton."

February 8th
"Little Wally of the Week" - Julie Kirkbride MP For her yah boo approach to the Liberal Democrats over the Iraq war on "Any Questions".
Jonathan Aitken
Jonathan Aitken is not the parliamentary candidate I would choose. Nevertheless, he committed a crime for which he has served his sentence and now apparently he has expressed a wish to be a candidate and a majority of the members of his former Association would like him to put his name forward.    We are told that Central Office has blocked it.   The main role of Central Office regarding the selection of candidates is to ensure that mad, bad, or sad candidates are stopped from standing.   It may be that they know more about Jonathan Aitken than they have let on in which case their decision is understandable but if it is solely on the grounds that he is a former criminal it ought to be left to the members of the Association to decide.
We are told that Michael Howard blocked him.    This is surprising for not only did Michael Howard attend his wedding but in the 1997 Leadership election a reception for Michael Howard was held in Jonathan Aitken's house in Lord North Street.   We can only assume from this that they are friends.   Maybe this is why he has dropped his candidature.   This case does raise some interesting points on who can be a candidate.   These issues should be debated openly by the Party, not just decided by the usual oligarchy.
Party Political Broadcasts
Many grass roots members of the Conservative Party did not like the Party's broadcasts showing Tony Bliar as Pinocchio.    They regarded them as childish and unworthy of a serious political Party.    The Chairman of COPOV wrote to the Party Chairman expressing their views.    Lord Saatchi replied "Regards Party Political broadcasts, I am sure you will understand that the Party must do as much as possible in order to return to power."   We agree.   In which case drop childish broadcasts that show Tony Bliar as Pinocchio.
1st February
***Star of the Week*** John Pinar  In a superb interview on Radio 5 Live he made Alistair Campbell squirm like a fly in  in a bowl of Campbell's soup.   Pinar was cool, calm, not agressive, but very professional.   What a contrast to the previous night when Jeremy Paxton cowed under to Campbell.   Is Jeremy losing his touch?
"Wallies of the Week" - Lord Ryder.    Why did this temporary Chairman of the BBC grovel to the Government.   He should stand up and fight.   In fact the people that have come out badly from the Hutton Report are the BBC's Board of Governers.   What a bunch of spineless creeps.
Lord Hutton.   He has shown that he was brilliant in determining the process of the inquiry, but his judgement demonstrated that he is totally out of touch with real life.
The "Today" programme
One of the problems with the "Today" programme is that it starts too early at 6am.   Nobody is listening at that time other than the Downing Street monitoring unit.   The end result is that what you get is one journalist talking to another because nobody wants to be interviewed before 7am.    Time for a change.
Candidate Selection
Early last year there was strong objection from Party members to a Primary election being held in which non Party members, even if they were members of other political Parties were allowed to vote.   We now have it on good authority from Lord Saatchi that "When associations have been given the chance to select their Candidate using a Primary system, although non-Party members may be involved in the process, the ultimate decision is made and must be endorsed by Party members".   Hear, Hear to that.

January 25th
The Party Bulletin
Communication with members is not one of the Conservative Party's strong points.   Nevertheless we used to get on the Party's intranet site the Party Bulletin which told us what was going on, and what changes had taken place at Central Office etc.   The last Bulletin was in September 2003.    Isn't it time it was updated?   If it has been scrapped let us know.
Election for Party Leader
Ideas for the procedure for electing a Party Leader are currently being gathered for implementation after the next election.   The rules for electing the Leader should be determined by the whole Party not just by MPs and the Party Board.   We recognise that this issue is not a priority but let us ensure that change is not slipped through so that when there is another Leadership election it is all cut and dried and we are told it cannot be changed.
Elections in Iraq
In 1918 the British conducted a plebiscite in Iraq.    It gave 85% of the vote to the proposition that "The British should stay in Iraq".   Of course the British decided who could vote.   Is it possible we are going to go down the same road in June

