Archive 2008

December 28th Israels' War Crimes - Conservative Economic Narrative - Strictly Come Dancing - Government Corruption - Taking Liberties
December 21st PartyConference - European Democracy - Liberty - My Week 
December 16th Party Membership - The Power of the Whips - Climate Change - My Week 
December 7th ***Star of the Week*** - My Week
November 30th Ulster Unionists - Liberty Destroyed - My Week
November 23rd Leader of the Conservative MEPs - Ulster Unionists - My Week
November 16th Merger Ulster Unionists - BBC - My Week
November 9th Barack Obama - My Week
November 2nd Fat Cat Bankers - US President - My Week
October 26thParty Membership - My Week
October 19th Birmingham Conference My Week
October 12th Mea Culpa - My Week 
October 5th Your Comments, Candidate Interference - Boring - The Fringe
September 28th Party Conference, Your Comments - Ulster Unionists - My Week
September 21st Merger with the Ulster Unionists - Questions and Points for David Cameron - The Alternative Party Conference
September 14th Death of the Conservative Party Conference - Inflation - My Week
September 7th Liberty - My Week 
August 31st Merger with the Ulster Unionists - My Week
August 24th Road to Democracy - My Week
August 17th Party Conference (1) & (2) - Noah
August 10th Ulster Unionists - Conservative Party Accounts 2007 - The most dangerous man in Europe - Party Constitution
August 3rd
 My WeekBlair Unbound
July 27th My Week
July 20th MP Expenses - My Week
July 13th European Democracy? - My Week
July 6th Shame - Support - Trialogue, how democracy is subverted.
June 29th Caroline Spellman - Climate Change - My Week
May 18th My Week- Party Finance - As others see us by James O'Fee
May 11th My Week - Party Conference - How not to win Friends.
May 4th *** Star of the Week*** - My Week - Party Conference
March 30th European Parliament Candidate Selection - Communication - To Those Who Voted for the Iraq War
March 23rd Written Constitution - Spring Forum - Communication
March 16th The National Convention - European Parliament Candidate Selection 
March 9th Your Vote for Candidates for the European Parliament ! 
February 3rd Re-selection of MEPs - Applications for the Spring Forum - "Nice work if you can get it"   Update on Member's Interests
January 27th Scandal of Party

Israel's War Crimes
No. of Israelis killed by rocket attacks from Gaza in the current conflict = 1
No. of Israelis killed by rocket attacks from Gaza since June 2008 = 1
No. of Israelis killed by rocket attacks from Gaza since 2001 = 16
No. of Israelis killed by rocket5 attacks from Gaza in the last ten years = 20
No. of Palestinians killed by Israel in the current conflict = 280
It is time for the West to get off the fence and charge Israel with War Crimes.   This is a disgrace.
Conservative Economic Narrative
The Conservative Party narrative on the economy is shot to pieces.   Yet George Osborne still goes on about "Labour did not fix the roof while the sun was shining".   How different would it have been if the Conservatives had been in power?    They were committed to the same spending as Labour.   They were committed to maintaining the same tax take as Labour.   That means they were committed to the same borrowing as labour, so just where would the money have come from to fix the roof?   I think we should be told, or stop using this ridiculous slogan.
Strictly Come Dancing
There have been continuous rows about the voting for Strictly Come Dancing.   Why?   Because it operates an electoral college system whereby the judges are one part of the college and the people are the other part.   Whenever an electoral college is used democracy is distorted.   Just look at the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and U.S.Senate elections, which all operate electoral colleges for their elections.    See what I mean?
Government Corruption
Did you know?   Of the 123 hospitals being built, 83 are in areas represented by the Labour Party.   Of the 23 railway stations being closed, 20 of them are in Opposition constituencies.    Twice as much money from lottery funding goes to the constituencies of the Cabinet as goes to the constituencies of the Shadow Cabinet.   Of the 105 hospitals threatened with closure only 18 are in Labour held constituencies.    Systematic corruption is the hallmark of this government.
Taking Liberties
The British Library is holding an exhibition on the struggle for Britain's freedoms and rights.   It will last until March 1st.   It is well worth a visit.   For further information visit

Party Conference
The following letter has been emailed to Party members.   To those of you that went to the conference do respond.    To those that did not go also respond giving the reasons you did not go.    Do not be afraid to say that it had become too expensive.
Dear Colleague,
The Conservative Party is committed to improving the Party's Autumn conference and the experience of attendees and supporters.
To help us we would like to ask you to complete a brief questionnaire so that we can understand the strengths of our most recent conference in Birmingham, and where we can improve.
We appreciate this is a busy time of year, but your feedback really would be appreciated and the results will influence next year's Party conference in Manchester.
The deadline for submissions is 30th January 2009, and the survey can be found at:
Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.
Yours ever,
Caroline Spellman
European Democracy
By Daniel Hannan MEP
This is becoming like the closing scenes of Terminator. However many times you kill the European Constitution, it keeps lurching to its feet again. Blam! Fifty-five per cent of French voters say “Non”. Zap! Sixty-two per cent of Dutch voters say “Nee”. But the automaton keeps advancing, its flesh burned away, its charred metal skeleton stamped with the words “Lisbon Treaty”. Then – pow! – 53 per cent of Irish voters vote “No”. The machine is briefly swallowed by orange flames. But, after a short lull, the red lights go on in its skull and, once again, it starts clawing its way forward.
Shortly before Ireland voted, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durrão Barroso, warned electors that there was no Plan B. Irish commentators innocently took this to mean that, if the treaty was rejected, it would be dropped. What Barroso in fact meant, as is now clear, is that Plan A would be resubmitted over and over again.
This is how EU leaders invariably behave after a “No” vote. They machine-gun out a couple of platitudes about listening to the people, then carry on regardless. For them, public opinion is an obstacle to tear aside, not a reason to change direction.
Their desire for a second Irish referendum next autumn isn’t really to do with voting weights or numbers of commissioners or extensions of majority voting. Many of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty can be – indeed, have been – implemented in anticipation of formal ratification. For example, the European elections on June 4 will be fought on the basis of the number of MEPs that would have been authorised by Lisbon, not the ones provided for by the current treaties".
This is a disgrace.   Democracy destroyed.   It is time for the people to have their say.
Our liberty is under threat - do join in to defend it.

Convention for Modern Liberty - tickets now on sale

The Convention for Modern Liberty.  This spring the Convention will be hosting a series of events in  across the UK.
There will be be a one day gathering of 1,000 people on Saturday 28 February 2009 at the Institute for Education in central London alongside parallel regional and national meetings across the UK.
Over 80 speakers have already confirmed, including:
Philip Pullman, Helena Kennedy QC, Nick Clegg MP, David Davis MP, Henry Porter, Shami Chakrabarti, Dominic Grieve MP QC, Prof Quentin Skinner, Lord Bingham, Sunny Hundal, Lord Goldsmith, Simon Jenkins, Anthony Barnett, Chris Huhne MP, Caroline Lucas MEP, Moazzam Begg, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Prof David Marquand, Nick Cohen, Christopher Meyer and many many more.
A draft programme can be found on the Convention website.
Tickets for the London event are now on sale.  Details about the regional and national meetings will be available in the new year.
My Week
Wednesday December 18th
Bow Group debate on Is Class Back? Guest speakers - James Dellingpole of the Spectator, Dolan Cummings of The Institute of Ideasand Peter Whittle of the New Culture Forum.   A general consensus that there is now a political class and a celebrity class.    Aristocracy has gone but we have the super rich and a underclass.    Social mobility has diminished.   The future is bleak but education is the key to creating meritocracy.   Interesting.

Party Membership
For each Party member their local Constituency Association has to pay £5 to Central Office.   In these difficult economic times some Constituencies are having difficulty in raising money and are finding that they need the £5 per member to keep going.   What is the position if a Constituency does not pay the money?   Do its members lose their vote in any elections conducted by the party centrally?   What action can Central Office take to force a Constituency to pay up?   I think we should be told.    We need clarification on all this.
The Power of the Whips
The Whips have told all Labour MPs that if they vote against the Government they will not be eligible to sit on a Select Committee for a year.   Isn't this a contempt of Parliament?   What bullies these people are, and they say that Parliament hasn't broken down!
Climate Change
If you want to see some common sense on this subject visit the excellent web site run by Councillor Derek Tipp (Vice-Chairman of COPOV) at
My Week
Tuesday 9th December
Hansard Society - "When Gordon Took The Helm".   This was a meeting of the academic political establishment.    I put forward the view that Parliament had broken down (see David Starkey last week).   The academics did not agree.   Professor Philip Cowley of Nottingham University even suggested that if I were a student of his I would be expelled for even suggesting such a thing.   Who would want to be a student of him if he displays such arrogance when lecturing?
Thursday 11th December
Constitution Unit - Parliament and Constitutional Watchdogs.   Very interesting meeting.   Our Constitutional Watch dogs need teeth.   Parliament is trying to control them and make them toothless.   Do we need some overall guidelines for the basis on which they work?   This is a big question.   Is it possible when we do not have a constitution?
Visited the "Taking Liberties" exhibition at the British Library.   This is an excellent exhibition and well worthwhile to see the struggles we have had to get our fundamental freedoms.    The exhibition could have been better laid out with a clear route.    It was sometimes confusing.   Many famous documents are shown including one of the only four copies of Magna Carta.    The 1832 Great Reform Act is there.   Sadly because of the age and value of some of these documents the lights were low so sometimes the descriptions were difficult to read.    Also it would have been helpful to have a translation.   Magna Carta is in medieval Latin.
Bow Group Christmas Reception in the evening at the Carlton Club.   Very enjoyable.

***Star of the Week*** - David Starkey for a brilliant analysis of our democracy on the This Weekprogramme.   He pointed out that Parliament is broken.   There is a majority of Parliamentarians who have a greater loyalty to the Government than to the Institution of Parliament itself.    Effectively Parliament has become part of an electoral college whose only function is the election of the Prime Minister.   If Parliament is to revert to its real role of holding the Government to account, we will have to have a directly elected Prime Minister and to break the power of the Whips.   The Government has become an effective dictatorship.   The Prime Minister is answerable to nobody.    Let us make him answerable to the people.
My Week
Saturday 6th DecemberCOPOV Forum.   Mathew Sinclair, Research Director of The Taxpayers Alliance answered questions after his excellent speech.   The Conservative Party can learn a great deal from The Taxpayers Alliance.   They are one of the fastest growing pressure groups.   The audience had lots of questions.
Mandelson.JPG (728456 bytes)Wednesday 3rd DecemberPeter Mandelson giving the Hugo Young lecture onGlobalisation and the Crunch : What lessons for politics in Europe, chaired by Peter Preston of The Guardian.
Mandelson is clever, dangerous and snide.   He didn't say much but what he did say justifies the description.
Thursday 4th DecemberCOPOV Management meeting.   Planning for next year.   Any articles for the web site would be most welcome.
Friday 5th December.
Lovely evening at the BCCA Victory Club party.
Ulster Unionists This week David Cameron will address a conference of the Ulster Unionists.   One of the issues still to be resolved is what name candidates will fight an election on.   The Memorandum of Understanding states:
The Joint Committee shall be responsible for the legal registration and accounting of the entity, and for coordinating the identification of candidates for the General Election always ensuring that the rules and constitutions of the two Parties are respected and that the local members of both parties are closely involved in this work.
The Memorandum doesn't say how the local members will be closely involved but presumably they will have a vote on the candidates chosen.   More difficult will be deciding what name the candidates will fight under.   Will the name be registered under the Conservative and Unionist Party banner or not?   If not will the Electoral Commission determine that they are fighting the election as a seperate political Party?   If so any assistance to them would be contrary to the Conservative Party Constitution.
The successful candidates will take the Conservative Party Whip in the House of Commons, but not until the next Parliament.    Neatly sidestepping the possible problem of Lady Hermon in this Parliament.
There is still a long way to go to finalise everything.
Liberty Destroyed
This week we witnessed one of the most serious assaults on our liberty, when Damian Green MP was arrested.    Dominic Grieve MP sets out the questions which need an answer:

"Is it not a breach of Parliamentary Privilege for the police to arrest a Member of Parliament for using information he received for Parliamentary purposes?"

The Leak Inquiry
1.     Who initiated the original Home Office leak inquiry?
2.     Did Ministers approve it?
3.     When was it initiated?
4.     Who ran the inquiry and who had knowledge of it?
5.     Were any Ministers briefed about the inquiry, how were they briefed, when and by whom?
6.     What did the Prime Minister know and when? Did he call for a leak investigation by the police in the first place?
The Referral to the Cabinet Office
7.     Who made the decision to refer the inquiry to the Cabinet Office?
8.     When was the decision made to refer the matter to the Cabinet Office?
9.     Were any special advisers or Ministers aware of the decision to refer the inquiry to the Cabinet Office?
Referral to the Police
10.     When did the Home Office (or Cabinet Office) refer its evidence of leaks involving potentially criminal conduct to the Metropolitan Police?  What were Ministers told about the referral? Did Ministers ask to be kept informed of developments?
11.     Who made the decision to refer the matter to the police?
12.     When did they make that decision?
13.     Were any special advisers aware of the decision to refer the matter to the police?
Arrest of Civil Servant
14.     At 5.50am on 11 November, a Home Office official was arrested in the early hours of the morning by counter-terrorism police in connection with leaks. Were Ministers aware that counter-terrorism officers had been dispatched?
15.     Were any civil servants, special advisers or Ministers briefed about the arrest of a Home Office civil servant in connection with the inquiry?
16.     Did the arrest of the civil servant also involve SO15 or other counter terrorism officers?
17.     What contact was there between the police and any Minister, adviser or civil servant regarding the progress of the inquiry between the civil servant’s arrest and Damian Green’s arrest?
Arrest of Damian Green
18.     It is reported that Mr Green’s name was provided to the police on 11 November. Between the arrest of the official on 11 November and the arrest of Mr Green on 27 November, what further update did Home Office officials receive on the course of the subsequent police investigation? What was communicated to Ministers, and when?
19.     When did Home Office officials know that the police were investigating a Member of Parliament? Who was the most senior official informed? When were Ministers informed? If they were not informed, why not?
20.     Was any special adviser, press officer or Minister aware that a politician was being investigated? If so, when did they become aware?
21.     The guidance on the offence of misconduct in public office states: “A charge of misconduct in public office should be reserved for cases of serious misconduct or deliberate failure to perform a duty which is likely to injure the public interest”. In what respect was it suspected that Damian Green might have done this?
22.     Who in the police approved the decision to inform the Mayor about the proposed arrest of Damian Green?
23.     Who in the police decided not to inform any Government Minister about the proposed arrest of Damian Green?
24.     Why was it decided to inform the Mayor but no Minister?
25.     Was any adviser or civil servant made aware of the proposed arrest of a politician?
26.     Why were counter terrorist officers involved in the arrest? Why were 9 involved?
27.     Which Government advisers and press officers were briefed about the arrest and when? When did they first discuss the matter with the press?
28.     Was the Immigration Minister briefed regarding the inquiry in advance of his interview on the Today programme and if so what was he told and by whom?
29.     If Ministers had no knowledge of the inquiry, why did Immigration Minister Phil Woolas say on the Today programme that “this is not…from the information I have, the knowledge of the arrest that has been made, not as straightforward as your question implies”?
30.     What steps did the Prime Minister take to clarify that no Minister had been involved?
31.     Is it conceivable that the Home Secretary and Prime Minister remained oblivious to the investigation and arrest of a Member of Parliament between 11 and 27 November?
Search of Damian Green’s Offices
32.     Who was the most senior police officer who took the decision to authorise the arrest of Mr Green, and the search of his two residential addresses, constituency office and office in the House of Commons? Was the Commissioner aware, and did he authorise the decision? Why were counter-terrorism police dispatched to the House of Commons? Why did police not seek to interview Mr Green on a voluntary basis? Why did they wait until 28 November, the first day when the House of Commons was not sitting, Members were not present and no objection could be made to the Speaker? Why did they wait until the last day in office of Sir Ian Blair as Commissioner? Were the CPS consulted, was the DPP aware of these decisions and what authorisation did he give?
33.     When did officials or Ministers know that Mr Green’s office in the House of Commons would be searched?
34.     When the decision was made to arrest Mr Green and forcibly search his House of Commons office:
a.     Did the Speaker authorise this operation?
b.     If not, who did and on the basis of what evidence?
c.     Was a search warrant obtained for Damian Green’s office in the House of Commons?
d.     Who was the most senior ranking police officer who authorised the decision?
e.     Who was the most senior official in the Home Office who was aware?
f.     When did the Home Secretary and other Ministers know?
g.     When did the Prime Minister know?
h.     If the Mayor was informed in advance of the police operation, why weren’t Ministers also informed, given that the Home Office has responsibility for the Met’s counter-terrorism police?
i.     Which member of the House of Commons authorities permitted the police to suspend Mr Green’s Parliamentary e-mail?
j.     Since they have seized Mr Green’s Parliamentary computers, how will the police protect the privileged relationship between an MP and his/her constituents – not least in relation to matters that may involve the police?
k.     Is it not a breach of Parliamentary Privilege for the police to arrest a Member of Parliament for using information he received for Parliamentary purposes?
My Week
open europe.JPG (1234006 bytes)Thursday 27th NovemberDebate organised by Open Europe on EU climate change policy chaired by Lord Leach.Interesting contributions but as I said to Professor Michael Grubb (far right of picture) who is the Chief Economist of the Carbon Trust, his "speech is all gobbledook.   It reminds me of financial derivatives.    Nobody understands them, but those involved made a great deal of money and when they collapsed it was the public that picked up the tab.   Why should businesses pay?   The Government may as well say you have to buy tulip bulbs in order to run your business."   I didn't get a satisfactory reply, but I think the audience agreed with me.
sam younger.JPG (645590 bytes)Tuesday 25th NovemberSam Younger (Chairman of theElectoral Commission) with Robert Hazell  of the Constitution Unit.   Sam Younger is retiring as Chairman after eight years in the job.   He has established the Electoral Commissionas a serious institution.   It now needs independence and teeth to take it forward.Wednesday 26th NovemberVicky Seddon (Chairman of Unlock Democracy) with David Blunkett.
David Blunkett spoke well at a packed meeting in Portcullis House.  He doesn't like the closed list system of election to the European Parliament.   He would prefer single member constituencies.   That would be an improvement.    At least there would be accountability.
David Blunkett.JPG (1330705 bytes)

Leader of the Conservative MEPs
This week a new Leader was elected by the Conservative MEPs.   Who is this Leader answerable to?   The answer is the Conservative MEPs that elected him.   In the 21st century isn't it time that the Leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament was elected by Party members and answerable to them?  
Ulster Unionists
This week  the Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Party agreed a Memorandum of Understanding as shown below:
Both parties believe that a strong and stable Union of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom offers the best future for all its citizens.
Both parties believe that Northern Ireland has been isolated for too long from the politics of the United Kingdom.
Both parties believe that all the citizens of the United Kingdom should have the opportunity to vote for, and potentially participate in, their national government.

