Archive 2007

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December 30th European Parliament Selection - Parliamentary Candidates - No Representation Without Taxation -
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones 
December 16th Parliamentary Candidates - EU Parliament Selection Farce 
December 9th Lord Ashcroft - Parliamentary Candidates
December 2nd Disgraceful Selection of Candidates for EU Parliament
November 25th Privacy - Habeas Corpus - Next Week, Democracy is being destroyed in the Conservative Party
November 18th Petitions to 10 Downing St. - Selection of Candidates to the European Parliament - Uncomfortable
November 11th European Scrutiny Committee - Identity Cards - Our Rotten Electoral System - Did You Know?
November 4th Parliamentary Candidates - The Police State
October 28th European Parliament Elections - Conservative Party Constitution
October 21st Lord Ashcroft - Party Take-over
October 14th Your Vote Wont Count - Constitutional Treaty - Data Protection
October 7th Appointment of Candidates - Party Chairman - British Airways Update
September 23rd Eurospeak - National Disgrace
September 16th Lady Thatcher
September 9th Advice for Dave
September 2nd Open Primaries - BBC Bias - EU Referendum
August 26th The Ashcroft Enigma - The Loop Hole - General Election
August 19th Good Week for John Redwood MP - Soldier Blogs - Anomaly - Quangos
August 12th Electronic Voting - Equal Value of Votes - Little Irritations
August 5th Another Fine Mess - Candidate Selection - Ealing Southall
July 29th Conservative Party Accounts - Snippets
July 22nd Another Fine Mess
July 15th Why should I be a member of the Conservative Party?
July 8th The Real Party Chairman - Europe - Voting for the Scottish Parliament
July 1st Good Week, Bad Week - European Referendum
June 24th The Police State again - Electronic Voting -
June 17th *** Conservative Party *** - The Police State
June 10th ***Conservative Party *** - NOW WE KNOW, WE ARE LIVING IN A POLICE
STATE - Corruption?
June 3rd Two Cheers for the Conservative Party - Grammar Schools, a Response
May 27th Grammar Schools - Freedom of Information - The Gravy Train - Conservative Women's Organisation 

May 20th Our Secret Society - Dave, we told you so - Prime Minister
 May 13th Europe back on the Agenda - Democracy distorted - Olly does it again
May 6th Conservatives, the next six months - Congratulations - Our Democracy is Unwell
April 29th One Cheer for the Party Board
April 22nd Selection of MEP candidates - Ageist? - Welcome Lord Trimble - Disappointing
April 15th What kind of World?
April 8th Chaos in the Gulf
April 1st Electoral Fraud - Parliamentary Candidate Selection - European Parliament Candidate Selection
March 25th An Appointed House of Lords - Where did all the money go?
March 18th The Spring Forum - The "A" List - Support Status
March 11th   ***Star of the Week*** - European Parliament Elections - Global Warming or are we being conned? - The Spring Forum
March 3rd   House of Lords Reform - House of Commons Reform - What Kind of Society?
February 25th House of Lords Reform - EU Forum
February 18th Three Cheers for the European Parliament - UKIP - House of Lords Reform
February 11th Electoral Fraud - Party Membership - Anti-Terrorism
February 4th The Demise of the "A" List - Blair's Legacy  = Northern Ireland - The United States
January 28th Another step to a Totalitarian State - Policy Groups - Women2Win - Conservative Diary
January 21st   *** Stars of the Week***
January 16th European Parliament Selections
January 7th ***Star of the Week*** - Communication and the National Convention - The "A" List
European Parliament Selection
We hear that there are moves to open up the selection procedure for candidates for election to the European Parliament.   At present the sitting MEPs that are standing again are to appear before an electoral college of Constituency Chairmen, Council Leaders, Regional and Area Officers.   If they receive more than 50% of the votes they will automatically go forward at the top of their lists, virtually guaranteeing election.   The ordinary member will be effectively left out of the process.   However there is a move to persuade the Regional Colleges to vote against all sitting MEPs.   This would then force them to stand as ordinary candidates together with the other candidates.   They would become accountable to the ordinary member of the Party.   We urge all the Regional Colleges to take this democratic step, thus ensuring that the votes of the members will count.
There is of course a sideline to this.    Because the Party has decided to distort democracy in favour of women, if the above proposal goes ahead we are guaranteed to have at least twelve women MEPs.    That might put a smile on David Cameron's face as well as that of the Women's Organisation.   Go for it!
What has happened to the selection of a parliamentary candidate in Maidstone.   It seems to have gone very quiet.    Interviews were conducted over a weekend.   Candidates are then normally told whether they have got through the interview.   Not so this time.    Instead to everybody's surprise they decided to hold a Special Executive Committee meeting.   We understand that there are factions within the Maidstone Constituency Association.   The Chairman has strong views, the sitting MP has strong views and the Councillors have strong views.   Will they all be reconciled and when will we know the result?   In the mean time speculation is rife.   The simple solution to this type of speculation is to be totally open and transparent about the process.   Why does everything have to be done in secret?   Why aren't the figures given as to how many votes a candidate got?    Why aren't the names of the candidates made public?   The whole selection procedure needs to be opened up.   After all we are in the 21st century.   I think.
No Representation Without Taxation
It was good to see the House of Commons Public Administration Committee endorsing the above sentiment so soon after we had proposed it. (See below Lord Ashcroft)
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones
Dame Pauline is a worthy and good addition to the Tories front bench.   She has great experience and knowledge of terrorism with a sensible and pragmatic solution with dealing with it.   However she still has a bit to learn about politics and the media.   Just before Christmas she appeared on "Newsnight" on the day that the three Muslims were discharged from Guantanamo Bay demanding a Government statement as to what they were going to do.   This was premature and accordingly Jeremy Paxman made mince meat out of her.   There are times to keep quiet when dealing with the media and this was one of them.   I hope she has learnt her lesson.

Parliamentary Candidates
The controversy surrounding the selection of Parliamentary candidates continues.   The latest scandal concerns the "City Seats Initiatives".   This is a good initiative which encourages prospective candidates to get involved in our most difficult seats in the inner cities.    Teams will be made up to tackle a group of constituencies.   "The Team will be made up  of the requisite number of candidates for the parliamentary seats and that membership of a CSI team guarantees selection for one of the seats as a PPC".   Nowhere in the document announcing this initiative does it mention the members of the Constituencies concerned.   So who chooses these candidates?   Will the members have any say at all?   Not if the last General Election is any guidance.   The same old disaster is about to be repeated.   Candidates from the South of England, often Kensington and Chelsea, will be imposed on constituencies in the North without those constituency party members having any say in the matter.   There is no better way to demotivate the ordinary members of a Constituency Association than this.   Why do they do it?    Will they appeal for local candidates?   I doubt it.   We can only hope that they will not repeat the folly of last time when candidates, after being appointed, were told not to spend any time in the constituency but to go and help out in a marginal seat.   Labour quickly cottoned on to this so moved all their workers out of the safe Labour seat into the marginal.   Double whammy all round.   Is there anyone at Central Office that understands this?  
We mentioned last week about the "Special "A" List.   You would think that if the control freaks are operating this list, then a candidate on the Approved List would have the right to an interview for inclusion on the "Special" List.   Not on your Nelly.   The control freaks might then have to answer why some candidates are on the "Special" List and others are not.   When is the Party going to clean up this mess once and for all.   It is a disgrace which will only be resolved when those in charge of candidate selection are accountable to Party members.    Party membership is falling at between 10 and 15% per annum.   Is it any wonder when they are treated so badly?
EU Parliament Selection FarceThe farce over the selection of candidates for the European Parliament continues.   Constituency representatives on the Regional Selection Forum do not fancy spending two days of their time on a meaningless exercise.    Constituency Associations are having difficulty persuading their officers to attend at all.   They might spend one day.   The question they have to decide is will it be ranking sitting MEPs or selecting candidates for hopeless positions?    They may well decide neither.

Lord Ashcroft is doing an excellent job in organising the campaigns in the marginal seats.   He clearly has great organisational ability which is being put to good use by the Conservative Party.    The money that is going into these seats helps to offset the huge advantage that sitting Labour MPs have by way of taxpayer's money being used in research and communication with the electorate.
Nevertheless there are continuing attacks on Lord Ashcroft by the Labour Party.   These attacks are wrong and misguided.    They are trying to deflect attention from their  lawbreaking and lack of transparency.   There is no justification for them.   Nobody has suggested that Lord Ashcroft has broken the law.   Having said all that, there is a real debate to be had on the principle of whether people who are non resident or non domiciled for UK tax purposes should be entitled to vote.   Perhaps we have reached the point when the people say that unless you pay taxes in the United Kingdom or are liable for tax in the United Kingdom you should not have a vote in the way in which the Kingdom is governed.   That seems to me to be perfectly defensible.    If this is what the Labour Party believe then they should say so out loud.    Perhaps in a democracy we should not only talk about "No Taxation without Representation" but also "No Representation without Taxation".    Let the debate begin.
Parliamentary Candidates
Over the last month there has been a clear increase in the number of complaints about the way candidates are being selected.    All the old stories about the Candidates Committee are coming back.    Control freakery is in the ascendant.   Candidates are unhappy at the way the North East Cambridge seat and Maidstone seats are conducting the selection process, not at the Constituency level, but at the way conditions and candidates are being imposed on them.   An abbreviated version of the "A" List is being used, so who draws up this Special "A" List?   We hear that there is a paper entitled the "100 most asked questions" which is given to selected candidates.   Who decides which candidates get this and which do not.    We also hear worrying tales about special training programmes at £5-600 a time which ensures preferential treatment to those candidates that go on them.
On top of all this in a recent selection the issue of the seat not having any money was raised.   Lord Woolton stamped this out in 1948 but for the last fifteen years it has crept back onto the agenda.    We also know of candidates who are not even given an interview to go on the list, for "lack of experience" when they have been a Councillor for over fourteen years.   Some Constituencies are getting promises that they will be bankrolled.
The fundamental problem with much of this is that there is no transparency in the process and no accountability of those that take the decisions.   Until the Chairman of the Candidates Committee is elected by the National Convention and reports annually to the Convention on the workings of the Committee the resentment among grass roots members will simmer and increase.
What with the problems surrounding Party funding on top of this it really is time for the Conservative Party to become a democratic Party of the 21st century rather than the oligarchy that it is.

Disgraceful Selection of Candidates for EU Parliament

Selection of Conservative Candidates for the
European Parliament Elections in 2009

On the last occasion when we had to select candidates for the European Parliament every Party member had a vote.   In order to exercise their vote they had to turn up at a hustings meeting and spend most of the day listening to the candidates.   They listed the candidates in order of preference and the candidates were then selected accordingly.   The candidates included MEPs that were standing for reselection.   This was a fair process but inevitably due to the fact that the vote could only be exercised if you were prepared to spend a whole day on this matter, the turnout was very low.   The solution to the problem of low turnout is to allow postal, telephone or Internet voting.
So what is the Conservative Party going to do:
First of all a Regional College will decide whether sitting MEPs go forward to the top of the list. Party members will then be asked for their preferences on those at the top of the list.   This will be a meaningless exercise because unless there is a serious collapse in the Conservative vote, those at the top of the list will be re-elected anyway.   This is wholly undemocratic.    It takes away the vote of the ordinary Party member.   It means the sitting MEPs are no longer accountable to Party members.
The spurious case put forward to justify this decision by the Party hierarchy is to equate the Regional College with the Executive Council of an Association.   They say that a sitting MP does not have to go before a member of his or her Association in order to be re-adopted as the candidate.   This is true. Since legislation in 2001 there does not have to be an adoption meeting of the Association to re-select the candidate. (In Scotland there has to be an adoption meeting and we believe this should be brought back in the rest of the United Kingdom for a number of reasons.)
There is, however, a critical difference – an ordinary member of a Constituency Association can at any time call a Special Meeting of an Association and move a motion of no confidence in the sitting MP or even call for a re-selection process involving other candidates.   In other words a sitting MP is always accountable to the members of his or her Party members in the local Association.
This is not the case with a sitting MEP.   There is no body to which a sitting MEP is accountable or to which an ordinary Party member may move a motion of no confidence in the MEP.    In the past the only time a sitting MEP became accountable to ordinary Party members was at the time of their reselection.
The second major change in the selection process involves the rigging of the candidates’ position after the sitting MEPs have been reselected.    The first vacancy will be a woman regardless of where she came in the voting of the Party members.   So it is almost certain that all new MEPs will be women regardless.   The top two women will automatically go forward to the postal ballot regardless of where they come on the list produced by the Regional Selection College.   This discrimination is disgraceful and a total distortion of democracy.   This distortion disguises the abysmal failure of the Party to determine why it is that so few women wish to be parliamentary candidates and so tackle the problem at its source.
The selection process for candidates for the European Parliament will start in January 2008.   The two major distortions to democracy in the process outlined above are not the only ones.
There are others:
(a) Guidance will be given to the Regional Selection College "on the attributes needed" in candidates.   Who are these arrogant people that know exactly what the electorate want in a Conservative candidate and what is the "guidance" that they will be giving?   Have they been elected by anybody in this role?   Are they accountable to anybody if they are wrong?    Who has approved the guidance to be given?
(b) Censorship.   The most likely people to know about the candidates are those Constituency Chairmen, Council Leaders and Area and Regional Officers who make up the Regional Selection College (RSC).   How ironic that they have been censored.   According to the rules:
"In order that all applicants are treated on a fair and equal basis, members of the RSC should not at any time engage in canvassing for or against any applicants or group of applicants, and must not circulate any material, either written or electronic pertaining to any aspect of an applicant’s application.    To avoid any doubt on this point, members of the RSC should not engage in email, text, blog or telephone communication about applicants.   Any members of the RSC found engaging in such action will forfeit their place on the RSC.   The decision of the Regional Chairman and Regional Director on this issue will be final.
So, we not only have an undemocratic Conservative Party we have censorship as well.
(c) One possible way that members of the Party might have been able to show their distaste for this abominable process would have been to give one or more candidates no preferential rating at all, but this cannot be done.   Unless they vote for all candidates their voting paper will be declared invalid.
Then we come to the final insult to Party members.
                    (d) Up to 10th December sitting MEPs can spend as much money as they like sending newsletters, briefings, Christmas cards etc. to Party members.   Much of this, of course, financed through the EU – by the taxpayer.   Associations may hold meetings, to which all candidates are invited but no literature may be circulated.    In other words they will be meet and greet meetings, not hustings.    After 4th January 2008 candidates are banned from attending any Party functions other than as described above.   Candidates may not use any e-mail contact lists.
This is control freakery gone mad.   It must be the most undemocratic election ever held by the Conservative Party.   Party members are being treated with the utmost contempt.   Is it any wonder that membership continues to plummet?   Soon there will not be any members left, and the control freaks will no longer have to go through the charade of democracy within the Conservative Party.
The selection of candidates for the European Parliament elections should be conducted as follows:
  1. Sitting MEPs who wish to stand again should automatically go on to the final list.
  2. The Regional College should interview candidates and select sufficient number to make up the list.
  3. The list should then be put to all members so that they may vote giving their order of preferences of the candidates on the list.
  4. All candidates should be allowed to campaign and hold hustings meetings.
  5. Candidates should be allowed to spend up to £1,000 on campaign literature.
  6. Candidates may email party members.
The above process would be fair, democratic and hold sitting MEPs to account.   This is what should be implemented.

This week's disclosure that 25 million records have been lost by this Government must surely be the deathnell for Identity Cards.    For the Government to persist in them would be pernicious.   There was a systematic failure.   It should not have been possible for an official to download this information in the first place.   At one time I was in favour of Identity Cards but no matter how valuable they could be it is the unforeseen circumstance that you have to beware of.   In the book "Taking Liberties" look what happened in Rwanda:
"When the Belgians ruled Rwanda they separated the entire population into Hutu and Tutsi, using physical attributes as a means of classification.   Rwandans were forced to carry ID cards by the colonial Belgium Government, and retained the cards after independence.   When the 1994 genocide began, a Tutsi card would get you killed at any road block.   A million people died in a hundred days, their identification having made simple and undeniable by the cards they carried."
Habeas Corpus
Over the centuries Habeas Corpus has been suspended and some time later reinstated.   William the Younger did it after the French revolution.   It happened again after the Peterloo massacre, but when it was done there was usually some recognition that it was an extreme measure which should be rescinded as soon as possible.   In 1940 when we were at war Churchill effectively suspended it.   Power was given to detain anyone without charge or trial.   Churchill hated doing this commenting that "to detain a man without the judgement of his peers is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government, whether Nazi or Communist.
In 1943, before the War was over Churchill repealed his emergency measure releasing one thousand detainees.   The United Kingdom lost 250,000 people in fighting the War but liberty triumphed in the end.
Why is there not a "sunset" clause in the 28 days Prevention of Terrorism Act.   Why aren't the Conservative Party campaigning to reduce the number of days detention?   After all this Labour Government is either Nazi or Communist, take your choice.  
Next Week - Democracy is being destroyed in the Tory Party?   A detailed analysis of the Rules and Procedures on the Selection of Candidates for the European Parliament Elections.

Petitions to Downing Street
Almost 15,000 petitions have so far been submitted to the 10 Downing St web site.   Of these 50% have been rejected.    The reasons for rejection include - duplication, offensive, provocative, intended to be humorous, legal issues, outside the Prime Minister's remit.   Why should a provocative or humorous petition be rejected?   I just wonder if there is a touch of political censorship going on.   It would be interesting to have an analysis with examples.
Selection of Candidates for the European Parliament
The Rules on the Procedure for the Selection of Candidates for the European Parliament is one of the most disgraceful documents to emerge from Central Office since the ill fated attempt to deprive the votes of ordinary members of the Party in a Leadership election.   I recently put the following question to the Party Chairman, Caroline Spellman "Every Conservative Member of Parliament is ultimately accountable to the members of his Constituency Association, because at any time an ordinary member can move a motion of no confidence in the MP and call for his deselection.   The only time a sitting Member of the European Parliament is accountable is once every five years, when he or she comes up for re-selection.    Why, then has the vote been taken away from ordinary members of the Party on the re-selection of sitting MEPs?   The Party Chairman did not answer the point!
There are times when something makes you feel uncomfortable.   This happened last week when I heard that Samina Malik, the Heathrow Airport worker was convicted under the Terrorism Act.   She was found in possession of some horrific literature - Islamist handbooks such as "How to Make Bombs" and she had scribbled nasty things on pieces of paper, but there was no evidence that she acted upon them or intended to.   She was in effect guilty of a thought crime.   We are going into dangerous territory when you can be jailed for your thoughts.   Just think about it!  

European Scrutiny Committee
The European Scrutiny Committee of the House of Commons is tasked with reviewing all legislation emanating from the European Union.    Ministers should consult with the Committee before attending meetings of the Council of Ministers where decisions are taken.   Over the last three years on no less than 333 times, decisions have been agreed at the Council of Ministers meetings before the Scrutiny Committee has looked at the legislation.   This makes a farce of the Committee and a farce of the scrutiny of legislation by the House of Commons.    75% of our legislation now has its origins in Brussels.   The House of Commons has become more like a County Council jumping up and down to His Master's Voice.   When will our Members of Parliament understand that they are becoming irrelevant?
Identity Cards
Everybody knows that the Nazis had Identity Cards and in 1938 introduced the "J" stamp in them for Jewish citizens.    This made the Jews easily identifiable due to the strictly enforced identity card system.   Not so many people are aware that when the Belgians ruled Rwanda they enforced Identity Cards which identified the Hutu and the Tutsi.   When the genocide began in 1994 any Tutsi stopped at a road block was easily identified.    The result:   A million people died in one hundred days.    The Labour Government of the United Kingdom is introducing Identity Cards.
Our Rotten Electoral System
In Wales it took 20,000 votes to elect each Labour MP.   It took 100,000 votes to elect each Conservative MP.
If the Conservative Party had polled the same number of votes as the Labour Party in the 1997 General election Labour would have got 79 seats more than the Conservatives.
Did you know?
For elections to the House of Lords, William Hague, Francis Maude, Ken Clarke and George Young all support the Single Transferable Vote method of proportional representation.