18th January
More State Funding
When Lord Woolton reformed the Conservative Party in 1948 he said in his memoirs that the single most important of his reforms was the provision that a candidate or MP could not give more than £100 per annum to his Constituency Association.    The pre-war practise of people buying seats was stopped in its tracks and for the first time no matter how wealthy you were you could become a Conservative MP.    In 1951 Ray Mawby became the first Trade Unionist to be become a Conservative MP.
Woolton's rule lasted until the 1990s when two things happened.   The Conservative Party found itself with an overdraft of £19 million and the Conservative government began increasing the allowances of MPs.    Central Office encouraged MPs to pay part of their allowances to their Constituency Associations, hidden of course as office expenses.   As the Constituency Associations were also hard up they accepted this money with no questions asked.   Soon selection committees were asking at selection meetings how much the candidate would give the Association if he/she were selected and MPs began to get a stranglehold over the Association.   "Do as I say" said the MPs "or the money dries up".   Today MPs get over £80,000 per annum for research.   15 years ago research was paid by the political parties.    On this item alone the State funds Political Parties with over £50 million.
A new source of funding by the State has begun to emerge.    Have you noticed how in recent years allowances to Councillors have rocketed?    They will go up even more now, because Constituency Associations are saying "We want our share".   Candidates are being asked to commit themselves to paying over 10% of their allowances to the Constituency Association.
So here we are in 2004 with MPs and Councillors paying monies to their Constituency Association, except that now they are using taxpayers money to do so.   Lord Woolton is turning in his grave.
Will the Electoral Commission do anything about it?    I doubt it.   It is in the pockets of the Parties.   A nice cosy arrangement.   Why doesn't it bite the bullet and stop these charades.    Make all State Funding dependent on membership with democratic political Parties accountable to their members.   Then we might see some progress.    In the mean time the bill to the taxpayer is rising.
It has been suggested that the reason Michael Howard was unanimously elected Leader by the MPs is because COPOV were kicking up such a fuss about the members being excluded that if there had been more than one candidate the MPs could not have refused to put their names to all the members.   Only by having one candidate could they avoid this so they were forced into a unanimous agreement.    Interesting point.

11th January
I Believe Feed Back
The reception of Michael Howard's statement has generally been very positive.   Below are some comments:
"You are absolutely right about democracy and freedom" - see below.
"Can Howard take the start he has made with this and make it more British and more democratic."
"Its a good and interesting exercise.   Blair and Brown have no equivalent.   He should redo the exercise in six months but next time adapt it a bit and make us British good and proper, and then watch the lead in the polls grow."
"There is a hunger for identity especially among younger voters."

January 4th
"I Believe"
Every Conservative will agree with the beliefs of Michael Howard.   There was however one glaring omission.   He never mentioned "democracy".   Three times he talks about "freedom" and if "freedom" is defined as "the ability of people to govern themselves" and "democracy" is the process by which you determine the will of the majority then he may be making the assumption that "democracy" is covered in his beliefs.    If so he ought to make it clear that this is the case and even better to demonstrate his belief by starting to make the Conservative Party more democratic.    Michael the ball is in your court. 

Christmas Cards
The morale of the Conservative Party is at its highest for years.   The Chairman of COPOV has never had so many political comments inserted into the Christmas cards he has received.   All of them positive.    We show a selection below:
  • "Things seem to be a bit better."
  • "What a terrible, almost invisible pregnancy we all went through to get there.   Will our ship now float?"
  • "Politics are interesting again."
  • "Yes, hurrah!   The clouds are clearing."
  • "Things are looking better for the Conservatives at long last."
  • "Faint signs of hope - I think?"
  • "Things are looking better."
  • "I think things are turning our way at last."
  • "Lets hope with MH at the helm matters will improve for us."
  • "I hope we are now back on track."
Women Candidates
Women make up 24% of the candidates on the Parliamentary Candidates list.   In the last thirty seats to select candidates 30% of them have selected a woman.   The Party is changing.   This is good news for those who believe that a Constituency should choose the best candidate regardless of gender but would like to see a better representation of the electorate in Parliament.
The Honours list again
For the third week running the "Sunday Times" has highlighted the way honours are bestowed.   They even talked about the political aspect but so far no political names.   No mention of peerages.    Either the "Sunday Times" has not got any information about the political honours or it is too explosive to raise the issue.   I think we should be told.

Hunting Competence
Henry Curteis
29 September 2004
The Hunting Debate should now be more correctly referred to as The Hunting Battle with debate moving to the backburner, and direct action by the pro campaign now a daily event.  Hidden somewhere on a landscape shrouded by the fog of ‘battle’, inside a swirling smokescreen of high emotion, there are still, amazing as it may seem, despite all the acres of newsprint and weeks of airtime dedicated to this topic, some simple and straightforward issues yet to be aired.
Taking the popular level of the hunting debate, most people sympathetic to an anti stance, take in the fact that foxes are killed and torn to pieces by dogs.This fact alone is enough to sway them, and yet the pro campaigners have never denied this obvious fact.   The pro argument hangs totally on the fact that all other methods of controlling the fox population are worse for the fox – whether it be intentional killing such as shooting, trapping or poisoning, or unintentional killing such as being hit by vehicles on the road.   As Burns said, very few foxes die in their sleep.Many die lingering deaths.Only hunted animals are assured a quick end.