Both parties recognise the need to change politics in Northern Ireland, are committed to reaching out to the increasing numbers of alienated voters, and developing non sectarian politics in Northern Ireland.

1. The Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists have agreed to form a Joint Committee which will have as a core aim a desire to change politics in Northern Ireland in order to enable all electors in Northern Ireland to participate fully in the politics of the United Kingdom

2. The Joint Committee, consisting of 4 Conservatives and 4 Ulster Unionists, will oversee developments. It will be responsible for coordinating the identification of candidates for the General Election and have responsibility for running the European and General Election campaigns.

3. Jim Nicholson MEP will be the candidate for the European election and, if elected, will sit as a full member of the Conservative group, and shall be in receipt of the Conservative Whip in the next European Parliament.  He shall have the same rights and responsibilities of all MEPs taking the Conservative Whip.

4. Successful candidates at the General Election will be full members of the Parliamentary Conservative Party. They will have the same rights and responsibilities as all other MPs taking the Conservative Whip.

5. Both Parties recognise that the holding of office as a Member of Parliament, Member of the European Parliament, or Member of a Legislative Assembly, is a full-time position. Both Parties consider the holding of multiple mandates to be undesirable and neglectful of the needs of the electorate. Accordingly, the holding of joint mandates will not be permitted.  If an MLA offers him/her self as a candidate for a Parliamentary seat they will undertake to resign as an MLA on election to that Parliament.
You cannot object to this Memorandum for it is clearly part of a process, but it does leave a number of questions unanswered.
Who is the Joint Committee answerable to?   In particular who are the Conservative representatives answerable to?
Will they identify candidates or will they appoint them?   Will the candidates be approved by the grass roots members of the individual Constituency Associations of the Conservative Party and The Ulster Unionists?
Will the candidates run on the manifesto of the Conservative Party for the European and the General Elections?
Will Jim Nicholson be endorsed by the Conservative Party members in Northern Ireland?
Will Sylvia Hermon take the Conservative Whip in Parliament, if not will there be a selection meeting for a Parliamentary candidate in North Down?
Will the Ulster Unionists remain as a seperate Party or is the ultimate objective to absorb them within the Conservative Party?
These questions and others need answering.
My Week
Saturday 22 NovemberAGM of Unlock Democracy.   Anthony Barnett made an excellent speech about liberty.   Watch out for a major campaign about our loss of liberty.
The Green MEP Jean Lambert was rather confused when talking about democracy.
agm unlock democracy.JPG (823663 bytes)Saturday 22 NovemberBruges Group conference.
Some brilliant speeches particularly from Christopher Booker about climate change, and a chilling speech from Guy Herbert from No2ID.
Barry Legg introduces Christopher Booker
bruges group c booker barry legge.JPG (701722 bytes)
bow v fabians.JPG (1256026 bytes)Monday 17 NovemberBow Group v Young Fabian debate "This House Believes Britain is broken" proposed by John Redwood MP and opposed by Hazel Blears MP.
The Bow Group won the motion, although the Fabian Group put up some good speakers.    Good summing up by John Redwood.   Best speech- Ryan Shorthouse for the Bow Group.
simon mort.JPG (466548 bytes)Friday 21 NovemberSimon Mort addressed the Bucks. Supper Club.    Simon is a candidate for the next Chairman of the National Convention.    He made all the right noises about supporting the voluntary Party.    Now we need some specifics.

Merger Ulster Unionists
The talks with the Ulster Unionists continue and are moving towards a resolution.   One issue that is still outstanding is the name under which candidates will stand.   The obvious name is the Conservative and Unionist Party.   Surprisingly, this is still the registered name of the Conservative Party, so thats all right then.
Yesterday I watched two excellent programmes on BBC Parliament.   First of all I watched the brilliant lecture by Nial Ferguson on his book "The Ascent of Money", then Andrew Neil's interview with David Marquand.    The Andrew Neil programme "Straight Talk" is consistently good.   What a pity these programmes do not get a wider audience.   BBC Parliament is gradually building up its reputation.   Soon it will be my main TV programme for viewing.   As for BBC3 andBBC4 why don't they just scrap them?
My Week
jon snow & ant. fraser.JPG (1070619 bytes)Wednesday 12th NovemberLongford Lecture - "We can't Build our way out of the Prison's Crisis" - debate.
Left Jon Snow (Chairman) introduced Antonia Fraser.   Had a discussion with Antonia afterwards about whether there could be a moral case for suicide bombers.
Speakers included Helena Kennedy - excellent, Sir Ian Blair - interesting.
From the floor I pointed out "The crisis is with our politicians.   Last week the European Court ruled that prisoners had the right to a vote as a human right.    If the next General Election is held without prisoners voting it could be ruled invalid.   If prisoners are given the vote will this change the views of politicians?" - loud applause.
ID & Adam Boulton.JPG (671021 bytes)Monday 10th NovemberConservative Women's Conference.   A bit flat, poor lunch.   Good session-Iain Dale interviewed Adam Boulton.    Best comment from Adam Boulton - "Harriet Harman is Britain's Sarah Palin".
Best presentation from Anna Firth of the Open Eye Campaign.   Did you know 1 in 10 children have mental health problems?
Daftest comment- Richard Ashworth MEP "European electorate is so big it is not possible to have 'your MEP'"
We did before closed Party list brought in!   Lukewarm reception for David Cameron.
dc 10 nov.JPG (417066 bytes)

Barack Obama
Over the last few years Constituency Associations have been discouraged by Central Office from choosing candidates on the basis of their speaking abilities.   We were told that this is out of date, we should be looking for people who can interview well.   We were also told that the day of the public meeting is over, people are not interested in them any more.   We were also told that political activists like Party members are too busy to be involved and that we had to rely on large donations for Party funding.
All these experts in Central Office should take a close look at Barack Obama's campaign.   He had caucus  and town meetings which were well attended.   Why because the people had a vote and they knew their voice would be heard.   He held political meetings, attracting crowds of up to 250,000 people.   He raised $460,000,000 in small donations by using the internet.   Isn't it time the Conservative Party joined the twenty-first century, became a democratic organisation, had big speeches at the Party conference, motions for debate and encouraged democracy through use of the internet.    The first political Party to do so in the UK will be onto a winner.
My Week
Euroforum nov 08.JPG (1178230 bytes)Saturday 8th NovemberEuro forum meeting on Energy Security, & Climate Change.
Interesting meeting but the presentation was one-sided.   Chaired by James Elles MEP participants included Richard Ashworth MEP and John Howell MP.    Agreement that we need energy security, reduction in pollution, and nuclear energy, but is climate change man made to any significant extent?   Not proven.    Caroline Abel-Smith introduced speakers.
Thursday 6th NovemberJohn Redwood Mp addresses Gerrards Cross branch dinner. Chairman Santokh Chhokar.
Excellent speech by John Redwood.   The Party should listen to him.
JR & Santok.JPG (1066437 bytes)Friday 7th NovemberJames Elles MEP, Dominic Grieve MP and Cheryl Gillan MP at the Amersham Women's conference.
Enjoyable discussion.   James Elles made excellent speech.   Good luck to him in his campaign to be Leader of the Conservative MEPs
chesham w conf.JPG (1265255 bytes)
Antonia Fraser.JPG (464781 bytes)Tuesday 4th NovemberLady Antonia Fraser addresses the All Party History Group in a packed out Grand Committee Room at the House of Commons on the subject ofThe Gunpowder Plot.   Superb speech.   Religion was the basis for the plot with a touch of idealism to help poor Catholics.   Were they today's terrorists fighting for freedom?Alliance for Lobbying Transparency.JPG (1658281 bytes)Wednesday 5th NovemberDebate at the House of Commons organised by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency.   Speakers included Peter Facey of Unlock Democracy and Guido Fawkes -chaired by David Henke of The Guardian.
It is clear that transparency is needed and there are some big loopholes in self-regulation which have to be addressed.

Fat Cat Bankers
Barclays Bank is paying out millions of pounds in bonuses, but what did it do when the Bank of England reduced its base rate by half of one per cent?   Why Barclays pushed up its interest charge to small businesses to an unprecedented seven percentage points over base rate from the previously charged five percentage points over base.
When our politicians call for a reduction in interest rates to boost the economy, in the real world the banks reduce the rate on savings but keep their charges at the same level or increase it.   Unless the government intervenes at a micro level all the talk about reducing rates is hot air.
US President
Colin Powell refused to stand for President or Vice-President of the United States because his wife was convinced that if he did so he would be assassinated within twelve months.   I was reminded of this when I was given the following scenario: Barack Obama is elected President.   He is assassinated.   Joe Biden takes over and serves out the four year term.    Hilary Clinton then takes over as President.
I recently put the Colin Powell story to Irwin Seltzer.   His response was that this was a very European view of the United States, a view that sees the United States as full of red necks.   He thought the theory was nonsense, although Colin Powell's wife did have concerns.    I hope Irwin is right.
My Week
Clare Short.JPG (1186989 bytes) Wednesday October 29th
Clare Short addresses a Hansard Society meeting on "Making Politics Fit for Purpose".   Excellent lecture by Clare Short.   I agreed with every word she said.   She gave some devastating statistics showing how Parliament is out of touch, unrepresentative and has to change.   I said that the BBC should show her lecture at prime time instead of Jonathon Ross.   I think the audience agreed.   It will be shown on BBC Parliament.
Party Membership
At the Party conference I picked up a very interesting document on "Per Member Fee League Tables" from the Party Treasurers stand.   First of all let me congratulate the Treasurers on their openness.   They run one of the best departments in Central Office - very professional.   The booklet raises some important points.   It would appear that total membership is about 200,000.   This is quite a big drop on previous figures and cause for alarm.   I have no doubt that until we bring the Party into the 21st century this decline will continue.   We need a democratic Party with vigorous discussion and debate if we are to find the solutions to today's problems.
Some figures in the booklet are frightening.   A Conservative held seat like Norfolk North West either has no members or has forgotten to pay anything to Central Office.   Other Conservative seats like Hornchurch and Aldridge Brownhills appear to have less than 30 members.     There are 20 constituencies with no members whatsoever and  a further 65 constituencies with less than 20 members.   Unless action is taken now the Conservative Party will cease to exist as a membership organisation.
My Week
Thursday 23 October
At BAFTA for a private showing of Oliver Stone's film "W".   Afterwards asked Oliver Stone a question and told him that the film scared the life out of me.   This film shows how the most powerful man in the World got into that position.   Scary, could it happen again and did the same hubris that got us into the Iraq war get us into the biggest economic crisis of our life times?   According to Oliver Stone - yes.    Excellent performances from the actors playing George and Laura Bush.
Wednesday 22 October
Royal Court theatre to see "Now or Later" - a short play about the US Presidential election.   Excellent acting and terrific dialogue.   Well worth seeing if you can get in.    This is what drama should be about.
Interviewed on News 24 about George Osborne - summary of what I said:
George Osborne is silly but has not committed a hanging offence.   He should wrap his head in sackcloth and ashes and take a vow of silence, particularly when talking to opposition politicians or the media.    This would be a non story if donations from individuals and organisations were limited to £10,000.   What is damaging is that at a time when we are facing an economic crisis, stories about two of our top politicians being wined and dined by a Russian billionaire on a multi million pound yacht in the Mediterranean and entertained by a hedge fund manager make people very angry.
What people do not understand is why it is that not a single fat cat banker, useless politician, incompetent council treasurer, hopeless regulator or greedy auditor has had the courage to accept the blame and say sorry for the biggest economic crisis we have ever faced.   Do not be surprised if  as unemployment rises, homes are repossessed and businesses go bust the people take to the streets to overturn the rotten system that has brought us to this point.
Irwin Stelzer.JPG (400018 bytes)Monday 20th OctoberIrwin Stelzer addressed the Bruges Group.    Fascinating, although I disagreed with much of what he said.    Andrew Roberts gave an insight into the creation of Anglo-American Grand Strategy 1941-45 and afterwards signed copies of his book on the subject.Andrew Roberts.JPG (866021 bytes)

From the Grass Roots

                                                BIRMINGHAM CONFERENCE 2008


                                             A CONSERVATIVE

I had never stayed in Birmingham before and my hotel was just 300 yards from the International Conference Centre.   I had chosen wisely because at lunch time and in the evenings many fringe meetings were going on which were easily accessible.   Rigorous security checks were in force at the entrance to the I.C.C. but on passing through these you were free to roam the many and various halls, rooms and suites.   The problem was that as soon as you knew your way around the building conference was nearly over.

On Sunday morning after a welcome from Party Chairman,Caroline Spellman, who warned us against complacency and never to again vacate the centre ground where elections are won and lost, particularly now that we were winning the battle of ideas, we were given a history of Birmingham (where Conference was being held for the first time since 1912) by David Willetts who had written a short book about the development of Birmingham since the 1860s.   I had not realised that Joseph Chamberlain was originally a Liberal who joined forces with Benjamin Disraeli and broke with Gladstone over home rule for Ireland.   Chamberlain eventually became a Liberal Unionist and added to the Conservative Party its urban base for up until then we were essentially a party of rural England, church and squire.

The economic crisis overshadowed conference and those responsible for planning the programme had wisely decided to jettison the item ‘Celebrating Election Success’ scheduled for early that afternoon.   Instead we had a witty speech from William Hague castigating the Prime Minister’s mismanagement of the economy when Chancellor for ten years followed by a serious and yet optimistic speech from David Cameron about the new challenges which face our country in these difficult and uncertain times.

The various debates followed a similar pattern.   A member of the shadow cabinet would introduce the topic and guests, not necessarily all Conservatives, would be invited to speak on the subject as it affected them but nonetheless relevant to the discussion in question.   There might also be a short video and this would often be followed by questions from the floor mainly by prospective parliamentary candidates who were allowed to make their own points and comments.   Our parliamentary candidates, many with a good chance of winning a seat at the next election, now provide a marvellous cross section of the public and come from all walks of life.

We have many more women, a number from the ethnic minorities, gay people and many who work in both the public and private sectors.   Many, I am convinced, have come over to us because in the last ten years they have seen a growth in the bureaucratic government knows best attitude which now affects all areas and they want something done about it.   They look to us to provide the change required and they want a new and radical approach in the knowledge that simply throwing hard earned taxpayers money at the problem does not solve the problem.   We have to be the catalyst for that change.

One of the major themes of conference was how we could repair what David Cameron calls the ‘broken society’.   Hence the emphasis on crime, welfare reform, family breakdown, drug abuse and so on.   One of the most moving speeches –perhaps the most moving – came from Mrs. Elizabeth Burton Phillips who had herself been broken by the death of her 27 year old son, a heroin addict.    She has set up a charity for drug abusers in memory of her son and one was humbled hearing her story.   In another debate, we heard another moving account of a lady who had lost her husband, brutally murdered by a gang of youths,and whose death had robbed her three children of a wonderful father.   And in the same session we heard how a charity Kids Count is helping young people from deprived backgrounds.

Early in the conference, late on Sunday afternoon, Frederick Forsythe and Dr. Liam Fox had spoken of our debt as a nation to our armed forces and of what is known as the Military Covenant.   This means in essence that when called upon to fight our government provides proper and sufficient equipment for the task and a salary and pension commensurate with their status.   On returning from duty decent accommodation is found and good compensation given for any injury suffered.

Late on Monday afternoon, the debate led by Stephen O’Brien,was on the subject ‘Caring for an Elderly Population’.   We heard from the author Terry Pratchett on how he was coping, at a relatively early age,with the onset of a rare form of alzheimer’s disease and how another lady, Marion Talbot,had been forced to place her 89 year old mother in a home for the elderly due to the effects of this crippling and debilitating illness. Just as we had the Military Covenant, there now had to be a Covenant with the Elderly.

Earlier in the day, at the morning session, Alan Duncan had chaired a debate on Business and Enterprise.   He promised that a Conservative government would review, repeal and redress the imbalances and stifling bureaucracy and red tape which prevents many small businesses expanding and employing people.   David Willetts, contributing to the same debate, deplored the fact that the government’s obsession with getting 50% of school leavers into university had led to a lack of mobility and a shortage of skills.   There were, he said, a million young people in the country without a job of any kind and pledged that a Conservative government would create many more apprenticeships and opportunities for learning a skill.

Opening the debate on the economy, Margot James, PPC for Stourbridge, said that only a policy of sound money, living within our means, and saving for the future could get us out of the current mess.   Continuing this theme, the Shadow Chief Secretary, Philip Hammond, reminded us that the past ten years had been an age of irresponsibility with a public sector borrowing deficit now approaching £90 billion, zero growth and a lending rate of 5%.   At the same time taxes had gone up by 69%, government spending by 74% and personal debt was now £1.4 trillion.   There has been an illusion of prosperity and  an unsustainable boom in property prices.    After a short and well received speech from the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, addressed us.   The government’s own fiscal rules had been broken and it was now time to restore financial responsibility.   He also confirmed that, in the light of the new situation, our spending commitments would have to be revised.

