Archive 2005

Archive 2005
Parliamentary Candidates - Question Time - European People's Party - The Leader's Speeches - The "A" List - Candidates - The Listening Chairman - Conservative Policy Forum - Conservative Home - The Connection - Lord Archer's Membership - European People's Party - Hustings - Northern Ireland conservatives - Who are They?(2) - Who are They? - Leadership Candidates - Candidates
List - Congratulations - Leadership Election Rules - Leadership Election - Turkeys and Christmas - Membership - MP's Expenses - Boundary Reviews - Sleepwalking to
Dictatorship - Election of the Leader - Question Time - Paying for the Election - The "Today" programme - Email the Candidates - Data Protection Act - Gravy Train and the South East Regional Assembly - Congratulations - Leadership Election - Good News for Candidates - Good News for Robert Oulds - National Convention - Conference Fringe - National Conservative Convention - Chairman of the Candidates Committee - No Role For Ken?
December 24th
Parliamentary Candidates
The following letter was sent by Simon Mort ( Chairman of the Candidates Committee) to Constituency Chairmen.   He has asked for transparency so we thought you ought to know.   Will he publish the new processes?
Dear Colleagues
You will have heard something of the speech which the Leader made in Leeds yesterday and will have received an e-mail from Bernard Jenkin, the new Deputy Chairman responsible for candidates.
In the Candidates Department we are faced with an important challenge in implementing the new policy candidate selection.   We will address it with vigour and we will deliver.
Please rest assured that at all times I will be mindful of the great varieties of demography, culture and employments in the different constituencies throughout the country.   I have been vigorous and successful in feeding this into the discussions over the last few days.  The Leader shares my wish that this variety should be represented in the types of candidate that are chosen in the next couple of years.
Both the selections in Liberal gain seats which are currently in progress (Taunton Deane and Westmoreland & Lonsdale) will continue their selections, as will all Fastracks which have started.
I am keen to visit as many parts of the country as possible to talk about procedures.   If you would like me to visit your neck of the woods, please let me know.   My first response will be to ask the ACD if they can assemble a critical mass of Chairmen and then we can agree a mutually convenient date.
Above all,  I am most anxious that our processes should be transparent.   If at any time you feel that they are not, please e-mail me and I will be happy to explain what we are doing.
Very best wishes
Simon Mort
Vice-President Conservative National Convention
Chairman, the Candidates Committee
Question Time
I have occasionally noticed a colleague in the audience of Question Time.    Asked how it was that he got invited he answered that it was very simple.    When asked about his race in the Question Time questionnaire.   He always puts "African"!
European People's Party
The row over membership of the EPP is building up.   Watch out for developments.   My prediction for 2006 is that after several months meeting politicians from other countries in the EU, William Hague will announce that nobody wants to join us so we will remain affiliated to the EPP for the foreseeable future.

December 18th
The Leader's Speeches.
This week David Cameron has made two important speeches.   In one of them he invited Liberal Democrats to join the Conservative Party.   This was one of the most superbly crafted speeches ever made by a Leader of the Party and he should be heartily congratulated on it.
The other speech he made was about an action plan for candidates.   This was not so good.   Both Cameron and Francis Maude held back from imposing an "A" list on the constituency Associations, but there was an implied threat in the speech that this might happen in the future.
Cameron spoke of a priority list based "on merit" open and transparent.   Does this mean it will be published?   Who decides what "merit" is?   He wants to ensure "that we attract the widest range of  top quality people".    Who decides what is top quality?   He says "Ensuring that someone's potential to be a good MP is the only factor that counts in being selected as a parliamentary candidate.   Who decides what is "good"?   So the little oligarchy at Central Office will decide who is good, top quality and has merit and at the same time ensure that half of the candidates are female and half male, but with ethnic minorities and disabled amongst them.   What about the old, the young and homosexuals?   Will they be given a quota and if not why not?   Will they ensure that there are not only Asians but Afro - Caribbeans.   Whilst we are about it what about Jewish, Roman Catholics and Muslims?   It is also important that the different Regions of England are represented as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.   In fact in order for all these different interests to be represented we must have every Conservative Party member on the list.  A list of 140 is clearly too small.    When, or if the list is published, unless we see a good, top quality disabled old lesbian Jewish candidate from Yorkshire of Asian origin chosen on merit on the list the Conservative Party will stand accused of discrimination and under the terms of reference given in David Cameron's speech, rightly so.
Has the world gone mad?   Never mind, Cameron does say that he will be "preserving the autonomy that constituencies have to select the candidate that is best for them."   pull the other one!
Finally there was one part of his speech which the media entirely ignored.   He called on constituencies to set up a panel of local community stakeholders to interview the candidates from the priority list and report to the Association on the relative strengths of each candidate.   Who are these "local community stakeholders"?   He gives examples GPs, school governors, head teachers, local business leaders.   In other words the local establishment.   Are not the fish wife, the window cleaner and the dustbin men equally "local community stakeholders"?   Does David Cameron betray a middle class bureaucratic approach to the important matter of choosing candidates? 
Why not leave candidate selection to the Local Constituency Association to decide on their candidate and let them decide from a list of all Party members after excluding the mad the bad and the sad.   After all it is these same Party members which have just elected David Cameron as the Leader of the Party.   It is a bit ironic if they are not to be allowed to choose their own candidate for parliament.
We all want more representative Conservative MPs in parliament so why don't Central Office concentrate on persuading more people to put their names forward.   That is where they should be making an effort.

December 11th
The "A" List
We offer our congratulations to David Cameron on being elected Leader of the Conservative Party.   We hope that he will change the Party and bring it into the 21st century by making it a democratic Party.    If press reports are correct he is not starting on a very promising subject.    We are told that he will announce that there is to be an "A" list of candidates amounting to 140 in number who will be given priority in the marginal seats.    If this "A" list is to be imposed on the Constituency Associations it is the supreme irony that the very members who made him Leader are not to be trusted with the decision on their local candidate for Westminster.
There are three objections to an imposed list.   They are:
  • By restricting the choice of the local Association democracy is distorted and once you start to distort democracy you will destroy it.   The Constituency Associations will resent it.
  • Who is this fountain of wisdom in the Citadel of Conservative Central Office that will determine who is on the list?    Is it to be Bernard Jenkins, the Vice Chairman of candidates?    Will we end up with 70 Bernard Jenkin clones in the House of Commons?    I say 70 because the list is to be equally divided between males and females.    Will the other 70 be clones of Ann Jenkins who strongly supports all women short lists?   They are a lovely couple but do we really want 70 of them?
  • If you have an "A" list then you also have a "B" list which will be for the 300 other constituencies.    I can think of nothing more demoralising than being told that you are a "B" list candidate in a "B" list constituency.   Talk about second class citizens.
Of course it is possible that the "A" list will not be imposed in which case we would not object to it, and the candidates that were given an "A" list classification could show it on their CV.    The Constituency Associations would soon detect whether they were the best or not.   If they were the Associations would insist on having them.    This is the right approach.   It encompasses freedom choice and democracy.   Isn't that what the Conservative Party should be about?    Are we to be liberators or control freaks?
The biggest problem with the control freak approach is that it will not succeed.   What we should be doing is opening the list up.   If we want more women and ethnic minority candidates to ensure that the Conservative Parliamentary Party is more reflective of the people, surely a good thing, then what we should be doing is making it easier to be a parliamentary candidate.   Allow anybody who is a Conservative member to be on the list other than the mad,sad or bad.   This immediately removes the first barrier a candidate faces, which is getting onto a list.    Then allow the Constituency Associations the widest possible choice,    If they want to interview a local candidate then let them do so.    This will eleinminate any resentment a Association might have if a candidate is imposed on them.   Finally set up a task force to encourage as many women and ethnic minority candidates to come forward.
A local Constituency Association is like a small business and when they are looking to employ someone consciously or sub-consciously they look at the age of a woman.   If she is of child bearing age they worry that she will take time out as a result of becoming pregnant or having to give priority to her children,   It is alright if you are a big business or in government.    A temp can be found to substitute for a period, but as yet we do not have substitute MPs.   This is the real world and a problem we have to overcome so why not target the over 45 year old women, many of whom have a great deal of experience and some of whom are looking to start a second career now that the children have left home and gone to university or work.   Take the age limit off candidates.
This is a Conservative approach.    Open up the selection process and watch the results flow in.   Be a liberator not a control freak.   More democracy not less.   That is the solution.
From a correspondent:
First tranche of seats will be allocated Jan - March.  Some are being given special advanced treatment, with fast tracking of some candidates.  Those re-applying to join the List are being re-interviewed by a committee as few as 2 ( 'volunteers' ), and some are being rejected without explanation.  One, who had fought a district council seat, then a county council seat, having put in huge effort to unseat the incumbents, and then admirably fought a 'no-hope' seat in the 2005 General Election, has failed to be re-selected.  One MP was quoted as saying 'Who would I want sitting next to me on the benches?'; 'Who could I be pally with?'.  If those are the criteria for re-selection, then I doubt a Churchill or a Thatcher would have been sufficiently 'pally' to ever have been selected.
Significantly, while many white, middle aged men are being rejected, many asian, black gay and female candidates are being re-admitted without an interview.
This is the Mackay agenda.  The Party may preach meritocracy or selection by ability, but it has gone much further down the politically correct path than Labour has ever done.  Clearly, the Chairman of Candidates should be elected by and accountable to the National Convention.  I cannot see a better way of avoiding the accusation of creating a party in one's own image.  Either we are democratic and accountable, or we are controlling and centralising.  There is, in reality, no greater power for anyone in the Party than the person with sole charge of determining the 'sort' of candidate we promote.    Whether Mackay or Mort (John Taylor's replacement) is controlling the List is irrelevant; it remains one man (or woman).  It is plainly inconsistent with Conservative philosophy (but maybe there aren't many who really know what this is any more!).

December 4th
The Listening Chairman
Many congratulations to Francis Maude.    This week he took the first step to reorganise the Conservative Party by advertising for nine Regional Directors.   This is great news for it means that we are moving in the direction that COPOV proposed of bringing back the Regions and downgrading the Areas.   Hopefully Francis will remain as Party Chairman to see through these changes.   We could even be moving towards a democratic Party.    Now that would be something.   With a new Leader let us get on with creating a 21st Century Party.
Conservative Political Forum
We set out below our submission to John Glen - the director of the Conservative Policy Forum.   You will see that we are basing our suggestions on Regions (see above)   Email John Glenn with your support for these proposals
The Future of the CPF
The Campaign for Conservative Democracy
At a meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy held on 26th November 05 (twenty members present) the following was agreed regarding the Future of the CPF:
Conservative Policy Forum
  • The Deputy Leader of the Party will be The Chairman of the Policy Forum
  • The Party Leader will determine the priorities of policies.
  • 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 Regional/National Forums.
  • The Regional/National Forums 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.
In view of the imminent changes to the Party Constitution we were uncertain as to how the CPF would be fitted in, but the following points were agreed:
  • The Council of the CPF should be elected by the subscribers to the CPF. Election could be done by use of the internet with each subscriber having their own pin number.
  • There should be communication from CCHQ to subscribers every two months.
  • CPF Day/weekend conferences would be welcome, but see our main proposals above. A general conference could be held annually.
  • Regarding publications see our proposals above.
  • The Annual membership fee should be £10.00. for CPF subscribers. For this they would be entitled to receive email communications. If groups wish to receive hard copy then the costs of this should be met by the subscriptions of those that want hard copies.
 Conservative Home.
"COPOV encourages you to join a new internet opinion panel that is live at  By joining this panel you will ensure that
your views are counted in what will be a regular survey of opinion amongst
people who belong to - or support - the Conservative Party.  By identifying
yourself as one of our supporters (in the space provided at the end of the
survey) you will also allow COPOV to set our own questions for future
surveys of panel members.  Please click on to
take part in this three minute survey."
Let the democratic voice be heard in the Conservative Party
The Connection
Now we know (see below), Sandip Verma and Mohammed Sheik are both members of the Ethnic Diversity Council set up in October this year.    Of the ten Council members six are now members of the House of Lords.    At this rate membership of the Ethnic Diversity Council will overtake fat donations as the route to the House of Lords.

November 27th
Lord Archer's Membership
There has been speculation that Lord Archer has rejoined the membership of the Conservative Party.   He should not have been excluded in the first place.   No one has accused Lord Archer of deliberately doing anything that would harm the Party.   He should be allowed to resume his membership of the Party.   There are, however two caveats.   The first concerns his membership of the House of Lords.   It is totally wrong that one day you can be in Her Majesty's Prison and the next day legislating  on behalf of your fellow citizens.   If you are a member of the House of Commons and commit a serious crime involving a prison sentence in excess of two years you are excluded from the House.   The same should apply to the House of Lords.   The Party should ensure that Lord Archer has no position in the Lords.
Also after a lengthy spell in prison a certain amount of contrition would do Lord Archer a world of good.   It is to be hoped therefore that he is not given any Conservative platform except in special circumstances e.g. speaking on prison reform; certainly not in any fund raising capacity.
There is one further aspect of this episode which is disturbing.   It is reported that David Cameron has said that Lord Archer would be excluded from membership if  Cameron becomes Leader.   The Party has a proper process for determining membership and that process should be gone through if Lord Archer has applied.   It is wrong of a Leader or potential Leader to interfere in that process and does not augur well for democracy in the Party if a new Leader starts by throwing his weight around and behaving as a dictator.   Justice demands fair play.
European Peoples Party
David Cameron has pledged to take the Conservative Party out of affiliation as the European Democrats to the European Peoples Party in the European Parliament.   The wires are hot as speculation grows as to what will happen if he becomes Leader.   This could be his first big test.    Whatever he decides there will be a big row.   Watch this space!
Hustings meetings were held this week at the Central Hall Westminster.   Some 1500-2000 members turned up for an excellent meeting.   Unfortunately half those attending (those seated in the balcony) could not hear any of David Davis's speech and missed half of David Cameron's speech because someone had forgotten to turn on the balcony loudspeakers.   To the annoyance of Gavin Barwell of Central Office the Chairman of COPOV loudly complained about the incompetence of Central Office.   Why didn't somebody check the loudspeakers before the meeting began?   It is not good enough to just blame the building staff.
Northern Ireland Conservatives
The members of the party on Northern Ireland were promised a video link up to a regional meeting for the Leadership hustings.    This has been cancelled.   Let the candidates go to Northern Ireland for a meeting.   David Davis stated publicly that he was prepared to go if the other candidate went.   Its up to you David Cameron.   Go for it!   For too long Northern Ireland has been neglected by the Conservative Party. It is time this was changed.
Who are they?(see below)
One of our correspondents writes:
“The Tories have also nominated two Asians for peerages this year one of whom, Mohamed Sheikh is a solicitor from Croydon who donated £38,000 to the Conservative Party.”
£38k for a peerage.   Cheaper for Asians!  A new form of “positive” discrimination?
We have also been told that Mohamed Sheik is Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Council so perhaps this is why he has received a peerage.   

November 20th
Who are They (see below)
I am grateful to one of COPOV's correspondents for the following: Rodney Leach was apparently Chairman of Business for Sterling.   Sandip Verma fought Wolverhampton SW in May. See Guardian stats below. The Conservative share of the vote dropped to its lowest level ever! The reduced Labour majority was due to a swing to the Lib Dems. A Peerage for  failure – typical of Michael Howard’s leadership.   But who then is Mohamed Sheik?
The 2005 general election

Rob Marris, Labour
Sandip Verma, Conservative
Colin Ross, Liberal Democrat
Douglas HopeUK Independence Party
Edward Mullins, British National Party
Labour majority: 2,879
Time of declaration: May 06 2005 02:08
Turnout: 62.1 %

 The 2001 general election

Robert Marris, Labour
David Chambers, Conservative
Mike Dixon, Liberal Democrat
Wendy Walker, Green Party
Doug HopeUK Independence Party
Labour majority: 3,487
Time of declaration: June 08 2001 01:53
Turnout: 60.9 %

The 1997 general election

Jenny Jones, Labour
Nicholas Budgen, Conservative
M Green, Liberal Democrat
M Hyde, Liberal
Labour majority: 5,118
Time of declaration: May 02 1997 00:52
Turnout: 72.5 %

Leadership Candidates
We know so little of what David Cameron will do it is somewhat harsh just to pick complaints with David Davis's campaign.   At least the Davis campaign respond to emails unlike the Cameron campaign.   Nevertheless a couple of points of criticism.   David Davis says regarding Parliamentary Candidates: The first thing to tackle is the Candidates List.   It needs to be shorter and made up of the very best men and women who are prepared to work hard to win.   Sounds good, we all want the very best men and women, the trouble is that we have differing views as to what is best, so who will be the genius that will decide?   Will they be accountable to the members?    What happens if they screw up?   If you believe in the autonomy of Constituency Associations why not let them decide from the widest possible list?
The other issue is Davis's obsession with the Women's Organisation.    He states: I want to make more use of women's knowledge and expertise in the following ways:
Ensure the Women's Organisation is represented on the key campaigning committees - including the Target seats, Candidates and Party Conference committees;
Ensure the Leader works closely with the Board to maximise the involvement of the Women's Organisation;
Ensure the Party's headquarters is reopened to the Women's Organisation - both in terms of office and secretarial support;
Ensure the Shadow Cabinet pays real regard to the policy papers submitted by the Women's Organisation;
Ensure there are regular, face-to-face meetings for the Women's Organisation with the Leader and the Party Chairman.
You would think from this that the Women's Organisation is all powerful but just how many women in the Conservative Party does it represent?   Let me enlighten you David - 3,000.   Thats all, out of some 130,000 women in the Party.   How do I know?   At the time the Women were drawing up there constitution I was asked for my advice.   I suggested that the National Officers should be elected by the grass roots members of the Organisation rather than branch chairmen doing the electing.   This was turned down.   Why, you might ask?   Because it would disclose how small and weak the Women's Organisation was on the ground.   They preferred the discredited pyramid democracy which the Conservative Party made illegal in the Trade Unions in the 1980s.
If the women want more say in the running of the Party why do they not support a democratic Party with the Party Chairman and Treasurer elected by the members.   Campaign for the Vice Chairman of candidates and Vice Chairman of the Party Conference to be elected by the Party.   If they did this they would get respect but campaigning to become part of the oligarchy which controls the Party only brings contempt.
Candidates List
We thought the candidates list had been put on hold until the new Leader was in position.   We were wrong.   They have been steaming ahead with the intention of having the list finalised by December 16th.    It will consist of approximately 100 candidates 50% of whom will be women.    All this so that the new Leader will be faced with a fait accompli when he takes power.   The same thing is happening to the Conservative Political Forum.    The organisation of this will also be presented as a fait accompli.    They are working hard in Central Office!   Which of the two candidates for Leader has the capability for dealing with the vested interests in the Party?   After all it was these vested interest which in the end ruined William Hague's leadership.   He could not handle them.

November 13th
This week another 28 people were made Peers.    Eight of them were proposed by the Conservative Party.   At long last John Taylor was rightly given a peerage.   This was long overdue and was delayed because he stood up for the Party Constitution during a spat with Iain Duncan Smith.   Congratulations John.
The Party Treasurer, Jonathon Marland was also given a peerage, so if previous experience is followed the Party will soon be looking for a new Party Treasurer.   To his credit the only former Party Treasurer who has continued working for the Party after receiving a peerage is Michael Ashcroft.
What of the others?   David James and Sandy Bruce-Lockhart have put in long hours working for the Party.   Has anybody heard of Rodney Leach, Mohamed Sheikh or Sandip Verma in Party circles?
Sadly a large donor, Robert Edmiston was given a peerage.   Shame because otherwise we could have made a big play about the fat cat donors to the Labour Party.   In their list of eleven Peers no less than four of them were fat cat donors.
It is time the toothless Electoral Commission put its foot down and demanded a limit on donations, and insist that State Funding of political Parties be based on those Parties meeting certain democratic criteria. 
Leadership Election Rules
David Cameron seems to be moving on the rules for a future Leadership election - see last week.   Another member of COPOV asked him his views on the subject.  
At first he said that he favoured an electoral college. What would its composition be, I asked. He said 50/50? [MPs/members], then he said he might want to make a more complex college with MEPs, councillors etc having a proportion. I said it would lead to a lot of argument over the proportions. He then asked me for my view, to which I replied that I liked the present arrangement. He then said what about those who want all candidates to go before the members? I suggested that I thought that a strong third candidate should be included if he had the support of a minimum level of MPs , such as 30%. He seemed to be genuinely looking at a range of ideas. Finally he acknowledged that this should be looked at by the whole party.  An interesting exchange!    
If any members have similar exchanges we would be interested to hear.   In the meantime we must try and obtain a commitment that he would not support any move to take the vote away from the members, electoral college or not.   Always remember electoral colleges are a distortion of democracy.   It is what is wrong with the United States constitution, where George Bush became President with less votes than Al Gore.
Leadership Election
This Leadership election has been a credit to the Conservative Party.   I have been to two meetings with the candidates.   On each occasion the hall has been packed out with standing room only.   At four o'clock on a Friday afternoon over four hundred members turned out from just two constituencies to hear one of the candidates.    People have become interested in political meetings again.   The atmosphere is terrific.   The excitement flows.   Democracy in action, and just think less than two months ago the Party hierarchy were trying to stop it.    How out of touch can you get?

November 6th
Turkeys and Christmas
This week a member of COPOV contacted David Cameron's campaign headquarters and asked whether he would support the "grass roots" members of the Party retaining a vote in future Leadership elections.    The headquarters said they could not give an immediate answer but would get back to them which they duly did.   The answer that was given was that there would be a "review of the Leadership rules after the election".   No commitment to support of the "grass roots" could therefore be given.
So take heed members of the Conservative Party, vote for Cameron and if he wins it could be the last time you will be able to vote in a Leadership election.   It reminds you of the turkey voting for Christmas!
Now we know, in spite of being continuously told that membership is increasing it has fallen catastrophically in the last four years.    254,000 ballot papers are being sent out.   This compares to 327,000 in 2001.   This means we have lost 73,000 members in the last four years.   At this rate the Conservative Party will be extinguished before the next general election.   So what can be done?   There is a simple solution which the Leadership candidates should take on board.   Make the Party a democratic organisation and watch membership grow.   As we have seen with the Leadership election nothing does the party more good than enabling its members to participate in its activities.   The Party has had more good publicity than we have had for years.   The contest is exciting, illuminating, an example of how to conduct political debate without resorting to nastiness.   All in all the best thing to happen to the Party for at least a decade.

October 31st
MPs Expenses
This week we had published a list of MP's expenses.   The 19 MPs with the highest postage bills last year were all Labour MPs with slim majorities.   The MP for Mitcham and Morden sent out 10,000 letters per month every month throughout the year at a cost of £37,442 in stamps and £11,191 in stationery.
MPs now receive up to £0.75 million over the course of a parliament in expenses.   It is illegal for this money to be spent on Party political matters or to appeal for votes.   It is quite clear that in many cases, if not all, this money is being spent illegally.   So what is the Electoral Commission going to do about it?   Sweet Fanny Adams.    Why?   Because the Electoral Commission is dependent on those very same MPs for its existence.   Until we have a totally Independent Electoral Commission this farce will continue.
This situation increases the difficulty of throwing an MP out at a General Election because the sitting MP has such a huge advantage in the amount of money at their disposal.   It is a disgrace.
Boundary Reviews
The Electoral Commission has launched a public consultation seeking views on all aspects of electoral reviews: the application of the statutory criteria, the timing and scheduling of reviews, issues and information considered during a review and the review process used.

The Electoral Commission is currently undertaking a fundamental evaluation of the policies and procedures used by the Commission and The Boundary Committee for England to guide Periodic electoral reviews (PERs).

PERs have significant implications for voters, councillors, wards, county districts and MPs in England. They can and do affect the level of representation voters have in an area, the number of councillors elected to local authorities and the make-up of wards and county districts. Local authority wards are also the building blocks of Parliamentary constituencies.

The Periodic electoral reviews consultation paper, also released today, raises a number of questions on these issues. The consultation paper can be downloaded from the Commission’s website

Whether you have views on all of the questions or just a few, we would encourage you to submit a response.

Responses can be submitted online via the website provided, by email or sent directly to the Commission:

The Electoral Commission
Attention: PER evaluation
Planning and Development Team
Trevelyan House
Great Peter St
Responses should be submitted by 12 noon, 25 November 2005.

We look forward to your involvement in this evaluation.

Tammy Ingold
Project Manager (Policy and Strategy)
It is essential for the Conservative Viewpoint to be put to the Commission.   Too many times in the past the Labour Party have run rings around the Conservatives with the result that our electoral system is totally distorted.   Far too many Conservative seats have seen this as an opportunity to increase their votes by grabbing Conservative areas from other seats and in the process giving an advantage to Labour, or making a safe Conservative Seat marginal.   Is Conservative Central Office co-ordinating the Party's response?   It should be.    What is happening in your Constituency?   Let us know.
Reviews should be implemented within five years and the Electoral Commission should be instructed that all seats should have a similar number of electors within + or - 10%
Sleepwalking to Dictatorship
Imagine a country where the head of state is unelected.    Where the government rules with absolute and unopposed power, although only 22% of the electorate voted for it.   A country where ID will shortly be made compulsory.
This is a country where the old are left to die in poverty, where children are confined to schools from seven in the morning until seven at night in order that their parents can be absorbed into the state's consumerist ideals.    A state where a family with two wage earners cannot afford to buy a home and private pension schemes have become worthless, while the ruling elite force the people to subsidise both their way of life and their own pensions.
A country which has banned demonstrations within a mile of its seat of power so that its leader is not embarrassed in the presence of foreign statesmen.
Welcome to the United Kingdom
Wake up!  Before it is too late.
From a letter to "The Independent" on 22 June 2005 by A D Williams

October 23rd
Election of the Leader
This week I was kindly sent at my request the rules of the 1922 Committee relating to the "Procedure For The Election of the Leader of the Conservative Party" by the Chairman of the 1922 Committee - Sir Michael Spicer MP.   They raise a number of questions.
1    As these rules form part of the Conservative Party Constitution why are they not printed as part of the Constitution?
The Constitution says:
"Upon the initiation of an election for the Leader, it shall be the duty of the 1922 Committee to present to the Party, as soon as reasonably practicable, a choice of candidates for election as Leader.    The rules for deciding the procedure by which the 1922 Committee selects candidates for submission for election shall be determined by the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee after consultation of the Board."
2    You will notice that under the Constitution it is the duty of the 1922 Committee to present to the Party, but the rules are determined by the Executive Committee.   How can one body have a duty which is determined by another body?
3    The rules should be incorporated within the Constitution and changes to them should be done on the same basis as the rest of the Constitution.
4    There was much media speculation after Thursday's result as to whether David Davis would drop out and David Cameron given a coronation.   You will see from the above that that would be a clear breach of the Duty of the 1922 Committee.   But hold on what do the rules of the 1922 Committee state?
"Neither of the two candidates to go forward to the general membership may withdraw without the agreement of both the Chairman of the 1922 Committee and the Board of the Party"
.   So now we have it, the Duty of the 1922 Committee can be overridden by the Chairman of the Party and the Party Board, or is this a clear conflict between the rules of one body and the Party Constitution which incorporates those rules.    This is why it is ludicrous that these rules wre not part of the main document and subject to the agreement of the electoral college.
5    Many people thought that all four candidates should be put to the members for election, but we were told it was too late to make the change so what provision is there for changing the rules of the 1922 Committee?   The rules state:
"These rules are drawn up under the authority of the 1922 Committee, and any future changes which may be deemed necessary will be made by the 1922 Committee... "( you will note here that this is different to what the main Constitution says which refers to the Executive of the 1922 Committee)
There are no time scales for notice or special meetings etc. within these rules if change is required.   In other words if the 1922 Committee or its Executive wished to change them so that four candidates were put to the members it could have done so within twenty four hours.   Why didn't it?
All in all this really is a bit of a mess.    It is what happens when you begin to distort democracy.   In doing this you destroy it, which brings us to the votes this week.   This has been a bad week for the Conservative Party for all its wheeling and dealing have been exposed.    The MPs did not vote for the person that they thought would be the best Leader.   Some voted on the basis of what is in it for me?   Others voted for Liam Fox in the first round  in order to keep Ken Clarke out.    In the second round we are told some of David Cameron's supporters voted for David Davis in order to not have to go to the members against Liam Fox.   If Liam Fox had been knocked out in the first round it is a virtual certainty that David Davis's score would have gone up in the second round.   He would now be on a roll.
This system is rotten, but we are stuck with it for this election.   Let us hope that immediately afterwards we can put it right.
Question Time
How experienced are the two candidates for Leader.   In the next six weeks why not let them take alternatively the Leader's position for the Conservative Party at Prime Minister's Question Time?
Paying for the election
The two candidates are being asked to pay for the costs of the hustings meetings.   This is disgraceful.   It will force them to find private backers for their campaign.   Private backers do not do these things for nothing so watch for their names in a future peerage list.    What a tragedy when we should be thoroughly condemning the Labour Party for giving peerages to its fat cat donors.
The "Today" programme
On the "Today" programme this week there was a disgraceful allegation that Francis Maude would determine who amongst the mass membership would get a vote.   Amongst other points it stated that married couples would be at a disadvatage if they had paid less that £30.00 membership.    The Chairman of COPOV raised this point on the "Today" programme at the 2001 Leadership election (and was derided by Steve Norris for doing so) and to be fair to the Party it has been proposed to simplify membership and reduce the minimum subscription to £3.00   Unfortunately this will not come into effect until after the election, so the rules for this election are virtually the same as they were in 2001.
There has been much unfair criticism of Francis Maude.   When he became Chairman the changes to the Party Constitution were presented to him as a fait accompli.   All he could do was write the introduction or resign as Party Chairman which would have made his tenure as Chairman the shortest in history.   Of course he may not be Chairman when the new Leader is elected but if he is let him show what he really believes, rather than having to handle the poisoned chalice which was given to him.