The case for hunts being the best way to kill foxes has not been taken in by the mass of the population as it has rarely been made available to them by the media.    Despite this, 59% of electors think that hunting should not be banned – reaching their verdict on an uninformed kind of instinctive level.   If the options were explained properly to the public, I suspect that the 59% would rise to nearer 80%.   On any assessment, a decision to ban hunting has no democratic basis from any objective viewpoint.
Politicians of the anti persuasion seem to be almost completely uninterested in the issue of how the fox population is controlled.   Roy Hattersley and Dennis Skinner are probably the more outspoken of this category, and they say that banning hunting is the ideal way to repay the Tories for the Miner’s Strike of 20 years ago.    I don’t think anyone other than themselves understands why there is any connection between these two topics.   The debate at the representative MP level is even less intelligent than that of ordinary people – being based on willful rather than casual ignorance – as Charles Moore points out.
Hunting has also assumed Constitutional importance, as a result of Blair’s desire to manipulate the willful and casual ignorance he has been happy to facilitate, to meet his long term political goals.By ensuring the public remain ignorant of the real issues, it makes it easier for him to weaken the House of Lords and undermine respect for the monarchy, by making both seem to be in the wrong on this issue.
As to the outcome of Blair’s programme which is based on his EU ambitions, we will have to wait and see, but pro-hunters are not surprisingly in despair.British democracy has increasingly been eroded by the growth of media power, the growth of EU power, combined with the cynicism of politicians. As a result, the pro hunt campaigners feel they have nowhere to go except direct action.   They know that the real issue on which all else seems to be hanging – that is – how to deal with the fox population, has hardly even got onto the agenda.
The underlying issue is of competence.Are the people who have controlled foxes for generations competent to know the best way to do it – or Labour MP’s who think controlling the fox population has something to do with the miner’s strike?Until the real issue is properly addressed and dealt with, pro hunt campaigners will not rest. Battle has been joined, and the casualty list will grow – hopefully only that of reputations.But as Machiavelli said, you can start a war when you like.You can only get out of it when you can, and you cannot control how things will turn out.

This presents a great opportunity for Michael Howard.He can ensure that the real hunting debate finally takes place, and that Blair’s cynicism for democracy is exposed, while all the time, pro hunt campaigners can be relied on, on an ongoing basis to rub Minster’s noses in the mess they have made.

Gossip from the grass roots
Is it True Freddie?
Freddie Forsyth has always been generous to right wing causes with the profits from, amongst other things, the shares in a military services company. Forsyth is an adviser to the Young Britains Foundation, a far right grouping of Tory wannabes and tried to auction off the name of the lead character of his next book for a five figure sum at the YBF ball on, quite fittingly, the HMS Belfast. There were no bidders.
Current CF chairman, Paul Bristow, who is running for a second term, was in fact funded by many of YBFs donors. The far right of the party are somewhat disappointed with the stooge they have picked. Some people may find the fact that CF elections are funded by mercenary profits very fitting.
(name and address withheld)
September 3rd
Autumn  Moves

Henry Curteis

The speeches by Michael Howard and David Davis attacking political correctness and compensation culture are the first hesitant beginnings by the leadership to position the Party’s focus, since Blair conceded the EU Constitution referendum.  The speeches were good, well argued and gave good examples as to how, by tolerating aspects of human behaviour protected by Human Rights legislation, you encourage standards of behaviour unacceptable to ordinary people.  And Howard showed how something as simple as organizing a primary school sack race has become a legal minefield.

Such seemingly trivial aspects (are they?) were picked up and reported, giving the impression that the ideas being discussed were of minor relevance, which they are certainly not.  The fact that teachers, nurses and police are now universally entangled in complex paperwork makes it almost impossible for them to deliver a good service, no matter how much they are paid. 

The task for the Conservative leadership, having chosen the correct message, is now how to find a way for these messages, which are the right messages and which there is a growing appetite to hear, are delivered in a format which the media find it hard to trivialize.

In a way Michael Howard comes out of a previous era of politics when politicians were only beginning to become media-minded.  In their minds eye, their crowning moment was to make formidable speeches in the House, or stir up Conference.  It was just the icing on the cake if you could sum up your message with a catchy ‘sound-bite’.  The arena has shifted so far that nowadays hardly anyone hears or is even listening to voices that demand any more than 30 seconds of attention, whether in spoken or written material.  In a way there are now only sound-bites or attention-grabs, and nothing else.

The media is now so tightly controlled, whether we mean the BBC post-Dyke (or even pre-Dyke), or the Murdoch Empire, or the Barclay Brothers Press, that even good sound-bites will be reported only inasmuch as it pleases the masters.  Nearly all newspaper and TV reporting is now focused on other agendas – Conrad Black’s was on cash pay-offs, Murdoch on keeping his Premier League monopoly intact, and the BBC on surviving.  If it doesn’t please Blair that Howard’s message is fairly reported, then it won’t be, as every paper knows that it will suffer by not towing the line.

The message delivery vehicles of old that served Conservative leaders well are now all dismantled, and the message will not get out unless other action is taken to ensure it reaches its audience.  The only thing that can be done in my opinion, is to get Constituency material to carry the key leadership meassages, and local activists ensure it gets out.  This wasn’t what John Major thought of when he advocated ‘back to basics’ but that is exactly what Conservative supporters will have to do.  It’s time to bypass the Press and TV, and use leaflets, newsletters, internet and so on.