That morning I did not arrive in the main hall until 10 a.m. just as Iain Duncan Smith was receiving  a standing ovation for his speech on social justice.   The debate on education was introduced by the PPC for Brigg and Goole, himself a secondary school teacher.   Other speakers included Maria Miller, Nick Gibb and Tim Loughton.

Rising shadow cabinet star, Michael Gove, wound up emphasising the need for change and for bringing common sense back into the classroom. New schools would be created if parents wanted them, independent, although state financed, and there would be scope for the involvement of charities and the voluntary sector.   Gove did not underestimate that there would be opposition to these proposals (based on the Swedish model) – particularly from the teaching unions.   But we provided hope for the future, not fear.

The continuing financial crisis together with the adverse vote the previous evening in the USA House of Representatives led to a second appearance by David Cameron who gave general support to our government and confirmed that we would not obstruct in the House of Commons any measures intended to ease the situation.

It never ceases to amaze me how certain issues are regarded as the preserve of a particular party.   For example defence and crime are regarded as Conservative winners while the NHS and pensions are regarded as bonuses for the Labour Party.    Our debate on the NHS shattered this myth once and for all.   This is probably because David Cameron regularly uses the NHS for himself and his family.    In addition our shadow

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has been holding the brief for five years and has not used it as a stepping stone to a higher profile position.   In Anne Milton we have someone who has been a nurse and has thus had first hand experience of some of the difficulties faced by NHS staff.   We were promised an end to targets which are distorting health priorities, no polyclinics except where deemed appropriate and a fresh approach to the causes of depression and mental illness.   The view was expressed that too often we try to treat the symptoms but not the cause.

Another interesting session on the final morning was entitled ‘Preparing for Government’ with Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin.   I had already heard Francis Maude at an early morning meeting the previous day and that caused me to be late for Iain Duncan Smith’s speech in the main hall already referred to.   This was followed by a discussion on the environment and then one on national security where the main speaker was Baroness Neville-Jones.   I missed William Hague winding up the debate on Foreign affairs although I did see him on TV afterwards being interviewed by Andrew Neil. (And I do wonder how we will be able to call a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if our Parliament has ratified it before June 2010).

The highlight of the final afternoon was naturally David Cameron’s speech.    Because of the numbers this took place in the much larger Symphony Hall.    We queued for 45 minutes to get a seat during the course of which I chatted to a young lady who is standing as a candidate in the South West Region in next year’s European elections but who is unlikely to be elected as she is sixth on our list for that area.   I sat next to a lady from Wyre Forest whose MP is an independent consultant elected twice on a Save Kidderminster Hospital ticket.    Cameron was introduced by our candidate for Hammersmith.   His speech, I thought, was well delivered and suited to the occasion.   It was in no way triumphalistic but realistic and while the charge ‘a novice’ is true, this may be no bad thing.   For, if the Spectator is to be believed, he has a range of long standing friends in high places upon whom he can call to give him sound and sensible advice in the full knowledge that none of them is after his job.  This contrasts well with the Blair/Brown feud which led to continued tension between Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street .

Outside the conference proper there were, as I've stated, many fringe meetings.    Those which I attended included ones on public health (in particular heart disease), public transport and the place of Scotland within the Union now that there is a SNP led administration in Edinburgh and a distinct possibility of a Conservative government in Westminster by mid 2010.   All very interesting and informative.

Our party has changed dramatically over the last ten years and this was bound to happen given the fact that this is our longest period in opposition since 1916.    I think we would be genuinely surprised at the number of Labour leaning or Labour voting families who have joined us.   And this is in no small measure due to David Cameron who, although born into a family with close ties to the aristocracy, has somehow been able to reach out to them.   And perhaps the most noticeable thing about conference itself was that all the sessions dealt with issues and subjects of most concern to voters; in so doing we were re establishing our credentials as a party who could be trusted with government once more.   Furthermore there was this realisation that this trust once earned could be fragile and that the general election whenever it comes could still easily slip away from us.

Another feature was this year’s Social Action project and the work that the party has been doing over recent months on the Welsh House Farm Estate in the Quinton area of Birmingham.   And our PPC there Deidree Alden would be an asset to the House of Commons.   I sincerely hope she can win back what was in days past one of our safest Birmingham seats.

The global financial situation and the credit cruch continue to dominate the headlines so it was hardly surprising that our Birmingham deliberations did not make the front pages (or in some cases any page at all).   Peter Mandelson’s return to the government and to the Cabinet was naturally a major story and some Labour backbenches could not hide their dismay and in some cases anger that such a divisive figure could be welcomed back so easily and made a life peer due solely to the Prime Minister’s patronage (And  now that the hereditary peers have gone why are we not making a clear case for the second chamber to be elected ?).   No doubt in making the appointment the Prime Minister was thinking of the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III (slightly altered) :

 Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this Sun of Brussels

I think Labour will probably recover somewhat in the polls (there are signs of this already) and we are in all probability eighteen months from a general election.   If a week in politics is a long time, May 2010 is an eternity.    But even though 2005 was a poor one for us in terms of seats won, there are numerous marginal seats which would fall on a very small swing to us.   With a resurgent Nationalist party in Scotland, Labour may well be deprived of a majority in what is its natural heartland.   And despite eleven years of Labour government there are parts of Glasgow where the average life expectancy is thirty (yes thirty) years less than in say parts of Surrey or Berkshire.   We are in for at least a year of belt tightening (or whatever way you might like to describe it) and I hope our leaders are revising downwards their spending plans in the light of the new austerity.   All we can possibly do is to reallocate our current expenditure.   For example, it seems to me crazy to pay school children up to £30 a week by way of grant to stay in school – a fact I recently discovered when visiting my own grammar school, now a comprehensive.   I take the admittedly old fashioned view that children should stay at school because they want to learn and I believe that with finite resources the money could be spent better elsewhere.

Our Birmingham conference promised a radical change in direction.    That said, it continued to reaffirm our belief that we should put our trust in people rather than government and that it is only by devolving power back to local communities and involving the voluntary and charitable institutions that our country can get through the present crisis and build a better future.   These are massive challenges for any government and it is unlikely that the present government will be able to grapple with them.   For not only is it tired after eleven years in office but it has an idealogical apathy to anything that smacks of self help, believing as it does in the empowerment of the state with its targets, directives and hand outs.

David Cameron and his team have gained time to put more flesh on the bones of policy.   Since his election as leader we have made great strides and are on the way back.   The road has been long and hard but provided we keep our nerve and have clear well thought out policies relevant to modern day Britain there is every chance we will win the election whenever it comes.   In the words of my own hero, the late Iain Macleod : ‘The Conservative Party is like dry timber and a spark will set it ablaze ! ‘. Let us prove Macleod right once again by going back to our constituencies and preparing for government.


a main  supper club.JPG (603557 bytes)Friday 18th OctoberAnn Main MP addressing the Bucks Supper Club.   She was given a hard time, firstly about grammar schools, but more importantly about the economic situation.   There is real anger about the position we find ourselves in.   As unemployment and house repossessions rise do not be surprised if the people take to the streets to change the rotten system which has got us here.
Tuesday October 14th
Meeting of the Hansard Society on "No politics, please...we're women.   This meeting was a bit of a whinge.    Women are unfairly represented in Parliament, but instead of fighting for equality using the tools available to them using the present system they want special measures.   To test people's knowledge of politics the Hansard Society conducted a quiz.   One of the questions was "Members of the European Parliament are directly elected by voters."    True of false.   The answer given says "When asked a question relating to how MEPs were chosen men were 13% more likely than women (44% versus 57%) to correctly state that MEPs were directly elected."   The only problem is that the answer is wrong.   Members of the European Parliament are elected from Party lists.   The voter, votes for a Party, not an individual Member, so MEPs are indirectly elected by the voter.   If Hansard cannot understand this what hope is there for the electorate.   Another good reason to change this undemocratic form of election.
Monday October 13th
Meeting of the Beaconsfield and Chesham CPF to discuss the latest brief on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.   Good discussion, but the brief from Central office was totally biased, churning out the discredited views of Al Gore.   I quote "In the UK, we can expect drier summers, wetter winters, higher sea levels and a greater risk of flooding".    It is a pity that we cannot forecast the weather for next week!    The meeting ended in agreement that we should do all we can to economically develop sustainable resources and to conserve energy as well as we can.

Mea Culpa
At the Woodstock literary festival I asked David Cameron a question about our rotten electoral system.   I did not get a very good answer.   However, the question I should have asked was this:    "At a time when the World is on the edge of economic collapse, when the Dole queues in the UK are about to go up to 2 million, when 20% of households are living on an income of less than £100 per week, why is it that not a single fat cat banker, useless politician, incompetent Council treasurer or greedy auditor stood up and said "Mea culpa"?.
Do the people have to take to the streets to change the rotten system that has led us to this sorry state?
My Week
dc & s kellner.JPG (733903 bytes)Friday October 10thAt the Woodstock Literary Festival on a sunny day in Blenheim Palace.
(L) David Cameron interviewed by Simon Kellner of "The Independent" with a photographer taking a picture of you!
(R) And afterwards, David signing copies of the book "Cameron on Cameron."
dc woodstock.JPG (619851 bytes)
Wednesday October 8th - Went to the cinema to see "How Ohio Pulled it Off", the story of how the Republican Party stole the election of the President in Ohio in the 2004 Presidential election.    Why did Kerry give in?   The Republicans did the same in Florida in 2000.   It is quite clear that George W. Bush should never have been elected   President.   It is also clear that the USA has a rotten democracy.    It needs cleaning up.   Hanging chads, voting machines that do not work, machines which have clearly been tampered with, electors deleted off electoral rolls, suspect registration processes, armed service votes from overseas not counted, voters forced to wait up to twelve hours to cast their vote and much more.   On top of all this corruption we have the pork barrel politics of Washington and the obscene amount of money spent on elections.   The World's greatest democracy is really a banana republic.   It cannot continue like this.   The chickens are coming home to roost.   We are witnessing the decline and fall of the World superpower.   It will be painful for all of us.

Your Comments - Candidate interference
On Conservativehome web site:
"Some local Conservatives expect usual attempts by CCHQ to influence the process. On the margins of the Birmingham Conference, party officials were seen making strategic introductions for favoured candidates.... this year the Chairmen of the most winnable selecting seats were allocated tickets by CCHQ that were normally given to reward long or exceptional service by members of the voluntary party."
The final nail in the coffin of fair selections and a kick in the teeth for hard-working activists!!
This must be one of the most boring Party conferences in Conservative Party history - no debates, no participation, no involvement.   The Party Conference has become a corporate event, a media presentation, more akin to the launch of a Microsoft product than a political happening.    Even the Fringe has been taken over by corporate sponsorship.    This Conference was expensive, £100 per night in the hotels, the hall was too small, you could not get in for any big name speaker; the stewards were obsessed with health and safety, no standing.   There was no tribal feel about the Conference.    Lots of ambitious young men about to start their climb up the greasy pole, but where were the ordinary Party members?   It is time to bring back the real Party Conference, with motions for debate, in a seaside town where there is cheap accomodation.   If necessary have the media presentation as a seperate event.
On points of praise - the Birmingham police were excellent, always polite and friendly.   Some of the speeches from the platform were excellent including the last two thirds of David Cameron's speech, which was one of the best ever.
As for the National Convention, the quicker this is abolished the better.
Ever since the Parliamentary Party took over the Conference the role of the ordinary member has been diminished.   It is time for the voluntary party to start the fight back.   Now it is being proposed that three more MPs join the Party Board.   This should be fought tooth and nail.   The power of the Parliamentary Party has increased, is increasing, and should be diminished, otherwise as a mass political Party the Conservative party will cease to exist.
The Fringe
party conf 3 08.JPG (703801 bytes)party conf 2 08.JPG (959781 bytes)party conf 4 08.JPG (772082 bytes)
Elenor Laing, Douglas Carswell, Bruce Anderson - excellent meeting.William Hague launching the Campaign for the European Parliament election.Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Ancram-excellent meeting
unding - Maidstone Selection - Re-selection of MEPs 
January 20th Re-selection of MEPs - Re-selection of MPs - Caroline Spellman

Party Conference - Your say
The main conference agenda is truly awful and your critique is spot on. I have four friends who are standing in very winnable positions in the Euro elections, i.e. first or second after the MEPs. They are dismayed that they are not even being introduced to the conference delegates. The fringe is the worst ever - dominated by the quangocracy, left-wing media, the poverty lobby and the environmental doom-mongers. Most of the party pressure groups cannot afford to pay the inflated prices that the party is charging for the ICC and Hyatt Hotel.
I know a lot of activists who have decided not to go to conference for the first time in many, many years. Others are making day visits only and, like Labour, the attendance in the hall could be very low. It is remarkably easy to book accommodation even now. The price of hotels has probably put off young people, with modest salaries, too.
Ulster Unionists
Newsflash - Owen Patterson to give update on negotiations to National Convention on Saturday. (see below)
My Week
Michelle Tempest & DG.JPG (2167776 bytes)Thursday September 25thDr Michelle Tempest and Dominic Grieve MP talking about "The Future of the NHS"
Excellent meeting.   Dr Tempest wanted power to be devolved downwards to the local hospital and more democracy at the local level.
ann leslie.JPG (889216 bytes)Tuesday September 23rdDame Ann Leslie spoke at the Windsor Festival and then did a book signing.
So boring, I fell asleep.
Kate Adie.JPG (509500 bytes)Thursday September 25thKate Adie at the Windsor Festival.
Trite talk, but she came alive during questions.   A couple of good anecdotes.

Merger with the Ulster Unionists - Some Questions and points for David Cameron
(1) We are delighted that you want to expand membership of the Party in every part of the United Kingdom.
(2) Does the Ulster Unionist Party genuinely wish to become absorbed into the Conservative Party? Can we be sure there is no hidden agenda? Images as             seen from London may be viewed very differently in Northern Ireland.
                    (3)In some constituencies the current Conservative membership could be swamped by former Ulster Unionists.   It is wise to remember a trickle can be absorbed and is                                 advantageous to both elements, but a flood can change the nature of the host to the detriment of both.   This needs to be handled with great care, as one knows                                 from the experience of merging constituency associations.
                    (4) Should a significant number of Ulster Unionists (many are socialists or possible DUP members) not wish to join the Conservative Party what will happen to that rump?                                 Could they set up as a New Ulster Unionist Party?
(5) New members wishing to join the Conservative Party should have to complete individual membership forms which should contain the clause "I am not a            member of another political party." There should be no bulk merging of names. This could be done by sending individual membership forms to the             Ulster Unionists on 1st January 2009 with an invitation to join the Conservative Party.
     Incidentally the Party’s web site application forms should include the above clause also.
(6) It is vital that the untainted and non-sectarian image of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland be preserved, since we are open to members from             any other party, or none. There is clearly concern that the Party’s image could be tarnished by the history of sectarian baggage associated with the              Ulster Unionist Party. (David Trimble’s televised jig with Ian Paisley after the Orange Parade in Garvaghy Road is still remembered, as is his attacks              on the Conservative candidate (a female Catholic) at the time of his by-election in Upper Bann.) We must not lose our cross community appeal.
                    (7) It has been intimated that Sir Reg Empey and Jim Nicholson are to be given a standing ovation at the Party Conference. In our view that would be unwise at this point                                  in time.
                    (8) We warmly welcome the presence of Stephen Gilbert in Northern Ireland, with his professional talent and expertise and feel that if this were applied to the Party in                                  Northern Ireland for a relatively short period, very significant results could be achieved.
                    (9) The merged Party should be called The Conservative Party.
Finally, this issue is so important that before any conclusions to the talks are announced, it would be very helpful if the Leader addressed a meeting of all the Conservative Party members in Northern Ireland. This would be highly beneficial for the Party and would keep Party members on board. It would be a great tragedy if we lost the goodwill of Conservatives in Northern Ireland who have stuck with the Party through thick and thin over the last 20 years.
The Alternative Party Conference
Last week we said the Conservative Party Conference is dying.   As one COPOV member said "Your comments about Conference are spot on.   Years ago, nobody would even have suggested having a fringe meeting during conference hours.  All has now changed, for the worse".   We are delighted that an alternative is now on offer- a fringe meeting lasting two days.   If the hierarchy of the Party do not get the message this sends, the Conference deserves to die.