October 16th
Email the Candidates
Have you tried emailing the candidates for the Leadership election?   Go to their web sites and look up the contact.    For three candidates contact was easy.   You just click on the "contact us".   In Liam Fox's case you have to write the email address down in order to email him.
On Friday we sent a simple question to all four candidates.   So far only David Cameron has replied.   His reply was a standard reply to all emails saying look at his web site.   Good marks for a quick answer, but why have none of the candidates answered the question?  
Data Protection Act
We are informed that under The Data Protection Act none of the candidates in the Leadership election should have access to membership records, and under no circumstances should Constituency Associations give membership details to a candidate.   This must be the only election where the candidates cannot have direct access to their electors.   If this is a correct interpretation of the Act then the Act should be changed.
What is happening of course is that candidates are contacting Constituency Offices and giving information by email.    The offices are then in some cases forwarding this on to their members for whom they have email addresses, thus creating a privileged group of members.    There should be a ruling on this from Central Office.   Either all communications from the candidates should be forwarded on to those members with email addresses or none of them.   What a mess we get into when bureaucracy rears its ugly head.
Gravy Train and the South East Regional Assembly
The Chairman of the South East Regional Assembly is Cllr. Keith Mitchell, the Leader of the Oxfordshire County Council.    He is doubtless as well regarded as his predecessor, who had an allowance of £11,150 from SEERA.
In March Cllr. Mitchell and his Oxfordshire colleagues among the council nominees to SEERA voted by a two thirds majority for their assembly to be scrapped.   Cleverly, however, the rules allowed the local government officials who also sit on the assembly to overrule them.   So Cllr. Mitchell can continue to enjoy the rewards of the post he voted to abolish.
October 9th

The Conservative Party Conference was the best Conference that the Conservative's have had for years.   Electricity was in the air, the Conference Hall was packed.   There was real debate taking place.    Debate revolved around the differing views of the candidates for the Leadership, nevertheless it was for real, because the representatives were involved.    At the end of this process they will have a vote.   Unlike the Labour Conference nobody was thrown out for expressing a contrary view!   This was democracy in action and nobody attending the Conference can have any doubt that democracy is the key to the Party's renaissance.   This could be our Clause 4.    Even the media were positive and that is a first for thirty years.
Leadership Election
After such a good Conference the key now is to build upon it and the first step is to allow four of the candidates for the Leadership to be put to the members.   There is nothing in the Party's Constitution to prevent this.   The Constitution says:
"Upon the initiation of an election for the Leader, it shall be the duty of the 1922 Committee to present to the Party, as soon as reasonably practicable, a choice of candidates for election as Leader.    The rules for deciding the procedure by which the 1922 Committee selects candidates for submission for election shall be determined by the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee after consultation of the Board."
In 2001 the Board were almost evenly divided as to whether three candidates should be put to the members, but in the end the Chairman of the 1922 executive said it was too late but would be reviewed next time.    Now is "next time".   The executive of the 1922 have spent so much of their time in between trying to alter the rules that they have not reviewed this point.   It is time for the 1922 Committee to come into the twenty first century.   Some times they act as though they were still in 1922!
If the Executive of the 1922 committee do not agree to four candidates going to the members all the goodwill created by the Conference will be dissipated.   Judging from the latest opinion polls almost a third of the members will be bitter because they will be denied the right to vote for their candidate.   As each round proceeds we will see more wheeler dealing amongst the MPs than in the last Christmas edition of "Only Fools and Horses".    Conservative MPs will make Del Boy look as honest as a parish priest!    All the old perceptions of dishonesty and lying will come back in full force to haunt the Conservative Party for years.   We could even end up in a similar situation to 2001.   Already we can see that David Davis has almost sufficient votes of MPs to guarantee a place in the final round.   Any surplus of votes he gets can now be used to manipulate the results for the other candidates to try and ensure that his weakest opponent ends up in the final ballot.   This would be appalling.
Good News for Candidates
The iniquitous fifteen point candidates agreement has now been withdrawn.   This is good news better late than never.    Unfortunately a lot of candidates were forced to sign it in order to get on the candidates list.   The declaration is now much simpler and in any case will be reviewed.   It reads as follows:
"As a member of the Approved list or selected candidate I will do nothing to bring the Party into disrepute.    Should I fail to maintain the standards the Party requires of me action may be taken against me which may result in removal from the List or my de-selection as a candidate."
Good news for Robert Oulds
Robert Oulds was the candidate for Slough and was disgracefully de-selected by Central Office just before the General Election as a result of an article in the "Sun" newspaper.   Robert sued the "Sun" and has won the case.   Central Office should now send an unreserved apology to Robert Oulds and ask him if he wants to be on the candidates list.
National Convention
At the National Convention on 3 October Derek Tipp of New Forest moved a rule change to have the Chairman of Candidates elected by the Convention.   The platform replied by suggesting that the Constitution Committee would be elected by the Convention and therefore accountable to them.    The Constitution Committee would be able to look at the issue of candidates.    This could be an excellent way forward for the Party.   The Committee would be like a scrutiny Committee able to look at different aspects of the Constitution.   The idea has to be developed but it could be a good one.    Congratulations to Derek for pushing forward the cause of democracy in the Conservative Party.
Conference Fringe
In conjunction with the Charter Movement and Campaign for UK Conservatism, COPOV held a successful fringe meeting at the Party Conference.    Read about it on:

2nd October
National Conservative Convention
On October 3rd the National Conservative Convention meets in Blackpool.   As of yesterday (September29th) nobody knew what was on the Agenda for the meeting because no Agenda had been sent out.    Central Office were hoping to send an email soon to all Constituency Chairmen!   The incompetence at the centre knows no bounds.   This will be an important meeting.   On the Agenda (when it is finally published) will be a motion altering the Party Constitution so that the Chairman of the Candidates Committee is elected by the Convention rather than as present appointed by the Party Board.
In view of the disgraceful way some candidates have been treated recently this is a welcome overdue reform.   At last we would have someone democratically elected and thus accountable to the Convention for this critically important task.   No longer would arbitrary decisions be taken without due process.   We might even get Constituency Associations being allowed to elect their own candidates without interference from Central Office.    We might even get local candidates.   This motion should be supported by every Constituency Chairman.   It will help to address the imbalance of power that has developed between the Centre and the Constituencies.    Go for it!
Chairman of the Candidates Committee
It has been announced that the Chairman of the Candidates Committee - John Taylor - will hand over as Chairman to Simon Mort.    Strange wording!   Did he resign?   Was he dismissed?    Did his term of office come to an end?   Could it be because he did not support Michael Howard in changing the rules of the Leadership election?    Could it be because he was one of the six "heroes of democracy" that signed the letter to "The Daily Telegraph" in support of the members?     I think we should be told.
No Role For Ken
Every possible Tom, Dick or Harry Leadership contender has been given a platform slot at the party Conference except one.    Yes you have guessed it - Ken Clarke.   Of course they will argue that all the speakers have Shadow positions except Ken.   True, but if this Leadership election is to be properly conducted he should be given a slot.
25th September
Leadership Rules
96 MPs have now declared their preferential candidate for the Leadership election.   This makes a nonsense of any consultation that might take place if the decision is left to the MPs.   However it now looks as though the rule change will be defeated and the contest be conducted under the present system.
Under the current rules the MPs have to put at least two candidates forward to the membership of the Party unless they can unanimously agree on one candidate.    There is such strong feeling in the membership that it is unlikely that the members would accept this if they tried it.   There is nothing to stop the MPs putting all the candidates to the members and in order to stop a similar situation arising as happened at the Iain Duncan Smith election this is what they should do.   No rule change is necessary to do this.   We will know on Tuesday which system of Leadership election will be used.   Whatever happens look out for a stormy Party Conference.
This week Francis Maude promoted Primaries for the election of the Leader.    This was tried out in the selection of the Parliamentary candidate for Warrington and was quite successful.   The only qualification to this system is that the voters should be registered as Conservative Party supporters.

18th September
Party Conference
You will have by now seen the Agenda for the Party Conference.   I cannot remember ever seeing such a miserable, dumbed down, boring Agenda in all my time in the Conservative Party.   There are no motions for debate, just a succession of speakers including all the Leader hopefuls.    However by the time of the Conference most of the hopefuls will have been eliminated.   Any contributions from the floor will be limited to two minutes so will inevitably consist of froth.   In a way it doesn't matter because the likelihood is that all the speakers will be speaking to an empty hall.
The only part of the Conference that matters or has any interest is the fringe meetings.   For the first time they have realised they will be able to get a big audience by holding their meetings elsewhere in the middle of the afternoon and this they are doing.
All this justifies COPOV calling for the Vice Chairman in charge of the Conference to be elected by and accountable to the National Convention.
Michael Howard will leave the Party in the worst state it has ever been.   History will judge him as the worst Leader in Conservative Party history, and remember he was elected unanimously by the MPs.    Doesn't that tell you something?
The Supreme Irony
Kenneth Clarke could find himself as the Leader of the Conservative Party and in the process destroy it.   The only thing that could save him and it are the members of the Party which Ken so despises.
Were the rule change in the Leadership election to be successful and only the MPs have a vote and then the MPs voted for Ken Clarke, about 40,000 members of the Party would resign according to the most recent polls.    The party would split from top to bottom.   On the other hand if the rule change is unsuccessful and the members decide, there is a good chance that they might elect him, in which case all party members would accept it and give him their support. 
Parliamentary Take-over, or is it?
In their joint letter to Members of Parliament and the National Convention Francis Maude and Sir Michael Spicer said:
First, we are concerned that the current Constitution seems to have put an unacceptable distance between the Parliamentary Party and the voluntary party.   We are accordingly considering changes to the composition of the Board that would give more places to MPs.   In addition we want to see MPs - MEPs and councillors - having active representatives on Area Management Executives and Regional Co-ordinating Teams.
What the Party Chairman and Sir Michael Spicer do not say is whether these positions will be filled by election by the Parliamentary Party or appointed by the Central Office hierarchy.   Giving even more control to the centre will only increase the control freak tendency which has been so disastrous.   It is one of life's tragedies that at last the Labour Party is waking up to realise that their own Party is undemocratic and have set up a commission to look into it, at the same time as democracy within the Conservative Party is being wiped out.   Whichever  of the major Parties becomes democratic first will put the other out of office for a generation.
Another Chairman
This week Lord Norman Fowler added his name to those Party Chairmen that support the members having a vote in the Leadership election.    This now makes six former Party Chairmen that support the members.
Letters to "The Daily Telegraph"
Congratulations to Conservative Future and the women for their common sense.

Future of the Tories

Sir - As members, including current and former national chairmen, of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative Party, we have thought long and hard about the current ballot to change the way our leader is elected.

Nobody suggests that the present system is incapable of improvement, but it seems ironical to us that our party, which was influential in the democratisation in Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the 1980s and 1990s, should now seek to remove democracy from our own ranks. It must be wrong to reduce political participation within the party, when we are fighting against the significant threat of apathy among the British population. We need to encourage future generations to engage more with political parties, not less.

The membership has a role to play in electing a leader; the question is not just how the person will perform in the House of Commons, but also how the electorate will respond to the individual. Our members come from every background, region and age. It is the only part of the party that can truly speak for the whole country, and therefore we cannot support the terminal silencing of this voice.

As the coming Conservative generation, we think that there is nothing more important than to see a new leader in place with the full support of their party, as speedily as possible. But the system has to be right, fair and democratic. Completely removing the volunteers from this process would be detrimental to the future.

Paul BristowHannah Parker,Jonathan CordellCaroline Hunt,Simon JonesRichard Stephenson, London SE11

Sir - Having been a life-long member of, and worker for, the Conservative Party, in fact since the Suffragettes gained the vote for women, I was delighted that in 2001 I was given the opportunity to vote for the leader of my party.

This vote for members made members feel that at last they had a say in the direction of the party. Voluntary members work continuously with fund-raising and campaigning and expect little reward, as their aim is to elect a Conservative government.

Once you are given democracy, you don't want it taken away.

Maisie Gravells, Leeds, W Yorks

11th September
In a memorandum to the Constitutional College sent out on 24th August by Francis Maude and Sir Michael Spicer about the changes to the Party Constitution it says:
"It would have clearly have been better if all the proposals had been developed in collaboration (my italics) with the 1922 Executive in the same way that changes to the rules for electing the Leader of the Party were developed during the eighteen months that preceded the 2005 General Election."
So now we know.   Whilst the rest of the Party were working hard to beat the Labour Party in the General Election the hierarchy were sitting in smoke filled rooms working out how to stitch up the Party members.    And the result of all that collaboration was no doubt the proposal which was published in the 21st Century document in May.   Just to remind everybody, that proposal was put to the Parliamentary Party which rejected it with only four votes in favour, one of which was Michael Howard and another Francis Maude.    The two others have kept quiet, but presumably Sir Michael Spicer was one of them.   So all this super collaboration over eighteen months demonstrated was that the hierarchy were totally out of touch with the Parliamentary Party, yet this collaboration is being advocated as the way forward for the rest of the rule changes.   Give me strength!.   This has become the biggest farce since Brian Rix dropped his trousers at the Whitehall Theatre!
Sir Michael Spicer should be considering his position.   As for Francis Maude at least he has the excuse that he was not Party Chairman during the eighteen months, so why did he put his name to such gumph?    The first rule of a Party Chairman ought to be "Do not believe what Central Office tell you"   I hope Francis is a quick learner.
Rule Change Latest
Now that David Davis has come out in favour of Party members having a vote in the Leadership election we now have five recent Party Chairmen in favour of the members - David Davis, Liam Fox, Theresa May, Michael Ancram, and Lord Parkinson.
Battle for the Leadership Rules - Monbiot V. Hodgson
The battle to change the Leadership rules continued this week.   We show below a letter sent to all Constituency Chairmen by Raymond Monbiot together with a copy of the speech which Lord Hodgson made at the National Convention meeting on 3 September.   If you have not done so yet, contact your Constituency Chairman, Area/Regional officers to ask them to vote against the change.   They have until 27 September to vote.
by Raymond Monbiot
A recurrent theme at the meeting of the National Convention on 3rd September and indeed at the nationwide consultation in the two months that preceded it, was that the present system of electing the Leader of the Conservative Party needs to be changed. However as we would expect there is a variety of views on what to replace it with.
The Parliamentary Party unhelpfully voted on just about every conceivable system and it was clear from these votes that there was only one system that they would support. The Board has therefore put this system to the Constitutional College, although it has made some changes so that the consultation is transparent. It would have been pointless for the Board to propose another system, such as an electoral college, because it was clear that MPs would veto it.
The choice before us is therefore either to vote for the proposed system or reject it and stick with the current system. The proposed system, while not perfect, is considered to be an improvement on the current system.
Robin Hodgson fought a courageous battle to achieve the present system with the full support of his team. I was one of that team. But experience shows it has not delivered what we hoped.
It was supposed to lead to a big increase in membership. It has failed to do that.
By giving people from all parts of the country a say in the election of the Leader, it was supposed to lead to increased political success. It has failed to do that.
In fact, it led to us electing someone as Leader of the Party who did not enjoy the clear support of a majority of the Parliamentary Party. We all know the consequences. If we elect another Leader under the same system, it could happen again.
Both Michael Howard and William Hague, who introduced this system, have come to the same conclusion. Some of you may have seen William’s comments in The Daily Telegraph.
I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that I have huge respect for both Michael and William. We made progress under both of them but not as much as we, or they, would have liked. If people of their ability found being Leader of the Opposition a tough job then I think it is fair to say that it is the most difficult job in politics. Both of them say it would be an impossible job if you were elected without the clear support of a majority of your Parliamentary colleagues. We should place a lot of weight on their opinions.
As to pragmatic arguments for change, they are obvious to all of us.
If we stick with the current system we won’t have a new Leader until the new year; if we adopt the proposed system we would have one by early November. We need a new Leader to take the fight to Labour and the Liberal Democrats and so that we can start raising some money. At the moment, donors are holding back to see who the new Leader is and we are running up debts to pay the salary bill. Whilst our most important task is to elect a new Leader to take the Party forward, time is not on our side and there could be a General Election in 2007 if Brown succeeds Blair.
An election under the current system will cost several hundred thousand pounds. We could run an appeal alongside the ballot which will cover the costs. But we will run an appeal whatever the electoral system: the choice is between an appeal that covers the cost of the election or an appeal that raises funds for the fight ahead.
And finally all the evidence is that the membership wants change. Very few people who responded to the consultation paper supported the current system. A poll of over 600 members and 1,000 Conservative members in late May showed over 70 per cent supported the MPs having the final say.
The Conservative Party is in a very serious position. We have lost three elections in a row. We, the National Convention have a very important decision to make, a decision that will shape the future of our Party. It is what is best for our Party that we should have in mind. No-one will fight harder than me for the voice of the volunteers to be heard - I have been doing that for the last decade- but when it comes to electing the Leader I believe - and the evidence suggests a majority of our members believe - that the MPs must have the final say. He or she must have the commitment of the Parliamentary Party.
Raymond Monbiot puts forward several points in his Case for Change, none of which stand up to scrutiny.   He says of the present system:
It was supposed to lead to a big increase in membership. It has failed to do that.In fact we were told by Central Office that 20,000 new members joined the Party when OMOV was announced.   What happens with nearly all new members is that after a couple of years they realise they have no say, no influence and no vote on anything so they leave.
By giving people from all parts of the country a say in the election of the Leader, it was supposed to lead to increased political success. It has failed to do that.So we are going to go back to a system of only the MPs deciding, which they did in 1995 for John Major.   We lost the 1997 election.    Which they did in 1998 for William Hague.   We lost the 2001 election.   Which they did for Michael Howard in 2003.   We lost the 2005 election.   Some success for the MPs!
In fact, it led to us electing someone as Leader of the Party who did not enjoy the clear support of a majority of the Parliamentary Party. We all know the consequences. If we elect another Leader under the same system, it could happen again.In the Leadership election of 2001 the MPs gave Ken Clarke 58 votes, Iain Duncan Smith 54 votes and Michael Portillo 53 votes.   No candidate which the MPs put forward had the clear majority of the Parliamentary Party.    The same could happen again.
If we stick with the current system we won’t have a new Leader until the new year; if we adopt the proposed system we would have one by early November.
Untrue.   Central Office have said it would take 6-8 weeks to conduct an election under the present rules, so if the election was announced by the end of September we could have a new Leader before the end of November.
An election under the current system will cost several hundred thousand pounds. We could run an appeal alongside the ballot which will cover the costs. But we will run an appeal whatever the electoral system: the choice is between an appeal that covers the cost of the election or an appeal that raises funds for the fight ahead.
If they are going to run an appeal anyway, the cost of including a ballot paper is minimal.   The real cost is postage which they are going to incur for the appeal.   To say that the current system will cost several hundred thousand pounds is ingenuous.   In addition the Party has had years to develop an internet or telephone voting system which could be run at a profit.    They have not done so, because they are still stuck in the age of the carrier pigeon.And finally all the evidence is that the membership wants change.
Yes, but in an opinion poll of Party members 67% still wanted to retain a vote in the Leadership election.

Lord Hodgson Speech to The National Convention
“I am sorry to have to speak to you this afternoon.   I have worked for the Party for over 30 years in many capacities – at all levels in the voluntary party, latterly as the first Chairman of the NCC, as a Member of Parliament and now as Frontbench Spokesman in the House of Lords.
I am therefore not naturally a rebel but these proposals to remove the vote completely from the membership have stretched my loyalty beyond breaking point.
To understand my opposition, a word of history.   I was much involved in the negotiations that led to the creation of the present rules in 1997.   They were the result of two things.  
First we wished to create a united party which meant that members were entitled to a say in major developments affecting what is, after all, their party. 
Secondly, and no less importantly, they were a reaction to the chronic indiscipline in the Parliamentary Party in the 1990s.   The internecine in-fighting led to the catastrophe of 1997.   Not only a catastrophe politically but a catastrophe for the reputation of the Party from which we have not yet recovered – witness our continuing low poll ratings.
Our objective was to create a delicate balance reflecting the needs of the parties involved.  
It was clear that the Parliamentary Party had to be led by somebody MPs could work with so the MPs alone were allowed to draw up a short-list with the final choice then being given to the members.  
So when it is said, and I am sorry to say that the Party Chairman said it again in the Daily Telegraph earlier this week, that the selection of Iain Duncan-Smith was the voluntary party’s fault, that is untrue.   Iain Duncan-Smith could only be selected by the members because he was put on the short-list by the MPs who, presumably, felt that they could work with him.  
Moreover the rules contained another important proviso which was that if the MPs agreed on a single candidate he or she would become leader of the Party without reference to the members.  Therefore there was every incentive for the MPs to agree amongst themselves as indeed they did in choosing Michael Howard.   The result was probably the most united General Election campaign for 20 years.
So the rules are beginning to work.   The fact that the volunteers have the ultimate say is focusing the mind of the Parliamentary Party.   It may yet happen again that on this occasion that they will find a single candidate they can unite behind.   If so, no-one will be more happy than me. 
What I am not confident about is that if they take back complete control of the process the indiscipline of the 1990s will not recur.
The objections to the present rules are four – all of them in my view deeply flawed.
First it is said that only MPs know enough about the candidates to make the selection of Leader.   It is true that only MPs know enough about his or her parliamentary performance, that is why they control the short-list.   But 200 MPs drawn primarily from the shires and the south-east of England do not necessarily know what is required to capture the imagination of people living in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the North of England and the cities as well as volunteers who live on the ground in those areas.
More importantly, we live in a presidential age where television is the means by which most people learn about politics, so television performance is very important.   MPs and Peers watch very little television and it is you, the members, who can make a shrewder assessment of the television performance of leadership candidates and decide whether they are able to reach out to the uncommitted.  
Second it is said that the election costs too much.  Well the last ballot made a profit because if you put an appeal slip in with the ballot paper our members are quite prepared to send back £5 or £10 to cover the cost
Thirdly it is said that the process takes too long.   This is particularly cynical because if the 1922 Committee had got on with the process when Michael Howard said that he was going to stand down, we could have had a new Leader in place now.   Instead they preferred to begin a long period of negotiation hoping to “bounce” us at the end.   This meeting is part of that “bounce”.   Interestingly in 1997 the 1922 Committee argued the reverse saying that then we needed to have the Leadership Electionbefore the rules were changed.
But in any case, it is perfectly possible for this election to be completed in eight weeks.   We shall be assisted by the fact that the Party Conference takes place during this period, which is the biggest hustings of them all.   But having been a Returning Officer myself for a national ballot I am confident that a new Leader could be in place by the end of November under the present rules if those in charge wished to make it happen.
Fourthly and finally, it is said that the new rules will involve the MPs taking the advice of the volunteers into account.   I have to tell you that this provision formed part of the pre-1997 rules.   I had the privilege of attending several meeting with the 1922 Committee when that advice was proffered.   They received us with great politeness but I doubt if they could remember the figures we gave them five minutes after we had left the room. 
By all means establish procedures for learning the views of the volunteers but do not expect it to have any impact on the outcome.
So I do not believe that any of these criticisms hold serious water.   It is easy to criticise – what is my proposal?  
First, carry out the Election forthwith under the present rules with the accelerated timetable I referred to above.   Second, in the calm aftermath discuss whether changes are needed to the rules.   It seems to me there is a groundswell of support for some form of Electoral College with MPs having a majority slice of the votes and smaller amounts for members, MEPs, Councillors and, dare I say it, Members of the House of Lords.
The sizes of the slices matter less to me than the principal, which is that every part of the Party must have some direct say in the election of the Leader.  
May I conclude by making two points?  
First, when I was NCC Chairman I was always incredibly impressed by your loyalty.   You are now having many appeals to your loyalty.   We have heard two today from Michael Howard and Francis Maude.   I think you need to consider the long-term interests of the Party not short term pragmatic suggestions.
Interestingly in the letter which he sent us all, asking us to support these proposals, Michael Howard said that these proposals were “not my preferred choice”.   So you are being asked to vote for something which is not the preferred choice even of the Leader of our Party.
Secondly, and most importantly, this is a “one-way street”.   When we established the constitution we purposely made very high hurdles for changing the most sensitive parts of the constitution which requires the approval of two thirds of each of the parts of the Constitutional College – what Gavin Barwell called “the triple lock”.
Therefore, if you give this power back to the MPs you will never get it back again.  It is inconceivable that two thirds of the parliamentary party will ever vote to return this power to the membership.   So do not see this as a possibly two year experiment with the possibility of reversing it if this does not work.   It will never happen.
So when you come to vote, tread carefully because you tread on the dreams of thousands of your fellow members.
I have been called a “dinosaur” by a Member of the Board.   The Daily Telegraph says that I am leading a “peasant’s revolt”.   I stand where I have always stood - for the maintenance of a proper degree of influence in the Party for its voluntary members who, unsung, unheralded and unpaid, give up so much time to preserve the Party we all support and love.   If that makes me a “dinosaur” or a “peasant”, I am proud to accept those accolades.
These proposals are fundamentally flawed and represent an irreversible and unnecessary reduction in the influence of the voluntary members of the Party.
They represent a return to the narrow, deferential Conservative Party of the 1960’s rather than a move towards the outward looking, inclusive, self-confident Conservative Party we need to be if we are to win the next General Election,.
I hope, having heard the arguments this afternoon the Chairman will withdraw these proposals, but if he does not, I hope that you will defeat them.”

4th September
Panic at Central Office
This week it dawned on the Party hierarchy that they were not going to get the rule change on the Leadership through.   When Lord Hodgson and other past grandees had a letter published in "The Daily Telegraph" they became desperate.   To add to their woes Liam Fox came out in support of the membership.   This now means that four recent Party Chairmen - Liam Fox, Michael Ancram, Theresa May and Lord Parkinson - have all expressed their support for the members.   So terrified were the hierarchy that Michael Howard sent out a letter personally topped and tailed to each Constituency Chairman.   Then the Chairman of the National Convention sent out an e mail, both asking for support.
At the Convention meeting on Saturday the Party Chairman pleaded for support for the change and then in an unprecedented move the Leader Michael Howard was wheeled on to speak in favour.   They were received with polite applause for when the debate began, it became clear that the majority view of the Convention was against the change.   Indeed if it had not been for every Vice President making a speech in favour the numbers against would have appeared even greater than they were.
We were delighted to see that one member of the Party Board - Lord Ashcroft - courageously supported the members.
What an utter shambles the Party is getting into.    If the proposal goes through the Party will be split from top to bottom, but it now looks increasingly as though there is no chance of this happening.   It is time for the Party Chairman to throw in the towel.
Now that the MPs see the strength of opposition there are indications that when they vote there may not even be a two thirds majority amongst them.   Some of those that abstained first time around have now come out in favour of the members - Liam Fox - others that cannot stand Ken Clarke may change their votes.
The responsibility for the shambles has to be placed at the feet of Michael Howard.   He has delayed the process of electing a Leader, and then has the cheek to say that we must support the proposal to prevent further delay.   In reality we know that an election under the present system could be completed by the end of November, if not earlier.   He then says that the Leader has to have a majority of MPs supporting him and blames the members for electing Iain Duncan Smith.   What Howard conveniently forgets is that when the MPs voted Ken Clark got 58 votes, Iain Duncan Smith 54 and Michael Portillo 53.   In other words no candidate had a majority of MPs behind him.   The same could happen again.
Michael Howard makes much of the cost of an election involving all the members, but we know that in the 2001 election donations which accompanied the ballot papers raised more than the cost of the election.   In addition we were told at the time that as a result of introducing One Member One Vote the Party got 20,000 new members which at £15.00  a time amounts to £300,000.    If the rules are changed these members were sold a false prospectus and they may well leave the Party as a result.
Much has been made of the so called "consultation" under the proposals for change.   Everybody knows that this is nonsense and totally meaningless unless the MPs vote is transparent, i.e we are told which way each individual MP has voted.   In addition already 77 MPs have declared which candidate they are supporting.   Do we seriously believe that they are going to change their mind as a result of the consultation?
Finally remember this, every recent general election that the Conservative Party has lost has been under a Leader elected just by the MPs.    The Leader elected by the members never lost an election, and yet we are now told it was our fault that the Party has done so badly that only the MPs should decide on the Leader.   Michael Howard should hang his head in shame, or preferably resign now so that we can get on with electing the Leader under the present system.
August 28th
The party hierarchy is getting increasingly desperate about the changes to the Party Constitution and the Rules on selecting the Leader.   You can guarantee that every Constituency Chairman will be telephoned between September 3 and 27 September.    The phone lines will be hot.    How many Chairmen will put the vote to their members?   Let us know if any do.   The simple question is: Do you wish to retain a vote in the Leadership election?
The Party Leader was so desperate he sent out a personal letter to every representative on the National Convention asking them to support the changes before they had been told what the changes were!
The arguments about candidate selection continue.   So fierce has been the opposition to what is being done that the process has been slowed down so that the new Leader can ultimately decide on the process.    There is now talk of an independent panel to review any decision to remove a candidate from the list.   Restricted seats (target seats and those where the Conservative MP is not standing again) will be reserved for the select few, but who decides on the select few and what criteria is used?   We should be told.    We hear also that Labour held seats will also have a restricted list.    How will that be decided?   The days when a Constituency Association could choose from all the candidates on the list have well and truly been abolished with no debate, no consultation and no democratic vote.   Thus dictatorship rules the Conservative Party. 
***Star of the Week*** - Richard Robinson from Surrey for putting over the excellent case for the members to retain their vote in a Leadership election on "The World at One" programme.   He will also speak at the Convention meeting on 3 September.    How refreshing to have someone with principles prepared to stand up and be counted.   Well done Richard.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Updated 30 MPs now support the grass roots.
Many MPs have expressed support for a democratic Conservative Party involving Party members.   We show below a list of the Good - those that support democracy and a list those that do not - the Bad and Ugly.    Do you know what your MP believes?   Let us know which list to include him or her in.   Feedback
The Good
The Bad and Ugly
Ancram, MichaelClarke, Kenneth
Cash, BillDorrell,Stephen
Carswell, DouglasGrieve, Dominic
Davis, DavidHague, William
Dorries, NadineKirkbride, Julie
Duncan, AlanOttoway, Richard
Duncan-Smith, IainSelwyn-Gummer, John
Field, MarkTyrie, Andrew
Forth, Eric 
Fox, Liam 
Goodman, Paul 
Gove, Michael 
Hayes, John 
Herbert, Nick 
Lansley, Andrew 
Leigh, Edward 
Lewis, Julian 
May, Theresa 
Patterson, Owen 
Penning Mike 
Redwood, John 
Rosindell, Andrew 
Shepherd Richard 
Spink Bob 
Spring, Richard 
Syms, Robert 
Watkinson Angela 
Widdecombe, Ann 
Willets, David 
Winterton, Nick 

August 21st
Candidate Scandal goes on
We hear that some candidates have now been accepted on to the new candidates list, but they may only apply for seats through Central Office and certain seats are "restricted".
We ask which seats are restricted?   Are they being reserved for certain candidates?   Which candidates.   Who decides which seats and who decides which candidates?   Many candidates are unhappy with this continuing control freak mentality of Central Office, but are terrified of querying it in case they are put on a black list.   It is a disgrace which is rapidly moving into becoming a national scandal.   Constituency Associations are being deprived of their choice of candidates by a small group of people who are determined that the Party candidates are moulded in their image.   The Associations should demand that the Chairman of Candidates is elected by and accountable to The National Convention.
This control freak mentality is beginning to be felt at local level.   We hear that some Councillors are risking being deselected because they will not sign a document pledging to give ten per cent of their Council Allowances to the Party.   These Allowances are funded by the taxpayers and ratepayers to enable the Councillors to do their job.   I wonder if the Electoral Commission is aware of this new source of State Funding.   Does Central Office approve of it?    I think we should be told. 
Wally of the Week - Sir Ian Blair - For saying on the "Talking Politics" programme that the Metropolitan Police are suffering from "a surfeit of democracy".   This from a man who is not elected, is unaccountable to the people, who reports to the Metropolitan Police Authority, which is an appointed body that was not told about the "shoot to kill" policy is a bit rich.   It is a scandal of the highest proportions that a policeman should be able to introduce a policy of execution of a person without there being a full public debate on the issue and the authority of Parliament.    We are living in a police state and where oh where is the Conservative voice in defence of our liberties?   No doubt on the beach sunning themselves.    What a sad state of affairs!   We should be demanding the resignation of this overblown arrogant undemocratic man who thinks it is more important to appear on television and give interviews to newspapers rather than catching criminals.    Incidentally the investigation into the July7th bombings is not the biggest criminal investigation of all time.   Has Sir Ian forgotten Locherbie?    Another lie to add to his list.  
Letter Published in "The Daily Telegraph" 18 August
The Conservative Party has now postponed the controversial changes to the party constitution, and constituency chairmen and MPs will be voting in the autumn as to whether to prevent the party membership from electing their own leader. This would leave the election of a leader solely to MPs in Parliament.

Given the record of those MPs, this would be a democratic scandal and an electoral disaster. With sparse parliamentary representation of Conservatives in most parts of Britain, to have only MPs voting for the leader would not be representative of the party.

Rodney Atkinson, Campaign for UK Conservatism, Newcastle upon Tyne, John Strafford, Campaign for Conservative Democracy, Mike Baker, The Charter Movement

We thank "The Daily Telegraph" for publishing this letter.   The full version was as follows:
Now that the Conservative Party has postponed the controversial changes to the Party Constitution as proposed by Michael Howard and Francis Maude, there remains the even more controversial change to the rules for electing the Party leader. Constituency Chairmen and MPs will now be voting in the autumn as to whether to prevent the party membership from electing their own leader!This would of course leave the election of a leader solely to MPs in Parliament. Given the track record of those MPs (removing a sitting Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, the most successful electoral asset of the 20th century and electing three party leaders who led the party to its three worst defeats in 100 years) this would be both a democratic scandal and an electoral disaster.
Given the sparse parliamentary representation of Conservatives in most parts of Britain having only MPs vote for the leader would not be at all representative of the party as a whole. Only one vote would be cast from the North East, one in Scotland, only two in Birmingham, only three in Wales and only 17 Conservative women could vote (i.e. the party's 17 women MPs compared to some 140,000 women party members). This could never be a fair representation of the Conservative Party nationally - only a ballot of the party membership can do that.
Quite apart from the extraordinary spectacle of a political party seeking to disenfranchise its own members the question arises as to how the Constituency chairmen who will decide whether that Constitution is approved intend to consult their own members. It would be quite intolerable if a Constituency Chairman were to vote to remove the voting rights of his members without allowing those members to vote on whether they wished to lose those rights.
It is clear that all Conservative Associations, before the vote at the National Conservative Convention in the autumn, should hold members meetings at which a vote should be taken – so that the Constituency Chairmen may cast their vote with the authority of their members.
Yours faithfully
Rodney E.B. Atkinson The Campaign for UK Conservatism
John Strafford, The Campaign for Conservative Democracy
Mike Baker, The Charter Group
August 14th
Have the Clowns taken over the Circus?
The saga over the changes to the Party Constitution continues.   Now, we are told that the meeting of The National Convention on the 27th September has been cancelled.   Not surprising as it has become abundantly clear that the proposal to change the rules for electing the Leader were about to be chucked out.   There will be a meeting of the Convention on 3 September.   I am sure every effort will be made at this meeting to try and get the Constituency Chairmen to support the change.   They can expect to hear appeals for loyalty, Party unity, statements about how all their consultations show that ordinary Party members are not interested in the election and those that have expressed a preference want the MPs to choose.   This is all rubbish and the fact that they have had to change the process illustrates their fear of rejection.   The Constituency Chairmen should make it quite clear on 3 September that these proposals should be withdrawn, that any changes to the Constitution should involve grass roots members in having a say and should be looked at after a new Leader has been elected under the present system.
The consultation process as proposed for the election of the Leader is utterly meaningless because after consultation "MPs would then elect the Leader of the Party by whatever system they choose".   How can any Constituency Chairman in all honour vote in favour of such a vague proposition?   Will the votes of MPs be transparent?   What weighting will be given to all the different bodies which are being consulted?   What happens if the consultation throws up one candidate by a large margin but the MPs elect another by a small margin.   Will the candidates have hustings to which ordinary Party members are invited or will they only be interested in the members of the electoral college?
In the paper sent out it states that "The Chairman of the National Convention would write to all Association Chairman asking them to consult their members and providing guidelines on how they should do so."   Will the guidelines be published?   What happens if an Association Chairman ignores the guidelines?   Will the results of each individual Association be published?   If not what weighting will be given to an Association with ten members compared to an Association with one thousand member?
This whole process has turned into the biggest farce since Brian Rix dropped his trousers at the Whitehall Theatre.    Like Brian Rix's trousers these proposals should be dropped and the alternative approach of creating a modern democratic Party as put forward by COPOV should be adopted.   The Conservative Party is now over the precipice and hanging on by its fingernails.   The proposals put forward for the 3 September are a hob nailed boot trying to kick in the head.
The GENEVA call centre has done some sterling work for the Party and deserves every support, but a recent email is disturbing.    We show an extract below:
"Portsmouth North are campaigning for a by-election in Portsmouth, and Steve Brine (ACD Hampshire) would welcome help from volunteers on August 19 and 25 in the call centre. Steve, who will be shortly helping out with the selection of PPCs in Hampshire, is anxious to ensure that we deliver a great result in this by-election following the sad death of Cllr Andrew Storey, our Leader on Portsmouth City Council. If you can come in and help on one of those evening please let me know."
What relevance is it that Steve will be shortly helping out with the selection of PPCs in Hampshire?   Unless of course, this is a veiled threat that if you want to be a PPC you had better turn up.   On the other hand Steve's job is to ensure that the process of selecting a PPC is carried out fairly in accordance with the agreed procedures.    It is not his job, as is implied, to influence the choice of candidates.    Somebody should put him right.   In the days of the National Union he would have been accountable to his Area.   Sadly no longer.   The ACDs have become a law unto themselves.
So Democracy Dies
A recent letter from David Tolson to "The Times" illustrated how our democracy is being destroyed.   It stated:
"At a plenary meeting on July 13, a majority of members was declared to have passed, on a weighted voting system, a draft South East Plan for the future development of the "region" up to 2026....
Forty-four of the 111 members did not vote.   A SEERA official explained that 23 of those neither attended nor appointed alternates, while the rest either left the meeting before the vote, or simply failed to return their voting forms.   This means that, with 13 members abstaining and seven voting against the motion, only 47 members out of the 111 voted for the approval of the plan."
The quicker these undemocratic, unelected by the people, unaccountable to the people, bodies are abolished the better!