Parliamentary Candidates
Last week I received an email from a rejected candidate who had applied to go on to the Parliamentary Candidates List.    The candidate was in his mid forties, a former officer in his local association, a member of the Party for over twelve years and currently a Councillor.    It is bad enough being rejected but his rejection letter stated that "they would not allow me to sit a Parliamentary selection board due to my lack of experience and that it would be a mistake for me to try to become a PPC in this Parliament".
Who are these arrogant, unelected, unaccountable people that take these decisions?   It is quite clear from this person's CV that he has a lot of experience, but in any case we all know of candidates that have been put on the list when they have only been members of the Party for five minutes.   What is so lacking that this candidate cannot put right in the period between now and a General Election?   This is not the first case that has been dealt with in this obnoxious manner.   No doubt it will not be the last.    Until the Chairman of the Candidates Committee is elected and accountable they will continue in this arrogant way.   Just what is their agenda?    Is it political?   I think we should be told.   This candidate does not fall into the "mad, bad, or sad" category so why should he not be put on the list and let the ordinary members decide whether to select him or not?
Incidentally, he would be prepared to fight a safe Labour seat, or have they all now been allocated to the friends of the Committee?   We are still waiting to hear whether the emergency measure to allocate candidates to all seats has been withdrawn.   I wonder!
The Police State
In the last ten years Labour has created over three thousand new criminal offences, passed 115,000 pages of legislation, introduced more than fifty Bills, including 24 criminal justice measures.   In the sixty years between 1925 and 1985 there were only six Criminal Justice Acts.
20% of all the surveillance cameras in the World are located in the United Kingdom.   We have no less than 4.2 million of them.
What has happened to the Nat West Three?    You will recall that they were deported to the United States under the one way extradition treaty we signed with them.   It is now three years since they were extradited.   What a scandal!  At one time the British Government defended its citizens.   Now they just hand them over to be incarcerated in a foreign country, effectively imprisoned for, so far, three long years.
The Government is ploughing on with its measure to introduce ID cards.

European Parliament Elections
It would be reasonable to assume that within the United Kingdom the elections to the European Parliament would be conducted on the same basis throughout the nation.   Wrong!   England Scotland and Wales use the discredited Closed Party List system of proportional representation.  The system is wholly undemocratic and should be changed.   Sign the petition on the Index page.
On the other hand Northern Ireland use the Single Transferable Vote system of proportional representation.   This is generally recognised as the best system of election.   The proof of the pudding is in the eating.   The turnout in the elections for the European Parliament in 1999 were 23.1% in Great Britain as against 57.7% in Northern Ireland.   The difference was not so great in 2004 being 38.2% against 51.7% but remember in Great Britain the local and European elections were held on the same day and postal voting was brought in on a massive scale.   It is time we had the same basis of election throughout the United Kingdom and that basis should be the Single Transferable Vote.
Conservative Party Constitution
The Conservative Party ignores great swathes of the Party Constitution usually out of ignorance as to what it says, but occasionally it distorts it as well.   At the National Convention the Conservative Training College produced papers setting out the responsibilities for The Association Chairman, Deputy Chairman Membership and Finance, and Deputy Chairman Political and Fundraising.    Interesting, but the Constitution sets out the responsibilities rather differently.   It states that the Political Deputy Chairman shall be responsible for "the formulation and development of policy ideas... and political campaigning.    The other Deputy Chairman shall have responsibility for "fundraising and membership" - Membership Deputy Chairman.   So why is the Training College mixing these up or is it?   The Training College paper for Deputy Chairman Political & Fundraising talks a great deal about policy and campaigning but nothing about fundraising.   Maybe they just got the titles wrong!   But you would expect the Training College to get these things right.   Who trains the trainers?

Lord Ashcroft
In an article in "The Daily Telegraph" this week Lord Ashcroft wrote an excellent article defending his support for the marginal seats.   He pointed out that a sitting MP that the taxpayer pays them a staffing allowance of £90,505 of which 10% can be used for communications, £7,000 for postage, a further £10,000 to promote himself to his constituents, £21,339 for incidental expenses provision.   In other words they have over £40,000 per annum to spend effectively campaigning in their constituency.   Over the course of a parliament this adds up to £200,000, all paid by the taxpayer.   This is a scandal.    It gives a huge advantage to a sitting MP.   At the last General Election only 6% of MPs lost their seat having decided to fight it again.   The incoming candidate has no taxpayer funds and has to raise all their own finance with their local constituency association.   All Lord Ashcroft is doing is levelling the playing field, but is it right that he should have to do this?   No!    MPs allowances have got totally out of hand and should be severely cut.    Time for action.
Party Take-over
In the good old days, pre 1998 the Conservative Party consisted of three parts - the Parliamentary Party, the National Union of Conservative Associations and the Professional part of the Party at Central Office.    The voluntary side of the Party was effectively scrapped.   The professional side has been greatly diminished leaving the Parliamentary Party dominating everything.   There was just one area where the voluntary Party had a voice - the Party Board.   Out of the sixteen members of the Board  possibly eight could be from the voluntary side.   This was too many for the control freaks so three additional non voting MPs were put on the Board.   The MPs were also given the Chairmanship of the Committee looking at the Party's constitution.   So guess what the Committee is looking at?   Guessed right!   Whether the MP Board members should all be given voting rights.   With The Party Chairman's casting vote the MPs already have effective control of the Board.   Now they are consolidating it.   Goodbye voluntary Party.

Your Vote Wont Count
The following article appears in the current issue of "Crossbow", the magazine of The Bow Group:

Your Vote Won’t Count

John E. Strafford
Information is power. It is critical for the working of a healthy democracy. Underlying democracy is the pursuit of truth. For fifty years "Crossbow" has contributed to our democracy with its articles, research, analysis and opinions. It has pursued the truth and provided information on which we can take our democratic decisions, but what has happened to our democracy during this period? There have been significant events – the composition of the House of Lords, entry into the European Union and devolution, - but have they enhanced democracy?
The Life Peerage Act, 1958 permitted men and women Life Peers to be created on the advice of the Prime Minister. This was the first time women were allowed to sit and vote in the House of Lords. The Peerage Act, 1963, allowed Peers and Peeresses to disclaim their titles for life and stand for the House of Commons and Hereditary Peeresses to sit in the House of Lords - a few small steps on the road to equality.
The House of Lords Act 1999 removed some 750 hereditary peers from the second chamber. During the Committee Stage of the Bill the Government accepted a Crossbench amendment to include 92 hereditary peers in a transitional House. Over half the current members of the House of Lords have been appointed, effectively by one man – Tony Blair. Is this democracy?
The Family Law Reform Act of 1969, lowered the age of voting from 21 to 18 years of age.
In 1972 the Conservative Government took the United Kingdom into what was then known as the Common Market. This was to have a dramatic effect on democracy, which only gradually came to light over the ensuing decades.
The European Commission (unelected), the Council of Ministers (people elected on National manifestos) and the European Parliament (unaccountable due to the closed list system of election) can now make laws affecting the people of the United Kingdom which the United Kingdom Parliament has bound itself to accept. 75% of U.K. legislation now emanates from Brussels. Is this democracy?
On 1st July 1999 extensive powers were devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Devolution to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive took place on December 2nd 1999.
The devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament created the "West Lothian Question". This results in Scottish MPs continuing to vote on legislation that affects England and Wales, and on similar matters, English, Welsh and Scottish MPs no longer have any say in Scotland. Is this democracy?
The Northern Ireland Assembly has a constitution, which effectively allows a minority to block the majority. Is this democracy?
In the 2005 General Election Labour won an overall majority of 66 seats, or 55.1% of seats with 35.2% of the vote. Only 21.6% or 9.6 million out of an electorate of 44.4 million voted for a Labour government. Turnout was 61.3%
Because of the generally low turnout no MPs polled a majority of the electorate in their own constituency. Only three polled more than 40% of the electorate. Conversely three MPs had votes from less than 20%. In Poplar and Canning Town the winning Labour candidate polled just 18.36%.
In England Labour have 92 more seats than the Conservatives in spite of them polling over 60,000 fewer votes. In Scotland the Conservatives polled nearly a sixth of the vote but had only one MP out of 59 to show for their pains.
If 14,367 voters in the most marginal constituencies had switched from Labour to their nearest competitor, Labour would have lost its majority in the House of Commons.
Because of our electoral system the political parties are only interested in the 10% marginal constituencies and of those only the 10% who are floating voters. In other words 1% of the electorate.
Our electoral system is totally distorted. 400,000 foreigners (citizens of the Irish Republic) resident in the United Kingdom but owing no allegiance to it can vote in a General Election.
Each vote cast does not have an equal value. The average size of a Welsh constituency is about 55,000. For the rest of the UK it is 68,000. The Western Isles has an electorate of 21,585, the Isle of Wight 108,253. So a vote in the Western Isles is worth five times a vote in the Isle of Wight.
A study of the results of General Elections over the last hundred years shows that there is no correlation between the % votes a Party receives and the % number of seats it gets in the House of Commons. You might as well toss a coin for determining who should form the government. The truth of the matter is "Your Vote Wont Count". When will the media pundits and the politicians admit it?
John Strafford is Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.    His book "The History of Democracy in the United Kingdom" will be published next year.
Constitutional Treaty
This week the heads of government meet to finalise the draft of the Constitutional Treaty for Europe.   One of the essential elements of democracy is transparency but will the Ministers meet in public?    No.   Why?   Because Margaret Beckett vetoed it when she was in the Labour Government.   This disgraceful act should be shouted from the rooftops.   We have a Government which goes back on its promise for a referendum and also for its promise of more transparency in politics.   Can they stoop any lower?
Data Protection
One of the powers which the Council of Ministers has taken to itself is the authority to pass on individual data to foreign powers.   The European Parliament has had no say on this.   The European Court of Justice has had no say.   We now have a powerful oligarchy running our lives with no thought of individual liberty.   This cannot go on.    It is time for the people to speak and force the politicians to listen.

Appointment of Candidates
Last week at the National Convention the Party Chairman announced that the Party Board had decided as an emergency measure to appoint candidates in all seats where no candidate had yet been selected.   It is perhaps understandable that this decision was taken in view of the anticipation of a General Election on November 8th, but let us remind ourselves what happened at the last General Election:
    Harm was done to the Party prior to the last General election by parachuting candidates from the South and imposing them into Northern constituencies.    This demoralised the local activists in those seats.   They were further demoralised when they were told to ignore their own seat and go and work in a targeted marginal seat.   Their candidate was told to do the same.    The effect of this was that many activists neither worked in their own seat nor worked in the marginal seat.   The candidates did as they were told and worked in the targeted seat.   The effect of this was disastrous.    Very quickly the "Opposition" Parties realised that the Conservative Party was doing nothing in their "hopeless" seat so switched all their activists into our targeted seat. Half a dozen Tory activists could have prevented 100 Opposition activists from working in our targeted seat.
    When candidates from outside a Region are chosen the press often pick up the impression that we are weak on the ground. If the electorate then picks up the same impression it is damaging to our campaign.   One advantage of picking a local candidate in a safe Labour seat is that they get publicity during the election campaign.   They can then build on this publicity when they stand for the local Council.
    Now that we have been told that there will not be a General Election will the Party Board announce that the appointment of candidates has been abandoned and the constituencies can select their candidates in the usual way or will the control freaks at Central Office, now they have the power, hang on to it?
Party Chairman
No one can deny that this was a good conference for the Conservative Party.   They took the media by storm.   The representatives went home happy, but where was the Party Chairman?   No opening speech rallying the troops, no closing speech either.   In fact all in all we did not see much of Caroline Spellman.   Did she tour the receptions?    What did she do?   In her previous post she did an excellent job, totally on top of her brief.   But is she right for the role of Party Chairman?    Does the Party Chairman have a role?   Michael Ashcroft is running everything other than the media and George Osborne is in charge of the General Election campaign so other than the chicken dinner circuit there is not much for Caroline to do.    Could someone enlighten us?
Incidentally, there was no debate on the policy proposals and in one of those control freak modes the representatives had to speak from the floor of the hall addressing the platform rather than the conference and the they could only speak for 90 seconds.   Interesting, that when we were in power we had debates at the conference, but ever since we stopped having debates we have been out of power.    That is the way the Leadership get out of touch with the grass roots.
British Airways Update
We have now received compensation from British Airways (see below) and congratulations to them on handling the case expeditiously.    Mysteriously, my claim was for £136.50 but I received a cheque from them for £200.   Thanks British Airways.   My wife made a claim for £107.50 plus the damage to her case which cost about £80.   She received a cheque for £100.   Weird?   Not so good British Airways.

Laws are now to be called Legal Directives
National Disgrace
This week the Chairman of COPOV together with his wife flew British Airways to Warsaw from Heathrow Airport.   This is what happened:
Arrived at Heathrow Airport two hours before the flight for Warsaw was due to leave at 1:15pm.   Tried to check in only to be told that this was not possible due to the fact that British Airways had sold 19 more tickets for the flight than the plane's capacity.   I explained that the two tickets had been bought and paid for and were not transferable.   I asked how it was possible for them to be sold again.   No answer.   The truth of the matter is that British Airways took my money under false pretences.   In other words - they committed fraud.   That can be the only explanation.
Was told by the girl on the check in desk to go to a special customer relations desk where they might be able to put me on standby.    There I was told to wait to see what could be done.   At 12:50pm I was told that they now had two seats on the plane so check in my luggage and collect the boarding passes.   This I did.   The plane was due to board at Gate 27 which is a good fifteen minute walk - no travalators.   Arrived at the gate to see that nobody had yet boarded the plane.   A member of the British Airways staff then asked me to accompany him to a seat some fifty yard from the boarding point and when I was sitting comfortably explained that he had some bad news.   The plane was now overweight so we could not board it.   Nevertheless he would retrieve our luggage and put it on the next flight to Warsaw at 7:15pm, some six hours later.    We would be booked on that flight and because of the inconvenience caused, British Airways would pay each of us £170 compensation, plus we would be upgraded to club class and during our six hour wait we could use the club class lounge.   This we did.
Heathrow is frankly a National Disgrace.    It is incapable of handling all its passengers.   You have to walk miles to get anywhere.   Priority is given to retail shops.   It is packed out with people.   There are queues for security.   It is a mess.   The number of flights should be compulsory halved until they have got a functioning airport.   In the seventies I flew from Heathrow on average three times a week.   I would arrive at the airport half an hour before take off.    I never missed a flight.   Now you get there two hours before take off and it is a shambles.
The fight for Warsaw took off and arrived in Warsaw at 11pm without our luggage.  By the time we had established what had happened and travelled into Warsaw it was midnight.   Instead of a pleasant evening having a nice meal there we were in our hotel without any luggage and not knowing when it would turn up, if at all.   We were told that we could spend £150 each on buying necessities like toothbrushes etc.
Tuesday morning we went in search of shops to buy some necessities.   We called British Airways.   No news about our luggage.   Tuesday afternoon it bucketed with rain in Warsaw and as the only umbrella we had was in our lost case we could not venture out very far.
Wednesday morning  at 11am we contacted British Airways to be told they had located one case.   We went shopping again not wanting to spend too much in  the belief our luggage would turn up.    One case turned up, my wife's.   It had been forced open and one of the hinges was missing.   A tube of pills had been opened and its contents spread around the inside of the case.   We tried to make the best of it and spent a nice afternoon walking around Warsaw.
At 8pm my case turned up.   It was locked, but I soon found that it had also been opened as the portable radio was turned on.    The battery had been taken out of my alarm clock, my electric toothbrush had been broken, toothpaste had been squeezed out of its tube, my manicure kit had been opened and its contents scattered around the case.   A jar of cream had been opened and some of its contents removed and what looked like pepper had been sprinkled inside.    I can only assume that all this was done in the name of security.    If so why didn't they leave a note saying so?  Why make such a mess?    In addition to the above two address tags attached to the case had been ripped off including a leather one.
British Airways is a National Disgrace.    The Directors should be prosecuted for fraud and given five years as an example to any other airline which conducts the same practises.   I hereby swear that I will never travel from Heathrow again or travel by British Airways.   I invite every other long suffering passenger to join me in my action.   To claim compensation it has to be done online.   I will let you know how I get on.
P.S Flying back from Warsaw on Saturday, no sooner had I checked our luggage in the it was announce that the Airport had to be immediately evacuated.   Some holiday!   Stressed, you could say so,    I need a holiday to get over it.

Lady Thatcher
This has been a strange week in politics.    We had the environment report which confused traditional Tories.    Margaret Thatcher met Gordon Brown which confused traditional Tories and then on top of all that we had the Northern Rock fiasco - an accident waiting to happen.
I do not know why Gordon Brown invited Lady Thatcher to Downing Street, but what I did find offensive were those Tory MPs, (including at least one of which sits on the front bench), who denigrated Lady Thatcher.    They may be right that the visit was a cynical move by Gordon Brown, but they did not have to comment about Lady Thatcher.   If David Cameron has any sense he will admonish those MPs and tell them to belt up.
Northern Rock was waiting to happen.    Every twenty years or so we get a major banking problem.   People lose their savings.   More regulation is called for and then those responsible retire and a new generation without experience take control and we get a repeat.    The cycle goes like this: young inexperienced managers are in charge of the finances.   They realise that in a booming market they can take a greater risk.    They do so.    Huge profits are made on which they get fat cat size bonuses.   Their bosses get fat cat bonuses as well, so they go along with it.   Then one day the higher risk comes home to roost and shareholders and investors lose their money.   So what - the managers and their bosses may even lose their jobs but will they pay back the billion pounds of bonuses they received last winter?   Not on your nelly.   Will they return some of their fat cat salaries?   Not on your nelly.   The Chief Executive of Northern Rock was paid £1.35 million pounds last year.   Salaries of this size are obscene.    It is time the whole culture of fat cat city banks was changed.    That is the only way to prevent this happening again.
The one great thing to come out of the Environment Report was when it stated "materialism is not everything".    There is hope yet.

Advice for Dave
This week has not been good for the Conservatives.    Someone should tell our Leader that it is not sensible to attack your own supporters.   To describe Michael Ancrum's paper as a "Blast from the Past" is frankly stupid.   It may be, that is the way he feels, but if so get one of your acolytes to say it.   The Leader has to rise above these matters.   It shows you as petty or even worse arrogant.   If a question is put to you directly about Ancrum's paper your answer should have been: "At the moment the Conservative Party is conducting a healthy debate about policy.   We are publishing Policy papers on a number of issues.    We welcome contributions to that debate and in that context Michael Ancrum is welcome to put his views forward." 
My worry is that David Cameron does not want a debate and is ready to impose his views willy-nilly on the Conservative Party.    If he does this it will be a disaster, for almighty rows will break out.    We have been promised genuine debate at the Party Conference.   The signs are not good.   Motions have not been called for.   Nevertheless I am hopeful that the Policy papers will be debated and opportunity for amendments to them accepted.   We shall see.   This will be the real test of Leadership.
Adding to my worry is a report in today's Sunday Telegraph which describes how in a telephone conference with parliamentary candidates the Party Chairman - Caroline Spellman - called for them to "hit back" at Michael Ancram.   If this is true it is nothing short of disgraceful.    The Party Chairman should immediately apologise for raising this matter.    Was she instructed to raise it or was it raised of her own volition?    I think we should be told.   The Sunday Telegraph then went on to describe how the Party Chairman told the candidates to treat Patrick Mercer and John Bercow.   Once again I find this approach totally reprehensible.
Where this is all coming from I do not know, but what is for sure it is an immature approach to politics from people that are still wet behind the ears.   My best advice to David Cameron is to get some seasoned advisers that will stop these silly gaffes in their tracks.   Otherwise the future will be bleak.