All events in the Kingston Lecture Theatre, Austin Court, Birmingham unless otherwise stated.
The Canal-side Coffee Lounge adjoining the Kingston Theatre will be serving complimentary tea and coffee
throughout both days. Complimentary newspapers, free wi-fi access, an interviewing area and a giant
widescreen TV showing conference coverage etc. will make this the ideal place to relax and meet friends. There
will be a TaxPayers’ Alliance / Global Vision stand and a History Man bookstall, together with opportunities to
meet Douglas Carswell MPMatthew ElliottDaniel Hannan MEPRoger Helmer MEPRuth Lea and Rupert
Matthews, the History Man.
DAY ONE Monday 29th September 2008
8.00 a.m. – The Big Bad Breakfast
Complimentary bacon and sausage butties with tea or coffee. Canal-Side Coffee Lounge, adjoining the Kingston
10.00 a.m. – Freedom beyond the EU
The Freedom Association presents a panel discussion on the free trade alternatives to the European Union.
Douglas Carswell MP and Daniel Hannan MEP, authors of the newly published book, The Plan – twelve
months to renew Britain. Chairman: Lindsay Jenkins, Hon. Director of BETTER OFF OUT.
11.15 a.m – What should be in the Conservative European manifesto 2009?
The Freedom Association presents an open discussion featuring Douglas Carswell MPTherese Coffey
(Prospective European Parliamentary Candidate for the South East), Jean-Paul Floru (PEPC for London),
Daniel Hannan MEPRoger Helmer MEPSyed Kamall MEPRupert Matthews (PEPC for the East Midlands),
Stuart Wheeler and Zehra Zaidi (PEPC for the South West).
12.15 p.m. – Book Signing
Douglas Carswell MP and Daniel Hannan MEP will be signing copies of their newly published book, The Plan 
twelve months to renew Britain in the Canal-Side Coffee Lounge, adjoining the Kingston Theatre.
12.30 p.m. – An Audience with the Rt Hon David Davis MP
Total Politics presents broadcaster and blogger Iain Dale in conversation with the former Shadow Home
2.30 p.m. – Freedom and the Internet
The Free Society presents a panel discussion chaired by Iain Dale. Panellists include top bloggers Nadine
Dorries MPPhil Hendren (Dizzy Thinks), Chris Mounsey (Devil’s Kitchen), Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes).
3.00 p.m. – Making the most of your MEP Candidate for Fundraising and Campaigning
Discussion led by Rupert Matthews, Prospective European Parliamentary Candidate for the East Midlands.
Canal-Side Coffee Lounge, adjoining the Kingston Theatre.
4.00 p.m. – You Can’t Do That! The Anti-Social Regulation of Public Space
The Free Society and The Manifesto Club present a discussion chaired by politics lecturer James Panton (St
John's College, Oxford). Speakers include Simon Clark (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking
Tobacco) and Suzy Dean (Manifesto Club).
5.30 p.m. – Heffer's Half Hour
The Freedom Association presents the Daily Telegraph's Simon Heffer commenting on the top political issues of
the day and answering questions from the audience. Chairman: Roger Helmer MEP, Chairman of The Freedom
6.15 p.m. – Breaking Free from the Broken Society
The Freedom Association presents a discussion featuring speakers with first hand experience of tackling social
problems, including Simon Marcus of the London Boxing Academy Community Project. Chairman: Philip
Davies MP, Freedom Association Council Member.
7.15 p.m. – Liberty Live! Political Chat Show
The Free Society presents a political chat show starring writer and broadcaster Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas,
Radio 4's The Moral Maze, Claire Fox News) + special guests and live music. Watch this space!
DAY TWO Tuesday 30th September 2008
8.00 a.m. – Another Big Bad Breakfast
Complimentary bacon and sausage butties with tea or coffee. Canal-Side Coffee Lounge, adjoining the Kingston
Theatre. Can you hack it?
10.00 p.m. – Freedom from High Taxes
The Selsdon Group, in partnership with The Freedom Association, presents the Rt, Hon. John Redwood MP,
chairman, Economic Competitiveness Policy Group, and Matthew Elliott, chief executive, TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Chaired by Michael Fallon MP, the senior Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee and
Chairman of the Treasury Sub-Committee.
12.30 p.m. – Liberal Paternalism and the Nanny State
The Free Society presents a panel discussion chaired by Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas). Speakers include Dr.
Eamonn Butler, Director, Adam Smith Institute; and Brian Monteith, former MSP now Policy Director, The Free
2.30 p.m. – Free Thinking on Climate Change
The Freedom Association presents Caroline Boin, environment programme director at International Policy
Network, Ruth Lea, director of Global Vision and economic adviser to Arbuthnot Banking Group and
Christopher Monckton (Viscount Monckton of Brenchley), former adviser to Margaret Thatcher's policy unit.
Chairman: Roger Helmer MEP, Chairman of The Freedom Association.
4.00 p.m. – “This House Believes that the TV Licence is Incompatible with Individual
The Freedom Association presents a debate with the motion proposed by Alex Deane, barrister, author, former
chief of staff to David Cameron and a World Universities Debating Champion and John Whittingdale OBE MP,
Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and a Freedom Association
Council Member. Chairman: Nigel Hastilow, Regional Director, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England
and Wales.
5.30 p.m. – Cigarettes and Civil Liberties
The smokers' lobby group Forest, in association with Free Spirits, the group for young supporters of The
Freedom Association and BETTER OFF OUT, presents a champagne reception with free booze and live music in
the lounge bar and courtyard. Smokers VERY welcome. (Say NO to the nanny state!)
7.30 p.m. – Tories Got Talent!
Political talent show presented by broadcaster and blogger Iain Dale. Judges include Nadine Dorries MP,
Jonathan Isaby, Editor of the Daily Telegraph Three Line Whip column and Dr. Madsen Pirie (Adam Smith
My Week
 Wednesday 17th September
Bow Group Reception at the International Bar. Enjoyable evening.
L to R - Annesley Abercorn (Chairman), Jeremy Hunt MP ( Shadow Minister for Sport & Culture), Ryan Shorthouse (Political Officer)
Bow Summer 08.JPG (1544663 bytes)Friday 19th SptemberMichael Gove MP and Sheela Mackintosh (Chairman - Bucks. Supper Club)
Magnificent speech by Michael Gove oozing confidence, but with just the right amount of humility.   Very good evening.
Michaelo Gove sept 08.JPG (791378 bytes)
israel-palestine.JPG (2200276 bytes)Tuesday 16th SptemberPaths to Peace: Proposals to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   Discussion organized by intelligence2 at Central Hall, Westminster.   Interesting.   Excellent speech by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, which received sustained applause.   He is a democracy activist in Palestine.   Good speech from Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP.  A speech from Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dyan, called for the immediate evacuation of Israeli settlers from Palestinian territory.   The audience did not expect to see the conflict resolved within five years, although the platform speakers did.

Death of the Conservative Party Conference
The Agenda for this years Conference looks very dull, but the fringe meetings are more numerous and bigger than ever.    The end result is that there will be few people in the Conference Hall.    More fringe meetings are being held whilst the Conference is sitting.
When I first went to Conference it lasted from Tuesday lunch time to Saturday lunch time.   Now it is from 11am Sunday to Wednesday lunch time.   Lunch is now two hours, there are morning and afternoon breaks.   For the first time there are no indications in the Agenda of when ordinary members can participate.   There are no Standing Orders for debate, but if there is no debate I suppose you don't need them.   It has become purely a media presentation.   Sad, we are seeing the death throws of the Conference.   Soon it will be called the Conservative Convention and modelled on the Republican Convention.   Is it any wonder that Party membership is falling even at a time when we are doing so well in the opinion polls?
As Hienrich Haussmann has shown, a single pfennig invested at five per cent compound interest in the year AD 0 would have yielded, by 1990, a volume of gold 134 billion times the weight of the planet.
My Week
September 13th - COPOV meeting at   Abbotts Ann in Hampshire.   Good meeting, nice hall, continuing concern about Europe.
September 11th - meeting of COPOV Management Committee.

As the state advances inexorably further and further into our lives, incessantly nibbling away at our liberty, it shows less and less competence in dealing with the complexity of the real world outside the bureaucrat’s office.   We are witnessing a slow but certain constipation of the primary functions of government because there is now so much regulation.   We, the governed, are entering a surreal world where the more offences the state finds us committing, then the more powers it needs to check up on us and penalise us.   As we react to this intrusion and modify our behaviour into avoidance, the state finds yet more regulation to ensure compliance; and so the ratchet tightens again.   As individuals become more furtive and covert in hiding normal and previously legitimate activity from the state, society as a whole becomes less productive, unhappy, unfulfilled, less vital and less creative.   At the same time it also becomes angrier, more introverted, divided, violent, and spiritually and morally corrupt.   In the end, we all become criminals.  Criminality – real criminality – goes from a relatively rare event to commonplace until finally it becomes almost universal.
Note: This is a précis of an article on by   David Eyles about Magna Carta
My Week
Lord Hurd.JPG (719860 bytes)Friday September 5thLord Douglas Hurd at the Witney Book Festival.    He spoke about the four Prime Ministers he has known - Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, plus Robert Peel whose biography he has written.    Interesting evening full of anecdotes.
September 4th
                                                                              Liberty 1.JPG (984363 bytes)
Sir Edward Coke Memorial Lecture at St. Giles Church, Stoke Poges given by Shami  Chakrabarti with Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve MP, followed by a reception at Stoke Park Club.   The lecture was first class, as was Dominic Grieve's response.   An excellent evening.   Sir Edward Coke lived in Stoke Poges.
In the Case of Prohibitions (1607) a historical English court decision was made that established the supremacy of the courts.   King James I placed himself in the position of judge for a dispute.   When the case went before Edward Coke, the Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, he overturned the decision of the King and held that cases must only be tried by those with legal training and must be subject to the rule of law.   Coke famously describes the function of judges as being "not to make but to declare the law, according to the golden mete-wand of the law and not by the crooked cord of discretion."   What a hero.
Merger with the Ulster Unionists
Disturbing stories are emerging about the talks with the Ulster Unionists.   A working party met this week.    I hear that it is proposed that a Grand Committee will choose the candidates for the General Election.   There will be three Conservative and two Ulster Unionist candidates.   A Catholic will be chosen for South Belfast.    If this is correct it will be a disgrace.   Religion should not be involved in the selection of candidates, and what about the grass roots members.    Any selection process which does not give them the final say should be totally condemned.
Incidentally as the Hon. President of the South Belfast Conservative Association I would be particularly offended if this is all true.
PS   I gather that there is no way Ulster Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon will take the Conservative Whip.   Not surprising since she has voted with the government 95% of the time she has been in the House of Commons.
My Week
garden party 1.JPG (1447918 bytes)garden party 2.JPG (1318352 bytes)garden party 3.JPG (845647 bytes)Saturday 30th AugustCOPOV Summer Party
The sun shone,   Great attendance.   Interesting quiz, barbecue, outstanding raffle, good food and wine.   What more could you want?
Many thanks for all your support
Thursday August 28th
Meeting of the Management Committee of the National Conservative Draws Society.   The Society goes from strength to strength.   The organiser - Philip Dumville - deserves great credit for all his hard work.   The Summer Draw was another success.   Since its formation the Society has raised over £12 million for the Conservative Party.    In the last twelve months it has paid £800,000 to Central Office making it one of the Party's biggest donors.   All the money it raises is in small amounts from huge numbers of ordinary people.   What a contrast to the Labour Party, which in the second quarter of this year, one Trade Union gave it 40% of its total income.

Road to Democracy
In an article in The Independent this week by Andrew Buncombe about Pakistan, he wrote about Benazir Bhutto's son Bilawal.    He said " He, like his father, is unelected; they share the chairmanship of the party and hold their positions simply because Benazir named them as her successors.   It is a bit of a joke."   It is easy to condemn these funny foreigners, except that the Chairmen of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom hold their positions because they are simply appointed.   Bit of a joke really!
My Week
Saturday 23 August
Went to the National Theatre to see "Her Naked Skin", a play about the suffragettes.   The play had great potential but got diverted into a lesbian drama.   Sad.    The programme was better than the play for it gave a brief history of the suffragettes.   One of the things which surprised me was how vibrant the South Bank is on a Saturday night.   You could spend an enjoyable evening without spending a penny.   On Saturday there was old time dancing to a big band, miming, acrobatics etc.   All good stuff.
Party Conference (1)
Expected attendance at the Conservative Party Conference - 8,500.   Expected attendance at the Labour Party conference - 15,000.   I wonder if  the reason could be that at the Labour Conference they actually have motions for debate, whereas at the Conservative Conference it is just a media presentation.   Incidentally numbers at the Tory conference will be up, but it is lobbyists and the media which will put up numbers, not Party members.
Party Conference (2)
I hear that it is proposed that Sir Reg Empey and Jim Nicholson MEP are to be given a standing ovation at the Conference.    This is a bit premature.   Let us see how many Ulster Unionists join the Conservative Party before we count our chickens.
In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in England,
and said:

Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the
end of all flesh before me.   Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying: "You have 6 months to build the Ark
before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights".

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard -
but no Ark.

Noah! He roared, I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?
Forgive me, Lord, begged Noah, 'but things have changed.    I needed a building permit.   I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.
My neighbours claim that I've violated the neighbourhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the
Appeal Board for a decision.

Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines  and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea.   I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.
Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me.   They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will.   They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.
Then the Environmental Agency ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an impact study on your proposed flood.

I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.

Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work.

The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

To make matters worse, the HM Customs seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched
across the sky.  Noah looked up in wonder and asked,   'You mean you're not going to destroy the world?'
'No,' said the Lord.
'This Labour government beat me to it.

Ulster Unionists
Talks are being held with a view to bringing the Ulster Unionists into the Conservative Party.   This could be good for Northern Ireland but the Conservatives should be sensitive to their members in Northern Ireland who have stuck by them through thick and thin over the last twenty years.    There is however one thing we can learn from the Ulster Unionists.    Last year they took the decision that all their Party offices should be elected by their members.   They should demand the same in the Conservative Party as a condition of the merger.   That would be good for the Conservative Party.   I wonder if it would be accpted?
Conservative Party Accounts for 2007
The Balance Sheet of the Party as at 31 December 2007 is looking much more healthy than it has done for some time.   The reason is because of the sale of 32 Smith Square,   but underneath things are not so good.   The Party still has negative assets of £7.75 million.    Its surplus for the year of £1.571 million was after receiving £5.104 million in State funding.   This funding will disappear when we take office in government.
Creditors falling due within one year amount to £16.797 million, yet our total income for the year amounted to £33.509 million, so six months income will go to paying off current debts.
The bureaucracy of Central Office continues to rise at an alarming rate.   Management and Administration expenses have increased from £7.275 million to £9.302 million.   Other Expenditure has gone up from £1.825 million to £3.421 million.   In 2005 other expenditure was £638,000.   What is all this?
Our membership has fallen further to 243,000.   This at a time when it should be going up.  Although there are signs that the Party has given up on membership.   It does not suit the oligarchs in Central Office.
The most dangerous man in Europe.
A proposal by Labour MEP Richard Corbett to give unelected staff of the European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering the right to veto all written questions to the European Commission was approved by the European Parliament by 501 votes to 183.   Does it remind you of turkeys voting for Christmas?   This was the same MEP that moved for an increase in the size of the political groups before they can get European funding.   It is quite clear that this man is an opponent of democracy and has got too big for his boots.    Time for him to be brought down to size.
Party Constitution
I hear that the Eastern Region of the Party is being organised like the old Areas.   Add this to the North East, North West and Yorkshire which are also run on a similar basis and we can see that the Party is slowly moving back to a sensible structure.   It is time for Southern Region to do the same.   In fact it is time the current structure of the Party was scrapped and a new one brought in.
My week
Spent the week in the South of France.    Very hot.   Managed to read Anthony Seldon's book Blair Unbound.   This is a definitive book about the Blair administration from 2001 to 2007.   Excellent book.   If you want to understand the Labour Party and why it has so many problems, this is the book to read.   It illustrates the personal pernicious way in which the Labour Party conducts its politics.    It helps you understand why Labour is finished as a Party and will soon implode.   I cannot think of a nastier bunch of self serving people.
My week
summer party trg.JPG (612704 bytes)22 JulyTRG Summer Party
Ken Clarke MP, Lord Lawson and Greg Clark MP
Good party, lots of interesting people.   Sound not so good, so could not hear what the speakers had to say.
constitution unit seminar.JPG (875498 bytes)23 JulyConstitution Unit seminar on a Bill of Rights.
Francesca Klug (left) was very impressive.   Chaired by Roger King.
Very interesting.   I had to defend the Conservative Party from an attack by a silly woman who asked "What does the Conservative Party know about human rights"?

MP Expenses
Congratulations to the Conservative Party for publishing the expenses of Conservative MPs.   David Cameron is following exactly the right policy in taking this courageous action.   He should inform those few MPs that have refused to disclose their expenses that the Whip will be withdrawn from them.   Glancing through the claims it is quite clear that the majority of Conservative MPs are being perfectly reasonable and sensible about their claims.   It is also clear that a few are abusing the public's trust.    Their Associations should put pressure on them to bring them into line.
That will then leave the MEPs to be dealt with.   As we have said before, the re-selection process should be re-run with all candidates included in the total lists for ranking by Party members, after Party members have been told which MEPs refused to comply with full disclosure.   Let the members vote.
My week
Sunday 20th JulyGerrards Cross Conservatives Summer Garden Party.    Very enjoyable.
Left to right
Hosts David and Eileen Peters, myself, Heather Harper (Chairman BCCA) Brian Harper and Deirdre Holloway
GX garden party.JPG (1727024 bytes)There has to be a raffle.   Picking the winning tickets is Chairman of Gerrards Cross branch Santokh Chhokargx raffle.JPG (1331041 bytes)
Law making Hansard.JPG (1289525 bytes)Wednesday 16 JulyHansard conference on Law in the Making
This interesting conference was about influence and change in the legislative process.    It was the culmination of 18 months of research.   Unfortunately it did not cover Government bribery (remember 42 days) or the influence of money.    Big audience, mainly young people.   Well done Hansard.
meeting copov 19 july.JPG (776730 bytes)Saturday 19 JulyCOPOV meeting at the Orpington Association offices.    Good meeting well attended.   Some excellent contributions.    Concern was expressed at Central Office interference in local associations.
Many thanks to the Orpington Conservatives.