August 7th
***Star of the Week***   Dominic Grieve MP for a calm assessment about the war in Iraq and terrorism.   The Wallies were those Conservative MPs who did not understand the difference between "explanation" and "excuse".   Shame on them!
Good News
The Sunday Telegraph has announced that the changes to the Party Constitution are being deferred until after a new Leader is elected.   We must now concentrate on ensuring that the proposal to elect the Leader which is going to the National Convention is defeated.   Lobby your Constituency Chairman - URGENT.    Defend member's rights!
Conservative Party Accounts in a Foreign Language?
The Conservative Party has published its Accounts for the year ended 31st December 2004, or should I say the oligarchy which controls the Conservative Party has published their Accounts.    In spite of the fact that we were told at the time of the Hague reforms that we were creating "One Party"  the opening words to the Accounts state "The Conservative Central Office is the Office of the Leader of the Conservative Party".
Over the last eight years £24 million of State funding has been given to the oligarchy that controls the Party.   Why hasn't the Electoral Commission demanded that political parties should be democratically controlled by their members?   Why should taxpayers money be used to fund the views of a few individuals?   I will tell you why.   Because the Electoral Commission is a poodle in the hands of the Establishment and if it complained it would be abolished,    It is time it was made wholly independent like similar bodies in other countries.
So what do the Accounts tell us?   You will be pleased to note that the Party Treasurer (unelected) states in his Financial Review "We produced a break-even core budget, which was achieved in line with our continuing strict financial disciplines....."   And the result was a deficit for the year of £6.227 million.   What would have happened if they had budgeted to overspend?    The deficit was arrived at after receiving £4.160 million in State Funding.     It means that the Conservative party now has negative net assets of £4.943 million.   In other words if it had to repay all its creditors it couldn't.   The accumulated deficit amounts to a staggering £15.663 million.    This is after receiving the £24 million of State Funding.   There is something rotten in the State of Denmark.
Do not worry, though, the Party Treasurer (unelected) states in his Financial Review "We are continuing to impose tight controls, through the Finance Committee, and we are working towards our break-even budget for 2005."   So we can expect another deficit of £6.227 million for this year can we?   Do these people talk a different language to the rest of us?
There has been criticism in the press this week about the alleged £750,000 paid to Saatchi.   This is peanuts compared to the £6 million which his firm then got for the 1992 Election.   On the other hand we won in 1992!
Why do politicians always want control?
Ian Duncan Smith suffered appalling treatment at the hands of the Parliamentary Party.   He has given strong support to the "grass roots" in their campaign to retain their rights in the forthcoming Leadership election.   Nevertheless he is wrong to try and manipulate the candidates list.    If he feels strongly about individuals on the list his recourse is to try and persuade Constituency Associations not to select them.   We publish below a letter from Adrian Hilton, the former Conservative Candidate for Slough.   Their have been a couple of minor edits to the letter.
I am intrigued to read (Sunday Telegraph, 31st July) that Iain Duncan Smith is threatening to resign from the Conservative Party if the two people he blames for his downfall are allowed to stand for the Party at the next election.

Vanessa Gearson and Mark MacGregor both earned their places on the List of Approved Candidates through merit.  They successfully passed hours of arduous psychometric tests, attended weekend suitability assessments, completed demanding real-life exercises, took the trouble to acquire high-profile testimonials and references, dedicated months to being mentored by obliging MPs, and spent cumulative weeks mind-numbingly researching constituencies and submitting bespoke CVs in the hope of being called for an interview.  They were clearly of sufficient calibre to be selected for good seats, and they fought arduous and thankless campaigns for the good of the Party.

By reportedly threatening embarrassment to the Party, IDS is now trying to ensure their removal from the Approved List because of their alleged role in the 'Betsygate' affair.  It is concerning indeed if conflicting with the views of one person is sufficient to end one’s career within the Party.  This sort of candidate manipulation is quite contrary to Conservative philosophy and establishes a centralised, controlling authority determining the ‘sort’ of person permitted to stand as a Conservative candidate.   As Boris Johnson observes, the Party is breeding poodles.

The move by IDS is also manifest hypocrisy, given his ‘role’ in my own downfall.  I had written two articles for The Spectatormagazine in 2003; one on the Act of Settlement, and the other on the constitutional position of the Monarch and the Church of England in the context of an emerging Constitution for Europe.  It is impossible to touch on these themes without mentioning the Roman Catholic dimension.  As a grammar school faculty head, I frequently have to address such religio-political issues, and have therefore written much on them.  Two years later, when I was selected to fight the seat of Slough, the Catholic Herald took offence at these writings, called me a bigot, and I was summarily dismissed by Michael Howard.  The Party already knew of these articles, they were commissioned by Boris when he was a Party vice-chairman, and the Shadow Attorney General had stated that ‘they contain nothing contrary to Conservative philosophy or Party policy’.  Charles Moore also stated that my view was ‘educated and thoughtful, and certainly not that of a bigot’, but all of this was neither here nor there.  I had upset the Catholic Herald, and therefore had to go. 

On the BBC’s Any Questions (4th April) IDS stated that he ‘didn’t really know the full details’ of what I had written (i.e., he wasn’t in full possession of the facts), but he asserted that I had caused ‘deep offence to a large group of people’ and ‘brought the Party into disrepute’.  Not even the Party accused me of this, but his comment added fuel to the campaign against me.  The Catholic Herald article contained some 24 inaccuracies, misrepresentations and distortions, but IDS wasn’t concerned with the ‘truth’ of the article, and neither did he apparently need the facts.  I simply had to go because of the negative publicity I had ‘caused’.  If mere appearances of wrongdoing have become justification for removal from office, then so be it, but if his summary judgement upon me was correct, then consistency demands that he himself had to go.         

I have, incidentally, written to him twice setting out the facts of my case, but I have received a response to neither letter.

Yours faithfully,


Adrian Hilton

Ex-Conservative PPC for Slough

July 31st
On 26th July Richard Ottaway MP had the following letter published in "The Times".   As a Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee you would expect him to have his facts right.   To say that the Board represents the members is one of the greatest distortions of the truth that I have seen for a long time.   Ordinary Party members (who are going to lose their vote under this disreputable proposal) do not elect a single member of the Board.    Out of sixteen members of the Board, five are elected by the National Convention, which consists of mainly Constituency Chairmen.   In putting their proposal to the 1922 Committee the Board did not ask ordinary Party members for their views.   If they had they would know that 67% wish to retain a vote in the Leadership election.   I challenge the 1922 Committee to put the proposal to a ballot of all Party members.   Then we will see.
A couple of weeks ago Mr. Ottaway complained to the Chairman of COPOV for calling the Parliamentary Party "arrogant".    I withdrew the charge as far as he personally was concerned.   I now revise that decision.
“Sir, William Rees-Mogg (Comment, July 25) writes that Conservative MPs “have decided to take the vote for the leadership away from the members of their party”. In reality they accepted the invitation of the members to do so. The proposal was set out in the Board of the Conservative Party’s consultation document A 21st Century Party, to which MPs were asked to respond. It made quite clear that the voluntary party believed the present system had “a number of flaws” and it was “essential that the Leader should enjoy the confidence of Conservative MPs”. It continued “the final decision should rest with them.”
Candidate Saga Rolls on
Last week we put several questions about the candidates list.(see below)    Thankyou to all those correspondents that have responded.   First of all we understand that John Taylor (Chairman of the Candidates Committee has written to all prospective candidates asking then to sign up to "the fifteen point declaration"(see below).   This is in spite of the fact that the Parliamentary Party through out the Declaration so it could not be imposed on them.    It is appalling that undue pressure should be imposed on the candidates.    If they do not sign up they will not be put on the list.   If they do sign up they will become Clones incapable of any independent thought or action.   It has still to be adjudicated whether this Declaration is a contempt of Parliament. 
It is quite clear that the Chairman of the Candidates should be elected by and accountable to the National Convention.   Too much power is in the hands of the hierarchy.
In spite of the fact that the list is still in the process of being drawn up some constituencies have already selected including Solihull and also we understand Harlow.    As one of our correspondents said:
Andrew Mackay (Vice Chairman of Candidates) said " that 'the usual process of candidate selection and appointment is suspended on the run-up to a general election". 
Looking at the decisions in Harlow and Solihull, coming 4 years before the next election, it appears that the 'usual process' may be arbitrarily suspended simply at the whim of Andrew Mackay.  
Though not surprised (nothing in the workings of this department now comes as a surprise to me), I am shocked at this revelation.  The reality is that 1000 hopeful candidates have not only spent £200 pounds to join this 'approved list', but each and every one paid an annual £80 for the 'honour' of remaining on it.  They are now having their chances of selection to 'safe' or eminently winnable seats minimised, and many are now being removed altogether, at the sole behest of Mackay and Whitby Collins, who are intent on appointing their 'favourites' to key targets before a new Leader and team are in place. 
In light of the manipulation and deception that is now manifest, the 'approved list' constitutes little more than a scam to raise a one-off £200k with a further assured regular income of £80k a year.  While this is doubtless legal, it is manifestly unethical.
Vote? of the 1922 Committee
When the 1922 Committee voted on the change to the Leadership rules they had to sign their name on the ballot paper before putting it in the box, so this was not a secret vote, the officers of the Committee knew how each MP voted.   On the other hand it was not a transparent vote because ordinary members of the Party do not know which MPs took their rights away.   This is a weird way for a Party that supposedly believes in democracy to operate.   We need change.   Incidentally, ballot papers can be downloaded from the internet!

24th July
Has the Tory Party become Senile?
This week the Parliamentary Party decided that they and they alone will decide who the Leader of the Part should be.    There will be "Consultation" with other parts of the Party, the details of which we await with interest, but what happens if as is reasonably possible the "Consultation" chooses one candidate, say David Davis but the MPs choose another, say Kenneth Clarke.   I will tell you.   The Party will split down the middle.   Membership which is plummeting at the moment would go into free fall.
There are a number of questions unanswered.    Will the MPs vote be transparent.   If not they will ignore the "Consultation".   What weight will be given to the views of the constituencies?   Will a constituency with 100 members be given the same weight as one with 1,000 members?
The vote of the 1922 Committee was 127 to 50, but there are growing rumours about the accuracy of this vote.   Is it possible for an MP to vote twice?   The 50 MPs that voted against the 1922 proposal are the future of the Conservative Party.   It is significant that two former Party Chairmen, Theresa May and Michael Ancram voted for democracy.
We have been told repeatedly by the anti democracy MPs that the voluntary Party do not mind letting the MPs decide, but this runs contrary to the poll conducted by conservativehome which showed that 67% of Party members wished to keep a vote in the Leadership election.   To view the full survey visit
It is now up to the National Convention on the 27th September to throw this rotten, miserable proposal out.   Every member should lobby their Constituency Chairman and let them know what the members want.
As a result of all this the Party Conference will be a beauty parade of the Leadership contenders.   The public will say the the Tory Party is talking to itself again.   Isn't this a sign of senility?    It is time the Conference was given back to the voluntary Party to organise.    We might even get motions to be debated and real discussion rather than the froth which now bores the media silly.
To see the list of The Good the Bad and Ugly visit Party Constitution
We hear that some Constituency Associations have already selected their candidate for the next General Election.   Is this true?   We thought that the candidates list was still in the process of being compiled, with the closing date for re-applications still open.   Are the seats being advertised?   If so to whom?   Did the seats get a short list chosen by Central Office?   How big was the short list?   Who decided it?   I think we should be told.
Listen to Gorbachev
The Conservative Party should listen to Mikhail Gorbachev as it proposes changes to its Constitution.
"We have tried to impose many things from above. Nothing ever comes of this. We must involve people in the process of government and the people will at once put everyone in their right place."
Mikhail Gorbachev
Sleepwalking to a Dictatorship
"…the great principles of habeas corpus and trial by jury… are the supreme protection by the British people for ordinary individuals against the state. The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him judgement by his peers for an indefinite period, is in the highest degree odious, and is the foundation of all totalitarian governments. Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy. This is really the test of civilisation."
Winston Churchill, 1943

17th July
Decision Time
On Wednesday of this week the Parliamentary Party meet to decide on the rules for a Leadership election.  They have proposed to change the Party Constitution so that the decision is solely in the MPs hands.    For this change to go through the Constitution may only be amended if approved by:
not less than 50% of those members of the Constitutional College eligible to vote
not less than 66% of Members of parliament voting, and
not less than 66% of Members of the National Convention voting.
If all the MPs that want the members of the Party still to be involved in the election of the Leader turn up and vote there is no chance of the amendment being carried.   In which case the Leadership contest should go ahead under the present rules.   If so we should start the contest immediately so that we have a new Leader in time for the Party Conference.
Party Constitution
The proposed changes are in a shambles.    Of the ten reasons COPOV gave for rejecting them seven look as though they may have been met.    They are dropping the franchise system, constituencies will not be merged by compulsion, the candidates agreement has been scrapped, local candidates will be allowed.  If the hierarchy have any sense at all they will scrap this exercise and start again with a clean sheet of paper.   Set out the problems the Party faces and build up a consensus with the grass roots.    They could even adopt all of COPOV's proposals.   What a Party we could create.   A Party genuinely for the 21st Century!
Cheadle by-election
What a disaster!   Once again we hear that Central Office interfered in the selection of the candidate.   We understand that the Constituency Association wanted a high flying lady barrister as candidate, but they were overruled by Central Office that insisted on Stephen Day being the candidate again.   Stephen Day had already lost two general elections.    When will they ever learn?   When will the Vice Chairman in charge of candidates be elected by and accountable to the members of the Party.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Updated
Many MPs have expressed support for a democratic Conservative Party involving Party members.   We show below a list of the Good - those that support democracy and a list those that do not - the Bad and Ugly.    Do you know what your MP believes?   Let us know which list to include him or her in.   Feedback
The Good
The Bad and Ugly
Ancram, MichaelClarke, Kenneth
Cash, BillDorrell,Stephen
Carswell, DouglasGrieve, Dominic
Davis, DavidHague, William
Dorries, NadineKirkbride, Julie
Duncan, AlanOttoway, Richard
Duncan-Smith, IainSelwyn-Gummer, John
Field, MarkTyrie, Andrew
Forth, Eric 
Goodman, Paul 
Gove, Michael 
Hayes, John 
Herbert, Nick 
Lansley, Andrew 
Leigh, Edward 
Lewis, Julian 
May, Theresa 
Patterson, Owen 
Penning Mike 
Redwood, John 
Rosindell, Andrew 
Shepherd Richard 
Spink Bob 
Spring, Richard 
Syms, Robert 
Watkinson Angela 
Widdecombe, Ann 
Willets, David 
Winterton, Nick 
July 10th

Ten days to save the Party
The next ten days are going to be critical in the history of the Conservative Party, for in the next ten days the decision will be taken as to whether the coming Leadership election is conducted on the present basis with the involvement of Party members or not.
When the 1922 Committee voted on the proposal to change the procedure for electing the Leader it was done on a show of hands.    The Party Board has now insisted that the vote be taken by a secret ballot.    The critical factor in this is that there has to be a two thirds majority of those present and voting.   If all the MPs turn up that believe that the members should have a vote in the election the motion will be lost.   We are then back to square one with the election conducted on the present basis.
Even if the motion is passed this is not the end of the matter, because after the Cheadle by-election on the 14th if thirty MPs put down a motion of no confidence in Michael Howard by writing to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee then the subject is opened up again.   We know that there are at least 28 MPs prepared to do this.   By Friday of this week we will know whether it will happen or not.   Next weekend the telephone lines will be hot if the whole change is not thrown out on Wednesday.   Interesting times.
Even if after all this Michael Howard gets his way the motion for change still has to get passed by the National; Convention with a two thirds majority.   Highly unlikely, so why don't we just get on with it?
Sleep Walking into a police state!
The events of the last week have been a roller coaster of joy and sorrow.  The most sceptical must have felt a pang of pride at London winning the Olympic bid.   Then we had the horror of Thursday.    Already allegations have been made as to who is responsible without anybody as yet being charged and found guilty.   This is dangerous territory.    Rightly the Conservative Party has opposed National Identity Cards on the grounds that the case for them is not strong enough to justify the infringement of individual liberty involved.   But how easy it is to sleep walk into a police state is illustrated by the Conservative Party itself.
The information required from members to attend the Party Conference has escalated beyond what is reasonable on the basis of the say so of the Assistant Chief Constable of Lancashire.   Nobody seems to have thought it important enough to question him as to why all this extra information is necessary because he has to do is mention the word "terrorist" as though anything done in that name is justified.
The most important role of the Conservative Party today is to defend and promote Freedom, Liberty, Democracy and Justice.    These are the issues of passion which will move the electorate.    They are the issues which will bring the people onto the streets.    The culture of the Party has to embrace these issues and then when anything is done to question them we will know by instinct what is right and what is wrong.    We must learn to ask the question - Why?
We will return to this subject in the future.

July 3rd
Falling Apart
The changes to the Party Constitution are falling apart.   This week the Parliamentary Party opposed the compulsory merger of constituencies blowing a massive hole in one of the central strategies of the changes.    They also threw out the "Candidates Agreement"   This is no surprise considering what happened to Howard Flight and Adrian Hilton (see below).    Also what is happening to Roger Helmer MEP?   This raises a whole host of other questions.   This coming week watch out for a stinging attack on the role of the Party Board.   The whole Party opposes this Soviet Politburo approach.   See Party Constitution for an excellent letter from Councillor Nancy Ashcroft.
The move to call a Leadership election is now concentrated on the week after the Cheadle by-election.   Everybody with any sense knows that the Conservative Party cannot go into a Party conference without a new Leader having thrown out the proposed changes to the Constitution the week before.    A distinguished journalist told me this week that it would make the 1963 Party Conference look like a vicarage tea party.   In his view there was no chance of the Constitutional changes going through.   Watch this space!
Watch out also this week for a new group to be launched on 7th July opposing the changes to the Party Constitution.   The Movement is growing.   Sign up to the "Alternative Vision".
Letter to MPs from Adrian HiltonBelow we show a copy of the letter which Adrian Hilton has this week written to all MPs.   His treatment by the hierarchy of the Conservative Party is a disgrace.   He should be reinstated on the Candidates List and given an unqualified apology.
Dear xxx

I was the Conservative PPC for Slough when, just before the election I was
removed (as was my Constituency Association which supported me) by Michael
Howard. I have been told that most MPs are not aware of my case - but I
believe my experiences could have grave consequences for the future of the
Party and are extremely relevant to the proposed changes in the Conservative
Party's constitution.

My case in Slough was overshadowed by that of Howard Flight at Arundel, but
in many ways the implications of it are more concerning. In light of the
proposal to make all MPs members of the 'Approved List', with the specific
threat of removal from that List for 'being the cause of embarrassing media
coverage', I have been urged to make you aware of the potential for abuse in
this clause (and indeed of the grave threat to genuine Conservatives of the
present situation).

In February I was selected to be the Party's candidate in Slough. I had been
on the 'Approved List' for 3 years, having passed all the appropriate tests,
with numerous high-profile endorsements including one from my own MP,
Dominic Grieve. As an officer of the Beaconsfield Conservative Association,
I have had a credible service career with the Party, and had been mentored
by Gary Streeter over these years.

I am a theologian, and a faculty head at Slough Grammar School. The Slough
Association considered a local teacher well placed to challenge Fiona
Mactaggart. In the course of my job, I am frequently asked to write articles
on religion-political developments, and I had contributed two such articles
for The Spectator in 2003. They were commissioned by Boris Johnson and his
deputy editor, and were concerned with the constitutional position of the
Monarch, the Act of Settlement, and the Vatican's involvement in the
formulation of the EU constitutional treaty. The Candidates' Department was
fully aware of these articles, as was the Chief Whip and the Shadow Attorney
General, who had judged that these articles contained 'nothing contrary to
Conservative philosophy or Party policy'.

In March 2005, two years later, the Catholic Herald decided to get upset
about the content of these articles, and misrepresented my views in an
article which contained no fewer than 24 errors, inaccuracies and
distortions. I was summoned to Westminster by Andrew Mackay, and instructed
to resign or I would be sacked. The veracity of the article was never the
issue; it was simply 'embarrassing media coverage', and I had to go. I
refused to resign over false accusation, and was duly sacked. When the
Slough Association refused to accept this, they were placed in 'supported
status'. My appeal failed, despite the judgement finding that I had been
unfairly misrepresented.

Charles Moore asserted in The Telegraph and The Spectator that my articles
were 'intelligent and thoughtful', and Lord Rees-Mogg in The Times has also
questioned my treatment. Even the chairman of the Catholic Union of Great
Britain bothered to write to me telling me how appalled he was at my

None of this swayed opinion. It therefore appears that any subjective
analysis of 'embarrassing media coverage', combined with the sole authority
over the candidates list of one Vice Chairman, may end a political career,
however many years may have elapsed since the 'cause'. Charles Moore rightly
observes that this gives any 'trade rag' the power to remove any
Conservative candidate, regardless of truth. Under the proposals,
Conservative MPs become delegates of CCHQ rather than representatives of
their constituents. This is not only an affront to freedom of speech, it is
manifestly contrary to Conservative philosophy.

Yours sincerely,
Adrian Hilton
26th June
MPs, MEPs, Candidates BewareWe show below the judgement in the Adrian Hilton case.    The implications of the case are far reaching.   First of all the procedure adopted by the Party has been given the rubber stamp of approval.    The judge accepted that the Conservative Party is an Unincorporated Association as a result of the Hague reforms.   This overturns the previous view of the 1980s that the Conservative Party had no legal existence as such.   The point was not argued during the case although after the Hague changes the Inland Revenue still treated Central Office as the private office of the Leader of the Party.    If this is still the position the question of autonomy of the individual Associations becomes more powerful and might have had a bearing on the result.
Secondly, there seems to have been no questioning of the make up of the candidate's committee, all of whom are appointed and are neither democratically accountable or independent, raising the question as to their suitability to sit in judgement over whether a candidate has been fairly treated or not.  
Thirdly, although the judge does not entirely rule it out it is implied that the chances of succeeding in any action of this nature once an election has been called are virtually nil.
What are the implications of all this and how has this situation come about?   Prior to the Hague reforms the Model Rules of Associations included the requirement for candidates for parliament to be on the candidates list controlled by Central Office.   Central Office could take a candidate off the list or refuse to put someone on it.   However the local Association was autonomous and could simply ignore Central Office by having the candidate run as an independent Conservative.   CCO had no way of enforcing their decision.   In 1997 CCO threatened to take Neil Hamilton off the list but were told by his Association that he would run anyway with their support.   CCO backed off.
All this changed when the Hague Constitution came in and the Associations signed up to it.   In signing up they lost their autonomy.   CCO could now force them to do anything they liked, because if a Constituency refused to do their bidding CCO could put it into "Support status" i.e. appoint their own person to control the Association.   CCO now had teeth.
To add to the difficulties the Registration of Political Parties Act came into force in 2000.   Once a political Party is registered only the nominating officer can put a name forward for standing in an election under that Party's name.   So now CCO has total control over anybody wishing to stand as a Conservative candidate.   It can appoint candidates or dismiss candidates at will or even as we saw in the Howard Flight case dismiss MPs from the list effectively ending their careers.
The principle problem is that the Conservative Party is an undemocratic organisation controlled by a small oligarchy which often includes wealthy individuals who have never been elected to anything in the Party but who acquire positions of influence as a result of their donations.   More and more power is exercised by CCO and under the proposed changes to the Party Constitution this will increase further.
What can be done?   The party can be made democratic so that those exercising power are accountable for their actions to the members of the Party.   In particular the Chairman of the Candidates Committee should be elected by the members of the Party at an Annual General Meeting.   He or she should produce a report to the A.G.M. and be questioned on it.   Secondly the composition of the Candidates Committee has to be reviewed.   It is no good having an MP or candidate on the committee if they can be subjected to the pressure of instant dismissal if they do not cave in to pressure from those that appointed them or even to pressure from the Leader of the Party.
The implications of this are far and wide and if the Electoral Commission were truly independent they would be investigating our main political parties.   They can be taken over by small groups of wealthy individuals or organisations (trade unions) and once in their control massive power is in their hands.   Democracy is the key but are the members of our political parties prepared to turn it?


(on their own behalf and on behalf of the Conservative Party)

15th April 2005

In my judgement the position is clear. I have of course had full regard to the submissions made by Mr Diamond and the authorities to which my attention has been drawn. On the material before this court, I take the view that the candidates’ committee has dealt with the question of the removal of Mr Hilton’s name from the approved list of candidates in accordance with proper procedures and has made an entirely lawful decision having given Mr Hilton a fair hearing and an opportunity to present his case. The candidates’ committee was the correct forum within the Party to decide this matter. The ethics and integrity procedure has no bearing on this case in my judgement, a judgement I reach having examined with care the constitution of the Conservative Party to which I have been referred. In those circumstances, it is my firm conclusion that the claimant’s prospect of success in these proceedings are very poor, so poor that he has in reality no reasonable prospect of succeeding in the action itself.
That of course is not the end of the matter because this is not an application for summary judgement, it is an application for interlocutory mandatory injunction. But having reached that clear conclusion on the prospects of success, it must inform my decision on whether or not to grant interim relief as sought. It will be only, in my judgement, in exceptional circumstances that any court would seek to interfere with a proper and reasonable exercise of discretion of any political party. I do not by those observations intend to suggest nor do I suggest that such circumstances could not arise and, indeed, even in the circumstances of an election campaign actually being contested, in my judgement there must be strong reason for so interfering. A court should not grant orders, which will have the effect of interfering with a political party’s capacity to field a candidate who has the support of the party. That is a part of the democratic process which the court should in my judgement be slow to involve itself in and very reluctant hinder or interfere with in any way.
There is an added difficulty facing the claimant here which concerns the time that has elapsed between the notification that his name was to be withdrawn from the list of candidates and his bringing of this application. From 28th March of this year the new parliamentary candidate has been campaigning within the Slough constituency. That is the date on which she was appointed. She became an official candidate on the day when the election was announced, that is to say 11th April. Election expenses have no doubt since been incurred on her behalf. To remove her as the candidate for the Conservative Party and insert somebody who the Conservative Party do not wish to stand in that constituency would be a grave step to take indeed, and in my judgement it is simply not appropriate to do so. In the context of the circumstances which I sought to outline, it is far too late in the day to grant the relief sought. It will cause a grave injustice to the Conservative Party and to the candidate whom they have now inserted in place of Mr Hilton.
I entirely understand Mr Hilton’s concern about the impact that these events have had on his political future, and it is entirely understandable that he should wish to take whatever steps he can sensibly take in order to clear his name on what he sees as defamatory observations made about him in the Catholic Herald. But that is, in my judgement, no sensible basis on which the relief sought can properly be granted and the application is accordingly refused.
Leadership Election Latest
The number of MPs prepared to write to the Chairman of the 1922 committee has risen to 24.   The time slot for doing this is between 15th July and 31st July, immediately after the by-election.   In the mean time support in opposing the changes to the Party Constitution is pouring in.    Many people are making some extremely good points.   This is why the whole Party should be debating these changes rather than having them imposed top down.    Leeds, Liverpool, Cambridgeshire, New Forest, Deptford, Alyn and Deeside,   Solihull and many other constituencies are opposed to the Changes.     We show a selection on the Party Constitutionpage.
Also the 15 point document which all candidates will have to sign including MPs and MEPs has raised some fundamental issues.    A leading constitutional lawyer has stated that "There are also potential infringements of parliamentary privilege as applied to MPs in all this."    Furthermore he states "On a proper construction of the (Party) Constitution this document, in my view, is ultra vires the Constitution.   What has the politburo at CCO got to say about that?   I have never known such a cack-handed approach to changing the Party.   Everybody has been upset.    It is time those responsible resigned.
Incidentally, there are rumours that CCO interfered in the Windsor selection.   Adam Afriye, allegedly was not originally shortlisted for interview and was "added" at the expense of Sir Malcolm Rifkind.    Can anybody confirm this?
June 19th
Leadership Election
There were further steps this week in the process to call a Leadership election.   As Michael Portillo said "every Conservative MP wants an election called other than Michael Howard".   No MP wants a re run of the 1963 or the 2003 Party Conference which were dominated by prospective Leadership elections.
The only question now is timing.    The process has to start before the end of July in order to have the new Leader in place for the Conference.   The process could be started either after the South Staffs by-election or the next by-election caused by the death of the Liberal Democrat MP.   Nobody wants to be blamed for a poor result.   Rest assured, though, that a poor result in either by-election would mean that Michael Howard became yesterday's toast within a week of the result.   Why doesn't he agree to go at the appropriate moment and retain his dignity.   Any friend or admirer of Michael Howard would be giving him this advice.
The number of MPs prepared to write to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee has now risen to 22.   We are close to the 30 required.
P.S. What ever happens members will get a vote because if an election is not called we will organise an election on the internet.    The wonders of modern technology!
"A 21st Century Party"
Why the Proposals to alter the Party Constitution should be rejected.
There are ten major reasons to reject the current proposals. All changes should not be opposed. In fact some of the proposals in the document sent out by the Board, such as removing the distinction between National and Constituency membership are to be welcomed. Many of the proposals are already possible under the present constitution, such as voluntary mergers of constituencies. However this package must be accepted or rejected as a whole and because of that it must be rejected for the reasons we set out.
1. There are no proposals to encourage people to join the Conservative Party. Member’s rights would be eliminated rather than increased. The democratic voice of the members to elect the party leader would be lost. Because MPs alone would select the leader, large parts of the country without an MP would not be represented. A decision by the National Convention to withdraw the existing ability of members to vote in the Leadership election without consulting members, who would lose that right, is contrary to the Constitution as it is a breach of natural justice and wrong in principle.
2. Changes to the constituency association structure will be imposed, removing the independence of constituencies to act in the best interests of their members. These changes would de-motivate activists, and so weaken our campaigning ability. The new local parties would become too remote from many of their branches, and would have too many to deal with.
3. Further centralised control over the selection of Parliamentary Candidates and the power of Central Office to select and remove candidates. Many of the tests for the removal of candidates by Central Office are subjective, and would give unelected officials at Central Office even more power over candidates and MPs. This reduces the freedom of local Party members to decide who their candidate should be.
4. The compulsion of all local parties (merged constituencies) to employ a qualified or trainee agent and to comply with Investors in People regulations. This would significantly increase the management cost and bureaucracy of running an office.
5. A new code of conduct is to be imposed on MPs and candidates. In many cases this would be very subjective leading to arbitrary de-selection of candidates and loss of the whip for MPs.
6. There will be no role for the chairmen and officers of hundreds of associations, which will go out of existence if these proposals are implemented. [Currently 646 constituencies to reduce to 200-300 local parties] Most members identify with their own constituency and if this link is broken by mergers, this loss of identity would make it harder to retain and recruit activists, who need to have an allegiance to, and affinity with, their MP or PPC.
7. Many of the proposals are open to a wide range of interpretations, which would lead to Central Office deciding and then laying down the law. This could lead to perceptions of unfairness and cause divisions within the party, for example the proposal that "a local party may be placed in supported status to resolve a dispute". This could allow a local party to be taken over by the Board over a fairly minor matter.
8. More Central Control. By making local parties franchisees local initiative is stifled. This is the MacDonald Hamburger approach to management, which is now seen to be failing.
9. There will be a non-negotiable core agreement signed by each local party and the centre. If it is "non-negotiable" who decides what it would be? Who is "the centre"?
10. Appropriation of Constituency assets. Central Office has the power to appropriate Constituency property and cash. Under the guise of reorganisation you can guess what would happen.
Please think carefully before it is too late.
Ask your Constituency Chairman to Vote No in the National Convention Ballot. If you agree with us let us know.
For a detailed analysis of the changes see Party Constitution

"A 21st Century Party"
An Alternative Vision for the Party
The members should be at the core of the decision-making structure. Wherever possible the constituency structure should be retained and supported. Only this way can the Party recruit and motivate the activists that are desperately needed. Where change is needed it should be made according to the situation in each constituency, brought about by involving all local members in debate and a democratic vote, not by coercion or dictat.
In order to recruit and motivate activists it is essential that they can be given a real opportunity to have an input into how the party is run and the policy direction it pursues. At a time when the Party is talking to the electorate about choice, power to the people and local democracy the same principles should apply to the Party organisation. People will not join a political Party where they have no rights, no democracy and no democratic accountability. In order to create an election winning machine we need to practise what we preach. We must reach out to the people.

