Message for all Conservative Party members
By John Strafford
Did you know that at a meeting of the National Convention to be held on 1st July changes will be made to the Constitution of the Conservative Party?
Of course as an ordinary party member you will not have a vote on these changes. Isn’t it time that you did have a vote?
Isn’t it time that the Conservative Party came into the 21st century and embraced democracy so that ordinary members have a say in the running of the party organisation instead of it just being left in the hands of the National Convention and Tory members of parliament?
At a meeting of the National Convention held on 18th March it was announced that changes to the party constitution would be proposed. These changes are necessary to extend the date when a Constituency Association has to have held its Annual General Meeting. It is to be altered to 30th June. Also the maximum term of office for Constituency officers is to be changed to five years.
As far as we are aware no Agenda was sent out for the meeting on the 18th March. Attendance was less than 100 out of the approximately 800 people entitled to attend and during the meeting a motion was put to have a minimum membership fee of £25.00 which was passed overwhelmingly. This is no way to run an organisation. The National Convention, which was set up to be the voice of the voluntary party but which has become a rubber stamp for the party hierarchy, is no longer fit for purpose and should be abolished.
The quality of our party organisation has deteriorated – the decline in membership is having a serious impact.
Conservative Party membership throughout the United Kingdom was estimated at 3.1 million in 1951, falling to 1.5 million by 1975 at the time of the Houghton Report into the financing of political parties. It continued to fall and went down to between 350,000 and 450,000 by 1996, according to estimates compiled by Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a leading authority on Party organisation and finance. After the 1998 reorganisation of the Party, membership picked up a little, but by nowhere near as much as the Tories hoped. The total had fallen to 320,000 by 2003. When David Cameron became Leader in 2005 membership was 258,239. By the time of the 2015 General Election membership had fallen to 134,000. 290 Constituency Associations had fewer than 100 members. Only two Associations had over 1,000 members and just 50 had more than 500 members.
In 1959 there were 500 Conservative Party Agents. By 1994 this had fallen to 200. Today there are fewer than 40. At a time when modern technologies such as computers have necessitated a more professional organisation, the need for Party Agents is greater than ever. This loss has been hard for the Conservative Party to bear. Agents take care of legal requirements, but more importantly they are motivators and organisers. At election time their loss could be disastrous.
Party organisation in many weaker constituencies is nonexistent. Some have effectively no Party organisation. Without radical change the Conservative Party as a Party of mass membership will cease to exist.
To turn round this decline will take time but first of all we have to change the constitution. The age of deference is dead. Today people want to participate and that means voting either on decisions taken or voting for the people who take those decisions. The Constitution of the Party should be changed as follows:
· The Constitution of the Conservative Party to be capable of being amended or changed by the members of the Party at a General Meeting of the Party on the basis of one member, one vote provided that the amendment or change is approved by 66% of those members voting and not less than 50% of those present.
· There should be an Annual General Meeting of the Party to which all members are invited.
· The officers of the Party (Chairman, Treasurer, Chairman of the Candidates Committee, Chairman of the Policy Forum) to be elected by the members of the Party at the Annual General Meeting and shall serve for no more than five years.
· Annual reports by the officers shall be presented to the Annual General Meeting for adoption by the meeting.
I hope that every member of the National Convention and every Conservative MP will support these changes. Let me know if you do.