European Democracy?
This week it was decided that for political groupings to get taxpayer funding from the European Parliament they must have at least 25 members from at least seven countries.   It is quite wrong that these political groupings should get any funding at all, but if there is to be funding it should go to each individual MEP regardless of whether they are in a group or not.    The two big groups of the Socialists and the EPP have come up with this undemocratic scheme.   It is an affront to democracy.   It will also put increased pressure on the Conservative Party in the next parliament if they wish to be independent from the EPP.   Rather than becoming more democratic the European Parliament is going in the opposite direction.   It must be stopped.
My week
Mathew Elliott.JPG (977684 bytes)Friday 11 JulyMathew Elliott signing copies of his book "The Bumper Book Of Government Waste 2008"   Mathew is the Chief Executive of The Taxpayers Alliance.   They are doing a terrific job.    I hope David Cameron is listening.
Anthony Barnett DD Campaign.JPG (1598939 bytes)Wednesday/Thursday 9/10 JulyLeft: Helping David Davis to win the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.   Met up with Anthony Barnett who was the first Director of Charter 88.   It was great to see people from different parties helping David Davis in this by-election.   It was a great victory for liberty and freedom in our country.   Many congratulations to David Davis for striking a blow for freedom.
                                  right: Caroline Strafford canvassing.
IMG_0103.JPG (903764 bytes)
Monday 7 JulyBaroness Pauline Neville-Jones at a Tory Reform Group supper.   Excellent speech.   She is a credit to the Tory front bench.Neville jones trg.JPG (751218 bytes)

This week was a week of shame for our parliamentary democracy.   MPs decided against reform of their expenses.   Credit to David Cameron and the Conservative front bench for voting in favour of reform, but shame on the Conservative backbenchers that did not support them.
This week is the David Davis by-election.   I hope that he gets a big turnout, thus demonstrating that the people are interested in defending our freedoms.   If you can go to Haltemprice and show your support.    This is a critical issue.    Anthony Barnett has written a compelling article on the opendemocracy web site.   It is well worth a read.
Trialogue - How democracy is subverted.
Under the Trialogue system the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Minister get together in secret and decide on legislation to be put before the European Parliament.   No less than 72% of legislation was dealt with in this way for the first reading.   Isn't it cosy.    All sorted out before we the people know what is happening.
My week
Will Hutton.JPG (1103610 bytes)Friday/Saturday 4/5th JulyCharter 88 and the Constitutional Reform Movement Conference at Oxford University.
left Anthony Barnett and Will Hutton
right David Erdos Vicky Seddon (Chaitman Charter 88)and Mathew Flinders
This was a terrific conference - a mixture of serious academics and those with detailed knowledge of campaigning.   Will Hutton had some great anecdotes.    The conference marked the twentieth anniversary of Charter 88.    Congratulations to David Erdos for organising it.
Charter 88.JPG (953558 bytes)
Victory Club.JPG (1072027 bytes)Friday 4th JulyBeaconsfield Conservatives Victory Club Party.    Lovely evening and the club raises about £2,000 per annum for the Conservatives.   Philip Dumville - Agent for Beaconsfield(far left, back to the camera) organised the evening.   Food was delicious.

The story that Central Office put out regarding Caroline Spellman's expenses is unravelling by the day.   This cannot go on.   She should either be suspended from her role as Party Chairman or she should resign.   Enough is enough!    The next question will be Did she declare and pay National Insurance and tax on the payments she made to her nanny?
Cllr. Derek Tipp is campaigning for the truth to be known.   He says:

I am writing to ask if you would consider signing the Manhattan Declaration on climate change? It is a petition to counter the current hysteria and show that many people are concerned about our government's over-reaction.

IMG_0096.JPG (1771911 bytes)Thursday 19th JuneBaroness Neville-Jones addresses the Conservative Group for Europe on "Security in the context of Europe".

MP and MEP Expenses<#p> Sadly, once again we have seen this week the ogre of sleaze raised about the Tory Party.   The issue of expenses will not go away.   It is probably worse in the European Parliament than at Westminster because of the secrecy

Electoral Reform Society.JPG (1544341 bytes)Tuesday 10th JuneMartin Linton MP

My Week
Nick Herbert MP.JPG (1508610 bytes)June 2ndLeft: Lee Summers with Nick Herbert MP at the TRG supper club.    As these suppers are held on Chatham House rules all I can say is that in a vigorous question time Nick Herbert gave some very interesting answers.Nick Herbert TRG.JPG (1705056 bytes)

My Week
Heather Harper Party.jpg (437728 bytes)L to R: Ian Johnson, Damon Clark, Heather Harper (Chairman, Beaconsfoeld Conservatives), Dominic Grieve QC MPJune 1st
A quiet week politically but ended with a most enjoyable occasion.   The Chairman of Beaconsfield invited all the members of the Association to duck racing (plastic) at her home.   Drinks, nibbles all free, but the event raised a large sum of money for the Party.
This was grass roots Conservatism at its best.   It did not matter whether you were poor or rich, all were welcome.   A great occasion and congratulations to Heather and her team for making it so enjoyable.

***** Star of the Week ***** This has got to be a five star week for the Conservative Party.    The victory in the Crewe by-election is the most significant political event for sixteen years.   Congratulations to all concerned.   The result is the first real sign that the Conservative Party could form the next Government with an overall majority in the House of Commons.   The turnout of 58% was on a par with a General Election.
One point to bear in mind.    The forecast majority in a General Election is 328 seats.   Is it fair that with our electoral system a Party that gets just 49% of the votes and just 28% of the electorate voting for it, ends up with 75% of the seats?
State Funding for Party Conferences
Many Party members will be giving the Party Conference a miss this year due to the high cost of attending.   The Application online costs £68.00 or £78.00 if done by post.   In addition the cost of hotels in Birmingham is putting a lot of members off.   Soon the Party conference will have no members at all.   It was with interest that I saw the following advertising by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations:
Smaller charities invited to apply for party conference bursary scheme
Following on from the success of last year, NCVO is once again inviting smaller charities (with incomes of less than £500,000) to submit applications to attend one of the three main Political Party Conferences in 2008 as part of the Party Conference Bursary Scheme.
Party Conferences can be tremendously useful forums for bringing together charities with relevant peer groups and politicians, however, the cost can often prohibit smaller charities from attending. Last year, for the first time, NCVO offered fifteen charities the chance to attend the Conferences. This opportunity ensured that the views and interests of smaller organisations with limited income were represented at the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat conferences, despite not having access to sizeable budgets.
Jim Vaughan from the British Federation of Youth Marching Band Organisations was one of the organisations that attended the Liberal Democrat conference in 2007
Organisations from within community and voluntary sector interested in applying for a week’s pass to the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat party conferences plus two nights accommodation and travel, should contact NCVO’s Parliamentary Campaigns Officer.
This raises some interesting issues.   Is it the taxpayer that funds the National Council of Voluntary Organisations?   Are we moving to Party funding by stealth?   Of the 8,000 people expected at the Tory Conference only about 2,000 will be Party members.   The others are media, exhibition stand organisers, large donors and now we find uncle Tom Cobley and all coming in.   This used to be a Conference for the members of the Conservative Party.    No longer - no debates, no discussion, no participation.   Why should a Party member go at all?   Why is it that the Party hierarchy fails to understand that a Party without members will eventually collapse.   You can get a large number of helpers at a by-election but it is a different matter when we have to fight a General Election.   There is a huge prize just waiting for the Party which is genuinely democratic.   That prize is government of the country.
My Week
Desmond Swayne MP.JPG (2101211 bytes)Saturday 24 MayDesmond Swayne MP addressing a meeting of the COPOV forum at Colbury, Hampshire.   He made an excellent speech and answered questions openly and honestly in a vigorous manner.   He is a great credit to the Tory Party and very impressive.   I hope David Cameron listens to him.Sunday 25 MayAnne Main MP thanks members of the Beaconsfield Conservative Association for their help during the local elections in St. Albans.    This was a very enjoyable occasion.Anne Main MP.JPG (2253778 bytes)
Tuesday 20th MayPete Picton, the Editor of Sun Online chairs a Hansard Society meeting on e-Petitions. He was joined by Bethan Jenkins of the National Assembly for Wales and Andy Williamson of the Hansard Society.   The House of Commons is trying to improve its handling of e-Petitions.   It could learn from the National Assembly for Wales which ensures that action is taken on the petitions it receives.   There is still an element of arrogance in the proposals before the House of Commons which unfortunately the Hansard Society seemed to support.Hansard e-petitions.JPG (2029864 bytes)COPOV committee.JPG (2160025 bytes)Thursday 22 MayAn enjoyable meeting of the COPOV Management Committee.    From left to right: Myself, Stephen Parker, Anne Egleton, Cllr Julia Long, Cllr Derek Tipp, Cllr Trevor Egleton and Jo Sommer.
My Week
Maria miller Bucks supper club.JPG (2045286 bytes)Friday 16th MayMaria Miller MP at the Buckinghamshire Supper Club with the Chairman Sheela Mackintosh.   Former Chairman of Beaconsfield Association Brian Rigby shares the Joke.
I was very impressed with Maria Miller.   She was straight forward in answering questions and a credit to the Conservative front bench.
Bruce Anderson City Conservatives.JPG (1491510 bytes)Tuesday May 13thBruce Anderson spoke to the City Conservative Forum.    The meeting was chaired by Keith Laurence.   Bruce was on good form.Gillian Shepherd Off the loggers.JPG (1745499 bytes)Tuesday 13th May
Baroness Gillian Shephard speaks to the "Off the Loggers".  John Mason, Chairman of "Off the Loggers looks up with interest. In reply to a question from myself she responded that the Conservative policy of a mainly elected House of Lords had not been policy very long and she hoped wouldn't be policy much longer.   I hope for the sake of democracy she is wrong.
Ken Clarke & Ian Taylor CGE.JPG (1748379 bytes)Monday 12th MayKen Clarke MP addressing the Conservative Group for Europe watched on by Ian Taylor MP - Chairman of CGE.
Ken Clarke asked an interesting question- When was the last time a European regulation imposed on the British people against the wishes of the British Government?    Let COPOV know the answer.
Party Finance
At one time the Conservative Party would never accept any donations which had strings attached to them.   It appears to have changed this policy so that a donor can stipulate how the money should be used, e. g. to finance the office of a Shadow Minister.   It is quite clear that in some cases the objective would appear to be to obtain some influence, why otherwise should an estate agent or mortgage broker finance the office of the Shadow Minister for Housing?   This practise should stop immediately and we should revert to the former principle.   We should not accept any donation with any strings attached.
As Others see us by James O'Fee
John Strafford's theme in his speech last Friday to the North Down Conservative Supper Club was the decline of our democracy. This is a subject into whose historic roots John has researched deeply. John is Chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.
John is an old friend of ours. 21 years ago, without any Irish family connections, John first became interested in the affairs of Northern Ireland as a result of receiving several circular letters. At the time John was Chairman of the Beaconfield Conservative Association, with 6,100 members, one of the wealthiest and most powerful Conservative Associations in the country. Before that, John had been on the Conservative Group on Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council.

John's voice will be a familiar one to those who follow politics closely. Over the years he has given over 500 interviews on radio and television. The media always call on John as the Conservative Party Conference approaches.

In 1988 we formed the North Down Conservative Association (followed by constituency associations in other Northern Ireland constituencies) and applied for affiliation to the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations i.e. for recognition as an official Conservative Association. We expected resistance from the hierarchy of the Conservative Party and the National Union, so we assembled in numbers to press our case at the 1988 Tory Party Conference in Brighton (which was, more correctly, the Conference of the National Union).

The final debate in the conference was on Party Organisation and John was called to speak last in that debate. Margaret Thatcher's conference address followed immediately so that Mrs T and the entire hierarchy of the Conservative Party was sitting behind John as he made his speech. Of course, John's speech was entirely loyal but the sting was in the tail. He called for the Conservative associations of Northern Ireland to become fully recognised.

Immediately John became a hero to us activists from Northern Ireland. Exiting the conference he crossed a group who had been watching the speech on a television screen in a retailer's. They mobbed John at once with their congratulations and invited him at once to visit Northern Ireland to speak. He accepted and the following Friday addressed a packed meeting.

Our popular democracy today is and must remain party politics. The health of our democracy, therefore, can be measured by the health of our political parties. 21 years ago, the Beaconsfield Conservative Association had 6,100 members. Today it has lost the large majority of its membership and membership stands at 1,600 members. And the Labour Party, John pointed out, stands even worse. Labour has lost even more members than the Conservatives.

21 years ago, the Conservative Party raised a large proportion of its funds, the bulk in fact, through local associstions. Today that has fallen away and the Party raises more money from huge individual donations from wealthy individuals. The same goes for Labour.

The result has been the loss of influence on the Party Leaderships by the rank-and-file members, breeding further disillusion in the branches.

John pointed to financial scandals in Britain and (even worse) in Europe, and the lack of financial accountability. He believes that both the Chairman and the Treasurer of the Conservative Party should be elected by popular vote, rather than appointed by the Leader. He believes that there should be an Annual General Meeting where the office-holders would report to members on their stewardship.

John believes that the annual Party Conferences have today become a waste of time. They are so controlled by the Leadership and the spin-doctors that genuine open disagreement and debate has become impossible.

The response of many in authority to John's campaign ever seems to resemble that of Saint Augustine - "Chastity, but not yet." John, may your courageous efforts bear fruit.

My Week
JS at North Down Supper Club.JPG (2176139 bytes)John Strafford addressing the North Down Conservative Supper Club.    On my right is Myrtle Boal, the Chairman of the Supper Club.You will not meet any more enthusiastic, loyal, Conservatives than the Conservatives in Northern Ireland.   For too long they have not been given the support they deserve from the Conservative Party.   I hope this will change.   They should have a full time professional helping them.   If anyone would like to sponsor their invaluable work I would be happy to put them in touch.
My wife and I were superbly well looked after whilst we were in Northern Ireland.    It was so nice to meet up with old friends.   We were particularly grateful to Terry Dick - former Chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives - for showing us around on Friday.
Party Conference
The cost to apply to attend the party conference this year is a whacking great £68.00 if your application is done on line.    However, if you send in a postal application it will cost you another £10.00 supplement.   Many of our older members do not use computers so they will be faced with a total bill of £78.00.   This is disgraceful.   Once again, members are treated with contempt.   Ever since Central office took over the Conference from the National Union it has deteriorated.   Do they want members any more?   I am beginning to wonder.
How not to win friends
We are fighting a critically important by-election in Crewe, which hopefully we will win so why does John Maples, the Deputy Chairman (Candidates), and Shireen Ritchie (Chairman of the Candidates Committee) send out a threatening email to all parliamentary candidates?   It reads:
"PLEASE make sure that you give as much time to campaigning there yourself as you possibly can, or help by telephone surveying key electors from CCHQ.
This note is going to all candidates on the List, but obviously it is much easier for those of you in the North West, or close in the Midlands, to give time.   We expect those candidates to help unless you have some compelling excuse.   We are keeping a record of who helps and how much, so make sure you stay in our good books!"
Note the bold type.   Big Brother is watching you!    This is not the way to get the best out of people, but then as both the Deputy Chairman and the Chairman are unelected and unaccountable, perhaps we should not expect anything better.

Star of the Week *** The Conservative Party***
for its spectacular results in the local elections and in the London Mayoral election.   Congratulations to all involved.
My week
During the local election campaign I spent time canvassing in Slough and telling and literature distribution in St Albans.   We won both wards in which I was working, but what was disappointing was that the Labour Party took control of Slough and the Liberal Democrats took control of St. Albans.   The Tories could have won both seats if they had had better organisation and more mutual aid.
Prior to the Party re-organisation in 1998 the Areas drew up a Regional Strategy for mutual aid.   Was there a strategy?   Is anybody looking at this?   Southern Region seems to have gone missing.   I get the impression things are better in the North of England.   With the decline in Party members a strategy is vital to use the resources in the best locations.    Otherwise we may get a very high share of the vote but the seats gained will be minimal.   Central Office need to take this on board.
001.JPG (2470136 bytes)< John Strafford
                                      Caroline Strafford >

