- Web site has gone from strength to strength, with over two thousand hits in the year and the number of hits
- We published the Conservative Party accounts on the web site and no doubt this pressure made the Party publish
the March 99 accounts on its extranet.
- We have had an increasing number of academics interested in the site for their research in the Conservative Party.
- The main campaign of the year was to try and get an Elected Treasurer for the Party. At present this position
is appointed. We received considerable publicity for this campaign, particularly in "The Times" That paper's
campaign regarding the Treasurer was specifically mentioned when it won the "Newspaper of the Year" award.
The Chairman of COPOV was invited to the Editor's reception at the Party conference.
- Articles about Party democracy were produced for two separate editions of the Bow Group magazine "Crossbow",
and an article was published in the "Independent" newspaper.
- The Campaign held a very successful barbecue and this helped to put the funds in a healthier position, so much so
that we were able to put an advertisement in the latest edition of "Crossbow".
- We acquired our own web site domain name of copov.
- Our support is now nation-wide with the Chairman regularly receiving letters and E mails from all parts
of the United Kingdom.
- We have been campaigning for justice regarding Liverpool Garston and reluctantly have had to go public in order
to increase the pressure to find a solution. It looks as though this pressure is starting to pay off.
- Finally I would like to thank the Treasurer Anne Egleton, Membership Secretary Molly Andoe, Secretary Steve
Lorton, Vice Chairman David Futcher particularly for his E mails, and all the members of the Committee for
their support during the year.
- I would also like to thank Jack Clayton, Stephen Parker and Martin Ball for their articles which we published
on the web site and our Patron, John Wilkinson MP for his continued support.
There are many Conservative MPs that want to have an elected House of Lords. It is time for them to stand up and be counted. When asked, over three quarters of the electorate consistently support an elected second chamber - we must speak for them. Labour's cynicism is our opportunity.
Tony Bliar has appointed nearly one third of the members of the House of Lords. Soon it will be one half. He is treating the 92 Hereditary Peers as hostages. We must not give in to his blackmail.
Could someone please explain what it is that a Superstate has that the European Union does not have already?
Leadership ElectionThere has been much speculation in the media about a Leadership election and in each case the assumption is made that it would be decided by the Party members. This is not necessarily so. In "The Times" report of 28th November "Top Tories plot Hague succession" it stated that Miss Widdecombe’s "popularity among Tory activists could see her win the leadership if she was one of the two candidates who made it through to the final round". However there is no certainty that there would be a final round.
Under the Conservative Party constitution "the rules for deciding the procedure by which the 1922 Committee selects candidates for submission for election shall be determined by the Executive Committee of the 1922 Committee".
In other words, if there are more than two candidates the Executive of the 1922 Committee can conduct its own elections. Having then determined the leading candidate it can pressurise the losers to withdraw. If there is then only one candidate "that candidate shall be declared Leader of the Party". The "grass roots" members of the Party would have had no say in the matter.
For the election of Leader to be truly democratic all candidates should be presented to the whole Party for election without the 1922 Committee intervening as a filter.The Executive of the 1922 Committee never did want to have One Member One Vote for the Leadership election and only conceded it by doing a deal on the re-selection of MPs. If they can avoid the decision going to the membership they will.
Eurassic ParkIs it true that in the European Parliament for a motion to be passed it has to have an absolute majority of MEPs. In other words if 300 MEPs voted against the motion and nobody voted for it, it would be lost because with a total of 650 MEPs, 300 is not a majority.
Congratulations to Edward Heath MP
He is in favour of electing the House of Lords, the most sensible thing he has said for years.
Clever boffins at the CPFIn a recent discussion paper for the Conservative Policy forum the following question was put:
"Should the BBC continue to deliver a full range of services from the popular to the specialist and be funded by the license fee, or should it focus on distinctive services that would not be provided by commercial broadcasters?"
Answer Yes 59%
You pay your money you take your choice!
See Liverpool Garston for the latest extraordinary episode.
December 3rdPreparation for a General election.
The accounts of the Conservative Party for the year ended 31st March 1995 are comparable to those of 31st March 200 in terms of the electoral cycle, so how are we doing.
1995 - £,000s
2000 - £,000s
|Income 15,307||Income 13,386|
|Expenditure 13,287||Expenditure 13,382|
|Surplus 2,020||Surplus 4|
This week there is a meeting of Ian Taylor's Constituency Association to decide whether he should be reselected as their Parliamentary candidate. I hope he is reselected for from my limited acquaintance he is bright, intelligent and knowledgeable. However it is the right of any Association to decide that they wish to have a new candidate and if the sitting MP cannot win the selection process then he must go. Members of Parliament are not selected for life and although it is perfectly legitimate for colleagues to express their support it is totally wrong of the Party Chairman to intervene and when he says that it is against Tory tradition then this is one of those traditions that the Conservative party is going to have to get rid of if it wants to have any future, just like the tradition of an appointed Chairman and the tradition of having an appointed Treasurer. It is time for the Party to join the 21st Century.
These are the members of the Runnymede Trust Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain:
Lord Parekh (chairman). Emeritus professor of political theory at the University of Hull. Former deputy chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality.
Lady (Kate) Gavron (vice-chairman). Trustee and research fellow, Institute of Community Studies. Wife of the publisher and New Labour benefactor Lord "Bob" Gavron.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Writer and broadcaster. Member of the Home Office race relations forum.
Muhammad Anwar. Research professor at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relation at the University of Warwick.
Colin Bailey. Former chief constable of Nottinghamshire and chairman of the race relations committee of the Association of chief Police Officers.
Amina Begum. Social worker with the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
Michael Chan. Professor of ethnic health (!), University of Liverpool.
Lord Dholakia. Chairman National Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders.
David Faulkner. Senior research associate University of Oxford centre for criminological research. Former Home Office official.
Stuart Hall. Emeritus professor of sociology, Open University.
Bob Hepple, QC. Master of Clare College and professor of law at Cambridge University.
Judith Hunt. Chairman of Camden and Islington health authority. Former equal opportunities adviser to the GLC.
Anthony Lerman. Former executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.
Matthew McFarlane. Chief inspector, Nottinghamshire police.
Andrew Marr. Resigned from commission in April on his appointment as political editor, BBC.
Tariq Modood (adviser). Professor of sociology, University of Bristol.
Sir Peter Newsham. Former director of the Institute of Education, London university. Chief adjudicator of school organisations and administrations.
Sir Herman Ouseley. Former chairman of Commission for Racial Equality.
Anne Owers. Director of Justice and former general secretary of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
Trevor Phillips. Broadcaster and Labour Chairman of the Greater London Assembly.
Sarah Spencer. Director of the citizenship and governance programme, Institute for Public Policy Research.
Seamus Taylor. Head of equality and diversity policy, Haringey Council, London.
Sally Tomlinson. Emeritus professor of educational policy, Goldsmith's College, London.
Lady Hollick. Chairman of Index on Censorship and founding commissioning editor of multi-cultural programmes for Channel 4. Wife of Labour peer, Lord Hollick, owner of Express newspapers.
The first thing one notices about this list is that not one of them has a "proper job", i.e. one that creates wealth and employment. They are all members of the "quangocracy", feeding off public sector budgets, which of course come from the taxes paid by the rest of us. Where are the scientists, engineers, doctors, small businessmen, indeed anybody who lives and moves in the real world?