Open Primaries
One of the best ways of choosing your parliamentary candidate is an open primary.   These are designed to test the candidates in a situation akin to an election. Registered voters from any Party and none can participate together with Party members.   At the end of the process the winner is or is not endorsed by the Party membership.   There is however a snag with this process.   In an ordinary election the candidates would have access to those voting so that they could canvass their support, but the Party refuses to give the details to the candidates.   This is ridiculous, presumably some idiot will blame it on the Data Protection Act and then prevent candidates having the information.   Is this Party policy?   I think we should be told, because if it is the process is fundamentally flawed and we need to think again.   Of course, we could go back to the old tried and tested method of letting the members decide.   Perhaps we should.
BBC Bias
This week David Cameron gave a creditable performance on "Newsnight".   The only time he looked uncomfortable was when he was asked about inheritance tax being for the rich.   He should have replied that it needs adjusting but will not be scrapped.   Scrapping it send out the wrong message.   The other time he looked uncomfortable was when he was asked about the secondary jobs of the Shadow Cabinet - a bunch of part timers.    People expect their politicians to be wholly committed.   No one is saying that they cannot have other interests but those other interests should be secondary.   It is not right that in some cases the politician is earning more from his "secondary" interest than from politics.   If he or she feels that these interests are so important go off and do them full time and let someone else do the politics.
There was a moment in the programme which Cameron handled well but should never have been put in the position to have to answer.    That was when Stephanie Flanders used her personal situation as a unmarried mother to put a question.   She is a journalist and could easily have put the question without getting personal.   But this is not the first time BBC journalists have used programmes to push themselves.   During August there were at least two occasions on the ten o'clock news where we had to watch BBC journalists give their personal experiences of going to India to their families birth place.    This is certainly not news and if the BBC wish to commemorate India's independence then it should do so without getting into the personal live of its own correspondents.
EU Referendum
If Gordon Brown refuses to let the people participate in a referendum on the European Constitution we should all follow the example of Charfield Parish Council which is to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution.    It is perfectly legal for a group of electors to call a parish meeting and propose that the parish conducts a referendum on the European Constitution.   It is of course better if we have a National Referendum, but if this is to be denied to the British people let us take the matter into our own hands and have a Referendum in every parish in the country.  It is time for the people to stand up and be counted.    

The Ashcroft Enigma
It was announced this week that Lord Ashcroft has made another £150,000 donation to the Conservative Party.   There has also been discussion about the way he has taken over the organisation of the Party.    There is an enigma about Lord Ashcroft.   He is the only Party Treasurer who, having received his peerage has continued to be involved in the Party organisation.   He is doing excellent work in the marginal seats.   He is clearly a very good organiser.   Given the system we have to work within he is doing an excellent job.   The problem is the system is rotten.  
Donations to a political Party should be limited to £50,000 maximum per annum.   The Conservative Party itself proposes this limit.   The Chairman of the Party should be elected by and accountable to the Party members.   A Deputy Chairman of the Party should either be elected by the members or if that Deputy Chairman is to have an organisational role he or she should be appointed by the Party Board and answerable to them.
Lord Ashcroft has been criticised for concentrating his money into the marginal seats.  He recognises that the reality of our electoral system is that only 1% of the electorate matter, i.e. The 10% of the seats that are marginal and the 10% of the electorate in those seats that are floating voters.    The Labour Party complains that it is wrong for Lord Ashcroft to put money into these seats whilst conveniently forgetting that a sitting MP gets over £1 million pound during the course of a Parliament paid by the taxpayer which they then use to communicate with the electorate.   This is a huge disadvantage to a candidate fighting to get rid of the sitting MP.   It is not a level playing field and the seats which Lord Ashcroft is helping have sitting Labour or Lib Dem MPs.   The money he puts in is tiny compared to the funding the MPs get from the State.    It is our rotten electoral system which is wrong.   What Ashcroft is doing is making the fight more even with the help of some experienced campaigners like Stephen Gilbert.
Finally it is said that Lord Ashcroft is the biggest donor to the Party in recent years.   Wrong.   The biggest fundraiser for the Party has been the National Conservative Draws Society and it raises all its funds from ordinary Party members in small amounts.   We should not forget this or allow the media to put over a wrong impression.
The Loop Hole
There appears to be a loop hole in the requirement for all Party donations over £5,000 to be registered.   If an unincorporated association is set up people can make donations to it.   The Association then donates to the Party and only the Association is registered.    This is a blatant attempt to get around the rules used by both main political parties.   The Conservatives have the "Midlands Industrial Council.    The Labour Party has the "Muslim Friends of Labour"   If this is correct or if there is some ambiguity then the simple answer is for the Electoral Commission to make it illegal for the Parties to accept money from unincorporated Associations.   After all if people wish to make political donations why don't they do it directly? 
General Election
Will Gordon Brown call a General Election for October 25th?   The answer is "Yes" with one proviso.    If the Scottish Nationalists are still ahead of Labour in the polls by the time of the Labour Party conference all bets are off.   Brown would not dare to face wipe out in Scotland even if he might just win a majority elsewhere.

Good Week for John Redwood MP
This has been a good week for John Redwood.   He managed to get publicity every day for his report which was published on Friday.   He also managed to make the BBC apologise for the crass way in which they had introduced him.    His report was excellent and should form the basis of much Conservative policy.   The only item I disagreed with was his abolition of inheritance tax.
Inheritance tax is only paid by 6% of those dying.   It effects only the wealthy although many middle class families are starting to be effected.    By highlighting this policy the Party is sending out the wrong message.    It would appear that we are only concerned with the wealthy in society.    Our priority should be to eliminate taxes on the poorer sections of society.    His proposals also create anomalies by exempting the home from any tax.    Many people, and here I declare an interest, downsize in their old age because their children have left home and they want to realise some capital and have it in the bank or investments.   If you do this your investments are caught for capital gains tax purposes, yet if you had left the money in your house it would not have been.   This is daft.   What Tory policy should be is to raise the threshold for inheritance tax to say £500,000 thus eliminating the average family home and reducing the top rate of tax to 20%.   At the same time we should clamp down on overseas trusts which seek to avoid paying any tax at all.   This would be seen to be fair and that ought to be a Tory principle as far as tax is concerned.
Soldier Blogs
It has been announced this week that our servicemen are to be stopped from blogging.   This modern form of debate will not be allowed.   It reminds me of the Putney debates and their consequence.   After they had finished Cromwell determined that never again would he allow the army to hold debates.    At the last meeting of the Levellers the following happened as described by the late Paul Foot in "The Vote":

One by one the regiments acclaimed Fairfax and his Remonstrance. Serious trouble for the generals came from only two regiments who had disobeyed orders by coming to the rendezvous uninvited. Colonel Thomas Harrison’s and Colonel Robert Lilburne’s regiments had decided to attend the rendezvous even though they were expressly ordered not to go to it. As the rebel troops arrived at the field, many of them with Levellers papers in their hats, they chanted slogans hailing The Agreement of the People. Well-rehearsed platoons of officers rode into both regiments, tearing the papers from the soldiers’ hats and urging the men to listen to their beloved general and obey him. When the courageous dissenters in Lilburne’s regiment continued to shout for freedom and the people’s rights’ their ringleaders were plucked from the throng. Three men were singled out as leading mutineers, summarily charged and convicted. They were forced to throw dice for their lives. The loser, Richard Arnold, was shot in the head, at the front of the regiment, by the other two.
So squaddies of the blogosphere watch your step.   As for our modern mutineers, Iain Dale, Tim Montgomerie and Guido Fawkes, whose throw of the dice is it?
At the Ealing Southall by-election the "David Cameron Conservatives" candidate, Tony Lit had only been a member of the Party for a couple of weeks.   Under the Party's Constitution you have to have been a Party member for three months in order to vote in the selection of the Parliamentary Candidate.   You can be a Conservative MP or  you can be a Conservative Candidate if you only joined the Party yesterday but you cannot vote unless you have been a member for three months.   Barmy isn't it?
In a report published this week by the Economic Research Council it showed that in the last two years a further 200 Quangos had been created. The 883 Quangos listed on the Cabinet Office web site cost £167.5 billion in 2005/6 compared to £24.1 billion in 1997/8. This rate of increase is astonishing. Many of the positions in the Quangos went to Labour Party supporters. This is 21st century corruption big time. Hospitals are now subject to checks by no less than 94 different Quangos.
With the Labour Party’s victory in the General Election of 1997 there was a rapid increase in political appointments. It is estimated that within three years of them gaining power no less than 67% of Quango members had a declared affiliation to the Labour Party   I wonder what the percentage is now?.

Electronic VotingWe are pleased to see that the Electoral Commission has proposed that no further experiments be carried out on electronic voting or counting without a great deal more research.   We are not surprised.   The cost of the pilot scheme in South Bucks. was no less than £778,108.   This is scandalous.   It works out at £239 per electronic vote cast.   As a good 50% of those voting electronically would probably have voted anyway the real cost of this miserable experiment works out at a whopping £558 per vote.   A tiny 3,255 people used this method of voting.   We should stick to the good old fashioned ballot paper and pencil.   There is less opportunity for fraud and it is cheaper.
Equal Value of Votes
As the United Kingdom's representation to the European Parliament is to be cut from 78 MEPs to 72 MEPs the number of MEPs representing the Regions is to be altered, but why has each Region to have a minimum of three MEPs?   The end result is that there is one MEP for every 612,085 people in the South East of England but in Northern Ireland there is one MEP for every 356,760 people.   In other words a vote in Northern Ireland has almost twice the value of a vote in South East England.   This is totally undemocratic and a distortion of democracy, so have you heard any protests?   I fear not.   This is why it can no longer be said that we live in a democracy in the United Kingdom.   In the West Midlands the situation is even worse.   There, you need 673,206 people for every MEP.
Little Irritations
1)    I am fed up with the media saying what a mistake it was for David Cameron to go to Rwanda at the time of the floods.   He had toured his constituency,   There was nothing more he could do.   He was only away two days.   He showed by going to Rwanda the importance of Africa and what has to be done for the developing world.   He was right, so could the media stop bellyaching about what was a sensible decision?
2)    I am also fed up with the Conservative Party in Parliament being full of part-timers,   Nobody objects to one or two other interests for parliamentarians but Conservative MPs have gone over the top with all their directorships.   It is time they cut them back.   Perhaps if they did so we would hear more of them.   This week all we have heard is a deadly silence when we should be taking the opportunity to have a go at Gordon Brown and the Labour Party.
3) I am fed up with the hypocrisy of our MPs.   They impose a smoking ban on the rest of us but who has their own bar in the House of Commons which allows smoking?   Why the MPs.   Perhaps John Redwood will propose scrapping this illiberal legislation and get rid of these smoking inspectors who are costing us a fortune.   Some Hope.   Incidentally the MPs hypocrisy does not go down well with their own staff who do not have a smoking bar in the House of Commons.

Another Fine Mess
This has no been a very good week for the Conservative Party.   The Leader should not have got involved with Ali Miraj.    He should have left it to the Party Chairman to exercise discipline.    Ali Miraj is a very nice, if ambitious, person, but like many that are relatively new to politics he thinks that parliamentarians are chosen on ability.    He is wrong, but because he thinks like that he has become increasingly frustrated.   Politics depend enormously on luck.   Being in the right place at the right time and saying the right things has more bearing on success than anything else.   Ali never understood this.   On top of everything he saw Saheed Warsi get a peerage after only being in the Party for three years.    Ali, like many others in the Party including many women who have given a life time of service to the Party must have been spitting blood.   When the Leader appoints people to positions doesn't anybody advise him on the effects on the morale of the grass roots?
Anyway, Ali, having been spurned the took the decision to throw his toys out of the pram.   He was wrong to question the Leader's integrity and having gone public some action had to be taken.   In the old days this would have been a wrap across the knuckles but kicking him off the candidates list is a step too far, that is id he has been kicked off the list or whether he has just been kicked off the "A" List which no longer matters.    The lesson from all this is that the Leader really has got to get around him someone with experience of the Party who can on occasions just say to him "hold it, have you thought through the consequences?".   If he doesn't we will see a succession of silly mistakes.   We cannot afford them.
Candidate SelectionIf your Constituency Association has less than three hundred members you have only two choices when it comes to selecting you parliamentary candidate, either an all women short list or a primary.   Not surprisingly most opt for a primary.   What they do not like with the primary is that any registered voter can participate including Labour Party members.   So, what we see is that behind the scenes they conspire to prevent the Labour supporters access to the hustings.   The room is full is one ploy.   Why oh why can we not leave to to the good sense of Constituency Associations to decide how their parliamentary candidate is selected? 
Ealing Southall
During the Ealing Southall campaign the candidate, Tony Lit kept receiving telephone calls on his mobile phone from a Doctor.    Eventually in exasperation he asked his minder who this Doctor was and why did he keep on phoning him.   "Oh" says the minder "he is the Chairman of the Ealing Southall Conservative Association".   Says it all doesn't it?

Conservative Party Accounts
The accounts of the Conservative Party are quite good this year.  There was a surplus of £4.2 million.   In the year after a General Election this is good.   Although it has to be said that the entire surplus is down to the £4.9 million received in State Funding.   Very little light is shone on the property dealings and we will return to this in the future.    The other points are minor but interesting:
  • £670,000 was spent on fund raising activities - a lot of money - so how much was raised from this? Answer £624,000.    We would have been better off spending nothing and raising nothing.
  • Other expenditure went up from £638,000 to £1,825,000.   Now that is a serious increase, but is there an explanation?    No.
  • Membership is slightly down judging from the figures for the capita levy which dropped from £312,000 to £304,000.   Why doesn't the Party give accurate numbers for membership?   Other Parties do.
  • Finally, there seems to have been an explosion in the number of appointed positions.   We now not only have the Party Board, but we also have Party Officers, Administrative Committees, and Central Office Management.   Who are all these people and what do they do?   I think we should be told.   Is it just jobs for the boys are are we building up a big bureaucracy? 

  • I hear that the control freak tendency of the Candidates Committee is resurrecting itself again.   After the debacle of Ealing Southall a low profile would have been expected, but you can't keep a control freak down.   This will continue until the Chairman of the Committee is accountable either to the membership or at least to the National Convention.    If your selection process has been interfered with let us know.
  • Are you worried that the Chinese government is taking a shareholding in Barclay's Bank.   Are you worried that the Quatar Government is trying to buy Sainsburys?   The Conservative Party believes in a free market, but governments are not subject to market forces; they respond to political forces.   There is great danger in letting this continue.   Nearer home the French government subsidises some of its companies.   It is time the Conservative Party spoke up on this issue.
  • When will the General Election be?    October 25th.   Why?   Gordon Brown will announce the Election on the first day of the Labour Party conference.   By doing this it will throw the Conservative Party into turmoil.   Will they go ahead with their conference or will they upset everybody by cancelling it?   At this point in time will the Conservatives have announced their policies or will they still be waiting for the policy commissions to report?   Will they be wrong footed?    Brown will claim that he wants a mandate from the people.   He will claim that everybody has been calling for him to have an election because he was not elected by anybody.   Look forward to a bumpy ride.   What is for sure is that over the next few months the Conservative Party has got to pull together or face another disaster.
  • The most important issue facing the United Kingdom at the moment is the European Constitution.   The people were promised a referendum.   They must demand a referendum.   Sign up to the Daily Telegraph's referendum.   Be prepared to take to the streets if we are not given one.   The crunch is coming.   Our democracy is at stake.    We must fight for it.   The Conservative Party must take the lead.

Another Fine Mess
The Conservative performance in the Ealing South by-election was poor by any standards.   Part of the problem is that there are too many chiefs running campaigning in the Tory Party.   There is no Supremo.
What inexperienced idiot decided to put David Cameron's name on the ballot paper?   I am a member of the Conservative Party.    I am not a member of David Cameron's Conservatives and many Paarty members feel the same.   The Leader presumably sanctioned this, so he must take responsibility.   Some would call it arrogance, I would call it the result of inexperience.   Let us hope it will not be repeated.
What inexperienced idiot imposed Tony Lit on the Constituency Association when he had only been a member of the Party for five minutes.    Do these people not understand how demotivating it is to all Party members to be told that none of them are good enough to fight a by-election so we have to go ouside the Party?
Why  did the Candidate Committee not do due diligence on Tony Lit and discover that he had only just been to a Labour Party fund raising dinner and his company had donated £4,800 to the Labour Party (incidentally just below the disclosable amount - that says it all)?
All these were avoidable so who will take responsibility?    We hear that George Bridges has resigned to spend more time with his family.    We hear that the Vice Chairman in charge of campaigning - Grant Shapps MP has resigned, but what of the others?
Francis Maude was Party Chairman in the run up to this.    What was his role?
Caroline Spellman is Party Chairman.   What was her role?
George Osborne MP is in charge of the General Election strategy.   Isn't a by-election part of the strategy.   What was his role.
Lord Ashcroft has taken over the Party.    Virtually everybody now reports to him.   What was his role?
George Bridges has gone, but was he the Director of Campaigning?   If so what was his role?
Ian Sanderson is the Regional professional for London so what was his role?
Who decided that Tony Lit should be the candidate?    Was it John Maples MP - Vice Chairman in charge of candidates?
The Candidates Committee should have vetted Tony Lit.    The Chairman of that committee is Shireen Ritchie so what was her role?
The Chairman of the Association is usually the person with most local knowledge so what was his role?
Saheed Warsi is responsible for community cohesion.    In a seat like Ealing South this is a big issue so was she involved?
Dominic Grieve MP has huge knowledge of community cohesion so was he involved?
All in all there are many questions which I somehow doubt we will ever get answers to but somebody somewhere has got to get a grip on things.    There are many people in the Party that saw these fundamental errors coming.    Why do we ignore them?
The only consolation is that many years ago we had a similar experience not far from Ealing South.   This is what happened:

    There was a by-election at South Hammersmith in February 1949.   Encouraged by Lord Woolton’s (Party Chairman) appeals, the help poured in; there were 300 canvassers a day during the campaign, teams of MPs were drafted in to address meetings every night, and 1500 workers were in the constituency on polling day.   The result was a crushing disappointment when Labour held the seat, even though there was a respectable swing of 5% to the Conservatives.    The defeated candidate Anthony Fell, was highly critical.   The final organisational report noted that "Mr. Fell was most emphatic that the electorate does not trust the Conservative Party."
Within two years the Conservative Party formed the Government.