   About to start a 3 hour telling session
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Party Conference
Those of you who have applied to go to the Party Conference will have noticed that included in the application fee is £3.00 for "carbon offsetting charge".   Is this political correctness gone mad?    Who decided this charge?   How was it calculated?   Who gets the proceeds?   I think we should be told.   I was hoping that with the increased scepticism about man-made climate change our Party would start to show common sense on the subject.   It is the biggest political con trick of the century.   The people do not believe it.   When politicians espouse it, is it any wonder the people do not believe the politicians?   Birmingham is expensive enough as it is for a conference.   There is no need to increase the cost with this stupidity.   Anybody want to bet that the numbers attending this year's conference will be the lowest ever?   When will the party start to think about the grass roots?
An unpopular Prime Minister,a hapless Chancellor presiding over a severe economic downturn and a tired government stumbling from one crisis to another – these are the main features of the current political climate.
This should come as no surprise to Conservatives for,after long periods in government,we too have been the victims of the voters’ wrath and severely punished when the actual poll has taken place.  Labour is now paying the price for its over optimism,its reckless spending spree and concealed catastrophic economic policies. For the long term effects of all this still have to be felt – the massive debts being left for future generations to grapple with.
It is hardly surprising,then,that we are anything between 10 and 18 points ahead in the opinion polls and touching the magic 43 to 44% needed to form a government Surely we would all be worried were this not the case ?
The government’s problems are of its own making. In order to grab the next day’s headlines and to wrong foot us, Gordon Brown in his last budget cut the standard rate of income tax from 22% to 20%. I remember the whoops of delight coming from the Labour benches then. But they had not properly read or properly understood the small print – namely the abolition of the 10% band affecting millions of low paid workers. Now there is a massive back tracking with people being compensated in different ways (for example increasing the winter fuel allowance or increase in tax credits) and total confusion in the process. And if you try ringing the Revenue & Customs each time you will be met with the reply : ‘All our staff are currently engaged. Please ring back later.’ And when you do so, the reply is exactly the same. It is complete and utter chaos.
I am writing this three days before the local elections and election for the Mayor of London. To take the London Mayoralty first. We have to admit that initially we had difficulty in finding a candidate (hence David Cameron’s abortive attempt in trying to join forces with the Liberal Democrats) and in Boris Johnson we have someone who is well known and who with his wit and boyish charm can make us all laugh.(as he indeed did so jn those dark days of opposition when nothing seemed to be going right and our opinion poll ratings were poor). Yet even today I’m not sure whether he can pull it off and Ken Livingstone may well win again. This will result in continued cronyism and a substantial waste of ratepayers money in funding those weird causes so dear to the left winger. And if Livingstone succeeds (and heaven help Londoners if he does) then he will by 2012  have been in power for 12 years ; longer than Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and he will have outlasted her for 22 years. It is as though she never existed. Livingstone’s cunning in courting carefully selected groups – gays,blacks,ethnic minorities,the Irish,the public sector workers will have paid dividends.  How right was Lord Jenkin,a former Secretary  of  State in Margaret Thatcher’s early governements,when he said : ‘We have ejected a left wing nut (from the GLC) and turned him into a folk hero.’
The local elections are more difficult to predict. We should do well particularly in those sub urban and rural seats which we need to win to form a government. I suspect little or no progress will be made in the big northern cities – Liverpool, Manchester , Sheffield and Newcastle . But based on my own big city experience ( Cardiff ) I’m not surprised. For many years Conservatives were often in control (particularly during periods of a Labour government). Things began to change in the early seventies with the abolition of the business vote. Then in the eighties and nineties large groups from other countries came over and took over houses from inner City Labour voters who then moved into the leafy suburbs and starting voting Liberal Democrat. The Conservatives from those leafy suburbs moved even further out and into the more rural areas which were not part of the city. So I don’t subscribe to the theory that in order to win we need to gain seats in the large cities.  Having said that, I would be disappointed if we lost seats in Birmingham,where we are in coalition with the Liberal Democrats,BradfordLeeds, Coventry and Bristol .
In my own area we are four seats away from outright control and in theory we should be able to replace the Labour/Nationalist?Independent coalition which runs the council. But this may not happen if the Labour voters do not abstain and vote nationalist instead. The Welsh Assembly is run by a Labou/Nationalist coalition. They fight each other tooth and nail and are often at each other’s throats but soon settle their differences when fighting what they regard as the common enemy  i.e. us.
In my own ward there are three seats and we should poll about 65% of the vote. The Nationalists are putting up two candidates and Labour one.  So there is collusion between them. In the parliamentary battle we have an excellent candidate who is well known and who lives in the area. He ran the sitting Labour M.P. quite close in 2005 with a 4% swing and has an excellent chance of winning in 2009/2010. He is already taking up causes for people in the constituency even though he is not yet the M.P.
The present situation and disarray in the government has certainly made us more confident but,hopefully,not complacent.  The Prime Minister will fight every inch of the way to remain in Downing Street and will want to win a General Election in his own right. He has all the benefits of incumbency.  But to many he is a remote and somewhat isolated figure (much like Edward Heath). While accepting his claim to be the joint architect of new Labour, there are many in his own party who feel he lacks the vision to carry through the necessary reforms not only to the public services but to things such as council tax,now a heavy burden on many and particularly for those on fixed incomes. Brown revels in the power of the state to control and direct things. But in the field of say pensions, he seems not to accept or to conveniently ignore the widening gap between those in the public sector who retire at 60 on inflation proofed schemes based on 2/3rds of their average last three years salary and those who have not been treated nearly as favourably. And flying the Union flag over Downing Street on St. George’s Day was,in my view, a gimmick. If the Prime Minister was serious in placating the English he would without fail seriously address the West Lothian question and do something about the extra subsidy given toScotland,courtesy of the English taxpayers under the Barnett formula.
David Cameron’s greatest assets are his comparative youth and his optimism for the future. To his credit he does not try to hide his upper middle class background and he is proud of the school where he was educated.  In view of the present polls, the Prime Minister,like John Major,will probably let Parliament run to 2010. We have time to put much more flesh on the bones of policy and we,too, need the ‘vision’ thing. We need to know how a Conservative government would differ from the present one. I myself would like to see a commitment not to raise taxation and a f ull review of the present tax/benefits system. We need better value for what is already spent (and who now denies there is massive government waste ?), a reduction in the power of the state and its excessive bureaucracy (George Orwell was writing 24 years too early) and a much better deal for the elderly who too often are regarded as a burden on scarce resources. As Conservatives, we tend to resist change but if and when it comes we have always had the extraordinary capacity to accept it. At the same time we are a party of diversity and choice,recognising that people have different and varying aspirations. The state can and should assist in certain things but as servant of the people not master. One of the most damning indictments of the present government is that it has massively increased the number of people who either work for the state or who are dependent on it for state benefits – the so called ‘client state’. For many there is no incentive to work for in so doing many would lose 70% or more of their benefits.
Probably the greatest challenge for the next government will be to get the ‘balance’ right. What do I mean by this ?The balance between what the government raises through taxation and how it spends the revenue. The balance between varying government departments all of whom are competing for a bigger share of thatrevenue.The balance bettwen the wealth and non wealth creating sectors. The balance between those who have been born in this country and those from abroad who for whatever reason wish to come and live here – on an already crowded island. The balance between how the government secures the safety of its citizens against terrorist threats and formidable enemies whilst allowing them the freedom to go about their everyday lives without fear.
These are complex matters and there are no easy answers. Opposition has given us the chance to consider them in great detail free from the constraints of office and red boxes. Provided we remember that the world of 2010 will be much changed when compared with that of 1997 and we have learnt the lessons of 1992 – when our record for economic competence was destroyed in the space of six hours – there is a small chance we might be able to overcome much of the cynicism and despair which pervades much of our everyday life. I hope we are up to the task.
28th April 2008
My Week
IMG_0060.JPG (702991 bytes)Roger Gough chairs a meeting of Policy Exchange with guest speakers Michael Pinto-Duschinsky and Peter RiddellIMG_0062.JPG (778126 bytes)Two doyens of the political world - Peter Riddell and David Butler
At a meeting of Policy Exchange Michael Pinto Duschinsky introduced his pamphlet "Paying for the Party".   He exposed the myths about an "arms race" in party funding and the  lack of state funding.   He pointed out that in direct payments over £1.75 billion was now spent on politics over the four year course of a parliamentary cycle.   He also pointed out that if there was to be further state funding it should be by way of tax relief on small donations or membership subscriptions.   I said that due to the undemocratic nature of our two main political parties the relief should be on membership subscriptions only.   There was no accountability for the way donations were spent.
Pam Powell.JPG (2206753 bytes)Peter Lilley MP, Enoch's widow Pam Powell, Simon Heffer and Gerald Horwath MP.IMG_0057.JPG (1331738 bytes)Keith Simpson MP chairs the Conservative History Group, Simon Heffer was the guest speaker and the meeting organiser was Iain Dale
On the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood?" speech, Simon Heffer spoke to a packed meeting of the Conservative History Group.   Nicholas Wnterton, who attended Powell's speech gave his version of events.   There were lots of anecdotes including one from Peter Lilley who said that some ten years after the speech Enoch was invited to appear on Brian Walden's television programme.    Giving Enoch a perfect opportunity to put a different slant on the speech, he asked him if the "Rivers of Blood" quotation had been taken out of context.    Enoch replied "All quotations are taken out of context".

Party Constitution
I have heard that there will be a serious attempt to alter the Party's Constitution within the coming year.   We know that there is a working group looking at the Constitution but the pressure is coming from the Parliamentary Party for change.   At the moment there are an extra four MPs on the Party Board as observers without a vote.   The 1922 Committee wants them to be full voting members.   Unless there are more powers given to ordinary members this suggestion has to be fought hard by the voluntary Party members on the Board.    It would be an absolute disgrace if this proposal went through on the nod.    Such a change will be fought at the National Convention.   Watch this space!
There are many changes that are needed to the Party' Constitution to bring it up to date for a modern political Party in the 21st century but it has always been assumed that these changes would be done after the next General Election.    Be on guard for attempts to pre-empt these matters!
My Week
What a dull week this has been.   Not much happening.    The Tories have now decided to oppose the Government on the abolition of the 10% tax rate.   This is folly.   The rate should be abolished, after all it was Gordon Brown that brought it in in the first place.   It was a mistake then.   It is a mistake now and should go.   What he should have done is to increase the personal allowance to compensate.   This is what the Conservative Party should be arguing.
Gordon Brown gives a speech at the United Nations so what does the BBC do?   It sends Nick Robinson to report for the News.   It sends Michael Crick to report for Newsnight, but hold it the BBC has a perfectly competent correspondent at the UN - Laura Trevelyan.   They also have lots of Washington correspondents.   Why do they waste so much of our money?    It really is time the BBC was overhauled and broken up.
TV time - watched Question Time.   Simon Heffer streets ahead of the other panellists on intellect.   Curates egg performance from the Party Chairman.   At times she appears to be almost whining, which doesn't look good on television.
Listened to Any Questions.   Ken Clarke has replaced Caroline Spellman, presumably because she was on Question Time.    What a performance he gives.   Caroline should take lessons from him.
Hope to have a better week next week!

My Week
Julialong.JPG (2128622 bytes)Canvassing in Slough for the local elections on May 1st with Cllr. Julia Long.   Julia is one of the unsung heroines of the Tory Party.   She was Mayor of Slough in 2004/5.   In two hours of canvassing I only came across two Labour voters.   Looking good for Julia
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Dominic Grieve QC MP with the new Chairman of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association - Heather HarperRetiring Chairman Bryan Rigby with the President of BCCA Earl HoweNational Convention Vice President Emma Pidding with Earl Howe,
and James Elles MEP
Excellent Annual General Meeting of the Beaconsfield Constituency Conservative Association   With a contested election for Chairman the members turned out in force with 150 attending.   Thats what democracy does.    Adrian Hilton and Heather Harper fought it out.  Adrian made a brilliant speech setting out his vision of the future but Heather being a former Womens Committee Chairman had stronger support.   Good contest.  Excellent speech from Dominic Grieve, although contrary to press reports I thought he ruled out support for the government when they try to increase the powers of the Attorney General.
AKnightCCF.JPG (1627643 bytes)Angela Knight, former Conservative MP for Erewash addressing the City Conservative Forum .   She is now the Chief Executive of the British Banking Association - probably the worst job in the City of London at the moment.   She put forward a forceful defence of British Banking, but to an ordinary person banking is now seen as fat cat executives getting big bonuses for gambling with public money and when it all goes wrong they walk away with a nice fat pay off.   When the Chief Executive of Citibank, which has lost billions, is paid 200 times more than a cleaner in the bank something is wrong.   When we see bank executives getting paid sensible salaries and cutting out the incentives to gamble then the public perception will begin to change.
Another disappointment.    David Cameron congratulates the Australian Premier for signing the Kyoto Agreement.   This agreement is dead meat.   One day soon the politicians will have to admit that man made Global warming is a confidence trick.
In a knee jerk reaction the Tory Party promises to fight the abolition of the 10p rate in the budget, but doesn't say where they would raise the £7 billion it raises.   The simplification of the tax system is a good idea, so we should welcome the abolition of the 10p rate, which in any case was brought in by Gordon Brown.   What should have happened was the personal allowances should have been altered so the poorest did not lose out.    Disappointing start to the week.

Pub Ban
It has been suggested that Alistair Darling should be banned from pubs for putting up the duty on beer and spirits.    A better idea would be to ban from pubs all MPs that voted for the ridiculous regulations about smoking.   27 pubs are being closed down every week partly due to these intolerable regulations.   Do not MPs understand that every time 14 million smokers have to go outside in the wind and rain for a smoke they curse all politicians, and we wonder why they are so despised!
MPs Expenses
Is it true that since the row over MPs expenses blew up, 70 MPs no longer employ members of their family?   Do MPs really understand how bad this looks to the public?   As more information comes out it is quite clear that there was systematic exploitation of the expense regime by MPs.    Perhaps it would be easier to draw up a list of those MPs who did not exploit the system.   Send in your nominations now to COPOV
My Week
Brilliant articles by Lord Lawson about climate change in the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph.   Thank goodness there is at least one member of the establishment that talks common sense.   At last the people are rumbling the politicians.
Conservativehome has put a great fight on its web site over the crazy system of selecting our MEPs.   They deserve all our support in the fight.   I understand that the Candidates Committee is reviewing the process and is due to report to the next meeting of the Party Board.    I hope our representatives on the Board will demand a re-run of this selection and this time it should be done democratically
Discussion on "Newsnight" about religion and politics between A. C. Grayling and the President of Yale University was excellent and in the highest standards of the BBC.   Yale is where Tony Bliar will lecture on faith.
What a pity the Ten o'clock news let the side down.   When it showed a graph of climate change in the world it started in 1940.   The graph was almost continuously upwards.   Of course if they had started it in 1930 a different picture would have been shown as the hottest year on record was 1933.
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Mark Field MP addresses the Annual General Meeting of the City Conservative Forum with Chairman Clare Coffey seated.

Arrived ten minutes late due to traffic in the City.   It is getting worse.   Lunch time meetings in the City are difficult.  Future meetings may be in the evening.   Clare in good form as sister Therese has just won top of the list for Southern Region for the European Parliament.   If the selection had not been rigged by Central Office she might have replaced an MEP.   The selection process shows blatant discrimination against women.   Mark Field spoke about the inherent dangers of the PFI initiatives with our children and grandchildren paying for these for many years to come.
This was a friendly reception with lots of young people, although females were scarce..   Michael Howard suggested that The Bow Group should do more research into the delivery of public services.   Had a discussion with Terry Bowers as to whether Michael Howard was Chairman before or after Peter Lilley.   Confusion when he told me Peter Lilley was Chairman twice.   I joined the Bow Group when Peter Lilley was Chairman, but was it the first or second time?    Speculation starting as to who the next Chairman of the Bow Group will be.
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Reception of The Bow Group in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons.    The Chairman Chris Skidmore introduces Michael Howard MP (former Chairman) with Irene, the hard working secretary of The Bow Group in the background

European Parliament Candidate Selection
There is no truth in the rumour that the Conservative Party were advised by the Soviet Politburo on the conduct of the election of candidates for the European Parliament.   However we understand that they are green with envy at the way the results have been manipulated, and have requested a training session with Central Office.
This selection process is the most disgraceful manipulation of an election in the history of the Conservative Party.   It blatantly discriminated against women by rigging the process for sitting MEPs so that they were all reselected and guess what?   All were men.   At a meeting held yesterday seven out of twenty-one paid up Party members had not received their ballot papers.    Although the election was conducted by the Electoral Reform Society we have not been told how many ballot slips were issued to members, how many members voted, or what votes each candidate received.   The candidates have been told the voting figures for each candidate but have been told to keep this information confidential.    In Southern Region we know that 13,355 members voted out of potentially 60-80,000 members.   This is a miserable result being only 16-22% of the membership.   Of course we have also not been given the number of spoilt ballots, because that might just indicate what the members thought of this miserable undemocratic process.
We do know that in at least two cases women have been put at the top of the list, after MEPs, when they did not do as well as men on the list.   We also know that some candidates are now on the lists without even having been on the ballot paper, because candidates on the paper dropped out.   In the whole of Southern Region there were only three meet and greet meetings with the candidates.   They were not allowed to speak at the meetings.   No canvassing was allowed, so very few, if any members knew very much about all the candidates.  
To add to the disgrace, the letter from the Leader which accompanied the ballot papers was disingenuous.   It stated "This is the first time we have given every member of the Party a vote on the rankings, by postal ballot, and I hope you will take the opportunity to have your say".   In the last selection of candidates all those who voted were able to rank all the candidates, not just in two separate batches consisting of the MEPs and others, and they also participated in more than just the total list so that if a candidate dropped out they could be replaced by a candidate voted by the members.
It is no wonder that the people are disillusioned with politicians and with political parties.   When will they learn that when you distort democracy you destroy it.   Where is the voice of the voluntary party on the Party Board?   Why have they not spoken for the members, or did they just roll over?   No wonder no sensible person bothers to attend National Convention meetings.   What a waste of time they have become.
In the literature inviting people to become members of the Conservative Party it states that you will help choose our candidates for European elections.   This is a lie.   The members were given no choice.
In the invitation to become a Party member it states that you will receive:
  • a weekly newsletter
  • Regular updates on how to get involved in your local community
  • Access to our New affinity Programme which will give you discounts on a great range of products.
At a meeting of Conservative Party members of twenty one paid up members only one gets a weekly newsletter, none regular updates on how to get involved in the local community, and none knew of this New Affinity Programme.   Is someone telling porkies?
To those that voted for the Iraq war
Rudyard Kipling
THEY shall not return to us, the resolute, the young
    The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
    Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?They shall not return to us, the strong men coldly slain
    In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
    Are they too strong and wise to put away?
Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide—
    Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
    Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?
Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour?
    When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
    By the favour and contrivance of their kind?
Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
    Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take council with their friends,
    To confirm and re-establish each career?
Their lives cannot repay us—their death could not undo—
    The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
    Shall we leave it unabated in its place?