Is it a step too far to describe them as parasites feeding off the success of the "Britishness" they hate and despise so much? Or are they "fifth columnists", beavering away to destroy what has been achieved in the last two centuries? It should not be forgotten that 1 January 2001 is the two hundredth anniversary of the Act of Union and the Union flag, an anniversary the Government is refusing to celebrate. In that two centuries alone the Union flag has flown over Napoleon's Paris and Hitler's Berlin. It has flown from Everest's summit, from the Royal Navy ships that ended the slave trade. Denise Lewis wrapped herself in the Union flag after winning the Olympic gold medal in the women's heptathlon at the Sydney Games in September. And of course it has flown over the parliament that brought representative government to the rest of the world, but for how much longer will it do so?
This what Tony Blair's official spokesman said about Britishness when the Report was published: "Britishness to us is about issues as varied as how you manage the economy, the approach you take to issues like unemployment, your vision of society." I have read this bizarre definition several times and still don't know what it means. Since I do not agree with New Labour's "vision of society", I am presumably anti-British.
Now that these Commission members have been exposed, let's face it, how many of us had heard of them before? But these are dangerous people, they will not go away and it behoves all Conservatives to keep an eagle eye on their activities. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
October 18th It is the time for a review of what has happened at our new Holyrood Parliament here in Scotland since its inception in May 1999.
The great hopes for a parliament that would be different from the Westminster version in many ways, promised, but never realised, has led to much disappointment. Since no one group of politicians had a majority, the largest group, Labour, made a deal with the Lib/dems to thwart the SNP.
Initially a great deal of time was spent discussing terms and conditions for the MSP’s themselves followed after a long holiday break, by pet items raised by some very inexperienced labour politicians. Including the disastrous and time consuming overturning of section 28, by a new cabinet minister who had no previous experience of politics at any level whatsoever A private referendum later demonstrated that a majority were against change for this particular item. Another was on the banning of fox hunting, much time being spent on this while items of more relevance to the people of Scotland were passed over.
Since the main business of Holyrood was being televised on a regular basis, the grassroots were able to judge for themselves just how well or badly our affairs were conducted by our representatives. The most recent fiasco of the failure of the Scottish Qualifying Authority, and the procrastination of the Education minister Sam Galbraith, resulted in many students here being unsure of their ability to obtain a place at the university of their choice.
It had been hoped that the normal cut and thrust of parliamentary politics while being retained, would no longer be besmirched by the rudeness often handed out by the ruling party in debate with the opposition as often seen at Westminster.. Alas that was not to be in the new Holyrood model . Only a couple of weeks ago the first minister was rightly reprimanded by Margo McDonald MSP for an aside to a question from an SNP member, Fergus Ewing.
Now we are about to be faced with an election for a new first minister and the inexperienced are once again thrusting for the position. If we are in for another year of the same from the ruling Labour group, then we will need a really strong and steadfast opposition to fight our corner.
There are so many items that affect us here in the north that are still not being addressed by our representatives the year ahead looks pretty bleak.
With both Holyrood & Westminster up and running again there is much scope for comment on what is happening both sides of the border with respect to our Central Offices.
View from over the border.
Many Scottish grassroot Tories, ( yes we still exist up here) are apprehensive about our chances in the upcoming Westminster elections.
The 'infighting' and 'plotting' that went on before, during and after the Conference in Dundee against the Scottish leadership left a bad taste. If we carry on in this way then we do not deserve to form a government, nor will we be able to.
Unfortunately when we look to the South there is much evidence of the same thing happening there.
Until the whole Party is thoroughly democratised and existing problems thrashed out, knowing that we have a wide range of opinions, we will struggle.
The unfortunate aspect of all this is that the inner conflicts have distracted our chosen leaders, when the Governments north and south of the Border are making monumental mistakes, the opposition have failed to cash in.
Right now in Scotland we have just experienced the 'SQA' fiasco with students still not sure if they will get a place at their chosen university or even if the results they have been given are correct !
The Labour party Executive and their minister of Education have been greatly damaged in the country and the Tory MSPs failed to exploit their advantage when questioning the minister. The greatest lasting damage to the minister was inflicted by the retiring leader of the Scottish National Party .
Once we have chosen our leaders, it is madness to let loose cannons like Mr Heseltine, who has his own agenda after all as a Commissioner for the Dome, damage the our leadership to an extent that give sustenance to the Government. These people should know better.
Like the rest of us Mr Hague has his faults but once we have chosen our leadership we have to accept all fourteen pints.!!
The simple hand-written "X" by your favoured candidate’s name must be the best. (no chance or a voting machine breaking down).The fixed voting hours, 7am – 10pm on a particular day can only be good (none of this York votes from 6am – 6pm with Southampton votes from 8am – 8pm nonsense).No declaration of a winner with only 96% of the vote counted (Bush’s Florida lead of 50,000 votes was down to 1,000 within the space of two hours).No disincentive to vote for your favoured candidate because you have been told his or her opponent has won.The presence at the count of scrutineers from the different political parties to ensure that the votes are being counted correctly must, surely, be a good thing.
The electoral college system by which the President is elected means that a candidate could win a majority of votes of the people and yet not be elected President. It means that a few hundred votes of an electorate of over 100 million will determine almost 5% of the total needed to win (Florida has 25 votes out of a total 538). Electoral colleges are an affront to democracy and are shorthand for "political stitch up".
When on top of this undemocratic process there is a layer of dollar democracy in which the wallet is king - $3billion was spent on the election - and vast sums are spent by the candidates on advertising which inevitably excludes candidates that are not multi millionaires. In such circumstances we have to ask ourselves what message does all this send to undemocratic nations in the rest of the world?
The first priority for the new President should be democratic reform, for without it the people’s disillusion with politicians will inevitably increase.
If 168,000 more people had voted Conservative in the most marginal seats in the 1997 General Election Labour's majority in Parliament would have been wiped out. Makes you think doesn't it?
A long time in politics
In 1948 Henry Brooke MP presented a report on Conservative Party finance as part of the Maxwell Fyfe report. In presenting the report he stated "the most crucial part of our report was a greater openness about the Party's financial position." "We have recommended and the Treasurers did not flinch when we told them, that an annual statement of accounts should be issued." It was 45 years before this was done.
The present system using a "Party closed list" on a regional basis strikes at the heart of democratic accountability. Without constituency representation the electorate is too remote for those elected to be accountable.
The "party list" means that those at the top of the lists produced by the Labour and Conservative Parties are virtually incapable of being thrown out by the electorate.
Because there are no by-elections when membership of the European Parliament ceases by death or resignation the next person on the list, who failed to secure the vote from the electorate, automatically replaces them.
So come on Mr. Blair, practise what you preach and put our own house in order before telling others in Europe what should be done.
Democracy is the process by which you determine the will of the majority.
You do not determine the majority by:
You do not determine the majority by:Scottish MPs voting on English matters when English MPs cannot vote on Scottish matters;
You do not determine the majority by:Having a House of Lords full of Tony’s cronies;
You do not determine the majority by:Having terrorists in government in Northern Ireland when not a single armalite has been decommissioned;
Labour is distorting our democracy and destroying our freedom.It is time for the British people to fightback.Having Members of the European Parliament elected from a Party closed list.