Why Should I be a member of the Conservative Party?
I have been asked this question many times over the last few weeks and was getting to the point of saying "I do not know".    After all the ordinary member has been kicked in the teeth over the selection of candidates for the European Parliament.   Their influence in other areas has gone.   Ten years ago a party member had influence at a National level because his representatives were on the National Union Executive which met quarterly and had clout in the Party.   At a local level he or she elected the officers of the local Party so could help determine what the Association did.   They chose parliamentary candidates without interference from Central Office.   All this has gone.   Sad.   So, just as one is reaching the depths of despair what happens?
The Conservative Party launches a new website activity called "Stand up, Speak up".   This is the most exciting innovation in politics in years.   This is the sign of a listening Party.   You can debate issues, you can vote on issues.  You know how others are voting.   It is totally transparent.  You can help make a difference.
This week the Conservative Party deserves five stars for effort.   Congratulations all round.   Special thanks must go to Don Porter for involving the Party, to Francis Maude and of course to David Cameron for having the guts to do this.   It will change the face of politics.    It has brought the Conservative Party into the 21st century.   We can develop it further but for the time being lets all just luxuriate in the warmth of knowing that at last the Party is doing the right thing.   Well done.    Visit

***** The Conservative Party *****

The Real Party Chairman
Would the real Party Chairman stand up?    Welcome Lord Ashcroft.   Now that the details of the Central Office appointments have been disclosed it is quite clear that Lord Ashcroft is the Chairman of the Party in all but name.   He is moving his staff into Millbank, including Stephen Gilbert and Gavin Barwell.   Their experience will be useful, even essential.   Gavin Barwell will co-ordinate the target seats campaign.    Another Ashcroft man, Kevin Culwick, will manage opinion research.    Ashcroft will have responsibility for field campaigning activities.    Reporting to him will be Michael Bates responsible for Campaign North, Roger Pratt who is the Acting Secretary of the National Convention and responsible for the links between the voluntary party and the professionals.   Others reporting to Lord Ashcroft will include Stephen Philips - another good professional - who is responsible for co-ordinating communication with professionals in the field.   Training and recruitment functions now come into Ashcroft's empire together with line management and the work of Regional Directors and Campaign Directors.
George Osborne has responsibility for the General Election, so what is left for the Party Chairman?   Good question.    Fund raising is best left to the Treasurers.   The media operation will inevitably report to the Leader, so poor Caroline Spellman will be left to do all those chicken dinners around the country.   Good luck Caroline.
By all reports Lord Ashcroft is doing an excellent job in the marginal constituencies, but is it right that one man should have so much such power unaccountable to party members?   What the Party needs is a Chairman that will serve a term of five years with no further political ambitions.    Lord Ashcroft meets this requirement, so as I have said to him in the past "make the Chairman an elected position by the members of the Party and I would be happy to propose him for that position".   How about it Michael?
Since 1997 the present government has added to the statute book over 365 acts of Parliament and over 32,000 Statutory Instruments to give effect to European Law in the United Kingdom.   Isn't it time the people were consulted about this?   We must demand a referendum and the Conservatives must shout this demand from the roof tops.   Enough is enough.
Voting for the Scottish Parliament
The following report is taken from the excellent but disturbing report by the Open Rights Group.   It makes your flesh creep for democracy.
At the count conducted by the Highlands Council, questions arose concerning the Highlands and Islands regional Parliamentary results that the Returning Officer intended to declare.
During the adjudication process, David Thompson of the SNP had been keeping an informal count which led him to believe that the SNP was receiving approximately 35% of the votes for additional members (regional list).    However when the Returning Officer presented the regional results to the candidates and agents prior to declaration, SNP representatives were shocked and disappointed to have not won any seats.   According to Mr Thompson the results presented were:
Labour                       4
Conservative            2
Green                        1
SNP                           0
Mr Thompson decided to challenge the results, managing to do so as the Returning Officer was on his way to the podium to declare the result.   The Returning Officer expressed surprise but offered to show the workings used to calculate the result.   The Returning Officer went through a number of A4 printouts from an excel spreadsheet.   It was identified that votes for the SNP had not been included in the calculations, probably owing to the spreadsheet operator's inability to see all the parties votes on the computer screen at the same time.    As parties were listed horizontally across the screen and a large number of parties had stood in the election, the data in the spreadsheet had become wider than the computer screen used.   Thus without scrolling manually across the full range of the spreadsheet's columns, parties could be missed from the calculations used to allocate seats.
When the mistake was realised the official result was declared as follows:
Labour                   3
Conservative        2
Green                     0
SNP                        2
These results gave the SNP one member ahead of Labour in the new Parliament, the last member to be declared being David Thompson.
The wrong result was within one minute of being declared.   Once it had been declared the only recourse would have been an expensive appeal to the Courts.   Makes you think.

Good Week, Bad Week
Last week started badly for the Conservatives with the defection of Quentin Davies.   He was a bright, intelligent and charming man and will be a loss to the Conservatives.   However his letter of resignation was one of the most vitriolic resignation letters ever and out of tune with his normal character.   It was perhaps predictable.   We have said many times that there is a growing seething resentment building up amongst grass roots members and Tory backbenchers about being excluded from the policy development process.   Unless the Party begins to listen to them and to involve them I am afraid we will see more outbursts like Quentin Davies's.
The good news is that David Cameron has made three excellent appointments to the shadow cabinet, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, Caroline Spellman and Sarheed Warsi.   All are very good and will make a positive contribution to the future success of the Party.   The sad news is Francis Maude's dismissal as Party Chairman.   This post should be elected by all the members of the Party and should not be an appointed position.   In recent times no Party Chairman has been in the job longer than a couple of years.   Just when they are beginning to understand what it is all about they are given the boot.    This is bad news for the Party.   When Francis Maude took on the job it was a poisoned chalice.   Within a week he had to sign up to the ludicrous proposals by Michael Howard to change the Party and deny the members of their vote in the Leadership election.   It was predictable that the members would throw this out.   Since then Francis has quietly got on with changing the Party to put it into a position where it has become electable again.   I pay tribute to him for all his efforts.
European Referendum
The Chairman of COPOV submitted the following petition to 10 Downing Street:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to: "hold a referendum on the European Union Brussels Treaty signed on 23 June 2007"
This Treaty alters the way in which the United Kingdom is governed. In a democracy the people are sovereign and it is they that should determine how they are governed, not politicians, who have a vested interest.
This week we received the following reply:
I'm sorry to inform you that your petition has been rejected. Your petition was classed as being in the following categories: * Duplicate - this is similar to and/or overlaps with an existing petition or petitions
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to guarantee that the British people will be permitted a binding referendum on any and all attempts to resurrect the EU "constitution" (and any or all of its content) regardless of nomenclature.
Did you notice how Downing Street address their correspondents?    That point aside, isn't it a bit disingenuous for Downing Street to say on the one hand the Brussels Treaty is not a constitution and then say that the COPOV petition is rejected because it is similar to one calling for opposition to resurrect the constitution?   Having said all that, what we can do is sign up to the petition they have accepted and give it our support.

The Police State
Would you believe this?   We are new told that smokers will not be allowed to foster children under the age of five years old.   This rotten stinking fascist government would rather under fives live in a children's home rather than be looked after a loving couple that smoke.   When will the Conservative Party stand up for the rights of minorities?   If the politicians will not stand up for freedom and liberty then the people will have to take to the streets.
Electronic voting
So you think we live in a democracy?    The Open Rights Group have just published a paper on the pilot schemes used in the May elections for electronic voting and counting.   It makes your hair stand on end.   We will return to this issue later but here are a couple of points for you:
  • "Breckland's Dereham-Humbletoft ward, the one ward in England that was counted both electronically and manually , was found to have 56.1% more District Council votes than when e counted"
  • In South Bucks technicians were observed using a USB key to transfer files between computers.   Such devices can be used to load unauthorised software or modify existing software to behave in malicious or unexpected ways.   Open Rights Group does not know what the key contained or why a transfer was needed to resolve the software problems encountered in South Bucks, but it was clear that the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer were not aware of any implications of such action.
  • In South Bucks telephone voting only accounted for 1.35% and 1.25% of the electorate for district and parish elections respectively.

***Conservative Party *** For the second week running the Conservative Party has done well with the publication this week of Michael Heseltine's study group.   He wants top devolve power to the people.   The has got to be good for democracy.   We applaud it.   Also we are told that David Cameron is launching a great debate on the study group policies.   If this is genuine then we welcome this too.    The test will come at the Party conference.   Will we have motions for debate with speakers able to speak for 3-4 minutes or will it be all froth?
We are also told that constituency associations are going to debate policies.   We welcome that, but we will see just how effective it is and what notice will be paid to it.   The history of consultations in the past does not give much hope that the grass roots will be listened to.   We live in hope.
The Police State
The Government has issued guidance to local authorities which will create a new layer of smoking inspectors and risk turning employers into "secret police" when the smoking ban comes into effect on July 1st. The guidance is for local authorities who are responsible for enforcing the ban, levying fines and collecting (and keeping) the revenue and says:
  • Bosses to act as smoking spies: Businesses are to be instructed to implement "management controls" of keeping written records of any person smoking. A template Smoking Incident Form is provided for firms to fill out, and firms are to be told to pass the detailed records of incidents to town halls "to inform them of the occurrence".
  • Fines by town hall inspectors: These Smoking Incident Forms will provide sufficient evidence for town halls to levy £50 fines on anyone who smokes. If any individual fails to provide assistance or information to the state inspectors when requested, they in turn can be fined £1,000.
  • Snoopers’ charter: The guidance explicitly authorises the use of uncover and "intrusive" surveillance – including the use of snooping devices like hidden cameras. It asserts that the Human Rights Act and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act provide no rights against the snooping.
  • Inspectors’ power of entry: The legislation gives town hall inspectors forcible rights of entry into any premises where the public may be. The guidance encourages "proactive inspections", "to generate lists from their premises database", and to particularly target small and medium firms.
  • ‘Stasi State’ raids by police: Town halls are told to draw up an "enforcement protocol", and get local police officers to assist in "targeting individuals as part of a pre-arranged programmed activity". Yet this will inevitably displace the police from tackle violent crime, car crime and burglary.
Eric Pickles, the Shadow Local Government Minister, says:

"Experience from abroad shows that smoking bans are largely self-enforcing. Yet rather than relying on common sense and peer pressure, I am concerned that Labour Ministers are giving the go-ahead to a snoopers’ charter of heavy-handed surveillance and zealous inspections to impose the smoking ban on England. This is a municipal sledgehammer to crack a nut.
"Step by step, Labour Ministers are introducing a Stasi State – giving ever stronger powers for state officials to spy and enter private property, and now, even asking bosses to act as secret police.

"Councils are under such intense financial pressures due to fiddled funding and new burdens, that I fear that a town hall Taliban could be tempted to use the easy target of a smoking ban as a cash cow. Ministers would be better to encourage councils to target their limited resources on serious risks to public welfare like under-age drinking and commercial fly-tipping."
If the Conservative Party believes that the Labour government is creating a Stasi State and town hall Talibans why doesn't the Conservative Party pledge to repeal this repressive legislation and defend freedom and choice?   It is time to stand up and be counted.   After the smokers the drinkers will be next.

*** Conservative Party*** Three stars for the Conservative Party for the publication of Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force paper.   He set out a lot of proposals, all of which would enhance our democracy.   The Conservative Party should adopt the lot.    We need more protection in our democracy and Ken's paper is a good start to getting it.
Sitting in my office this week, who should come through the door, but one of our new smoking inspectors.   She just wanted to pop in, she said, to make sure that we had all the "No Smoking" notices that we require for the big turn off on July 1st.   She took the opportunity to observe those desks with ash trays on them and no doubt that on her next visit she will be wearing jack boots and uniform and will be able to go direct to those desks and see whether they still have ash trays on them.   Whatever happened to freedom and liberty?   We now have an army of bureaucrats ready to enforce the "No Smoking" law on July 1st and impose their hefty fines on any employer who has the temerity to allow their employees to smoke.
This week it was announced that warning labels will have to be put on every bottle of alcohol.   This was exactly the way the "NO Smoking" ban started, but nobody spoke up against it.   So soon we will see alcohol banned.   Will anybody speak up against It?    Where, oh where were the Conservative Party when our freedom was lost?    It is to their shame that they have not pledged to get rid of all this bureaucracy and legislation.   UKIP have pledged to scrap it.   The Tories ignore it at their peril.
Prince Bandar is alleged to have received almost a billion pounds as commission on the Al Yamaha deal with BAE Systems.    No doubt this is all legitimate.   The unanswered question is who received money from Prince Bandar?   We can guess, but will we ever know, and even if we did know would it have been illegal?   Probably not, but it stinks, nevertheless.

Two Cheers for the Conservative Party
Half way through this week a dose of common sense hit the Conservative Party.   On Wednesday, the Chairman of COPOV questioned George Osborne after his speech at Policy Exchange.   George made a good speech putting the case for local choice - good Conservative stuff.   Power to the people.    Parents should have real choice of school for their children.   He stated that choice did not mean as in East Germany where the people were given a choice of car as long as it was a Trabant.   So the question to George was an obvious one.    "We perfectly understand why you do not want to promote new Grammar schools, but want to concentrate the debate on the vast majority of schools, but if you believe in local choice, and the people of Buckinghamshire decide that they want a new Grammar school because their population is increasing, would a Conservative government allow it?   Oh, says George "I want to concentrate on the vast majority of schools not grammar schools".   He would not answer the question.   So, says the Chairman of COPOV "Its all rhetoric then"!    George looked uncomfortable.   Next day, Thursday, the MP for Beaconsfield made a similar point in the local paper.   Dominic Grieve is very smart and one of the best Tory MPs we have got.   Thursday lunchtime a change in policy was announced.   In areas where there are existing grammar schools, if a new school is required due to expansion of the population, it will be allowed.    Two cheers for this.
However, what about the situation in an area without a grammar school.   Just suppose that the local people decide that they also wish to have a grammar school.   Surely if local choice is to mean anything they should be allowed to do so.   Or is Tory policy on schools the Trabant option.    You can have any school of your choice as long as its our choice that you choose.
This argument on Grammar Schools was an argument waiting to happen.   There is a seething resentment building up amongst ordinary party members, because they have been totally left out of the policy development process.    We have continuously warned the hierarchy that there will be big rows whenever policies are announced unless party members are allowed to participate in policy development.   They want to be heard.   They do not demand the right to determine policy.   They are happy for the Leader to do that, but before he does so they want to know that he has listened to them before arriving at his decision.    He ignores this at his peril.
Response to Grammar Schools - May 27th
I note the views on this excellent web site and wish to add my comments. David Cameron appears to be getting dictatorial just like Blear and his idea of closing Grammar Schools is ridiculous and has not been formulated by the party. He is widely reported as having smoked cannabis as a youth, is this now affecting his brain. His idea of taking the mantle from Blear, does he really want the mantle of a man who allegedly took us to war on a lie and his assistant who taxed us out of our homes. This man was a nice ordinary bloke when he wanted the leadership but now he is an out of touch despot.
A Nonimous.

Grammar Schools
The argument within the Conservative Party about Grammar Schools is beginning to look ridiculous.   There is a clear conflict between David Cameron's view on Grammar schools and his view on devolving power to the local level.   Why cannot he say that the decision on what type of school they want should be taken by the Local Education Authority?   It is ludicrous to argue that schools can select their pupils on the grounds of race or special needs or sporting ability but not on the grounds of academic ability.   I am afraid that ordinary Party members are wondering whether Cameron is starting to show his Old Etonian arrogance.   He must understand that there is a difference between Leadership and Dictatorship.   The Leader carries people with him by the strength of his arguments.   The Dictator tells them what to do.   If the Leader wants the members of the Party to trust him, then he has got to learn to trust the members of the Party.   After all it was they who made him Leader in the first place.
Freedom of Information
We are delighted that David Cameron has indicated his opposition to David Mclean's pernicious Bill on Freedom of Information.    Perhaps he will have a word with two of his senior colleagues - John Maples MP, Vice Chairman in charge of Parliamentary candidates and Shailesh Vara MP, who voted for it.
The Gravy Train
So Lord Sandy Bruce Lockhart is to be Chairman of English Heritage on £45,000 per annum for one day a week.   We are told that the other two contenders for the post were knocked out because they were not Labour supporters.   I thought that Bruce Lockhart was a Conservative, but then money changes everything.
Conservative Women's Organisation
We see that the Conservative Women's Organisation has been re-organised with a new constitution.   Amongst the changes is a tightening up of the electoral college for voting for the officers.    What a missed opportunity?   Why did they not give One Woman One Vote to their members?   We hear continuous complaints from the women about recognition in the Party but they have not understood that when it comes to the crunch they lag behind in promoting democracy within the Party.   It suits the National Officers to keep their personal influence.   The real reason they have not adopted OWOV is because it would disclose how few women were members of the Women's Organisation.  At a guess it is probably about two thousand out of the hundred thousand plus women members of the Party.

Our Secret Society
David Mclean's Bill to abolish freedom of information is one of the most squalid Bills of recent years.   Quite rightly the press have thoroughly condemned it.   Why should the House of Commons be exempt from freedom of information?   Why didn't the Shadow cabinet give a lead in opposing this draconian Bill?   Shame on those 18 Conservatives that supported it.   This is the kind of behaviour we expect from the Labour Party but Conservatives?   I noticed that John Butterfill was one of the supporters - the same John Butterfill that wants a huge pay rise for MPs.   When will he join the human race?   If he wants more money resign from Parliament and make his way in the real world.   I doubt if anyone would have him.
Another bit of secrecy that has come to my notice is the fact that the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee meets in private, this in spite of the fact that the Committee itself voted to meet in public.    This is the Committee that scrutinises proposed legislation coming from Europe.   Are not the British people entitled to see these proposals and what our MPs think about them?   Who is it that is stopping this transparency?    I think we should be told so that they can be kicked out at the next General Election.   There is too much secrecy and the people are getting fed up.    It is time for the Tory Party to take a stand.
Dave we told you so
Earlier this year we said that David Cameron had two critical tasks over the next six months.   One, the Party had to reverse its ridiculous position on the selection of candidates for the European Parliament and give back the vote to the Party members.   The other issue is that there had to be real debate within the Party before policy announcements are made.   If this does not happen, we predicted, there would be some huge rows in the Party.   The members want to be involved in policy formation.   They want their voice to be heard.   They do not want to dictate policy but neither do they want policy to be dictated to them by David Cameron.   Well, he ignored our advice this week by pronouncing his policy on grammar schools.   The inevitable row was predictable.    If this continues the Conservative Party will self destruct.  
The last Board meeting decided that all candidates for the European Parliament elections including sitting MEPs will have to pledge to leave the EPP and join whatever grouping the Leader decides.   What nonsense.   This is dictatorship.   How can you pledge to do something which as yet is unknown.   Who dreamt up this daft policy.   It does make you wonder.   If the Leader says he has joined the Jump over the Cliff Party does he seriously expect all the candidates to follow him?
Prime Minister
So, the country is to have a new Prime Minister in office without the British people having any vote on whether he should be in that position.   This is a disgrace.   The British Prime Minister has more power than the U.S. President.   It is time he was elected by the People.
Before 1911 when MPs started to be paid, whenever a backbencher was promoted to the Cabinet there had to be a by-election in his constituency to see if his electors approved or not.   It is time this practise was resurrected.

Europe back on the Agenda
Like it or lump it Europe is going to back on the Agenda for the Tory Party in the next few months.   First of all we have the Euro Summit in June.   At this Summit the Prime Minister Tony Bliar will sign a Mini - Treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom using his powers under the Royal prerogative to sign Treaties binding the United Kingdom.   This so-called Mini - Treaty is in effect a European Constitution, the same Constitution which Tony Bliar promised would be put to a referendum of the British people.   Like many of his promises he will renege on this one.   This Treaty will alter the way in which we are governed in the United Kingdom.   It will create a President of Europe, not elected by the people, that would be too close to democracy, but elected by the European institutions, and guess who will be the prime candidate for this position, why Tony Bliar.
So what can be done about this betrayal?    Well, Parliament could put down a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister and if it were passed demand his resignation, but hold it, he has already given a date for his resignation, so the motion would be a meaningless gesture.   The truth is that under our rotten democracy Bliar will get away with it.   In spite of the fact that the only people that elected him are the voters of Sedgfield and Labour Party members he can sign away our democracy to his hearts content.   This must be changed.   It is time the Prime Minister of this country was elected by the people of this country.   The British Prime Minister has more unfettered powers than the President of the United States.   It is time they were curtailed.    So what should the Conservative Party do?   It should pledge that immediately on return to Government it will put any Treaty to the people and abide by their decision.
The next item on the European Agenda is the disgraceful way in which ordinary Party members have had their democratic rights to choose their candidates for the European parliament removed.   For the last European Parliament elections ordinary Party members could choose who they wished to represent them in the European Parliament.   This time they cannot.   Instead a Regional Selection College has been set up consisting mainly of Constituency Chairmen plus one extra representative for every 500 members which will on a simple majority vote decide whether the existing MEPs will be reselected.   If successful they will be put at the top of the List, which will virtually guarantee their re-election to the European Parliament.   Watch out for two issues to raise their heads:
Take Southern Region, its Selection College will have about 300 people.   Sitting MEPs have vast funds at their disposal supplied by the taxpayer to wine and dine these relatively few people in order to get their reselection.   Do not be surprised if a number of mini scandals break out as the extent of the entertaining becomes known.   Constituency Chairmen can look forward to a very entertaining few months.   I hope they will not end up being sick like the rest of us, deprived of our democratic rights and as taxpayers paying for it.
Secondly, since the rules on membership changed last year some Constituency Associations have revised their membership lists, because there is no minimum subscription.   In order to meet the 500 criteria there is every incentive for them to revise their criteria for membership.    Watch for a sudden increase in membership, at least on paper if not in reality.
The truth of the matter is that once again the control freaks are in control of the Party.   They are quite happy to distort democracy to achieve their own ends even when this damages the Party.    When you begin to distort democracy you begin to destroy it and in the process, they will destroy the Conservative Party for members will continue to disappear and a Party without members is a dictatorship!
Democracy distorted
In the General Election the Conservative Party received less seats that they should have had because of the distortions of our electoral system, partly because of the use of the unfair First Pass the Post System in use for Westminster elections.   The reverse has happened in the local elections.   With 40% of the votes the Conservatives picked up 50% of the seats.    Labour with 27% of the votes got just 18% of the seats, and they say we live in a representative democracy!
What with the built in distortions, postal vote fraud, the shamble of electronic counting and internet voting our democracy is put to shame by many banana republics.   In Scotland we now know that there were 86,000 spoilt Constituency votes and 56,000 spoilt Regional votes.   What a disgrace for a Nation which has the cheek to say that it is fighting for democracy in Iraq - the same kind of democracy as in the United Kingdom?   I hope not.   Poor Iraqis.
Olly does it again
Oliver Letwin is in danger of becoming the Oliver Hardy of the Conservative Party.   His speech this week contained more gobbledegook than all the uncollected dustbins.   His speech was widely reported and in the muddle of the gobbledegook he has the germ of an idea but it is based on a fundamental flaw.   He states that the free market has won so now we can concentrate on social problems.   The flaw is the assumption that the free market will continue to win.   Look at it like this:
Of the 100 biggest economic units in the World, 51 of them are now Corporations.   Corporations which are bigger than Nation States.   Put another way, they are bigger than some 150 countries in the World.   In other words those countries are not capable of holding them to account.   Now we know from Adam Smith that when businessmen get together they soon start to try and create cartels, so if the 51 Corporations feel like it they just might meet and decide on what terms they will do business in the three quarters of the world where they cannot be held to account.   This is not a free market Oliver, and just in case you think that the United Kingdom can sit back in the knowledge that it is big and powerful think of BAE Systems and the influence it has on the British government to name but one.   