By doing so, the media will not stand still of course.  If people become aware that the media are not delivering the key messages any more, the media will be forced to shift.  But that will only happen if they see a determined effort from the grass roots, which they realize is altering the state of play.  Otherwise the media might well ignore and misrepresent the Conservative massage all the way to Election Day. 

The message needs to be delivered in 30 second intake format, and be locally delivered.   It is unlikely that there is anyone in Central Office right now who knows how to create such an animal.  The formats being used, even those generously supplied by the Spectator are too long, and assume people are listening.  It is far more likely that a good local Constituency with relevant experience and skills will come up with the format required.

People are now suspicious of anything that looks too professional.  In a way Howard too is such a professional, that it works to his disadvantage.  This is the age of reality TV, where people don’t want clever use of language, slick-sounding 1980’s style ‘bites’.  They want not silky smooth Blair polish, but to feel the edges and know for sure that the emotions on display are for real.  If expressed a little untidily, it not only doesn’t matter.  It’s better.  That is why IDS attracted so much support and went ahead.  His lack of experience of the dizzy heights which made Conservative MP’s jumpy, was exactly what appealed to the public at large.  They could relate to a man who felt so strongly that he was prepared to take on the full force and anger of the media, be attacked by his own party, and limp through each day trying to survive.  It was totally true and believable. 

IDS is gone, but there are lessons there for Howard and Davis.  Emotion cuts through the falseness of the media.  Princess Diana bared her soul and was loved for doing it.  Show us your soul Michael – be prepared to be more human and open, and less of an image.  Use a little less of your great Conservative intellect.  The public will love you yet, and the constituencies reactivate like desert flowers after a storm.