This document has been produced by the Conservative Democracy Group, which comprises the following:
Campaign for Conservative Democracy
        Contact: John Strafford                     Email:
                                                                        Tel.  01753 887068
Campaign for UK Conservatism       
        Contact: Rodney Atkinson                 Email:
                                                                        Tel. No.  0208 445 4848
Charter Group
        Contact: Mike Baker                          Email:
                                                                         Tel No.  0208 402 0775
Others including MPs, MEPs, Candidates, Constituency Chairmen, Regional and Area Officers.
Please let us have your views on the proposals by emailing to any of the above.
Forward this document to another member of the Conservative Party
If you agree with our views, let us know and we will add you to a list of members opposing these changes to the Party Constitution. We will publish the list in due course.
From A Parliamentary Candidate
Under Howard's plans, the new National Convention would be controlled by
the Whips. Any dissenting MP, MEP or AM would be under threat of removal
from the candidate's list. The entire Party will be controlled by the Leader
and his "office" through the Chairman, Board appointees and the Whip (all of
whom can be sacked at the Leader's whim). MPs will be delegates who must
follow the Leader's (or Board's) line as enforced by the Whips. This
reinforced by David Maclean's proposal for MP performance indicators.
Parliamentary democracy itself is in real danger.
We will return to this issue next week when we examine the implications of the Judgment in the "Adrian Hilton" case.   It will make the hair of every MP, MEP and candidate stand on end.

The Politburo
We are hearing of more and more constituencies where Central Office imposed their choice of candidate, denying the Local Association any say in the matter or only a limited say by giving them ten or less names to choose from.    The Labour party does the same.   This approach is similar to the way in which the Soviet Poliburo ran elections.   Our major parties are destroying democracy.   We set out below a list of those Constituency Associations where this has happened.   If you know of others please let us know by e mailing to
The Roll of Shame
Conservative PartyLabour Party
Arundel and SouthdownsRibble Valley
Birmingham ErdingtonWolverhampton South East
Birmingham Hodge Hill 
Birmingham Ladywood 
Birmingham Perry Bar 
Birmingham Spark Brook and Small Heath 
Brighton Kemptown 
Cynon Valley 
Gateshead East & Washington West 
Houghton & Washington East 
Leicester East 
Leicester South 
Leicester West 
Liverpool Garston 
Liverpool North 
Liverpool Riverside 
Liverpool West Derby 
Liverpool Wavertree 
Manchester Blackley 
Manchester Central 
Manchester Gorton 
Manchester Withington 
Mid Bedfordshire 
Newcastle Central 
Newcastle East and Wallsend 
Newcastle North 
Sheffield Attercliffe 
Sheffield Brightside 
Sheffield Central 
Sheffield Heeley 
Sheffield Hillsborough 
Sunderland North
Sunderland South

June 12th
Party Constitution - Latest
The pressure on Michael Howard to resign and call a Leadership election is mounting.   Both the Evening Standard and The Independent have forecast a Leadership election before the Party Conference.
There are now 14 MPs that want a ballot to be called immediately after the South Staffs by-election.   30 are required.    Does Michael Howard want the ignominy of a vote of no confidence to end his Leadership?   Any MP that wants to sign up can contact COPOV at  01753 887068.
The number of groups campaigning against the proposed changes is growing.   There are now the following groups:
Members of Parliament
Constituency Chairmen
Charter Group
UK Conservatism
If you want to be involved contact
Next week we will be publishing a brief to be sent to all MPs and Constituency Chairmen showing the main points of opposition to the proposals together with an alternative approach.   Watch this Space.
In the mean time we show in Personal Opinions the detailed views of a "grass roots" member of the Party to the changes.   Have a look.   It will make your hair stand on end at what is being done to our Party.
Conservative Democracy Survey
Do you want to vote on the Leadership?    Contact
Parliamentary Candidates
From this week's Private Eye:
In the last Eye we noted that Nadine Dorries, the new Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, was parachuted into the constituency at the last minute by Conservative Central Office, just as she was parachuted into Hazel Grove (to the fury of local Tories) shortly before the 2001 election.
Why, we asked, is she always first choice for the parachute jump when Tory HQ in London decides to despatch its own candidate?  
Many thanks to all those readers who wrote in to point out that Nadine Dorries's children were until recently classmates at Ampleforth College with the children of one Trish Morris.  As fellow parents Trish and Nadine got to know each other rather well.  And who is Trish?  Under her more formal moniker of Baroness Morris, she is vice-chairman of the Conservative party in charge of candidate selection!
Ampleforth College is one of the foremost Roman Catholic schools in the country
Adrian Hilton was excluded from being a Parliamentary Candidate in Slough because of an Article he wrote in The Spectator about the Catholic Church and the European Union.
COPOV believe that the Vice Chairman and Deputy Chairman in charge of candidates should be elected by the members of the Party and give an Annual Report to an Annual General Meeting of the Party.   Democratic accountability and transparency are essential requisites for a democratic Party.

5th June
The Party Constitution
The opposition to the changes to the Party's Constitution is snowballing.   There are now at least nine MPs prepared to call for a Leadership election immediately after the South Staffs by-election.    Contact your MP and ask him to add his name to our confidential list.    Any names given will be treated in the strictest confidence.   By calling for an election now under the existing rules the members will have a vote and the changes to the Constitution will be put on ice so we can have a full and proper consideration of them.
We will shortly be sending out a briefing to all Constituency Chairmen and others on the Changes to the Constitution so watch this space.   If you have any views let us have them by sending them to
In his introduction to the changes the Chairman of the Party - Francis Maude - gives several priority objectives.    Amongst them are:
"To increase membership to over 300,000 by the end of 2005 and to 350,000 by the end of 2006"
He is living in cloud cuckoo land.    There is not a single item in the changes that will encourage anybody to join the Party.   The one and only right of the membership left which is to vote in the Leadership election is to be taken away.   Perhaps he will explain what is in these changes for the ordinary member.
"To focus resources on the seats we need to gain to form the next government"
Who decides which seats?   Who is democratically accountable for the decision?   More central control?
"To focus resources on marginal councils up for election in May 2006 and May 2007"
Who decides which Councils? Who is democratically accountable for the decision?   More Central control
"To attain Investors in People status as an employer"
More bureaucracy.
"We want local parties with vigorously independent life, in holding a franchise from the Party to carry its purposes into local communities"
How can you be independent and a franchise at the same time?   Have you ever come across and independent MacDonalds?
"We want arrangements for the election of our Leader that recognise the need for MPs to have the final say"
And the members of the Party have no vote.    But look at what Lord Hodgson had to say about this in a letter to "The Times" this week:
You unfairly place the responsibility for the election of Iain Duncan Smith as leader of the Conservative Party on the shoulder's of the party's voluntary members (leading article, May 21).
I was deeply involved in drawing up the present rules. The voluntary members have to choose from a shortlist of two, the creation of which lies entirely in the hands of the parliamentary party. If therefore the 'wrong' person was chosen as party leader, those who put him on the shortlist must accept their share of the responsibility.
In the last round of the parliamentary primary, the voting was 59 for Ken Clarke and 54 for Iain Duncan Smith - hardly an indication of a complete lack of support amongst the party's MPs.
Robin Hodgson
Chairman, National Convention 1998-2000.
Candidates Association - More
Over the last three years the Candidates Association has probably received over £200,000 in subscription fees.   How has this money been spent and how has it been accounted for?   We understand that the Joint Chairmen of the Association are Mary McLeod and Amanda Sater.    Perhaps they could tell us!
Is it a coincidence that both Mary and Amanda were on the short list of ten candidates to replace Jonathan Sayeed and Miss McLeod was on the short list of ten to replace Howard Flight?   Who decides these short lists and on what criteria?   Perhaps they could tell us!
Now you Know
George Orwell's real name was Blair.    Makes sense doesn't it?
European Constitution
Why should the United Kingdom be denied the right to vote on the proposed European Constitution?   Why should the future of the European Union be determined by France and The Netherlands?   This is not democracy.   Have you noticed that it is mainly the Eurofanatics that want to stop the British people exercising their vote?   Could it be that they are afraid that the people of the United Kingdom would demonstrate that the political elite are totally out of touch with the people?   Wasn't it Thomas Jefferson who said "The issue today as it has been throughout all history; whether man should be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite".
The proposed Constitution contains 67,000 words.   If the people of Europe want a Constitution they could have (in less than 250 words)  the following and it would be democratic:
Article 1 - Principles
The European Union shall uphold the principles of freedom, democracy, liberty and justice.
Article 2 - Composition
The European Union shall consist of the Commission, European Parliament; member States represented through the Council of Ministers, and the people.
Article 3 - Commission
The European Commission shall consist of 20 people of whom 10 are elected by the European Parliament and 10 by the Council of Ministers. Individual Commissioners may be dismissed by a majority vote of either the European Parliament or the Council of Ministers.
Article 4 - Parliament
The European Parliament shall consist of 500 members elected by the people from approximately equal size constituencies. Election shall be by the alternative vote system of election. A Parliament shall last for five years.
Article 5 – Council of Ministers
The Council of Ministers shall be elected by their National Parliaments.
Article 6 - Legislation
Legislation may only be initiated by National Parliaments through their representatives on the Council of Ministers or by the European Parliament. When the Council of Ministers vote on any matter, their vote shall have a value approximate to their country’s population. Legislation will only be passed when it has secured a majority in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
Article 7 – National Parliaments
Legislation may be vetoed by National Parliaments representing a majority of the people.
Article 8 – Change
The Constitution may only be changed by a majority vote in a referendum of the people.

May 29th
So You Want to be a Conservative Candidate (and sell your soul to the Party)
This week the Party Hierarchy put forward a package of changes to the Party's Constitution including changes to the rules on the election of the Leader and requirements for candidates to sign a "Loyalty" document which we show below.   If implemented the changes proposed will destroy the Conservative Party and put it out of office for a generation.   There is a good chance these proposals can be defeated because they have upset the whole Party including our MPs.   Together we will mount a campaign to consign these proposals to the dustbin.
The first opportunity to do this comes with the changes to the Leadership rules.   If we can get thirty MPs to call for a Leadership election now, then the contest will be based on the existing rules.    The best time to do this is immediately after the South Staffs By-election which will be held on June 23rd.   Some MPs have already indicated to COPOV their willingness to do this.   Others are reluctant to write to Michael Spicer - the Chairman of the 1922 Committee.   If so let COPOV know by telephoning John Strafford on  01753 887068 or e mailing him at    Any information given will be treated in strict confidence.
If we can get the Leadership election now there are two minor changes to the procedure which can be made without having to alter the Party Constitution.   They are: (a)all the candidates should go to the membership for election and (b) in voting the members will be asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, the candidate with the lowest number of votes droppingout until one candidate has over 50% of the votes.
The new Leader would be asked to put all the other proposals on ice until there had been full consultation with the whole Party.
Should the above tactic fail we will then campaign to ensure that the proposals are thrown out at the meeting of the National Convention on 27th September.   In this we are confident of success.
In the proposed changes there is not a single idea that would increase the membership of the Party or encourage new members to join.   They have concentrated on reorganising the Chiefs whist not noticing that the Indians are riding away, but they will not succeed for the following reasons:
1)   By reducing the candidates list by 500 they are creating 500 bitter individuals, many of whom have just flogged their guts out fighting the General Election. 
2)    By abolishing the Local Constituency Associations to 200-300 Local Party Franchises ( a bit like McDonalds) they will be asking 350 Constituency Chairmen at the Convention to vote themselves out of a job, a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas.
3)    Ordinary Party members are horrified at the control freak mentality which has overtaken the Party exemplified by the Application form for the Party Conference.
4)    Many members remember how Howard Flight was treated and how their right to select their Parliamentary candidate was taken from them.
The idea that at a time when Party membership is plummeting these proposals will increase membership this year to 300,000 is cloud cuckoo land personified, and illustrates just how out of touch the hierarchy have become.
COPOV is often approached by the media for spokesmen or women that will defend the members rights to elect the Leader.    Could anybody who wishes to do this please let the Chairman of COPOV know by e mailing him on or telephoning him on  01753 887068 giving telephone numbers and details of positions held now or in the past in the Conservative Party together with their address (regional media often like someone local).
This is the most important battle for Conservative party members.   If we lose this we may as well pack our bags and do something else.   This is our opportunity to create a democratic Party fit for the 21st Century.


I understand that in applying to be listed as an approved candidate my admission to the list is subject to approval by the Party’s Committee on Candidates who are charged with this role under the Party’s Constitution and whose decision is final.
The Committee on Candidates has the power to remove someone from an Approved List at any time during the Parliament until the close of nominations following the calling of a general election. The Committee has published the following 15 grounds on which someone might be removed from the Approved List:
           i)      falsification of a CV;
           ii)    conduct unbecoming a candidate;
           iii)   proclaiming views incompatible with the views of the Party;
           iv)   making public statements against the Leader of the Party;
           v)     campaigning for/supporting another political party or organisation;
           vi)   being convicted of a criminal offence whilst a candidate or on the list;
           vii)  being declared bankrupt whilst a candidate or on the list;
           viii) working against the interests of an Association and/or the Party;
           ix)   working against a selected candidate or sitting MP;
           x)     inadequate performance in the Party’s opinion as a Candidate or prospective                     candidate;
          xi)    failing to seek selection without reasonable grounds;
         xii)     resigning as a PPC unless there are recognised mitigating circumstances;
         xiii)    being the cause of embarrassing media coverage;
         xiv)    signing up members or encouraging the signing up of members prior to                     selection in a  particular Association with a view to influencing the process;  
         xv)     if it is the opinion of the Committee on Candidates that a candidate is not                      suitable to represent the Party as a Parliamentary Candidate.
In assessing matters of fact and interpretation, the Chairman of the Committee on Candidates, acting in consultation with the Vice Chairman and/or Deputy Chairman of the Party with responsibility for Candidates, and the Head of Candidates is the final arbiter in this matter.
In the event of evidence being presented that a person on the list is in breach of any of the above then the Committee on Candidates or a panel appointed by them may either suspend membership of the list or, should circumstances warrant it, effect immediate removal from the list. I understand that only those on the Approved List can be selected for a vacancy and contest an election as a parliamentary candidate. I accept that I cease to be a prospective candidate for the Party on removal from the list. I make this application fully aware of these conditions.

Big Brother is watching you.    Wouldn't this be a breach of Parliamentary privilege?
The Candidates Association
Each candidate pays £80 per annum to the Candidates Association to be on the candidates list.
Where does this money go?   Are Accounts of the Candidates Association published?   Who is Chairman of the Candidates Association?   When was she or he elected and by whom?    Did the Chairman of the Candidates Association make any representations about the requirements to sign a confidentiality letter?
I think we should be told.    Many candidates would like to know the answer.
He Who Laughs Last
At the time the Party Constitution was brought in Constituency Associations were asked to sign up to it.   A few, including some of the most powerful ones with Conservative MPs refused.   The Party ignored their refusal.   However if the Party tried to act with a Conservative MP in the same way it acted with Howard Flight and the Arundel and South Downs Association there might be a different result.   Those that did not sign retain their autonomy.   Look out for other Associations investigatiing Declarations of Unilateral Independence.

May 22nd
Lies, Damn Lies and the "Today" programme
On Saturday the "Today" programme announced that "the "grass roots" of the Conservative Party supported the MPs deciding the Leader of the Conservative Party.    They had conducted a poll of Constituency Chairmen which had lead them to that conclusion.   Lord Heseltine was trotted out to say how sane this was.    It was then used in news bulletins throughout Saturday.
What was the reality?    The Conservative Party has approximately 250,000 members.    "Today" found 38 Constituency Chairmen that favoured the MPs.    It then turns out that they had only contacted the Constituencies with sitting MPs, so the other 449 Constituency Associations were ignored.   Had the Constituency Chairmen they spoke to contacted their members?   No.    If this is the level of serious research which "Today" conducts on a matter which is so serious that it leads in the news bulletins then it is time their production team were pensioned off.
As usual Jim Naughtie interviewed Lord Heseltine, who is always trotted out on these occasions to explain how the voluntary Party is so old and out of touch with the electorate.   Jim has forgotten how to interview and when put before the old Lord goes down on his knees and licks his boots.   Why doesn't he probe Heseltine along the lines of "Are you in favour of Dictatorship or Democracy?"   Heseltine has never been in favour of members having democratic rights; he favours a European Constitution which is wholly undemocratic.   Or another question - "Why is it that that when the members disagree with you they are old and out of touch with the electorate and do not know what they are doing, but when they agree with you they are sane and sensible?"    Finally he should be asked "Have you got a political agenda with your views?"   The membership are Eurosceptic and are therefore likely to choose a candidate with similar views whereas the MPs are more easily manipulated because their first consideration with any candidate is "What's in it for me?"
Control Freak
Michael Howard has just appointed 84 of his MPs to be front bench spokesmen.   Add to this the 40 or so new backbenchers that aspire to being front bench spokesmen and he controls 124 MPs out of 197.   With the additional power as a result of the Howard Flight case on the other MPs we are in for a dull parliament in which individual freedom to speak as you think has been abolished in the Conservative Party.   Can it get worse?    Yes If the rumours are right about the way the candidates lists to be compiled the next lot of backbenchers will be Andrew Mackay clones.   God forbid.   It is thus that a once great Party destroys itself.
Big Brother is Watching You.
The Conservative Party is equivocal about ID cards and the dangers to individual liberty that they entail.    What then would they say about an organisation which demanded the following information:
Name, address, sex, Nationality, Date of Birth, Town of Birth, Country of Birth
Home telephone, Daytime telephone,e-mail,  Mobile telephone
Car registration No. Is it private or Company, make and model
Driving License No., Passport No., National Insurance No., ID Document
Passport Photograph, Signature, Counter Signature. etc.
Who is this interfering body?   Why, it is the Conservative Party and all this information has to be supplied to apply to go to the Party Conference together with a cheque for £55.    Maybe it would be easier if we had an identity card!
Now I have no doubt that if this is queried we will be told that all this information is required for security reasons.   But anybody getting this information would be able, without much extra work, to commit identity fraud.   All this is going to be passed on to regional police forces now and in the future.   It will be retained by the Conservative Party and by an outside organisation CCO Conferences Ltd.   No wonder Party members are worried.   This is 1984 writ large and we used to be the Party that believed in individual freedom and liberty.   Where did it all go wrong?
Postal Votes
One aspect of postal voting which has not been touched on is what happens when an elector takes their postal vote to the polling station on election day?   There is no seperate box for these votes and we know that in the Beaconsfield constituency they were just put in an envelope.   There is no control over these envelopes.   Did they get to the count?   We will never know.   There should be a sealed ballot box at every polling station so that if an elector turns up with their postal vote it can be put in the box.

May 15th
Leadership Election
Everybody is now aware that the Conservative Party will soon be having a Leadership election and there is an attempt to remove the Party members from having any say.   The debate on this is in full swing, but we are shortly to get proposed changes to the Party's Constitution and foremost in these will be further central control.   The members will count for nothing.     However some MPs are beginning to realise that if all power is taken away from the members they become highly vulnerable themselves. 
Ever since the Howard Flight case a Conservative MP only holds his parliamentary position at the whim of the Leader.    Several MPs have contacted COPOV and asked what is the position if they had the temerity to defy the Whip's office during this Parliament.   Previously the worse that would happen would be that the whip would be withdrawn and usually reinstated before the end of the Parliament.   In any case they could appeal to the members of their Constituency Association for support.   Not now.   All the Whips have to do is say that their name has been taken off the candidates list and their parliamentary career is finished.   Conservative Central Office has now become like the Soviet politburo.   This central control will destroy the Conservative Party just at a time when the Labour Party is about to tear itself apart.   What a tragedy.   Do Tory MPs really want to be like the monkeys?   Hear not, see not, speak not.   Just put your hand up when you are told.    That is now your role.
Selection of Candidates
In Schedule 6 of the Party Constitution para 28 it states: "Any removal of rights of membership of, or removal of office or other position from, any Association or other body within the Party will only be made after due consideration of natural justice.   In the cause of natural justice it must be right that if the members are going to have their rights diminished or taken away relating to the election of the Leader then they should be able to vote on what is being done.    We shall see.
What we have seen is that when Adrian Hilton was deselected in Slough and when Howard Flight was deselected in Arundel natural justice was thrown out with the dish water.
Adrian Hilton contacted the Chairman of COPOV when he was deselected and I advised him as follows:
There is no doubt that under the Party rules the Party hierarchy can stop anybody from standing.   They are all powerful.   Howard Flight's only chance is to take legal action to test their action in court.   The Court may take the view that this is a private matter and nothing to do with the courts.   On the other hand they may say that in a democracy it is wrong that one man should have so much power that he can determine who should sit in parliament.   Howard Flight's great advantage is that he has the money to fight his cause.   For the sake of democracy and the Conservative Party we hope he does and wins.   He has our total support.
Adrian sent the following e-mail to the Chairman of COPOV on 17th April:
I thought you might like to know that I decided to test this, and did so NOT in the glare of any publicity which may damage the Party during the Election process.  You were right to point out that Flight had the money to fight his cause, and I did not, but when Flight told me he was not testing this in the Courts, I couldn't leave the question hanging.  While I have to acknowledge that my 'career' in the Conservative Party was terminated when I was sacked from Slough, I'm not one of those who can live with the 'what if?' question for the rest of my life - I needed to be absolutely certain.  I prefer definite full stops, to dubious semi-colons.  
It has never been an issue for me of 'point-scoring', but simply of doing what is right, in a correct manner, consistent with the principles of the 'duty to act fairly' and 'natural justice'.  To my mind, the Party had transgressed these principles both in the Flight case and in mine.  
In the High Court on Friday, I lost my case.  Under the present terms of the Constitution, the Leader of the Party certainly does have the omnipotence not only to sack someone (MP or candidate) from their position, but also to stop them standing at all.  The removal of a name from the 'Approved List' is the mechanism which permits this, and the Appeal process, being loaded to uphold the decision of the Leader, and with a Panel being made up of MPs who may themselves be fearful of deselection, is a manifestly inadequate means of challenging the decision.  Individual associations have no power whatsoever to overturn the decision to remove someone from this List, no matter how arbitrary the decision appears to be.
There is absolutely no accountability for the cabal that constitutes the Candidates' Department.  Under the guise of ensuring a List of ethnic, gender and professional diversity, the Vice Chairman with responsibility for candidates is, to all intents and purposes, omnipotent.  Thus he (or she) is able to make the Party in his (or her) own image.  Quite what Sheila Gunn owes Andrew McKay, I am not sure, but she informed both the chairman of the Slough Association and a BBC journalist that she was effectively 'lined up' for Slough 'a couple of weeks' before my appeal.  A concerning development in this 'Approved List' mechanism is the realisation that manifestly some are more 'approved' than others.  Why was Sheila favoured?  And I (even before the Slough and Spectator thing blew up) was never an approved 'approved candidate', since my name was never permitted to reach the Associations of 'key marginals' (despite my specific request in the case of Brighton Kemptown). 
John, I'm letting you know this because it will be of interest.  I'm licking my wounds, and am £15k lighter (which I certainly wish Flight had paid), but consistent with my desire to protect the Party from any negative publicity during the Campaign, I would be grateful if you wouldn't post any of this on your website until after the Election.  I'm happy to talk if you want further information.
Kindest regards,
Destruction of Democracy
The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 enables a Government to declare an emergency and set aside or amend any Act of Parliament by Royal Order. That includes legislation on the composition of both Houses of Parliament, the length of Parliament and Habeas Corpus - a reversal of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
And so our democracy is destroyed.

8th May
Letter to Michael Howard MP.
C. O. P. O. V.
7th May 2005
The Rt Hon Michael Howard QC, MP,              
Conservative Campaign Headquarters,
25 Victoria Street,
London SW1H ODL.
Dear Mr Howard,
At a meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy held today, we discussed your proposed review of the rules for the Leadership election.
Last year we were asked by Raymond Monbiot to put forward proposed changes to the Party Constitution. We held three meetings in different parts of the country to discuss the changes we would like to see, and in the end unanimously agreed the changes shown in the paper attached to this letter.
At the meeting today I was asked to write to you to request that the changes to the Leadership rules and the changes to the Party Constitution should be dealt with at the same time, culminating at a closed meeting of the Party Conference in which the changes could be put. This would enable every member of the Party to participate and be involved.
Whatever was agreed at the closed meeting could then go forward for implementation according the existing Constitution of the Party. We hope that you will agree to this procedure.
Yours sincerely,
Enc. (1)
Reform of the Conservative Party Constitution

To meet the needs of a modern political party we need to restructure the Conservative Party and simplify its Constitution. The time to do this is now.
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.
Party Elections can be conducted on the Internet or by telephone with appropriate security arrangements.
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 and should present the accounts of the Party to the National Convention for their adoption.
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.
An independent Party Ombudsman, who shall not be a member of the Conservative Party, should deal with individual membership matters. His/her decision shall be final.
The National Convention
The National Convention at present is too big to be an executive body and too small to be representative.
The National Convention should consist of all members of the Party.
The Party Constitution may only be changed by 66% of those present and voting at the Convention.
The Party Chairman should chair the Convention.
The rules for the election of the Leader of the Party shall be determined by 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
4 Members of the Executive of the 1922 Committee
1 MP and 1 MEP per Region
Regional Co-ordinators
Regional Treasurers
3 Officers of the Conservative Councillors Association
Leaders and Deputy Leaders of Conservative Groups of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland Assemblies.
2 members (non-office holding) per Region elected by the Region.
10 co-options
The role of the Regions is to co-ordinate, communicate and motivate.
Regional Chairmen and Treasurers 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.
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 Deputy Leader of the Party will be The Chairman of the Policy Forum
The Party Leader will determine the priorities of policies.
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 Regional/National Forums.
The Regional/National Forums 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.
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. Only motions with 10 supporting signatures to be considered for inclusion on the Conference agenda.
Election of the Leader
         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 candidate should be declared            the winner.
To get rid of a Leader the following process would apply:
(a) 25% of Conservative MPs would notify the Chief Whip that they wished to have a leadership election
Once the 25% 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.

Press Release
C. O. P. O. V.

Tel. No. (h)  01753 887068 (m) 07956.352.022 Perama
Fax. No. (h) 01753 882823 94 Fulmer Road
E mail Gerrards Cross
Web Site Bucks SL9 7EG

Electing the Leader of the Conservative Party
In a speech to the Campaign for Conservative Democracy on Saturday May 7th, the chairman, John Strafford, will welcome the announcement by the Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard MP, that the rules regarding the election of the Leader are to be reviewed.
John Strafford said, "In making the announcement Michael Howard called for "the Conservative Party to be a broad outward looking Party fit for the 21st century." In this context the Conservative Party must become more democratic. It can do this by making the election of the Leader more democratic. The Campaign for Conservative Democracy has put forward the following suggestions:
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 candidate should be declared the winner.
Some Conservative MPs wish to exclude the membership from the process of electing the Leader. This would be an absolute disaster. Just at the time when the party activists have worked their guts out in fighting the General Election to be told now that their involvement was not wanted would be a kick in the face. It would begin the destruction of the Party as a mass membership organisation. Once you let the genie of democracy out of the bottle you cannot put it back inside.
Let us remember that it was the MPs who chose John Major in 1995. We went down to heavy defeat in 1997. It was the MPs who chose William Hague in 1997. We went down to heavy defeat in 2001. It was the MPs that stitched up the Leadership election in 2001 so that the members only had a choice from two candidates. It was the MPs alone who chose Michael Howard in 2003. We have just suffered another heavy defeat. Three and a half times the MPs have chosen the Leader and each time we have suffered heavy defeats. Their record of success is not very good.
Let the members have an open choice. Let us build up the membership of the Conservative Party by welcoming participation and involvement in all its activities. This is the way to success.

May 1st
***Stars of the Week - Tim Collins MP for taking on Sarah Montague on the "Today" programme when she made a snide remark at the beginning of the interview.   The remark brought out the rotweiler in Tim.
John O'Sullivan - for an excellent contribution to the Saturday morning Westminster programme.   His analysis of the paucity of Conservative policy was spot on, but then we would expect nothing less from a Chelsea Young Conservative of the sixties.
Brian Sedgemore - for standing up for freedom and liberty.
Wallies of the Week - tb1_.gif (1421 bytes)Tony Bliar MP   This man is psychologically flawed.   He deceives himself.    Unfortunately people that deceive themselves are often very good at deceiving other people.   He lost it on "Question Time" sweating profusely.    Once again he justified the Iraq war by saying that he had to take a decision because there were 250,000 troops in the Gulf.   He could have said "bring them home", but instead he implied that because they were there they had to fight, in which case he took the decision to go to war when he took the decision to send the troops out there. 
Michael Howard MP for his ludicrous position on Iraq.   How was Saddam a threat to the Region if he had no weapons of mass destruction?
The General Election
This has been a miserable General Election.   The Conservative campaign has been awful.   Instead of riding the rainbow of hope we have scrambled around in the gutter of politics.    The campaign has been egocentric with the ego being Michael Howard's.    How did he become Leader?   Oh yes, I forgot the MPs elected him.
This does not mean that the Conservatives will not win.   Under this ridiculous First Past the Post system they well might, but what it will prove is that they have learnt to play the game better than the other Parties.
When the people wake up on Friday and see the results from this squalid corrupt electoral system there will be a crescendo of noise demanding change, so whoever forms the next government is going to be in for a rough ride.   We have become like a banana republic.   If we do not change this rotten system prepare for the revolution!
The Forgotten Ones
We heard many times in the last few years how we had to reach out to the people in the inner cities.   Why is it then that in two of our major cities the Conservative campaign has been zero.