Written Constitution
The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by the UK Parliament can only be described as a farce.   Great swathes of it were never considered, and yet it will change the way in which we are governed.    Primarily it should be up to the people to determine the way in which they are governed, that is why we should have had the promised referendum.   Without a referendum, there is a strong case that constitutional matters should receive special treatment by Parliament e.g. a two thirds majority would be required in both Houses for a constitutional change to take place.
With regard to the Lisbon Treaty, most European States have special provisions for ratifying it.   Of the 27 member states 14 require either a super majority in Parliament or a referendum to ratify the Treaty.   The following shows the requirements in other countries:
  • Austria - any treaty deemed to amend the Austrian constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in the National Council.
  • Denmark - any treaty involving a transfer of powers to a supranational organisation requires a five-sixths majority in the Folketing. If this is not achieved then a referendum must be held.
  • Finland - any treaty deemed to amend the Finnish constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament.
  • France - requires three-fifths majority support in Congress or a referendum must be held.
  • Germany - requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament.
  • Greece - any transfer of sovereignty requires three-fifths majority support in parliament.
  • Hungary - any treaty deemed to amend the Austrian constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament.
  • Ireland - any transfer of sovereignty requires a referendum.
  • Luxembourg - all treaties must be approved by two thirds of the Chamber of Deputies.
  • Poland - treaties require either two-thirds majority support in both houses of parliament or a national referendum to be ratified.
  • Slovakia - three-fifths majority support of parliament is required to ratify any treaty that involves a transfer of sovereignty and/or requires a change to the constitution.
  • Slovenia - two-thirds majority support of parliament is required to ratify any treaty that involves a transfer of sovereignty and/or requires a change to the constitution.
  • Spain - three-fifths majority support in the Chamber of Deputies is required to ratify any treaty that involves a transfer of sovereignty and/or requires a change to the constitution.
  • Sweden - three-fifths majority support in the Riksdag is required to ratify any treaty that involves a transfer of sovereignty and/or requires a change to the constitution. If this cannot be achieved then a decision can be made by two consecutive, simple majority decisions with a general election in between.
It is a scandal and a disgrace that in the United Kingdom no special requirements are needed.   The truth of the matter is that the United Kingdom is not a democracy.   It is run by small oligarchies.   When will the people wake up and protest?   Whilst matters are going well the people are passive but when matters turn sour they will take to the streets.   The economic situation is on the brink of disaster.   Should it happen, one of the first demands will be for a democratic constitution.   The politicians should be preparing for it!
Spring Forum
The Spring Forum was an unmitigated disaster.   Dull, boring, no debates, scripted questions.   The media are no longer interested.    Now, they only send their second rank journalists.   Soon they will not send any.   One session was closed early because there were only 50 people left in the hall!   But it doesn't have to be like this.   The Conservative Women's conference was a superb example as to how to organise an interesting political forum with plenty of opportunity for audience participation unscripted, interesting speakers and brilliant organisation.   They should be given the Party Conference to run.   There was another example this week.   The Bow Group organised a meeting chaired by Oliver Letwin at which he had all the Directors of the Party Policy Groups on the platform.   The session consisted  of questions, unscripted, from the floor.   The meeting was packed, as incidentally was the Womens Conference.   I have to say the Directors of the Policy Groups were very impressive, clearly on top of their subjects and a credit to the Tory Party.    The same exercise should be repeated at the Party Conference.   It is possible to have an exciting conference.   You just have to trust the members.   Go for it.
In the new membership campaign it says that if you become a member of the Conservative Party you will receive:
  • A weekly newsletter.
  • Access to our new Affinity Programme, which will give you discounts on a great range of products.
What about existing members?   Have we been forgotten?    Does anybody receive a weekly newsletter?   Does anybody have access to the new Affinity Programme?   I think we should be told.    We have been told that 90,000 emails go out from Central office each week.    Just who do they go to?   As I said in a Report on Communication last year -  Communication from Central Office to Constituency Chairmen is superb.    To Party members it is abysmal.   When will something be done about it?

The National Convention
The National Convention is the supreme body of the voluntary part of the Conservative Party.   It is the Convention, which together with MPs can change the Party's constitution.   It is the forum for discussion and debate about the Party's organisation.   It is there to represent Party members.    It consists of Constituency Chairmen, Officers of the Areas and Officers of the Regions.   In all, about 1,200 people are entitled to attend its meetings which are held twice a year.   It has been in existence for ten years.    Initially it had discussions and debates about the best way forward for the Party.   On occasions, it changed the Constitution of the Party.   It had a fatal defect - a constituency Chairman only serves for three years.   As time went on nobody had any knowledge of the way it worked.   It is a shadow of its former self.    Discussion was stifled.   Debate stopped.    It became a platform for the hierarchy to talk to the members rather than listening to what the members had to say.
This week the Convention met in Gateshaed.   It was the worst meeting I have ever attended.   It was scheduled to last one and a half hours.   The attendance was about 100.   There was no opportunity for discussion or debate or even to ask questions.   William Hague gave an interesting speech about what was being done in the North of England.   He took a couple of questions after his speech.   Otherwise it was the great and good telling us how wonderful they were at power-point presentations.   I have never heard such complacent bull-shit in all my life.    While Michael Ashcroft is doing a terrific job in the marginal seats the rest of the voluntary Party is dying.    Nobody seems to know, or care.   The biggest fund raiser for the Tory Party is the weekly draw.   All money raised in small amounts.    The organiser didn't even get a thank you by name.   What a tragedy this body has become.   The National Convention is dying from embarrassment.    It is time to kill it off.   There is now an urgent need to create a body in which party members can participate, and to which all Party members are invited.    At which the Chairman of Candidates gives a report and can be questioned, and other matters raised.   Without it say goodbye to the voluntary Party.
The Spring Forum and the Party Conference used to be controlled by the voluntary party, then the MPs took over.   Since that point it has gone downhill.   No motions, no debates, questions submitted in advance.    The result - fewer and fewer attending.   Even the media only send their second level staff.   Soon they will stop sending anybody.   No wonder the politicians are out of touch with reality.   They have stopped listening to the people and stopped listening to members of the Party.   One day soon they will all get a shock.   Our democracy has been stretched to its limits.
European Parliament Candidate Selection
Party members are being asked to participate in a farce called an election process.    Last week we set out why members should spoil their ballot papers.   One of the reasons given for distorting democracy is to try and get more women into the European Parliament - a legitimate aim.   All the sitting MEPs that are standing again are men, so why did the Party distort the selection process so it became easier for the sitting MEPs to be re-selected?   This was blatant discrimination against women candidates.   This discrimination is what is known as unintended consequences.   Did they not realise what they were doing?   Are they so stupid?   It is what happens when you begin to distort democracy.   In the end you destroy it.

Your Vote for Candidates for the European Parliament
This week all Party members will have received the ballot papers for electing candidates for the European Parliament.   As we have said many times before, the election is an undemocratic farce.   Party members are not choosing the candidates.   They have already been chosen.   Party members are asked to rank the sitting MEPs, who will then be put at the top of the list where they are 99% certain to be re-elected.   No accountability here then!    The next candidate on the list will be a woman, no matter whether men are elected ahead of her.   No democracy here then!   There is only one possible respponse to this rotten system and that is to spoil the ballot paper.    A number of members have told me that they have already thrown the papers in the dust bin.   Retrieve them and write on the paper: BRING BACK DEMOCRACY TO THE TORY PARTY.   THEN WE WILL VOTE.   Party members are being treated with the utmost contempt.   Their democratic rights have been taken away from them by unaccountable dictators.   This will go down in the history of Party democracy as one of its most disgraceful moments.   If David Cameron wants to revive the Party he will disassociate himself from this rotten system.
Southern Region Candidates 
Party members in the Southern Region will have received with their ballot papers a glossy brochure, A5 size, on which to base their rankings.   Each candidate gets two sides of A5 to tell the members how good they are.   It is therefore surprising that one candidate has the same message on both sides.   Either this is a misprint, in which case he has been put at a serious disadvantage as this document will be the only literature on which to base a judgement ( canvassing and hustings meetings are not allowed), or he is a bit thick.   If it is an error serious questions arise whether the election is fair and whether it should be run again.   I think we should be told.   In any case spoil the ballot paper in protest at this rotten system.
The Latest Gimmic?
The Conservative party has launched an advertising campaign aimed at getting "friends" of the Party to sign up on the internet by paying as much or as little as they like.
I welcome this novel approach, but it is no substitute for getting new members.   Membership of the Party is in freefall.   Soon it will have disappeared altogether.   There is only one answer and that is to make the Party inclusive and democratic.   I predict that even if initially the friends campaign is successful, it will die within 18 months.    This is the fate of all these type of initiatives in the past.    This will be no exception.   It is based on American style politics, which are wholly different to those of the United Kingdom.   Here, people want something for their money.   The Conservative Party does not give them anything.   Until it does the downward spiral will continue.

Spring Forum
This week we have been sent the agenda for the Conservative Party Spring Forum.   I have never seen such a dull agenda for a Conservative meeting.   Of course debates and motions were discontinued long ago so froth and PR became the name of the game.   At a time when this Nation is at war in two places, Iraq and Afghanistan, when our democracy is being destroyed by the Lisbon Treaty and our Constitution is facing major changes it is unbelievable that Defence, Foreign Affairs and Europe have no place in the Agenda.   The Tory Party is in sleepwalking mode.   Politics in our country is drifting and the Tory Party is part of that drift.   Where is the narrative?   Where is the vision?    Our education policy talks about choice but choice is only possible if there is a surplus of school places.   Are we prepared to have that with all the accusations of waste which would go with it?   The NHS is incredibly inefficient, yet we are planning to spend more than the Labour Party.   Our electoral system is in a complete mess yet all we propose to do is to equalise the size of the constituencies, which will take effect sometime after 2014.   This proposal is right of course, but it will not address the fundamental flaws in the system.
The Party launched this week a Friends of the Conservative Party campaign using the internet to invite anybody to support the Party for as little or as much as they wish to give.   This may work for a while but within 18 months will be forgotten.   Why?   Because supporters get nothing in return.    The Party complains that membership is falling.  It has for the last fifty years.   Why?   Because the Party is undemocratic and run by a self perpetuating oligarchy.   People join a political Party because they want some influence and for social reasons.   When they join they find that they have no influence and the social actiivities are almost exclusively fund raising events.    Every year the Party gets 40,000 new members but loses 60,000 and the 60,000 includes the 40,000 who joined two years earlier.   That is why the age of the Party is getting higher.   As a Party we talk about choice and involvement but when it comes to democracy within the Party it is always rejected.   The Party Chairman, Party Treasurer are unelected and unaccountable to the membership.    There is no Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.   We cannot question the Accounts of the Party.   There are no motions for debate at the Spring Forum or the Party Conference.   The traditional right of Party members to elect their Members of Parliament at Westminster or in Europe has been distorted or taken away.   Why should anybody want to be a member of the Conservative Party?   Soon it will cease to exist and a new democratic Party will emerge led by Leader who trusts the members as well as the members trust the Leader.   For the Conservative Party it is five minutes to midnight.    Without action now the gongs will soon be striking the end.   Which Party will disappear first, Labour or Conservative.   The electorate damn them both and all politicians.   Have they all become pygmies or does David Cameron have the vision to take us forward?  
Open List System of election to the European Parliament
This is the last chance to vote for an open list sytem of election to the European Parliament.   Cast your vote now at

A Conservative Cabinet
David Cameron has said that he wants to have women comprising at least one third of  a future Conservative Cabinet.   This is quite disgraceful.   We should have at least 50% of the Cabinet as women and what is more at least one third of them should be blonde and blue eyed.   The Conservative Party gave up meritocracy in 2005 and to have two thirds of the Cabinet based on meriticracy is quite unforgiveable.   As a Party we have embraced political correctness and to abandon it now would mean giving up all that we have achieved in the last two years.   David, or should I call you Dave, what has happened to "hug a hoodie".   They should also be represented in the Cabinet.   If they are not, it will be a case of blatant discrimination and I have no doubt that we will lose the "hoodie" vote.   So Dave, think again before it is too late!

Benefits of Party Membership
This week I received a standard letter thanking me for renewing my membership of the Conservative Party.   The letter included a membership card together with comments on the benefits of membership, all produced by Central Office.   One of the benefits is described as "A vote in the selection of candidates for Westminster and Europe".    This is no longer true.   First of all, unless a Constituency Association has a Selection or an Adoption meeting the ordinary member does not have a vote.   At the last General Election my Association did not have an Adoption meeting so there was no vote.   Secondly, the ordinary Party member has no say in the selection of candidates for the European Parliament.   By the time the member is asked to vote all the candidates will have been selected.   The member will be asked to put sitting MEPs in order and the other candidates in order (subject to the highest placed woman being put at the top of the list).
Another of the benefits of membership is described as "get involved in developing the ideas that will make Britain a better place to live"   All good recruiting stuff, except that it doesn't tell you how to get involved.   The truth is that other than the almost defunct Conservative Political Forum there are no ways to contibute to ideas.
Another benefit of membership is "Representation on the governing Board of the Party".   An ordinary member has no say whatsoever on Representation on the Board of the Party.
The membership card and thank you letter are the first things a person gets on becoming a member of the Party.    It is sad that this welcome should contain false information.   The last benefit shown is "Access to an Ethics and Integrity Committee to ensure high standards".   Perhaps the Ethics and Integrity Committee should start by looking at the information given to somebody when they become a member or renew their membership of the Conservative Party.

Selection of Candidates - European Parliament
This week Mimi Harker reached the short list of four for the Westminster parliamentary seat of Croydon.   Well done, only one snag, she is one of the ten candidates for the Southern Region for the elections to the European Parliament.   Mimi was given fifteen minutes to decide which one she wanted to drop.   She dropped Europe.   Unfortunately, she did not go on to win Croydon, so now she is not a candidate anywhere.   There is nothing in the Rules on Selection of Candidates for the European Parliament that says a candidate cannot apply for a Westminster seat.   Of course if the candidate were successful they would have to give up one or the other.
Mimi Harker was elected by 120 members of the Southern Region electoral college.   One arrogant official decided to put a gun to Mimi's head and force her to decide one or the other before that decision was necessary.   Who took this decision?   I think we should be told.    In the mean time the least that should be done is to reinstate Mimi Harker onto the Southern Region's candidates list for the European Parliament. 

Your Vote Won’t Count

John E. Strafford

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%
Labour’s share of the vote in 2005 can be compared unfavourably to the support enjoyed in past elections by losing parties. Attlee’s share of the vote in 1955 when Eden’s Conservatives won a majority of 58, comparable to Blair’s majority in 2005 was an amazing 46.4%. Blair’s 35.2% is scarcely higher than Neil Kinnock’s share of the vote in 1992 (34.4%) and less than Jim Callaghan scored in 1979 in his unsuccessful bid for a third term (36.9%)
The Conservatives with 198 seats in Parliament were slightly under represented, in that if they had won seats exactly in proportion to their total vote they would have won 208. The Liberal Democrats had many fewer seats (62) than their share of the vote among the electorate justified – an exact proportional distribution would have given them 142. Labour was massively over represented: a proportional allocation would have given them 227 seats rather than 356.
In terms of votes per MP, Labour required 26,877, Conservatives 44,521 and the Liberal Democrats a massive 96,378. Even worse than the Liberal Democrats were the Ulster Unionists who only got one seat for the 127,414 votes cast for them.
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.
In several regions of England the results were extremely unrepresentative. The worst case is probably the 1.1 million Conservative voters in the metropolitan counties outside London who elected only 5 MPs.
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. It is because the two main parties concentrate on this narrow focus that their policies converge.
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?
PS If you do toss a coin it is the Conservative’s turn to win next time. Since 1945, Labour have won nine General Elections to the Conservative’s eight.

European Union
The European Commission is unelected by the people and unaccountable to the people.   Because of the Party List system of election, the members of the European Parliament are unaccountable to the people.    The Council of Ministers should be accountable to the House of Commons, but we have seen that when it comes to the crunch, in an issue like the Lisbon Treaty (Constitution) there is no line by line scrutiny and the House of Commons is found wanting.   At a meeting of Policy Exchange this week William Hague admitted that in the future, scrutiny by the Commons is likely to get worse, because under the Treaty the Council of Ministers will have powers to act without ratification by the National Parliaments.   This is not democracy.   Effectively our democracy is being slowly but surely destroyed.
70 % of our legislation now emanates from Europe.   20% has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, Stormont and the Welsh Assembly.   What is left for the House of Commons?   What is for sure is that we do not need 650 MPs.   We could easily get by with 100.    Think of the savings to be made on salaries, let alone the even bigger savings to be made from expenses.
One bit of good news is that this week the Conservative Party got an amendment through forcing the European Scrutiny Committee to meet in public.   For little mercies we must be grateful, but the truth is that there is the smell of rotting fish hanging over the Houses of Parliament.   How long will it be before the people rise and say "Enough of this, we want democracy.    Do we have to have riots and insurrection as in 1832, 1867 and as with the suffragettes, or will Parliament act on this.   Time is running out.    We demand action now".
No Representation without Taxation
Congratulations to David Cameron for agreeing to support the Bill to ensure that in order to be a Member of the House of Lords you have to be a UK resident.   This is sensible politics and fair.

Re-Selection of MEPs
So the interviews are over and there are some good candidates on the ballot but what a shame that they were not chosen on merit.   In Southern Region there will be four women candidates and two men on the ballot.   I wonder what the position would have been if this had been an ordinary ballot done on merit?.   How many more, and better male candidates would we have had if it had not already been decided that whatever the result a woman would be put at the top of the rankings?   How democracy is destroyed!    In the last selection over 1,500 members took part in a democratic process.    This time 120 have in effect decided.   No wonder Party membership is in steep decline.
Applications for the Spring Forum
The application form for the Spring Forum asks for Passport No. and Driving License No.   What happens if you do not have a passport and do not drive?
Nice work if you can get it!
The great scandal of the week has been the disclosures about Derek Conway using taxpayers money to employ his family.    This practise is widespread and we will  publish a list of MPs who have family on their staff.   SEE BELOW   Some of this is legitimate and the staff work hard for their wages but some we know, as in Derek Conway's case do not.   Unfortunately this wide spread practise will only bring the House of Commons into disrepute.
Our electoral system stinks
Our main political Parties are undemocratic.
And now we know large numbers of our MPs are spending our money on their families.
The people will not put up with this state of affairs for much longer.   Parliament should be reformed.    Our electoral system should be reformed and our political parties should be reformed.   The writing is on the wall.   If there is no action watch the decline and fall of the Labour and Coinservative parties and the rise of new Parties which will command the respect of the electorate.
What a measly punishment was dealt out to Derek Conway.   He will still draw his salary.   If Parliament meant business he would have been kicked out.
The last Member of Parliament to be expelled from the House of Commons was the Labour MP Gary Allighan in 1947.   Not only an MP he was also a journalist and wrote an article for the World Press News "exposing" the means lobby correspondents were using to obtain leaks and inside information.    The technique was to ply MPs with drinks until they collapsed and leaked stories to journalists for rewards or favours.   A motion was tabled to the privileges committee to discharge Allighan for contempt. Allighan was accused of leaking stories himself. The Privileges Report, censuring the MP severely, said Allighan had aggravated his contempt by trying to cast suspicion on other MPs beside himself.    Does this remind you of Derek Conway?
On 30th October, with the Privileges Report on the table the Commons voted to expel Gary Allighan.   Allighan, was found to have lied to a committee when he had wrongly accused fellow MPs of accepting money for disclosing to the press the proceedings of private party meetings.   It turned out that this was precisely what he had done himself.