Henry Curteis

September 3rd 2004  
August 1st
Howard’s Way Now
Henry Curteis
Portillo may be standing down from Parliament but he has yet to cease his endless habit of attacking his party leaders. All the way from Major to Howard with no gaps in between he has lambasted his leaders at every opportunity, eagerly awaiting each of their downfalls.
We are by now all used to his ways, and there are few surprises when he takes the first available opportunity to open up on Howard, as he did in his Sunday Times column last week. His comments on Michael Howard sadly have much truth about them. It is not good enough for a Party leader to be taking his lead from others and adjusting his position to fit neatly alongside opponents (see Policy Polka). Leaders can operate on an amoral political approach as have Blair and Brown, but to successfully oppose an amoral government, it is no use offering a me-too version of the same thing. You have to expose and attack your opponent’s amorality and offer conviction in its place.
To give Michael Howard credit, he did this well when he had the Referendum on the Constitution in his sights, and he managed to manoeuvre Blair well. But as soon as Blair conceded the referendum, Howard had nowhere to go. It was as if the ploy of demanding a referendum was enough. Howard should have been ready to follow up with an attack on the corruption and unfairness of the EU, as soon as the referendum was called and chase a retreating enemy, but he missed his slot and has now been superseded by Kilroy Silk.
His comments on Howard were interesting as they gave a few Parliamentary insights but Portillo’s analysis of the Conservative Party is as usual way off the mark. He wrote, ‘Tory supporters’ morale soared with the election of Michael Howard as leader.’ This sentence is strange to say the least. Any evidence of an ‘election’ in the case of Howard becoming leader would be most welcome. There wasn’t one. Also IDS was very popular with Party members (who Portillo disposes of by claiming them to be an insignificant minority) and he was gaining in popularity with the public at the time he was assassinated.
IDS had a lead of 5% over Labour after the Blackpool Party conference, and Conservatives were nudging 40%. Under Howard Conservative support is at 30%, and yet all Portillo can come up with as a comment is ‘under Howard opinion polls did not show an improvement.’
Having mislead his readers as to the true position of Conservative support under IDS, who he cannot bring himself to mention by name, Portillo’s path lay open to the main thrust of his article, namely that Conservatives can only win support when they fight in the middle ground. And yet it is only by seriously distorting the evidence that he can sustain this claim, which is palpably wrong.
It is only when Conservatives fight with conviction and belief in their underlying principals that they are an effective force. IDS was no smooth operator, but the fact that he was fighting Blair on simple principals meant that he shot more holes in Labour than Howard has managed to do in the last nine months. Under Howard Blair is starting to look good again. Under IDS, he had to face being called a liar, which he is and everyone knows, and that tactic was working well. Howard has spent too much time at university and wants his politics to be on a nice high plane of intellectual poise, as does Oliver Letwyn. But the political messages people need to hear are much simpler. For example, how much more will it cost taxpayers under Labour than Conservatives? £5000 per household per annum? If so, that’s all we need to tell people. Labour are destroying their standard of living.
As for Europe how many jobs will be lost to regulation and poor economic performance if we become the same as all the other members? – 2,000,000 maybe. For Howard, Portillo’s advice is diametrically wrong. The only advice is KISS – keep it simple son. The centre ground is complicated and already full up. The right has a huge vacancy, and there is huge unmet pent-up demand. The way for Howard must be to meet that demand, or others will do it for you.
Henry Curteis
July 11th
Henry Curteis
Did you hear Michael Howard on Desert Island Discs?  It was almost a denial
of his position as Party leader.  He repeated several times, ‘Others will
decide – not me’ when asked what decisions he would be taking by Sue Lawley.
‘It’s the nature of politics that others decide,’ he said.  What did he
There is a policy ‘polka’ going on at the moment.  First there’s the NHS
waltz, then the Education quickstep.  The Transport trot will no doubt be
next.  Essentially both main parties announce similar sounding policies,
fluff them up claiming they are very different from the other party’s
version. Then they all retake their seats, smiles all round.  It’s a bit odd
to say the least.  What are the forces that persuade two supposedly opposed
parties to stop competing on policy, and instead take part in a media beauty
We know that Blair is content to be lead from Brussels on nearly any point
of policy.  Gordon Brown sometimes appears to have a more independent slant
on things, but whisperers assure us it is just a case of leader envy.  Brown
wants to be the one selling Britain out to the EU – and not Blair.  Blair
and Brown are almost certainly set on following the Brussels line.  The
evidence of 7 years is accumulating.
But is Howard really so minded as well?  Why doesn’t he for example ‘lead’
the Conservative Party to a lower tax, lower spend, reform public services
platform?  - and attack Labour and EU corruption?  It seems that something
as crude as corruption cannot really be mentioned in the beauty contest
being played out in front of us.  They all have to look good for next week’s
polka, and everything else can wait.
If the ‘others’ who will decide Conservative moves are not EU Commissioners,
who else could ‘they’ be?  Hardly Conservative Party Members, and hardly the
public at large.  Howard has to a large extent kept the same key Shadow
cabinet members as Iain Duncan Smith, and he has to some extent continued
with his policies, and to be fair it is mostly Labour that has acted
chameleon-like to imitate them.  Iain Duncan Smith has recently launched the
Centre for Social Justice, and is continuing to advocate policy initiatives.
  Is this where Howard intends to find his inspiration?
It seems more likely that Howard is just a pragmatist replacing IDS’
conviction politics.  This certainly pleases the media, and especially
Rupert Murdoch, who felt sidelined by IDS’ idealism and disinterest in doing
deals for favours.   The BBC had IDS marked down as a man of the ‘Far
Right’, but the public were secretly fascinated by the reality TV that he
provided.  They knew he was real because he couldn’t ‘polka’.    Despite the
media feeling that Howard is more their man than IDS, the polls don’t show
that voters are any happier with Howard than they were before – in fact
rather the opposite.
In October 2003 Conservatives were riding high.  Many Labour supporters were
attracted by IDS’ brand of politics with its emphasis on social justice,
hatred of corruption and independence from bureaucracy.  They see Howard as
a more typical Tory and when abandoning Labour, they are now more likely to
plump for Lib Dem or UKIP.  Since the fall of IDS, Labour has been able to
close the 5% lead that IDS had opened up.
The media, the government and image-conscious Conservative MP’s might feel
happier with IDS gone, without the need to defend something as crude as
conviction and belief, in a world that loves only image.  The public though
feel differently.  Image is all around and apparently all powerful but in
fact people yearn for something more real – someone willing to look and
sound less professional, and have the courage to say what they actually
This is the true corruption of our society.  People know they are not
getting what they want, but the democratic system which used to respond to
voters’ views, has been hijacked.  Parliament now operates with one eye on
Brussels, and the other on the media.  There are only two eyes and the
public are no longer in sight.
Howard wants to win this ‘big’ power game, and so he plays his moves
carefully to win it.  He avoids challenging the systemic corruption around
him.  At some point the little guy will take his revenge, and the polka will
be over.  Meanwhile the dance of the media elite that loves its place in the
limelight, and fears the intrusion of reality, plays on.