June 30th                        
My instincts were right. On 5th May we failed to regain the Vale of Glamorgan Constituency. But our Candidate, Welsh Assembly Member, Alan Cairns, achieved a 3% swing and our vote was up by nearly 2,000 on a turnout of 69%. The seat is now a "super marginal" and with a further swing in 2009/2010 the seat will be coloured blue once again. And a similar thing happened in neighbouring Cardiff North where another well known and well liked Assembly member was just 1,200 votes behind the Labour winner.
Although I was not directly involved in any canvassing (despite letting the Constituency Secretary know I would help if needed) our campaign here in the Vale, like that nationally, was very professional and our candidate was well known. We received plenty of literature and pamphlets showing the effort he put in – the long NHS waiting lists and the burden of the high Council Tax were of particular concern to the elderly and those on fixed incomes. I received two telephone calls – one from Central Office confirming I would be voting: the second a "voice mail" message on election morning asking if I had used my postal vote (which I had, taking it by hand directly to the Presiding Officer at my local polling station, who after consulting the rules, confirmed it would be accepted and placed in Envelope "A").
I paid little attention to the national contest (particularly after seeing part of the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown "Love-in" in the first Election broadcast). I am told that Michael Howard performed well on the issues where we are seen as strong (i.e. immigration and law and order) but that more emphasis could have been spent on the "bread and butter issues" of health and education. But we did have some success even though our gains were limited to 33 and we fell just below 200 seats. Comparisons have been made with 1983 when Labour had only 209 MPs. But the statistics in themselves are misleading. In every General Election since 1945, including the eight Labour lost, there have always been more Labour seats with majorities of over 20,000 than Conservatives ones. Conservative seats have been more evenly spread out throughout the UK, particularly in England. The movement in population with Labour voters moving into the suburbs and countryside (and I see from today’s Daily Telegraph that London alone has lost 2.3million people since 1993) has made what were once very safe Tory seats much more marginal. The inner city seats, now populated by many ethnic groups, are still dominated by Labour voters and have Labour MPs. The plain fact of the matter is that, as things stand at present, in order to gain parity with Labour in terms of seats, we have to poll 5% more than them nationally, This will be slightly remedied by the re-drawing of constituency boundaries before the next election.
Some writers have said that, because we have little or no representation in many parts of the UK, we can no longer be called a national party. But were we ever? Between 1918 and 1979, we never had more than seven seats in Wales (out of nearly forty), Northern Ireland was Conservative only because of our links with the dominant Unionist party. In the cities, notably Glasgow and Liverpool, voters often split on religious grounds, unionist if Protestant, Labour if Roman Catholic. In the Twenties, rural Scotland was often Liberal (as now), becoming Liberal-Unionist and then Unionist with the decline in the then Liberal Party. It would also be true to say that, historically, our vote was drawn from social groups A, B and C1 (a minority) and that it was only with the support of 20 to 25% of Trade Union members (C2, D and E) that there have been Conservative administrations. Large sections of the population no longer identify with any one particular party, as was shown by a recent survey.
Of course we need to broaden our appeal and to seek to empathise with those who would not be regarded as our natural supporters. I would be the first to admit that the further north we go the more appalling our electoral performance is. In many parts of the country, particularly Scotland,. We are not even "also rans", so dismal is our showing. In spite of devolution and the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish National Party remains strong in what were once safe Conservative seats – Moray, Banff, Angus and Perth. These seem lost causes and, unless there is an upheaval of cataclysmic proportions in 2009/2010, our advances will be in a couple of seats in Wales where, with a bit of luck we may become the main opposition party after the 2007 Assembly Elections, and in the English suburban and semi-rural seats such as Stroud, Worcester and Cheltenham – seats which were once considered safe for us. And it is alarming that even in 2005 we somehow managed to lose Westmoreland and Solihull to the Liberal Democrats. Although in England we polled more votes than Labour, we are still lost to the five or six million who gave us such strong support in the 1980s and early 90s. And also to the thousand upon thousand of voters in the seaside and spa towns – Bath, Harrogate, Torbay and Southport – once Conservative certainties. Until we re-engage with them we will have no chance of reorganising power. For the first time since 1832. We have had less than 200 MPs in three successive Parliaments.
Ton y Blair often asks his colleagues about his legacy, i.e. what will he have achieved during his Premiership. He will NOT want to be reminded of the fact that two of the three General Elections he has won will be on the lowest percentage poll since 1918 (when not everyone had the vote) and to be head of the first government elected by less than 40% of those voting – and at a time when voting by post without have the bother to go to a polling station, has been the easiest in living memory.
But to return to us. On the bright side we have over 50 new faces in Parliament; many will be excellent members; some will have the ability to be future ministers. And they know the awesome mountain we have to climb. It certainly is not the beginning of the end, but may be the end of the beginning. We are back in business and it is good to be winning parliamentary seats again. We are the biggest party in local government and, although largely un-noticed, we gained control of an extra five County Councils on 5th May. After eight years we are back to a similar situation as in 1945. After our massive defeat then, R.A. Butler and the Conservative Research Department began a whole scale re-think of our policies and many policy documents were produced, paving the way for the successive Conservative administrations from 1951 to 1964. We need a similar approach now. But we should never be afraid to restate our basic principles – our belief in a smaller role for government in people’s every day lives, the rejection of a European Super State in which the United Kingdom is a mere province (made much easier by the recent referenda in France and Holland, the moral case for lower taxation and the need for a modernised welfare state which protects the most vulnerable in society but discourages the idea that it is just as easy to be on benefit as it is to work. We need to be bold and imaginative and to, once again, set the people free. And I agree that we need to change the perception of how others often see us – elderly, out of touch, snobbish and wealthy. And to those moaning minnies who say it cannot be done (and the many others disillusioned with the political system), we need to remind them that things can change provided the will is there. History, so often derided by the present government, , proves that.
It may be that, given the electoral mountain we have to climb, Labour could win again in 2009/2010. But it will be a tired government, 12 or 18 years old, which might well depend for its majority on the 40 or so Labour MPs in Scotland. And then the "West Lothian" question will finally have to be addressed. Why should MPs from Scotland vote on matters affecting England when such matters cannot be voted for in Scotland, as they are the sole responsibility of the Scottish Parliament? Even today, here in Wales, where we have only secondary legislation, our prescription charges are now £4 and are due to be abolished by 2008.
And what of the future? The whole party is indebted to both Michael and Sandra Howard for the selfless way they fought and gave of their time and energy to the election and for the months of preparation leading up to it. Last October, I was privileged to attend the Party Conference in Bournemouth and I heard Michael Howard’s speech late on the Tuesday morning. It was, for want of a better description, a "hopes and dreams" speech and it may well be, as some have suggested, we failed to raise the hopes and dreams of the electorate. The general public was not ready for us. We were not imaginative enough and we fell into the trap of allowing the opposition to misrepresent our policies – particularly on public expenditure. The following statistic came to light this morning: In 1997 there were 2,000,000 people in the United Kingdom living near the poverty line. Eight years later and an increase public expenditure from 322 Billion to 516 Billion (60%), the figure is still 2,000,000. We are failing to question why the problem still remains and failing to hold the Government to account for its failures.
I think we can safely say that 30% of the electorate will continue to vote right of centre until, for want of a better expression, "all hell freezes over". Our new leader’s task is to increase that 30% to 40% - not easy, given the circumstances. What qualities does he or she need? He/she must look and act like a Prime Minister in waiting and must be able to communicate with public via the media (particularly television). He/she needs to recognise the vast social and economic changes which have taken place in the last 25 years. He/she must always be true to Conservative values and principles and must resist any attempt to model the party on New Labour, with its control freakery and statist solution. Power needs to be devolved away from central bureaucracies to local communities. I am fed up with those who call themselves Conservatives continually denigrating out past achievements and the policies of successive Conservative governments which they were only too eager to carry out. Michael Portillo, once a bete noir of the left, has experienced a conversion to the policies of "inclusiveness" that rivals St Paul’s when on the road to Damascus! And what on earth does Iain Duncan Smith mean when he said in a recent article in the Sunday Times "We’ll win when we get the guilt out of voting Tory". The implication was that Conservative voters are selfish and indifferent to the plight of the poor and less well off. This is obviously untrue – 90% of Conservative voters, maybe more, regularly use the NHS, see and know how it works; its successes and failures. David Cameron, our Education spokesman, has a severely disabled young son who attends a state day centre. Many other Conservative support voluntary organisations. Many are engaged in charitable work. But we have only ourselves to blame for allowing such perceptions to permeate.
Today we have a government that is bossy, interfering, intrusive and revels in having more and more people dependent on the State for their livelihood. It says it seeks to help the hard working families of middle Britain but at the same time penalises them with stealth taxes and bureaucratic meddling. It issues forms for the claiming of benefits, tax credits and so on that are, to most people, incomprehensible rubbish. Because the economy has been performing reasonably well and people don’t feel badly off, the New Labour experiment, Third Way or whatever you like to call it, has been allowed to run its course. It will eventually come to end; probably when the Governments runs out of money and cannot then keeps its lavish spending promises.
At that point, the public will look to us to see if we can provide an alternative. If we have learnt from our past mistakes, have developed sensible workable policies which can be put into action and can show we are fully in tune with modern Britain, then I am confident that once again we will be called to serve our country.

Ideas That Lead
Henry Curteis

The launch of the pamphlet Direct Democracy on Monday 13th June at Foyles 
Bookshop was a defining moment.  The BBC's TV report focused on the growing 
band of leadership contenders who all showed their faces.  The tone as so 
often was weary and cynical.

That's not how the presentation of the ideas contained in the pamphlet, 
serialised in the DT last week, came across.  The ideas are fresh, 
well-thought-out, holistic and just right to meet the wall of cynicism that 
pervades.  The product is good, the accumulated work of excellent minds 
looking to relieve the political misery of our age - to my mind succeeding. 
Douglas Carswell and his colleagues worked in the Conservative Policy 
Unit for three years to create this comprehensive political philosophy - 
many of them appointed while IDS was Party Leader.

Although the pamphlet has a powerful message, it has been designed as a 
tentative first step in provoking discussion within the Conservative Party, 
and the Civil Service, and is accordingly modest in its pitch.

There is however another audience which will want to read Direct Democracy, 
and that is the consumer of the political process - the public.  In a sense 
the democratic message contained in the pamphlet is more one for the 
ordinary person more than one for those who  are already in the pay of the 
system.  To speak directly to the public, the pamphlet cannot be so modest 
in its approach,  and needs to be more honest about the scope of its 

The sub-title of Direct Democracy 'An Agenda for a New Model Party', 
completely understates the true objective - which is to bring about 
fundamental change to the way that the British political process works - and 
through that to effect major improvements to the quality of peoples' lives.  
Of course the first step along this journey is to get the Conservative Party 
to buy into these objectives, and the philosophy that will make them happen.

Being modest and understated might well play well within the glasshouse of 
the Conservative Parliamentary Party, but members of the public need 
messages to be spelt out if they are to connect with them.  I would suggest 
to Douglas Carswell and his friends that they look beyond the organisation 
that pays their salaries, and target the pamphlet on the bigger audience, 
with the real message.  This is an Agenda not just for a revamped 
Conservative Party - but for the social and political renewal of Britain.  
The public need to be told about it.

The pamphlet needs a stronger title such as 'DIRECT DEMOCRACY - from 
political cynicism to national revival.'  I defer to more skilful 
copywriters, but the message needs to hook the attention of the public as 
well as prompt Conservative Party policy-makers, if it is to achieve its 

June 12th                                
Tory Power Play: A Summary
A small but strategically positioned group are making a play for control of the Conservative Party. Their instrument is the Party’s Board. Their method is the package of changes to the Party’s Constitution proposed on 24th May 2005, together with less noticed alterations to the rules governing the Candidates List.
The proposals amount to nothing less than a quiet coup, an all-out, simultaneous attack on the rights of Members of Parliament, their constituency associations and candidates. The constitutional rights of all three are inextricably linked. They hang together or hang separately.
Yet More Power for The Board
Though it plans to hack at the rights of others – including the Leader - the Board is eager to win more rights for itself. As for CCO, the only specific proposal is for it seek "Investors in People" status.
Under Part IV of the Party’s Constitution the Board is "the supreme decision making body in matters of party organisation and management". So powerful a body should perhaps be representative of the Party as a whole. It isn’t. Amongst its 17 members there’s only one person representing the entire parliamentary party. Not one of the five voluntary party representatives is directly elected by the mass membership, or even by constituency executives.
The appetite grows with eating. The Party’s 1998 Constitution granted huge powers to the Board in what was supposed to be a long lasting settlement. Seven years later the clique is back, hungry for more.
The Proposed Rule Changes
  • "The Leader shall exercise [his or her] Constitutional powers in association with, and with the agreement of" the Board. Yet the existing Constitution states that "The Leader shall determine the political direction of the Party". Is the Board going to try and run policy too?
  • The 1922 Committee is being asked to "submit their rules for approval and incorporation into the Constitution". A Board-influenced Convention vote could therefore impose new rules on Members of Parliament.
  • The Board will have the final say on whether Conservative MPs will be allowed to stand for re-election. The proposals will make MPs members of the Candidates List and allows the Board the power to suspend or remove them, in which case their local associations cannot re-adopt them.
  • The Board proposes to remove the rules concerning the selection of candidates (including re-selection of MPs) from the Party Constitution and replace them with "Guidelines" which local parties will be obliged to follow and the Board can alter at any time. At the moment the Constitution provides a sitting MP with considerable protection against de-selection; for instance the right to insist on a postal ballot of his association’s membership. Leaving such rules in the Constitution would mean they could only be altered after securing the support of a two-thirds majority of both MPs and the National Convention.
  • A new set of criteria imposed by the Committee on Candidates in May 2005 blatantly intimidates not only candidates but MPs who under the new rules would also become members of the List. The "Agreement" allows removal from the List if they "make public statements against the Leader of the Party", "work against the interests of an Association and/or the Party" or are "the cause of embarrassing media coverage."
  • Grouping associations – which CCO wants in "most parts of the country" - will dilute an MP’s local support and deprive him of a separate constituency organisation. Local officers need not even be his constituents. This is a recipe for disunity. Up to 400 constituency associations will disappear. Mergers will usually be mandatory. Those that cannot afford a agent will be merged, regardless of how effective they are.
  • The Board wants to turn associations into "franchises"The OED defines these as "authorisation granted…by a company to sell its goods or services in a particular way". In other words the centre will own the Conservative Party and its volunteers are just local suppliers. The core of any franchise will be "non negotiable".
  • The Board wants to dilute the rights of MPs and associations by merging them, plus agents, in a new Convention. Yet involving MPs will allow other sections of the Party a direct say in the way they do business. Bringing in so many elected representatives will also destroy the Convention’s role as the voice of the voluntary party. Constituency chairmen and area/regional officers will be swamped. And is it really a good idea to include paid staff who, when push comes to shove, will be expected to toe the official line?
Next Steps
The proposals must be stopped; the Board must not only be told to think again, it must initiate a genuine discussion within the Party over what kind of rules and organisation it really needs.
And it is truly shameful that the Board intends to put its many proposals en bloc to the Party’s Constitutional College. Each measure should be voted on separately, as befits their individual significance.
Tory Power Play
How Rule Changes Will Enable
a Clique to Seize Control
of the Conservative Party
at the Expense of Members of Parliament
and their Local Associations
Tory Power Play: A Summary
A small but strategically positioned group are making a play for control of the Conservative Party. Their instrument is the Party’s Board. Their method is the package of changes to the Party’s Constitution proposed on 24th May 2005, together with less noticed alterations to the rules governing the Candidates List.
The proposals amount to nothing less than a quiet coup, an all-out, simultaneous attack on the rights of Members of Parliament, their constituency associations and candidates. The constitutional rights of all three are inextricably linked. They hang together or hang separately.
Yet More Power for The Board
Though it plans to hack at the rights of others – including the Leader - the Board is eager to win more rights for itself. As for CCO, the only specific proposal is for it seek "Investors in People" status.
Under Part IV of the Party’s Constitution the Board is "the supreme decision making body in matters of party organisation and management". So powerful a body should perhaps be representative of the Party as a whole. It isn’t. Amongst its 17 members there’s only one person representing the entire parliamentary party. Not one of the five voluntary party representatives is directly elected by the mass membership, or even by constituency executives.
The appetite grows with eating. The Party’s 1998 Constitution granted huge powers to the Board in what was supposed to be a long lasting settlement. Seven years later the clique is back, hungry for more.
The Proposed Rule Changes
  • "The Leader shall exercise [his or her] Constitutional powers in association with, and with the agreement of" the Board. Yet the existing Constitution states that "The Leader shall determine the political direction of the Party". Is the Board going to try and run policy too?
  • The 1922 Committee is being asked to "submit their rules for approval and incorporation into the Constitution". A Board-influenced Convention vote could therefore impose new rules on Members of Parliament.
  • The Board will have the final say on whether Conservative MPs will be allowed to stand for re-election. The proposals will make MPs members of the Candidates List and allows the Board the power to suspend or remove them, in which case their local associations cannot re-adopt them.
  • The Board proposes to remove the rules concerning the selection of candidates (including re-selection of MPs) from the Party Constitution and replace them with "Guidelines" which local parties will be obliged to follow and the Board can alter at any time. At the moment the Constitution provides a sitting MP with considerable protection against de-selection; for instance the right to insist on a postal ballot of his association’s membership. Leaving such rules in the Constitution would mean they could only be altered after securing the support of a two-thirds majority of both MPs and the National Convention.
  • A new set of criteria imposed by the Committee on Candidates in May 2005 blatantly intimidates not only candidates but MPs who under the new rules would also become members of the List. The "Agreement" allows removal from the List if they "make public statements against the Leader of the Party", "work against the interests of an Association and/or the Party" or are "the cause of embarrassing media coverage."
  • Grouping associations – which CCO wants in "most parts of the country" - will dilute an MP’s local support and deprive him of a separate constituency organisation. Local officers need not even be his constituents. This is a recipe for disunity. Up to 400 constituency associations will disappear. Mergers will usually be mandatory. Those that cannot afford a agent will be merged, regardless of how effective they are.
  • The Board wants to turn associations into "franchises"The OED defines these as "authorisation granted…by a company to sell its goods or services in a particular way". In other words the centre will own the Conservative Party and its volunteers are just local suppliers. The core of any franchise will be "non negotiable".
  • The Board wants to dilute the rights of MPs and associations by merging them, plus agents, in a new Convention. Yet involving MPs will allow other sections of the Party a direct say in the way they do business. Bringing in so many elected representatives will also destroy the Convention’s role as the voice of the voluntary party. Constituency chairmen and area/regional officers will be swamped. And is it really a good idea to include paid staff who, when push comes to shove, will be expected to toe the official line?
Next Steps
The proposals must be stopped; the Board must not only be told to think again, it must initiate a genuine discussion within the Party over what kind of rules and organisation it really needs.
And it is truly shameful that the Board intends to put its many proposals en bloc to the Party’s Constitutional College. Each measure should be voted on separately, as befits their individual significance.
        A Quiet Coup
Even More Power to the Board
Undermining the Parliamentary Party
Having the Last Word on Selections
          and Deselections
Intimidating Candidates – and MPs
Breaking the MP-Constituency Link
The Kentucky Fried Chicken Principle:
                Associations as "Franchises"
Divide and Rule: "Reforming"
                              the National Convention
 A Quiet Coup A small but strategically positioned group are making a play for control of the Conservative Party. Their instrument is the Party’s Board. Their method is the package of changes to the Party’s Constitution proposed on 24th May 2005, together with less noticed alterations to the rules governing the Candidates List. The much-talked about changes to the way the Party elects its Leader are in fact less significant than these other, apparently technical, proposals.
The rule changes are nothing less than a quiet coup, an all-out, simultaneous attack on the rights of Members of Parliament, their constituency associations and candidates. And the rights of all three are inextricably linked. If they don’t hang together they hang separately.
The Conservative Party has just told the voters that it is dedicated to protecting traditional freedoms and local control. It’s high time we prized the same principles in our own organisation. More centralisation will stifle and degrade it.
If Centralisation is the Answer…
The Board of the Conservative Party thinks it knows better. In his Introduction to A 21st Century Party, its ‘consultation paper’ on the rule changes, Party Chairman Francis Maude says (page 3) that the proposals "do not seek some artificial balance between competing components: between centre and associations; or between volunteers, professionals and politicians." The Board wants "A single party structure where there would no longer be barriers between volunteer, politician and professional" (page 2).
Yet volunteer, politician and professional have different perspectives on how the Party should be run. Those perspectives are not only valid, they are indispensable to our success, growing as they do out of different experiences of politics. They are expressed via different structures within our organisation for MPs, volunteers and officials so that each voice may be heard more clearly. Taken together they give the Party a holistic vision, a far better sense of where it should be going and how to appeal to the electorate. It may look messy but it works. It’s called freedom. It also provides safeguards against one section dominating the Party at the expense of the others.
Yet that’s just what the Board appears to want – more power to the centre. Though it hacks at the rights of others – MPs, local associations, candidates, councillors, peers and MEPs would all loose freedoms under the new proposals – the Board is eager to win more rights for itself. As for CCO, the only specific proposal is for it seek "Investors in People" status as an employer.
Remind You of Anything?
The dream of "one party" sounds too much like the old Communist Party for comfort, a nightmare where a small clique gives orders to everyone else. Lenin called it "democratic centralism", the rest of us called it oppression. It led to isolation of the ruling group and total failure.
The methods used remind us of another of the Conservative Party’s least favourite institutions, the European Commission. That’s another set-up that says centralisation is the answer before it’s even heard the question. It likes to bury real issues in obtuse details in the hope that nobody will notice that another power grab is under way. The Eurocrats are particularly good at dressing up the destruction of fundamental freedoms in the language of efficiency and effectiveness. Any careful reader of A 21st Century Party will be disturbed by the similarities.
The appetite grows with eating. The more powers ceded to the centre the more they will be used and the more power that will be sought. The Constitution agreed in 1998 granted huge powers to the Board but was supposed to be a long lasting settlement. Seven years later the clique is back, hungry for more.
The Power Seekers
Who are the clique? The Board is part power base, part fa├žade for other elements; some of its members must surely be unaware of the true purpose of the proposals they have put their names to. Behind them stand certain officials in Central Office; a handful of well-positioned MPs who have scant regard for their parliamentary colleagues; perhaps some amongst the current Leader’s own advisors. These are the people who prefer private deals to public debate, who often find other Conservatives boring and provincial and who are consequently ignorant of how our Party really thinks and feels.
Their political motivations are mixed. Some are technocrats, convinced that the man hunched over his database always knows best. Some scorn the Party’s opposition to European integration. Some are so-called ‘modernisers’ who think bringing the Party up-to-date means flying in the face of the truly modern Britain we Conservatives helped create; they want more centralisation, less local freedom, less democracy, less independent thought. Don’t they realise Britain tried all that when it had nationalised industries and trade union barons?
The vague, bland and boring list of Party "values" (page 27) - which can’t even bring itself to mention a commitment to Britain’s national sovereignty - suggests that some of them want a Party with no deep rooted beliefs at all, just one that can be moulded like plasticine to meet the ambitions of the moment. Most MPs and local associations don’t feel that way – which may be why there’s a drive to destroy their freedoms.
The proposals must be stopped; the Board must not only be told to think again, it must initiate a true discussion within the Party over what kind of rules and organisation it really needs.
And it is truly shameful that the Board intends to put its many proposals en bloc to the Party’s Constitutional College. Each measure should be voted on separately, as befits their individual significance. ‘Decoupling’ the proposals for changes in the rules for electing the Leader from other constitutional issues is quite insufficient.
Francis Maude says that "The Conservative Party at its best and most successful has always been prepared to embrace change" (page 4). It is also at its best when it simply defends freedom. Sometimes that just means saying "no".
Even More Power to the Board
 Under Part IV of the Party’s Constitution the Board is "the supreme decision making body in matters of party organisation and management".
It is responsible for the Party’s campaigning, organisation, membership and fund-raising strategies. It sets its own rules, appoints senior CCO staff, has an absolute discretion over expelling members of the Party (every MP has to be a paid-up member), and can remove any elected association, area or regional officers regardless of the views of the members who voted for them. It has huge control over the Approved List of Candidates via its offshoot, the Candidates Committee.
So powerful a body should be representative of the Party as a whole. It isn’t.
Amongst its 17 members there’s only one person representing the entire parliamentary party.
Though the Board was sold to ordinary party workers as being a voice for the ordinary member they have only five ‘representatives’. Not one of them is directly elected by the mass membership, or even by constituency association executives.
The Party Chairman (who chairs the Board) and the Party Treasurer are appointed by the Leader.
2 members are CCO employees
The Scottish and Welsh parties have one representative each.
2 of the current members have been co-opted
Hardly a parliament of the Conservative Party. Only two of the Board (the 1922 Chairman and MEP Leader) are directly elected by the entire memberships of the groups they represent. Yet this body is seeking to obtain even more power over MPs, constituency associations, councillors, peers and MEPs. They even want power over the Leader of the Party.
 More Power over the Leader
The proposed rule changes stipulate that "the Leader shall exercise [his or her] Constitutional powers in association with, and with the agreement of," the Board (page 22) This is a momentous power play; Part II, Section 11 of the existing Constitution states that "The Leader shall determine the political direction of the Party". Is the Board going to try and run policy too? It says that the new proposals would allow the Leader to exercise similar power over them. The best one can say about this is that the ‘mutual veto’ rule is a recipe for chaos and confusion. A worse prospect is that a future Board (and its behind the scenes allies) could work to frustrate the plans of a democratically elected Leader.
More Power over MPs, MEPs and Candidates
The Board will have the final say in whether Conservative MPs will be allowed to stand for re-election. The proposals will make MPs members of the Candidates List (page 21) and allow the Board the power to suspend or remove them, in which case their local associations could not re-adopt them. The same rules will apply to MEPs.
The Board also proposes to delete almost every rule concerning the selection of candidates, replacing them by a provision that local parties must abide by Board selection "guidelines" (page 14). This is sold as a simplification. But A 21st Century Party makes clear that the Board will be able to create new rules at will without having to seek MP and voluntary party approval.
The proposals also give the Board power to instruct the Party’s Nominating Officer not to authorise the nomination of a candidate (page 21) – a powerful last-minute way of knocking out an MP or candidate just before the close of nominations.
More Power over Constituency Associations
The Board would be able to merge constituency associations (pages 8-9), make new candidate selection rules unilaterally (page 14), and impose "non-negotiable" conditions on associations (page 10) as part of the new "franchise" concept.
More Power over Councillors
"We propose to include some basic mandatory rules for Conservative Groups as a schedule to the Constitution"(page 23)The Board will have the final say over any draft produced by the Conservative Councillors Association.
 The proposals will also allow the Board power to suspend or expel its own members, even if they were elected by MPs or appointed by the Leader. They also include provisions given it "the power to deal with any matter not provided for in the Party’s Constitution" and "The power to interpret any rule where there is any ambiguity" (page 22).
Undermining The Parliamentary Party
The proposed rule changes could mark the beginning of the end of the 1922 Committee’s freedoms.
The 1922 Committee is being asked to "submit their rules for approval and incorporation into the Constitution" (page 23) – which means MPs will have to bow before other parts of the Party on matters that have historically been for MPs alone. A Board-influenced Convention vote could impose new rules on elected representatives, just as the Labour Conference used to do to .
MPs will sit in the Convention (pages 17-18). This may sound like an additional right but in reality it paves the way for the rest of the party making rules for the parliamentary party. After all if MPs sit in the same body it can’t just be a case of them making rules for others, they’ll end up making rules for MPs too.
Most party workers don’t want a right to tell MPs what to do, they only want to be listened to. So why does the Board want so revolutionary a change?
Having the Last Word on Selections
and Deselections
 Two major proposals pose a profound threat to MPs and candidates. The Board already has great powers via its Committee on Candidates, determining its composition and appointing the Chairman. The Committee draws up the Approved List for Westminster candidates; associations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can only select from that List. The two fundamental changes are as follows:
The Board to have the final say in whether a Conservative MP or MEP will be allowed to stand for re-election
"We propose to make it explicit that MPs and MEPs in receipt of the Conservative Whip are automatically included on the relevant Approved List" (page 21). The proposals will also grant the Board the power to suspend or remove an MP from the Candidates List in which case he or she cannot be re-adopted by their local association. The same rules will also harm MEPs who have fallen out of favour with the centre.
The proposals also give the Board power to instruct the Party’s Nominating Officer not to authorise the nomination of a candidate at election time.
The Board to Dictate Rules on Selection and Deselection
The Board proposes to remove rules concerning the selection of candidates (including re-selection of MPs) from the Party Constitution and replace them with Guidelines that it can alter at any time. Local parties will be obliged to follow those guidelines. As the Board says "Simplifying the Constitution in this way will allow us to adapt our candidate selection procedures without having to amend the Constitution" (page 14). At the moment we are told that the new guidelines "will reflect existing practice". How long will it stay that way?
At the moment the Constitution provides a sitting MP with considerable protection against de-selection; for instance the right to insist on a postal ballot of his association’s entire membership.
Leaving such rules in the Constitution would mean that they can only be altered after proper notice and securing the support of a two-thirds majority of both MPs and the National Convention. Putting such power in the hands of the Board means destroying those safeguards.
Intimidating Candidates - and MPs
A new ‘loyalty oath’ imposed on applicants for the Approved List by the Committee on Candidates in May 2005 opens the way to blatant intimidation of MPs as well as ordinary party members wishing to stand for Parliament. Remember that the Board wants MPs to become members of the Approved List and therefore subject to its rules.
The so-called Agreement for Being Accepted as, and Remaining a Candidate for the Conservative Party establishes no less than 15 grounds on which someone might be removed from the Approved List. Some are sensible e.g falsification of a CV or being convicted of a criminal offence. Others are so broad as to stifle and penalise the expression of legitimate opinions:
"…(iii) proclaiming views incompatible with the views of the Party…
…iv) making public statements against the Leader of the Party…
…viii) working against the interests of an Association and/or the Party…
…xiii) being the cause of embarrassing media coverage…
…xv) if it is the opinion of the Committee on Candidates that a candidate is not suitable to represent the Party as a Parliamentary Candidate."
Such draconian rules smack of the old Communist Party. But do the Board and its allies really think it is in the interests of today’s Conservative Party, let alone our nation, for its MPs and candidates to bullied into total orthodoxy? Or is that what the Board wants?
Applicants for the Candidates List are expected to sign up by 31st July. MPs have been told they will not have to sign yet the "Agreement" yet the Board’s own statements show clearly that it will apply to them if the rules changes go through.
Breaking the MP-Constituency Link
 MPs need free-standing constituency associations to support them in both campaigning and dealing with the centre. Grouping associations – which CCO wants in "most parts of the country" (pages 7-8) - will dilute an MP’s local support and deprive him of a separate constituency organisation that he can relate to and depend on in time of crisis.
MPs will often face officers who do not live in their constituencies and who will therefore have less knowledge, interest and sympathy in their problems. Such officers may in turn be more susceptible to central pressure. This is a recipe for disunity and disloyalty.
The Board hastens to reassure us that its proposals will not break the link between MPs/candidates and their Associations. Yet this is inevitable as local parties grow more distant, just as new and bigger local authorities have become distant.
This is not to say that merger may not be the right course in some circumstances; but the Constitution already provides for the voluntary formation of federations. The Board’s proposals are about forced mergers regardless of impact or need.
A 21st Century Party makes clear that:
Up to 400 constituency associations will disappear. "Across the country as a whole, we initially envisage somewhere in the region of 200-300 local parties" (page 9).
Mergers will usually be mandatory. The best the Board can offer (page 8) is that "the precise boundaries of local parties throughout the country" should be a matter for local decision. Each area will be expected to submit a draft structure to the Board which will have the final say.
The employment of a qualified or trainee agent will be a requirement of being a local party (page 9). Those that cannot afford one will be merged, regardless of how effective they are.
The survival of even the best associations will depend on the Board’s say-so: "We will be happy to approve single constituency local parties if they can meet the responsibilities set out below..(e.g to employ a qualified or trainee agent)..and if doing so doesn’t derail the structure for the rest of the relevant area." (page 9).
Power will drain entirely from constituency associations: agents will report to these groups; the assets of associations would transfer to the new local parties (page 9).
The Board envisages a bright future with the new merged associations "operating out of modern, well-equipped offices and employing qualified staff…The cost of employing staff and of running an office would be shared across several constituencies" (page 9) There is no information as to how this Utopia will be paid for.
So Much for Members
And for all the Board’s talk of vibrant local parties it’s clear that there’s little serious interest in recruiting new members: "Local parties covering more than one constituency would mean we have to find fewer people" (page 8). This despite the fact that gains of even a half a dozen active members per association would often make a radical difference to their effectiveness.
The idea that mergers always produce more dynamic organisations might be described as "The British Leyland fallacy". Mergers can kill enthusiasm by destroying old attachments and loyalties. Fewer posts can mean people loosing interest as they are elbowed aside. Even the Board admits that there will be concerns: "Will multi-constituency local parties be seen as distant and hence weaken, not strengthen, our local organisation?" (page 10).
MPs and candidates will continue, at least for the moment, to be re-selected/selected solely by members resident in their constituency (page 10) but how much will this matter when power and influence in the local party will often lie elsewhere? How strong can loyalties to MPs and candidates be in such circumstances?
The Kentucky Fried Chicken Principle: Associations as "Franchises"
The Board’s "vision is of local parties holding a franchise" from the centre (page 10). The Oxford English Dictionary defines a franchise as "authorisation granted to an individual or group by a company to sell its goods or services in a particular way". In other words associations are meant to do almost exactly as they are told. It leaves little room for local rights and freedoms; the centre – in this case the Board – owns the Conservative Party and its volunteers are mere suppliers.
A 21st Century Party makes clear that the core of any franchise will be "non negotiable" (page 10). Accountability will be a very much a one-way street; the Board and CCO will carry on as usual.
The so-called "rights" offered to local parties are risible (pages 11-13): none of them compensate for the loss of autonomy involved in franchising and mergers.
The centre will only intervene "in accordance with the Party’s Constitution". How generous of the Board to promise to act according to the rules of the Party!
A local party may "select its own candidates provided it does so in accordance with the Party’s Constitution." This, of course, is a right associations already have.
Abolition of the central membership scheme is a ‘concession’ of little value as CCO reserves the right to conduct two national financial appeals a year, doing no more than inform local parties beforehand.
Divide and Rule: "Reforming" The Convention
The Board argues that the Convention should be composed of politicians, volunteers and professionals It therefore proposes (page 17) to "establish a new Convention" comprising MPs, peers, MEPs, MSPs and Welsh Assembly Members, leaders of council groups and "in a non-voting capacity, Agents, Area Campaign Directors and the senior professional staff at Conservative Campaign Headquarters."
This bland description omits some vital issues. The Board’s proposals will lead to serious erosion of the both MP and voluntary party rights and set the two sections against each other. Only the centre will win out.
Eroding the Rights of Law Makers
Involving MPs in the Convention will mean that other sections of the Party will have a direct say on their rules and the way they do business – a major breech of Britain’s historic constitution. The same danger will apply to other legislators - Conservative members of the House of Lords, MEPs, MSPs and MWAs.
Swamping Party Workers
Bringing in so many elected representatives will also destroy the Convention’s role as the voice of the voluntary party. Constituency chairmen and area/regional officers will be swamped.
Giving an Even More Powerful Say to the Centre
Including paid staff may damage the Convention’s independence. After all, when push comes to shove, Party employees will be expected to toe the official line and liable for punishment if they do not. And how long will it be before the Board seeks to award them voting, as well as speaking, rights?