Conservatives - The next six months
Congratulations to the Conservative Party on a brilliant success in the local elections this week.   The Party is clearly on course for a victory in the next General election.   The strategic plan is in place and is working.   The next six months are vital to the Party for it to maintain its momentum.   There are two things it has to do.
(1)     It must drop the absurd and ridiculous proposal to take the vote away from ordinary Party members in choosing their candidates for the European Parliament.   If you want to demotivate members this is the way to do it.
(2)    When the proposals of the policy commissions are published there must be real debate and involvement with the members before the proposals become policies.   This means motions at the Party conference.   If a Leader has the self confidence to know that he can persuade the members of the rightness of policies he will carry the members with him.    Without debate the policies will be regarded as the dictat of a Dictator.    There will be resentment and argument within the Party.
These are the key tests for the next six months.   We hope the Leader passes the tests with flying colours.
We hear that it is proposed to hang a painting of the suffragette Emily Pankhurst in the new headquarters at Millbank.    We thoroughly applaud this.   The Conservative Party has to fight for our democracy and the painting will remind everybody of the sacrifices made by the people to achieve what democracy we have.   I also hope that whenever the Party Chairman looks at the picture it will remind him that he is not elected by the Party members and just maybe, he will reflect on the thought that he should be, if we want to be a democratic Party in the 21st century.
Our Democracy is unwell
Our democracy is unwell and the events of the past week have illustrated just how bad it has become.   We will take just three examples out of many to illustrate the point.
(1)    The elections held in Scotland are travesty of democracy.   By a combination of incompetence, failure to take advice and use of electronic counting systems which failed to work, over 100,000 votes were declared invalid.   When a seat can be won or lost with as little as 48 being the majority it is unacceptable to have this level of spoilt votes.    It is quite clear how this came about.   The Labour Party were so desperate to have as high a vote as possible that they were prepared not only to countenance fraud in their endeavours, but ignored all the advice given to them that it would be confusing to have three different systems of voting on the same day and sometimes on the same ballot paper.   The only fair and proper solution to the chaos which they have caused is for the elections to be held again on separate days under the old pencil and paper system of voting.
(2)    On a much smaller scale, but nevertheless an important issue, the system of electronic voting should be abandoned.   Security will always be an issue with electronic voting.     There is no secure system which a hacker is unable to break into.    What man can devise man can find a way around it.   There is no paper trail.   In the South Bucks. District Council elections electronic voting was used.   One ward was lost by just 19 votes.   In normal circumstances the candidate's agent would quite reasonably call for a recount, but with electronic voting there is no paper trail so there can be no recount.   Who knows whether the computer program was faulty?   Who knows whether it had been interfered with?   But in South Bucks. the voter had several choices of voting - by internet, by telephone, by postal or by the old fashioned way of going to the polling station and using a pencil and paper.
We do not know as yet how many people took up the option of voting by internet but that still leaves the normal method of voting.    If a mistake could happen with the normal system before this election it could happen with the same system when it is used in conjunction with internet voting, yet before we could have had a recount but not now.   As one of the worlds leading computer hackers told the Chairman of COPOV the safest method of voting is the old system of pencil and paper.   The quicker we get back to it the better.
(3)     It is reported that Prime Minister Bliar will go to the European Summit and sign a new Treaty incorporating the proposals which were to have been included in the European Constitution.    This will deny the people of their say in a referendum.   It is wholly undemocratic.   It is the people that should decide how they wish to be governed.   Tony Bliar was elected by the people of Sedgfield and by Labour Party members, yet he has the power under the Royal prerogative to sign Treaties on behalf of the United Kingdom.   In this respect he has more power than the President of the United States.   This cannot be right in a democracy.   He is about to announce his departure from office but will sign the Treaty before he goes.    If Parliament disagrees with his actions - tough.   The deed will have been done.   It is time that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was directly answerable to the People of the United Kingdom.   That will only happen when he or she is elected by the people of the United Kingdom.   It is time for this to be done. 

One Cheer for the Party Board
Last week we said that if the Party Board had any sense it would delay the decision on the selection of candidates for the European Parliament until after May 3rd.   It was too much to hope for.   Sure enough this week the Board announced its decision, taking away members rights to select the candidates.   Nothing could be done to more demoralise and demotivate members just before vital elections than this, and then when the members protest they are accused of making unhelpful noises from the sidelines.   Doesn't make you sick?
We understand that all three Vice Presidents of the National Convention voted against the decision.   Good for them, at least they remained faithful to those that elected them.   Bill Walker and Michael Spicer (Chairman of the 1922 Executive) abstained.   They at least had a bit of common sense.   What a tragedy and a disgrace the others voted in favour.    The one cheer that the Party Board deserves is for its decision to have a postal ballot of members.   This is far more democratic than the hustings of old when a member had to be a masochist if they wished to exercise their vote.   As for the rest of what they did it was disastrous.
The Board were sold the line that all that was being done was to treat sitting MEPs in the same way as sitting MPs.   This is a false analogy and there is a serious fault line in the argument.   It is perhaps understandable how they were conned if we look at recent history.
Prior to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act of 2000 a candidate for a Westminster seat was described as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate.   When the election was announced an Adoption meeting was held in the constituency to which all members of the Party in the constituency were invited.   A motion was put to adopt the individual as the Parliamentary Candidate.   In other words every member of the Party was involved in the final decision.   It was from the date of this meeting that candidates had to account for all they spent on the election.   The Act of 2000 changed all this by determining an earlier date from which expenses had to be calculated and accounted for.    The Conservative Party to its shame then decided to abandon the adoption meeting and accept that the Executive Council had the power to reselect.   Many MPs and Constituencies to their credit continued to hold full adoption meetings with all their members, after all it is a great way to start a General Election campaign.    Others chose not to.   To their credit the Scottish Conservative Party still demands a General Meeting of all members.   So the comparison which the Board is relying on is comparatively recent.   It would have been better if every Constituency had to hold a General Meeting of all its members to readopt the sitting MP.   However, what the Board has either forgotten or ignored, is that any individual in a Constituency Association can call a Special meeting and put down a motion expressing no confidence in the MP and calling for a reselection to take place.    In other words the MP is still accountable to the members of his Association, as quite a number of MPs would testify to.
How does this differ from the process which is now to be adopted for the sitting MEPs?   What is to be set up is an electoral college called the Regional Selection College.   This will consist of Constituency Chairmen, Area Officers (not elected by all members in the Area), Regional Officers ( not elected by all members in the Region), Council Group Leaders, ( not elected by members) and sundry other members of the great and good.    In other words we have set up a pyramid democracy of the kind which the Conservative Party made illegal in the Trade Unions in the 1980s on the grounds that pyramid democracy enabled the results to be more easily manipulated.  So, unlike in a Constituency Association where an ordinary member could bring about the reselection of an MP, in the case of an MEP there is no forum or body to which the ordinary member can put down a motion or call a meeting for the reselection of an MEP..
All this has serious consequences for democracy, not only within the Conservative Party but for democracy in this country.    The case has always been made that the European Parliament was the democratic part of the European Union even though democracy was flawed in that the voters in the United Kingdom effectively could only vote for a closed Party List.   At least the candidates on that list were selected by all Party members.   No longer.    They will now be selected by an elite group of members.   Part of the answer to this is to change the system of election to an open list whereby the voters can not only choose the Party but also vote on the individual members of the Party.    As a result of the action taken by the Party Board this has now become critical.   See the Index Page to vote for a petition calling for this.   
What of the other proposals agreed by the Party Board?   Sitting MEPs standing for reselection only need to get a 51% vote from the Regional Selection College for them to go forward to the top of their Regional Lists where they will have the best chance of being reelected.   All the sitting MEPs which are going to be reselected are men.   This is disgraceful.    I thought we were trying to get more women into the European Parliament?    Yet here we are blatantly discriminating against women.   They should be up in arms about it.   As a sop they have been told that they will get the highest position below the male sitting MEPs, in other words the dodgy positions on the list which we are unlikely to win unless we do better than last time, but in doing this we are blatantly discriminating against the male candidates. e.g   Southern Region has ten places on its list.   The five Conservative MEPs are likely to stand again, leaving five vacancies to be filled by other candidates.   If we are lucky we might pick up one of these as a seat.   Let us say that there are twenty candidates that want to be on the list, half of which are men and half of which are women.   They have their interviews and are voted upon.   Just suppose the best woman candidate comes eighth.   She will be put as number six on the final list and the seven men that beat her in the vote will be placed after her.     This is quite disgraceful discrimination.
What should happen?   The sitting MEPs should go through to the final list.   Taking Southern Region as our example, the best five candidates out of those applying should also be put on the list regardless of gender.   There should then be a postal ballot of all members and all ten positions should be ranked accordingly.   If a sitting MEP with all the advantages of having been a member of the European Parliament for at least five years, being well known in the Region, with large sums of money at their disposal cannot get to the top of the list then so be it.   That is democracy.   So how do we get more women into the European Parliament?   Let them know that they are competing on equal terms with the men both sitting MEPs and other candidates.    Have a big drive to attract more women to put themselves forward as candidates, encourage them, advertise for them etc.   The key to getting more of them in the Parliament is get more women candidates.   With an equal number of women candidates as men candidates there is a good chance an equal number will be chosen.    All this the Board has failed to do.   Instead they have chosen to deprive Party members of their rights.   They have chosen to distort democracy and once you begin to distort democracy you begin its destruction.   Party members will not give up their rights lightly.   Immediately after May 3rd let the battle begin.   We demand our rights.   We will take it to the National Convention.   We will take it to the Party Conference.   Why be a member of a political Party if you do not have any rights, and what is a Part without members?   A Dictatorship.

Selection of MEPs
Tomorrow the Party Board will receive a paper from the the National European Forum giving their proposals for how the selection process should be conducted for selecting candidates for the European Parliament.    We do not object to anybody submitting a paper to the Board but what exactly is the National European Forum?   It does not appear anywhere in the Party Constitution.   The Chairman is appointed so is not answerable to the Party membership.   When did it last meet?   When it did meet did it debate the procedures which are now going to be put to the Board in its name?   The fact is that the proposals being put forward are those of a very small group of individuals and should be treated as such.   Any attempt to take away the ordinary Party member's right to select the candidates will be strongly resisted.
If the Party Board has any sense at all it will listen to the presentation and then move on to next business.   The decision on the selection process should be delayed until after the local government elections on May 3rd.   If only half of what is rumoured is true there will be an almighty row.   This is the last thing we want before the local elections.
One of the questions which keeps cropping up is whether the Party is ageism in choosing parliamentary candidates.   I think we should be told how many candidates on the list are over the age of fifty.    If anybody knows let us in to the secret.
Welcome Lord Trimble
It is nice to welcome Lord Trimble into the Conservative Party.   I hope that he will use his efforts in supporting the Conservatives in Northern Ireland.   At a fringe meeting at the last Party conference the Chairman of COPOV told Lord Trimble that the Ulster Unionists were a busted flush and that if he had any sense he would join the Conservatives.   Good to see that he accepted the advice!
79% of Conservative MPs think that they are underpaid.   They now think that they should be joining the fat cat doctors in the level of their remuneration.   What happened to the concept of public service?   It is worrying that our MPs think of themselves as just doing a job.    You do not need great expertise to be an MP.   You do not need to have great intellect.   What is required is judgement and the truth is that when it comes to political judgement the ploughman is as good as the professor, if not better, per Jefferson.   This desire for more money makes one wonder just what kind of person is now a Tory MP.   At one time they would have made their money before going into Parliament, now they seem to equate their role with that of the paid social worker, mind you they do not want the wage of the social worker.   The Party is always going on about Parliament being more representative of the people.   In that case how about paying an MP the average wage of the people?

What kind of World?
  • The United States military budget this year is $650 billion.
  • The total United Nations budget is 2% of World military expenditure.
  • This year the United States will spend $4.5 billion on aid to Africa.
  • There are 639 million small arms in the World.
  • Each year 8 million small arms are produced together with 16 billion units of ammunition.
  • 400,000 people are killed each year from conventional arms.
  • $900 billion is spent by the World each year on defence.
  • $60 billion is spent by the World on aid.
  • 88% of the World trade in arms is conducted by the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations.
  • The translation costs of the European Union will soon rise to £700 million.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy subsidy is 54.7 billion Euros.
        For further reading see "What's wrong with British Foreign Policy" published by the Tory Reform Group.

Chaos in the Gulf
We must all be delighted at the safe return of our sailors from the Gulf.   They should not be ashamed at the way they conducted themselves.   Any body with an ounce of common sense would do the same.   It is all very well for buffoons like John Bolton and Andrew Roberts to be critical but when did they ever have to face a similar situation?  These arm chair Generals are a bigger threat to the World than those we criticise in the Middle East.    Nevertheless there are some serious questions to be asked:
Why were we unable to protect our sailors?
Why was their operation not aborted as soon as the helicopter had to withdraw?
Why did the helicopter withdraw?
Who was in charge of this operation?
Is it true that the command ship could not get closer to them?
Why was only one helicopter on duty?
Could the command ship see the aggressors on radar?
Why couldn't a helicopter position itself between the raiding party and the Iranians?
When the helicopter withdrew did the raiding party position a watch?
Why are we using inflatables in a war zone?
Why aren't our raiding ships at least up to the specification of the Iranian ships?
Who will take responsibility for this calamity?
These are just a few of the questions which need to be answered.   There may be more, but was this incompetence by the Navy or have the politicians responsibility?   It does seem extraordinary that we are incapable of defending our own people.   At a time when we have just committed the country to spend £25 billion on a useless nuclear weapon that will never be used we allow our service personnel either through lack of training or lack of equipment to operate in a war zone without protection.   Of course those in favour of renewing Trident say we do not know what the position will be in twenty years time, but in twenty years time we still will not know what to expect in a further twenty years.    This is the politics of fear and despair.   We should not let the politicians get away with it.   The sooner the Conservative Party changes its stance on nuclear weapons the better and the more they will be in touch with the British people.
We are not arguing for a reduction in defence spending but a change in our priorities.   Wars of the future are going to be fought with men on the ground.   They should be better equipped than our enemies.   That should be our priority.   We should not be influenced by those with a vested interest in nuclear weapons.

Electoral Fraud
We are told that in Slough the numbers registering for postal votes are down by 45% from last year.   Could it have anything to do with the fact that they have to give a date of birth and and signature when applying?   We know that the Labour government is quite happy to countenance electoral fraud from their attitude to postal voting refusing to back individual registration as they did in Northern Ireland.   They are so desperate to try and get their vote out on election day, because they know that thousands of Labour voters are going to stay at home.   Slough has come as a great shock to them.
Parliamentary Candidate Selection
We have had some outstanding candidates chosen recently.   Interestingly since the discredited "A" List was abolished not a single Constituency Association has decided to use the "A" List for its selection.   It just goes to show the contempt with which it was held.
European Parliament Candidate Selection
We publish below an excellent article by Richard Robinson.   No decision will be taken on the procedure for selection until after the local elections on May 3rd.   After this all Party members should be prepared to go into battle if there is any attempt to take away our democratic rights.   Why is it that there are always some power mad individuals within the Tory Party that wish to treat the members with contempt?   They should remember - We are the Tory Party.
 MEP candidates - Let members decide
In the next couple of months the Board of the Conservative Party will decide how candidates for the 2009 European Elections will be selected. There has been much comment about how this should be done, about the implications for incumbent MEPs, and about the (mis-)alignment between the attitude to Europe of our delegation in Brussels and Party members.

The Spectator is now reporting a recommendation by the party’s National European Forum that unlike the selection for 1999 and 2004, party members will have no say in the selection of candidates. According to the Spectator, the proposal is that incumbents would require the approval of Regional Selection Colleges who would presumably rank the highest places in each regional list. Other places on the list would be allocated by CCHQ.

The arguments are all very reminiscent of the debate about how we select the Party Leader: members can not be trusted to act in the best interests of the Party; the cost of consulting members is disproportionate; an election would be a distraction.  I know that some members of the Board believe that the hustings in previous selections were divisive. I thought that, given the passions that the EU raises among some party members on both sides of the debate, the hustings that I witnessed were conducted in a constructive spirit and members representing all shades of opinion contributed and were heard with respect.

There is clearly a belief among those who campaigned to remain within the EPP that they might pay a heavy price during an open selection and the protection being afforded to incumbents probably reflects this fear. I suspect that it is largely misplaced. In spite of the majority of party members being broadly Euro-sceptic, the composition of the party in Brussels remained much the same after 2004. Members of the Party are a sophisticated electorate who are quite capable of appreciating the work, expertise and contribution of MEPs who hold a wide range of views.

Just as in the debate about selecting the Party Leader, the choice is what sort of organisation is the Conservative Party. Are we a membership organisation in which ordinary members actively participate in the decision making processes, or are our members just a supporters club: active, vociferous but disengaged?

Important as these issues are, I think that the way we select our European candidates also says something about our attitude to Europe. We criticise the EU for being centralising, for taking decisions behind closed doors, from promoting self-interested deals. We believe that institutions should be accountable. We believe that decisions should be taken locally where possible. We are proposing a new grouping in the European Parliament promoting a vision of the EU as more open, more outward-looking, more democratic. How much stronger would be our claim to be the voice of reform in Europe, how much greater would be our espousal of these values, how much more would these ideas resonate if we depended on these same principles in the selection of our candidates.

Let us renounce the hole-in-the-wall deal, the back-stairs fix. They give the impression that we do not take European Elections or MEPs seriously.  Let’s trust party members by inviting them all to participate in candidate selection and ranking in a postal ballot. As David Cameron said in his New Year message last year, “I want us to usher in a new type of politics in this country: constructive, thoughtful and open-minded. And I want every single member and supporter of the Conservative Party to remember that personal commitment is the most powerful way to bring about change: as Gandhi said, "We must be the change we want to see in the world."”