Henry Curteis

June 20th
Euro Shock
Henry Curteis
It was an awful moment. Expectations were high. The skipper had the right game plan. The enemy cracked open beautifully, and yet France somehow put away two superb goals in extra time, and the game was lost.
As Michael Howard walks off the field of the Euro elections, he must be feeling the same as David Beckham. It will be a while before he can take it in. He had Blair squirming all over the shop. The polls were showing healthy swings towards the Conservatives based on his promise of a referendum. Then an Irish couple of weeks before the poll, Blair caves into the pressure, and announces a EU Constitution referendum. The clear sight of a Labour open goal was lost.
Howard had scored big in getting Blair to crack on the Referendum, but somehow he was unable to punch home his victory. Out of the mist appeared a new shining knight in UKIP strip, Robert Kilroy Silk. Standing beside him on the rostrum getting all the attention that should have all been for Howard the statistical winner, was this newcomer, promising things that Conservatives yearn for but which their leader feels constrained to offer.
To say that these events have left political commentators reeling in confusion would be an understatement. The goalposts have moved so far that no one knows which way round the pitch is. So what hints are there as to how events might next unfold?
The crux of the UKIP dilemma for Conservative voters in the past has always been that they broadly support the UKIP approach, but that if they divide themselves between UKIP and the Conservatives, that will allow Labour to win. Instead of dividing Labour and Lib Dem, and ruling, they will become the ones being divided and ruled.
In the past, up to maybe 90% of UKIP support was coming from ex-conservatives, and so the dangers of a UKIP vote were obvious. The latest surge however, we are told by pollsters, and as appears from our own soundings, is a lot more broadly based. 55% of the new UKIP support is coming from Labour and Lib Dem supporters, and only 45% from Conservatives. This changes the situation dramatically, in that a UKIP surge in a General election scenario could hurt Labour more than Conservatives, courtesy of the new ‘shining knight’. The risks of supporting UKIP are getting a lot less for Conservatives, and the potential rewards higher.
There is no question from the Conservative point of view that if Howard doesn’t return to the Duncan Smith position on the EU, and attack the corruption of some of his own MEP’s, and split from the EPP, and start offering an explicit eurosceptic ticket, he will come under increasing pressure. Ken Clarke may threaten a split within the Conservatives if he does. But the split with Clarke and the pro-EU faction will cost the Conservatives very few votes. If he doesn’t split with Clarke, he will literally be sunk. He has little choice.
It would be most convenient for Conservatives if Ken Clarke was ‘withdrawn’ by his own constituents. Otherwise, he will either have to announce a new Party of his own called pro-EU Conservatives, or just shut up. He could maybe skip over and join Labour. Blair would be delighted to have him to help shore up his defence of his ‘heart of Europe’ strategy.
If Howard moves accordingly, and the material being circulated to voters by the Conservatives starts to hit the eurosceptic spot, then the UKIP surge will be capped. The quality of UKIP personnel is dubious. A lot of the people in line to push the agenda along are close to being Robin Hood and his Merry Men, or possibly Dad’s Army. With Max Clifford and Kilroy Silk greatly enhancing their public appeal, many might not notice that the quality of most UKIP politicians is to say the least amateurish. However that is undoubtedly what they are.
There would be great risks for Conservative voters in allowing the strength of the Conservative Party to be damaged by this UKIP flurry. If Howard can bolster his eurosceptic appeal, and keep building his support – welcome back to Theresa May for example – then it will increasingly be Labour and Lib Dem eurosceptic voters who feel their views are not represented by their traditional parties, and who will find their way to UKIP. The three way split of Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative could easily become a four way split, with UKIP getting a toe hold in Parliament. The job for Howard is now to ensure that the four way split damages Labour more than Conservative.
His task is not complicated, but will he address it? I hope so. As Sven might say, the warnings have been duly delivered. The team can, however still win the contest in the end of the day.
Henry Curteis

  March 7th

Thank You Iain Duncan Smith

Henry Curteis.
Does being against the Euro or the EU Superstate automatically imply fanatical hatred or far-right extremism?
Is it not possible to consider all the evidence, weigh the balance of arguments and reach the conclusion that the Euro is not for us, and to declare that British Parliamentary Democracy must live on - without growing pointed ears?
Realism is a self-confessed agnostic or sitter on the fence. He is wrong in my opinion to imagine that those who commit themselves to a position on issues such as the Euro are automatically extreme. Lets just say that people are different, and that by and large it is better to imagine that when someone else holds an opinion different to ones own, in most cases there is nothing sinister about it.
Some people like the EU. Most people it has to be said don't. The role of politicians should be to represent the views of their electors. Many people today believe that too many politicians are pursuing their own agenda, as are media moguls, and the views of mere electors are being ignored or misrepresented as extreme for example. These are important issues.
As for IDS, think back to February 2003. He was very nearly removed from the leadership by a co-ordinated and sustained media attack then. In that period, summarised pictorially by a memorable Spectator cover, Portillo and his supporters were at the forefront of the campaign to undermine Iain's authority. They were no doubt still smarting from their failure to win the Party leadership, and unhappy at their loss of influence at Party Headquarters.
Had Iain fallen then, Michael Howard would probably not have been in the running. The most likely contestants pre-Iraq would have been Portillo and Clarke, and I don't imagine the party would have achieved unity with either as leader. The fact that IDS lasted another eight months till October 2003 gave him enough time to define the Party's policies on a whole raft of issues including the EU. He had time to bed in his team, which included Letwin, Ancram and Howard. These three hold the key shadow cabinet positions. The Portillistas are defeated, and Clarke is nowhere near the figure he was a year ago.
It was the defeat of the Portillistas in February of 2003, especially the campaign to deselect Michael Portillo in Kensington & Chelsea that stopped the attacks on IDS and enabled him to survive eight more months, giving the Conservatives a sound base on which Michael Howard is now building, gaining maximum advantage from it.
If this assessment is correct, then the strength of the current Conservative position owes everything to the IDS two year period of office. I believe in credit where credit is due. It takes nothing away from Michael Howard to take stock, and be grateful to Iain Duncan Smith for the incredible contribution he made.
I am pleased to be described as vigorous in my views by Realism. I admire his caution, but cannot claim to suffer from it much myself. For example, it was me that organised and ran the campaign to deselect Michael Portillo last February, acting as an ordinary voter exercising my democratic rights.