May 8th
Henry Curteis                                    

So we lost.  Labour's Historic Third Term is secured.  Blair's smirk arcs around the back of his face once more.  All is as it should be.  Or is it?

Take the case of the lost and strangely included voters.  The rules for overseas voters were changed to exclude many serving members of the Armed Forces, and so too were many expatriates barred from voting by Labour's recent rule changes.  As John Strafford pointed out, 500,000 citizens of the Irish Republic resident in Britain are allowed to vote in British elections while many British citizens are barred.

There are other areas of concern.  The postal vote tally in the 2005 election is quite remarkable- around 6 million people voted by post - about 15% of all votes cast, where previously around 5% of votes were postal.  The growth in postal voting was mostly to do with Labour organising postal voting centrally.  Of the 6 million votes cast, around 5 million were for Labour - almost one third of all the votes cast for Labour in the election.

It is said that only a few of these were used fraudulently in exceptional cases, and yet as there is no audit or estimate being prepared publicly, no one can make such a statement and be certain of its veracity.  It is indeed odd if there was almost no fraud as is being claimed by Labour, that no less a person than John Humphrys of the BBC found that he could not vote when he arrived at his polling booth, as someone had used his name and applied for a
postal vote.  If there was only one person in the country who was defrauded, it is some coincidence that that person was John Humphrys.

There were of course thousands of voters who suffered the same experience as John Humphrys on polling day, but as to exactly how many there were and which constituencies they were in, it is unlikely that any news media will dare to investigate or publicise estimates given the Labour Government's willingness to use its powers to crush the media trying to reveal Labour's dirty secrets.

It is not a difficult sum to work out how many fraudulent votes would have been needed to give Labour her majority of 66.  If 33 more seats had been won by other parties, then Labour would have had no majority at all.  In 33 key marginals, 3,000 votes per constituency or 100,000 extra votes in total would have swung the results comfortably.   That would only be 2% of the
Labour postal votes cast in this election - or 1 in 50.  It is my opinion based on these estimates that without the fraudulent voting Labour could not have won this election.  In fact they could have lost.

The fact that fraud has certainly taken place on a substantial scale is bad enough.   What is almost more frightening is the fact that no news medium is making any attempt to arrive at a view of how great and important the fraud might have been in the actual election result.  It is also noticeable that Michael Howard has made no attempt to obtain evidence as to how much fraud has taken place before conceding the election.

The fact is that this could certainly be a historic election result - not for the reasons given by Labour - but because this could be the first election in British democratic history where the result was achieved directly and only as a result of the use of fraudulent practices.  It would
be nice to know.

If we ever doubted it, we are in any case, scarcely living in a democracy at all.   We will soon be ripe for absorption into the European Constitution, with power so centralised that ordinary people will matter no more.  In PR elections fraud will be so much easier for the perpetrators.  With finite constituency voting as we have in Britain it is easy to detect and prevent
electoral fraud if the government wishes to do so.  The current 'historic' government does not so desire.

Henry Curteis  2005.5.7

April 30th 
A Conservative
South Wales has never taken our Party to its heart and for over 80 years 75% of the constituencies have returned Labour Members of Parliament. But the Vale of Glamorgan constituency, in which I live, has never shown such emotional attachment and for 37 years from 1951 to 1989 returned a Conservative to the House of Commons. At the 1989 by election, the present MP defeated a right wing Conservative who later became a junior minister in John Major’s Government. But the MP was himself defeated by another right winger in 1992 (by only 20 votes) – until regaining the seat by a margin of 10,000 votes in the Labour landslide of 1991. In 2001 he retained his seat by just over 5,000 votes in a swing to the right of 5% which if it had been reproduced nationally would have given us an extra 50 seats. The constituency is marginal and volatile. It stretches from the outskirts of Cardiff on the East, 20 miles to the outskirts of Bridgend on the West. Its northern border roughly follows the path of the M4, the southern border overlooks the Bristol Channel. On a clear day the Devon/Somerset coast can be seen. The port of Barry in the south eastern part of the constituency gives Labour its majority. RAF St Athan and the cement works at Aberthaw are the other major employers. In between are prosperous market towns such as Llantwit Major and Cowbridge, smaller villages with hanging baskets and more often than not a pub – the Red Lion, the City Inn, the Fox and Hounds etc. – as well as a sizeable farming community. The Vale of Glamorgan Hunt always used to meet on Boxing Day. Because of the proximity of the M4, commuting to Swansea and West Wales and to Bristol and Southern England is relatively easy. The seat is highly marginal and one in which we must do well to have any chance nationally. What then are our chances?
The local association has chosen a first class candidate, who lives locally and is a member of the Welsh Assembly. He is already holding ‘surgeries’ had helping constituents with their problems – notably the still long waiting lists for hospital treatment and the rise in council tax where, due to revaluation, some properties have risen two bands. Although the Welsh Nationalist Party will make a fairly strong showing (they hold the balance on the conservative led local council with eight seats) the Liberal Democrats are not particularly strong and are unlikely to eat substantially into the Conservative vote as they have done in so many English constituencies.
Will we win here? I think a lot will depend on the campaign nationally and how successful we are in getting Conservative voters to the polling stations. I am not convinced that all our supporters will turn out or that we know who or where they are. Nor do I detect a feeling of: "Let’s get shot of this lot and put in the others". The economic disaster of September 1992 has not completely faded. In one afternoon our reputation for economic competence was blown sky high. Many who would like to support us are still held back for a variety of reasons. Until we can regain that trust and continue to reform we are unlikely to see our MPs with chauffeur driven cars and red boxes. Whatever we say about the Labour Party, this is the first time there has not been a serious economic crisis with a Labour Government in power. The Howard Flight affair has, in my opinion, highlighted one thing. There has been no serious debate during our eight years in opposition as to the role of the state in the provision of public services and as to what percentage of GNP is acceptable in the provision of such services. Labour’s answer has been to pour billions in and to raise taxes, by stealth or otherwise, to finance them. Judging by the proposals, outlined by Oliver Letwin recently, we intend to spend marginally less, leaving maybe £4billion for tax cuts. Michael Howard was right to sack Flight because the implication was that we would impose savage cuts after winning an election but would deceive the public into thinking this was not the case.
I have always felt that the role of the state should be limited and that much of what it does is both wasteful and bureaucratic. Eight years of Labour Government have led to the creating of 500,000 jobs in the public sector and a massive decrease in manufacturing capacity. We have the Government behaving like a benevolent ‘sugar daddy’ handing out money left, right and centre. Is it really true that every 16 year old is being given £75 per week to stay at school? Or have I missed something? At least 25% are leaving without the ability to read, write and spell properly. And we still have very serious problems with drug addiction, violence and petty crime in many of our inner cities; but rapidly spreading to the suburbs and countryside. Many children, sadly, do not know right from wrong. The cane and corporal punishment are banned and any attempt to impose discipline is met with the response "I know my rights" or "I’ll take you to the European Court of Justice", and in raising such concerns, the usual reply is: "You are such a reactionary fuddy-duddy". But should we be surprised? Parliament is no longer sovereign. It shuts down for four days a week and its Prime Minster has to be dragged there once a week to answer irrelevant questions posed by sycophants and "hangers on". To vote in only 7% of the divisions is contemptible and shows how detached the executive has become from the legislative. The Prime Minister should be there to account for decisions taken by the Government. Nowadays we have two people, slugging it out like heavy weight boxers, each exchanging meaningless statistics, across the despatch box
It is easy to see how the Liberal Democrats not having held office for decades can rise above it all and be "holier than thou". Apart from the electoral arithmetic (which is heavily stacked against us) I don’t think we can win, win in 2005. Rachel Sylvester, writing inThe Daily Telegraph" this past week, suggests that reducing taxes and reducing the role of the state in the provision of services, is not a vote winner (at this point in the political cycle). This is not surprising. Eighty per cent of us do not remember life before the welfare state and being conservative with a small"c" we resist change. It takes a Margaret Thatcher to shake us out of our lethargy. Tony Blair has already said that if he wins in 2005 it will be the last election he fights as Prime Minister. So he will be a lame duck PM in any event.
We must continue to reform and be a party ready with new ideas and new solutions in an ever changing world. The Labour Party was prepared to ditch Clause 4 – the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy – but still retained its socialist credentials, notably by abolishing the hereditary peers and fox hunting. So we should never renege on our basic principles – smaller government, greater choice, lower taxes and the rejection of a European Super State in which the United Kingdom is a mere region. At present, the economy on the surface, is looking rosy, but how long this will continue is anybody’s guess. Certain forecasters say that after the Election, Gordon Brown, or his successor, will have to raise taxes to finance the deficit. We must continue to be a party of the moderate centre right. This does not mean agreeing with every public spending commitment made by Labour. But it does mean rejecting really savage cuts by the Howard Flights of this world who can easily pick up directorships worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and have a life style in which private education and private health care are easily affordable. This is, I believe, our major challenge. Despite the tawdriness of the present government, its deceit and manipulative methods, our party is still seen as one in which the Howard Flights of this world flourish. And until we can broaden our appeal and get a few more popularist policies we are going to remain below the magical 40% of the vote and hence in the wilderness for at least ten years. And the Vale of Glamorgan will be bereft of a good Conservative MP.

April 10th                                          
Henry Curteis
There is no doubt that the first past the post (FPTP) electoral system is unfair.   You either vote for the winner and your vote counts, or you vote for a loser and it doesn't.   For some democratic 'purists', this can never be right.   If the 'loser' votes are expressed against the number of MP's elected to Westminster, as in John Strafford's article, and compared to the winner's ratio of votes to seats, the unfairness of the system becomes apparent.

In a proportional voting system on the other hand, every vote counts.  No one can deny that this is the essence of fairness, which is why many claim that PR is therefore a more democratic system.

Democracy literally means government by the people.  In its original form, all the people were able to meet in one place, and shout their vote aloud.  The loudest shout was adjudged the winner.  Obviously someone with a loud voice had more political influence than someone with a gentle voice.  Democracy, even in its original and supposedly purest form, had many aspects
of imperfection.

Democracy as the word suggests is made up of two elements.  First comes the people or the 'demos', and second effective government or '-cracy'.  The presence of both these elements has to be established for a state of democracy to exist  - both effective control of the government by the people and the effectiveness of the resulting government.   With either element absent or insufficient, there is by definition an absence of or an insufficient democracy.   Of the two types of representative democracy that exist today, PR or FPTP which one can claim to be the most democratic?


PR inevitably creates a multi-party system.  That in turn results in almost all governments being formed as coalitions.  As the process of coalition-formation takes place entirely without popular participation, PR is not in truth a fully democratic system, but is only partly democratic.  Elections only create the start point for the coalition negotiations.  The
actual government is formed almost always through coalition formation, not directly by voting.

For the people to be able to decide which government is in power, they must as surely be able to get rid of a government as to select one.  For this to be the case, both selection and dismissal of the government must be achieved directly by voting in elections.  A voter must know exactly how they must vote to achieve the demise of the current regime.  With FPTP this is almost always the case.  If there is a large enough swing away from the party in power, usually that is enough to kick them out.   With PR however, if the coalition partners that made up the government stand together, the government can often hang on, and reshuffle the same coalition with little policy differences to the previous one.

The effect of voting against a PR governing coalition, far from getting rid of the government, can instead have the illogical effect of forcing it to do a deal with a minor party whose agenda is suddenly put into effect as a result - an agenda which was not in the mind of the voter at all.  PR governments know that when they wish they can usually frustrate the popular will by the formation or reshuffling of coalitions.   Without the fear of loss of power, the political trading between parties inevitably becomes affected by agendas of self-interest. Corruption often becomes endemic.

In FPTP on the other hand, only major Parties stand a chance of forming a government, so the factions within Parties, which under PR would fracture, stay together.  They have to thrash out their differences before elections- not afterwards - and stand on a common platform.  The voter knows exactly what they are voting for and what the result will be if their party wins or loses an election.

The reason so many commentators become convinced that PR is more democratic than FPTP, is because they are looking statistically at the method of selection of those who are to govern - the quantitative but not the qualitative.   They forget to look at the result PR has on the effectiveness of government, where coalitions lock governments into compromises both between the parties that make up the coalitions, and often also with other extraneous power blocs such as trades unions.

Under FPTP, governments of consensus can be elected, or when the people feel so inclined, governments of conviction can be elected.  Under PR a government of conviction such as Mrs Thatcher's, willing to tackle trade union power, is less likely to surface - even if the people were trying to vote for such a result - due to the continual need to keep coalitions in place.

If the effectiveness of actual PR governments is looked at critically, it is usually found to be wanting.  Whether taking corruption in France, impotence against trade unions in Germany, or the penetration of organised crime in Italy, it can be easily be argued that countries such as these have no effective democratic centre of power.  These governments have passed to
the EU most of their key decision-making, and they appear impotent to reclaim it, despite majorities in Germany wishing to bring back the DM, and in France to block the growth of the EU.  It seems there is little their electorates can do to influence events.


Some advocates of PR are those who find the policies they are looking for, unavailable on the 'menus' of the main parties.   There might be small parties offering their chosen agenda but these have little chance of winning even one seat.  This they argue gives the small parties little influence under FPTP, making the system not only unfair but ineffective as a democracy.  These arguments sound reasonable but do not stand up to examination.    Because large parties have to operate a 'big tent' approach to win elections, their arms can easily be twisted to alter their policies to stop the growth of determined small parties.

In recent times, there have been a number of cases where small parties have set the national agenda without even coming close to winning a single seat at Westminster.   The Referendum Party was able to force the hand of all the major parties into adopting a policy of a referendum before signing Britain up to the Euro.  This has successfully blocked the Euro ever since.  Without it Blair would without any doubt have signed us into it.

Another recent example of a small party changing history was UKIP's offer of a referendum on the Constitution.  This was immediately copied by the Conservatives and, seeing too many votes slipping away, Labour too had to match the offer.  Again without a referendum, Blair if re-elected would sign the Constitution.  Without UKIP acting as a spur, the Conservatives at a
time when Michael Howard was settling himself in as leader, would have been unlikely to tackle the thorny European issue so directly.

It seems that under FPTP small parties that focus on a narrow range of issues, far from being deprived of influence, have been staggeringly successful at setting the national agenda.  They don't need to win seats to 'win'.  In fact trying too hard to win seats might actually be
counterproductive.  All they need to do is threaten a relatively small percentage of big party votes and they begin to exert unstoppable leverage.

Under PR, however small parties can only get influence by being needed as part of a coalition, or if they sufficiently threaten the support of a coalition.  There are for example small parties in all European countries like the Referendum Party which stood to block the Euro, but they were safely ignored by the ruling coalitions.  This is a good example of how undemocratically PR works in practice.  In Germany there was a large majority of voters in favour of keeping the DM, and yet the DM was lost as the ruling coalition felt able to ignore the popular will.


In times of crisis like the Second World War, or the General Strike, coalition governments were formed under FPTP.  Only when a major emergency was in process was such a blurring of authority able to work.  With an immediate threat concentrating all minds, and neutralising dissent, coalition worked without loss of effectiveness, but in more normal times
when people are often out for themselves, factions see more advantage in pushing their own agendas, and coalitions become a block on progress.  They begin to bar the changes which people wish to vote for.

FPTP can resort to coalition government when that is appropriate, but PR can never obtain the advantages of FPTP whenever they would be right for the times.

British democracy is facing many challenges.  Without Britain's FPTP system, how will the power of the Westminster Parliament be re-established and maintained?   How will Murdoch and the media be brought to heel, or the Executive stopped from running riot, overwhelming small businesses? And how will the EU ever be dealt with in a way which satisfies the increasingly eurosceptic people of Britain?

Under a PR system we would be most unlikely to meet these challenges satisfactorily. Let's make the improvements to FPTP that John Strafford has identified, and keep hold of it.   It might seem strange, but FPTP while being a less fair voting system than PR, is far more democratic in practice.
Democracy has only ever been claimed as the 'least bad form of government'.   Attempts to render it perfect will destroy it.

April 24th
Immigration - boring but?
Aren't you sick of it?   Yet there is one aspect of this boring debate has not been highlighted: 
It is accepted that there are 500,000 illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom.   Nobody knows where they are, but presumably they are surviving by being part of the black economy, paying cash for what they receive and receiving cash for what they do.   In the process, of course, they do not pay tax.   500,000 is about 2% of the working population and in the normal course of events the Government would get about £10 Billion pounds tax from them.    It is time we knew just who was in this country.   After all a £10 Billion input into the Treasury makes the Conservatives promise about a £4 Billion tax cut look like small beer.
Put "poodle" into your search engine and guess what you come up with?   You are right it is the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.   I wonder why?
Freedom, Democracy, Liberty and Justice
So far this campaign has bored the pants off everyone.   It is time to raise it up a level.   If the Tories have any sense they will now concentrate on the great issues of Freedom, Democracy Liberty and Justice and link their policies to these issues.   The people have seen these great principles- destroyed by the Labour Party.   They are screaming out for somebody to fight for them.   Whoever does will win.   If nobody does watch the turnout plummet.
Hard Labour
Hard to afford

Hard to believe
Hard to care
Make life easier.   Elect a Conservative Government
by Henry Curteis
Postal Vote Fraud
Everybody knows that there will be massive postal vote fraud in this election, so why didn't the government bring in individual voter registration as has been done in Northern Ireland?   Is it because when registration was brought in the register declined by 10% and research showed that it was mainly young people that stopped registering?
Another scandal connected to postal voting relates to the postal votes of the Armed Services.   Until 2001 if you were a member of the armed services once registered for a postal vote you continued to be registered.   This was changed and you had to register for each election.    The result of this change is that only 10% of our Armed Services are registered.   Is it anything to do with the fact that the Armed Services are usually Tory voters?   It is a scandal what this Government is doing to democracy.   You can fight and die for your country but have a vote - no way.
The "has beens"
Why have the BBC and Channel 4 used those "has beens" of the Tory Party, namely Amanda Platell, Nick Woods and Danny Finkelstein as their experts on Conservative strategy.   After all they were all associated with getting it wrong last time and listening to them they do not seem to have a clue as to why it is still going wrong.
"Where are they now?
This looks like a one man campaign.    If you want to project an image of an alternative government you have to show some of the members of the Shadow Cabinet at least some of the time.   Just to remind everybody the Shadow Cabinet consists of:
Michael Ancram,   David Cameron,    Tim Collins,   David Davis,   Liam Fox,    Andrew Lansley,   Oliver Letwin,   David McLean,    Theresa May,   John Redwood,   Lord Strathclyde,    Nicholas Soames,   Caroline Spellman,   Lord Saatchi,    David Willetts, and Tim Yeo.
Now who have we not heard from?

17 April
Wally of the Week - Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner - For calling for more anti terrorist legislation and for identity cards.   His job is to implement the law.   If he wants to enter the realm of politics he should resign and stand for election.  
The terrorist atrocity in Madrid is often quoted in discussions on terrorism,so how does Spain handle it?   Recently it has adopted further measures including stricter control of the transport and use of explosives, recruitment of hundreds more anti-terrorist security officials and Arab speakers, freezing of terrorist funds and stricter control of bank accounts, more comprehensive data bases pooled among the police, paramilitary civil guard and the intelligence services, beefed up border controls and international anti-terror links.
Spain can teach us about anti terror legislation.   The limits of legislation are defined by article 17 of Spain's constitution.   According to the article everyone has the right to liberty and no one can be deprived of their freedom except under the following conditions:   preventive detention cannot last longer than the time needed to clarify facts.    After a maximum of 72 hours, a detainee must be freed or put before a magistrate.
All detainees must be told immediately and clearly their rights and the reasons for their detention.   A detainee has a right to a lawyer in all police and legal proceedings.
The law establishes "habeas corpus" so that any person illegally detained is immediately brought before judicial process.  A short clause in the constitution states "Justice emanates from the people.... Exceptional courts are prohibited"   To change any of this requires a three fifths majority of both Houses of Parliament, and approval in a national referendum.
Who would have thought that the United Kingdom which used to be looked up to as the fountain of freedom should now have to look to Spain to see what freedom really means.   Perhaps Sir Ian might go and visit them!
The Politburos - Updated
We now have 15 Constituencies where Central Office interfered in the candidate selection.   Are there more?    Let us know.   Also what about Labour seats where the Labour high command interfered?
The first that Manchester Gorton Conservatives knew they had a candidate was when the Executive Council received a letter telling them who it was!
We are hearing of more and more constituencies where Central Office have imposed their choice of candidate, denying the Local Association any say in the matter or only a limited say by giving them ten or less names to choose from.    The Labour party does the same.   This approach is similar to the way in which the Soviet Poliburo ran elections.   Our major parties are destroying democracy.   We set out below a list of those Constituency Associations where this has happened.   If you know of others please let us know by e mailing to
The Roll of Shame
Conservative PartyLabour Party
Arundel and SouthdownsRibble Valley
Brighton KemptownWolverhampton South East
Cynon Valley 
Liverpool Garston 
Liverpool North 
Liverpool Riverside 
Liverpool West Derby 
Liverpool Wavertree 
Manchester Blackley 
Manchester Central 
Manchester Gorton 
Manchester Withington 
Mid Bedfordshire 
The Forgotten Majority
Do you live in a safe seat?   Have you wondered why none of the political parties are doing anything in your constituency?    It is because they are only interested in the floating voters in the marginal seats - approximately 1 million voters, so the other 43 million of us do not count.  This is because under the ridiculous First Past The Post system of election the votes of the 43 million count for nothing.   Vast numbers are effectively disenfranchised.   First Past the Post only works in a two Party system.    When there is more than two Parties we should have Proportional Representation.   This election is a lottery.   When on top of this we have the Fraud on Postal Voting in which all the Parties are participating is it any wonder the people have given up on democracy.   We should take to the streets and demand our democratic rights.    Every step forward in democracy has been accompanied by mass demonstrations.   It is time we had another. 

April 10th
The Arundel General Meeting
by our Arundel and Southdowns correspondents.
We were slow getting started and then the chairwoman said we were waiting for Liam Fox to come down from London. A delightful chap enquired if we werea sovereign body which was cutting enough to get us started.

First item - resignation speech from Howard and Christabel.  He said that he'd be getting down to
Hove and Brighton to campaign for those candidates.

Then he left and the same chap raised as a point of order the constitutionality/legality of the association choosing a new candidate. The strongly put reply from the agent was essentially that according to their
legal advice they could act as they were, leaning on a plank that Mr Flight had not been chosen as a candidate but as a prospective candidate (this is their lawyer's position). He did not like being called a liar on this but survived the challenge. (In the view of Mr Flight's QC the Association is
wrong in fact on this, noting especially that the minutes of his re-selection meeting give him as selected as a candidate).

One of the branch chairmen then tried to tackle him with Mr Flight's QC's response to Pennington's (Central Office lawyers) position, the agent ducked, saying he hadn't been dealing with the legals, amid heckles for the chap to sit down and it came to nothing. He then walked out.

We then had a short wait for Liam Fox, filled in with how can he come in as a non-member of ASDCA - invitee of the chairwoman, lies within her gift.

He did then come in, and gave a pep talk. (Very important to defeat Labour,
in 5 years time there may be nothing to save...).

The meeting proceeded.
Note: When the Party is running scared it is a tried and tested technique to roll out the Party Chairman just before the critical point.    It was used aginst the Chairman of COPOV when at a meeting of the National Convention he proposed that the Party should have an elected Treasurer in the days of Michael Ashcroft.
Adoption Meetings
Prior to the adoption of the Conservative Party constitution a General Election campaign got started at constituency level by the holdong of a General Meeting of the members of the local Association to adopt the prospective parliamentary candidate as the Candidate.   These were great launch pads for the election bringing everybody together and creating that tribal feeling, with everybody voting for the Candidate and a sense of participation and involvement..   Sadly where there is a sitting MP these meetings have been abandoned.   The adoption is done by the Executive Council.    A small matter, perhaps, but one more instance of the ordinary grass roots member being excluded from decision making, even if it was only a formality.

3rd April
Arundel and South Downs
The saga of Howard Flight continues.    Central Office are upping the pressure, particularly on the Officers of the Association.   We still do not know whether the Chairman will allow the Extraordinary General Meeting to proceed.   On past form the Party hierarchy will question the names of signatories to any request for the meeting.   They will then put pressure on anybody that has signed.   Candidates will be told that their political careers are over unless they withdraw.   Others will be told that their future in the Conservative Party is finished.   When some then withdraw their signatures Central Office will then say that there are not enough to call the meeting.   If the Chairman of the Association accedes to Central Offices demands then the meeting is doomed.   How do we know that this is the way they will operate?   Because these were the tactics used when the Party Reform Steering Committee got over 50 Constituency Associations to back a motion calling a Special Meeting of the National Union in the 90s.
So what can be done?   At the General Meeting on Wednesday, when the Association members meet to consider the candidates Central Office have proposed, a member can stand up and ask the Chairman to add Howard Flight's name to the list.   The Chairman will almost certainly reject this.    At which point the supporters of Howard Flight should leave the meeting and with tellers on the door count those walking out.   If they have a majority they have the moral right on their side to continue the fight and the Chairman would have the moral duty to resign.   At a general meeting of the Association the members could then propose to disaffiliate from the Party and Howard Flight could stand as the Candidate for the Arundel and South Downs Conservative Association.     Seeing this happen Central Office will try and put the Association into "Support Status", i.e. Central Office control.   The Howard Flight supporters must try and pre empt this by getting an injunction from the Courts to allow the Association to proceed with its general meeting.   Good luck to all those fighting for democracy. 
Slough Update
Central Office have put Slough Conservative Association into "Support Status", i.e. their control.   They have appointed Sheila Gunn as the candidate.   We wish Sheila well in the coming general election campaign.   I know members of COPOV will be in Slough to help her.
Nevertheless their are some serious questions to be asked.   Who appointed her?   Was there a selection meeting of anybody other than the Vice Chairman of candidates?   Is it right that one person should have such huge power without any accountability? (to coin a favourite Conservative phrase)    Is it true that Sheila Gunn was appointed before Adrian Hilton's appeal had been heard?
Slough is not an isolated case.   We hear that five Liverpool Constituencies have had the same treatment.   Five candidates were given to Liverpool Garston, Wavertree, West Derby, Riverside and North Liverpool.   The same questions need to be asked as in Slough.     How many more seats are there where either one or at most five candidates have been given to an Association to choose their parliamentary candidate?
COPOV propose that the Constitution of the Conservative Party should be changed so that the Vice Chairman in charge of candidates is elected by all the members of the Party and that he/she makes a report on their activities to the National Convention.
Democracy in the Conservative party has been totally destroyed.
As a member organisation the Party will soon cease to exist.   Is the Party worried?   No.   Why?
Because Central Office get £4,000,000 from the Government in State funding.   That together with those donations from people that want gongs pays for the centre.   In addition each MP gets over £500,000 during a parliament from the Government.   This allows the MP to do their own thing.   Why have members that hold you to account?   What is the Electoral Commission doing about this?   Sweet fanny adams, because the Electoral Commission depends on its existence by keeping the Conservative and the Labour parties sweet.   Sad isn't it?
The Politics of Fear
Did you notice the nervous laugh of David Davies MP on the "Today" programme?   Did you notice how David Cameron was not his ebullient self on "Question Time"?.   Why?     Because every Conservative MP knows that he could lose his seat at a moment's notice if he puts a foot wrong.   Fear has replaced freedom.    Does it remind you of anywhere?
March 19th
General Election - Democracy or Lottery?
John E. Strafford

There will shortly be a General Election. Members of Parliament will be elected or re-elected to the House of Commons and a new Government will be formed, but how democratic will this process be?
The original Greek definition of democracy was "rule by the people". In a modern context my own definition is "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 race creed or sex, 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. In the exercise of power minorities will be protected with the consent of the majority."
How does our Westminster democracy measure up to this definition? I believe there are four fundamental flaws:
In a national parliament it is the people of the nation that should determine how they are governed. Why then do we allow citizens of another nation to participate in our election? Citizens of the Irish Republic, who are resident in the United Kingdom and over the age of 18, are eligible to vote.
It is one of the extraordinary anomalies of democracy in the United Kingdom that the citizens of a foreign country that have no allegiance to the United Kingdom are allowed to vote in an election for the United Kingdom parliament and in so doing determine who should govern us.
According to the census of 2001 there are 412,000 Irish nationals living in the United Kingdom. We do not know how many of these register and vote but small numbers can swing seats. They are not evenly spread throughout the United Kingdom. Large numbers are to be found in Liverpool, Glasgow and in certain Boroughs of London.
Only United Kingdom citizens should be allowed to vote in United Kingdom parliamentary elections.
The second fundamental flaw relates to each person not having a vote of equal value. In the 2001 General Election the smallest constituency was the Western Isles with an electorate of just under 23,000. The largest was the Isle of Wight with an electorate of 103,480. In other words the value of a vote in the Western Isles was worth more than four times that of a vote in the Isle of Wight. This anomaly goes back to the days of the horse and cart when the geographical size of a constituency affected the way an MP could look after his constituents, but in the age of the telephone, e-mail, and the internet these reasons do not stand up to scrutiny. Technology now means that the need to meet an MP can be resolved by many other methods of direct communication.
The average size of a constituency in England and Wales is 69,000. The average size of a Welsh constituency is 55,905 because of a law, which stipulates that it must have a minimum of 35 MPs. In Scotland the average is about 55,000. At the next election, because the number of seats in Scotland has been reduced from 72 to 59 the average electorate will be about 69,000 - on a par with England.
The Conservative Party has suggested that if Wales retains its Assembly the number of MPs for Wales should be reduced so that the average size of constituency equates to that of England and Scotland, but can retain its 35 MPs if it chooses to get rid of the Assembly.
The Boundaries Commission (now taken over by the Electoral Commission) should be instructed to revise the boundaries so that no constituency has an electorate, which differs more than 10% from the average size of constituencies throughout the United Kingdom.
The third fault in our democracy relates to the way we are governed. Under our constitution our Prime Minister uses the powers of the Royal Prerogative to exercise power. The House of Commons could and should hold the Prime Minister accountable but continuously fails to do so, perhaps because the Prime Minister exercises great power of patronage – 142 MPs owe their appointment as Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints the Government Whips who in turn appoint the 113 Chairman and members of Select Committees. Promotion, position, overseas trips, appointments to outside bodies, all rest in the hand of the Prime Minister. His executive power includes the making of Treaties, the Dissolution of Parliament, agreement to European Laws and setting the legislative agenda.
To whom is the Prime Minister accountable? He is accountable to the electors of his constituency and to the members of his political Party who made him their Leader – less than 250,000 people in total. The electorate of the United Kingdom is 44 million. The Prime Minister is the political voice of the nation, but he is not accountable to the nation.
Today the more an MP’s electability depends on the public perception of the Prime Minister the more exclusive becomes his power. The vacuous circle which characterises British politics needs to be broken. It can be broken by directly electing the Prime Minister. The MPs would then stand for Parliament in their own right.
It is time for the Prime Minister to be directly elected by the people. He could be removed by majorities in both Houses of Parliament or by referendum. We should set out the powers of the Prime Minister and the Royal prerogative should be abolished.
Doing so would enhance our democracy.
The fourth flaw in our democracy is perhaps the biggest flaw of all. The people elect their representatives and in order for their will to be determined Parliament should be representative of the people. It is not. Our First Past The Post system of election totally distorts representative democracy. The General Election of February 1974 highlighted the distortion. Having received more than 6 million votes and more than 19% of the total votes cast the Liberal Party only had 14 MPs elected. Labour had 39,000 votes per elected MP, the Tories 40,000 votes and the Liberals a staggering 433,000 votes per MP. With 200,000 more votes than Labour, the Conservatives had four fewer MPs.
The result of the February 1974 election was not a "one off" for there was similar distortion in the June 1983 General Election. Labour’s 27.6% of the total votes cast gave them 209 seats. The Liberal SDP Alliance, not very far behind with 25.4% only secured them 23 seats.
Things have not got any better. In 2001 the Labour Party with 40.7% of the votes had 62.5% of the seats in Parliament. Conservatives with 31.7% had 25.2% and the Liberal Democrats with 18.3% of the votes cast had 7.9% of the seats. In other words it took 26,031 votes to elect each Labour MP, 50,345 each Conservative MP and 92,583 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP. Only 99 MPs (15% of the total) were elected with the support of at least a third of their electorate. The Labour Party’s 40.7 % of the vote gave them a majority of 165 seats. It was slightly less than the Conservative vote in 1992 of 41.9 percent, which gave the Conservatives a majority of 21. With these results it cannot be said that Parliament is representative of the people.
Political Parties know that General Elections conducted on a First Past the Post basis will be decided by what happens in marginal constituencies which are usually less than 10% of the total. It is the "Swing" or "Floating" voters in those constituencies – generally less than 10%, who determine who will win the seat. The election battle is therefore over less than 10% of the votes in less than 10% of the seats – less than 1% of the electorate. It is more important to win 100 votes in a marginal seat than 5,000 votes in a safe seat under this system.
With a proportional system every vote counts. The Conservative elector in a Labour safe seat and the Labour supporter in a Conservative heartland both have an incentive to vote. Supporters of small Parties have more reason for voting. If turnout drops again at the next election we could end up with a government with a large majority for which less than 20% of the electorate have voted for.
Proportional Representation was given a bad name because the "Closed List" system version was used for the elections to the European Parliament. This discredited system is a negation of democracy for it prevents the people choosing their representatives. They can only vote for a Party, thus increasing the power of the Parties.
The Report of the Independent Commission on Proportional Representation published on 29th March 2004 stated that:
"Representatives elected under Additional Member or Single Transferable Vote systems are just as likely to provide a constituency service as those elected by First Past The Post. Public opinion surveys conducted on behalf of the Commission found that there was a small margin in favour of changing the electoral system of the House of Commons.
Proportional Representation could lead to coalition Government. Some opponents of reform argue that coalitions lead to weak and ineffective Government, yet in times of crisis when strong Leadership is required as in 1914 and in 1940 when the Country was at war and after 1929 when we faced an economic crisis Britain opted for coalition government.
What is required in the United Kingdom is Proportional Representation based on a Single Transferable Vote or Additional Member basis whilst retaining a constituency base.
Let the next General Election be the last to be conducted on the present system. What we have now is not democracy but more akin to a lottery and in this lottery the odds have been tilted in favour of the incumbents. The Prime Minister can call the election whenever he wishes. Every MP receives during the course of a Parliament just under £500,000 of taxpayer's money to spend on their office, public relations, postage to the electorate etc. This is a huge advantage over the opposing candidate in the General Election who receives nothing. Only 44 seats (6.6% of the total) changed hands at the last election as a result of being contested.
As a result of the considerable increase in postal voting further distortion to our electoral system has been caused by the increase in fraud, which the government has done nothing to prevent.
The Electoral Commission, which should be the guardian of our democracy, has become a toothless watchdog in the pocket of the establishment. It is now up to the British people to directly demonstrate their discontent with the current system. Initially they will do so by not voting, but soon we will see them take to the streets to demand a fair representative democracy in the same way their forefathers did before them.
The politicians have been rumbled. The establishment oligarchies that run our nation are no longer trusted. It is time for the United Kingdom to become a democracy. We have pursued this principle for a thousand years. Let the people speak!
March 13th                                          
by Henry Curteis

We're not fighting for power to 'manage expectations' and create the
illusion of success.   We want results.