The Leader of the House recommended that he be reprimanded and suspended without pay, but an amendment for expulsion was successfully moved (by Quintin Hogg, later to be Lord Hailsham, twice).   There was also concern about outside bodies, such as trade unions, attempting to instruct an MP, so the House passed a resolution restating its traditional principles:

"It is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a member to his constituency, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any member of the House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the member’s complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of a member being to his constituency and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof."
The same treatment Garry Allighan got should be dished out to Derek Conway.    The House of Commons has now got only one choice.   It must adopt the same nepotism measures as in Germany and the United States.   A Member of Parliament may not employ a relative.   They have brought it upon themselves.
Update 5th February  In a statement by David Cameron, he said that more than 70 Conservative MPs employed member(s) of their family.   David Cameron's Leadership on this issue has been superb.    He has acted in a cool calm way, no doubt subjected to enormous pressures, but he cannot stop now.   He must go further.

Nice work if you can get it!
Is your MP on the list?   Let us know together with any information.   Reply to COPOV
Register of Interests of Members Secretaries and Research Assistants

Staff                                                                              Member of Parliament                    Party

Sally Ainger – part time £19,800pa                                                 Nick AINGERLAB
Lionel Beckett - £25,000 app                 Margaret BECKETT                                    LAB
Sally Clark - wife                                                                                              Hilary BENNLAB
Richard Burt                                                                                                    Lorely BURTLIB/DEM
Tennyson Butler                                                                                   Dawn BUTLERLAB
Elspeth Campbell                                                                     Sir Menzies CAMPBELLLIB/DEM
Daniel Chaytor  Sarah Chaytor                                                                    David CHAYTORLAB
Jonathan Clapham - unpaid       Yvonne Clapham                                Michael CLAPHAMLAB
Brenda Clelland                                                                             David CLELLANDLAB
Edward Clifton-Brown – unpaid                             Geoffrey CLIFTON-BROWNCON
Catherine Coffey                                                                                     Ann COFFEYLAB
Charlotte Cox                                                                                      Geoffrey COXCON
John Cryer - unpaid                                                                                     Ann CRYERLAB
Colin Davidson                                                                                         Ian DAVIDSONLAB
Neil Ennis                                                                                              Jeffrey ENNISLAB
Suzy Gale                                                                                                        Roger GALECON
Morvah George - unpaid                                                                     Andrew GEORGELIB/DEM
Adelaine Hain - £5,400pa part time                                                        Peter HAIN     `LAB
Carolyn Harris                                                                                            Tom HARRISLAB
David Haselhurst - unpaid    Angela Haselhurst                    Sir Alan HASELHURST                             CON
Christine Heald                                         Oliver HEALD                                             CON
Dawn Illsley - wife                                                                                              Eric ILLSLEYLAB
Lucy Kilfoyle                                                                                    Peter KILFOYLELAB
Karen Leadley - sister                                       Julie KIRKBRIDE                                             CON
Jill Liddell-GraingerPeter Liddell-Grainger - unpaid
Sophie Liddell-Grainger - unpaid                                                           
Oliver Luff - unpaid  Julia Luff                                                                                Peter LUFFCON
Harry Malins - unpaid  Katherine Malins – unpaid
Christina Marshall                                 David MARSHALL                                     LAB
Elsie Martlew                                                                                    Eric MARTLEWLAB
Anne McGuinness                                                                     Martin MCGUINNESSSINN FEIN
Tony McKenna                                                                      Rosemary MCKENNALAB
James McLoughlin - unpaid                                            Patrick MCLOUGHLIN  CON
Jonathan Mitchell                                                                        Austin MITCHELLLAB
Sonya Moss                                                                                           Malcolm MOSSCON
Oliver Mundell                                                                                     David MUNDELLCON
Fiona Owen                                                                                                     Albert OWENLAB
Ian Paisley                                                                                            Rev Ian PAISLEY  DEM UN
Rose Paterson - £29,636.64pa                                                     Owen PATERSONCON
Samuel Pope - unpaid                                                                                        Greg POPELAB
Joanne Sheridan                                                                                      Jim SHERIDANLAB
Xanthe Steen - £5,000pa part time                                                    Anthony STEENCON
Deborah Stoate                                                                          Dr Howard STOATELAB
Sally Tami                                                                                                   Mark TAMILAB
Philippa Taylor                                                                                         Dari TAYLORLAB
Jacqueline Vis                                                                                                  Rudi VISLAB
Robin Williams - son                                                                                  Alan WILLIAMSLAB
Raymond Williams - son                                                                           Betty WILLIAMSLAB
Camilla Young - daughter                                                                                     Sir George YOUNGCON
The following members are believed to employ a member of their family:
Staff                            Member of Parliament         Party
Cathy Austin - part time £8,000pa                                                         Ian AUSTINLAB
Caron Barron - wifeSheena Woolley - sister-in-law                                                                            Kevin BARRONLAB
Margaret Bell - £35,000pa                                                                            Sir Stuart BELLLAB
Lady Beresford                                                                         Sir Paul BERESFORDCON
Katherine - wifeJulian BRAZIERCON
Janet Breed                                                                                                  Colin BREEDLIB/DEM
Rosemary Bruce - £28,500pa                                                        Malcolm BRUCELIB/DEM
David Browning                                                                        Angela BROWNINGCON
Eve Burt                                                                                                           Alistair BURTCON
Sister in Law Alice Sheffield                                                        David CAMERONCON
Elspeth Campbell                                                                          Sir Menzies CAMPBELLLIB/DEM
Christine Chope                                                                                  Christopher CHOPECON
Julie Clark                                                                                                 Paul CLARKLAB
Colette Conway - £39,257.84pa  Derek CONWAYCON
Enid Crausby                                                                                   David CRAUSBYLAB
Debbie Davies                                                                                             Philip DAVIESCON
Chantal Davies                                                                                   Quentin DAVIESLAB
Doreen Davis                                                                                             David DAVISCON
Pat Dobbin                                                                                               Jim DOBBIN    LAB
Sister in lawStephen DORRELLCON
Phillippa DorriesNadine DORRIESCON
Philip Cole – husbandCaroline FLINTLAB
Mair FrancisHywel FRANCISLAB
Liz Gibson - £10,000paIan GIBSONLAB
Benny GilroyLinda GILROYLAB
Sue - wifeChris GRAYLINGCON
Lesley HallMike HALLLAB
Jean HamiltonDavid HAMILTONLAB
Sally Hammond - £27,500paStephen HAMMONDCON
Caroline Netherton – wifeDavid HEATHLIB/DEM
Pat Hopkins - £12,500paKelvin HOPKINSLAB
David KeenAlan KEENLAB
Janet LadymanStephen LADYMANLAB
Gail LaxtonBob LAXTONLAB
Mary LeighEdward LEIGHCON 
Teresa LevittTom LEVITTLAB
Ruth MackinlayAndrew MACKINLAYLAB
Vicky McCarthy-Fry – daughterSarah MCCARTHY-FRYLAB
Eleanor McAvoyTommy MCAVOYLAB
Fran MillerAndrew MILLERLAB
Graham Henderson - husbandAnne MILTONCON
Tony McKenna - unpaidRosemary MCKENNALAB
Alison MooreMichael MOORELIB/DEM 
Angela PenningMike PENNINGCON
Sondra PritchardMark PRITCHARDCON 
Nicola Page – partnerJohn REDWOODCON
Alison SandersAdrian SANDERSLIB/DEM
Val SmithAndrew SMITHLAB
Steve Wilson - husbandAngela SMITHLAB
Alison Soulsby - £20,000paSir Peter SOULSBYLAB
Janet StreeterTamsin Streeter - daughterGary STREETERCON
Liza WallaceBen WALLACECON 
Tiffiny WrightIain WRIGHT  LAB

Of the above                                                  LAB                      60
                                                                    CON                      36

Scandal of Party funding
The scandals surrounding Party funding and the Labour Party will not go away.   In a desperate attempt to hit back they have accused George Osborne of not declaring donations used by his private office on the Register of Interests, although they were declared to the Electoral Commission by the Conservative Party.   We understand that the monies were allocated to his office rather than being transferred to his control - a major difference.    Nothing wrong with that.   Should the Parliamentary Commissioner decide otherwise, this would raise a major problem for the Conservative Party.
In the Conservative Party Report and Accounts the very first words are as follow:
"The Conservative Central Office is the Office of the Leader of the Conservative Party".   If the decision goes against George Osborne does this mean that every donation to the Conservative Party that is declared to the Electoral commission has to be declared on the Register of Interests by David Cameron?   Donations over £600 have to be declared on the Register of Interests but only over  £1,000 to the Electoral Commission.   So what happens to those in between?   Interesting?    Of course, when we got a Constitution we were told we would now be "One Party".   The "Private" office would disappear, but the powers that be could not bring themselves round to it.   Is this going to be a case of "hoisted by your own petard"?   I wonder!
Maidstone Selection
We now hear that the Maidsone selection committee wanted the right to choose their candidate on merit.   They were threatened with putting the Association into suppport status ( control by Central Office), if they did so.   What a disgrace.   Incidentally we now hear that the chosen candidate -  Helen Grant was a member of the Labour Party in 2006.    Nothing wrong with that, unless she did not disclose it to the Maidstone Association.   Did she?
Re-Selection of MEPs
So bad was the turnout of members of the Regional College that members are being encouraged to attend the next meeting even if they did not attend the first meeting (see below).   What a farce!

Re-Selection of MEPs
We hear that so few people are turning up to the Regional College Selection meetings that the MEPs are worried about their own legitimacy, and so they should be.   This discredited farce of a selection process is turning out even worse that was predicted.   For Southern Region only approx. 130 turned up out of a potential 280 that could and should have been present.   Of those that did turn up between 20 and 50 voted against, so at best only 110 members decided that the sitting MEPs should proceed at the top of the Party List.   For the next stage even fewer will attend.   We hear that some of those attending yesterday have no intention of attending the next meeting on February 2nd.   If you did not attend yesterday you will not be allowed to attend on February 2nd, so numbers can only go down.   What a disgrace.   This is what happens when you distort democracy.   In addition Party membership continues to decline.   The contempt by the hierarchy shows no bounds.
Re-selection of MPS
Chairman of COPOV

At present there are 196 Tory MPs of which 20 are women and 2 ethnic minorities. To achieve 50% men/women of which 12% are ethnic minorities requires a huge change.   If we only rely on new candidates for seats that at the moment we do not hold, or for seats where the sitting male Tory MP retires, it will take several General Elections to achieve our objective of fair representation.   Should we therefore look at changing the procedure for the re-selection of sitting MPs?  We could ask all sitting MPs to be re-selected by say an open primary election!   I rejected this course of action for three reasons:
  1. I do not think the sitting MPs would accept the proposal.
  2. I believe that in most cases "grass roots" members would be reluctant to campaign against their MP and;
  3. Experienced MPs are a great asset to the Party.
Nevertheless I believe that the Executive of the 1922 Committee should be approached to take soundings with their members to confirm or otherwise that the proposal would be unacceptable. There is no doubt that if this was to be accepted it could prove to be the fastest method of bringing about change.
In an age when long-term employment has gone should we be prepared to accept an increased turnover of MPs? In today’s environment do MPs, once elected, consider themselves to have a job for life? (subject to the electorate) In many walks of life it is rare for a person to stay in the same occupation for a long period. Are MPs different? Should we encourage the re-adoption of MPs for each parliament by the whole Association as is done in Scotland?
Prior to the passing of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, every Conservative MP was re-adopted as a Conservative candidate at a General Meeting of his or her local Association. The proposal for adoption as the candidate was on the recommendation of the Executive Council of the Association. The Adoption Meeting was a critical point at which a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate became the Parliamentary Candidate. It was at this point that expenses had to be accounted for in the parliamentary election, which followed. This process involved all the grass roots members of the Constituency Association and generally worked quite well.
It is rare for a sitting MP to lose the confidence of his or her Association but occasionally it happens. In 1997 in my own constituency of Beaconsfield it was as a result of questioning at the Adoption Meeting which led to the MP – Tim Smith – to resign within a week of the meeting knowing that he had lost the confidence of the members.
Generally one of the drawbacks to the re-selection process in the Conservative Party at this time was at the Executive Council stage. In a number of Constituencies, when the Executive Council met the MP would turn up, give a speech, the adoption resolution would then be put by the Chairman for a vote on a show of hands. This was clearly wrong for it would take a brave person to vote against the MP with the MP watching. In 1997 the then National Union Executive Committee unanimously passed a resolution that the vote of the Executive should be by secret ballot. The Chairman of the 1922 Committee rejected this on the grounds that not having a secret ballot was part of the deal, which had been made for Party members to have a vote in the Leadership election.
After William Hague brought in the Party Constitution the secret ballot was inserted at a meeting of the National Convention and applies today.
With the passing of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 one of the major changes in the Act was the timing as to when expenses began to be incurred for a parliamentary election. The Adoption Meeting was no longer the critical point. The result of this was that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland many Constituency Associations no longer held Adoption Meetings(The Scottish Conservatives still retain them). Effectively, this means that the ordinary members of an Association are deprived of the opportunity to vote on the Adoption of the candidate. I believe this is wrong and the Party Constitution should be changed accordingly.
Of course in extreme circumstances a member can call for an Extraordinary Meeting of his Association and put a motion of "no confidence" in the MP, but this is often a lengthy and divisive process resulting in bitterness and factions within the Association.

Normally an Adoption Meeting is a great lift-off for an election campaign. It brings the members together and with the opportunity to vote on the adoption it gives them a stake in the outcome. By having an Adoption Meeting we would be giving back to the members some of the democracy which they have unfortunately lost in recent years. It is time to go for it. This is a minor but worthwhile change to the process. Perhaps, more important would be to change the attitude of mind of our MPs and encourage them to step down when they are no longer making a worthwhile contribution to Parliament. It also means that the membership of the Party has a serious job in holding the MPs to account for their actions or inaction. It should only be the exceptional MP that goes on after the age of seventy. It is the members job to remind them of this.

Congratulations to Helen Grant on being selected as the Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone ( see below).   We are sure she will make an excellent candidate.   It is a pity Central Office had to be so high handed in the selection process.   We understand that at one point they threatened Maidstone with suspension!

Parliamentary Candidate MaidstoneGood news and bad news.   On December 30th we asked for the selection process at Maidstone to be transparent (see below).    This has been done, so congratulations to Maidstone Association.    The bad news is  that they have been stuck with the regulatory requirement to have least two women in the final list.   The effect of this is that they had to include an extra woman in this interim list.

Nine finalists for Maidstone and The Weald

Maidstone and The Weald (projected Tory majority of nearly 12,000) have published the finalists for the race to succeed Ann Wddecombe:

  1. Stephen Barclay
  2. James Brokenshire
  3. Conor Burns
  4. Jamie Devlin
  5. Vicky Ford
  6. Helen Grant
  7. Jon Lord
  8. Julia Manning
  9. Kulveer Ranger
The two reserves have also been identified:
  • David Godfrey
  • Lynne Hack
22 candidates were interviewed of 98 applications considered.

The selection will be on 20th January.

Thanks for the above information to
Peter Hain
The saga of the donations to Peter Hain's Deputy Leadership campaign continues.   Apparently he has been asked to repay a £25,000 loan.    In addition, under Labour Party rules he has to give 15% of all donations to the Labour Party.   That is about another £30,000.   Will he have to raise more donations or loans to repay these amounts?   If so, will he have to declare them?   Or will he forget these as well?   If he resigned, which he should have done, he would have more time to get it right this time.
Dictatorship uses guillotine
In the period from 1946 to 1997 Governments guillotined sixty-seven Bills.   In the six years after 1997 this dictatorial Government guillotined no less than ninety-four Bills.   No wonder our legislation is so bad.   Whatever happened to Parliamentary scrutiny?
House of Cronies
By the time of Tony Bliar's resignation he had appointed 359 peers out of a total of 735 members of the House of Lords.   Of the 211 Labour Peers 153 were appointed by Tony Bliar.   Who says we live in a democracy?    It is time we had a wholly elected House of Lords and got rid of all these cronies.

European Parliament Candidate Selection
This week the Chairman of COPOV put the following question to the Chairman of the Conservative Party - Caroline Spellman - on theconservativehome web site:
John Strafford: A Member of Parliament is always accountable to ordinary Party members. At any time they can call a meeting and put down a motion of no confidence. A Member of the European Parliament is only accountable at the point of re-selection. Why has the vote of the ordinary member been taken away in the re-selection process and the decision left to an Electoral College of Constituency Chairmen?
Caroline Spellman's reply was as follows:
"The vote of the member has not been taken away and you will be receiving your ballot papers for the Euro selections in the New Year. However, it is true that the initial "selection" of the candidates put forward for ranking is done by the Electoral College. Whilst this is not the same as the direct selection for MPs we are confined by having to work with the regional list system, not a system of our choosing and in my view one which has the problem of detaching an individual MEP from a specific constituency".
We respond:
Caroline Spellman's reply is disingenuous and unworthy of a Party Chairman.   Ordinary members of the Party will not be allowed to vote on the re-selection of MEPs.   For the last European elections we were allowed to vote, so the vote has been taken away.   The ballot papers we will receive will only allow the members to vote on the ranking of MEPs who have already been selected - a totally meaningless exercise unless the Party Chairman believes that we are going to do badly in the election.
The Chairman then attempts to obfuscate the issue by  saying we have to "work with the regional list system", but this was the same system we had to work with last time when we did have a vote.    We agree that the system is rotten.   An open list would be better(not as good as STV as used in Northern Ireland) and COPOV have petitioned the Prime Minister for this - see Index
It looks as though the only way the members can get a vote is by persuading all the members of the Regional Colleges to vote against the sitting MEPs, thus forcing them to be part of the total list to be ranked.    We urge them to do this.   Already we have had promises from some of them that this is what they will do.   Contact COPOV and let us know in confidence whether you will join our campaign.   Any contact will be kept in strict confidence unless you wish it to be public.   Send an email to the Chairman of COPOV.   We are grateful for your support.
As for the Party Chairman we can only say how sad it is that she does not stand up for the ordinary members of the Party.    It is no wonder that membership continues to decline when they are treated with such contempt.

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