When we left the ERM in September 1992 it was a traumatic experience for John Major and the Cabinet. We had a period of painful readjustment with higher taxes but at the end Kenneth Clarke, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, got it about right and passed on a good legacy to Gordon Brown who immediately handed over control of interest rates to the Bank of England. There has been no serious economic crises which plagued previous Labour governments. There is a period of contentment.The mixed (and mainly capitalist) economy and the free enterprise system has won the battle and provides a better opportunity for giving us all the material benefits we would like, i.e. Conservatives have won the argument.The complete emasculation of the Trade Unions thanks to the Trade Union reforms of the 1980’s. Trade Unions are now, quite rightly, engaged in trying to get better conditions and higher living standards for their members. They are not, thank goodness, engaged in trying to govern the country as part of some sort of ‘triumvirate’. Twenty five or thirty years ago, nothing could be done without the blessing or Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon.Writing during the week of the Trade Union Congress conference, one would be hard pressed to name more than three Union leaders.(4) Conservative policies are not distinctive enough (and that does not mean being more right wing). If, for example, we are going to spend as much on the National Health service as the Labour Party, why bother to change your vote? People, generally, are not interested in the economic arguments. It would be far better if we did not enter into an auction with the Labour Party who are about to embark on an irresponsible spending spree ratcheting up public expenditure to what might be an unsustainable level.We have, sadly, a presidential system in which the party leaders are subject to special scrutiny. Blair already has ‘charisma’ (a quality which William Hague seemingly lacks) and is Prime Minister – Blair with his publicity conscious wife and four lovely children, including baby Leo, will be portrayed as a man with family values at heart, and pro marriage. And here is the paradox – he is head of a Cabinet whose membership includes many who are either themselves on their second marriage or their spouse is, many who are not married or are simply ‘gay’. Was it not the late Jimmy Thomas who once memorably said: "If you can’t ride two horses at once, you don’t deserve to be in the bloody circus"?
The Assembly institutionalises sectarianism, dividing members into Unionist and Nationalist blocs, but in order to influence the outcome of any vote a member can change blocs – and back again – by giving one week’s notice.The Assembly has a set life of five years with no by-elections. If a member dies or resigns the vacancy is filled by a nominee from the same party.The Assembly is designed to provide an All-Party Coalition – in effect a One Party Government – with no official Opposition to form an alternative administration.Once the Cross Border Bodies are up and running the Secretary of State can dissolve the Assembly and allow the Cross Border Bodies to take over the functions of government. In effect Joint Authority.
The present arrangements for the Assembly should be scrapped.Legislation covering Northern Ireland should be enacted by Parliament at Westminster and not by Order in Council.Local Government should be built up in Northern Ireland with the same responsibilities as local authorities on the mainland. This means that they should cover housing, education, highways, planning, recreation and social services. Democracy can be built from the ground up rather than imposed top down. Already the different parties work with each other at a local level. At present they have few responsibilities but these can and should be increased. Let us build on this.We should work on the basis of one community. This means sweeping away legislation, which entrenches sectarianism, i.e. the "Fair Employer" legislation: this type of legislation is divisive.
Where on earth did you get the idea I was in favour of women-only short lists? You really can't be stupid enough to rely on a newspaper without taking the elementary
step of checking first. I'd always been fairly sympathetic to your
campaign, but anyone who distorts the facts to reinforce their own
prejudices in the way your unpleasant piece did doesn't really deserve to be
taken seriously by anyone.
Oh, and as you are interested, I'm not and never have been in favour of
w-o-s/l's. Nor is it an issue in my role at CCO.
(For God's sake don't end up like all the other single issue lot.- I thought
you had more sense )
We are delighted to set the record straight and unreservedly apologise to Steve Norris. We wish him well in his new position.
From David Futcher September 6th
You saw it here first (6)
Back in July we questioned the Blessed St Mo of Mowlem's judgement over
her remarks concerning the re-location of the Royal Family to a new
palace representative of modern architecture. Well, barely two months
later St Mo herself has decided to quit politics. You may wish to think
that here at COPOV we have influence beyond our numbers, but I could not
As for her tenure as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the less
said the better. Her thinly veiled affinity for Irish republicanism
coupled with her failure to visit a single army or RUC base during her
time in the Province did not go down a bundle with the Unionists. As Ian
Paisley Jnr, a Democratic Unionist Assemblyman said "It is just a pity
it did not happen when she was Secretary of State. It is a case of
goodbye and good riddance."
In May 1993 Albert Reynolds sent a message to John Major defining "arms and equipment" as one of the issues to be dealt with expeditiously once public confidence in the peace process had been established. How many arms have been decommissioned since then? Zero!
Money to cut taxes
In April 1981, 574,000 people had been claiming sickness or invalidity benefit for more than six months. By 1998 including those claiming Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance the figure was just over 2.5 million. In some places such as the Welsh valleys over 20% of the male population are claiming these benefits! Are we a sick nation?
European PresidentMichael Bernier, the man in charge of reform at the European Commission(all appointed) wants the Commission to have the power to dissolve the European Parliament(all elected, even if it was by the discredited list system). Are we moving towards a European Dictatorship?.
Bloody SundayThe breakdown of the responsibility for violent deaths in Northern Ireland is as follows: Republicans 58.8%; Loyalist terrorists 28.9%; the Army 6.6%; RUC 1.4%. So what does a Labour Government do? At a potential cost of £60,000,000 it holds an inquiry into the Army's actions.
Angela Harvey, CPF Council - 'We here today are inputting to the next General Election manifesto'. She suggested there would be a straight yes/no ballot on the manifesto when it is produced but the audience vociferously wanted it item by item. This seemed to be a surprise to her. (We will not lie down and toe the line, particularly as many of us had seen the leaked report that policy debate is to be banned at the Party Conference.)
Michael Portillo - Apparently politicians are now seeing the political, rather than the economic, aspects of Euro-membership. 'It is clear to everyone that more money needs to be spent on health'. He has obviously benefited from a spell of unemployment - the surgeons did not recognise him as a hospital porter, but one patient, semi-dead, sat bolt upright - 'Good God, what are you doing here Mr Portillo?!'
Transport - both speakers had been told to talk about London, but the audience came from all over the SE and refused to be constrained.
Bob Neill (leader of Conservatives on GLA) said people do not actually care about ownership of public transport systems, only if buses and trains arrive on time and are reliable. He also stated that only the little people would be caught by congestion charges
'Question Time' - Ms Villiers demonstrated very clearly that the Conservative Party is following Tony Blair by controlling all its MP's and MEP's, whether elected as individuals or as a list. She saw her 'job' as an kind of whip. (I sat speechless.)
Nicky Griffiths spoke about 'campaigning' but did not see the problem of getting something to sell.
John Wilkinson spoke on tackling government (hooray!) and BUDGETS! - and to changing Euro-legislation! He really cheered me up after the plethora of boys and girls who were not only too young for the elected positions but were also very bad at basic speaking.