We will not rule with targets.

We will establish principles and set standards.

Labour have ruled through the media.  Too often Parliament has been bypassed
and the voice of common sense ignored, putting the health of the nation 
at risk.

To us your voice is a vital part of the process of government, which under
Labour is missing.

Governments don't create wealth.  You are the creators of wealth.
Governments more often waste wealth than create it.

We will not be tied by the decisions of previous governments.  We will look
at the results of their decisions and decide.  Are they working?  Or aren't
they working?  We have only one purpose - to do the best for Britain.
We won't settle for less.

March 27th
Howard Flight MP
Every Conservative MP must now be shaking in their boots knowing that the slightest indiscretion, even to a private meeting will get them thrown out of Parliament on the whim of one man - the Leader.    There is no doubt that under the Party rules the Party hierarchy can stop anybody from standing.   They are all powerful.   Howard Flight's only chance is to take legal action to test their action in court.   The Court may take the view that this is a private matter and nothing to do with the courts.   On the other hand they may say that in a democracy it is wrong that one man should have so much power that he can determine who should sit in parliament.   Howard Flight's great advantage is that he has the money to fight his cause.   For the sake of democracy and the Conservative Party we hope he does and wins.   He has our total support.
By his actions Michael Howard has escalated a minor issue into a major one.   No one questioned his right to dismiss Howard Flight from his position as a Deputy Chairman of the Party, but to go further and stop him from being a candidate is over the top.   From now on every time a Conservative MP says anything which is not in line with policy he or she could be dismissed.   What about Ken Clarke and those that support the European Constitution?   It looks increasingly that the Leader acted in a fit of temper, which he is known to do.   His best course of action now is to let the members of the Arundel and South Downs Association decide whether they wish Howard Flight to continue to represent them.   Michael Howard should agree to abide by their decision.   If felt necessary his spokesman should be allowed to address the meeting, but Michael Howard as a lawyer well knows, it is not natural justice to effectively dismiss a Member of Parliament without due process.
If the Leader's decision stands the question must be raised as to why anybody would wish to be a member of the Conservative Party.   He will at a stroke have destroyed the Party as a membership organisation.   The members have no say in the development of policy.   They do not even get a chance to have motions at the Party Conference.   They have no say in who runs the Party.    They have no say in how the Party's money is spent.   They had no say in Michael Howard's election as Leader.   The one thing they believed they did have was the right to elect their Parliamentary candidate.   Take this away and they have nothing.   No involvement, no participation, just the begging letters asking for more money.   Is it any wonder membership is in long term decline?   Soon there will be none left.
After the General election the Party's Constitution is to be revised.    There are many issues to be addressed.   This will be the Party's last chance.   If it does not change it will die.
Last Wednesday the Executive of the Slough Association unanimously resolved to back their Candidate Adrian Hilton (see below).   There is now a stand off between the Association and Central Office.   Like Howard Flight their only recourse will be to take the matter to Court.   Slough has £250,000 in the bank so it might just do this.   Interesting times.   Watch this space.
Congratulations to Central Office
Central Office have just brought out "Guidelines for the Suspension and Expulsion of Members of the Conservative Party".   This is an excellent document and sets out a proper course  to follow when  considering somebody's membership of the Party.   There have been too many disputes in the Party on this issue so it is to be welcomed that there are now set procedures to be followed.    Well done.
What a pity that there is not a similar procedure to be followed when the Leader decides to withdraw the name of a candidate on the candidate's list.

March 20th
C. O. P. O. V.

Tel. No. (h)  01753 887068 (m) 07956.352.022 Perama
Fax. No. (h) 01753 882823 94 Fulmer Road
E mail Gerrards Cross
The General Election, Democracy or Lottery?
The Politicians have been rumbled.
In a speech to the AGM of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy the chairman, John Strafford, asked whether the General Election was an exercise in democracy or was it a lottery? In coming to the conclusion that it is more akin to a lottery than democracy he pointed out four fundamental flaws in our system of representative democracy.
Because of the wide variation in the size of constituencies each person does not have a vote of equal value. At the last election the Western Isles had an electorate of just under 23,000 whilst the Isle of Wight had an electorate of 103,480. A vote in the Western Isles was worth more than four times a vote in the Isle of Wight.
It is one of the extraordinary anomalies of democracy in the United Kingdom that 412,000 Irish nationals, who have no allegiance to the United Kingdom, are allowed to vote in an election for the United Kingdom parliament and in so doing determine who should govern us.
If turnout drops again at the next election we could have a Government elected with a large majority when less than 20% of the electorate have voted for it. The first past the post system is now causing huge discrepancies in the electoral results. It was devised for a two party system and is totally unsuitable for today’s political scenario. In the last election it took only 26,031 votes to elect each Labour MP but 50,345 votes for each Conservative MP and 92,583 votes to elect a Liberal Democrat MP. To eliminate this distortion we must move to a system of proportional representation.
Power is exercised on a massive scale by the Prime Minister by use of the Royal Prerogative, yet the Prime Minister is accountable only to the electors of his constituency and his political party – less than 250,000 people out of an electorate of 44million. The Prime Minister should be directly elected by the people.
On top of these flaws in our democracy we also have the considerable impact of fraud in relation to postal votes and the bias towards sitting MPs by giving them £500,000 each during the course of a parliament for them to spend on public relations to the considerable disadvantage of their opponents.
The Electoral Commission, which should be the guardian of our democracy, has become a toothless watchdog in the pocket of the Establishment. It is up to the British people to demonstrate directly their discontent with the current system. They will do so initially by not voting but increasingly they will take to the streets to demand democracy in the same way that their forefathers did before them.
The politicians have been rumbled. The establishment oligarchies that run our nation are no longer trusted. It is time to give democracy to the people. They have pursued it for a thousand years.
Chairman: John E. Strafford FCA Vice Chairman: Cllr Trevor Egleton Hon.Treasurer: Anne Egleton FCA Hon Secretary: Caroline
Strafford Membership Secretary: Molly Andoe Committee: Cllr Allan Glass, Cllr Julia Long, Paul Kay, Jo Sommer
The full speech with detailed back up can be seen under Personal Opinion.

Sinn Fein and Parliamentary Allowance
Last week Parliament took away the Parliamentary allowances which had been given to Sinn Fein.   There is some argument as to whether they should have been given them in the first place, but once Parliament begins to discriminate between Members where will it all end?   Suppose next time they do not like what the Conservatives are doing.   Will they take away the Conservatives allowances?   The problem originally arose because Sinn Fein Members refused to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Before taking his seat a Member of Parliament has to swear the oath of allegiance. Many MPs are unhappy with the oath, some on republican grounds, others objecting to its declarations of faith and others because it makes no mention of a duty to Parliament or the people. Some think that an oath is by nature objectionable.
The current wording of the oath is thus:
I…………… swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.
There are two further options available to Members. One starts:
I…………. do swear that I will be faithful…..
Or for members who object to swearing the oath they are permitted to make a "solemn affirmation". The full wording of the Affirmation is:
I…………. do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law.
The problem of both the oath and the affirmation is that they are impossible to be made by somebody who believes in a Republic – a perfectly legitimate aspiration. Equally impossible is it for somebody belonging to Sinn Fein that wants to see Northern Ireland as part of the Republic of Eire and wishes to follow the democratic route to achieve this. The same argument applies for someone who wants independence for Scotland.
The oath of allegiance should either be abolished or it should be changed to "I swear that I will bear true allegiance to the people, Parliament and Democracy according to law."
Parliamentary selection - Slough
Several weeks ago Central Office kicked out the parliamentary candidate for Slough (see below).   They then gave Slough eight names from which to choose another candidate.   Slough chose Adrian Hilton.   Central Office have now kicked him out.   Why?   Because he wrote an article in the "Spectator" magazine which offended many Roman Catholics.
The Candidates Committee at Central Office has one main function and that is to vet potential candidates to see whether they are mad, bad or sad and in so doing ensure that the local Association is aware of anything that might be embarrassing or worse.   Central Office failed to carry out their basic duty.   The Chairman of Candidates should resign.   In  a democratic Party he would be held accountable by the Members.   The sooner the Party's Constitution is changed so that this is the case the better the Party will be.
In the mean time we understand that the Slough Association have refused to accept Central Office's diktat from on high.   There is now a stand off.   Watch this space!

13th March
***Star of the Week*** Andrew Lansley MP for keeping his cool on "Newsnight" when John   Reid was losing his.
Wally of the Week - John "attack dog" Reid MP for losing his cool with Jeremy Paxman.    It made you feel sorry for Jeremy.
National Convention
It met on Friday.   What an absolute waste of time.   No wonder so few people now attend it, and those that do have no experience of the Party, most of them being on it for less than three years.    You know it is time to give it the last rites when the only issue of contention was the location of the Party conference.  It has become, as predicted, the rubber stamp of the establishment.   Why do they not open it up to every member and call it the Annual General Meeting of the Party with reports given which any member can question?   Then it might become meaningful.
After the General Election there will be changes to the Party's constitution.   All the indications are that this will be another rubber stamping exercise with the grass roots excluded from the process.    The Party establishment have presided over a decline in Party membership of 50% in the last five years and that same establishment wants to centralise even more.    25% of the membership will die in the next five years so the situation is getting worse.   The hierarchy say they will ignore the media when the constitution is debated but if they exclude the grass roots then ordinary members will only be able to get their points across in the media.    It is unbelievable that this oligarchy would prefer to preside over nothing but keep their power than give some of it up to the members.  Will they ever learn?
The Spring Forum
Another waste of time.   Liam Fox made a good speech to a half empty hall.   The build up to Michael Howard' speech was excellent, his speech was good as far as it went but where was the rallying cry to the activists?   For the first time in living memory there were no cheers for the Leader's speech.   Even more remarkable considering this was the last get together before a General Election.   Activists want to be motivated and uplifted ready for the battle.   It did not happen.   The issue of liberty, which has dominated the agenda for the last two weeks was never mentioned during the Forum, and we wonder why we are out of touch with the people.
There were two excellent fringe meetings.    Policy exchange had Theresa May MP giving a thoughtful lecture.    She is getting better.   The best meeting of all was the Wave Network meeting which had four excellent parliamentary candidates on the platform for "Question Time"   During the meeting each member of the audience was invited to vote by sending a text message on their mobile phone for the candidate that was making the best points.   This was audience participation at its best.    The winner was presented with a bottle of champagne at the end of the meeting.   I have to confess I spent most of the time trying to learn how to send a text message on my phone.   What a great initiative!   At least the young know how to involve people in politics.   Their elders should heed the lesson.
I am afraid the rest of the Forum was what has become the usual junk.   Rehearsed questions to Shadow Ministers who have rehearsed the answers - boring.   Then we had the great audience participation exercise when a member could speak for two whole minutes on the good things that were happening in his or her constituency.   There were not many takers.   In fact so desperate were the platform to get speakers at all  messages were sent to anybody to try and get them to speak.   the result was that one speaker made the same speech to the Forum that he had made to the Convention the previous day.   Another speaker openly told the audience that he had only had three minutes to prepare his speech.     What a disaster!   No spontaneity.   The hierarchy will one day learn that at this rate there will soon be no audience.   Sad really - that a great Party is now run by such small people.
Next Week - The General Election - Democracy or a Lottery?

March 6th
***Star of the Week*** Douglas Hogg MP - for his eloquent defence of liberty.   How nice to see someone making a stand on principle.   This week the Conservative Party wobbled on the issue.   They must stand up and be counted.   The polls will change.   Just like the Iraq war, as the people realise what is being done they will change their view.
Wally of the week - Sir John Stevens - the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner for saying "at least 100 terrorists are operating in the United Kingdom.   If this is true why didn't he arrest them?   What an incompetent idiot.
No wonder law and order are in such a mess.
Habeas Corpus
Over the centuries we have seen Habeas corpus under attack.   It was suspended by Pitt the Younger at the outbreak of the war with France in 1793.   It was suspended in 1817 at the time of riots when there was political agitation.   The Government want to suspend it now, but suppose they do and we then have a terrorist atrocity. will they come back for even more draconian legislation?   Will our liberties be eroded more?   Remember what Macaulay said at the time of the Reform Act of 1832
"Who flatters himself" said Macaulay, "that he can turn this feeling back?…We have had laws. We have had blood. New treasons have been created. The press has been shackled. The Habeas Corpus Act has been suspended. Public meetings have been prohibited. The event has proved that these expedients were mere palliatives. You are at the end of your palliatives. The evil remains. It is more formidable than ever. What is to be done?
Once you destroy the liberties of the people, the people have no other choice than to take to the streets.   More democracy is the answer, not less.
Habeas Corpus was one of the most famous Acts in history and was passed in 1679. The Act of Parliament which popularly goes by the name ofHabeas Corpus progressed through Parliament and only passed as a result of a joke. In his book "History of his Own Times", Gilbert Burnet wrote "Lord Grey and Lord Norris were named to be the tellers: Lord Norris, being a man subject to vapours, was not at all attentive to what he was doing: so, a very fat lord coming in, Lord Grey counted him as ten: as a jest at first: but seeing Lord Norris had not observed it, he went on with this misreckoning of ten: so it was reported that they that were for the Bill were in a majority, though indeed it went the other side: and by this means the Bill passed."
There is no reason to doubt that this light-hearted joke which became serious was actually the cause of habeas corpus reaching the Statute book. The manuscript minutes of the House of Lords, which were kept by the clerk at the table, give the numbers in the division as fifty-seven ayes and fifty-five noes, a total of one hundred and twelve, whereas the same minutes and the journal show that no more than one hundred and seven peers had attended at any time during the sitting.
It was noticed at once that something was wrong; but as soon as the decision was declared, Shaftesbury had the presence of mind to rise and speak until a number of Lords had entered and left and so the vote could not be taken again.
At this time the procedure in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords was that one side stayed in the chamber and was counted there, while the other side went out and was counted afterwards as they came back. Only in the nineteenth century did first the House of Lords and then the House of Commons provide themselves with two lobbies for voting, one for the ayes and one for the noes, so that both could be counted simultaneously.
After such an illustrious beginning we must never let it go.
February 27th ***Stars of the Week*** - The Conservative Party.   This has been a good week for the Conservative Party.   It is beginning to make an impact.   Michael Howard must take credit for this.   The Party is starting to look like an alternative government whilst Labour falls into disarray.
The Labour MPs who had the courage to vote against the oppressive anti terrorism Bill introduced by Charles Clarke.
Dominic Grieve MP and George Osbourne MP for standing up to  Jerry Paxman on "Newsnight".
Anti TerrorismWe have been here before.   Does the following remind you of anything?
In a debate on the India Bill of 1783 Pitt the Younger said, "Necessity was the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It was the argument of tyrants; it was the creed of slaves.
War against France was declared in 1793. War meant that Pitt put aside whatever ideas of liberty he had ever held. Something very like panic seized the rulers of England. During 1793 and 1794 various men were tried for holding democratic opinions which we would now consider very ordinary; people were imprisoned merely for advocating "representative government".   Two men, Muir and Palmer, were sentenced by the Scottish judge Braxfield, to transportation to Botany Bay for holding such opinions. In 1794 the Government suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, which meant that any suspected "Jacobins" could be seized and kept in prison without trial. Thus one of the fundamental bases of English liberty was attacked under the stress of panic caused by the French revolution.
20th February***Stars of the Week*** - Boris Johnson MP - for saying at a meeting at the Institute of Contemporary Arts that the General Election is undemocratic and we should have Proportional Representation.
Steve Norris - For stating on "Newsnight" that the culture of the Conservative Party had to change.    It certainly does, and democracy is the way forward.
Candidate for SloughSadly Robert Oulds had his appeal against being thrown off the candidates list dismissed (see below).   Once again the control freaks at Central Office have exercised their power.   It is time that the Vice Chairman in charge of candidates was elected by the grass roots members and had to report to an Annual General Meeting of the Party
Since this affair blew up we have been impressed by how much Robert Oulds was liked in Slough by his Association members and visiting dignitaries.   It is sad that one silly mistake has ruined a promising political career.   Hopefully when the Party is more democratic he can make a come back.
Incidentally Slough were given eight candidates to choose from to replace Robert Oulds.   Who chose these eight?   Why were they not given the entire candidate list?   More control freakery?    So demoralised is the Association that at the first selection meeting there were almost as many candidates as members doing the selection.   When will Central Office ever learn?
Lord AshcroftWe read in the press that Lord Ashcroft has been repaid a £500,000 loan he gave to the Party, or was about to give to the Party.    We wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that he was financing marginal seats and his idea of what is marginal differs from Maurice Saatchi's ideas which in turn may differ from Lynton Crosby's idea.   I think we should be told.    If true it points out the danger of accepting loans/gifts with strings attached as we pointed out at the time it was first mooted.   Maybe the chickens are coming home to roost!
February 13th
Spring ConferenceFor three days the Labour Party has received considerable publicity about its election pledges.   They have cornered the top spot on the news each day.   Presumably the Conservatives will get an equal amount of publicity at their Spring Conference?   Err no.   The Conservative Spring Conference will only last one day, because the idiots in Conservative Central Office, sorry Campaign Headquarters did not realise that this year would be an election year and their hatred of the grass roots led them to think how smart they were to cut them down to size.   Another change of nappies is required Michael!
Sinn Fein
The "Belfast Agreement was fatally flawed from the beginning and it was inevitable that it would eventually break down.   In a democracy rights given to minorities have to have the consent of the majority.    A civilised democracy willingly gives those rights.   Consent was not achieved with the Belfast Agreement.   Nevertheless the events of the past few weeks have made me feel very uncomfortable.
The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland , the head of the Guarda, the Government of the United Kingdom, the Government of the Republic of Ireland have all condemned  Sinn Fein for the bank robbery at the Northern Bank.    Not a single shred of evidence has been publicly produced to justify this condemnation.   Not a single person has been charged and found guilty of the robbery with or without any connection with Sinn Fein.   Nobody, not even "Liberty" has protested about this high handed approach to Sinn Fein.    The Nazi Party started out condemning Groups and look where that led to.    Justice not only has to be done it has to be seen to be done.
I utterly condemn terrorism in all its forms so I have no brief for the IRA (I have personally received an Irish bomb threat at my home when I was campaigning for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland) but once we start to compromise on issues of liberty and justice the terrorist has won and martyrs are created.    Although it sticks in the gullet somebody has to speak up or one day when it is you that is condemned there might be nobody left too speak up.  
Charles and Camilla
The main problem regarding the marriage of Charles and Camilla revolves around the fact the one day Charles will be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Monarch is the Monarch of the whole United kingdom.   The Church in Wales has been disestablished.   The Church in Ireland has been disestablished and the Church in Scotland has been partially disestablished and yet the Church if England is the established Church if the nation in spite of its writ only running in England.   It is time this was put right and the Church of England disestablished.   I show below a letter published in   "The Times" on April 17 2001.   What goes round comes round.    The proposals therein should be implemented.

February 6th
Wally of the Week - Hazel Blears MP - this woman is a threat to freedom, liberty, democracy and justice.    She must be immediately put under house arrest without charge, without due process and without access to lawyers.   She is a danger to the nation.    After three years she must be asked what she thinks of Charles Clarkes draconian anti terrorist measures.   If she condemns them she will be freed, if not she will serve another three years and so on ad infinitum.
Convention Dinner
On 11th March there will be a Convention dinner at the Grand Hotel, Brighton.   Normally for these dinners members of the Party reply to Central Office ( now Campaign Headquarters).   Not this time though.   You are asked to reply to 7 Cowley Street, London.   Isn't this the office of Lord Ashcroft?   Is he still running the Party?   I think we should be told.
Party Funding
The Electoral Commission published its latest work on Party Funding in December.   What a wishy washy document,   This body, which started out with such great ideals has now become part of the establishment.   It shows considerable ignorance as to how the political Parties work.
It shows the accounts of the main parties under common headings, one of which is "membership".   Against the Conservative Party's accounts it states "Only 4% (of income) came from membership subscriptions" for 2001.    In 2003 6% from membership subscriptions.i,e £814,000 out of a Total Income of £13,619,000.   But wait a moment, the Tories have a minimum subscription of £15.00 per member.   Divide £814,000 by £15 only gives you 54,266 members.    What the Electoral Commission have not understood is that the Constituency Associations collect most of the membership subscriptions and all that is shown in the Central Office Accounts is centrally received membership and affiliation fees.   If the Electoral Commission has not understood these basic points it makes you wonder about the rest of the report.
What is omitted from the report is no requirement for the vast amounts of State Funding to be properly accounted for by democratic organisations.    It says its job is to promote democracy but does not insist that those receiving funding should be democratic.   It continues to give money to the oligarchy that runs the Conservative Party.   It continues to mix up donations and membership subscriptions.   Why does it not demand that tax relief should only be linked to membership to force the Parties to become democratic?
Finally why is no mention made of the £500,000 given to every MP during the course of a Parliament as "expenses" which they can then spend as they like  and as a result are putting the local Associations out of business and making the MP totally independent and unaccountable to his local Party.   It makes the money shown as State Funding look like peanuts.   When will the Commission speak for the People?   I think we need to know.
January 30th
***Stars of the Week*** - The People of Iraq for having the courage to exercise their democratic rights in the face of intimidation and violence.   What an example to the rest of us.
Lord Tebbitt - for putting Sarah Montague in her place on the "Today" programme.    Sarah is losing it.   The previous week John Reid did the same as Norman.
Candidate for Slough (see below)
Robert Oulds - the candidate for Slough is appealing his dismissal from the Candidates list.   His appeal should be allowed.    We hear that the police are taking no action regarding the weapons, presumably on the grounds that they are legally held.   In which case, rap Robert's knuckles.   Tell him not to do anything so daft again and tell him that he has now got to work doubly hard as the Slough candidate.  His appeal comes up on Tuesday.   We will let you know the result.
Party membership
The European Social Survey conducted in 2002 and just published showed that Britain with the exception of Hungary, Poland and France has the smallest percentage of the electorate as party members than any other country in Europe. Among the developed democracies Britain and France are really backward, and the situation is getting worse since there is a lot of evidence to suggest that grassroots party organisations in Britain are dying.
Larger states such as Germany tend to have proportionally fewer party members than smaller states such as Norway, while federal states such as Belgium have larger voluntary party organisations than unitary states like Portugal. Britain and France are among the most centralised unitary states in the democratic world, so the common denominator here is the extent to which the ordinary party member can have an influence on politics. There are more opportunities for individuals to influence politics in federal systems.
One of the main reasons why Britain’s voluntary parties are so weak is that we have been systematically undermining local government in this country. It is safe to say that if England were a federal state, then the voluntary parties would be in a much healthier state than they are at the present time.
One of the reasons why the Conservative party is languishing in the polls is because it has allowed its party membership to decline.   You need party members to put your policies to the electorate.   The reason why the Labour Party is also doing badly is for the same reason.   When in government a party needs to keep its members involved by letting them have a say in the development of Government policy.   Labour has failed to do this, which is why a lot of Labour activist will stay at home on election day.
When will these oligarchies learn?
23rd January
Parliamentary Candidates
This week Robert Oulds was suspended as the Conservative Party candidate for Slough.   The reason for this was that "The Sun" newspaper published photographs of him holding a gun and surrounded by guns.   We are told that these guns are all legal.   Mr. Oulds is appealing against his suspension and we do not want to prejudice this so will return to this item next week.   It reminds me of an episode at a Chelsea Young Conservative dinner in the late 1960s, at the height of the Vietnam War.   The guest speaker  was Rear Admiral Sir Morgan-Giles MP.   Half way through his speech he reached under the table and produced a gun which he said was being used in Vietnam.   I wonder what he would have said to the Chairman of Candidates if he had been hauled before him to explain himself?   Clearly Mr. Oulds was silly to allow himself to be photographed in what could be a compromising situation, but we would hope that a rap on the knuckles would be sufficient punishment.   Don't ruin a man's career for a silly indiscretion.
European Democracy
In a letter to "The Times Miss Paula Volkmer put forward the case that the European Union is both accountable and democratic, but she makes the common mistake of confusing democracy and accountability.    We respond to her point as follows:
The essence of democratic accountability in a representative democracy is that the people elect the individual to represent them.
The European Union fails the test of democratic accountability. For the European Parliament the people can only vote for a party because of the party list system of election. The Council of Ministers are all appointed by the Prime Minister so are only accountable to him and not to the people. The Prime Minister owes his position to the electors of Sedgefield and to Labour Party members – some 250,000 people out of an electorate of 40 million. Finally the only body which can bring forward legislation and which, therefore, sets the agenda for legislation is the European Commission, all of which are appointed.
It is because the draft European Constitution does not address this democratic deficit that it should be rejected by the people of the United Kingdom.
CPF Questionnaire: Constitutional Affairs