An Appointed House of Lords?
Last week the unelected unaccountable House of Lords voted for themselves to be a wholly appointed second chamber.   There is of course a precedent for an appointed second chamber.   It was at the time of Oliver Cromwell:
    There was a consensus in the country about the need for a second chamber. The big question, still the subject of great debate today, was how was it to be constituted and what powers should it have? Cromwell wanted a powerful administrative body, which he effectively controlled and which added to his executive power. Does this remind you of anyone?   The House of Commons being an elected body, at least on paper, could not always be relied upon to do the bidding of the government.
    Although Cromwell had no ideological opposition to hereditary Peers – he created some himself - they were not accountable to him. There seemed to be only one answer to meet Cromwell’s requirements. The House of Lords (whether it was called that or not) should consist of nominations, with Cromwell being the only person doing the nomination. This increased his control. The man whose career had come to fruition by opposing an all-powerful monarchy was now accumulating all the trappings of power that he could muster.  Democracy had briefly shown signs of flowering.  Now it was being trampled upon.  In her book "Cromwell our Chief of Men" Antonia Fraser described the setting up of the appointed House of Lords:

    The other House finally established by a bill passed by Parliament on 11 March was to consist in the first instance of seventy members all to be nominated by the Protector.   But to Cromwell also was to go all subsequent influence over this body, for in addition he was to be allowed to fill up their ranks, as they might empty, by nominating once again; and to these nominations it was agreed after some protests, that the Commons need not assent. The question of who was now to be chosen was held over till the summer as the great central issue of the kingship remained to be debated and the writs for the new House were not issued till the end of the year. Nevertheless from the first moment such a method of choice was agreed the result was likely to be not so much the base-born aristocracy of jumped up fellows of satirical imagination, nor indeed the new noblesse of officers which Bordeaux for example believed Cromwell intended to create, so much as a simple Cromwellian clique of men united by the patronage which had promoted them. That after all was basically what Cromwell had hoped to bring about with his balancing second chamber, even if he did not present it in such bald terms. The revival of a form of House of Lords was therefore a straightforward political achievement, not a piece of romantic social legislation. [1]
. Sixty-three Lords were nominated and summoned but of those only forty-two accepted and of those only thirty-seven came to the first meeting. The hereditaries that were summoned were worried that if they accepted, their ancient rights would be prejudiced, and once they had accepted the summons they would lose their peerages. They did not want by choice something, which had been given them by birth. The summoning of people from different walks of life also gave rise to social snobbery. Cromwell packed the nominations with relatives, friends and acquaintances. No doubt today they would have been described as Cromwell’s Cronies. The end result of this was that the old guard did not turn up giving preponderance to the military amongst those that did.

   Much time had been spent in selecting suitable members for "the Other House" as the projected Second Chamber was for the time being most conveniently termed.   Writs of summons were finally sent out at the end of the year, to coincide with the next session of Parliament planned for January 1658. Inevitably many of the names put forward were intimately connected with Cromwell’s own extended family circle, including his two sons, three sons-in-law and three brothers-in-law; in fact one way and another eighteen of this new type of lord were related to the Protector.   The establishment of this clique recalled the old days of the Puritan opposition in Parliament when Oliver had first joined it in 1628, when so many members belonged to the same loose but effective network of kinship.    Otherwise those chosen fell into three main categories; there were Army officers, a total of twenty-one Colonels, government officials and finally suitable members of the old peerage.   But it seems clear that Cromwell both drew and intended to draw some distinction between the new lords and the old style hereditary peers.   For in July 1657 he had deliberately created the former captain of his guard Charles Howard, Viscount Howard of Morpeth; and he made two other attempts at creating separate hereditary peerages, although both foundered. Edmund Dunch was made Baron Burnell of East Wittenham in a charter whose seal provided one of the most remarkable encroachments of Cromwell upon the Royal seal, since it showed him actually wearing the ermine-lined robe of the Kingship which he had in fact abandoned. [2]
    The Second Chamber was subjected to immediate contentious scrutiny in the Commons. There was sharp disagreement about the actual status of the new chamber, symbolised by the arguments over its name.  Should it be called the Other House, thus only claiming the powers recently accorded to it in the Humble Petition and Advice?   Or should it be named the House of Lords, in which case might it not be able to claim all the old powers of that body, including its judicial position?   This argument ran on for some time, only being settled after Cromwell’s death, during the time of his son’s Protectorate, by being called neither the House of Lords nor the Other House as it had been described in the Humble petition and Advice but by being called the Upper House.
    The arguments in the Commons showed how deeply the concept of a nominated chamber had outraged the deepest social instincts of the time.    Many thought that the people had been set free in 1649 when the House of Lords had been abolished and yet here they were with it now having been resurrected.   On the other hand, in favour of the new chamber, it was the lawyers who put the case for the need for a balance against the over-hasty passing of laws by the Commons.   Similar arguments are put today.  The military in their turn waxed indignant at the public slights on the composition of the new body, taking them as personal insults.
    Cromwell dissolved Parliament on the 4th February 1658.
[1]    Antonia Fraser "Cromwell our Chief of Men" published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1973 pps 598-599
[2]   Antonia Fraser "Cromwell our Chief of Men" published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1973 pps 644-645
Where did all the money go?
In the year of the General Election the Labour and Conservative Parties spent a total at National level of £90 million pounds.   In the previous year they spent £60 million pounds, so over the course of two years the two parties combined spent no less that £150 million pounds.   Just think how much of this money was wasted.   Mind boggling isn't it?
The Spring Forum
We heard much this weekend about how the members of the Party are to be involved in the policy development process.   In his speech David Cameron promised a debate on the results of the policy reviews in October.   This is good news, but we cannot just "talk the talk"    History was made this weekend.   The Spring Forum was the very first conference in Conservative Party history where there was not a single occasion where an ordinary member of the Party could make an unscripted comment on any aspect of policy.    Motions were abandoned years ago..   Debates where the member could speak for one minute were dropped.   That only left questions where an unscripted comment might be made.   No longer.   Every question had to be submitted in writing beforehand for vetting.   The result were some very dull sessions.   Democracy has been eliminated from these forums.   It is no good just talking about involvement if you do not practise what you preach.    In the next six months the Party will not only have to "talk the talk" it will have to "walk the walk" or watch out for some big bangs when the policies are announced.   Grass roots frustration will start building immediately after the May elections, no rocking the boat before then, but time will start running out.
The "A" List
Just when you think that the battle over the "A" List has been won you hear noises off from those control freaks in Central Office that would like to have it back.   Logic and common sense (which are sometimes in short supply in Millbank) tell you that in any fair system of selection the number of women selected will be in roughly the same proportion as those applying to be selected, i.e. at the moment about 35% of applicants are women so about 35% will be selected.   We have long argued that the key to getting more women selected is to get more women to apply.
The discredited "A" List distorted this result by keeping good men off the list by artificially having more women on the List than men'   So when the List was abandoned not unnaturally you would expect the distortion to correct itself because there were a higher proportion of "good" men on the "B" List than women.   In eighteen selections in a row male candidates have been chosen.   We have now had two female candidates chosen.    The eighteen selections were putting right the distortion which had occurred.    Now this has happened we should start to get the natural order of taking place.   Unfortunately, some of those idiots that do not understand human nature are threatening to bring back the "A" list because of the eighteen selections.    Why do we put people into power that are so stupid and so out of touch with real life?   It makes you wonder doesn't it?  
Support Status
Occasionally Constituency Associations are put into "Support Status" which effectively means that Central Office takes control of them.   There are often good reasons for this to be done, but we are disturbed to be told that in quite a few cases a Constituency Association is not told why it has been put into "Support Status" or what it has to do to get out of "Support Status"   This is wrong.   If anyone knows of cases in which this has happened let us know and we will pursue the matter further.

***Star of the Week***- The House of Commons for voting overwhelmingly for a fully elected House of Lords.   Shame on those old fogey Conservatives that did not vote for it, but congratulations to the 57 that did.
European Parliament Elections
Do you want to see a more democratic method of elections to the European Parliament?   Then sign the petition below and pass the petition on to your friends.   Many thanks.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to bring in an "Open List" system for elections to the European parliament so that the people can decide who should represent them and who they no longer wish to represent them. It is the essence of a representative democracy that the people can decide who shall represent them in Parliament. At present the "Closed List" system allows the political parties to determine the order of the lists. Someone placed at the top of a list by the Conservative or Labour parties is almost certain to be elected with the people having no choice. The people should be able, not only to vote for a Party but also for the individuals within the Party.
Global Warming or Are we being conned?
This week Al Gore is meeting the Shadow Cabinet to talk about Global Warming.   They might like to ask him the following questions:

Some of the errors in Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth

  • Gore asserted that today’s Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth while ignoring that Arctic temperatures in the 1930s and 1940s were as warm or warmer (Briffa et al., 2004).
  • Gore did not explain that Arctic temperature changes are more closely correlated with changes in solar activity than with changes in atmospheric CO2concentrations (Soon, 2005).
  • Gore did not explain that the Sun has been hotter, for longer, in the past 50 years than in any similar period in at least the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al.,2005).
  • Gore said the Antarctic was warming and losing ice but failed to note, that is only true of a small region and the vast bulk of the continent has been cooling and gaining ice (Doran et al., 2004).
  • Gore mentioned the break-up of the Larsen B ice shelf, but did not mention peer-reviewed research which suggests the ice shelf comes and goes frequently (Pudsey & Evans, 2001, 2006).
  • Gore hyped unfounded fears that Greenland’s ice is in danger of disappearing. In fact its thickness has been growing by 2 inches per year for a decade (Johannesen et al., 2005).
  • Gore said global sea levels would swamp Manhattan, Bangladesh, Shanghai and other coastal cities, and would rise 20ft by 2100, but the UN estimate is just 8in to 1ft 5in. (IPCC, 2007; Morner, 1995, 2004).
  • Gore implied that a Peruvian glacier's retreat is due to global warming, failing to state that the region has been cooling since the 1930s and other South American glaciers are advancing (Polissar et al., 2006).
  • Gore blamed global warming for water loss in Africa's Lake Chad, though NASA scientists had concluded that local water-use and grazing patterns are probably to blame (Foley & Coe, 2001).
  • Gore inaccurately said polar bears are drowning due to melting ice when in fact 11 of the 13 main groups in Canada are thriving, and polar bear populations have more than doubled since 1940 (Taylor, 2006).
  • Gore said the ocean absorbs heat from the Sun, when in fact the ocean takes nearly all of its heat from the atmosphere, without which the ocean would freeze over (Houghton, 2002).
  • Gore said a review of 928 scientific papers had shown none against the "consensus". In fact only 1% of the papers were explicitly pro-"consensus"; almost 3 times as many were explicitly against (Peiser, 2006).
  • Gore showed a link between changes in temperature and in CO2 concentration in the past 500,000 years, but did not admit that changes in temperaturepreceded changes in CO2 concentration (Petit et al., 1999).
The Spring Forum
It is a good job that members of the Party commit themselves to going to the Spring Forum before they see the Agenda.   It looks like one of the most boring agendas ever.   The Agenda document is well presented, but content is zero.   No big speeches other than Cameron's.   All froth and no substance.   Marks out of ten:
                                                Presentation                             8
                                                Content                                   2
                                                Involvement                             1
                                                Debate                                    0

House of Lords Reform
One of Jack Straw's proposals for House of Lords reform is that the existing Life Peers continue until they die or they take a compensation package.   On the face of it this seems a very generous package, but look beneath the surface and you see a very crafty Labour Party trick.    Since 1997 Tony Bliar has appointed 337 new peers.   Incidentally 175 of them come from London and the South East - so much for representation from the whole of the UK.   Anyway, not surprisingly the average age of the Labour peers is a good ten years lower than the Conservatives.   The age of the average Conservative peer is about seventy.   So in ten years time when large numbers of Conservative peers have gone to see their maker guess what?   The Labour Party will have a clear majority of peers in the House of Lords.   Clever old Jack.    The Tory Party must ensure that he doesn't get away with it.
House of Commons Reform
Whilst on the subject of reform I heard an interesting suggestion this week.   The main function of the House of Commons is to hold the government to account.   On occasions it tries to do this without success.   Part of the reason for this is that the Select Committees are chosen in proportion to the numbers of each political party in the House.   Included in those numbers are the members of the Government.   Would it not be better if the members of the Government were excluded in determining the proportions.   The Committees would then be much more evenly balanced and therefore much better able to hold the Government to account.   We should try it.
What kind of society?
When the Chairman of COPOV started work in 1960 as an articled clerk to a firm of Chartered Accountants he was paid a salary of £200 per annum.
A couple of weeks ago, because he could not get a dentist on the National Health he had a tooth filled by a Dentist privately.    In total the appointment lasted about half an hour for which he was charged £125.   In other words the Dentist makes a £1,000 before lunch every day.    Nice work if you can get it.   Or put another way,   if   the Dentist had charged at that rate in 1960 it would have taken me five years to pay for one filling.   Makes you think!   Incidentally the Dentist did a good job so there are no complaints about the treatment.
February 25th
House of Lords Reform
  • 82% of the people want either a wholly or a partially elected House of Lords.
  • 6% of the people want a fully appointed House of Lords.
  • 3% of the people support the ceremonial role of the House of Lords.
It is quite clear that the people want more democracy, so what exactly is Jack Straw proposing?
If we are lucky we will get 50% democracy.    If we are very lucky we might even get 60% democracy and if Lady Luck shines on the British people we will get 80% democracy.   What a disgrace.    What the people want is 100% democracy.   For centuries our forefathers have fought and sometimes died for democracy and now the elite little oligarchy which runs this country are in the process of stitching up a cosy little deal to fob off the people.
The essence of democracy is accountability.    The people should have the ability to decide who their representatives are and the ability to get rid of those they no longer wish to represent them.   So what is the short straw that is proposed?   That those elected will serve for a period of fifteen years without ever having to face the public again.   This is not democracy.   This is an elected dictatorship.
On top of all this that other little elite the Church of England Bishops will have their places reserved in the new House.    The Church of Wales was disestablished.   The Church of Ireland was disestablished. The Church of Scotland was semi-disestablished, so they all have no representation.   But the Church of England Bishops representing only a part of the United Kingdom will sit in a Parliament of the whole United Kingdom.   There can be no justification for this.   In addition why should other faiths be excluded?   In the modern world there is no formal place in a democracy for religious discrimination, yet this is exactly what is being proposed.   We rightly condemn theocracies in other parts of the world.   We should practise what we preach.
To add insult to injury if Jack Straw's proposals go ahead we will not get a fully reformed House of Lords until 2050.    Now I do not know about you, but I will be on Ilkley Moor by then providing breakfast for the worms.
The people want democracy and they want it now.   Where is the politician that will show the courage of a Grey or a Russell and fight for the people?   Will the people have to take to the streets, as they had to in every previous step forward to democracy?   Will we have riots as at the time of the passing of the 1832 Reform Act, or will we have to follow the footsteps of the suffragettes?
It is time to stand up and be counted.    The elite oligarchy have robbed the people of their rights for too long.    It is time for the people to claim them back.
Eu Forum
I received the following letter from Nirj Deva MEP this week.   If you want to participate in the EU forum click on the link.
Dear John,
I thought you may be interested in a new Discussion Forum I have established at
Please do feel free to get involved and/or initiate discussion on the website.  The site is all about encouraging debate, something I know COPOV cares deeply about.
I do hope you are well.
Kind regards,

Three Cheers for the European Parliament
This week MEPs in the European Parliament struck a blow for freedom and liberty.   They refused to obey an instruction that they were not allowed to smoke anywhere in the Parliament buildings.   MEPs from all over Europe decided to ignore the instruction and lit up.   Good for them.   The issue of smoking is rising rapidly up the political agenda as we approach the July 1st date when smoking will be banned in the U.K. in all enclosed places including offices.   I declare an interest.   For almost fifty years I have been allowed to smoke in my office.   There is only one other person in the office, also a smoker.   Now this fascist government will make illegal what I have been doing for almost fifty years.
To their shame, where were Conservative MPs when this attack on liberty was passed by the House of Commons.   They ignored smokers at their peril.   The only political party which has promised to do anything about it is UKIP.   They have pledged to allow pubs to determine whether they want to be smoking or non-smoking.
Ten million voters are smokers.    They will not take kindly to being made into criminals.   The Conservative Party will ignore them in the future at their peril.
Talking about UKIP I had a look at their Party Constitution.   Apart from having the ludicrous pyramid voting system whereby members elect a National Executive who then go on to elect/appoint others and also having an appointed Party Chairman, they have a fairly democratic Constitution.    Both of these points were taken from Conservative rules in spite of the Conservative Party making it illegal in the Trade Unions to have pyramid democracy.    Nevertheless it would be nice if the Conservative Party took on board that the world is adjusting to democracy and it ought not to let itself be left behind.
House of Lords Reform
The proposal from Jack Straw on House of Lords Reform are not too bad.   The Conservative Party should aim to get at least 80% elected if not 100%.   There has been some criticism about the way that the MPs will vote on the proposals because it will be a preferential system which will ensure a result.   Before getting too het up they should be reminded that this is the same system that is used to elect the Speaker of the House.
The other aspect of these proposals is that a partially open list will be used to elect the members of the House of Lords.    If this is good enough for the House of Lords why not have it for elections to the European Parliament?
Finally we are told that a scheme of compensation has to be worked out for sitting members of the Lords.   I believe they should be paid three years remuneration.   At present they receive no remuneration so the compensation would amount to three x Nil = Nil   After all, this will enable them to spend more time with their families.
One postscript to this issue:    Patrick Cormack has had some trouble with his Executive Council who have refused to reselect him for his seat.   Could it be that one of the reasons is that he wants a wholly appointed House of Lords.   It shows how out of touch he is to democracy and the people, over 80% of whom want a mainly elected House of Lords.  

Electoral Fraud
This week I had the privilege  of seeing the film "Hacking Democracy" at BAFTA.    This film should be compulsory viewing for every politician.   It shows how electoral fraud is being committed in the United States by the use of electronic voting.
Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering?    "Hacking Democracy" is a cautionary documentary that exposes gaping holes in the security of America's electronic voting system.
In 2003, Seattle grandmother Bev Harris did a simple Google search and stumbled across the trade secret software of the Diebold Corporation, which counts America's votes.   This treasure trove of information about the inner-workings of the company's voting system made its way to computer security expert Dr. Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, who found "stunning, stunning flaws".
Filmed over two years, "Hacking Democracy" follows Bev Harris's investigations from the trash cans of Texas to California's Secretary of State and finally to Florida where one brave election official gave Bev and her team access to the county's Diebold voting system.   Ultimately proving that votes can be stolen without a trace culminates in a duel between the Diebold voting machines and a computer hacker from Finland - with America's democracy at stake.
The UK will be introducing electronic voting pilots for the May 2007 elections.   One of the experiments is being conducted in South Bucks.   I am told that the Company being used there is easier to hack into than Diebold.
The film shows how easy it was to change the voting figures by hacking into the main computer software.   Alternatively you could hack into the Flash memory disc at the polling station - all done without trace.   Passwords - no problem just insert a program by-passing the password.   In the words of the hacker, "There is no safe program"
The end result of all this is that the United States is no longer a democracy.    Remember in the Presidential election of 2000 the person with the highest number of votes did not become President.   It has a flawed electoral college system for the Senate,   It is funded by pork barrel politics.   The next Presidential election is expected to cost over one billion dollars to the candidates.    On top of this electoral fraud.   What a mess.
So what lessons are there in this for us?   According to the hacker the safest system of voting is by the traditional ballot using pen and paper.   In this country if fraud is suspected a High Court Judge can order the ballot boxes to be reopened and the count taken again.   In other words there is a paper trail.    There is no paper trail with electronic voting.   The machine manufacturers refuse to publish the details of their software programs on the grounds of security.   Yet without access to these programs there is no certain paper trail, so what will happen if fraud is suspected in South Bucks in May this year.    I think we should be told.
What we do know is that the Government refused to bring in individual identifiable voter registration to combat postal vote fraud.   It did this because it knows many Labour voters will stay at home during the election, so it would rather have the possibility of electoral fraud than have a safer system of voting.   It remembers Northern Ireland where the electoral register went down by 10% when registration was brought in.
One final point - why is this important film not being distributed in the United Kingdom?   Why is no Television channel showing it?   Could it just be that the establishment is terrified that for the voters this might be the last straw and they will stay away in droves from voting until the whole rotten mess is cleared up and this country once again has a fair, safe voting system.
Give us our democracy.
Fir further information about "Hacking Democracy" look at the following websites:
Party Membership
I have just received my membership card for this year.   It states on the card "Membership of the Conservative Party gives you the right to vote in all Party elections subject to the current rules of the Party and to take part in the development of policy"   Could somebody tell me how I can take part in the development of policy?   The particular area I am interested in is Constitutional Affairs and Democracy.   All my attempts to be involved have met with a blank wall.   What is your experience?
Under the Anti-terrorism Acts we have had                997 arrested
                                                                                125 charged
                                                                                  20 convicted
Did somebody say something about a police state?