The Conservative PPC's on the platform, plus the abysmal MEP, were appalling - and this is not just my opinion. They were not only young but they were not up to any job at all. All were absolutely incompetent speakers - repeated calls to 'speak up' from the back of the hall were ignored - they looked awful, were talking parrot-fashion to CCO briefs and fawned too often on the (absent) Willy Hague. We know they have to creep a bit, but so much? If I have to appear in such a public situation I at least comb my hair beforehand, if not get it sensibly cut, while the boys would make all but the most rabid Tory vote for any other candidate available.
I did not have time to take up Kate Jenkins' invitation to send in material that could not be covered at the meeting, such as my guide for aspiring candidates that proposes a minimum age of 35 and no bleating about childcare. It is no use responding to Blair's Babes by putting up our own!
Bad news for Taxpayers
The South Essex Society of Chartered Accountants tells us that "The Government agreed in February 2000 that the U.K. will not enjoy any more tax cuts(!) from 2001 onwards unless first agreed with the E.U. Why isn't the Conservative Party shouting this from the roof tops? Why is Labour giving away our freedom? Who will stand up and fight for the United Kingdom?
Antrim South By-election.
The Ulster Unionists have already chosen their candidate for the Antrim South By-election. He is David Burnside. Is this the same David Burnside that is a member of the City of Westminster Conservative Association? Is the Conservative Party going to field a candidate in the By-election? After all, the intention is to fight every seat in the General Election. If they do put up a candidate to fight the By-election then David Burnished will automatically be expelled from the Conservative Party, Is this why Central office are reluctant to field a candidate? I think we should be told.
From David Futcher Fri Jul 07
You saw it here first (4)
"Hard pounding this, gentlemen; let's see who will pound the longest." The Duke of Wellington, at the Battle of Waterloo.
We have in recent weeks referred to John Redwood's ability to ask questions of the Government Front Bench that are the parliamentary equivalent of "hard pounding". This was in spite of being sacked from the shadow cabinet six months ago for no apparent reason. It was reported in The Daily Telegraph (03/07/00) that "William Hague has appointed John Redwood to run a new Parliamentary Campaigns Unit - a team of MPs charged with harrying the Government during parliamentary questions, debates and statements."
John is reported as saying that the first campaigns would be to attack the cost of petrol and "stealth taxes".
Perhaps it is time for John to give those Opposition Front Bench under-achievers that we have been drawing attention to in "Flop of the Week", i.e. Sir George Young, Archie Norman, Caroline Spelman and Angela Browning, some intense and sharp after-school lessons in "hard pounding".
Welcome back John and go to it! We Conservatives in the grass roots and "Middle England" will be watching with interest.
An occasional column for all Conservatives over 45, whether paid up, fed up or just lapsed.
"The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual."
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (1859) Ch. 1.
"There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money."
Dr Samuel Johnson, 27 March 1775 in Boswell Life, vol. 2.
For those of us brought up on that sound Conservative principle of self-help, this Government's stealthy attack on our finances is proving very costly. Gordon Brown, with his ever-longer Finance Acts and ever more desperate efforts to plug loop-holes, is rapidly becoming the Chancellor from Hell. I wonder if all those Middle England voters who flirted with Blairism on 1st. May 1997 thought it would turn out like this? Here is a list of stealth taxes so far:
The removal of mortgage interest tax relief.It should be noted that many of these stealth taxes are directed at families and older people, the very "forces of conservatism" that Tony Bliar so reviles. We are being stealthily parted from our money gained in "innocent employment" and having it redistributed in some politically correct agenda which was not in the manifesto. And of course, I have not mentioned the eco-terrorist led tax attack on fuel prices. John Redwood recently drew attention to this when he famously asked Gordon Brown the price of a litre of petrol
The abolition of the married couples allowance.
The removal of the age-related married couples allowance where neither of the married couple were aged 65 before April 6, 2000.
The abolition of reclaimable dividend tax credits for non-taxpayers.
The reduction in the level of tax-free savings that can be made each year. Under PEPS and TESSAS it was £12,000. Under ISAS it is £7,000, reducing to £5,000 on April 6, 2001.
The removal of tax credits on UK dividends for pension funds meaning that pension contributions will need to be increased to provide the same level of benefits.
The removal of the dividend tax credit after April 5, 2004 for PEPS and ISAS (it has already been reduced to 10% from 20%).
The gradual increase in taxation of company car fuel.
The increased levels of stamp duty on house purchases.
The failure of the higher-rate tax threshold to increase at the same rate as earnings. Since 1997, an extra 220,000 people have to pay tax at the top rate.
The failure of the inheritance tax nil-rate band to increase by the rate of inflation meaning more inheritance tax is payable – especially on the death of property owners.
The National Insurance burden on employers has increased due to the increase in both rates of NIC and the threshold at which it stops.
The removal of tax relief on all maintenance payments except for older people.
The proposed removal of the facility to carry forward unused relief for personal pension.
and how much of that went in tax. Gordon didn't know the answer and neither did anyone else on the Government Front Bench. But then, why should they? Neither Gordon nor Stephen "Bozo" Byers (Minister responsible for the car industry) can drive. And as for John "Two Jags, Four Homes" Prescott, enough said!
The problem I have with all of this is that the rot was started by two Conservative Chancellors: Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke. For example, the Conservatives were first to reduce the real value of mortgage interest relief and married couples allowance by restricting these allowances. Whatever did John Major and his "complicating Chancellors" think they were playing at? No wonder they lost the confidence of Middle England and the 1997 election.
Will Michael Portillo turn into a great reforming and simplifying Conservative Chancellor like Nigel Lawson?
Will he attempt to turn the Lamont/Clarke/Brown tax ratchet back a good few notches? The evidence sofar is not encouraging. Perhaps we should club together to buy Michael a copy of "A Guide to the Simplification of the British tax system"*. The next general election is probably less than a year away. So lets start to hear it from the Conservatives that low taxation is back on the agenda. Lets hear it that supporting your family, buying your own home, saving for your old age, passing wealth to your children and those other thrifty Conservative values are what make us different from the trendy Islington Mafia of Tony
Bliar. Less PC and more WI, please!
"A Guide to the Simplification of the British tax system". Jacob Braestrup. Adam Smith Institute.
"The Week In Westminster"
Interviewed for "The Week in Westminster" former Party Chairman - Brian Mawhinney MP said that he was not impressed by "Focus Groups". In February 1997 Charles Lewington told the National Union Executive Committee that the Party's focus groups had shown that the public perception of the Conservative Party was one of "Sleaze, incompetence and inefficiency". Nobody in Central Office did anything about this with the resulting debacle in May 1997. Now we know why!
June 25thAs is usual at this time of year many constituencies have debated and put forward motions for the Party Conference. The only problem is, they will not be debated. In a letter to Constituency Chairmen the Chairman of the Party (Michael Ancram MP) and the President of the National Convention ( Raymond Monbiot) have jointly said "We will not this year, be asking for the normal range of motions for Conference to be submitted"
The reason for this is the Pre Manifesto. This "will be drawn up by the Shadow Cabinet by the end of July following extensive consultations with the Party, in the eight weeks preceding, through comprehensive Policy Forums around the country". "the main elements of the Manifesto are to be published at the end of August"
"All Party members will then be invited to ballot on proposals during the second half of September". We will announce at the Conference the result of the promised Ballot of members on the main elements of our eventual Manifesto which will be published in what will be called the Pre-Manifesto".