February 23rd
FROM THE GRASSROOTS - A response to "Honeymoon"
 I am pleased that my article "Realism at last" generated a response from Henry Curteis and I read his article "Honeymoon" with great interest. May I be allowed to reply, please? I was writing as an ordinary Conservative voter who has continued to vote Conservative in both good times and bad (and there have been enough of the bad times in recent years) but I have been a keen observer of politics over forty years. "Honeymoon" is the true believer in all things Conservative whereas I am the agnostic.
Honeymoon’s hatred of the Euro and the steady march to a European super state, coupled with his dislike of certain sections of the media (notably the Murdoch press) is fanatical and is vigorously pursued. "Honeymoon" seems eager to purge the Party of its (comparatively) few remaining Europhiles (hence the diatribe against Kenneth Clarke). This suggests that he would, in fact, like to leave the European Union altogether (but he does not actually say so). In the first paragraph "Honeymoon" says that people had "respect for IDS". We obviously move in different circles. To many, I’m afraid, IDS was unknown and did not look to have those extra qualities needed to be Prime Minister. As for taking the Party from 20% behind in the polls to 5% in front, I seem to remember William Hague doing that in an actual poll for the 1999 European elections and look where that got us in June 2001. And there is no getting away from the fact that although we did very very well in the 2003 local elections we still lost seats to the Liberal Democrats in what were once Conservative heartlands – Bournemouth and Windsor/Maidenhead to name but two examples. There have only been two by elections in this Parliament and in the last at Brent East our share of the poll dropped once again and we were a humiliating third place with the support of just five electors in every hundred.
In the Daily Telegraph of Saturday, February T E Utley put perhaps more clearly the points I was trying to make and argued our case well. "Honeymoon", in my view, is calling for an extreme right wing agenda in the hope that the 6,000,000 voters who turned away from us in the last two elections will suddenly return to the fold. I challenge this assumption –we have to be a broad church, particularly at a time when more and more voters are not identifying with any one particular party.
Why would "Honeymoon" think that "Howard has made deals with senior Tories" and is "dependent on deals he had to make for his position"? True, Howard was elected unopposed but there were another 165 MPs who could have put their names forward had they so wished including a number of IDS supporters. And to claim that "IDS drew tremendous strength from the fact that he was elected by the whole membership" needs to be put in its correct perspective – 61% of the vote on an 80% turnout and support of just over a third of the MPs - hardly a ringing endorsement.
Had it been left to the Membership it is highly unlikely that Margaret Thatcher would have replaced Edward Heath in 1975 or that John Major would have replaced Margaret Thatcher in 1990 (although in the latter it took Michael Heseltine to wield the dagger). And this October in Bournemouth the Party faithful will cheer Michael Howard as much as they would have had IDS remained leader. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating but present omens are looking good. Donations are flooding in, we have nearly 20,000 more members than in October and we have, at long last, shown we can hit the magic 40% in the polls (although how long this will last remains to be seen). We have restored our credibility by electing someone with wide experience and who tends to polarise opinion either for or against. This may be no bad thing when put up against the "I feel the pain of all of you" Tony Blair, who can no longer count on the support of many, particularly those who thought the Hutton Report a complete whitewash.
No, it was not the media that brought down IDS (blaming the newspapers is easy). It was the votes of 90 MPs who wanted a fresh start and had stared into the abyss. It is simply not true to say that I have tried to belittle IDS’s achievements – we are setting the pace with radical ideas on health and education and we are initiating the great debate on the role of the state in the provision of these services. We have an enormous challenge when up against the collectivist forces who are more eager to preserve their own status than consider the true needs of the people – hence the uproar over the (in my view too modest) slashing of public expenditure by 35billion and a total reduction from 42% to 40%. There is no reason why we cannot have the clarity of an IDS strategy combined with Michael Howard’s personal appeal. Michael Howard says we can win in 2005/2006 not that we will win. Realism at last!