Our Response:
Meeting of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy held on22 January 2005.
Attendance: 24 members
CPF Questionnaire: Constitutional Affairs
The core principle of our Constitution is that it should be democratic.
"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. In the exercise of power minorities will be protected with the consent of the majority."
We think that we should have a written constitution or at least be moving towards one. i.e. the powers that the Prime Minister exercises under the Royal prerogative should be set out.
We are in favour of a wholly elected second chamber but would support a chamber with a substantial number of elected members.
The powers of the second chamber should if anything be increased, particularly on constitutional matters. The number of members of the second chamber should be capped at bertween 3 - 400. There was some argument about whether Bishops should be part of the second chamber, raising the question whether the Church of England should be disestablished.
We agree the Conservative proposals, but would add that MPs should select the members and Chairman of Select Committees without the interference of the Whips office.
We see some merit in the Constitutional Reform Bill particularly relating to the "separation of powers". We should work with the Law Lords to reform the system. We agree with a Supreme Court, but not in an expensive new building.
A totally independent Appointments Commission should appoint Judges.
Limit any compensation for breaches of rights to £10,000.
We agree with the proposed Civil Service Act and the timetable for action.
There should be a strict limit on the number of Special Advisers – one per Cabinet Minister.
We agree with the Conservative proposals to deal with the "West Lothian" question.
We also believe that Wales should be brought into line with the rest of the United Kingdom in the number of MPs it should have, regardless as to whether it retains or gets rid of its Assembly.
Other Issues:
We should have fixed term Parliaments.
Referenda should be held on any major constitutional change.
The impact of Europe on our constitution needs to be examined and reported upon as a separate exercise.
16th January
***Star of the Week*** - John Bercow MP for sensible contributions to the "Any Questions" programme.
Party membership and deselection.
What is happening in the Tory Party?    There is a plethora of deselecting of candidates going on at the moment.    Coln Valley, Cleethorpes and many others either have deselected their candidate or are about to do so.   Up to ten constituencies are involved.    This is unprecedented, particularly in the run up period to a General Election.
What lies at the heart of this problem is the declining membership of the Conservative Party.   In many constituencies membership is so low that effectively the Constituency Association has been taken over by a small oligarchy.   Some of these individuals were denied standing as a local candidate by the Committee on Candidates changing the rules to prevent local candidates standing unless they were on the Candidates List.   The Chickens are now coming home to roost for this Central Office arrogance, for it is almost too late for Central Office to intervene in the Constituency to prevent a local candidate standing.    Indeed when Central Office have been approached about what is happening they have backed off.
The European Social Survey has recently produced a paper on political Party membership in Europe.   Great Britain has the smallest percentage of the electorate as Party members than all other countries in Europe other than France, Poland and Hungary.   Britain and France are the most centralised States in the democratic world and the same applies to their political parties.    The common denominator is the extent that the ordinary Party member can have an influence on the Party.   The Conservative and the Labour Parties are undemocratic.   The ordinary member has no say.   Until they change, party membership will continue its decline with serious ramifications.   Without members contact with the electorate is minimal.   No wonder the public feel that our politicians are completely out of touch.   Where is the Party Leader that will recognise this?
9th January
Just to put the amount which the British and American governments are giving in aid to the Asian disaster, it amounts to just under one Eurofighter and half a stealth bomber.   Makes you think!
Another Peer?
The "Today" programme asked its listeners to vote for a people's peer.   Not surprising, in the current climate Bob Geldorf was elected, but isn't he an Irish National?   Doesn't that bar him from the House of Lords?   If so why didn't the BBC make it clear to everybody what the position was?   When Geldorf received his knighthood it was an honary knighthood.
January 2nd
The Good, the Bad and the Plain Stupid
The Conservative Party has announced that if it wins the General Election it will cut the number of MPs by about 120.   At the same time the Electoral Commission will be asked to create constituencies of 85,000 each.    This is a welcome and sensible reform.   Hopefully the legislation will be framed so that no constituency is more than 10% different from the average.
In our so called democracy there is a wide variation in the value of each person's vote.   The Western Isles has less than 23,000 electors whereas the Isle of Wight has over 103,000.   In other words the value of a vote in the Western Isles is more that four times that of a vote in the Isle of Wight.   This is a disgrace which should not be allowed to continue.    This is the good part of the Conservative policy.
The Party has also announced that it will give the people of Wales the opportunity to vote on whether they wish to keep the Assembly or not.   As the Assembly did not have overwhelming support this is also a good idea, but hold on, the Conservatives then announce if they keep the Assembly the Welsh will have 26 MPs - the same proportion as the rest of Great Britain, but if they abolish it they will have 33 MPs so all the principle outlined in the initial proposal goes straight out of the window and the Welsh are to be offered a simple bribe - abolish the Assembly and have more MPs than the rest of the Nation.   This is bad.   The Welsh should have the same principle attached to them as the rest of the nation regardless as to whether they have an Assembly or not.
To abandon a principled approach for a grubby little bribe is plain stupid and will be shot down by our opponents accordingly.   Who is it that comes up with these crazy ideas? I think we should be told.
Women Candidates
"Despite their fine words the Tories still fail to select enough female candidates.   Positive discrimination is the only answer" says Mary Ann Sieghart (The Times, December 20th)   Once again Mary Ann raises this subject and once again she has the wrong answer.   She clearly does not understand the Tory Party.   It is a distortion of democracy for the Conservative Party to have so few female candidates but you do not put a wrong right by creating another distortion of democracy in the process.
The truth of the matter is that the Conservative Party is run by a male oligarchy.   It is not a democratic Party.    Until democracy is brought to the Party the present situation will continue.    If Mary Ann wants to bring about change she should join the Campaign for Conservative Democracy and campaign for a democratic Party.   If the Chairman, Treasurer(there has never been a female Treasurer) and Vice Chairman in charge of candidates were elected by the members and accountable to the members by having to report on their activities at an Annual General Meeting we could see significant change.    At the moment all these positions are appointments of the Leader.    Why should they rock the boat?   There are probably more women members than men members in the Conservative Party (women live longer).   They should shake off their shackles of deference and stand up for democracy.   This way they will get change, the Mary Ann way they will continue to be ignored.
One other point should be made.   Why should there be a candidates list?   Central Office's sole function should be to vet the mad and the bad.   Otherwise let any Conservative member stand for election.   We only get the candidates that Central Office put on their list, often to the dismay of the local Association.    Local candidates are generally ignored as a result of recent rule changes - changes not agreed by the members but by the appointed Committee on Candidates.
19th December
***Stars of the Week*** - The Law Lords - for their defence of freedom and liberty in condemning the Anti Terrorism Act.   Those held under the Act should be charged and a proper trial held.   If found not guilty they should be released.
Andrew Tyrie MP - for pointing out the unfairness of our democracy on the "Today" programme and advocating a reduction in the number of MPs.
Wallies of the Week - Liam Fox MP - for condemning the Electoral Commission report in the "Financial Times"  as saying nothing more than "taxpayer's hard earned money going towards bigger grants to political parties and subsidising more junk mail".   Since 1997 the Conservative Party has directly received more than £20,000,000 in State funding - a lot of junk mail.    A pity that so little of it has been used communicating with ordinary Party members so they know what is going on!
David Davis MP - for not knowing on the "Morgan and Platell" show that the Conservative Party supported the government when it passed the infamous Anti Terrorism Act.
Until  and unless the Conservative Party cuts out all the hypocrisy and cant as illustrated above it will never get the trust of the electorate and will end up being flushed down the pan into history. 
Electoral Commission Report into Party Funding.   
What a disappointment their report was!    They did not have the guts to take on their paymasters in the Labour and Conservative Parties, so produced a mealy mouthed wishy washy report.   It is sad that they have given up their independence and are now in the pockets of the establishment.   Why didn't they cap donations?   What ordinary person gives £200 to a political Party?   Why have they not insisted that those Parties that receive money should be democratically based?   Why are they continuing to finance the oligarchies that run the Labour and Conservative Parties?    Sad, that a body that started out so well should now have become neutered.    Time to wrap it up and start again with a genuinely independent body.    In the mean time our democracy is disappearing fast.
Electronic Voting
Voters will be allowed to vote at any polling station under radical measures announced by the Government.   They have backed the introduction of a real time Great Britain wide electronic register which would enable people to vote anywhere in the country.   In principle we welcome this for any procedure to assist in getting more people to vote can only be good, but knowing this Government is it the first step towards compulsory voting?
Have the Parties considered the impact this will have on campaigning?   No more tellers at polling stations which means less reliance on Party members.   They want to get rid of us.   We hold them to account.
"The Times" Continues.
Letter unpublished in response to previous letters:
The Editor,                                                                                             10th December 04
The Times,
Dr. Christopher Bearman makes the point that "the Third Reform Bill of 1884 gave the vote to more people than its predecessors of 1832 and 1867 combined, but was enacted without political violence or, indeed, any great public demand for the measure." (Letters, December 9)
The 1884 Act increased the franchise by 1.7million but the largest extension to the franchise took place, after four years of World War, in 1918 with the passing of The Representation of the People Act, which increased the franchise from 7.7million to 21.4million. Was the passing of the 1918 Act a coincidence or a response to the War?
Yours faithfully,
December 12th
Letter to "The Times" and the response.
Simon Jenkins (Comment December 1) says "We may accept the mob as a necessary evil, but should remember that evil it remains".
Yet, riot and revolution are the mother and father of democracy. From the riots in Athens to the English Civil War, from the American War of Independence to the French Revolution, from the riots in which many people died which occurred when it was thought that the 1832 Reform Act would not pass, to the suffragettes, nearly all major advances in democracy were accompanied by civil disturbance.
As for modern Britain, can further progress in our democracy be made without violence when we have a Government which ignores peaceful demonstrations?"
Yours faithfully,

December 5th
***Star of the Week*** Dominic Grieve MP This week Dominic Grieve has held the Conservative Party on his shoulders.   Two appearances on the "Today" programme, "Newsnight", "The World This Weekend", Winding up a debate in the House of Commons, Constituency engagements.   What a Star!   Currently Shadow Attorney General, higher things beckon on this performance.
Party Leader - Prime Minister
In an article in "The Times" this week - "The last days of Tony Blair" (December 1) Alice Miles says that "The most astonishing claim is that No 10 – specifically Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary – has asked the Cabinet Office to find out whether there is a constitutional way of allowing the Prime Minister to continue in office even if he is no longer party leader."
When Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister in 1940, he continued as Leader of the Party. His successor as Prime Minister – Winston Churchill – was the Leader of the Parliamentary Party. A distinction was thus made between the Prime Minister the Leader of the Party and the Leader of the Parliamentary Party.
It is possible that a political Party might decide that the Leader of the Party should be a Member of the European Parliament. After all 60% of our legislation emanates from Brussels. The distinction made in 1940 then would be highly relevant, but this should be a matter for the political Party to decide, not the Cabinet Office.
28th November
***Stars of the Week*** - Lord Tebbitt for his hard hitting interview on "Hardtalk" - "Broadcasting House" for an excellent programme on democracy.    Congratulations to Fi Glover.    She handled it well.   "This Week"   This is the best and the worst political programme of the week.   Michael Portillo, Diane Abbott and Andrew Neil are excellent, but why oh why do they ruin it by having Mark Mardell in his ridiculous outfits.   He is the Billy Bunter of politics.   His reputation is going down the pan.   Do not watch this programme, video it, then you can fast forward through the Mardell junk.
First they came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the fox hunters
And I did not speak out -
Because I was not a fox hunter
Then they came for the obese
And I did not speak out -
Because I am not obese
Then they came for the smokers
And they did not speak out
Then they came for the motorists
And they did not speak out
Then they came for me –
And there was no-one left
To speak out for me.
With acknowledgements to Pastor Niemoller, 1938
21st November
"Tories to strip Party of say on Leader"
This was the headline in the "Daily Telegraph" this week.   It is quite clear that this is the first of what may turn into a series of skirmishes.   The MPs are looking to what may be the position after the next General Election.   If we lose, Michael Howard will probably stand down ( hopefully not immediately).   There would then be a Leadership election, but before that happens there should be changes made to the rules.   See below.#Rules for the election of the Leader.
If the Members of Parliament, as a single act, unilaterally change the rules regarding the Conservative Leadership election to exclude the participation of the membership they would be sounding the death knell of the Conservative Party. Such a breach of faith would hasten the demise of the voluntary Party and the Parliamentary Party would follow.
On the other hand if it was part of a package of reforms of the Party to make it more democratic it is possible the members would agree to it.
For a democratic Party we need the Party Chairman, Vice Chairmen and Treasurer elected by and accountable to the members. We want Party members to be involved in policy development and the return of genuine debates at the Party Conference. Together with other structural changes in the Party organisation we could create a reinvigorated democratic Party to take us forward for a generation.
Final proposed changes to the Party Constitution.
At its meeting on 13th November the following changes to the Conservative Party Constitution were agreed unanimously:
The Party Reforms, which William Hague introduced in 1998, have not worked. There have been some successes, but there have also been some spectacular failures:
We need to restructure the Party and simplify the Constitution. The time to do this is immediately after the next General Election. We set out our Final Agreed Proposals as follows:
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.
Elections can be conducted on the internet or by telephone with appropriate security arrangements.
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. Appeals from the Membership Committee should go to the Party Ombudsman.
An independent Party Ombudsman, who shall not be a member of the Conservative Party, should deal with individual membership matters. His decision shall be final.
Membership of the party shall be co-ordinated with Constituency Associations by use of the Intranet.
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 only be changed by 66% of those present and voting at the Convention.
The Party Chairman should chair 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
4 Members of the Executive of the 1922 Committee
1 MP and 1 MEP per Region
Regional Co-ordinators
Regional Treasurers
3 Officers of the Conservative Councillors Association
Leaders and Deputy Leaders of Conservative Groups of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland Assemblies.
2 members (non-office holding) per Region elected by the Region.
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 Deputy Leader of the Party will be The Chairman of the Policy Forum
The Party Leader will determine the priorities of policies.
The National Executive should elect two thirds of the Council of the Conservative Policy Forum.
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 Regional/National Forums.
The Regional/National Forums 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 to be extended to Four years for an individual if agreed by Executive Council.
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. Only motions with 10 supporting signatures to be considered for inclusion on the Conference agenda.
We commend the above proposals to you.
The State of the PartyThis week Michael Howard announced that "We have seen a big increase in our membership and we now have more members than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined".   In an interview he said "We've had a very significant increase in our membership".   You would think that with such good news we would be willing to let everybody have the figures, but no, even the National Membership Committee is refused the figures.   Makes you wonder doesn't it?
Of course Michael is probably right about having more members than the Liberal Democrats and Labour put together, but that is because the Labour Party membership is diving faster than the Conservative Party's.
Contrast all this optimism with an e mail I received this week.   It said "The Party is far too centralised and stuck in its ways and must change to succeed.   You may be interested to know that in many areas across the North we are finding there are insufficient approved candidates applying.   Special General Meetings (to adopt candidates) , are being cancelled in some cases repeatedly, what candidates there are live in the South East, some Associations are having to pick from one person!   Anyway the whole thing has been left far too late and the input of Associations ignored.   Frankly it is a farce and this is dawning on more and more people, especially in the North.   If there was a February election it would be a disaster and I think some very serious questions must be asked".
Boris JohnsonSo dear old Boris has been dismissed, not for his private life but for not being candid to Michael Howard about it.   On the other hand. what was Michael Howard doing asking him about his private life in the first place?
The Party Constitution.At a meeting yesterday the members of COPOV unanimously agreed the changes that are required to the Party's constitution immediately after the next General Election.    We will publish them on the web site next week.   For the draft see Notice Board   For proposed changes to the Leadership Rules see below.
7th November
28th November - the date to remember.
Now that Bush has a second term in the White House Tony Bliar is due to resign as Prime Minister on 28th November.   Watch this space.
Party ChairmanOn the "Today" programme the Party Chairman, Liam Fox said that the Conservative Party had 320,000 members.   Everybody knows that this is not true, so why does he say it?   Why is it that every Party Chairman overstates the number of members that the Conservative Party has?   Perhaps they have a collective guilty conscience about the way the voluntary Party has been treated over the years.
IraqIn their new programme Amanda Platell and Piers Morgan questioned Michael Ancram about Iraq.   The Conservative position has no credibility.   It is time we said: "We made a mistake in supporting this war, it is time we withdrew our troops."   Iraq is another Vietnam.    Those we say are terrorists today will tomorrow be freedom fighters.    Terrorists do not control towns as big as Fallujah.   Iraq is about to play a big part in the next General Election.   If the Conservatives want to hand things on a plate to the Liberal Democrats they will continue with the ridiculous approach that they have at the moment.  
One other thing the Party should do is to call for the abolition of the last Anti Terrorism Act.   Under that act 664 people have been arrested.   Three people have been convicted.   What a disgrace!
The United States has 130,000 troops in Iraq and has suffered approx. 1,100 deaths, i.e about 0.7%.   The British in the so called soft area of Basra have approx. 9,000 troops and have suffered 63 deaths, i.e about 0.7%.    With the Black Watch now sitting targets it looks as though our rate will increase.   The mealy mouthed politicians should bring them home.
Party FinanceWe hear that the move to Victoria Street has cost more than was budgeted for.   The budget for the move was £1.8 million.   The cost was £2.2 million.   On top of this the new Logo (imported from East Germany) cost £118,000.   Now those of you with long memories will recall that after the General election of 1992 the Party ended up with a £19 million deficit and Saatchi and Saatchi had to delay collecting their not inconsiderable fees.   I hope we are not about to have a repeat performance.   With Raymond Monbiot in charge of finance we shouldn't, but things can easily get out of hand.
The Summer advertising campaign cost £800,000 and was set in motion on the back of promised donations which as yet do not appear to have materialised.   Worrying!
October 31st
***Star of the Week*** David Dimbleby for the authoritative way he chaired the "Question Time" debate.
MPs Expenses
One aspect of the considerable increase in MPs expenses is the distortion it may do to our democracy.
Over the course of a parliament an MP can receive approximately £500,000 in expenses. Much of the money will be spent on communicating with his/her electors, public relations, party political matters, newsletters etc. This will give the incumbent Member of Parliament a huge electoral advantage at the General Election. His opponents will not have access to such large sums of taxpayers money, but in any case the amount they can spend during an election campaign is strictly limited by law.
This is clearly an unsatisfactory state of affairs which should be investigated by the Electoral Commission.
The excuse that many MPs have given for the huge increase in their expenses is the dramatic rise in their constituency correspondence in recent times.   Why has this happened?   It is because the legislation being passed through parliament is so badly drafted, there is too much of it and it receives little scrutiny.   MPs are taking on the role of the Social Services which churns out so much gobbledegook that nobody can understand them.   The MP is their last resort.   Whose fault is all this?   Why the MPs that have allowed this to happen in the first place.
Of course, at one time much of their activities would have been dealt with in their constituency office, but constituency associations have become so run down in many places they hardly exist.   Whose fault is this?    Why, the MPs, because they have refused in both the Labour and Conservative parties to be democratic with the result that nobody wants to join.
One way out of this shambles would be to have democratic parties.   Another would be to employ all an MPs support staff centrally by Parliament and then allocated to MPs like political staff working for council groups in local government are treated.
Another way would be to abolish the system of salary and expenses and to pay an "allowance" to a member of parliament.   Any expenses wholly and necessarily incurred in the course of their parliamentary duties would be allowed for tax - the balance being treated as salary.   The Inland Revenue would decide whether the expenses were allowable.
What is for sure is that this whole issue needs urgent reform.
October 24th
***Star of the Week***  The "Today" programme for the brilliant debate on casinos and gambling between Peter Oborne and Melanie Phillips.   This was a debate of the highest quality and a privilege to hear.   It brought back the cut and thrust of debate.
Decline and FallWe hear that the Southern Region womens conference has been cancelled due to lack of support.   This is a further sign of the decline of the voluntary Party.   Not long ago this conference had packed meetings often with several members of the Shadow Cabinet in attendance.   We have to re-structure the Party immediately after the general election or it will disappear.
At the next COPOV meeting we will finalise our proposals for change.   These can be seen on the Notice Board.    We have already submitted proposed changes to the rules for  the Leadership election.
***Stars of the Week*** Dominic Grieve MP for a masterly presentation from the front bench on the Mental Capacity Bill.
Howard Flight MP for an excellent speech to the Buckinghamshire Supper Club.
David Starkey for his spirited performance on "This Week in Politics."
November 28th 2004We hear that this is a very special date in Tony Bliar's life for he has agreed with George Bush that if Bush is re-elected President of the United States, Tony Bliar will resign as Prime Minister on this date.   If Bush is not re-elected Bliar will see out the Iraq war - he hopes.   Remember, you heard it here first!
Electoral Distortion (1)Assuming a similar turnout in the next General Election as we had in 2001 the Conservatives are likely to have one MP for every 33,000 votes they win across Britain – while Labour will have one MP for every 28,000 votes. This highlights the distortion we now have in our electoral system.
Electoral Distortion (2)In the General Election of 2001 only 99 MPs(15% of the total) were elected with the support of at least a third of their electorates.    Is this democracy UK style?
October 10th
***Stars of the Week*** - The Conservative Party - they had a good conference.Michael Howard MP - The ten words were a good idea.
David Lidington MP - for his support of the Northern Ireland Conservatives.   At last the Party is supporting them including Michael Howard.   Excellent.
Conservative FinancesSeen propping up the bar at the conference were Andrew Pierce of "The Times" and Lord Ashcroft.   What a surprise then that on Friday "The Times" published a favourable article about the Conservative Party finances.   It said " The Tories spent about £1.5 million fitting out new offices in Victoria Street on which they have taken out a three year lease costing just under £1 million."   As Central office used to be leased for a peppercorn of £1 per annum the Party has just chucked £2.5 million down the drain.    Nice to have lots of cash, but tell that to the constituencies.
The article also said about Central Office that "the delay in the sale is, they say, because other options are now being examined."    Could it be that one option is that the Party moves back in, having discovered that it cannot get its hands on the proceeds of sale because the Party doesn't own it? 
Were you there?In his article for "The Times" on Friday Nick Robinson said how "The 17 year old Jessica Lever wowed Bournemouth yesterday."    Did he watch it on television?   I could swear that at 9.15am on Thursday morning he had a packed suitcase and I heard him say to James Naughtie "Any chance of a lift to the station?"
Blair and DemocracySpeaking to the Labour Party conference Tony Blair said "It is worth staying the course to bring democracy to Iraq", but what does he mean by "democracy"?
Is it a United States style of democracy where in the Presidential election the candidate with the most individual votes did not become President? Will the candidates for President of Iraq be able to spend the $3 billion as the United States Presidential election is estimated to cost?
Could it be a United Kingdom style of democracy with an almost wholly appointed second chamber? Will the voters only be able to vote for a Party and not for an individual as in the European Parliamentary elections?
It is possible Mr Blair means "rule by the people" in which democracy is the process by which we determine the will of the majority, in which case could we have it here, or do we have to be invaded and controlled by a foreign power before this can happen?
October 3rd
"I Don't Believe It"At the Conservative Party conference videos of interviews with Shadow Cabinet members are going to be shown before the sessions start.    The interviews will include such questions as "Do you remember your first kiss?" and "What was the last CD you bought/"
What idiot, from the media centre, just out of nappy training thought up this nonsense?   We are in the middle of a war and some crackpot thinks that the British public are interested in these kind of things and what does it say about a Shadow Cabinet that agreed to do it?   Give me strength!
New Logo?Have you seen the new party logo?   Does it remind you of East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall?
Communication?We know that the voluntary party have been airbrushed out of the conference but it would be nice if somebody could tell them Central Office's new address so that they have somewhere to write to to complain or even to make positive suggestions.   How can you communicate with the electorate if you cannot communicate with your own members?

February 13th
Henry Curteis

I remember visiting Germany on business in the 1970’s – a time when Britain’s economy was in dire straits and we greatly admired Germany’s resurgence.  I was in Pforzheim, a town bombed flat by the RAF in 1944, with tens of thousands dead.  The same high quality engineering which attracted the attentions of the RAF, had brought me to the same place thirty years later.

In the 1970’s there were still many Germans around who had lived through the war.  As I checked out of the small comfortable hotel where I was staying, the owner asked me where I was heading. ‘England,’ I said.  ‘Oh England,’ he replied. ‘I once tried to go to England - in 1940 – but I could not go further than Calais!’

Meeting people like him, you could not understand how on earth the war had ever happened.  In my youthful naivety, I asked an engineer I met in the factory where I was working, who was equally amusing – ‘how did the war happen?’.  His answer has always stayed with me.  He said thoughtfully.  ‘You will never understand the war unless you experience the power of propaganda.’

In those days, things were so simple.  Britain was a territorially intact free country with a free press and the longest surviving democratic tradition in the world.  It was only ‘abroad’ where freedom or territory was compromised – especially in the Communist Bloc.  Our appalling economy made us feel inferior to others – especially Germany at that time – but deep down we were still supremely confident because we were a free nation.

Now another thirty years later, how things have changed.  Germany has reunited, and it is now her economy which resembles the basket case with 5 million unemployed.  Britain has enjoyed a long boom, and many people have seen their dreams fulfilled.  But while our economy has grown, the words of the German engineer have come back to haunt me. 

We now taste the power of propaganda.  Courtesy especially of Rupert Murdoch, I now understand how the good in mankind can be neutralized.  We see every day how truth is distorted to fit the agenda of the powerful, and as others lost their freedom in the past, we are now losing ours.  Never before has a Conservative victory been as necessary as it is now to break the power of those who crush truth through daily manipulation.  We are losing our most precious commodity.

Michael Howard must confront voters with the decision they have to take.  Do they want five more years of being lied to, manipulated and ignored?  The decision is theirs.  This vitally concerns Britain’s survival and future prosperity -  that people’s views are brought back into the political equation.  Labour see voters as consumers of Labour’s political output, that have to be manipulated into line.  Conservatives see voters differently - as a vital part of the process of government.  Which would they prefer to be?  If they want to be consulted, and their opinions seen as of importance, then vote accordingly.  To get rid of Labour there is only one party to vote for – Conservative.

Henry Curteis

Do the Conservatives want to win the next election?
Henry Curteis
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2004
If the Conservatives want to win the next election, they can do so. The policy platform being cooked up under Michael Howard’s leadership is sufficient to appeal to floating voters – whether on health, schools, crime or the economy. There is nothing wrong with any of the main planks of Conservative Policy being advanced. While Conservatives were once equated with sleaze and cuts seven years ago, now it is Labour that in the public’s mind is tarred with the equivalent brushes of cronyism, corruption and administrative incompetence – not to mention Blair’s particular sycophantic compliance with the wishes of foreign heads of state.
Add to that the fact that Government revenues are being squeezed. Taxes are on an ever-upward path, and just to add to people’s concerns the oil price is getting uppity. The public mood is shifting away from a feeling that we can afford whatever we want to one of caution. In short, after seven years in which economic prosperity has pulled people’s ideas to the left, politics is now shifting back to the right. But as fast as floating voters find themselves compelled by logic to revisit thoughts of conservatism, the Conservative Party’s core vote has never seemed less content with the progress of events. The flow into the tank of Conservative support is accelerating, but there is a serious leak, and that too is growing, making the net level of support about even. The problem began with the rejection of IDS, at which moment Conservatives reached the high water mark of support, at around 40% in the polls in October 2003. It was not just IDS who was rejected. The Conservative Party membership and activists were also sent packing by the MP’s who ended IDS’ leadership as the members were the ones who had selected him in the first place. This severely weakened the momentum of the growing Conservative support, which IDS had achieved by developing cross party appeal. His emphasis on compassion struck a chord with left wing voters, and his patriotism was popular with all voters.
The resulting weakening of morale in the Conservative camp was exploited by UKIP, with Kilroy Silk boosting their support in the European elections by four times over previous best. 3million people voted UKIP, as if posting a warning to Michael Howard that if he weakened the Eurosceptic stance of the party that would lose him enough support to hurt his chances of winning an election.
Conservative canvass returns are indeed now showing that about 10% of previous Conservative votes are now seriously thinking of voting UKIP at a General Election. If this happens the Conservatives are finished, and all the attempts to occupy the centre ground, as so often advocated by Michael Portillo will be a waste of time
It is really time that politicians listened to what voters are telling them.


It is very depressing that after a very successful party conference we seem to have made little or no progress and are still hovering around the 30% - 32% in the latest opinion polls. It will be remembered that this time last year I wrote about the renewed hope Michael Howard’s leadership would give us and that, in contrast to Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Howard was of Prime Ministerial material, having held high office in both the Thatcher and Major governments. But I must confess that, like many others, I now have doubts about certain of the decisions our leader has recently made – in particular the return of John Redwood to the Shadow Cabinet. (I was appalled at his "I’m back" remark) and the dropping of both Damian Green and John Bercow on the left of our party. However, we do seem to be making progress on other fronts – we have a better ‘mix’ of candidates and more women have been chosen to defend seats that we already hold or contest marginals which we hope to win. We have over 7,000 councillors and are the largest party in local government. It was pleasing to see that young councillor, Simon Rouse, won the Millwall ward in Tower Hamlets, our first seat in that borough for nearly 50 years. And what did he campaign on? Yes, the fear of rising crime and the lack of safety on many of our streets, particularly in the big cities. These are not ‘right wing’ issues – they are people’s issues – the concern of the ordinary person in the street who is totally fed up with the Islington metropolitan ‘elite’ and their failed policies and abstract theories.
This was the first conference I had ever attended and I did so as an ordinary paid up member of the party. One thing which struck me was the varying number of ‘fringe’ meetings you could attend on so many different topics. As we went into the Bournemouth International Conference Centre we were stopped by people brandishing leaflets on all sorts of subjects. This only served to confirm the pressure all governments are under from so many different sources. The debates were interesting and there were good speeches from many representatives from all walks of life. I cannot understand how people, according to the focus groups, think of us as out of touch, only for the rich and the professional middle class. We are a far broader church than that and have always been. In the 1950’s and 60’s, as well as polling well among women in general, we always picked up 25%-30% of the Trade Union vote.
The Chairman of the Conference, Richard Stephenson, is only 28 and went to the local comprehensive school and to a red brick university. We do have young people in the party and I believe our leaders should do all they can to encourage a greater participation by our younger members. They are, after all, the future and if it means that some stalwarts of older generations have to move over, so be it.
The questions and answer forums in which senior members of the Shadow Cabinet were quizzed were informative and this kind of discussion has set the pattern for future conferences. I was less impressed by the videos asking them what food they liked, what was their favourite CD and did they remember their first kiss etc. but I suppose it did its job in showing us that they were ordinary mortals and not from some far off planet.
Michael Howard, of course, stole the show with his speech late on Tuesday morning. I thought it was well delivered in the down to earth manner of someone who grew up in a working class steel town in South Wales. And he knows what it is like to be an outsider – family history apart – a Conservative and soccer supporter in Labour held, rugby loving Llanelli.
For me, five other speakers stood out. Dr Liam Fox in his opening remarks on the Monday morning, Tim Collins on education (who set the mood for Michael Howard later in the morning), Christopher Soames on defence and David Willetts who reminded us of the serious pensions crisis and handled a complex matter very well. Not far behind was David Davis. I cannot understand how when, with the present system in a shambles, we try to frame eminently sensible proposals on immigration we always hear the words ‘extreme’, or ‘right wing’. And what is wrong with saying that, if a person is sentenced to seven years they should serve the full term? In the home affairs/law and order debate we did not have the usual cries and cheers for ‘hanging’ nor the brandishing of handcuffs as Edwina Currie did at the conference over 20 years ago. We have, thankfully, moved on.
Like Conference itself, the ‘fringe’ meetings were informative and interesting. The Daily Telegraph meeting "Can the Conservatives win the next election?" on the Tuesday lunchtime attracted over 1,000 people and the Bow Group meeting that evening, addressed by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, on Britain’s relationship with Europe and the USA attracted 100 or so of us. Sir Malcolm was in fine form with one or two humorous anecdotes and, barring an earthquake, he will be returned as MP for Kensington & Chelsea in 2005/2006. He will, of course, be a great asset to the parliamentary party because of the breadth and depth of his political ‘nous’ both at home and abroad. Social Insurance and a different approach to health care was addressed by a consultant surgeon and the prospective candidate for one of the Nottingham seats and by Tim Loughton MP, an opposition spokesman on health, and drew me on the Monday lunchtime; Dr Liam Fox delivered the annual Swinton lecture to a fairly large audience that Monday evening. The Freedom Association’s attack on political correctness with Ann Widdecombe MP as guest speaker was Wednesday’s lunchtime treat and "Capturing the Women’s Vote" held in one of the marquees at the Highcliff Hotel rounded off a varied three days of debate and discussion.
We were, of course, meeting under the shadow of the Hartlepool by election and it is hard to believe that 45 years ago in October 1959 Hartlepool actually returned a Conservative MP in that general election. Kilroy-Silk’s declaration that he wanted to ‘kill off’ the Conservative Party exposed his true intentions and we were given a further boost when Paul Sykes said he would not finance UKIP for this purpose. We are really caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Should we shore up our ‘core’ vote by becoming even more Euro sceptic or should we seek a broader appeal by emphasising our policies on health, education and other related subjects. I confess I don’t know the answer. Labour were in a totally different position even after their third defeat in 1987. Because they had more safe seats, they emerged with 220 MPs, 63 more than we have at present. Also they were not faced with two right wing parties vying with each other to see who was best placed to beat the socialist. We have the situation where left inclined voters will vote for either the Liberal Democrats or the Labour party – whichever has the better chance of beating us. Many in our party do not realise that even to obtain parity in terms of seats with Labour, we now have to poll 5% more in terms of the national vote. The electoral system is now working against us. Although many are fed up with Blair and the Labour Party, they are not hated. Despite Gordon Brown’s tax rises and massive increases in public expenditure, most are still reasonably well off. Apathy and indifference are the order of the day and I do not detect a mood for change on the slogan ‘get the rascals out’. Memories of our last five years in office are fresh in many people’s minds and although Labour may have inherited a golden legacy many people had to suffer much pain and Conservative tax rises in the meantime. Neither am I convinced that we can get our vote out when the general election comes. I view Lord Saachi’s claim that we are on course to win 103 seats as sheer moonshine. I live in a marginal constituency, Labour held, which for over 30 years had a Conservative MP. Our principal headquarters, situated admittedly in the Labour voting part of the constituency, are shabby and manned only part-time by the Constituency Secretary. There was no hub or bustle of activity when I went there to register for my conference pass. We even lost two seats in the recent council elections and were denied three other seats by a split in the Conservative vote in one of the other wards. We could not find enough local candidates and had to bus people in from the safe parts of the constituency to fight hopeless wards in the Labour areas. I suspect my experience is true of many other constituencies, particularly those in the cities of the north where we do not even have council representation.
In Bournemouth I bought a copy of Alan Clark’s Diaries ‘In Office 1983-1992’. Clark was, of course, an eccentric right winger of the ‘we were born to rule’ type that still exists in some sections of our party. Clark’s diaries leave nothing to the imagination – reading them shows how foul mouthed, petty, jealous and vindictive some of our MPs are and only serves to confirm why politics and politicians are a ‘turn off’ for so many. The ‘one of us’ mentality displayed by Mrs Thatcher and so many of her associates is in many ways frightening. In my view, she was fortunate to be faced by two Labour leaders on the left of that party, Michael Foot in 1983 and Neil Kinnock in 1987 – and the rise in the SDP/Liberal Alliance support at that time. Our party has not properly adjusted to the ‘post Thatcher’ era and we look back with nostalgia to a time when elections were easily won on 43% of the vote and an opposition almost equally divided. For me, a one nation Tory, ‘Thatcherism’ was a necessity in a country rendered virtually ungovernable because of Trade Union power. Was it not Jim Callaghan who said "We are at your mercy"? (meaning the Trade Unions). Another problem is that Labour is no longer a socialist party in the sense that it is committed to nationalising everything in sight. But it still believes in high taxation, boosting public expenditure, creating jobs in the public sector. It still likes to be guardian of the ‘nanny state’ with its tax credits and so on. It likes to boss everybody around, to control, hence the ‘social engineering' argument with the universities which are now subject to government diktat. The hunting issue will certainly not be its poll tax if only because most people are not interested in the issue and many Conservatives, including those in the shires, consider, rightly or wrongly, that the sport is cruel. We certainly could not win a campaign talking about fox hunting and Iraq.
Personally I feel we need more time to develop our policies. We know that Tony Blair is a ‘lame duck’ Prime Minister but for us to get Michael Howard into downing Street next year would require an economic crisis similar to that of 1931. But we must win seats to show that we are back in business and we must aim for at least 250. This is possible if we target correctly and put in a lot of effort.
I have no doubt that the time will come when we will be in government again but I don’t think it will be until Labour has once again bankrupted the economy by excessive spending when the wealth creating private sector may well be on its knees. We are, I believe sleep walking to disaster (the pensions crisis tell us something is wrong). Radical, painful measures may well have to be taken in a situation similar to that which Mrs Thatcher faced 25 years ago. Will we be in a position to meet that challenge? I sincerely hope so. The facts of life are, inevitably, Tory.

No comments:

Post a Comment