"rather than debating three month old motions it would be sensible if the Conference used the opportunity to discuss the key aspects of the draft Manifesto."
Have I missed something? The Conference is going to debate a document which has already been sent to Party members and on which a ballot has already taken place. Would it not have been more sensible to debate the document at Conference and amend it if necessary and then to put the amended document to a ballot of members? But that would be democratic. Heaven forbid, we cannot expect that in a Party where the Chairman is appointed so unaccountable to the members, so democracy is squashed again.
Under the Conservative Party constitution:
5.10 Not less than one month prior to the Annual General meeting of the Association each year, Officers of the Association shall:
5.10.2 produce a Constituency report which shall be available for all members of the Association and shall be sent to the Area Management Executive immediately following the Annual General Meeting of the Association and shall include the following information:
184.108.40.206 the number of members in the Association and the change in membership over the previous year;
220.127.116.11 the number of active Branches including details of new or closed Branches over the year;
18.104.22.168 details and activity of Association Committees;
22.214.171.124 details of campaigning and political activity during the year, including details of Local Government Candidates and the results of elections;
126.96.36.199 names and addresses of the Association's Trustees;
188.8.131.52 a summary of the activities of any Branch of the Association.
Have you asked for your Constituency Report? Why is it that they are not available? Are Central Office changing it? Do they not want a check on membership? Why is the Constitution being ignored. It is time we were told what is happening.
I wrote to each of my eleven, care of the address on the election leaflet. I asked simple questions, grumbled about Brussels bureaucracy and requested action on various points. What was the total annual budget? What would my new members do about openness, evicting the old Commissioners, auditing members' expense claims and ending the silly monthly office moves between Strasbourg and Brussels?
Our various regulators require utilities to respond to customers' letters within three weeks at the most, with dire penalties for lateness. My first reply came after two weeks, the second after three, the sixth in August and the Green after five months; I have given up on the rest. Perhaps their secretaries are long over-due to a revision of their job specifications. Or perhaps the ultimate gravy-train has arrived, matching fantastic expenses with no requirement to work and no check of either.
The Liberals and the Independent did not reply at all. Was I being deliberately ignored or were the addresses on their election literature temporary, or even false, in which case the validity of their candidature may be dubious. One of the two Labour members promised a full answer, for which I am still waiting.
The Conservatives on the other hand were quickest off the mark and every one responded. I already knew of their plans to divide the region among those elected, but the Tory MEP's themselves either did not know or could not agree on who would take me. How are other electors supposed to make contact – with whom, and where?
Every candidate should have known most of the answers before standing and opinions are easily produced. Whoever heard of a politician who could not give his views off the cuff - the problem has always been how to stop him.
The Budget replies were most disappointing. I had hoped for a one-page summary of income and expenditure but I received just one figure from one man - that of Britain's contribution for 1998. My initial reaction to this ignorance is not printable. Coincidentally, the June issue of 'European Parliament News' gave a high-level pie chart showing the budget for 1999 to be 86 billion euros. I, who hold no particular political office, regularly receive copies in the post.
For detailed information some MEP's referred me to the Internet website and the offices of the European Commission and European Parliament in London. I was also sent seven pages of addresses for EU information in the South East region, all in towns that I seldom if ever visit. These 'Information Relays' are of six types, depending on the category of the person seeking the information, though why university students might want different material from the academic community or the general public I do not understand. I have visions of a future Euro-Directive requiring public libraries to re-arrange the books according to hair-colour of readers and of denying those on gardening to cyclists or teachers.
Visits later made to the London offices were less than helpful, as the public are not welcome at the Commission and the Parliament library has limited hours. Such leaflets that were available were out of date, half were useless and one entitled 'The Amsterdam Treaty' did not contain the Amsterdam Treaty at all. Is this misleading advertising? One urged women to vote but gave neither reason nor recommendation, leaving me to conclude that the paper wasted on the leaflet would exceed that used in ballot papers.
I was not surprised to find little support for some basic criteria for MEP candidates, and it was suggested that people wanting a say in selecting candidates must join a political party, but even then there is no universal suffrage or postal vote for members; no-one seemed remotely interested in the views of outsiders. Are we expected to trust a handful of senior party officials to rule over busy-body civil servants with no direct input from the electorate? How are we to make our voices heard when we are merely permitted to tick box A, B or C every few years and are denied the satisfaction of curtailing the careers of individual politicians who are out of step with popular opinion? Where is the public input to debate and discussion on our futures? Who decides what is important for us, and what irrelevant?
My complaint about pork-barrels was treated as amusing and even produced an offer of help to get a share myself!
Only the Ten Commandments and the laws of physics are immutable - all others, including the different European treaties, are open to revision or repeal in the light of experience and greater knowledge.
I read my replies in despair. I can visualise earlier mandarins shouting 'In the name of the Emperor', 'In the name of the 'King', 'In the name of the Führer' and 'In the name of the State' without challenge. Surely we do not have to go through a revolution to get some accountability and a proper management structure? The Americans fought a bloody civil war over states’ rights and the limits of the union but two centuries later not only are we the people kept in the dark but our representatives at Westminster cannot keep pace with the paperwork emanating from Brussels.
Small pressure groups are now calling themselves political parties and exercising more power than they deserve. The RSPB has more members than any, we know its aims, but we do not ask its opinion on railways, social services or defence. In the European Parliament the smaller 'parties' are out of their depth; when their few policies are examined they are found to be either compatible with those of a major party, or so way out as to be unacceptable. Some openly ask Conservative colleagues which way to vote. If one of these new 'parties' is unable to recruit sufficient members to make it financially viable in its own right it is clearly just a single issue club and should not seek election to bodies with wider remits.Whatever the thoughts of readers on Herr Haider in Austria, it is PR that has given his little group publicity beyond his dreams. Despite setting up PR in the London elections next month (May) the Labour Party now contains a large majority against the principle and a First-Past-the -Post campaign is increasingly active; paid-up members should contact Stuart Bell MP. Meanwhile, the LibDems and Independents who had most to gain from PR have demonstrated that they are not the slightest bit interested in a possible recruit.
No, it is time to ensure only individual voters vote for individual candidates from parties that can not just support themselves financially but also have sufficient room inside for all the members to debate topics freely. I personally support many 'green' issues but see the best way forward in arguing for them within a government without doing deals.
PR has only served to increase the remoteness of MEP's and should be abandoned forthwith, now that it has been proved half of them do not care for us once they have landed their plum jobs. I will be spoiling my ballot paper in increasingly spectacular ways until the electorate are given their rights to chose direct the man for the job and a name to whom they can send complaints, questions, proposals and (hopefully) praise.Hazel Prowse
An occasional column for all Conservatives over 45, whether paid up, fed up or just lapsed.
Monday, 8th May. So what? you might ask. For those of us of a certain age it was of course VE Day, the 55th anniversary the British Army's greatest victory, the defeat of the German forces in North West Europe and the end of Nazism. A victory gained with the support of our allies, particularly the Canadians and the Poles. Who cares nowadays? Well, the Danish seem to. On that day, as every year since 1945, representatives of the Danish resistance travelled to London to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph and at Winston Churchill's grave in Oxfordshire.