Henry Curteis
I would like to take issue with the ‘realism at last’ (RAL) opinion.  It is simply not true that the IDS regime was the ‘road to nowhere’ - or indeed that under IDS ‘we were a laughing stock’ as stated by Michael Fabricant MP in a speech recently.  Such statements are not consistent with the respect people had for IDS, and the huge and sustained revival in Conservative fortunes which he oversaw, lifting the Party from 20% behind to 5% ahead of Labour – a level incidentally that Michael Howard has yet to equal. 
Howard will need time to establish himself, and everyone I am sure wishes him all the best.  But to start off by misrepresenting the Party’s recent past will not help anybody.  Only an accurate assessment of our strengths and weaknesses will assist a strong move forward, not an unnecessary rubbishing of what went before.  The nature of IDS’ removal from office (basically he was pulped by a co-ordinated and sustained media campaign - See Democracy Assassinated) has confused many Conservatives.  IDS had weaknesses, but the campaign to remove him greatly exaggerated them and that seems to have blinded some people as to his strengths, and most importantly, the strength of the position he had achieved for the Party.
 The reason IDS re-established Conservative credibility in the eyes of millions of voters was that he had done what neither Hague or Major had not managed to do, namely settle the European issue.  He placed the Euro permanently out of bounds for Britain, and developed a policy of the EU becoming not a Superstate, but a trading agreement between free democratic countries.  His Shadow cabinet all stood behind these policies. 
 It was the strength of this position that allowed the Party to put Europe to one side for the first time in a generation, and refocus attention on the main issues of every day politics such as Health and Education, where Conservatives now have a lot to say in the light of Labour’s primary failure to deliver.  IDS’ detractors who think that he had a poor image as a potential PM, should acknowledge this strategic achievement.  If they don’t, then they could be unnecessarily exposing the Party to renewed weakness.
 Michael Howard has ‘rebalanced’ the Party placing Europhiles in the Shadow cabinet and permitted Ken Clarke a prominent media role.  This ambiguity obviously pleases the media and buys kinder treatment.  For the Party itself however, there is the danger of slipping back to where it was under Hague.  Either the party could begin fighting openly over Europe again, or if they don’t, the media will be delighted to give prominence to the pro-EU faction however small they actually are, riling potential Conservative voters and pushing them into the hands of other parties. 
 Clarke is already popping up on TV now, regularly espousing his pro-EU views, and so is Portillo now openly advocating membership of the Euro (Sunday Times) and burying Britain in the ‘heart’ of Europe.  Howard’s approach to this so far is to try to keep the cork in the bottle by asking all Conservative MP’s not to talk about the EU issue.  This is obviously not working as already the above mentioned are clearly ignoring him. 
 RAL does not seem to understand where the strength of the Conservative position has come from, and more worryingly, is unaware of how easily it could be lost.  RAL states that the threat from the Lib Dems has been reduced by the take-over by Howard.  This is partly true as Howard has strong electoral appeal.  But it is only by exposing Lib Dem double-speak that Lib Dem support can be whittled down.  That will need the Tories in a strong IDS-like position, not in a muddle.  To expose confusion in the thinking of others, you need clarity in your own. 
 So why can’t we have the clarity of the IDS strategy combined with the personal appeal of Michael Howard?
 One can imagine that Howard has made deals with senior Tories at the time of his selection as leader, in order to prevent a long drawn out leadership battle.  The trouble is that he may now have obligations to act in ways that are detrimental to the position of the Party.  This is the trouble with not consulting the Party membership.  When IDS was challenged, he always referred to the fact that he was the leader because he was elected by the membership.  The media had no respect for this of course, but it gave IDS’ position tremendous strength.  Howard unfortunately is dependent on deals he had to make for his position.    
 The centres of power in British politics have shifted.  So much so that Blair can eliminate the Lord Chancellor, tamper more or less at will with the House of Lords, and frequently ignore the House of Commons.  He does not need the Commons, as his power base is in the media.  Also the media saw how quickly they were able to ‘execute’ IDS, and after years of Blair promoting them over and above the Commons, they are starting to see themselves as very powerful indeed.
 While Howard lacks the strength of an elected position, he does have the advantage that the commentariat and the media moguls feel they put him where he is.  They like the Conservative Party being more ambiguous as that provides them with a bigger role, playing off one wing against another.  In Murdoch’s case, he can use the current ambiguity to play off against EU Competition authorities.  The media though should feel more committed to Howard than they did to IDS, as they put him in place, and they should stick with him as he starts to flex his muscles and impose a little discipline in the coming months.
 Power ultimately resides with electors, and they will hardly be impressed by another Blair-like leader who loves the media game over and above that of talking straight with voters.  IDS was getting very good indeed at striking a chord with voters, expressing his own strongly held convictions.  RAL should salute his achievements, and encourage Michael Howard to gradually move back towards the strength of the IDS position, and not be lulled into a false sense of security by the current media honeymoon. 
 If Howard can strengthen his grip on the Party without sacrificing media support, that would justify the position of Conservative MP’s in bringing IDS’ leadership to an end.  But if the end of IDS is just an abandonment of any real attempt at overall strategic direction, then the loss of IDS is a tragedy, as voters will not be impressed.  Cheap shots at IDS need to end, and Conservative thinking needs to harden, if the Party is now serious about winning power, as it claims.

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