The Demise of the "A" List
This week we saw the effective end of the "A" list.   That is the good news and is a welcome step forward.    The bad news is that we have to have 50/50 short lists of men and women.    Why don't the Candidates committee stop distorting democracy by having these ridiculous ideas?   The short list should consist of the best people available regardless of gender.   What
happens if they cannot get two women and two men to apply as happened in Leeds North West?   Nevertheless the Party is going in the right direction by opening up the selection process to the whole candidates list.   The list should be expanded.   There are still far too many good people that have been turned down for the list.
The "Open" Primary is still the only democratic way of selecting a candidate in which every member of the Constituency Association has an equal vote in the final choice.   The other approved system of the "Big Event" leaves the final choice to the Executive Council.     This is totally undemocratic and should be scrapped.
Blair's Legacy - Northern Ireland
Tony Bliar is going to leave office as the most discredited Prime Minister for a hundred years.   The only hope he has of any legacy is peace in Northern Ireland.   Give him credit, the situation is better today than it was when he came to power.   There is a sort of peace.     The problem is that although hopefully peace will last his "Peace Agreement" will not because fundamentally it is undemocratic.   We publish below an article which appeared on the Direct Democracy web site.   It should be read by all Conservatives.

What price 'distorted devolution'?By Jim Allister QC MEP

Northern Ireland
 would benefit from localism. The Province is a small place, and devolution, properly conceived, would give its people more control of their own affairs. Sadly, the proposed model of devolution comes with something else bolted on - something that is the antithesis of the democratic model that localists believe in.
The fundamental distortion imported by the Belfast Agreement was the imposition of D'Hondt as the statutory mechanism for forming a government. D'Hondt is a complicated formula for ensuring that parties are represented roughly in proportion with the votes they receive. It is used in many Continental countries to determine the number of parliamentary seats parties receive, as well as being used for European elections inGreat Britain.

The essence of D'Hondt in Northern Ireland is that it guarantees to every political party of any credible size a place in government in perpetuity. In the case of the Belfast Agreement, win six or seven seats in the Assembly and you are in government for life. Not only is there no such thing as an Opposition, but the electorate effectively cannot rid itself of a failed party from government.

No matter how inefficient, even corrupt, a party might be, it remains in government through successive elections, provided it maintains a rump of representation. The voter is therefore robbed of the ability to vote a discredited party from office. Such contempt for the electorate may suit some politicians: it gives them a meal ticket for life. But it will, in time, traduce the political process, leaving voters wondering whether there is any point in voting at all.

D'Hondt is an absurd and undemocratic means of forming a government. And, indeed, nowhere in the world except in Northern Ireland is it used for this purpose. Nor is there much chance of getting rid of it in the future: although the St Andrews Agreement Act provides for a review in 2015, any change would require cross-community agreement. Why should the politicians of any minority party vote themselves out of a system that guarantees them permanent office? And why, in particular, should Sinn Fein agree to having to depend on a numerical mandate and finding voluntary partners, when it can instead enjoy ministerial office as of right?

It is one thing, in the circumstances of a divided Northern Ireland, to expect cross-community government, attainable through voluntary coalition, where an agreed programme would provide the basis for government. It is something quite another to legislate for government only by the abnormality of a mandatory, all-inclusive coalition.  This will never bring stability or democratic accountability.

What Northern Ireland needs is proper localism: government by elected representatives whom the electorate can hire and fire, and a strengthening of local democracy. What it is to get instead is a permanent coalition that cannot be removed, and that will have no one to hold it to account.

Jim Allister QC is an MEP for the Democratic Unionist Party
ho we areThe Direct Democracy campaign is supported by a broad range of MPs, MEPs, candidates and activists from within the Conservative Party, a list of whom is on our website.

The United States
The United States at a local level is a democratic country.   At a National level its politics are dominated by big business.   How long can their present undemocratic system survive with its electoral college, gerrymandered constituencies and massive political funding.    On all the following issues a majority of the people of the United States agree but the Government of George Bush disagrees.   It is time he listened to the people.
The United States should
1)    accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
2)    sign and carry forward the Kyoto proposals.
3)    let the UN take the lead in international crises.
4)    keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter.
5)    give up the Security Council veto.
6)    cut back sharply on military spending and increase social spending.   

January 28th

Another step to a Totalitarian State?
This week we have seen a heated debate about the rights of gay people to adopt children.   Two extreme views have been put forward.   What has happened to the old British compromise?   I believe that in putting the child's interest first the best solution is for a child to be adopted by a loving married man and wife, for this is likely to be the most stable relationship.   I would rather a child be adopted by a loving gay couple than not be adopted at all.   This seems to me to be common sense.   On the other hand I can understand the Catholic Adoption agencies not wanting to approve gay couples for adoption on grounds of conscience.   Why cannot these agencies be asked to give an undertaking that they will refer any gay couple that approach them to an adoption agency which does take gay couples?
There is a real danger that rights are being taken to extremes, but often rights can impinge on someone else's liberty and legislation should recognise this.   Rights are about freedom, liberty,democracy and justice with suitable protection of minorities and it is a sad state of affairs when all these, sometimes conflicting, issues are not taken into account in framing legislation.    We should not lose sight of tolerance for if we do we will end up in the totalitarian state which this government has driven us ever closer to, in the last ten years.   Which Party and which MPs will stand up for the common people?
Policy Groups
Go to the Party website and you will see the six policy groups listed there with an invitation to participate in a blog on policy.    Some of the groups are very good but the one on Competitive Challenge is out of date, the last entry being 13th November 2006.   If we want ordinary members to participate in policy development we have got to improve these blogs.    Points on them should be answered.   The process should be two way.    What is totally unacceptable is to allow them to sink into oblivion.    This just shows contempt for members views.   Time for action.
Women2Win is a pressure group trying to get more women Conservative candidates.   We agree with its aims but not necessarily with its methods.   Why is this particular pressure group given precedence by appearing on the Party's web site home page rather than as a link?   What criteria is used in determining this privileged position?   I think we should be told.
Ironically, the one link that members would have liked to see on the home page is to the Application form for the Spring Forum, but is it there?  Not on your nelly!  
Conservative Diary
At one time the Conservative Party diary was always ready in time for the Party conference.   This year for some reason it was quite late.   Many members use it as a reminder of Party information.    Why, then is the telephone number of Conservative Central Office not shown in the diary?   Can we ensure that it is shown next year?

***Stars of the Week*** - A galaxy of stars this week - David Cameron, Francis Maude and Don Porter.   Why? Because this week  by setting up the Northern Party Board they took the first step to reorganising the Party onto a sensible basis.   What has to happen now is for the other Regions to have similar set-ups.   Gradually the Areas can be disbanded except in those Regions which want to keep them.    Regional Candidates Lists, Regional meetings are on their way back.    The critically important point about these initiatives is that ordinary grass roots members will be involved.   They will be invited to the meetings.    This is all excellent news and we wish the Northern Party Board every success.   Of course, in due time we would want to see all the officers of the Board elected by the members.   It will come.
        Those running the Party are really beginning to have an impact.   It is very impressive.   Nevertheless the discredited  "A" List is still causing resentment with many activists thoroughly disillusioned.   There is one case in particular which has been going on for far too long and has to be resolved.    If it isn't expect fireworks at the meeting of the Convention.   The other issue is the involvement of members in the development of policy.   We will shortly be putting forward proposals to deal with this.   All in All the Party seems to be moving ahead.    I will let you know next week after the COPOV meeting.

European Parliament Selections
There is a unholy row going on behind the scenes over the issue of selection of candidates for the next European Parliament elections.   The sitting MEPs are terrified that they may not get selected and are quoting the example of Westminster MPs, who are nodded through their own selection process if they wish to stand again.   They have a point, but it should be borne in mind that prior to 2001 every MP had to have an Adoption meeting at which every member of the Constituency Association was invited to attend and which could decide not to readopt the MP.   It is only since 2001 that an MP can be nodded through.    We deplore this and believe that all sitting MPs should have to have an Adoption meeting.   Incidentally this is still the case in Scotland.    Once again Scotland is more democratic than England or Wales.
The sitting MEPs want their fate to be decided at Regional meetings of Regional officers, Area officers and Constituency Chairmen and if they get more than 50% of the vote go through to the top of the final list.    This is wholly undemocratic and would deprive ordinary members of their vote.    There was much criticism of the hustings at the last selection.    In many cases only 1-2% of the Party membership turned out for the hustings.    So what is the answer?  
There should be Regional meetings consisting of the Regional Officers, Area Officer and Constituency Chairmen to sift the number of candidates for each Region down to the number of seats plus five.   Included in this list should be the sitting MEPs.   That list should be balloted on by all members of the Party in the Region, who would vote for the number of seats in the Region.    Their votes would determine the order of priority of the candidates on the list.   In the mean time the candidates could and should campaign for themselves and others if they think fit throughout the Region.   This seems to be the fairest way of doing things retaining the right of members to vote for whom they wish.    There will be a huge row at any attempt to take the rights of the members away.   Watch this space.
Already there has been a new web site launched called MEPs watch to defend members rights and there has been vigorous debate on the conservativehome web site.   We show below the press release from MEP Watch and comment from conservativehome.

MEP Watch's launch press release declares:

"There is currently a debate taking place within the Conservative Party on how candidates for the 2009 European Elections should be selected. MEP Watch believes that the only method acceptable should be a system of regional hustings where every Conservative Party member in that region has a vote. We also believe that all prospective candidates, be they existing MEPs or new comers should face selection or re-selection on an equal basis. MEP Watch co-founder, Richard Hyslop said, "Existing MEPs have had five years or more working in their regions, if after that they cannot face an open vote of their own Party members, and win, then they do not deserve to be re-selected."

The campaign by Richard Hyslop, Chris Palmer and Andrew Woodman is certainly in tune with the views of Conservative Party members. Earlier this week ConservativeHome unveiled a poll that showed 78%for a European ranking process that gave all regional party members a vote. Party Chairman Francis Maude is concerned that a full democratic reselection process might become very divisive and his fears are well-founded.MEP Watch could become a powerful tool in informing party members of the real records of many of their MEPs. Only approximately one-third of current MEPs have been in constant support of the leadership's desire to leave the EPP, for example. The next ranking process presents an enormous opportunity to nominate MEP candidates who are closer to the mainstream of Conservative opinion. The EPP-loyalist MEPs understand this danger and are co-ordinating attempts to ensure that their place on regional lists is decided by regional officers and not all members. The Conservative Party's Board is expected to decide on the voting mechanism in the coming months. The Board has a poor record at protecting members' rights. Under Raymond Monbiot it led the unsuccessful efforts to disenfranchise members in party leadership elections.

***Star of the Week*** - Francis Maude MP - In the usual round of interviews at the beginning of every year the Party Chairman is often asked about membership.    For the first time in Conservative Party history Francis Maude did not say "membership is up 10,000 20,000 or whatever.   He said he did not know, because our records cannot tell us.   He went on to say that when we have got our new software installed he will be able to give a figure.   How refreshing to be told the truth. 
Communication and the National Convention
A report is being prepared about communication and the National Convention.   How can communication be improved?    Should it be two way communication?   Is the National Convention relevant?   Should communication be direct from Central Office to the membership?   Should the Party have an Annual General Meeting to which all members are invited.   Should the Regional structure be resurrected?    How do members have an input into policy development?   How can members be more involved?  What information should the centre communicate to Constituency Chairmen/members?   Should communication be by letter/email/text messages to mobile phones/internet websites?   What should members be able to vote on?   Should voting be by email/post/internet/phone?
Let us have your views as soon as possible by email to Feedback
The "A" List
A report was prepared for the Chairman of the National Convention on the future of the "A" List.   We show it below:



The Selection of Parliamentary Candidates in the Conservative Party


Mike Baker, John Strafford and Cllr. Derek Tipp
Executive Summary

We wholly support David Cameron’s objective in getting more women and ethnic minority Conservative Members of Parliament in the House of Commons.

  • We do not believe that the Priority List is the best way to achieve this and we propose that it should be abolished.
  • It is not having sufficient women and ethnic minority candidates that is the crux of the problem. We should aim to increase their numbers on a massive scale.
  • We propose a major campaign to attract more women and ethnic minorities to put themselves forward as candidates. Examples of the way we could conduct this campaign are given in our report.
  • The Candidates List should be open and transparent.
  • The role of Campaign Headquarters is to eliminate the "mad, bad and sad" from the applications to become a candidate.
  • There should be an appeal process for anybody that is turned down as a Candidate.
  • A large list of Candidates produces a large pool of workers.
  • Applicants to be a candidate should be treated fairly, efficiently, courteously, and communicated with regularly if there is any delay in the processing of their application.
  • The Chairman of the Candidate’s Committee should be elected by and accountable to the National Convention.
  • The current Candidates Committee seems to broadly reflect the various strands of the Party. We have no view on whether it needs to be changed.
  • The Party should resurrect the Regional Structures of the Party with Regional Candidates Committees.
  • We welcome the concept of open primaries, but believe that the process of selection should be determined by the Constituency Association provided it is fair and within broad guidelines. Advice to be made available when required.
  • The final decision on a Candidate should be made by the members of the Constituency Association unless it is in support status.
  • Members of Parliament should submit themselves to a General Meeting of their Association for adoption for the succeeding General Election as happens in Scotland.
  • We propose that the same principles of candidate selection should apply to European Parliament selections as applies to Westminster seats. Postal voting should be allowed for European Selections.
  • Research should be done to establish why so few people wish to be Parliamentary Candidates.

We ask all Party members to support these recommendations

Your Blogs October 12th The Election that never was by a Conservative - July 31st From the Grass Roots - June 3rd "Education, Education, Education" From the Grass Roots - April 29th From The Grass Roots,

 October 12th
I did not go to the Blackpool Conference this year but I did watch David Cameron’s closing speech on the Wednesday. The press had led us to believe that this had to be the speech of his life with a snap General Election due to be called within days. Yes; the delivery was good, again with few notes, but so were those of 2005 and 2006.
I felt the speech combined traditional Conservative values and themes, placing them in a modern context. This was done in a way that seemed neither harsh nor uncaring and with a genuine understanding that the hopes and aspirations of many, particularly the young, have been dashed through no fault of their own.
Gordon Brown has postponed the Election but here again we had the classic spin. No-one seriously believes that he would not have gone to the country had Labour been 6% to 8% ahead in the polls and David Cameron’s ratings as a good leader not shot up from 35% to 54%. All this ‘I want to prove myself ‘ stuff from someone who for the last ten years has had total control over domestic policy, simply won’t wash with an electorate who no longer believe politicians of any party.
No; we are not yet half way through the present parliament which need not be dissolved until May 2010. We have been given more time to put more flesh on the bones of what could be a set of policies very appealing to the electorate when the time comes to actually vote.
What I do hope is that now we have reached another high (and who was it said ‘a week in politics is a long time?’) we do not mess up. We want the leadership to heed the advice of its elder statesmen and stateswomen and also those of us at the grass roots who have to go out and sell David Cameron and our Conservative product to the electorate at large. There can be no more Southalls with candidates parachuted in at a minute’s notice with no proper checks as to history etc. no more ‘off the cuff’ policy announcements designed to confuse; no more gimmicks. Not only do we have to sing from the same hymn sheet we have to sing the same tune from that hymn sheet.
Why then the sudden change in our fortunes? I think we can thank George Osborne who promised to raise the inheritance nil band threshold to £1 million pounds and to abolish stamp duty for first time home buyers. At last, we have a ‘tax cutting’ Shadow Chancellor. As well as delighting the party faithful, it also had an unsettling effect on Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, who, whilst challenging the amount of revenue it would raise from a flat rate tax on foreign nationals, had to eventually confess that even the Treasury Civil Servants had not done their own sums.
Although I did not hear it, I understand Iain Duncan Smith’s speech on social justice was well received. This again is new territory for Conservatives and, although we have certainly for the last sixty years accepted that there must be a certain level of benefit for the sick, unemployed et alia, no serious research had been done by our party in to the causes of deprivation affecting now not only the inner cities but also many rural areas and formerly prosperous seaside towns. All credit to David Cameron for giving former leaders important work to do in formulating new policies.
Better, they say, to be inside the tent looking out than outside the tent looking in.
Until very recently the environment and green issues had been very low on my list of priorities. But a recent article in one of the ‘heavy’ dailies led me to think again. Unless some drastic action is taken and fairly soon we are in danger of leaving a shocking legacy to those who come after us with vast tracts of planet Earth laid waste and unfit for human habitation. I don’t remember much more of the detail - sufficient to say it was pretty horrific!
But to return to the Prime Minister. Surely, the main charge is that, when Chancellor, G.B. raised vast amounts in taxation (whether by stealth or otherwise) and wasted it on grandiose schemes, most of which had little chance of success. Apart from the raid on pension funds, which deprived many of a fairly reasonable income in retirement, there was the complete lack of responsibility (or accountability, as Michael Howard might say) when the tax credits system went horribly wrong and left thousands and thousands of people without the additional income to which they were led to believe they were entitled. Payments just suddenly ceased with no word of explanation. Then there was the national NHS computer which could not cope with millions of patients due to the lack of proper software. And when the going got tough, junior ministers were left to carry the can and answer questions in Parliament.
Could Gordon Brown turn into another James Callaghan? All the signs are there. The postal workers are threatening strike action again and large tracts of the London Underground have been closed due to strike action. A clamp down of 2% on public sector wages has been promised as well as a tough public spending round (although how tough remains to be seen after the Chancellor’s recent announcements). A 10 billion gap in the public finances is predicted. Hard times are seemingly ahead. Like Callaghan, Brown has held high office for a decade and faces a new and relatively untried Leader of the Opposition, eager for the chase. Brown, though, still has a healthy overall majority of 67 and can go to the country at a time of his own choosing.
This is why I find it surprising that he allowed speculation about an early election to get totally out of hand, thus damaging his own credibility. He is, by all accounts, a loner and, being elected unopposed to the leadership, could easily find sniping coming from those, who I refer to as being ‘outside the tent’. He also has Anthony Eden’s habit of ringing up ministers before breakfast. Things could easily start to go wrong, as they began to do for Margaret Thatcher when William Whitelaw left the Cabinet after the 1987 General Election.
And why invite Lady Thatcher around to Number 10 for a chat? Here is a man to whom ‘Thatcherism’ was an anathema and whose acolytes still contemptuously refer to as ‘Thatcher’. It was done coldly and calculatingly simply to embarrass David Cameron and our party.
In politics you have to take the rough with the smooth and you can never control what Harold Macmillan referred to as ‘events’. Every Prime Minister since 1945 has left office in a worse shape than when he or she entered it. The last three have been felled by Europe and the ‘poll tax’ (Margaret Thatcher), the ERM disaster and Europe (John Major) and the Iraq war and cash for honours (Tony Blair). Only one, Sir Alec Douglas-Home who lasted just under a year in 1963/64) has emerged relatively unscathed. And Sir Alec ‘s verdict on his premiership: ‘ a terrible intrusion into one’s family life’. Gordon Brown, heir apparent so long, could quite easily become Labour’s Anthony Eden. To quote Harold Macmillan again: ‘The trouble with Anthony Eden was that he was trained to win the Derby in 1938 but didn’t get out of the stalls until 1955.’ For 1938 and 1955 read 1994 and 2007.
The election has been postponed simply because we have had a successful party conference and were ahead in crucial marginal seats. David Cameron and his team can take great credit for that. Gordon Brown wants to be judged on his record as Prime Minister. We need constantly to remind people of his record as Chancellor when, even though he taxed and spent, somehow managed to avoid a serious economic crisis.
As Conservatives, we believe in smaller government, less bureaucracy, less red tape and we must give help to small businesses, the lifeblood of our economy, which have been badly hit by the Chancellor’s recent announcements. Provided we hold our nerve, maintain discipline, and have sensible policies, realistically costed, we can have a good election campaign and result no matter when it comes. I think we once fought an election on the slogan: ‘ Set the people free!
Let this be our clarion call once again!
12th October 2007


July 31st

A new Prime Minister, a reshaped Cabinet, a slump in the opinion polls, an MP defecting to Labour, and two disastrous by-election results have made Conservative MPs jittery with a number behaving like Herodias in the Bible (St Mark, Ch. 6) and wanting David Cameron’s head on a platter. What is needed is a calm and sensible approach to what exactly has gone wrong and what measures can be taken to rectify the situation.