Fortunately, by the time the Danes arrived, the disgraceful graffiti scrawled on the Cenotaph had been removed.
On the previous Monday, 1st May, Labour Day, James Matthews, 25, a student, who told magistrates that he had been a British soldier, was photographed defacing Winston Churchill's statue. His knowledge of history seemed to be slight to say the least as he told magistrates on 9th May: "If some people have been offended by my graffiti, many others have been offended by such a reactionary politician who was imperialist and anti-semitic. …….. it was acceptable to challenge an icon of the British establishment." Perhaps Mr Matthews should arrange to meet the members of the Danish resistance and learn some real history.
As to the statement by Scotland Yard that the policing of the May Day riots was "a reasonable success" and "a proportionate and professional response", I would strongly disagree, preferring to see it as a national disgrace. It seems the Metropolitan Police have gone soft on anarchy, preferring to defend McDonalds than two of the nation's most emotionally charged monuments.
We are supposed to have a Government that is "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime". As William Hague said during Prime Minister's questions on 4th May: "He (Tony Bliar) is the one that went out to the Cenotaph yesterday, peeled an onion and said it can never happen again". Well done, William.
1st January 2000. Well, what is it this time? Only the 200th birthday of the United Kingdom, the anniversary of the Act of Union and the creation of the Union flag. Lord Laird, a Unionist crossbencher, has been waging a single-handed battle to get our modernising Government to pay some recognition to the occasion. David Futcher drew attention to Lord Laird's attempts in a previous e-mail. Lord Laird's campaign has had some effect. The Cabinet Office Minister, Lord Falconer, in reply to a question from Lord Laird in the Chamber on 9th May, said that while there were no plans for a "formal" celebration "at present", he would listen to suggestions. So come on Conservative and Unionist Party, lets hear it for the United Kingdom and give Lord Laird some support. In addition to giving Tony Bliar another poke in the eye, it will reassure us "Conservatives Past" that all is not lost.
|Members of COPOV handing out flyers advertising the fringe meeting "Democracy Under Threat" Who is this taking a leaflet?||Why, it is Lord Ashcroft of Belize.|
Martin Ball and John Strafford
Despite its very name implying an inherent philosophical preference for maintaining the status quo, the Conservative Party has, during its long existence, proved itself quite adept at altering its structures to meet the challenge of changing social circumstances and thereby maximised the potential for electoral success.
The most important of these ‘updates’ occurred in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Labour landslide victory in the 1945 General Election, when the then Party Chairman Lord Woolton transformed the organisation and created a structure that remained in place until the late 1990s. Crucial innovations included the creation of a youth wing, the Young Conservatives, to involve young people, and a policy consultation programme, the Conservative Political Centre, engaging the politically conscious. Since Woolton there have been regular modernisations of the various elements in the Conservative movement. The Maxwell-Fyfe reforms prevented candidates from buying a seat by limiting the amount of money they were able to give to their local constituency Associations.
In the early 1970s Lord Chelmer headed a review committee considering how the non-parliamentary elements of the Party could be made more democratic. In the early 1990s the Fowler and Feldman reforms introduced changes to both the professional and voluntary wings of the ‘Party’. The fact that there were two sets of reforms to distinctly different organisations illustrated the fractured nature of the Conservative family.
These periodic reforms failed to satisfy the long-standing demand from grassroots members that they have a greater say in the running of the Party. In the late 1960s a group of London Young Conservatives published a pamphlet called ‘Set the Party Free’ which called for greater accountability to the membership. Many of its figures went on to form the Charter Movement,
the long-standing advocate of party members having a greater say in the internal running of the Party. In recent years the Campaign for Conservative Democracy has come to the fore in championing the cause of internal democracy within the Conservative Party.
The demand for democracy was given impetus by the increased agitation in the early 1990s from ordinary rank and file members who felt that their views were being dis-enfranchised, especially on the issue of the European policy being pursued by Prime Minister John Major. Any fundamental reform was staved off by the survival of the Conservative government until 1997, since no governing party, especially a weak one, could afford the luxury of exhaustive internal navel gazing.
The defeat in May 1997 provided the space for a thorough re-examination of the way in which the Conservative family of voluntary activists, paid professionals and elected politician ordered their affairs.
Senior figures had heightened the expectation of reforms after a General Election and the reformist zeal of the candidates was a salient issue in the 1997 Leadership contest. Indeed, eventual winner William Hague placed a reform of the way the party does business as a central plank of his manifesto. Hague’s call for a ‘Fresh Start’ meant there could be no ambiguity about the far-reaching designs of the reforms. William Hague forthrightly declared that never again shall the party be run a by small clique, and the stated aim became the creation of the most effective volunteer political movement possible.
William Hague’s six principles for reform of the Conservative Party. In July 1997 William Hague spelt out the six principles on which reform of the structure of the Conservative Party would be based. These principles - Unity; Democracy; Involvement; Decentralisation; Integrity; and Openness - provide yardsticks by which the progress and success of the Conservative Party reform process must be judged.
Unity. ‘The historic division between our parliamentary party, our voluntary party and Central Office will become a thing of the past. A single Governing Board working under a single constitution will manage the whole party. And a majority of the Board will be chosen by Party members. Never again will your voice go unheard.’
Yes, an identifiable Conservative Party now exists, but that is largely a legal nicety. What exists on paper has still to be made an operational reality. There are, to illustrate, still a number of problems with the new ‘unified’ organisation.
The goal of ‘One Party’ has not been achieved when some sections of the Party are allowed to conduct their affairs independent of input from other sections. For example, you have a National Convention consisting of volunteers and in which MPs take little interest, while the Parliamentary Party’s 1922 Committee consists entirely of MPs. The only body bringing together elected councillors, MPs, MEPs, voluntary members and professional staff is the Party Board. But, even that is far from perfect. The new assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not represented, and some members are there by appointment. This two-tier system must be replaced by the automatic entitlement of various office-holders, the Leader of the MEPs for one, to be present, together with a majority of the Board directly elected by Party members.
There is a need for greater integration and collaboration between members and elected politicians, especially over the matter of party policy formation.
Take also the case of the ‘phantom’ National Convention Executive. A body referred to in the new constitution and which has been given responsibility for administering the arrangements for the meeting of the National Convention. The only problem with this is that the "National Convention Executive" does not exist. National Convention Chairman Robin Hodgson confirmed this at the last meeting of ... the Convention! It was dreamed about before the Party's Constitution existed, and now we will have to have a rule change to bring it into being.
Another concern is that any change to the Party constitution can only be brought about through the discredited Electoral College process, which gives separate votes to MPs and to the voluntary section. Therefore it is impossible for ordinary members to change the Party’s constitution without agreement from Westminster MPs, who hold a veto over the Party. The voice of the grassroots will go unheeded if that is the wish of the MPs.
Democracy. ‘Every paid-up member of our party will get a vote in future leadership contests. Members will also be able to vote on the choice of our candidates for Westminster and the European Parliament, and our candidate for the new Mayor of London. The Conservative Party will become the most democratic party in British politics today.’
Yes, the entire London membership has had the opportunity to participate, twice, in the choice of the London Mayoral candidate, and every party member had the opportunity to attend regional hustings to select candidates for the 1999 European Election. That not everybody voted or bothered to attend doesn’t distract from the fact that there was an equality of opportunity to participate, but why did the Party not allow a postal ballot? Southern Region alone has 110,000 members. Of
these only 1,500 were present at the final meeting, so 108,500 were dis-enfranchised.
The concern about the election for the London mayoral candidate is that the guidelines on the level of spending permissible, a maximum of £80,000, were not enough to prevent one candidate from employing full time assistance and enabling him to establish a huge advantage over potential rivals. Lord Archer is reported to have spent £1million in the two years prior to the selection process beginning on his campaign. Without the enforcement of a clearly stated date from which spending ‘counts’, as is the case for public elections, then the possibility exists for one candidate to effectively win before the official contest begins. If such a state of affairs is allowed to re-occur, then the likely outcome is that only ‘fat cats’ or those backed by wealthy benefactors will be in a position to meaningfully participate. £80,000 was far too high a figure to be spent on an internal Party election. There are about 38,000 members in London and if a similar amount had been allowed to be spent as
an MP can spend in a General Election the figure would have been about £5,000. Perhaps more candidates would have come forward if this had been the case.
In defiance of the spirit of democracy has been the deplorable effort of some MPs to have themselves re-adopted as prospective candidates before rule changes prevented them from facing a genuine challenge. At the National Convention in March 1999 it was decided that votes on the re-selection of MPs should be by secret ballot and the rule which allowed a sitting MP to sit in the meeting whilst a vote by a show of hands was taken was abolished. It is worth noting that a Conservative Government made such intimidation illegal in the Trade Unions. To pre-empt such changes the Chairman of the "1922 Committee" - Sir Archie Hamilton MP wrote to all Conservative MPs saying that if they got their re-selection over before the Conference then it could be done on the old basis with all the intimidation that that involved.
The Party Board subsequently changed the Constitution so all Re-adoption meetings now have to comply with the new rules. Progress, however, came at a price and a new rule was introduced enabling ‘a sitting Member of Parliament not securing the assent of the Executive Council to his re-adoption will have the right to request a postal ballot of all the members of the Association’.
There would be no communication to Association members other than the ballot paper and relevant instructions in connection therewith; and any communication by the sitting MP (on no more than a single A4 sheet of paper).
The effect of all this is that if the sitting MP loses the support of his Executive Council he can then appeal to the entire membership of his Association, but the membership are not allowed to be told why he has lost the support of his Executive or even that he has lost its support. This is ridiculous and undemocratic and bears all the hallmarks of the Executive of the 1922 Committee. If this procedure is to be adopted then another sheet of A4 paper should also be sent out listing out the
reasons why the MP has lost the support of his Executive Council.
One way in which internal democracy would be substantially advanced is to allow the membership to vote directly for the most senior positions in the Party, as is the case in the Liberal Democrat Party. Equally important is that this choice must not be from a pool of pre-determined options. It is imperative, also, that a democratic political organisation allows the opportunity for participants to chose the Party Chairman and other senior figures such as the Party Treasurer. Furthermore, the Party Leadership can’t claim to be giving a greater say to members when the appointment of Party Vice-Chairmanships is done without consulting them.
A democratic culture wouldn’t place extra requirements on candidates. For example, nominations to stand for the Party Board require ‘not less than twelve members of the Convention of whom eight must be Chairman of Constituency Associations’. Why the need to distinguish between different members of the National Convention? Obviously, some are more equal than others. Why not remove these requirements and simply ask than nominations are required from not less than
twelve members of the Convention. That would ensure equality of membership of the Convention.
Involvement. ‘Thanks to national membership, we will be able to communicate directly with all of our members. You will be kept informed of what’s going on in your Party and you will be asked for your views on Party policy. I intend to put the policies upon which we will fight the next election to a vote of all party members.’
Has the concept of national membership been established? The first membership bulletin has been produced and quite good it is too except for two points. The letter, which it suggests should be sent to members, looks and feels as though a committee has produced it. It reads like propaganda grunge. Have any test mailings been done with this letter? If this is the best the
Membership Committee can do, then help us. Other initiatives, such as the national magazine,have yet to create any sense of cohesion amongst the membership. In fact, the magazine failed to be printed and circulated to all members in advance of the 1999 Annual Conference.
Prior to the Hague reforms the Conservative Political Centre successfully organised participation in political discussion, albeit without any direct role in policy-making. The new policy structures were supposed to change this, but the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF) has not been fantastically successful in involving the membership in the policy-making process of the Party. For example, when regional CPF meetings were organised in September 1999 to discuss ‘Agenda for Britain’ it would have been helpful if the members knew about them so that they might attend, or even the Regional Co-ordinators (political) might have been told so they could have communicated this information to members. Such a muddled state of affairs would be ended by the election of the CPF Chairman by the members and the establishment of a National Policy Forum.
To enthuse people to become active in political parties, rather than single issue groups the Conservative Party must involve party members in the formulation of policy and that involvement must be seen to matter. By involving all the Party in the formulation of policy, whilst allowing the Leader and the Shadow Cabinet to determine priorities, we can bring the Party together into a cohesive whole. At the same time involvement brings about Commitment and thus strengthens the
The decline in meetings and the inability of the central bureaucracy to inform members about activities has created a void of communication at all levels of the Party. A solution may involve the use of the Internet for votes, or even telephone-conferencing for regional and national meetings.
Decentralisation. ‘Decision-making in our Party will be handed down to a more streamlined area structure. Our areas will reflect local identities and in many cases follow local government boundaries. Constituency associations will be the building blocks of our new constitution.’
The decentralisation process has resulted in a net loss of power for the grassroots. The Area Executives, elected by Constituency Chairman and Deputy Chairman, remain unrepresentative small bodies consisting of no more than half a dozen people. This was all too apparent when Steve Norris was prevented from going forward as a candidate by a small number of London Mayoral selectors.
The Regions effectively have been shut out of the Party structure. Their only role was in the European elections. They should either be abolished or given real power and influence. Both Regional and Area Officers should be elected on a One Member One Vote basis.
Devolving power to the grassroots has, unfortunately, been negated by the creation of new groups such as Conservative Network which are outside of the official structures. The Network doesn’t have to obey the requirements that members pay a subscription nor be members of the Party itself. While such groupings are permitted to exist without being integrated, then the fear is that they are designed to get around the inconveniences of democratisation. So long as Conservative Central Office operates pet projects such as the Network, then the claim that the party has adopted democracy is all propaganda.
Integrity. ‘We will establish a tough disciplinary and ethics committee. Never again will we allow the behaviour of a single individual or group of individuals to blacken the good name of the whole Conservative Party. Thanks to our reforms our Party will have the powers it needs to protect its reputation.’
These words are fine sentiments but the Ethics committee only held its first meeting very recently. That means either Conservative Party members are in the main saints - something very unlikely in a political party - or that there is a reluctance to bring wayward members to account. The committee must hold regular meetings, if only to review the situation and give thought to future activities. It has got to be pro-active and less reliance on referrals. Furthermore, it has got to be ‘open’ about its deliberations and the criteria for its decisions.