I am old enough to remember when another Anthony led us into a disastrous war, and was economical with the truth. He then resigned, gave way to his Chancellor of the Exchequer who two and a half years later was rewarded with an increased Parliamentary majority and a demoralised Opposition losing its third election in succession. One thing is certain. If we go back to the bad old days of seeming to be a divided party we will go down to a certain fourth defeat and deservedly so.
The electoral arithmetic is difficult enough as it is. Don’t our MPs, candidates, and Central Office realise this?
On the by elections, it seems little money was spent and little help given at Sedgefield – the party workers and candidate left to fend for themselves. Everything was poured into Ealing, Southall. But why, or why, parachute in an unknown candidate who, however likeable, had only two weeks earlier donated £4,800 to the Labour Party? Was there no proper procedure for establishing how long he had been a member of the Party and what of his history and background? And what about this (Sunday Telegraph, July 15): George Osborne "standing barefoot in an orange hygiene hat serving lentil curry in a Sikh temple". I regard that as a gimmick which, judging by the result, did us no good and on which may well have put off some voters.
Of much more importance were four announcements during late June and early July. Under normal circumstances a Government in its eleventh year of office would be on the ropes. Alas, these are not normal times.
An independent report concluded that the gap between the richest and poorest people in the UK is at its widest for 40 years.
One of Gordon Brown’s last acts as Chancellor was to knock £2 billion off the health budget in England.
In some parts of the country couples are now having to borrow up to 10 times their average salary to gain a mortgage.
Irrespective of the need for equipment etc., more British soldiers pro rata are being killed in Iraq than American soldiers.
I haven’t the faintest idea as to the response from our front bench spokesmen. Yet there was plenty of comment in the newspapers. I sincerely hope we are not expecting journalists like Minette Martin, Patience Wheatcroft and Ron Liddle to do the job for us. So are we making the most of the opportunities given to us to attack Government failures?
I think we would be foolish to underestimate the ability of Gordon Brown to appeal to Middle England (whatever that is). After 13 years of coveting the top job he is now "primus inter pares" and will be no push over. The fact that he is a Scot is irrelevant. He is no James Callaghan coming to the job at close on retirement age. In his speeches he often refers to British values and the United Kingdom despite the fact that the Scottish Nationalists are in control in Scotland and the Welsh Nationalists are in a coalition with Labour in the Welsh Assembly. So the case is made both for unity and devolution (with the West Lothian question conveniently ignored) – a classic example of being in the circus and riding at the same time two horses pulling in opposite directions.
The Prime Minister, whatever he says to the contrary, is a believer in big Government, high taxation and the mighty hand of the State in determining how people should organise their lives. We are promised more directives, more reform and upheaval in the National Health Service, the House of Lords or whatever. Government is truly the master of the people, not its servant. This should be fertile ground for all Conservatives. There is a good case to be made for the smaller state; one which could be made without seeming to be harsh, uncaring or extremely right wing. I often hear this phrase: "I joined the Labour Party because I share its values!" How often do we Conservatives talk about values? Too little, I’m afraid. And the words "heir to Thatcher" or "heir to Blair" are bandied about as if they have any real meaning. As far as I am concerned the only heirs to Thatcher and Blair are their children.
We cannot escape the tremendous changes which have taken place over the last ten years and some of them have been for the better. And if things are seen to be working, we should, as in the past, leave them alone.
The response from those on the left to the report of Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice Commission was entirely predictable. A long list of those people it does not help and a glossing over of the idea that marriage and stability in family life should be encouraged. Maybe they are afraid accepting such policies would lose them votes.
How then should we fight the next General Election whenever it comes? We have to be realistic. We know from John Major’s experience that an overall majority of 20 is probably insufficient and were we to have a majority of 43 (as in Margaret Thatcher’s first election) we would need to gain 147 seats in a Parliament of 645 members. Not only that – we would need 42% of the total poll and at least an 8% lead over Labour. We are nowhere near achieving this. But on the positive side we still can gain many marginal seats in and around the big English conurbations. We do exactly what Labour did in 1992. Well behind in the national poll, they concentrated their resources and manpower in the 70 or so most marginal seats, picking up 50 or so of them, and in the 1992-1997 Parliament they were able to harry an administration which had become tired after 13 years in office and reeling as a result of the economic crisis caused by leaving the ERM and rebellious Euro Sceptic back benchers. In addition we now have a lot more councillors, many of whom are in crucial marginal seats. But the lessons of Ealing Southall must be learnt. An article in the Sunday Times of July 29 in the Review Section confirms this was a disaster waiting to happen. Labour, in power, has been very very lucky. There has been no serious economic crisis and whenever disaster has seemly struck it has been ridden out with a display often bordering on arrogance.
I believe we must put a clear and convincing case for a smaller state. Again I quote from the Sunday Times: "The average Briton this year will have to work from January 1 to July 23 to meet the cost of Government. In 2000 people only had to work until June 26" – nearly a month more. And under Gordon Brown’s Chancellorship!! Over the last 10 years Labour has built up what some commentators on the right call "its client state" – by which they mean more and more people dependent on welfare benefits or on the public sector for a job, and we have somehow been unable to find an appealing formula to counter their social justice coupled with economic efficiency claim.
I believe history teaches us a lot and things tend to happen in thirds of centuries. Thirty three years between Peel’s win in 1841 and Disraeli’s in 1874, 34 years between the Reform acts of 1832 and 1867. Thirty seven years between the Liberals great win in 1908 and Labour’s in 1945. Thirty four years from 1945 until Margaret Thatcher’s win in 1979. So the time is not quite ripe for change.
Gordon Brown was in Parliament for 14 years before becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer. David Cameron has been an MP for just over six years.
After Southall and Sedgefield he knows in no uncertain terms that there can be no more stunts as in Gordon Brown he faces one of the biggest beasts in the jungle. Cameron has to be an optimist and to believe he can win. At the same time he needs to involve ordinary members of the party in policy development and discussion. Our position now, even after 10 years in opposition, is in terms of Parliamentary seats weaker than Labour’s in 1983. In addition, he is the only leader, apart from Iain Duncan Smith, never to have sat in Cabinet. He needs to have experienced advisers around him – not simply the Notting Hill set.
It would, I think, be foolish to dismiss Cameron as another faliure just because of two poor by election results. He does, however, need his "blood, toil, tears and sweat" moment. We were, after all, five years from victory when Churchill made this speech. Some of our party members and activists still do not fully grasp the scale of our defeat in 1997. They dream of Margaret Thatcher’s wins 20 or more years ago in the fond forlorn hope that somehow the electorate will see the error of its ways and suddenly come running back. This simply isn’t going to happen. "Main ou sont les neiges d’antan?" (where are the snows of yesteryear?) as Francois Villon (15thcentury) put it.
David Cameron deserves his chance. To use another phrase beloved of the 1980’s – "There is no sensible alternative".

June 3rd




Governments make the news. Oppositions rarely do so. Yet the headlines over the last few days have read something like this. "Cameron faces grass roots rebellion on schools" or "Willetts says ‘No’ to more grammar schools" or "Shadow cabinet steamrollered into accepting new schools policy".
The education of all our children and all our young people (and I repeat the world "all") is very important because it is upon them that our whole future rests. We have all been given varying talents to be used not selfishly but for the good of all. We need skilled doctors, engineers, lawyers, plumbers, painters, engine drivers and so on. Which is why I for one would welcome an open debate. Sadly we seem to have adopted entrenched positions – goats on the one side; sheep on the other.
In previous articles I have mentioned my own education. I passed the 11 plus examination and for eight years from the late nineteen fifties to the mid nineteen sixties attended the local grammar school at Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan. I was one of the top 20% ‘creamed off’ because I was good at arithmetic, mental arithmetic, English language and spelling. Had ‘cutting out’, art, drawing and weaving been the examination subjects I would have been an ignominious failure. Cowbridge was one of the best grammar schools in the area. It had been exclusively run and governed by Jesus College, Oxford from 1685 to 1919 when the local Glamorgan Education Authority became involved in a joint scheme which lasted until 1949. The local authority then took over completely, although Jesus College still continued to provide four governors. Until 1919, all the headmasters appointed by the College were clergymen in communion with the Church of England.
The school also took boarders. A maximum of 50 per year. We had annual rugby and running fixtures with Jesus College and we did consider ourselves part of an ‘elite’. We modelled ourselves on the public schools – the classics were important subjects in the curriculum. One main drawback was the lack of finance – we, thus, could not be totally independent of the state as the public schools were. Because of this, the sons of miners, railwaymen, labourers, etc easily mixed with the sons of businessmen, solicitors, farmers etc. And two of our former pupils, Sir Anthony Hopkins, the actor, and Gerald Leeke, a local businessman and entrepreneur, have made it to the Sunday Times Top Thousand Richest People in Great Britain.
We were streamed – into ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups, approximately 30 in each group. But the ‘B’ groups always fared worse – for one thing they had the poorer teachers (and, believe me, there were teachers who had appalling communication skills), and could not study Greek. Many, even though they had passed the eleven plus, were not interested in studying what might be classed as academic subjects, and left at 16 with three or four ‘Ordinary’ levels to their name including English Language and, if they were lucky, Mathematics. I remain convinced that the top 15 or so pupils in the top stream of the local secondary school would have done as well as, if not better than, the bottom 15 or so pupils in the ‘B’ stream of my grammar school. And our elitism was not confined to just academic subjects – we rarely, if ever, played rugby or cricket against the local secondary modern schools. We would always travel to Swansea, Neath, Bridgend, or Cardiff to play the local grammar school.
I know from my own experience, that had I not passed the 11 plus, I would have been bitterly disappointed. My parents, somehow, would have found the money to give me a private education but it was not something that I really wanted.
Some of our party workers forget the fact that our party has often in the past supported comprehensive education. I believe I am right in saying that in the early nineteen sixties the Conservative controlled Leicestershire County Council was one of the first to abolish the eleven plus and take on the principle of comprehensive education. Indeed, many Conservative voting parents were in favour precisely because their own son or daughter had failed to get into the local grammar school. At present in England there are 164 grammar schools. We know that grammar schools do very well when the annual league tables are produced. All other schools should, therefore, be encouraged to accept the grammar school ‘ethos’ – high academic standards, discipline, respect for teachers etc.
I always remember seeing Sir Rhodes Boyson (Dr Boyson as he then was) dressed in his red academic robes showing a distinguished visitor around his school (Highbury Comprehensive, I believe). A successful school is often the result of good leadership from its headmaster or headmistress and I am certain Dr Boyson had exceptional qualities and was a firm disciplinarian. Why else would the late former Prime Minister, James Callaghan, describe him in a speech to a Labour Party Conference as ‘Wackford Squeers"?
It seems to me quite impracticable to suggest the building of a new grammar school in every major town or city. Apart from the cost we would be faced with this question: "If you want to control public expenditure, what part of the education budget are you proposing to cut to pay for this inevitable upheaval? Nursery places, perhaps? Maybe free school dinners." Labour and the Liberal Democrats would have a field day. Our approach should surely be: "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."
I am quite sure that our objectives, for example the grammar school example, streaming, discipline etc. can be achieved within the present system itself. It can be done provided the will is there.
If we are not careful, we will be seen as caring for only those at the top of the pile. And this is a position both David Cameron and David Willetts are determined to avoid.
Let’s assume we get 300 MPs elected in 2009/2010/ Despite our better ‘mix’ of candidates, at least 20% (60) will have been educated at private or public school. Voters will ask: "With an education like that, what can he (or she) know about the bog standard inner city comprehensive school where my child goes?" And again we will be forced on to the defensive.
I think the way forward is to take what is good in the present system, improve it and apply it throughout. We might consider having a maximum of 500 pupils per school (although here again the practicalities would have to be considered as well as the cost). What certainly is not the case is the view held (thankfully by only a small minority) "Public schools/grammar schools – good. Comprehensive/city academies – bad."
We have to accept that even though ours is a wealthy country, only 8% of the population can afford to educate a child at a public school. Some others will pay a tutor privately or attempt to move to a catchment area, often in a leafy suburb, where there is a good comprehensive school. To do this, they will mortgage themselves to the hilt and incur enormous debt. I have already mentioned "high academic standards". Nearly everyone (apart perhaps from Government Ministers) recognises that a Grade ‘A’ at Advanced Level today has not nearly the same weight as a Grade ‘A’ thirty years ago.
We have to get out of the "There can be no losers" mentality. There is no point in a competition where all have won and all must have prizes. Having said that, good teachers will always be able to bring out the best in their pupils. I am convinced that many people do not go into teaching, not because of the comparatively low salary compared to many other professions, but because of the lack of discipline and basic good manners shown by so many young people today. And many have been turned off from attending trade union meetings where Socialist Worker and the other motley collections of left wing activists hold sway.
One of the strengths of our Party is that in a long history it has always been able to adapt to changing circumstances. Initial scepticism or opposition has always been followed by an acceptance that maybe things have turned out better than expected. Perhaps that is why, as Education Secretary, Margaret Thatcher oversaw the closure of hundreds of grammar schools, or why during the 18 years in Government, from 1979 – 1991, no new grammar schools were built.
David Cameron and David Willetts, both of were given an excellent education, are trying to make policies which ensure that all our children from whatever background are given the chance to maximise, his or her true potential.
What, I ask, is wrong with that?

April 29th




I was 60 on Easter Monday and if I live another 30 years to 90, an age both my parents attained, I believe I will see further massive changes in British society and in the way we are governed. They do not thrill me and while I am no Nostradamus, here are a few predictions. Incidentally we will have been prepared for these changes due to the actions over the last 10 years of Tony Blair’s Labour Government. They will be part of his long-term legacy.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will no longer exist. The "West Lothian" question will be unresolved. An English electorate will have tired of continually subsidising public expenditure in Scotland.
Scotland will have a measure of independence in the North West European region. But North Sea oil and gas will be under control of the European Parliament in a United States of Europe.
Northern Ireland will have left the Union, a referendum demanded by Sinn Fein in 2020, showing the Unionist people, largely Protestant, to be a minority in the Six Counties.
Wales will have ceased to exist, confirming the publication issued way back in 2004 when the country was removed from the European map issued by the European Parliament.
There will be more practising Muslims in this part of the North West region of Europe than Christians.
Although preparations for the coronation of King Charles III went ahead it was only after a huge argument over whether he should be anointed "Defender of the Faith" or "Defender of Faiths" and also whether his Queen, a lady previously divorced, could be crowned and anointed with him.
The European Parliament, to which a nominally Westminster Parliament, was totally subservient, decreed that in the interests of European unity, the monarchies of the former United Kingdom, Netherlands and Norway would be abolished – without any reference to the local Parliament or a referendum.
The disastrous economic policies pursued by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, one Gordon Brown, finally came home to roost as our section of the North West region was unable to meet its financial obligations, it being noted that billions of pounds had been left off the balance sheets from 1997 to 2007 due to ‘dodgy’ accounting practices. Consequently, strict financial controls were put into effect leaving many citizens impoverished and unable to sustain their current standard of living. The gap between those receiving pensions from a private employer and those who had worked in the public sector was the widest in living memory.
The North West region was one of comparatively low productivity, primarily because our education system had been one which failed adequately to reward those who had achieved high success. An "A" grade in GCSE Mathematics could be gained with a mark of 30%. 25% of students were gaining "A" grades at Advanced Level, many in courses which could not be deemed academic. In addition, tutors at universities (not necessarily the oldest or most prestigious) were complaining that students could not spell correctly, had no knowledge of English grammar, and were unable to engage in reasoned argument. Latin had long gone from the school curriculum, it being deemed "detrimental to the learning of foreign languages in schools". This failed to take into account that Latin was the basis of three European languages – French, Italian and Spanish.
NATO, once the bedrock of the defence of the United State of America, Canada and Western Europe, had been replaced when the United States, after its failure in Iraq some 25 years earlier, had decided to go it alone and adopt a policy of "splendid isolation". An angry American electorate had consistently and continually elected Presidents on the slogan "America first" and, with the continued threat from states such as Iran and North Korea, now holding nuclear weapons, was intent on protecting its own. Europe’s response was a common defence policy based on the pooling of resources and an end to each individual region going it alone. Defence headquarters of the European Defence Union (EDU) were based in London. This was primarily because when the North West region was forced to adopt the Euro (there being no realistic alternative), it was agreed that London – with its long history as a major financial centre, would be ideal and quite easily accessible to mainland Europe. In addition, it ensured that the old "United Kingdom" part of the region would never cede and that we had been forgiven for slavish adherence to the United States policy in Iraq when other European nations had been openly sceptical.
Ten predictions. Some of which could easily happen.
I well remember the shock and horror that erupted when the late Enoch Powell made his famous speech nearly 40 years ago. But I believe his predictions have sadly proved to be true. We have built up a whole host of problems for future generations. Today it is Labour Home Secretaries who are talking about limits, controls and the Home Office being "not fit for purpose". We have allowed into this country people who not only despise our values, history and culture, but openly preach against it.
I am a Conservative in attitude more than anything else. I am very set in my ways: I tend to resist change. I believe in a minimum of Government interference. Yet as I look back over 60 years I realise how much has changed. And, I have to admit, must of it has been for the better. We live in an era of "big" government and we have become accustomed to it. The present Government without any shadow of doubt delights in "nannying" us. Not a day goes past without some decree or edict coming from one or other Department of State. Our system of taxation is now so complex and complicated that even qualified accountants and tax experts are often baffled and bemused. Our payment of benefits and the whole apparatus of the social security system discourages many from actively seeking work. This is particularly true of mothers in their late 20’s or early 30’s who have young children. Our oldest and most prestigious universities have become the hapless victims of the Government’s "social engineering". More people than ever work for the state in one capacity or another and even more are dependent on it for state benefits in whatever form.
Ending this culture of state dependency in a nation which has over the last 10 years amassed one £trillion of personal debt will be the major task of the next and future Parliaments. The proposed level of envisaged public expenditure in 2010/1011 (700 billion pounds?) is probably not sustainable and there will inevitably be what may be termed a diminution of rising expectations (i.e. severe cuts). Whichever party wins the next General Election will have been handed a poisoned chalice. Joy will soon turn to despair as the magnitude of what needs to be done is exposed.
Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher proposed radical solutions to a nation who had seemingly lost all hope and all sense of direction. Her recipe for success was unpalatable not only to her political opponents but to many in her own party. Yet by force of her own personality and determination she achieved a fair measure of success in her objectives. Both her successors may have been more likeable, but they have hardly been more successful. Even today, nearly 17 years after her fall, we respond to "Thatcherism" and if Simon Jenkins is to be believed, Blair and Brown have been only too eager to continue the Thatcher revolution. Yet, somehow, I do not see another Thatcher on the horizon. David Cameron exudes optimism and has loads of charisma and confidence which is natural for someone educated at Eton College and Oxford University. But does he fully understand the enormity of the task involved? Does he have the vision? Were he to win, he would lead a divided nation with no mandate in Scotland (devolution, far from seeing the SNP wither and vanish, has seen it flourish as the main opposition party now within a whisker of power) and very few MPs in the northern cities of England and would these two facts alone cause him to proceed with great caution and thus eschew the radical solutions needed? Probably so. And Gordon Brown, were he to become Prime Minister, for the foreseeable future and win in 2009/2010? More of what we have endured from him as Chancellor these last 10 years. A lack of vision, continual interference in his Ministers’ portfolios, a re-emphasising of the view that the gentleman in Whitehall really knows best, coupled with a dour and brooding presence which no amount of spin doctoring will dissolve. And then what? Things will have got so bad that we unconditionally accept salvation in the European institutions imposed upon us and as outlined in the previous pages of this article. And anyone who has doubts has only to look at what has happened over the last 40 years. Henry J Ford once said "History is bunk!". I, for once, venture to disagree.

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