The five-year suspension of Jeffrey Archer’s party membership demonstrates that the committee is at least prepared to act, but wouldn’t the Archer fiasco have been avoided if it had been more pro-active. Maybe if the advisor on candidates was answerable to the Party at large, then some of the obvious concerns about Archer could have been dealt with earlier. Perhaps a fondness for those infamous Krug and Shepherd’s Pie gatherings prevented those with the power to do so
stopping him being a contender in the first place.
There is also unrest about the expulsion of a number of former MPs after they publicly supported the breakaway Pro-European Conservatives in the 1999 European Parliament Elections. If persons are to be expelled then there must be a procedure that at some juncture involves consideration by people democratically accountable and the possibility of appeal against their decision.
There has been much unwelcome publicity surrounding the Treasurer Michael Ashcroft. Yet, he remains in position. The suspicion, therefore, arises that he is safe because the Party is dependent upon his financial contribution. There should be a "Chinese Wall" between those giving substantial donations to the Party and those who determine how the funds raised are spent.
Openness. ‘I am determined to ensure that there is public confidence in the funding of at least one of Britain’s major political parties. Therefore, following my speech on party reform in July, the Conservative Party will disclose all donations it receives over £5,000 and will no longer accept foreign money.’
The aim of openness quite simply hasn’t been achieved. Previously you could collect a copy of the Party accounts at the Annual Conference, but now the powers that be are slow at publishing the Balance Sheet and Accounts. Discussion of the accounts at the March 1999 National Convention didn’t take place because they were not distributed to Constituency Chairmen. The reason put forward for this was that the cost of printing was said to be prohibitively high at £10,000. Why did
they not put them on the Internet? At least this year the accounts have been put on the internal "Extranet".
The scrapping of the Conservative Board of Finance in March 1999 removed the only body where elected volunteers had any say, however minimal, in the Party’s finances. It was replaced by Regional ‘Income Generation and Marketing Boards’ which report to the ‘National Board of Income Generation and Marketing, which in turn reports to the Board of Treasurers, of whom all are appointed by the Party Leader.
Take the matter of quota payments. A report showing the Quota position for each Constituency would have made more sense if it had provided totals by region as well as nationally. It would be more meaningful if a distinction was made between cash payments and Quota credits (credits for interest free loans). This might then raise the question why, as we are "One Party" many Constituencies are sitting on substantial funds when the Party is desperate for funds. The interest free loan scheme was started in 1980 by the Beaconsfield Association as a way in which Constituencies with temporary surplus funds could use them for the Party's benefit. Many of these Surplus funds now appear to be permanent! Could it be that until there is democratic accountability for the use of funds given to Central Office money will remain in the Constituencies?
External measures will force change upon the Party in how it organises its financial affairs. The Labour Government’s proposals for legislation on "The Funding of Political Parties in the United Kingdom" requires a registered party to have a registered Treasurer. The registered Treasurer of a party will be responsible not just for the reporting of disclosable donations, but also the keeping of the party's accounts and compliance with the requirements on election expenditure. The registered Treasurer will be under a duty to ensure that proper accounting records are kept in respect of the whole party (clause 36) and will be required to prepare an annual statement of accounts in respect of the party (clause 37). There are detailed requirements on the disclosure of donations and on the control of election expenditure, not only at National level but also at constituency level. A report on donations has to be made quarterly and in a General Election campaign, weekly.
What are the ramifications of all this for the Conservative Party? First of all it is quite clear that the responsibilities of the Treasurer are now quite onerous and the Treasurer is accountable to the Electoral Commission. What is missing is democratic accountability. The Treasurer should be an elected position. Fund-raisers will have to report to the Treasurer. Secondly the Regional structure of the Party will have to be re-examined. There should be Elected Regional Treasurers. Thirdly every Constituency Association should have an elected Treasurer.
Why doesn’t the Party introduce the recommendations of the Neil Report before the others? Thus beginning the process of restoring public faith in the probity of Conservative Party finances.
Verdict on the six principles of the Fresh Future reform. There is no doubting that the process of reform has been begun, but there remains a lot still to do to ensure that the Conservative Party is the most democratic in the United Kingdom. In all of the six areas identified by William Hague, the reality has not yet matched the intention. The Party is not organisationally cohesive, nor properly involving the membership in its management. It continues to be secretive about its financing, remains enthralled to a small band of generous financial backers, and continues to allow the behaviour of individuals to blacken its public reputation. In addition, far too much arbitrary decision-making by Conservative Central Office illustrates that some still believe the Conservative Party to be their plaything, which they can run without consulting the wider membership.
Alongside the necessary structural change there has to be a revolution in attitudes amongst the Party’s elite. What the dinosaurs in the Party need to understand is that unless the culture of the Party changes it has not got a hope of winning the next General Election. Democracy benefits the whole Party. A lack of it is of benefit only to that small group of people that wish to hold on to power whatever the cost to the Party. While rules are changed on whim, while meetings are poorly notified and while timings and location are inconvenient for ordinary members, then the suspicion is that a small elite are still operating the Party as a private club. The Fresh Future isn’t simply a technical exercise, but must entail a sea change in the culture of those at the highest echelons of the Party.
Many excuses have been made for voter apathy, but the truth of the matter is that the British people have become increasingly disillusioned with their politicians. Both Labour and Conservative Parties are failing in the first instance to connect with their members, and both Parties are inherently undemocratic. The first Party to plug this democratic deficit will reap the benefit. The Conservative Party can be that Party.
In his actions, as well as words, William Hague must demonstrate that he remains determined to make the Conservative Party a fully-participatory democracy with the membership having a meaningful say in the running of the organisation to which they voluntarily give much time and money. Is that too much to expect?
The Forum will be in session for 6.5 hours. Of this time ordinary Party members will be able to speak for a total
of approximately 2 hours. Each contribution from the floor will not last more than 1 minute. There is not a
single motion for debate, so there will be no votes. Thus democracy in the Conserfative Party is destroyed. No involvement, no participation, no say, no vote. Who are responsible for this? - The Committee on Conferences,
the members of which are all appointed. They are not accountable to the membership so they safely ignore them. This is not the way for the Party to attract new members. Will we ever learn?
difference was that this time the Internet was used. 43% of those voting used the Internet to vote on line. It is
time the UK Government took this on board, and while we are at it why not the Conservative Party also? No
more excuses about the cost of elections!
Constituency Associations would pay for the Party on the country, i.e. for the Area offices, or as they will soon be known "Campaign Centres. It was thought that £2,000,000 would be required to do this. Having lent on the
Constituencies, pledges have been received for £1.1m. The scheme will be put to the next National Convention.
Of course the hidden agenda for this is that Central Office will revert back to being the office of the Leader of the Conservative Party, a situation that the Inland Revenue views as never to have been changed in spite of the
party reforms. They saw through the charade. Whatever happened to William Hague's "One Party"?
agreed figure for the year."
of Lords. The head-hunters will be paid £52,000 plus expenses and a further £30,000 for advertising. Nice
work if you can get it! Applicants are asked to send with their CV declarations on conflicts of interest, political activity, gender, race and disability and 75 words on reasons "why you would be a suitable candidate". Why
should race, gender or disability have anything to do with whether you are the right person to decide who should
be a member of the House of Lords?
a worthy idea, but it does raise the question - Can any individual change the rules of the Party?